We’ve seen yarn that mimics nearly every surface texture, from sequined fur to terrycloth, and denim. It was only a matter of time before suede was added to the list. That’s what Berroco has done with Suede, a new yarn for spring 2004.
Creative Director Margery Winter (since gone from Berroco, replaced by Norah Gaughan, and currently in the most-skilled hands of Amy Christoffers) added a touch of whimsy with the Suede colors, giving them such Wild West monikers as Hopalong Cassidy, Wild Bill Hickock, Roy Rogers, Texas Rose, Zorro, and Calamity Jane. Colors are similar to what you’d see in true suede garments, with several shades spanning from tan to brown, plus a suede-like rose, denim blue, deep purple, and moss green.
Pattern support for Suede includes several sexy tank tops as well as hats, scarves, and a shawl, as well as a few interesting long-sleeve sweaters.
While from afar Suede could resemble its animal-skin namesake, when you look closer it almost resembles stringy chenille. Only chenille has a center cord holding the fibers together, and Suede is constructed like a ribbon, with loose horizontal slats running in between two firm rails on either side.
My mention of the yarn’s loose horizontal slats was a subtle way of hinting at what happened when I began knitting. Again and again, the tip of my needle poked straight through the center of the yarn.
Fortunately it did no permanent damage to the yarn, and over time I was able to adjust my knitting to compensate. The snags slowed, and then I encountered the next common pitfall of flat yarns: twisting.
As I unwound the yarn from its ball to work with it, the yarn twisted upon itself to the point where the yarn’s previously flat surface became round. My simplest solution was to dangle my work every few rows and allow the yarn to untwist.
If you want to be more sophisticated about it, however, you can place the skein on a vertical dowel—similar to a countertop paper towel holder—and pull so that the skein rotates while the yarn itself unwinds in a steady string.
Some twisting is inevitable. But if you do nothing about it, you’ll end up with a slightly distorted fabric surface that loses much of the pseudo-suede appeal of this yarn. So the twisting must be dealt with one way or another.
Suede is a “sticky” yarn, sticking to my needles, my clothing, and the winter-rough skin on my fingers. The latter made me nervous at first, since every time I touched the yarn I heard a scratch-scratch-scratch of my skin against it. The good news is that this snagging didn’t produce any visible changes to the yarn or fabric whatsoever. It was more of a mental game.
Suede’s ultraclear stitch definition makes any irregularities in tension very obvious, especially between knit and purl rows. I hoped that the washing process would help smooth things out
Blocking / Washing
My swatches were slow to absorb their bath water. Even when fully wet, they still had the mottled look of a semi-moist fabric.
In warm soapy water (using Ivory dish liquid) the swatches didn’t bleed a bit, both during their wash and rinse. Once blotted dry in a towel, the perfectly square swatches took forever to dry, a common tendency with synthetics.
My uneven stitches remained uneven, but the swatches felt softer and much more relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, that my gauge went from 5 stitches/inch unwashed to 4 stitches/inch washed. Moral of the story: Always wash your swatches before settling on a needle size. It may seem like a waste of yarn, but not nearly as wasteful as knitting an entire sweater that doesn’t fit.
Suede creates a lightweight but firm and un-flowing fabric, making it especially good for body-hugging garments. Against your skin, the yarn feels similar to a synthetic chenille: soft and papery dry.
Suede is so structurally strong that I had to cut it with scissors. Tugging by hand was a physical impossibility.
A reasonable amount of thrashing produced no signs of fatigue in my swatches. The more I tortured them, the more firm-lipped they became. This durability was a pleasant surprise, indicating that a Suede garment will last at least one season of rough wear, if not more.
This is a very specific yarn you wouldn’t use for just any project. If you wanted to “yee-haw” it all the way, you could use Suede for a Southwestern-style fringed sweater jacket or tank top.
But Suede will perform equally well in more region-neutral garb such as a simple (and oh-so-suggestive) ribbed tank or cabled long-sleeve pullover. Just remember that Suede has more bulk than drape, so you’ll do best with highly shaped (and/or body-hugging) designs.
From a price perspective, Suede falls in the upper middle range of specialty synthetic summer yarns. A body-hugging tank will require approximately 7 skeins (or $62.65), while a medium-sized long-sleeved sweater will run you 10 or 11 skeins ($89.50 to $98.45).
I expect to see many Suede-like garments in the department stores this summer, and I doubt their prices will go much lower than these. If you’re up for something fun, and you enjoy unusual surface textures, you may want to give Suede a second look.