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A skein of Prism Merino 12
Prism Merino 12 knitted up and washed
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Prism Merino 12

First Impressions
Prism Merino 12 is the bouffant hairdo of plied yarns. It is made from 12 superfine two-ply strands of Merino wool that have all been teased and twisted together to create one really big yarn.

Technically speaking, this type of yarn construction is called S-on-S cable or crepe. It is the cousin of traditional cabled yarns, such as Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Hand Dyes, the difference being that all the ply twist in Merino 12, in both the tiny component plies and the final plied yarn, is going in the same direction. Such a construction produces an extremely round and springy yarn with extraordinary stitch definition.

Merino 12 comes to us from a Florida-based company called Prism, which has been selling hand-dyed yarns since 1984. While Prism is perhaps best known for its wildly colored and textured novelty yarns with names like Wild Stuff, Cool Stuff, and Neat Stuff, the company also offers several weights of much more elegant, smooth, classically styled yarns, of which this is the bulkiest.

Color is the real story with Prism. The knitting world has a robust population of hand-dyers, many of whose colorways tend to look alike. But it has a far smaller population of hand-dyers who are both lifelong knitters and fine artists.

Such dyers understand instinctively how to build shade upon shade to create a new hue, and they know how to blend hues together on fiber to create a shifting palette of colors that make music together when knit into fabric. Few people know how to do this well—Gina Wilde of Alchemy Yarns is one, and Laura Militzer Bryant, the founder and creative director of Prism, is another.

Knitting Up
Snagging is the main concern with most S-on-S cabled yarns and traditional cable-spun yarns, simply because your needle has so much to navigate. In this case, you're wrangling 24 teeny tiny spun and plied strands of Merino.

I didn't even bother with sharp-tipped needles, I went straight to a comfortably blunt-tipped set of bamboo circulars and started knitting. I was pleased to discover quickly that Merino 12 has marvelous cohesion. Row upon row of knits and purls produced itself effortlessly without any snags or difficulties, even when knitting by touch alone.

swatching more than stockinette
The yarn's generous girth made progress so swift that I soon tired of stockinette and began playing with other stitches and textures. Ribbing was plump and springy, with extraordinary stitch detail. Cables were also easy to work and rendered in high relief, though the yarn's bulk eliminated some possibility for nuance.

Moss stitch was surprisingly attractive, both because of the vivid clarity of the purl bumps and the way those purl bumps stood out in relief against the background color shifts. The yarn's springiness resisted even the tightness and control of linen stitch, while feather and fan stood out in ornate detail like the tops of Corinthian columns.

There's a lot this yarn can do. The only thing I'd avoid is stranded colorwork. First, the fabric would be far too bulky for most purposes. But second and more important, stranded colorwork thrives when worked in yarns with blurry edges that can adhere to one another. Merino 12 is simply too smooth and round.

Blocking / Washing
The yarn's label suggests machine-wash in cold water, but I went ahead and washed my swatch by hand in warm water. It slowly relaxed into its bath, leaving no traces of dye in the wash or rinse water—but the Fog colorway may be too mild to test for true colorfastness.

Once blotted and resting on a towel, my swatch was a sad sight. It had stretched and thinned like a wet tissue. Knowing Merino's elasticity, and how much elasticity S-on-S cable spinning adds to yarn, I had faith.

Sure enough, when I returned to my swatch a little later it had dried and pulled itself back together. There was no final change in stitch or row gauge, nor was there any significant blooming along the fabric surface.

Merino 12 is a soft, comfortable yarn that poses no risk in terms of itch or irritation. It also has extraordinary elasticity both in the fibers themselves and in their twist, making it ideal for any project that you want to be enduringly springy. I'm envisioning many elastic cuffs, cowls, and caps.

In terms of durability, just remember that twist is energy. With its 24 individually twisted strands of yarn, Merino 12 is an energetic and strong yarn that's slow to pill or show any signs of fatigue. It's too bad the yarn is too bulky for comfortable socks (perhaps house booties?) because it'd actually wear quite well, especially if knit at a tighter gauge.

Like whipping cream or egg whites, the act of plying adds loft and volume to fiber. The air that each ply holds open around itself creates a material that's bigger than the sum of its parts. Merino 12 is a perfect example of just how big a yarn can become with plying. But it's also an example of proper balance and finishing—my swatches showed no bias, nor did my stitches snag.

A medium-sized women's pullover with no patterning will require about 933 yards, or 8 skeins, keeping the tab just over $200. What a beautiful, soft, and well-wearing sweater that would be.

I'm guessing many people will want to dabble in just one or two skeins to start. That's perfect, because Merino 12 is an ideal contender for any of the one- or two-skein cowl patterns making the rounds. The linen stitch patterning in Kirsten Kapur's Chickadee Cowl (Ravelry link) would be perfect, and the cowl requires just one skein of yarn.

Or why not conduct your own experiment? Simply cast on enough stitches for your desired cowl circumference and swatch your heart out until you run out of yarn.

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