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A skein of Schulana Cashmere Moda
Cashmere Moda knit up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Schulana Cashmere Moda

First Impressions
Do the words "caged cashmere" conjure up images of goats behind bars? You're not alone. That's exactly what I thought when I first heard about Schulana Cashmere-Moda. But I quickly learned that those words describe the yarn itself, not the animals that provide it.

Simply put, Cashmere-Moda is made from a plied strand of pure cashmere that has been enclosed within a knitted tube of cashmere. The outer shell forms a very fine, open "cage" through which the inner cashmere peeks. The two components tend to be of different but complementary colors.

We normally see this construction in flashier novelty yarns made from synthetic blends, but here it's used with a pure, buttery soft cashmere.

As with many luxury yarns spun in Italy, Cashmere-Moda comes in very small skeins priced at a premium. Each 25g skein holds 73 yards, or 67 meters. If you were to indulge in a medium-sized women's pullover, you'd need 14 skeins and a budget of $280. A Clapotis in this yarn would be deliriously luxurious, but even that would require 12 skeins.

Recognizing that our yarn budgets vary, I set out to see just what could be made from a single skein. Using my handy EatSmart Kitchen Scale, I wound my skein into two balls that weighed identical amounts. My mission? A pair of fingerless mitts.

Knitting Up
The label suggests working with US 7 to 8 (4.5 to 5mm) needles to achieve a gauge of 5 stitches per inch. That seemed a little loose for this yarn, so I began swatching with US 6 needles. I quickly obtained a dense and squishy fabric with lovely cohesion, but my precious yardage was being used quickly. I then switched to US 7 needles for a slightly looser fabric that still had good cohesion.

My Signature stiletto-tipped circulars proved far too pointy for this yarn, repeatedly snagging one or more parts of the cage. I switched to a pair of dull-tipped Clover needles and the snagging stopped—though if I knit more than a few stitches without looking, I inevitably snagged the cage again.

I wasn't bothered by the need to pay closer attention. Cashmere-Moda is a beautiful yarn to watch as it becomes fabric. It maintains a perfect tension, willingly holding your hand before sliding onto the needles. Knitting was speedy and pleasant, producing even stitches.

In just a few short hours, and minus some time lost to frogging, I had created two simple but quite satisfying fingerless mitts. Let me clean up the pattern and I'll let you know when it's available.

Blocking / Washing
I submerged one swatch in warm soapy water, leaving the second unwashed swatch as my control subject. The washed mitt quickly absorbed the water and relaxed, though it never fully lost its shape. When I pulled the mitt out of the wash and squeezed out the excess water, I could instantly see a blur of grey cashmere along the surface—the cage was blooming.

The yarn released a tiny gasp of pink into the water, but it rinsed clear. Out of the wash, the mitt just needed a little blotting and prodding back into shape before being left to dry.

Once dry, the mitt presented a relaxed and cohesive fabric with a delicate surface halo. Despite the relaxation, the stitch and row gauge remained unchanged.

Wearing
By virtue of being made from 100% cashmere, which is a fine and delicate fiber, this yarn is innately more vulnerable than if it were made from stronger wools or synthetic fibers. But the caged construction has an intriguing impact on wearability: It seems to keep the "caged" yarn from pilling.

When I subjected the washed mitt to a sustained amount of friction, the surface halo created by the outside cage increased—but, remarkably, the fabric itself did not pill. I fully expected the fabric to lose its shape and begin to fall apart rather quickly, but it did not.

Only after quite a bit more harsh abrasion did the surface fibers finally form faint clusters and the fabric begin to stretch. All the while, the plied strand of yarn inside the cage remained intact. For cashmere, this is remarkable.

Conclusion
I'm happy to see a yarn company use novelty spinning techniques on natural fibers. And, as it turns out, this particular spinning technique actually has structural benefits too. Cashmere-Moda is a visually and texturally intriguing yarn; it creates a plush, decadent fabric, and it wears unusually well for a 100% cashmere yarn.

If you derive pleasure from the physical act of knitting for countless hours at a time, price may be an issue. There's no getting around the fact that this yarn costs $20 for 73 yards. Unless you knit verrrrry slowly, countless hours of Cashmere-Moda knitting will require countless skeins of yarn. The rewards are many, but they may not be for everybody.

On the other hand, if you enjoy the wearing and admiring as much as you do the knitting, I'm glad to be able to say you can get a pair of mitts out of one skein. If you can get two skeins, the mitts can have substance to them—but even with one skein you'll get to hold something very soft and warm as you go about your day.

 
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