Please note: As of October, 2018, Classic Elite Yarns has closed its doors. I’m leaving the review up here for reference in case you’re lucky enough to discover some of this yarn for sale.
This yarn is like a good rollerball pen. It’s widely available, doesn’t cost a fortune, feels great in your hands, and flatters your handwriting no matter what you write. In yarnspeak, this means Fresco is affordable, available, and willing to accommodate pretty much anything your needles may want to try.
Fresco is a fine three-ply blend of 60% wool, 30% baby alpaca, and 10% angora. The soft yet durable wool (most likely Peruvian Highland) gives the yarn a strong yet lofty and elastic foundation. The baby alpaca gives the yarn greater softness, a slightly glassy halo, and a somewhat slippery, dense hand. And the angora adds a wee hint of fluff to the whole thing.
At just 10%, the angora content of this yarn is actually quite minimal—like a whiff of chocolate-chip cookies from an open door, it’s just enough to remind you of what you could be enjoying if there were more angora in the mix. For those who think angora is too fuzzy or scratchy, take heed. Like the California roll is to sushi and Merlot is to red wine, Fresco is a very gentle introduction to the land of angora yarns.
Fresco is an easy knit. Only the first stitch in my rows caused occasional problems. Otherwise, no snagging. The yarn hugged my fingers and needles with equal comfort, and I was able to knit by touch alone fairly quickly.
The label suggests you knit Fresco on size US 5 (3.75mm) needles to achieve a gauge of 6.5 stitches per inch. At that gauge, the relatively relaxed fabric has good drape to it, and the yarn easily accommodates textured stitchwork such as Feather and Fan.
But for pure stockinette, my fingers craved something finer. I dropped the needle size down to a US 4, then 3, and finally 2, at which point the fabric really started to come alive. In terms of stranded colorwork, the yarn is much happier (and safer) at 7 stitches per inch or finer. At that gauge you don’t run the risk of seeing the other colors being stranded along the back of your work. With a palette of 35 rich colors, it’s obvious that Classic Elite also sees this yarn as a colorwork candidate.
Blocking / Washing
To the label’s recommendation that you hand-wash Fresco in cold water, I can only say, “Bah humbug.” You want to treat this yarn to a warm-water bath. First, you want to rid the yarn of any residual oils from the spinning process—the mill needs to use oil when working with finer, flyaway fibers such as angora and baby alpaca. And second, you really want to give the fibers a chance to relax, come together, and bloom. Warm water will do that.
My swatches did not bleed or fade in their bath, and they dried without a change in gauge. Their transformation from polite swatch to cohesive fabric wasn’t immediately visible until after the swatches had dried and been handled.
You have to touch this fabric to coax out the halo. I advise yarn store owners to knit several swatches (or better yet, knit a pair of fingerless mitts), give them a good washing, and then leave them out for customers to touch. What you see on the skein is nowhere near as marvelous as what happens later.
Fresco’s tight twist and nearly perpendicular three-ply structure makes it a very well-wearing yarn. The fact that the wool is most likely from a longer-staple Highland, rather than the shorter, more delicate Merino, adds to its durability. For those who see the word “angora” and immediately start to sneeze, take heart—these angora fibers don’t go anywhere.
For high-wear projects such as socks, I’d definitely consider knitting at a finer gauge to help protect the fibers from abrasion. Over time my swatches (knit on US 5 needles) developed patches of fog over the surface, but it took quite a bit of abrasion before any pilling began.
Fresco crosses several lines. First, as a worsted-spun yarn, it delivers strength and cohesion. But the discreetly unifying halo from the angora and baby alpaca also delivers a softer look usually seen only in woolen-spun yarns. And second, it can perform equally well in stockinette, colorwork, textured stitchwork, and even lace. Although it is technically a workhorse, its baby alpaca and angora elevate it from the potentially mundane to the special.
Knit at a tighter gauge, I would love to see Fresco used in socks, mittens, fingerless mitts, or a cozy hat, outerwear that you want to be cohesive and warm. At 164 yards per skein, you’d only need one or two to do the trick. (The Fresco Mitts would be perfect.)
Knit at the looser end of the gauge spectrum, it could deliver a stunning shawl. The solid coloring will let the stitchwork take center stage, and the glossy halo will give the entire piece an ethereal quality. You’d need more yarn, but at $8.50 per skein [$11.95 as of 2016], the project would still be affordable.
And right in the middle, I see beautiful detailed sweaters with the kind of nuance and tailoring you can only get at such a finer gauge.
I only wish the yarn had more angora in it, and perhaps less alpaca, although suggesting this to a Peruvian mill would almost be blasphemy. To me, it seems like more angora would help fill out the stitches and give the finished fabric a more full, powdery halo. But that’s just me—it’s still a very nice yarn. You can pretty much trust your own instincts and know that the yarn will follow you on whatever journey you choose to take.