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Yarn Startups:
The Rare Yarns Company

Rare Yarns logo

In the United States, new independent yarn startups are exciting, but—with so much variety already at our disposal—they don't stop the presses. In Australia, where yarn companies are still few and far between, it's a different story.

Allow me to present The Rare Yarns Company, a Victoria, Australia-based startup founded by Ruth and Matthew Benge. They previously launched the Tasman range of alpaca yarns for the Australian Alpaca Co-Op.

With a mission of bringing "beautiful, out-of-the-ordinary, and great-to-use" yarns to market, the company is currently in the process of launching all its new yarns. I have seen three of the lines so far. None of them featured fibers I'd consider truly rare, which is why I'm particularly eager to watch the rest of the company's offerings unfold.

While the company builds its distribution channels, you can purchase its yarns directly from the Rare Yarns Company online store. Pattern support is small but growing. I found some attractive, contemporary, and—perhaps best of all—free patterns in the patterns section of the company Web site.

Rare Earth
The first line, Rare Earth, features 80% organic undyed alpaca and 20% superfine merino in three incarnations: brushed, bouclé, and smooth 8-ply.

Rare Earth Brushed
Rare Earth BrushedThis is the first time I've seen a brushed yarn without a trace of mohair. Think Classic Elite La Gran but matte, heathered, and 200 times softer. It is currently available in seven natural undyed colors that take advantage of the natural alpaca hues of white, greys, tans, and browns.

It knits up at 14 stitches and 20 rows per 4-inch square on US 10 (6mm) needles. Each skein holds approximately 110 yards and retails for AU$10, or approximately US$6.90.

Rare Earth Bouclé
Rare Earth BoucleThe bouclé is—if the Rare Yarns Company followed standard practice—the brushed yarn but in unbrushed form. The loops are small and closely spaced to produce a fully textured but relatively firm fabric that totally conceals individual stitches.

It is available in 11 undyed colors and knits up at 17 stitches and 26 rows per 4-inch square on US 8 (5mm) needles. Put up is in 85-yard skeins that retail for AU$10, or approximately US$6.90.

Rare Earth 8-Ply DK
Rare Earth 8-Ply DKAnd finally, for those who prefer a totally smooth yarn that will give excellent definition to complex stitch patterns, there's the 8-Ply DK. Whereas pure alpacas tend to be slick and inelastic, this blend has enough merino to provide loft, stretch, and some fiber memory.

It is currently available in 6 natural colors, knitting up at 22 stitches and 30 rows per 4-inch square on US 10 (4mm) needles. Each 110-yard skein retails for AU$9, or approximately US$6.21.

Rare Essentials
The Rare Essentials line adds more spice, with bright colors and more fiber blends. There are currently four incarnations: 8-ply Cocoon (which I have yet to see), 12-ply Astrakhan, 12-ply Misty, and 14-ply Rare Fire.

Rare Essentials Astrakhan
Rare Essentials BoucleAstrakhan is a 12-ply dual-toned bouclé made of 80% alpaca and 20% superfine merino. It is identical to the Rare Earth bouclé but in 8 dyed colors (including Grape, shown here), all of which have a black core binder fiber that gives them a wintry hue.

Each skein holds 85 yards and retails for AU$10, or approximately US$6.90. The gauge is 17 stitches and 26 rows per 4-inch square on US 8 (5mm) needles.

Rare Essentials Misty
Rare Essentials MistyThe soft and lofty Misty is similar to the naturally colored Rare Earth line, but not identical.

First, it includes mohair in the blend (with 50% alpaca, 30% mohair, and 20% superfine merino). And second, it comes in eight rich colors reminiscent of old-fashioned hard candies. It is wonderfully soft without any brassiness.

It is available in eight colors and knits up at 14 stitches and 20 rows per 4-inch square using US 10 (6mm) needles. Put up is in 110-yard skeins that retail for AU$10, or approximately US$6.90.

Rare Essentials Fire
Rare Essentials FirePerhaps the most complex and intriguing of the bunch is Rare Fire, a 4-end wrapped and brushed marle that blends all the Cool Jewel colors in the Essentials range—jade, amethyst, sapphire and topaz. Picture four strands of the brushed yarn plied together to create a wonderfully plush and vibrant material.

Like its brushed components, Rare Fire is 50% alpaca, 30% mohair, and 20% superfine merino. The suggested needle size is US 10, or 7mm. Each ball holds approximately 90 yards and retails for AU$12, or approximately US$8.28. It is only available in two colors.

The company's Web site defines the Rare Fire range as a "brushed super fancy range combining rare fibres like yak, silk, cashmere and superfine merino in vibrant colours and textures." So far we've only seen alpaca, mohair, and merino.

I have yet to see Cocoon, an 8-ply yarn made of 7.5% silk, 7.5% alpaca, 15% mohair, and 75% superfine merino. Put up is in 110-yard skeins, and it knits up at 17 stitches and 26 rows per 4-inch square on US 6 (5mm) needles. Retail price is AU$10, or approximately US$6.90.

And the Verdict Is...
I'm excited about this new company. I must admit that, with a name like the Rare Yarns Company, I expected to see more rare fibers. Merino and alpaca are increasingly common, not rare.

But note that the company is just beginning to launch its yarns. The Fancy Yarns line, which I have yet to see, promises more in the range of rare and exotic fibers. I'd love to see them take things a step further with rare sheep breeds as well as cashmere, quivut, and camel.

For now, I still think their somewhat-but-not-brutally-rare rare yarns are worth a look. The brushed yarns are super soft and lofty, the loops on the bouclés aren't big enough to snag annoyingly, and the 4-End Wrap mohair combination is fast-knitting and colorful.

Best of all, these yarns are all reasonably priced in the US$6 range. Even with the cost of international shipping, you're still getting a good deal.

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