A skein of Kyoto
Kyoto once knitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Artfibers Kyoto

First Impressions
Chances are you haven't heard of this yarn before. Spun in Japan exclusively for San Francisco-based boutique Artfibers, Kyoto is luxurious both in heritage and composition. It pairs a superfine strand of brushed mohair and wool with a smooth, barely spun strand of luminous silk. The result is elegant yet cuddly, the best of all possible worlds.

Artfibers is known for such temptations. Tucked in San Francisco's financial district, the store produces all of its own yarns either in Italy or Japan. You'll find them nowhere else.

The company excels in the dramatic, whether it be ribbon, eyelash, slubs, or tubes, or angoras, silks, wools, and wildly processed polyamids.

The yarns need to be touched to be fully appreciated. You can knit up swatches in the Artfibers store or request sizeable samples by mail for essentially the cost of the postage.

When you buy yarn at its normal price, Artfibers lets you choose from among a large library of patterns for free. Or, of you prefer a customized pattern, they'll do it for a modest fee. Orders over $100 are progressively discounted, and shipping is always a flat rate of $5.

You build Artfibers garments around the yarn, and the results are truly one-of-a-kind. Other knitters may try to guess which yarn you used, but chances are you'll leave them guessing.

Knitting Up
Kyoto is extremely easy to knit, sliding smoothly through my hands and gripping my bamboo needles comfortably. If you follow the recommended gauge using US 10.5 needles, you'll have a finished project in no time. Stitches appeared even and steady. The yarn has no elasticity, so be sure to tug and rearrange any inconsistencies as you go. Pay special attention to your gauge across each row, because your fabric could otherwise begin to slant or get lopsided.

Although the two plies are barely spun together, the mohair and silk fibers are melded together beautifully. I encountered no snags, no split strands, no loose loops protruding out from the fabric -- nothing. I did, however, find one knot in my skein. This is quite common among limited-run specialty yarns.

Blocking / Washing
The intense red color stayed put in cold water, bled ever so faintly in tepid water, and bled more distinctly in warm water. But the water ran clear after only one rinse, and I couldn't detect any color loss in the dryed swatches.

When rolling the swatches in a towel to dry, I blotted a bit too vigorously. My swatches looked flat and bereft until fully dry, at which point I was able to fluff them back up again.

There was a modest expansion of gauge. My un-washed swatches knit up at 4 stitches per inch on US 10.5 needles, expanding to an even 3.5 stitches per inch (the yarn's recommended gauge) after washing and blocking.

Although brushed mohair can feel brassy against the skin, Kyoto's doesn't. It is pure softness.

I should note, however, that Kyoto produces a fairly transparent fabric with excellent drape. Because of this, you might want to wear something underneath a Kyoto sweater, at least in public. In private, I'd gladly risk embarrassment for a chance to be fully enrobed in this succulent material.

The flat, unspun silk reflects light in a luminous, almost flickering manner that is gently subdued by the mohair. As a result, I can see a Kyoto garment fitting in equally well at a formal restaurant or casual gathering.

My swatches endured a significant amount of abuse while only getting softer and fuzzier in appearance. Any vaguely pill-like blotches of mohair were rare and easily removed.

We don't always have sizeable yarn budgets. On those rare occasions when we can splurge, it makes sense to choose something truly rare and unusual. Kyoto falls into that category, although its pricetag is somewhat lower than its designer counterparts. A medium-sized women's sweater will run you $90 or less, whereas a Vittadini or Colinette can easily go into the mid-$200s. If this price is still too high, you could indulge more modestly with a luxurious Kyoto scarf.

I see only two drawbacks. First, Kyoto is only available in a limited range of bold colors that currently includes white, orange, burgundy, red, blue, and brown (names are mine). If you prefer gentler pastels, you're out of luck.

Second, it's only available from one source: Artfibers' San Francisco store. The company does try to remedy this situation with generous and inexpensive samples, but you still have to wait for the samples to arrive. The instant gratification-seekers among us might not have the patience for this.

But you will find most of what you need on the store's Web site.

If you're interested in an adventure, I urge you to check out Artfibers.

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