A skein of Ambrosia
Ambrosia knit up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile:

First Impressions
In August I received a box of yarns from Knit Picks, and I made the mistake of opening it with other knitters present. The box contained samples of Knit Picks' fall yarns. When I pulled Ambrosia out, the group erupted in a collective "oooooh." Several of them even offered me great sums of money to hand over the skeins then and there. I resisted their offers, knowing I had greater plans for Ambrosia. But I also went online and ordered more for myself. Knit Picks strives to make yarn affordable by buying it straight from the mill and selling it at wholesale prices to the consumer. Affordability is often a major attribute of their yarns. In Ambrosia, we have a yarn whose merits go far beyond low price. It's a luminous, delicate and surprisingly decadent venture for Knit Picks. I say "decadent" because it pairs supersoft 80% baby alpaca with an equally soft and luxurious 20% cashmere. Colors are extremely limited—I suspect because this yarn cost more to produce and was thus a bigger investment risk. There are two pinks, two blues, two greens, a grey, and a lilac. Period. For this review I used Petal, a lovely shade of almost blue-pink.

Knitting Up
Ambrosia is a worsted four-ply yarn that produces an even, full fabric. The alpaca brings a silky fluidity and drape, while the cashmere fills out the yarn with light, powdery softness.

Knitting was easy and fast, although I did snag a stray ply now and then. Tugging the surrounding yarn brought the plies back into order.

At one point I did encounter a rather unusual series of half-knots similar to the ones you use when attaching a new drive band to a spinning wheel. It may have been the mill's attempt at a sturdy, knittable knot, but it produced a firm and visible lump in the knitted fabric. I ended up untying the whole thing and attaching the new strand at the beginning of a new row.

Blocking / Washing
Once wet, my swatches adopted the telltale "hairy" smell of alpaca. But they did not bleed or shed fibers in their warm-water bath, and, when I blotted them dry, they resumed their original shape with minimal prodding.

There was no difference in gauge, nor was there any visible bloom or change in surface texture.

At the 2005 Knitter's Review Retreat I taught a class on the fundamentals of yarn, and I used this yarn as an example of an intriguing worsted-weight four-ply yarn. My swatch survived the ardent fondlings of 70 students without so much as a sigh.

This was a pleasant surprise, as I was worried the alpaca and cashmere wouldn't adhere to one another and that, with the slightest amount of friction, the cashmere would wear itself loose from the fabric.

With friction the swatches became even more fluid and relaxed. I could see a delicate surface fuzz appear, but only when holding the swatch horizontally. Otherwise, the yarn's crisp stitch definition concealed the fuzz. Eventually tiny cloudlike pills emerged but were easily removed.

To date, this is the only baby alpaca/cashmere blend I've seen—but there are other yarns out there that blend baby alpaca with cashmere and something else. Worthy of mention is Elann's fingering-weight Peruvian Collection Baby Cashmere, with 60% baby alpaca, 30% merino wool, and 10% cashmere. It is also spun in Peru and is available in 15 colors, many of which are very similar to the Knit Picks ones. As of December 1, 2005, the yarn sells for a mere $2.98 per 109-yard ball.

In sweater terms, a medium-sized drop-shoulder women's pullover would require some 1800 yards of Ambrosia, or 17 skeins (translating to $118). But I see less-expensive options too.

For parents who don't mind washing things by hand, Ambrosia begs to be made into an heirloom-quality baby sweater or blanket. And I'd most love to see this in a shawl, where you could get away with about 1100 yards of yarn—or 10 skeins, for under $70.

Yes, that's more than the average cost for a Knit Picks garment... but what a garment!

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