A skein of Classic Elite Wings
Wings once knitted up
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Yarn Profile: Classic Elite Wings

First Impressions
Classic Elite advertises that this yarn is 15% hollow, with each of the three plies having a hollow center that "holds a layer of air, like goose down, for warmth without weight." How you can maintain a straw-like hollow core with flexible, ever-moving fibers?

I finally decided that this was Classic Elite's way of saying that the fibers had been thinned and fluffed more than usual during the spinning process to increase the ratio of air to fiber. The more air you add, the less fiber you need, which can be convenient from a profit perspecive.

All this talk of loft is significant because alpaca yarns tend to be flatter and more compact than their wool counterparts -- mostly because of the very nature of alpaca fiber itself. In this case, Classic Elite has blended the alpaca with nearly equal amounts of wool and silk to add loft and sheen.

The color selection is modest, the majority being rather muted earthy tones.

Knitting Up
I worried that the so-called hollow core would cause snags, but this wasn't the case. I quickly gathered speed and confidence without any major problems. Knitting by touch alone was easy.

But when I stopped to look at my swatches, I was underwhelmed. My stitches looked sloppy and inconsistent. And then I noticed that my lap was covered in small crinkled hairs (presumably alpaca fibers) that had come loose from the yarn. Similar fibers protruded from my swatches.

Classic Elite advertises that Wings has excellent stitch definition, and I agree. If your stockinette looks as sloppy as mine did, you might want to skip it altogether in favor of a more complicated stitch pattern where sloppy single stitches won't be as evident.

Blocking / Washing
My blue swatches bled faintly in a cold water wash, relaxing as they dried. Some of the unevenness in my stitches disappeared, but not completely.

While my original gauge was five stitches per inch, it expanded to 4 3/4 stitches per inch once the swatches were washed. This is the official gauge given for the yarn. Lesson learned: Wash your swatches before determining if you need to change needle size to get the right gauge.

Although I'm not sure I agree with Classic Elite's claim that Wings has "cashmere-like hand," it is definitelly soft to the touch. But it's important to remember that alpaca and cashmere are not interchangeable fibers, and that the comparison is mostly a metaphor. Alpaca has a sleek hand and relative sheen, while cashmere has a powdery softness and matte appearance of fine cake flour.

The silk lends an attractive subtle sheen to the knitted fabric, while the wool helps make up for alpaca's innate lack of elasticity and fiber memory. This means that your garment will be able to take more wear before needing to be washed and reblocked. Ribbing-intensive projects won't quickly stretch out of shape, either.

Classic Elite still seems to be trying to make up for the hole left when creative director Kristin Nicholas departed. I still don't get a clear, unique vision for the company, its yarns, or its designs -- it's more in a maintenance mode than anything else.

This yarn is a case in point, with very little pattern support and almost no hoopla when the yarn was first released. Wings seems lighter than its 100% alpaca counterpart, Inca Alpaca, yet it is almost $2 more per skein (perhaps because of the added silk?).

If it's lofty softness you're after, I'd recommend Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran. It lacks the alpaca so it won't drape as well, but it has a much loftier blend of wool, silk, and cashmere.

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