Heirloom Easy Care Skein
Heirloom Easy Care Swatch

Yarn Profile: Heirloom Easy Care 8-Ply Merino

First Impressions
You can only wear wool for one or two months in Arizona. So why does Tucson's biggest yarn shop have such a hard time keeping this wool yarn in stock?

Heirloom Easy Care is blend of merino and merino cross that looks surprisingly similar to mercerized cotton. That's because it has a cable spin, which also provides excellent strength. The merino adds elasticity and loft.

The superwash yarn is currently available in 42 colors.

Knitting Up
I don't know what it is about cable-spun yarn, but I always have trouble -- no matter how good the yarn. Sure enough, my stitches began untwisting and snagging almost immediately. The stitches I did manage to make appeared relatively inconsistent from row to row.

It took quite a while before I was comfortable enough to look away from my knitting. Even then I'd hit an occasional snag where I'd only picked up one of the three strands that make up the cable.

The yarn also snagged occasionally against dry skin, pulling one of the cable strands loose from the rest. Fortunately, the yarn has a good memory and bounced back into shape with some tugging.

Blocking / Washing
The label says you can wash this yarn in the machine on the short gentle cycle "in approved detergent," yet it doesn't indicate what that detergent is. I first washed my swatches in a simple Ivory solution, and they behaved beautifully. The color and gauge remained true, and my uneven stitches became more consistent.

Feeling the need to temper my enthusiasm, I next tossed the same swatches in a load of heavy laundry using standard Tide laundry detergent. Not a good idea.

The swatches emerged slightly faded and tired-looking, with a bit less elasticity.

Moral of the story: Use a gentle soap!

Heirloom Easy Care wears remarkably well. Excluding the Tide episode, the test swatches survived several rigorous wash cycles without losing their shape or showing any signs of fiber degradation or pilling.

Likewise, they endured substantial wear and friction before they began showing their age. Signs of age included small fuzzy patches followed by subtle pills. The pills were best removed using scissors or a sweater shaver because they were still tightly attached to the yarn.

Heirloom Easy Care knits at the same gauge as Jo Sharp's merino, which gives you almost limitless design possibilities. Its cotton cable-like appearance and light weight make it a pleasant wool alternative for knitters in warm climates.

I can think of only a few occasions where this yarn wouldn't be appropriate. Someone who spends a lot of time pruning thorny bushes, for example, wouldn't appreciate Heirloom's tendency to snag. Likewise, a highly sensitive person might notice Heirloom's slightly rougher texture, a result of its superwash treatment.

As for me, I can't get beyond the snagging problems -- which may be a personal limitation more than anything else.

Otherwise, Heirloom Easy Care 8-ply provides a durable, reasonably priced machine-washable merino alternative.

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Reader Comments
"Just wanted to say that I am really enjoying knitting with Heirloom woolen yarn, and have had absolutely no problem with snagging. Do you knit Continental style? I knit the American/British way, and maybe that makes the difference. I am just so pleased with how it is looking." janetdurant, 6/25/2001

"Have just discovered your site and saw mention of Heirloom wool. I have used a 5ply of theirs to knit my daughter a sweater on my Brother 940 knitting machine in a garter carriage and cable stitch pattern. It was just lovely to use and looks very nice. The upside is that I can purchase the wool at my local wool and yarn shop. The downside is it comes in 50gram balls, which is a bit of a pain to have to re-wind for the K.M." Beverly, 5/30/2001

"I just love Heirloom Easy Care! I discovered it for making baby booties and have fallen in love with the texture and bounce. Unlike the reviewer, I haven't had any problems with snagging or splitting - just the opposite. It's been less problematic for me than Dale Baby Ull. I have been knitting Easy Care up at 4.5 st/inch for a baby sweater and it's just dreamy. I also love how crisply the purl stitches stand out. I'm thinking about making a matching pair of ganseys for baby and me!" terri, 5/26/2001

"Heirloom also used to make(still do???) a lovely cotton yarn. For washing the merino yarn, in Oz we would use some type of WoolWash liquid, most of which have eucalyptus in them, or a soap/detergent which says it is suitable for washing wool, NOT your average all-purpose laundry detergent. We would also use the 'delicate' or shortest warm (not hot or cold) cycle on the washing machine. Or make a rod for our own backs like I do, and handwash them anyway! They will eventually suffer from machine washing, no matter how delicate the washer." sydo, 5/25/2001

"I use unscented Tide all the time. Was my husband's woollen handknit socks in it all the time. They are still going strong & looking good after more than 10yrs and a few darns of the heels where his boots rubbed." Dee, 5/25/2001

"Heirloom also make beautiful 3 and 4 ply yarns, which knit into beautiful baby clothes. 3 and 4 ply yarns are the equivalent of fingering weight, I guess, using 3mm or 3.25mm needles. Drat! You guys are discovering all our secret yarns!" Catherine from Melbourne, Australia, 5/24/2001

"I haven't used the merino wool you're refering too, but I wouldn't wash ANYTHING in Tide. Don't let it in the house!!" billie, 5/24/2001