For all the progress we’ve made over the centuries—the gadgets, the inventions, the miracle potions and cures—there are still some things upon which we really can’t improve. This yarn is a perfect example.
In Peru, rural artisan and Indian farmers are using pre-Columbian farming techniques to grow 100% organic, naturally pigmented cotton plants in their small farmyard plots. The cotton is harvested manually, colors sorted entirely by hand, and the fiber mill-spun in small batches.
The resulting yarn is sold internationally under the Pakucho label (Pakucho, a trademarked name of Peru Naturtex Partners, is the ancient Incan term for “brown cotton”).
Naturally colored cotton has been grown in Central and America for over 4,500 years, and this yarn is part of a recent revival by the Native Cotton Project of Peru.
Pakucho is one of the purest yarns available. By that I mean it is grown and processed without the aid of pesticides, herbicides, artificial growth regulators, defoliants, or any other agro chemicals. By virtue of genetic color traits, its eight earthy hues are devoid of synthetic or chemical dye.
Now that we know the background of this special yarn, let’s untie the hank and see how it performs on the needles.
A hearty cable-spun yarn, Pakucho is composed of five two-ply strands that are comfortably—but not too tightly—plied together. The spin is smooth and steady, and the yarn’s thickness consistent. No flecks of questionable farm bits could be found.
I did have a brief adjustment period where my needles wanted to snag partial plies instead of a full strand. But after a few rows, I was making speedy progress.
By row 10 of my first swatch, I was knitting by touch alone—although I peeked on the purl rows. Stitches were straight and even.
Knit up, all those plies give the fabric a mottled, sandy look. The fabric is firm and somewhat unyielding, as cotton can be, but with an underlying soft wearability similar to that of a terrycloth bathrobe. You know it’ll get softer and softer over time.
I should note that Pakucho is essentially an artisanal yarn. It varies slightly from production run to production run, and even the twist can be faintly different from color to color.
Blocking / Washing
Here’s where things get fun. First, Pakucho can be washed and dried in the machine, which many people will appreciate.
And second, a function of organic cotton as a whole, the yarn’s color gets increasingly rich with wash.
In a cool bath, my swatches washed and dried with no change in gauge. They relaxed more in warm water, but they dried true to shape—no shrinkage in width or height.
However, when I tossed them in a hot dryer and let them tumble for a minute or two, they came out about 13% shorter (the yarn’s label warns of shrinkage between 10 and 15%).
Although the dryer left the swatches much softer and loftier, you may not want to deal with the shrinkage—in which case simply dry your garment flat. It’ll take a while to dry, because this is a dense yarn.
Pakucho is a sturdy yarn that I couldn’t break, no matter how hard I tugged. All those plies also keep the fibers in place during friction.
My swatches grew increasingly soft and supple with wear, developing a delicate and even halo that blurred the originally crisp stitches. Over time, those loose surface fibers gathered together into faint pills that were easily removed. The underlying fabric remained thick and strong.
When my abused swatches got too far out of shape, I simply dunked them in a warm-water bath, tossed them in the dryer briefly, and reshaped them on a towel to dry.
I confess I’m not particularly fond of most cotton yarns, especially those with countless ropelike plies. I miss the vibrant aliveness of wool, the way it clings to your fingers, greets the needles, and unfolds as fabric before me.
But I’ll make an exception for Pakucho. I find the naturally pigmented colors extremely beautiful, and I appreciate that its creation treads lightly on the environment.
The yarn begs for stitchwork, although its lack of elasticity will make any ribbing purely decorative. I could see it making a lovely textured cardigan or pullover. Moreover, for those who desire soft and pure materials for their baby garments, Pakucho would be an ideal option.
Any drawbacks to Pakucho? That depends. If you crave the alert perkiness of mercerized cotton, Pakucho may be a little too earthy for you. And if you tend to pick bright colors not normally found in nature, Pakucho may strike you as bland.
For me, the yarn shows how amazing Mother Nature can be when we get out of her way.
Pakucho Organic Cotton
Peru Naturtex Partners
100% certified organic cotton
5 stitches per inch on US 7 (4.5 mm) needles
50g / 88 yards (yardage varies from year to year, this is the 2005 number)
Hand or machine wash warm, rinse cool. Dry flat or gently tumble to almost dry and finish flat. Allow approximately 10-15% shrinkage in length for tumble drying. Organic colors intensify with washing.