Let’s cut to the chase: Loft is pretty much perfect. If I had all 32 colors at my disposal, I could easily see myself knitting with nothing but this yarn for the rest of my life.
Well, that might be an exaggeration—but only slight. After all, this is not the finest cashmere. It has no silky sheen, no unusual twist or ply, and its tiny diameter means far slower gratification than you’d get from a bulkier blend. But within each skein and each stitch I find myself falling in love with wool all over again.
Loft is the young new sister to Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, both of which were carefully conceived by knitwear designer Jared Flood.
Loft and Shelter are both made from the soft and springy coats of sheep that graze in the western rangelands of the U.S. The fibers are scoured, carded, dyed in one of 11 colors, and then masterfully blended to produce a total of 32 heathered colors.
Because each color is built upon layers of complementary and contrasting colors, the final hue will actually look slightly different depending on the light and the backdrop. This makes choosing yarns for colorwork an exquisite exercise.
Both yarns are spun woolen at the historic Harrisville Mill in New Hampshire. Woolen spinning involves taking shorter, high-crimp fibers, giving them a quick brush to tidy things up, and then pulling and twisting them into two strands that are then plied together. The spinning technique produces an extraordinarily airy yarn—nearly 90% air, in fact—with lots of bounce and, true to the yarn’s name, loft.
Any woolen-spun yarn is vulnerable, and Loft is no exception. With so much air enclosed in a veil of so little fiber, the yarn cannot be yanked or flung about like you might a sturdier yarn. I was reminded of this while winding my skein. Just a half-dozen cranks into it and my yarn snapped. Once I adjusted my movements the rest of the skein wound up without a hitch.
Likewise, if you’re used to keeping a death grip on your yarn when you knit, Loft is going to tell you—gently—to relax and slow down. Not in a bothersome way, more like the way you may relax when leaving the city and reaching a quiet spot in the country. By the fifth or sixth row my hands had adjusted and I actually picked up steam.
My stitches were smooth and even, in that deliciously mossy and weathered woolen-spun way. A nice feature of woolen-spun yarns is their wide range of gauge and needle size possibilities. Because of all that air and crimp, the wool will simply expand or contract to fill out the space you give it.
Blocking / Washing
Until this point, anything you knit from Loft is still rather like a good batch of bread dough. You’ve added the flour, water, and yeast. You gave it a good kneading and an even better rise, and now it’s time to turn this dough into bread.
In the case of Loft, the process of washing will turn those rows of knitted stitches into a cohesive piece of fabric. The warm soapy water quickly relaxed the crimpy wool fibers in my swatch, allowing them to stretch their legs and meet their neighbors for the first time.
My washed, rinsed swatch dried back to its original shape but with a softer, more relaxed look and feel. Along the swatch surface, a gentle halo softened and blurred the stitches ever so slightly. Despite the change in consistency, my swatch showed no difference in gauge before and after washing.
As I said before, Loft isn’t a yarn you can fling about with reckless abandon—at least not while knitting with it. Once it’s been gently washed in warm soapy water, however, the fibers achieve a semi-fulled state that makes the overall fabric much stronger. Even then, Loft will never be a sock yarn. Don’t even try—or do, but tread gently and enjoy every moment, knowing your time together will be limited.
But for hats and mittens, scarves, shawls, and most definitely sweaters, as long as you keep your tension reasonably tight, your fabric will wear beautifully. Yes it will eventually pill, but the pills will be easy to pluck off without disrupting the surrounding fibers.
I do have a note on touch. Even though Loft is a soft yarn, and far softer than comparable woolen-spun yarns of its class, I fear some people will still dismiss it because it’s not a superfine Merino. Please understand that it can’t be. For this kind of yarn construction, the fibers absolutely need to have a little spunk and character to them. Otherwise they’d give up and lie flat, providing none of that spongy resistance that makes woolen-spun fabrics so delightful to the touch.
I’m confident even the most unruly sheep would hold still if it knew its fleece were headed for this yarn. Loft’s airiness, fine gauge, and two-ply construction make it a dream for lace, as you’ll see in the collection of patterns Jared and his team created for this yarn.
But Loft is also extraordinarily suited to colorwork, the fuzzy surface blurring the lines to give a distinctly impressionistic look. Likewise, it renders cables in a gorgeous, weathered way that reminds me of tree bark.
I have the feeling Jared sees the bulkier sibling Shelter as the sweater yarn—or perhaps he didn’t want to put people off with the finer gauge right up front. Whatever the reason, most of the first Loft patterns he released are for accessories—hats, mittens, scarves and shawls.
Loft would, however, make a positively dreamy sweater. And each time you sit down to knit it—which you’d get to do for quite a long time—you’d enjoy the same experience of slowing down and letting go.