A skein of Tilli Tomas Milan
Tilli Tomas Milan yarn knit up
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Yarn Profile:
Tilli Tomas Milan

First Impressions
When I say "Tilli Tomas," you may think of yarns strung with beads and sequins and Swarovski crystals. But did you know the company also sells a whole line of smoother standard yarns? This fact finally hit home when I received a sample of Milan, a succulent and supersoft Merino dotted with 10% cashmere and 10% silk.

A quick study told me this was no standard generic stock yarn, it had to have been made just for Tilli Tomas. And a quick email to owner Tracy Robinson confirmed this. She spent several months working with a mill in India to achieve her ideal twist, ply, and fiber blend.

Any carbon footprint this yarn may carry from its India manufacture is offset by Tilli Tomas's karmic footprint. The company has used a portion of its revenue to set up several safe houses for impoverished women in India. They provide training for these women so that they can better provide for themselves and their families.

And speaking of families, that's how this yarn came about. Tracy began developing it as a birthday present for a beloved sibling—which is why it has that dusting of luxurious cashmere. She enlisted the help of her husband's uncle, a retired Australian sheep farmer with a great gift for evaluating Merino. They added silk for shimmer and brilliance, and after many iterations, this yarn was born.

Knitting Up
I started my review with the intention of testing this yarn for socks, since it's being marketed in some places as a sock yarn. But my conscience wouldn't let me get past the first few rows of my mini-sock swatch. It seemed like cruel and unusual punishment for such a fine and seemingly delicate yarn.

As I unraveled my sock swatch, I discovered that the fuzzy halo of each stitch had incorporated itself with its neighbors and didn't want to be disturbed. Slow and careful unraveling did the trick, but I still had to stop a few times to un-snag the fibers.

Knitting the yarn is a pleasure. It flows smoothly and easily through your fingers, and I was quickly able to knit by touch alone. For the same reasons that the stitches were hard to unravel, the two plies stayed nicely together and snagged only twice. Both times I gave the yarn a quick tug and everything came back into place easily.

My stockinette stitches looked smooth and even, and the variegated colors produced zig-zagging stripes rather like reflective ripples on a pond. Those stripes will change depending on the width of your work. I played around with a Feather and Fan motif and the yarn behaved equally well.

Blocking / Washing
Even in a cold-water wash, my swatch released a faint cloud of pink that rinsed clear right away. And the swatch also relaxed and fibers bloomed beautifully. There was very little need to prod things back into shape—the yarn seems delicate but it survived the wash with flying (if not initially bleeding) colors.

At first I thought the gauge had changed from 7 to 6 1/2 stitches per inch, but as the yarn dried the crimp of the Merino fibers pulled everything back together again.

As I suggested earlier, this is an exceptionally, exceptionally soft yarn. Not only is it suitable for next-to-the-skin wear, but it demands it. The fine Merino gives warmth and bounce, the silk gives a radiant shimmer, and the cashmere puts the softness and halo over the top.

As with all things soft, alas, this means you probably won't want to knit rugby jerseys out of Milan. First of all, you'd need 13 skeins (and pay $240) for a medium-sized women's sweater.

No, this yarn longs to caress your neck and drape off your shoulders in a splendid and nurturing shawl or throw. If you're on a budget, I bet you could still make a decadent skinny scarf out of one or two skeins.

You could also make a luxurious pair of socks, as long as you wear them very gently. Even then, prepare for pills. A brief period of friction caused the halo to unite in fine clumps. They were eventually visible on the stockinette, much better concealed on the Feather and Fan—again furthering the argument for some sort of patterned shawl. The pills gradually grew bigger and were reluctant to separate from the swatches when tugged.

Milan produces the kind of fabric you want to wear to bed. I briefly pondered how many skeins would be required for a nightgown, but ultimately the fine gauge got me. (Unless I used larger needles for lacework, but even then you can't go too big or you'll lose too much structure in the fabric and it'll pill faster.)

So if softness is your game, you enjoy working on smaller needles, and you don't mind knowing that you have to treat your garment a little gently, put Milan on your short list. Even two skeins would be enough for some good fun.


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