A skein of Mooi
Mooi yarn knit up
click each image to enlarge
Yarn Profile:
Louet Mooi

First Impressions
Waaaay back at the summer TNNA show, some two weeks ago, people were all abuzz about a new yarn called Niji. On display at the Louet booth, this miracle yarn was slated for September delivery, but it was also already available online directly from the small Canadian mill that made it. But read on, because a lot can happen in two weeks.

First, the folks at Louet discovered that another company already had a yarn called Niji, so they changed this yarn's name to something much more appropriate—Mooi, the Dutch word for "pretty" and pronounced "moi."

Next, in a move that will make many knitters very happy, Louet bumped its ship date from September to the end of this month and early July (2008). Keep checking the Mooi page on the Louet site—as soon as the product is shipping to stores, you'll be able to buy online from one of them via that page.

And finally, the mill in Canada no longer sells this yarn direct to the public—which will make yarn stores happy because they tend not to like competing with their own suppliers.

What makes this yarn so special? Probably the fibers—a stunning blend of bamboo, bison, and cashmere. Blending a long, smooth regenerated cellulose fiber like bamboo with the super-short downy undercoat fibers of cashmere and bison is a bit like mixing water and oil. You can't just give it a shake and expect everything to be fully blended. Creating a more intimate blend is tricky, however, because cashmere and bison are such delicate fibers. Mix too vigorously and you'll damage the fibers and ruin the blend.

This blend works. The bamboo brings an incredibly smooth, silky luster and strength, while the bison and cashmere give warmth and a delicate halo similar to wisps of steam. The bamboo and bison share hypoallergenic qualities as well.

I always like to know who's behind my yarn, and the people behind Mooi are Jacques and Sylvie of Fibre Isle International, a small mill on Prince Edward Island. Sylvie is no stranger to bison—her sister has a bison farm in Quebec. She and Jacques were happy to hand over sales and distribution to a more experienced and respected company (Louet) so that they could focus on creating more lace blends.

Mooi will be available in lace- and sport-weight, and I review the lace weight here.

Knitting Up
I began my swatching on smooth metal needles, but they were far too slick—the needle kept sliding out of the stitches. So I moved to plastic Denise Interchangeables, but again, it was still a little too slick. Remembering that the yarn was made from bamboo and might appreciate seeing a member of its own family, I switched to bamboo needles and swiftly made up for lost time.

Mooi knits up without fuss or fanfare. Despite the relative inelasticity of the bamboo, the yarn was happy to be manipulated into any stitch combination I chose, stretching and flexing to allow for most standard lace maneuvers and even the more picky k2tog tbl (knitting the stitches together through their back loops instead of the fronts). For my lace swatch I chose a motif from Chrissy Gardiner's Path of Flowers Stole.

Not once did the yarn split or become un-twisted. And while it didn't cling eagerly to my hands, it didn't reject them either. Maintaining even tension was easy.

Blocking / Washing
During the knitting stage I was only aware of the yarn's delicate softness and the halo of bison and cashmere. But the minute I dropped it in the water, the bamboo took over and became the dominant fiber.

My swatch relaxed significantly in its warm soapy water, but it never lost that distinct sense of "string" that you feel with cellulose and regenerated cellulose fibers.

It happily accepted my blocking, and my lace swatch (shown at the top of this page) dried and blocked like this.

Wearing
Mooi immediately feels right at home against the skin, unobtrusively taking up residence and letting you forget what you're wearing. Unlike its other regenerated cellulose counterparts, bamboo fiber is unique in that it has microscopic holes along the fiber surface. They help absorb moisture and aid in evaporation, making a bamboo garment somewhat like a portable air-conditioner.

But in the case of Mooi, that portable air-conditioner is running alongside two central heating units: cashmere and bison. The ultimate result is a comfortable room-temperature yarn with drape, a magnificent sheen, and a come-hither halo.

The predominance of bamboo fiber also helps strengthen the yarn and give more durability to the finished garment—although I honestly can't imagine knitting an entire sweater out of a laceweight yarn with such low elasticity. No, this wants to be a showcase piece that flows and drapes off the figure.

Conclusion
I still haven't even mentioned one of the most remarkable things about this yarn: color. The bamboo has been dyed in brilliant shades of greens, reds, golds, and blues, but the cashmere and bison fibers have been left in their natural light brown state. And those un-dyed fibers are responsible for the halo. What may look like a brilliant aqua skein from afar actually has a skiff of brown floating above its surface up close. It's a truly striking dual-toned effect.

If you were creative, you could get a small shawl out of one skein. More likely you'll need two, bringing the tab to $100. A full-sized lace shawl would require approximately 1,200 yards, which translates into 4 skeins, or $200. I know many knitters who won't be able to swallow that pill.

I'm guessing that there are two main reasons why Mooi costs more—a lot more—than your average over-the-counter imported Brand X lace yarn. First, it's made in North America at a small mill and in small batches that require time and care to do properly—without the economics of scale that come from being able to process 10,000 pounds of fiber in one steady run. And second, the yarn contains cashmere and bison fibers that are themselves time-consuming and expensive to procure.

Still, I hear you. Times are tight and we're all feeling a pinch. How can we be expected to spend $50 on a skein of yarn when a lot of us have to pay that much for a single tank of gas?

You could argue that the yarn—and the pleasure you derive from it—will last long after that gas is gone.

 

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