I love yarns that surprise you in the wash. They make the whole knitting experience much more fun, forcing you to wait until the final blocking for the big reveal.
I had high hopes that Coast would be one such yarn. How else do you explain a dense little puck of yarn that feels like cotton but is actually 55% Merino?
The secret has to be in residual spinning oils that will come out in the wash, or with the constrained wool fibers held under tension and just waiting for warm water to relax. Either option means we’ll have a puffy and ethereal fabric once it’s done.
But I had no way of knowing for sure unless I swatched.
A beloved staple in Europe, Holst Garn Coast is finally finding its way into U.S. stashes. If you buy direct from Denmark, as of this writing it’s $4.15 for a 383-yard cake ball. In the U.S. it’s a little more, to factor in the import and store markup, but it’s still among the lowest prices you’ll find for a yarn made of all natural materials. The website is in both English and Danish, and my package arrived quickly and without incident. You can also order directly from The Yarnery here in the U.S. if you want to avoid international ordering altogether. [I have no financial affiliation with any of these stores, I just want to help you find the yarn.]
The color range is vast and exquisite. I counted 88+ colors on the Holst Garn site. The yarn gets its heathered coloring from the fact that it was dyed with a material that only reacted with the wool. Look closely and you’ll see little wisps of white, which are the cotton fibers.
The yarn really does feel like cotton, or even a cotton/linen blend. Two plies are loosely twisted together, with no significant bounce or body. Knowing how those yarns can get slippery on metal needles, I picked a pair of bamboo ones with a little grab to help my stitches stay in place.
As I worked, I could see that wonky and irregular stitches had very little bounce to hide behind. I tugged my swatches to and fro, and hoped that things would even out in the wash.
Held single, my yarn didn’t snag or split, and I encountered no knots or weirdness in any of my skeins.
Holst Garn gives a suggested gauge for two strands held together, so I played around with that option too. Each strand is so distinct, and the gauge so tiny, that I couldn’t trust knitting by touch alone. I had to keep my focus on my work.
Blocking / Washing
The label says hand wash cold, but I started with a warm bath to force out any residual oils and cause whatever bleeding might possibly happen.
My swatch went in, absorbed the water, and was quickly submerged. There was no bleeding in the wash, only a wispy kind of grey residue that turned into translucent flecks after a few hours. (Any chemists in the house who can explain why that happens?)
I set out my swatch to dry, being careful to block it to shape and smooth everything out, and then I waited. It dried flat, balanced, and beautiful, with just a hint of relaxation and bloom. Not nearly as much as I’d expected.
The yarn is also listed as machine-washable on the gentle cycle. Just for the fun of it, I knit another swatch and tossed it in with my regular laundry using warm water, and I put it in the dryer too.
The swatch emerged just a tad tighter than the handwashed swatch, shrinking about 1/2 stitch per inch, with a minuscule bit of puckering here and there. But it gained a fabulous density and fluffiness that I’d want in a sweater.
This yarn opens up all sorts of possibilities for people in warmer climates to make and enjoy wearing beautiful handknits. The color range and two-ply construction makes it ideal for lace or patterned shawls as well as garments with stripes or blocks of color work, with the shades all harmonizing with one another. But even in an all-over solid, it’s lovely.
In terms of feel, the wool was barely detectible except in the swatch I’d tossed in the washer and dryer. Even then, the predominant feel was the dry powderiness of cotton, but with the bounce of wool.
Try as I may, I couldn’t produce any significant destruction in my swatches. When subject to excessive friction, they just continued to soften and bloom.
We’ve determined that Coast doesn’t completely go “poof” in the wash. What’s noteworthy then?
For starters, the fabric did change, but it was a quieter softening and filling of stitches that, I imagine, will just increase with wear. The color range is stupendous. And the price will be hard to beat, even if you’re paying a retailer markup. Those are three pretty powerful positives.
Should you wash the yarn before knitting with it? I wouldn’t go to the trouble. It’s fine as-is, unless you really want a touch more body while you’re working.
In the bigger picture, Coast belongs in an ever-growing category of beautiful yarns that give some of the pleasures of wool while still providing warm-weather comfort. Like Shibui, Coast can be stranded with other fine-gauge options to make whatever fabric ecosystem your climate requires.
Since temps are on the rise and not all knitters can live in Maine like me and wear their winter woolens 10 months of the year, these yarns are a blessing.