Any time I see cashmere with an unusual twist, I get excited. This fine, short-stapled fiber is all about delicate tenderness in a normal plied-yarn construction.
But when you twist the same fibers and feed them through a more complex plying machine, one that wiggles the plied strands back and forth, anchoring them with a superfine strand of nylon, things get really amazing.
Suddenly you have everything we love about cashmere, the warmth and exquisite softness, but with unexpected loft and spunk.
Which is why I spent a full day stalking this skein at Knit East last fall, running back to the marketplace after it closed, pulling every string I could to obtain a skein of my very own.
With any kind of complicated ply construction, the proof is in the knitting of the yarn. My biggest concern: Would there be snagging?
I wound my ball, encountering one knot that, because of the variegated hand-dyed nature of the yarn, I’d recommend re-tying with a fisherman’s knot to make sure it’s tight. Cut the knot and position your end at the beginning of the next row, and you may end up with a jarring color change.
The nylon binder thread gave the yarn an unexpected spring, rather like when you tug a strand of chenille.
I used a new set of Knitter’s Pride Royale needles that’d been sent me over Christmas. Unlike most other Knitter’s Pride needles, these have a slightly blunter tip. (Tips too sharp and this yarn will snag, the tiny zigzagging loops are just too close to a boucle.)
But here, there was no snagging at all. The yarn did make a bothersome “click” sort of noise as it passed over the join from the metal tip to the wooden needle, but that’s not the yarn’s fault.
Helix gripped my hands and needles beautifully, and after a brief adjustment to the friendly spring in this yarn, I was knitting by touch alone (eyes intentionally closed) on knits and purls alike. Progress was swift and encouraging.
Blocking / Washing
When I pulled my swatch out of the warm soapy water and gave it a squeeze, I could already see the short cashmere fiber ends beginning to bloom—though the other ends were still safely anchored within the yarn.
I rolled, blotted, and let my swatch dry. The finished fabric was a tiny, tiny bit tighter than the unwashed version, no more than 1/2 stitch per 4 inches; and it was a hair shorter on the rows-per-inch count. But the stitches themselves had united into a soft, fuzzy, cohesive fabric. (The photograph at the top of this review is of the washed skein.)
I expected the yarn to generate lots of red in the warm wash water, but it didn’t. I only spotted a vague pinkish poof.
When I came back to my wash water later, I discovered that all the pink-hued material had come together into a cloud that looked, from afar, like a clump of fiber. But it wasn’t fiber. As soon as I touched the cloud, it dissolved back into the water.
The yarn’s plies-trapped-in-binder-thread construction actually makes it much more durable than a traditionally plied yarn. That tiny nylon thread zigzags back and forth, trapping the plied fibers in place, preventing shedding.
While the ends came loose from the fabric and gave it a glorious bloom that increased with wear, it did not pill.
I really like this yarn. It’s expensive for bigger projects. But considering what it is, how it’s been spun, and who did the dyeing, the price seems remarkably fair.
I only wish Helix were more easy to find, because I’d buy up a whole bunch and make cowls for all my best friends. You want this yarn around your body, soft and warm and exquisite to the touch.
Its easy-knitting texture makes Helix the perfect therapy project. With your hands occupied with the simplest stockinette or garter-stitch, your mind is free to sort out your troubles and bring you back to a happy place.
18 stitches to 4 inches (10cm) on US 7 (4.5mm) needles
$40.00 CAD /skein (currently approximately $28 USD)
Here you’ll have to do a little hunting and gathering on your own. I can’t find an online source for Helix, though Canada’s oldest yarn store, Beehive Wool Shop, does carry it in their store. You’ll have to call or email them for details.
1.7oz / 50g ; 164 yards (150m)
Yarn and fiber origin unknown; hand-dyed in Canada
Hand wash only
No color name on the label
Contact Hand Maiden directly
Purchased from Cricket Cove Yarn Shop. (The shop doesn’t list this yarn or Hand Maiden on its site, but it did stock the yarn at Knit East 2015.)