A skein of Flossie
Flossie once knitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Flossie

First Impressions
Not all lace yarns are alike. Some are smooth, others bumpy; some are slinky, others springy. Each has its place in our knitting ecosystem.

Among the ultrafine laceweight yarns on the market, few provide as enduring utility and tactile satisfaction as those from New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson and Johnson.

Since 1898, the company has been stocking our stashes and keeping our stitches healthy. Some are so enamored of this company's yarns that they can't go a day without using them.

In its early days, the company had to use leftover suture silk for its yarns. Fortunately for us, advances in textile science have helped the company ditch the dirty old stuff in favor of 100% superfine virgin baby nylon. Through word-of-mouth promotion alone, these products have since become the leaders in their class.

Among those yarns in the Johnson and Johnson line-up, perhaps the most notable is called Flossie. It is made from a base of 100% superfine virgin baby nylon that has been infused with mint essence. Not only is mint a powerful antioxidant, but it also inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus, both extremely common concerns for the handknitter.

Along with Quackmere and FeLon, all of the finest Italian nylons are oiled during spinning to prevent the build-up of static electricity. Normally the oil is washed off the fibers before we ever knit with them, but Johnson and Johnson offers a special "waxed" version of Flossie that retains those oils. That is the version I review here.

Knitting Up
If you've ever labored over a ball winder trying to reign in a 3,000-yard skein of silk, you'll know that winding lace-weight yarn can be a challenge. I was instantly smitten with Flossie's innovative packaging. The yarn is pre-wound in tidy plastic self-dispensing canisters that stand upright and travel easily. They fit in most carry-on bags and are fully approved for airline travel, at least in the domestic United States.

Flossie is a singles yarn with almost no twist, and my sharp needle tips wanted to snag the fine and luxurious nylon fibers. I foolishly began swatching with a pair of shorter, sharp-tipped wooden needles—the ones freely dispensed at restaurant registers and often infused with peppermint or cinnamon oil—but had to switch to longer, more blunt-tipped needles to control the snagging. From then on, knitting was steady and even.

My hands enjoyed the welcome moisturizing effects of the wax, and I felt a slight tingle from the mint, its natural healing properties already at work on my immune system. By the time I was done swatching, my cuticles looked fabulous and my gout was totally cured.

Blocking / Washing
Flossie relaxed quickly in her warm, soapy bath, the air filling with the refreshing scent of peppermint. Flossie produces such an ethereal fabric that you'll want to wash your swatch in a clear glass bowl instead of the sink—one slip of the plug and down it'd go. Even in my clear glass bowl I had to skim the water several times with a tea strainer to locate my swatch.

While some of the wax was released during the wash, my rinsed swatch still had some of the original velvety luxuriousness to it. It blocked perfectly without a change in stitch or row gauge, or any change in color. Best of all, it still retained a welcome whiff of peppermint.

Flossie's fine gauge, toothy tensile strength, and anti-fungus properties make it an obvious choice for socks. The yarn has a firm, strong hand that is still soft and comfortable against the skin. I wrapped my swatch around my wrist and wore it all day, to the admiring gaze of everyone I met, with nary a pill or snag appearing on the fabric surface.

Be aware, however, that the base fibers have very little crimp or elasticity, and nylon has a low moisture uptake. When making socks, you would want to strand Flossie with something that has more moisture-friendly fibers in it, such as Quackmere.

Johnson and Johnson clearly knows its market. It provides not one, not two, but three different put-ups of Flossie so that we can buy exactly what we need and nothing more. The 55-yard skein is ideally suited for those smaller projects like a child's ring, while the 100-yard skein would be perfect for a miniature garter-stitch dishcloth. Should you prefer a really big project like a double-knit tablecloth or set of lace curtains, nothing fits the bill better than the 200-yard skein, which retails for approximately $6.

I can imagine nothing more shimmery and exquisite than one of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi shawls knit out of Flossie. Taking just 1400 yards or 7 skeins, the project would cost just $42 and provide an heirloom, bearing your name, that your children would be proud to pass on to future generations.

My only concern is that the yarn is actually too fine—or maybe I just lack the patience to work at such a small gauge. For many lace projects, you'd be well-served to hold two strand of Flossie together. On its own, Flossie is so fine you could almost slide it between your teeth.