A skein of Techno
Techno swatch
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Blue Sky Alpacas Techno

First Impressions
Whenever you take a single strand of continuous fibers and apply twist, you get something innately vulnerable and unbalanced. We have all sorts of tricks for beefing up the fibers, adding secret plies and twists and whatnot. But ultimately, such a yarn is so ill-suited for solo adventures that its name is in the plural: "singles."

A few yarns buck the trend—I'm thinking specifically of Lopi, whose Icelandic wool fibers offer built-in structural help. But a whole generation of knitters has dismissed Lopi as "too scratchy." And the softer alternatives? Those fibers tend to be far too fine and vulnerable for such loose a yarn construction as a singles. What's a softaholic to do?

Get creative. That's exactly what Blue Sky Alpacas has done with its new high-tech yarn called, fittingly, Techno. At first, second, and even third glance, it appears to be a singles—a plush, invitingly soft and fuzzy singles.

Don your surgical gloves and pull the yarn apart, however, and you'll quickly discover a fine skeletal system lurking right beneath the surface. A seemingly microscopic strand of silk has been knit into a mesh-like I-cord tube. Into this tube has been "blown" short, fine baby alpaca fibers. (I'm not sure where the 10% Merino goes, but I suspect it's been blended with the baby alpaca to stabilize the blend.)

The concoction is then smoothed and twisted in such a way that it appears very much like a singles. By trapping the fibers within an open mesh of silk, instead of laying them flat and applying twist, you're able to achieve great volume without accompanying density or weight. Such a structure makes Techno extremely warm while also remaining extremely lightweight.

Knitting Up
Techno is advertised as a "fast knitting, no splitting" yarn, and I was eager to test this out. Splitting can be another issue with traditional singles, especially those with a loose twist. Such yarns can come un-spun on your needle, leaving a wall of open fibers for your needle tip to stab.

While winding my skein, my fingers felt a very tight, unusually dense spot with little halo. Looking more closely, I saw that it was a craftily concealed join—not a knot, exactly, but a slightly lumpy place where two ends had been overtwisted together.

Knitting was, indeed, a no-snag affair. Within my first few rows I was already knitting and purling by touch alone.

I did notice that Techno's airiness kept it from clinging to my fingers as I worked. It kept wanting to pop off. To maintain even tension, I kept releasing and re-winding the yarn in my left hand. The yarn feels so lovely to the touch that this wasn't particularly frustrating, but it was an issue nonetheless. The yarn's halo helped conceal any spots where my tension had slipped.

Another factor of the airiness revealed itself in my stockinette swatch. The fabric produced by US 10.5 needles was open and airy, relaxed and fluid. A dream for things like scarves, cowls, or blankets. But for a sweater or jacket, where you have a lot of fabric putting stress on shoulder seams, I could see potential issues.

Nestle Cowl
I bumped the needle down to a US 9. Immediately the fabric plumped up. I decided to play with ribbing to add even more elasticity and structure to the fabric. Ribbing led to simple cables, and before I know it, my swatch had become a simple, pretty little cowl. (It's called Nestle, and you can find the pattern on Ravelry or buy it here if you like it.)

Blocking / Washing
With so much air and so little fiber, both my swatches relaxed instantly in their warm soapy bath. The water was clear without any traces of bleeding.

If you've ever knit an I-cord handle on a bag, you'll know just how stretchy that kind of material can be. My swatches felt much the same way in the water, and I took care to treat them extra carefully while they were wet.

I blotted them in a towel and let them rest until they were dry. Both my swatches relaxed ever so slightly, the gauge losing about 1/2 a stitch per 4 inches. Definitely do swatch first if you're knitting a form-fitting garment.

Wearing
Blue Sky Alpacas knows how to create yarns with skein appeal. Techno fits into the line perfectly. It pulls your hand toward it, begging to be squeezed and rubbed against your face. It is exquisitely soft. Touch it and you immediately start dreaming of knitted blankets and pillows and pajamas.

It's important to note that the very fiber that gives this yarn its initial skein appeal—the soft, fluffy baby alpaca—is not held together by twist. The fibers are trapped within a mesh cage of silk that is then pulled, rubbed, and gently twisted. Techno violates all laws of yarn by generally bypassing twist and operating solely on the notion of friction.

Unfortunately, the same friction holding the fibers together can, when applied to the final fabric, pull them apart again. After a brief amount of friction, soft clouds of loose fibers began to gather over the surface of my swatches—more on the loosely knit one first, then on the tighter one too.

The shortness of the fibers makes these clouds easy to pinch and pull off. But at some point the halo will inevitably fade and only the glow of the silk mesh will remain.

Conclusion: Techno socks would be a bad idea. For sweaters, you'll want to keep your gauge on the tighter side, and be prepared for inevitable pilling in high-wear areas like underarms. But hats, scarves, and cowls? Simply splendid.

Conclusion
Techno can wear many hats. It has the halo of a brushed yarn, the unidimensional roundness of a singles, and the airiness of a woolen-spun yarn—yet it is technically none of those things.

I love seeing "novelty" mill techniques that were previously reserved for brightly colored synthetic fibers now being applied to gorgeous natural fibers. If yarn is a means to a creative end, the more varied and flexible the yarn, the broader your creative possibilities will be.

Why do I still recommend this yarn even though it pills? Because it's an intriguing yarn that feels splendid and knits easily. Used in the proper circumstances, it will make you very happy.

 
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