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A skein of Malabrigo Twist
Malabrigo Twist Knit Up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Malabrigo Twist

First Impressions
Knitters love the extraordinarily buttery softness of Malabrigo's flagship worsted-weight Merino yarn so much that they've been willing to overlook its tendency to pill—or, at a minimum, they've figured out ways to work around it.

The reason for the pills is simple. Twist is energy. Even though the worsted-weight Malabrigo yarn has a hidden ply structure (un-twist what looks like a singles and you'll discover two finer plies of fibers), it's not quite enough energy to hold those delicate Merino fibers together. For a stronger yarn, you'd either need to use stronger wool (losing all that great softness) or add more plies.

Since Malabrigo has built a strong reputation on the soft and succulent, the company has chosen the latter option—add more plies. As a result, we have the lovely chunky-weight Merino and the springy superwash sock yarn. And now we also have Twist, an extraordinarily round heavy worsted-weight Merino composed of eight, count 'em eight finer plies of fiber.

The plies are mostly smooth and even, but they occasionally become thicker or fuzzier, which adds a touch of the rustic to this yarn. But from a feel perspective, it's pure luxury.

Knitting Up
Twist is one of the easiest yarns I've knit in a long time. Even on the cast-on row, I was able to knit by touch alone—and I found it just as easy to purl by touch as well. My stitches were smooth, steady, and even, and the yarn's generous size made progress speedy and satisfying.

Occasionally the yarn built up excess twist and would kink up on itself. This may be a factor of how I knit because I "pick" with my left hand instead of throwing the yarn with my right. But whatever the reason, I took the precautionary measure of dangling my work periodically to release the excess twist and avoid any bias in the fabric. A bias happens when yarn has too much twist and nowhere for it to go—it naturally works itself out by twisting the entire direction of the fabric, causing it to tilt or bias.

While my skein had no knots, I did discover a rather awkward join in one of the plies. If you encounter the same, do not despair. While you could leave such a tiny knot, I snipped it and then placed the yarn on my hand, moistened the area where I'd cut the ply, and then rubbed the yarn vigorously between my hands for several sections.

This action caused the fibers to adhere to one another in a fairly durable way that was invisible to the eye and to the touch. (It's called "spit splicing," and you can do it with most yarns made of animal fibers as long as they haven't been treated for machine-washability. If they have, the fibers will no longer adhere to one another in a felt-like manner.)

One final note: Do swatch before you begin any projects. Malabrigo suggests a gauge of 4 to 5 stitches per inch on US 8-11 needles, but this may vary considerably depending on how you knit. I used the smallest suggested needle size and achieved 4 stitches per inch; I had to go down to a US 6 before I had a steady 5 stitches per inch.

Also, this yarn thrives in a fabric that's reasonably tight and cohesive, so resist the temptation to begin with a US 11 and knit this yarn at an even looser gauge than 4 stitches per inch. You'll have awkward gaps between your stitches.

Blocking / Washing
My swatches released a faint cloud of pink in their warm soapy bath; but the rinse water was clear, and I saw no visible change in color saturation between the washed and unwashed swatches. I did let my swatches rest in their bath for an extra minute or so to help the water penetrate all the nooks and crannies and give the twist a chance to relax a little.

With a little prodding here and there, my swatches returned to their original shapes and dried as perfect squares. Nary a bias to be found.

Despite the yarn's extraordinary roundness and all the twist holding the fibers together, the washed fabric revealed a discreet and lovely cohesion and bloom. (Washed at left, unwashed at right.)

Twist fits squarely within the Malabrigo brand promise in terms of softness. It is extraordinarily soft and squishy, without any hint of roughness or itch. It's the kind of yarn you'd want as close to your skin as possible. (Nightgown anyone?)

By default, soft yarns tend to wear faster because the fibers have a finer diameter and are thus more susceptible to abrasion. This wearability concern was especially true with Malabrigo Worsted because it has less twist holding all the fiber together.

But with all its plies and the energy holding them together, Twist gives far stronger protection to its fine, luxurious Merino fibers while still staying plump and soft to the touch. Yes, the fabric still softened, grew blurry, and developed tiny pills, but only after what I consider a fair and reasonable amount of abrasion. No number of plies will keep these fine fibers from wearing, but they certainly do delay it.

I wasn't sure if Twist would be too much of a good thing. Can a yarn have too much twist, or too many plies? On the skein, it really does look like thick semi-textured spaghetti. And yet the fibers come together in the wash, finishing the fabric into something much more plump and cohesive.

Twist is a perfect plied alternative for those who eye Malabrigo Worsted longingly but need a little more body, structure, and wearability in their yarn. You still get the Malabrigo softness and stunning kettle-dyed color range, but in a much more durable and lively yarn.

Do note that, by virtue of its ply structure, Twist looks nothing like the original Malabrigo Worsted. It produces three-dimensional stitches with visibly flickering ply shadows. If you're after that ultra-smooth single-ply look, you may want to stick with the original Malabrigo.

But if you want an extremely soft Merino yarn that comes in gorgeous colors and effortlessly gives you a fabric you won't want to take off, this is your yarn.

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