A skein of Cashsoft
Cashsoft knit up
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Yarn Profile: Rowan Cashsoft

First Impressions
If you told me cashmere could be machine-washed, I probably would've checked your temperature for fever-induced delirium. But Rowan has managed to blend cashmere and other fibers into a plush yarn that can safely be tossed in any neighborhood washing machine without disastrous results.

This machine-washable cashmere is new for 2005 and comes in two basic incarnations: Cashcotton (a mix of cotton, polyamide, angora, viscose, and cashmere) and Cashsoft (blending merino, microfiber, and cashmere).

Smitten with Cashsoft from the very first touch, I made it the focus of this review. I should note that it is very similar to Cashmerino from Debbie Bliss.

Touch is everything with this yarn. It is breathtakingly plush and soft, inviting full-body contact.

The yarn contains 57% extra-fine merino, 33% microfiber, and 10% cashmere, thoroughly blended and spun together in four balanced plies for stability and durability. It comes in 20 vibrant, almost candylike colors—typical Rowan at its best. For this review, I chose a delicate blue called Ballad.

Knitting Up
Pull the tail from the center of the ball and you'll notice Cashsoft's next quality: bounce, and lots of it. This comes both from the marvelous crimp of merino and the four strands plied together at a relatively tight angle for added loft.

As a result, the yarn clings comfortably to your fingers and your needles, stretching and sliding easily into stitches.

My swatches emerged slowly and steadily from the needles. Occasionally I'd pull a tiny loose clump of fiber from the strand, but otherwise it posed no issues whatsoever.

I was happy to see that the yarn's multiple plies didn't snag once on the highly defined tip of my Bryspun needles.

Visually speaking, the four plies give each stitch a somewhat rippled look on the finished fabric. But I did see that the yarn's elasticity made consistent tension on knit and purl rows a little bit trickier.

When I was done, I could see occasional irregular stitches in my swatches. Also, I detected a faint left-leaning bias that I hoped would come out with blocking.

Blocking / Washing
My swatches relaxed in their lukewarm soapy bath, but with no bleeding or fading and no change in gauge. Even with vigorous agitation, the swatches emerged in surprisingly good shape—probably a gift of the microfiber. I expected far more surface distress and blooming than actually occurred.

The bias pretty much straightened out with blocking. I'd like to think this was an isolated incident, or perhaps caused by my throwing the yarn with my left hand, but do be prepared for extra blocking just in case.

As fine short-stapled fibers, merino and cashmere are not known for rugged durability. Although Rowan reinforced the yarn with a large amount of microfiber and a four-ply composition, I still wouldn't use Cashsoft for, say, rugby team jersies or socks for a six-year-old.

Friction caused the swatches to soften and bloom, but it also brought pilling. Fortunately, the pills formed rather evenly across the fabric surface. And from a distance, the fabric's bloom concealed any pill detail.

Pills are an inevitable part of most short-staple wools, but some yarns can withstand more abuse than Cashsoft did before starting to wear. The microfiber kept the fundamental fabric structure intact, which is good news for high-wear areas such as elbows.

If pills bother you, yet you crave the delicate softness of merino and cashmere, I'd still recommend Cashsoft. All you need to do is find a pattern with some stitchwork to help detract from any early surface degradation.

Although Rowan has made several forays into the bulky novelty "gee golly, I'm knitting!" yarn world, the company has wisely continued to build upon its ultimate strength: classic painterly yarns.

Pattern support comes in three new publications, all of which feature beautiful, elegant, classic Rowan-styled designs: Classic Cafe, Classic Garden, and Classic Babies.

Rowan hit the sweet spot when pricing this yarn, with each 142-yard skein costing only $7.95. This means a classic medium-sized woman's cardigan will require nine skeins and cost under $75.

Debbie Bliss. They are also machine washable, but because the Aran and Super Chunky weights contain more fiber, you'll pay far more per yard.

Otherwise, for a fine blend of merino and cashmere that won't break the bank and can be tossed in the washing machine, I consider this a top choice.

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