Put on a sweater made from Sylvan Spirit and you’ll immediately become a tree hugger—not because you love trees, but because you’re wearing one.
First introduced in the summer of 2002, this yarn is composed of 50% wool and 50% Tencel lyocell, which is a manufactured fiber derived from wood pulp. The pulp comes from cultivated Southern oak and gum trees grown on land that’s unsuitable for grazing. It is a natural and renewable resource harvested from tree farms that are committed to practicing responsible forest stewardship.
Sylvan Spirit fits perfectly within Green Mountain Spinnery’s overall mission to stay environmentally responsible, natural, and domestic in its choice of raw materials. (You may recall another Green Mountain Spinnery yarn from years ago and now discontinued, Granite State Green, made of wool from sheep that graze on New Hampshire’s transmission power line rights of way.)
Sylvan Spirit is only available in two colors, a creamy white called Luminosity and a shimmering grey/brown blend called Moonshadow. I chose the latter for this review.
Sylvan Spirit comes in 180-yard hanks that currently retail for $14.95 apiece (up from $10.25 when this was first published in 2004). The yarn feels at once stiff and lifeless, but I suspect this is nothing more than a bit of impatience on the yarn’s part. It wants to be worked. As soon as I began wrapping the yarn around my needles and forming stitches, the yarn perked up.
Although it appears to be a single strand of fiber, Sylvan Spirit is actually made of two loose strands spun so closely together that you almost can’t tell them apart. The double composition lends stability to the yarn, and although I snagged it a few times, I never did any permanent damage.
Progress was steady and even, my stockinette swatches looking as if they had just come off the knitting machine.
Blocking / Washing
My test hanks didn’t have labels on them, so I followed my own washing tradition: warm wash with mild soap, cool rinse, blot and dry on a towel. The instant the swatches hit the water, I could feel the wool relax and bloom in my fingers.
Although the fiber relaxation was immediately visible in the dried swatches, it had no impact on gauge. The washed swatches had an identical gauge to their unwashed cousins.
All the tightness in my original stitches was gone, giving way to a smooth and cohesive knitted fabric surface. Likewise, any hint of stiffness in the fiber was gone. The washed fabric was soft and beautiful.
How does it feel to wrap a tree around your neck? Surprisingly good. The swatches softened so much with just one wash that I can only imagine how wonderful a Sylvan Spirit garment would feel after several washes.
Although the yarn itself has very little bounce or elasticity, the presence of wool lends excellent memory to the knitted fabric. I tugged my swatches to and fro, and they always bounced right back into shape.
Both the wool and Tencel lyocell fibers in Sylvan Spirit are breathable, absorbent, and durable, making any garment made from this yarn comfortable and appropriate for everyday wear.
Perhaps Sylvan Spirit’s most notable quality is its brilliant sheen. When held in the sunlight, the purl stitches on my swatches glimmered like real pearls.
The stitch definition is absolutely perfect, making Sylvan Spirit an excellent choice for cables, seed stitch, and any Aran-style work.
Because it is only 50% wool, the yarn is a good option for those who live in warm climates but still like a little wool in their lives. Targhee is a breed that thrives in the western rangelands of the U.S.A. and produces a wonderfully soft and spongy wool. As an added benefit, your knitted fabric will drape beautifully, showing off complex stitchwork without becoming too bulky and unflattering to your figure.
How much yarn do you need for a project? That depends. A lacy scarf pattern from the Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book will require three skeins (or cost you a little shy of $45), while a complex Aran tunic from the same book will require 9 to 12 skeins depending on size—translating to anywhere from $135 to $180.
Tencel Lyocell is an expensive fiber to produce, but it’s also the cleanest of the regenerated cellulose fibers, with no use of harsh chemicals like formaldehyde), and Green Mountain Spinnery goes out of its way to use environmentally responsible suppliers and processing methods—which means that your money will be well spent.