If there’s one thing I love more than a delicately crunchy woolen-spun wool, it’s the idea of a delicately crunchy woolen-spun wool to which a dusting of cashmere has been added.
This has been a pipe dream of mine since forever. At long last, the tiny yarn company Biches et Bûches
—founded by a Scandinavian family settled in France—has turned my dream into a reality. Meet Le Cashmere & Lambswool.
The woolen spinning process requires a certain kind of fiber to work. It must have loads of crimp (which means wool) and a length of 2 to 2 1/2 inches, no greater than 3. The longer the fiber, the less willing it is to be placed in a teased, fluffy jumble.
Those longer fibers
—ones like alpaca and silk and longer locks of Merino—thrive under the combed order of worsted spinning. If worsted is rice, woolen is oatmeal.
Knitting with this yarn was a breeze. The grabby nature of the fibers meant that there was no splitting of the yarn’s two plies. They cooperated beautifully, and I was able to knit by touch alone fairly quickly. The yarn’s grabby quality also meant that on the rare occasion when I dropped a stitch by mistake, it didn’t go anywhere.
The yarn itself had the characteristic irregular thickness that you’ll find in woolen-spun yarns. Not irregular enough to be noticeable in the finished fabric, but definitely on my hands as they tensioned the yarn to work each stitch. I knew that the minute I dropped this swatch in warm soapy water, the fibers would relax and ease everything into place.
You could joke that the whole reason to knit with a woolen-spun yarn is for the moment when you wash your finished garment. What looked lumpy and irregular on the needles, when introduced to the bath, suddenly relaxes its legs, stretches out, and becomes a cohesive and glorious piece of fabric.
I was eager to see what kind of additional bloom that dusting of cashmere provided. I raced through my first swatch, helped by how easy this yarn is to knit, and dunked it into a clear glass bowl with warm water and a slosh of Ivory dish soap.
My color wasn’t bold enough to reveal any overwhelming bleeding, nor did the yarn leave any unusual residue in the bath. The fibers relaxed instantly, and my fingers could feel the swatch puff up.
I gave it a gentle squeeze, dunked it in a bowl of rinse water, and prodded it into shape on a towel. Then, I got to watch with great pleasure as it began to dry. The bloom was quietly magnificent in a way that made my stitches look beautiful.
Lambswool is the finest fiber a sheep will ever grow. Lambswool from a spunky breed other than Merino—one that could thrive in Scotland and produce fabulous crimp and compression resistance—is especially glorious.
In this case, the small Scottish mill they most likely use actually sources its lambswool from Australia and New Zealand. You can read a thoughtful explanation as to why on the mill’s website. I’d like to hope that the lambswool used here is from a sturdier New Zealand breed, which would account for the spunk.
On its own, you already have a lovely wool. But the 12.5% cashmere is enough to add halo and fill in the gaps without changing the fundamentally peppy character of the wool.
While not renowned for their rugged durability, woolen-spun yarns produce airy sweaters that’ll keep you toasty warm for a long, long time. They just won’t survive in a pair of socks, where heavy pressure and abrasion will put those short, crimpy fibers to the test.
Structurally, Le Cashmere & Lambswool is most comparable to Jamieson & Smith‘s wonderful Shetland yarns, though with a slightly finer hand; or Brooklyn Tweed Loft, but far stronger. Only after an undue amount of abrasion did my swatch begin to reveal hints of pilling, and even then I had to look closely to find them.
We’re seeing an uptick in designs that call for you to hold two (or more) strands of yarn together, with at least one strand being a brushed mohair and silk yarn. That brushed mohair acts like an Instagram filter to transform humdrum stockinette into something ethereal.
But not all kinds of yarn play well when stranded together. Some, especially the smooth, worsted-spun yarns of the world, would rather stay alone, thank you very much. They push away from their neighbor and leap off the needles at every chance they get, leaving you with a dropped stitch you don’t notice until you’re well past the point of no return.
Woolen-spun yarns like this one, on the other hand, adore company. They readily grab all neighboring fibers and carry them along for the ride. They also offer the added bonus of already being faintly blurry. When you pair that blur with a brushed mohair and silk, you get shimmering water and fog and a sandy beach all in one.
(Speaking of which, Biches et Bûches now offers its own brushed mohair and silk yarn in colors that match the other yarns.)
What about the cost? At €21 per skein (approximately $23 US as of this writing), this yarn falls on the high side of what you’ll pay for an old-fashioned woolen-spun yarn in heathered colors. If you’re on a budget, love the look of this yarn and don’t need the cashmere, Biches et Bûches offers a 100% lambswool version called Le Petit Lambswool. It retails for just €12.50, or just shy of $14 US.
Earlier this year, I knit a garter-stitch cowl with a strand of Le Petit Lambswool and a strand of La Bien Aimée Mohair Silk. I cast on a big tube using tiny needles, and I knit and knit and knit until the yarn ran out. It was delicious. If I had a sweater made from either pairing, I’d probably never take it off.
Yarn Name Le Cashmere & Lambswool
Manufacturer Biches et Bûches
Fiber content 12.5% cashmere and 87.5% lambswool
Gauge 23 stitches and 30 rows per 4 inches / 10cm on US 2.5-4 (3-3.5mm) needles
Average retail price €21/skein (approx $23 US as of this writing)
Where to buy online Biches et Bûches
Weight/yardage per hank 50g / 272 yards (258m)
Country of origin Spun in Scotland
Manufacturer’s suggested wash method Hand wash and dry flat.
Review date 9/23/19
Color used in review Light pink / rose clair
Wholesale distributor Biches et Bûches
Source of review yarn Purchased retail online from Biches & Bûches