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A skein of Robusta
Robusta once knitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Briar Rose Robusta

First Impressions
If you're a knitter, you already know that we do strange things when admiring a new skein of yarn. We might squeeze it, rub it against our neck, perhaps pull it to our face and give it a good sniff. When it's an especially big skein, I like to give it a hug.

Step inside a Briar Rose Fibers booth and you'll quickly notice that most of the skeins are huge. They're like plump little wool babies, easily passing the 400-yard mark. Suffice it to say, when I'm in the Briar Rose Fibers booth at a festival, I do a lot of hugging—which is how I first met this skein of Robusta.

True to its name, Robusta is a hearty (dare I say robust) three-ply yarn made from "highland wool." This is a distinctly Peruvian grade of fiber most similar to Corriedale. It's crisp with a medium luster, well-defined crimp, and generous staple length. From a handknitting perspective this translates into a spongy fabric that's easy to knit and wears like iron.

Briar Rose Fibers are all hand-dyed by Chris Roosien, the founder, owner, and general all-around muse of the company. She is not a primary color kinda of gal. Her colorways have much deeper mood and emotion. It's almost as if Chris doesn't just want to give you a blue, for example—she wants to give you the feeling of blue. Pink is so easy to express on a classic ballerina level, but the pink in my yarn was more evocative of those fleeting splashes of deep pink you sometimes see on apple blossoms.

Knitting Up
Robusta is an extremely fast-knitting yarn. Its generous girth alone means speedy progress, but it's enhanced by a springy character and cohesive twist. The yarn grips your hands and your needles, and it doesn't split. I had no snags on my knits or purls, and soon I was able to work by touch alone.

The hank is so huge that I didn't even bother trying to wind it on my standard-sized ball winder—it would've overpowered that little thing in no time. Nor did I bother winding it into a ball by hand, although I can guarantee that would've been a pleasant experience.

Instead, I simply spread the hank out on my lap, like a snoozing cat, and unraveled it as I went. The yarn was happy to be worked this way. I encountered no tangles or knots.

There is no recommended needle size or gauge on the yarn's label. I like my fabric on the tight side, so I used a US 9 (5.5mm) knitting needle. But the yarn is so expansive and flexible that you could easily go up to a US10 (6mm) or even higher.

While Robusta gives a lovely stockinette, its roundedness and springy constitution also make ideal ribbing and cables.

Robusta in ribbing Robusta in cables

Blocking / Washing
The tight twist and perpendicular ply give this yarn a lot of energy, and I could feel it resisting the warm sudsy bath I'd prepared for it. Just like dough sometimes needs to rest before being worked, yarn does too—so I let my swatch sit in its bath for a few minutes before rinsing. This did the trick. By the time I returned, it had become fully saturated with water and that uptight feeling in the fibers had diminished significantly.

My swatch released a faint poof of pink in its wash and in the first rinse, but after that the water ran clear. The faint vinegar smell that accompanies almost all Briar Rose Fibers yarns was gone after the wash.

After its wash, my swatch blocked back to shape without any change in stitch or row gauge, or any lessening of color saturation.

Wearing
Robusta would be a good candidate for a game of yarn tug-of-war. This is hearty stuff. The long staple, mid-range fiber diameter, and tight twist conspire to produce a rugged and enduring material.

No amount of abrasion would dampen the spirits of my swatch.

"So it's strong," I hear you saying, "but how does it feel?" Let the words "rugged" and "enduring" be your clues that this isn't a super-soft, tender Merino. But it is far, far from sandpaper.

Depending on your personal comfort level, you might be perfectly fine wearing this against your skin. If you're a Princess and the Pea-type fiber-wearer, you may need to wear a turtleneck or undershirt.

Conclusion
The funny thing about Robusto is that it isn't one of those tender, frothy creations I usually covet, yet I found myself lamenting each yard I used up for swatching. I want to wear this close to my heart. If I had more than one skein I'd happily make a very simple, unadorned cardigan that I know I'd wear every day.

The only "problem" (I'm winking and using finger-quotes as I write that) is that Robusta comes in such big skeins. Unless you find a pattern that calls for a multiple of 500 yards, you'll have a lot of yarn left over. One skein is a commitment. Not as huge a commitment as, say, a skein of qiviut, but a commitment nonetheless.

The good side to such hefty yardage? It ensures a much more consistent colorway. The bigger each skein, the lower the likelihood of shifts in hues from one skein to the next (something even the most skilled hand-dyers experience from time to time). An added bonus? Any time you're feeling low and need a hug, just pick up a skein and give it a squeeze.

 
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