A skein of Rowan Cork
Rowan Cork yarn once knitted up
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Yarn Profile: Rowan Cork

First Impressions
You may recall that I fell head-over-heels in love with Jaeger Chamonix, a plush blend of angora, merino, and polyamid. The yarn's only real drawback was its price, $14.95 per 120-yard skein.

Fast-forward to this fall when I received a care package of new yarns from Rowan and Jaeger (both owned by the same company). Inside I found Chamonix's long-lost country cousin, a merino/nylon blend going by the name Cork.

The ropelike spin (actually a knitted tube, not spun at all) is identical to that of Chamonix. The gauge is nearly identical as well.

The only thing Cork lacked, at least upon first inspection, was the exquisite, nearly melting-with-softness hand that made Chamonix so special. Still undecided, I began my review.

Knitting Up
Cork's merino and nylon content means you won't see any of the fluff of the angora-rich Chamonix. But the merino makes up for this with almost three times as much bounce and elasticity.

One thin strand of barely spun fiber makes up the yarn's knitted-tube composition, adding to the volume, lightness, and elasticity while taking a few years off the yarn's overall longevity.

My pointed-tipped needles snagged the yarn a few times at the beginning because I wasn't holding the yarn sufficiently taut. Once I did, the tubelike yarn pulled itself together and was much less vulnerable to my needle.

Maintaining a consistent tension with so much elasticity was somewhat of a challenge, especially between knit and purl rows. The unwashed skeins weren't forgiving.

Although the yarn's loft made progress fast and seemingly easy, stitches appeared at times irregular and inconsistent. I hoped that the blocking and washing process would smooth them out.

Blocking / Washing
With so much air held between the fibers, my swatches took several squeezes before becoming fully saturated with water. When they did, they relaxed while retaining a spongelike texture.

My yarn's neutral color made bleeding detection difficult if not impossible. Some of the available Cork colors are particularly bold, and I would advise testing colorfastness before washing any garment using multiple colors.

Rinsed and blotted dry, the swatches adopted a much more flat, relaxed, and cohesive fabric. The uneven stitches smoothed out somewhat but not completely.

Cork's loft and light weight make it particularly appropriate for cuddly sweaters where drape and body-hugging shape aren't as critical as coziness. The yarn's knitted composition and lack of any true spin gives the finished fabric a matte yet pockmarked look similar to that of cork.

Merino is the softest and least-scratchy wool available, making Cork a good choice for sensitive individuals.

The yarn is fortified with 5% nylon and a knitted-tube composition -- which is generally considered stronger than standard spins -- but should still be treated with care.

As with many merinos, any inadvertent dip into the washing machine will result in a fulled garment fit for a dog or teddy bear. And even too enthusiastic of a handwashing will begin the fulling process. If knitting a Cork garment for a non-knitting friend, be extremely clear about the care instructions.

Although the yarn's core fiber has almost no spin to hold it together, I was surprised at how well my swatches performed under pressure. I'd assumed they would quickly pill and take on the look of an old blanket, but they didn't.

Pilling was slow and modest in development. The yarn's excellent fiber memory made the swatches bounce back into perfect shape time and time again.

Cork is more than just a country-cousin to Chamonix. It knits up easily, wears well, and offers an endearing softness and cozy feel when worn. You'll have to work a little more carefully to maintain consistent tension and stitches, but the effort is worthwhile.

The yarn's price falls in the middle of its class as a designer yarn, at $9.95 per 120-yard skein. A roomy medium-sized women's pullover will run you at least 10 skeins, or $99.50.

Unlike the muted pastels of Chamonix, Cork has a slightly more balanced color selection. The yarn's current 12 colors include a Kool-Aid green (aptly named Bug), heathered shades of pale blue, pink, and grey, as well as a bold black, red, navy, and blue. My personal favorite would have to be Delight, a pumpkin orange that's perfect for fall.

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