We’ve seen yarns that shift from color to color, and even from texture to texture—slubby to smooth, bouclé to bumpy. But Noro has just upped the ante with a yarn that not only shifts colors but actual fiber content: wool, silk, cashmere, alpaca, angora, kid mohair, and camel. Each fiber type has a subtle impact on the overall texture of the knitted fabric, making Transitions a truly remarkable yarn.
How do they do it? They line up the different fibers in a specific order and feed them through the carding machine. When the resulting fiber is spun, its colors and fibers reflect the precise order in which the fibers were put through the carder.
Blending dyed fibers prior to spinning—instead of dunking your yarn into dye pots after the fact—gives a far deeper, more subtle complexity to your color shifts. It’s something Noro does very well.
Such careful blending requires significant time and attention, which translates into higher costs per skein.
On the skein, you can’t really tell how the colors and fibers will progress. You need to look closely at the knitted samples on the Noro color card (which most online vendors display). Wind the yarn into a ball and you’ll also see how the colors and fibers slowly march from one to the next.
Knitting was fast—aided by the yarn’s bulk—and required very little visual supervision. After a few rows I was knitting by touch alone with no problems.
The only thing I noticed was an abundance of loose fibers on my lap and tea mug. Angora was the main culprit.
I also encountered one knot in my skein, and it joined two totally different colors and fibers. The change was uncomfortably abrupt, but it was similar to what you’ll experience when joining new skeins. I consider it inevitable.
Transitions is spun as a single-ply yarn, which gives you fewer twists and plies to get in the way of what you really want to see: the fibers. On the skein it may look kinked and overspun, but the twists even out when you wind your yarn into a ball and knit it up. My swatches were perfectly even, with no bias to indicate too loose or tight a spin.
Blocking / Washing
My thick, bulky swatches stayed firm in the wash, relaxing only slightly. They did not bleed or fade in warm water, and they required only minimal blocking.
The dense fabric took quite a while to dry, but I could quickly see a cozy and inviting bloom on the surface. Once dry, my swatches had truly come into their own: the fabric was plush and cohesive, like a perfectly blended bread dough.
There was no change in gauge.
In the wash, my loose ends had come completely unspun and were long wisps of unspun fiber. Before you wash your garment for the first time, definitely darn in any loose ends so this doesn’t happen—it’s a lot easier to darn yarn than wisps of fiber.
Transitions behaved much like other bulky single-ply yarns I’ve tried—Bulky Lopi and Bartlett Yarns’ Fisherman’s Bulky in particular. The fibers in each stitch relaxed into their neighboring fibers, giving the Transitions swatches an even more cohesive, blended, nearly felted look and feel.
The fabric is thick and warm, definitely a candidate for winter-weather garments. I felt an occasional light scratch against my neck, and it was usually caused by a stray guard hair that got into the mix by mistake. Otherwise, Transitions is next-to-the-skin soft.
Under friction, my swatches emitted clouds of tiny fibers into the air. I counted an average of three twists per inch in Transitions. Many of the yarn’s fibers tended to be at least an inch long, which means they’ll average three twists per inch—which means they’re well anchored into the yarn.
But these shorter fibers were often 1/2-inch long, held in place by only one full twist. Their chances of staying put are slim, and you’re relying on the crimp and halo of neighboring fibers to hold these smaller ones in place.
With more wear, the surface halo began to mat down. Picking and fluffing the surface with my fingers immediately primped the fabric back to new, but not without causing even more loose fibers to fill the air. Despite all those lost fibers, Transitions is so plush that the swatches never felt thinner with wear.
You can do amazing things if you card and spin your own yarn. But not everybody knows how to do this, and not everybody has the time or desire to learn.
Transitions gives you all the benefits of a sophisticated, hand-prepared fiber blend without having to crank a carder or treadle a wheel. It is expensive, but the cost is directly proportional to the amount of time it takes to produce a skein. I consider it an artisanal yarn.
Transitions knits up at a similar gauge to Noro’s Kochoran, which means you’ll have several beautiful Noro patterns at your disposal.
If money were no object, I’d recommend something wild and stunning like a textured full-length coat with cables and bobbles (14 to 17 skeins, or $350 to $425, and I promise that total strangers will climb over one another to touch it).
Meanwhile, closer to earth, you could do a more modest pullover (a medium-sized women’s sweater with ribbing will require an average of 7 skeins, or $175) or a poncho (the Jane Ellison poncho pattern—published by Noro—also requires 7 skeins).
Tightening the budget even more, we have scarves (simple ones will average 2 skeins) and hats (you can squeeze a basic ribbed hat out of one skein).
From a fiber and color blending perspective, Transitions is the most remarkable commercial yarn I’ve seen this year. I urge you to pick up a skein the next time you see Transitions in a shop, if even just to admire the fiber artistry up close.