With online shopping more prevalent than ever, yarn stores are in a bit of a pickle. They need inventory that covers all the bases—yarns for sweaters, baby garb, socks, lace, etc. But they also need to be able to offer something totally unique, something a customer couldn’t easily buy elsewhere with a few clicks.
For Glen Burnie, Maryland, yarn store The Knitting Boutique, the answer came in the form of a small mill in Pennsylvania. That mill worked with The Knitting Boutique to create custom yarn bases, each named after a Maryland river. They are sold as Boutique Yarn in The Knitting Boutique’s brick-and-mortar store as well as on its Web site.
Here’s a preview of the five initial yarns in the Boutique Yarns line-up. [Note: Since this review came out in 2014, three of the five launch yarns are no longer on offer. The two that remain are below. More have been added, so be sure to visit The Knitting Boutique’s Web site if you’re curious.]
All are handwash-only and spun in the United States, though the fibers themselves may have been imported. As you’ll see, some of the bases are offered in multiple weights beyond what’s photographed and detailed here. In the case of any discrepancy between the price on the yarn label and on the Web site, I listed the Web price.
Here we veer off into blended territory, with a nicely balanced three-ply yarn that contains 75% Bluefaced Leicester and 25% silk. The BFL gives you a generous staple length for durability and a faintly diminished puff in favor of drape, while the silk adds a lovely shimmer to the finished product. It’s available in 12 mostly solids and one undyed in lace, fingering, DK, and worsted weights.
If you enjoy a dip in the dyepot now and then, do consider getting a skein of the undyed and having some fun. The silk will thank you.
DK knits up at 5.5 to 6 stitches per inch on a recommended US 5-6 (3.75-5.25mm) needle. Yardage in each 4oz skein is the most generous noted here so far, topping out at 210 yards. Each skein of DK retails for $30, while the worsted retails for $28 and the fingering for $32.
For fans of finer yarns, the fingering weight of this languid three-ply 85% Polwarth/ 15% silk blend will likely have the greatest skein appeal. It’s a much more relaxed, cat-like yarn with just a touch of halo and an inviting shimmer from the silk. The Polwarth tends to be as fine as Merino, though with a touch longer staple length and more open crimp, translating into a slightly more dense, drapey yarn.
The yarn is also available in fingering, worsted, and DK weights. Each 4oz skein of fingering holds 580 yards and could satisfy most fingering-weight one-skein projects. The only thing to note is that the yarn’s three-ply construction will produce a somewhat quieter lace than would the same yarn if one of the plies had been left out. But for projects that combine more stockinette within the patterning, Susquehanna has the potential to be glorious. The yarn knits up at 8.5 stitches per inch on a suggested US 1 (2.25mm) needle and retails for $35. Note that this yarn is also available in lace, worsted, and DK weights.
Continuing the Trend
The Knitting Boutique is not the first yarn store to offer its own line of yarn. But I like the consideration that went into the yarns that were chosen. These are not all your average off-the-rack picks. Some stand out more than others, such as the Polwarth/silk blend, or the Falkland Islands wool, or even the BFL/silk. Together, they make a solid line-up.
What also piqued my interest was the fact that The Knitting Boutique chose to work with a small mill in nearby Pennsylvania, Sweitzers Fiber Mill, instead of ordering from a larger mill abroad. The smaller the mill, the more time and attention go into each skein. The Sweitzers price list is right there on their site, and you’ll see that production is not cheap. But if these skeins are any indication, they do good work.