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Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller

How many knitters has Debbie Stoller ushered into the fold? I can only begin to imagine.

Her Stitch 'n Bitch franchise—which includes the titles Stitch 'n Bitch, Stitch 'n Bitch Nation, Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet, and Son of Stitch 'n Bitch—has sold more than one million books and spawned a journal, several page-a-day calendars, countless knitting groups across the country, and a contentious trademark lawsuit (now settled).

Stoller has been credited with bringing knitting to the masses. And now, through a partnership with Red Heart from Coats & Clark, she is bringing yarn to the masses. Her new yarn line is called Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller.

A Trio of Yarns
The yarn line currently consists of three products: Full o' Sheep, Bamboo Ewe, and Alpaca Love. All are marketed as "100% natural, 100% affordable." You'll find no lace or sock yarn here, nor will you find machine-washable materials.

The three yarns are handwash-only worsted weight, knitting up at gauges of between 16 and 18 stitches per 4 inches. Their yardage is generous, from 132 to 177 yards, and all three yarns retail for less than $5 a skein.

In keeping with the well-established, fresh and funky Stitch 'n Bitch aesthetic, Stoller is set to provide pattern support for her new yarns. I've seen a few pattern leaflets already, and a pattern booklet is due for release in February.

Finding It
Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller yarns are currently available only at Joann Fabric and Craft Stores. I do not know if Red Heart plans to extend distribution to other big-box craft stores or to the LYS market any time soon. I suspect not.

Full O'SheepFull o' Sheep
100% Peruvian wool
155 yards/3.5 oz
16 stitches per 4 inches on US 9 (5.5mm) needles
SRP $4.99
Spun in Peru

The first in the trio is Full o' Sheep, which is spun as a single—or "singles" as it's technically called. The twist is smooth and consistent, and the 12 colors are electric and richly saturated.

The yarn is made from 100% Peruvian wool, which is often called Peruvian highland wool. It's a medium-grade fiber with a generous staple length and open crimp pattern somewhat similar to Corriedale. While it lacks the next-to-skin softness of Merino, it's far more durable for everyday wear—and it's also great for felting.

This yarn's closest kin would be Valley Yarns Berkshire or Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted (although the latter has a shimmery 15% mohair).

Bamboo EweBamboo Ewe
55% viscose from bamboo, 45% wool
177 yards/3.5 oz
18 stitches per 4 inches on US 8 (5mm) needles
SRP $4.99
Spun in Turkey

The four-ply Bamboo Ewe has a much softer, silkier hand thanks to the bamboo content. Note that the label now says "55% viscose from bamboo." This wording comes on the heels of false product claim charges by the FTC and a subsequent statement that applies to the labeling of all fibers made from the regenerated cellulose in bamboo—handknitting yarns included.

According to the FTC, "the soft 'bamboo' fabrics on the market today are rayon" unless they are made directly from bamboo fiber (called "mechanically processed bamboo"). Moreover, "there's also no evidence that rayon made from bamboo retains the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant, as some sellers and manufacturers claim. Even when bamboo is the 'plant source' used to create rayon, no traits of the original plant are left in the finished product." (Which begs a bigger question for another day: Should a yarn made from 55% viscose and 45% wool still be marketed as 100% natural?)

As an extruded fiber, viscose rayon is extremely soft, fluid, and lustrous. In this mix, it gives the wool a definite sheen. Its softness also balances out the medium grade (and thus less expensive) wool while keeping the yarn, as a whole, comfortable to the touch.

Alpaca LoveAlpaca Love
80% wool, 20% alpaca
132 yards/3 oz
16 stitches per 4 inches on US 8 (5mm) needles
SRP $4.99
Spun in Peru

Finally, there's Alpaca Love—a well-rounded four-ply worsted-weight workhorse of a yarn that contains 20% alpaca fiber and 80% wool. Look closely at the yarn and you'll see long, somewhat more prickly fiber ends sticking out. That's the alpaca, which I'm guessing comes from a medium grade of fiber from an adult alpaca. Again, not the cream of the fiber crop, but that's not the point.

With these yarns, Debbie and Red Heart are putting affordable, natural yarns (bamboo viscose notwithstanding) in the hands of the broadest possible knitting audience. While these yarns may not elicit gasps of awe from all who touch them, they are extremely inexpensive, serviceable, and are likely to get even more people knitting. A rising tide lifts all boats, right?

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