Yarn Profile: White Buffalo Unspun
It's primarily intended for Cowichan-style sweaters, those bulky jacket-like sweaters with geometric patterns and symbols that originated with the Cowichan people in western Canada. White Buffalo yarn has never been marketed significantly in other countries.
It's a pity, because it deserves a second look. The yarn currently comes in 16 colors, including six shades of blue, two heathered shades of oatmeal, and a cheerful goldenrod.
White Buffalo is composed of six thin strands of fiber that are as flat and uniform as linguini. Before you can knit, you need to start a slight spin to keep the strands together and give them some strength. Simply find the ends (which will be somewhere on either flat side of the skein) and, holding them all together, unravel and twist a few feet. Your other option is to rewind the yarn into a ball, which will introduce a natural twist to the yarn.
The knitting process feels very much like knitting with a huge wad of cotton candy. It took a few rows to get the hang of the yarn (mostly remembering to accentuate my movements so that the fibers wouldn't snag), after which knitting was smooth sailing.
My stitches appeared extremely clean and even, almost as if I were knitting with large strands of clay.
Blocking / Washing
The swatches did bleed slightly during wash, but they rinsed clear and, once dry, did not appear significantly lighter than their unwashed counterparts. The gauge remained true and the fiber softened somewhat.
Because this is pure, unspun fiber, it will felt if you agitate it too much during the wash. It's best to drop the garment into lukewarm soapy water, slowly tap it down until the water has been absorbed, squeeze a few times to get the soap into the fibers, and then drain the water.
Be careful lifting your garment from the wash. It is very heavy and will want to stretch out of shape, rather like a large wad of bread dough.
Tip: Weave in any loose ends before washing your White Buffalo garment. Otherwise, they will disintegrate in the wash.
This yarn is most vulnerable before and while it is being knit up. If you tug a strand that hasn't been twisted slightly, it'll come apart. The good thing is that, by virtue of the yarn's unspun nature, you can simply splice and rub the two ends back together again.
But once it's knit up, White Buffalo relaxes and forms a dense, strong, and extremely warm fabric. I'm pondering making a winter coat out of it for myself.
Tip: When piecing a White Buffalo garment together, give an extra amount of twist to your thread. Otherwise, the constant friction and tugging will quickly pull it apart.
Your other option is to find a tigher-spun, smaller-gauge yarn in a matching color and use that instead.
Knit on even larger needles and then fulled, White Buffalo would make a toasty pair of booties. And I also envision a wonderfully warm blanket of White Buffalo squares that have been pieced together.
Spinners may wish to take matters even further by separating the six strands and spinning each one individually, then plying them together for a stronger yarn with greater stitch definition.
Then there's the price. While Reynolds Bulky Lopi averages $.09 per yard, and Brown Sheep Burly Spun almost $.10 per yard, White Buffalo retails for $.07 per yard or less (elann.com currently offers it for $4.25 per skein, or $.03 per yard).
And finally, there's the instant gratification of knitting with a superbulky yarn. You won't have fine detail and subtle nuances, but at the end of a weekend you'll be wearing a finished sweater.
White Buffalo Unspun
11 stitches and 15 rows per 4 inch square on US 11 needles
Average retail price
$8.49 / skein
Where to Buy Online
Weight/Yardage per Skein
8 oz. / 120 yards
Country of Origin
Manufacturer's suggested wash method
Before washing, measure the chest, body, and sleeves. Washing should be done using lukewarm water. Thoroughly dissolve a cold water soap in water, place the sweater in the suds and squeeze gently. Do not rub or leave to soak.
When garment is clean, squeeze out as much water as possible. Do not lift the garment by a corner from the wash or rinse water. Always lift as a bundle. Rinse twice in clean, cool water, adding a tablespoon of olive oil or lanolin to the final rinse to retain water repellancy.
Remove excess moisture by rolling in a thick towel and lay garment on a flat surface away from bright lights, excess heat and not in sunlight. Do not hang. While still damp, gently push sweater back to its original size and shape. Whew!
Color used in review
123 Light Oatmeal