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A skein of Cashmere Elite
Cashmere Elite Knit Up
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Yarn Profile: Karabella Cashmere Elite

First Impressions
Nearly a decade ago, Karabella made a name for itself in the handknitting world with its bouncy, multiple-plied Aurora 8 yarn. Imitators followed, and then came the novelty yarn trend. Before long, Karabella found itself with a warehouse of puffy, sparkly, unusual yarns that—seemingly overnight—fell out of fashion.

Cashmere Elite represents a return to Karabella's classic roots. This smooth, well-balanced three-ply yarn is spun in Italy from extremely high-quality cashmere. Instead of flash and sparkle, it holds the allure of a well-made fountain pen. Anything you knit from it will look beautiful.

For this review, I used color #12486, a deep pumpkin hue.

Knitting Up
This is not a yarn to rush. Not because it won't let you, but because it deserves to be savored and treated well.

Despite the relative inelasticity of cashmere, the yarn's springy three-ply construction gives it enough bounce to hug my fingers, grip my needles, and flow smoothly from skein to fabric.

After a few rows I had found my pace—not too fast, but not too slow either—and was able to knit by touch alone. Only twice did my needle snag, and both times it occurred on the first stitch of a knit row. By the time I reached my second swatch I was in the zone, a knitter's version of how it feels when you run a wet finger around the rim of a crystal wine glass.

With a few wobbly exceptions, my stitches appeared smooth and even. While the label suggests a US 5 or 6 needle, I chose the smaller needle size because of the yarn's fineness and because of the vulnerability of cashmere in general.

Blocking / Washing
When washing cashmere, be gentle. Not only to prevent felting, but also to avoid permanently stretching the fabric. Cashmere is fragile when wet. You can easily pull the fabric out of shape.

My swatch relaxed comfortably in its warm sudsy wash. There was no bleeding or loss of color. Once rinsed, the fabric blocked easily back to a perfect square. The stitches evened out perfectly, and the surface of the fabric gained a faint hint of bloom. Once dry, the fabric had an incredibly smooth, silky flow to it.

There was no change in stitch or row gauge.

Cashmere gets its luxurious softness from the fine diameter of each fiber. That same finenss, alas, is what makes those fibers vulnerable to abrasion and breakage.

To protect the fine fibers, they need to be given sufficient twist to hold together under duress. Cashmere Elite is made of three well-spun strands of cashmere that are plied together, giving the resulting yarn far greater strength and durability than would a sad, solitary single strand.

But don't be mistaken: This is still cashmere. And just as you wouldn't wear silk stockings on a hiking expedition, there are certain things you shouldn't ask this yarn to do—like make a pair of rugged hiking socks.

After a medium period of abrasion, the surface of my stockinette swatch grew hazy. Over time and with more abrasion, the haze collected into small tufts of pills that were easily removed.

Are the pills enough to turn someone off the yarn entirely? I don't think so, but I have a constitutional weakness for cashmere. I showed it to several other people, and they were so astonished by the yarn's velvety softness that they didn't even see the pills.

Each 25g skein of Cashmere Elite holds only 82 yards (77m) of yarn. I suspect this was done because a $25 skein is far less daunting than a $50 one (even if the latter would hold twice as much yarn).

Still, some knitters have begun to boycott any yarn with fewer than 100 yards per skein. First, they argue that shorter skeins mean more ends to darn, which can be an annoyance. And second, they find that smaller skeins produce greater waste when transitioning from skein to skein, since most of us like to keep our joins at the beginning and ending of rows.

This is primarily an issue with large-yardage garments such as sweaters. A medium-sized fitted women's pullover with some trim detail would require approximately 1500 yards, or 19 skeins, giving you 38 ends to darn and a $475 bill at the cash register.

For that last reason, I suspect that most of us won't be knitting an entire sweater out of this yarn any time soon. And, while one- and two-skein projects are usually consolation prizes for those on a budget, most of the one- and two-skein projects I've found actually present this yarn in its best possible light.

Cashmere Elite begs to be wrapped around your neck, which is exactly what you could do with Katherine Burgess' Bow-Knot Scarf (one skein), Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Pretty Thing (two skeins), or Anne Hanson's Spiraluscious (again, two skeins).

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