A skein of Alegretto
Alegrettoknitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: SMC Select Alegretto

First Impressions
I'm a huge fan of brushed kid mohair and silk. It usually comes in a very fine weight, the most famous such incarnation being Kidsilk Haze from Rowan.

Sometimes we long for the plush ethereal feeling of brushed mohair and silk, but we want to sink our teeth into something more substantial. To ease our cravings, Rowan has paired three complementary-colored strands of Kidsilk Haze together to create a worsted-weight version called Kidsilk Haze Trio.

But sometimes even worsted-weight isn't big enough. We want something colossal.

An easy way to beef up brushed mohair is to take that same superfine strand and knit it into a tube—and call that yarn. The only problem? Kid mohair and silk are expensive fibers. For a seriously chunky yarn, it can add up quickly.

Here you can go in two directions. You can break open the piggy bank and keep the fibers pure, reaching for a skein of Schulana Kid-Setair, which is 70% kid mohair and 30% silk. Each 33-yard skein retails for $23.50. For someone special, I'd do it in a heartbeat. For anything else, I'd have to think twice.

What's the other direction? Find a similarly constructed yarn but compromise on the fibers—which is what I did with SMC Select Alegretto. It's made from only 30% mohair (note this isn't the finer "kid" grade of mohair, either) blended with 40% acrylic and 30% polyamid, aka nylon. The synthetic additions also provide a shiny illusion of Mohair. Each skein holds 34 yards, but the real benefit of the compromise? It costs just $8.95.

Alegretto is so thick that you can barely get 2 stitches per inch out of it. Which, in turn, means that those 34 yards—while they don't get you too far—will still take you somewhere.

Knitting Up
Tube yarns can sometimes present snagging challenges, with all those teeny tiny stitches vulnerable to a pointy needle tip. Brushed mohair yarns, likewise, can also snag from all the loose fiber ends sticking out. With those two warnings already in place, I was reluctant to use my sharp-tipped Denise Interchangeables, but they were all I had handy in that size. Surprisingly enough, the yarn only snagged once, and it was barely a snag at all.

Alegretto's girth gave my hands a work-out, but the super-fast progress balanced out the extra work. Visually, the fabric looked as if it'd been knitted with fuzzy pieces of rope. The tube construction gave ample elasticity that helped the yarn cling to my hands and my needles.

The only potential annoyance: With such a tiny-sized skein, you'll need a lot of skeins for anything substantial. The more skeins you use, the more ends will need to be darned. It won't be very discreet, either, since each end is so big—so try to plan your joins along the edge where a little extra bulk won't be noticed.

Blocking / Washing
The high synthetics content means you can toss Alegretto in the washing machine without worry, so the label says. But I'm old-fashioned. I like to wash my knits by hand, so that's how I did it.

My swatch wouldn't go down easy—it had so much air that it just sat on top of the water, staring at me. I finally had to hold it under until it was fully saturated. Neither the wash or rinse water showed any hints of turquoise color from the dye.

I blotted the excess moisture out of my swatch and set it out on a towel to dry, which it did in no time. There was no change in stitch or row gauge.

This yarn is far too bulky for socks, but it is being marketed for sweaters. After a moderate amount of friction—the kind a sweater would see under the arms—the surface of my swatch began to take on a faintly matted look. The more the friction, the more matted the look became. But when I sat back and held the swatch at arm's length, the matting was blurred and all I saw was a pretty fuzzy fabric. It took quite a bit more friction before things started looking sad, and even then, again, I had to hold the swatch at an angle and squint to see the clumps that'd formed. They were not happy to be plucked off, they needed snipping.

From a touch perspective, the biggest issue is that the mohair in this yarn is probably an adult grade that may be prone to prickle. That's why this yarn is $8.95 and the kid mohair/silk one is $23.50. Every compromise has its cost. Still, considering what can happen to this fabric with heavy wear, I'd probably stick with thick, slouchy hats and poofy cowls.

Alegretto's limited yardage eliminates most possibilities for a one-skein project. Maybe a pair of thick wristlets? (Give it a try and let me know.)

But with two, you can knit a perfectly slouchy hat like the one on page 3 of Skacel Knitting's Fall 2012 "Magalog", or even this poofy cowl by Knot Another Hat (both patterns free). Add a few more skeins and you can make a more substantial cowl, and by 17 skeins you're into the realm of jackets.

Would you want to make a jacket from Alegretto or its all-natural Kid-Setair cousin? That gets us into the aesthetics of superbulky yarns. Normally they tend to look like knitted Play-Doh because they're so huge, the stitches so voluminous and clear. Alegretto is somewhat rescued from that fate because it's brushed and the fuzz helps meld the stitches together. But still, there's no escaping that it's a superbulky.

Which brings us to the whole reason we knit in the first place. Sometimes we do it to busy our fingers for sustained periods of time, churning through miles of yarn as we go. For those times, such a fast knit may not be quite as satisfying because the project is over before you know it.

But sometimes we knit because we need something warm and fuzzy, and we need it fast. Maybe a last-minute gift. Maybe a hat to replace a lost one, pronto. If your budget permits a little decadence, you could go for the pricier kid mohair and silk option. But if you're ok with some synthetics in your fibers, Alegretto may be your answer.