A fixture in Denmark’s knitting scene for more than 30 years, Marianne Isager is finally—and fittingly—entering the U.S. market. She dipped her toes in our waters a few years ago when Interweave Press published the English translation of her book, Knitting Out of Africa.
But that book represents a mere fraction of her creative output. Her other books—Inka, Japan, and Strik a la Carte—are only available in Danish, although English translations are promised soon.
The Isager Aesthetic
Marianne Isager’s designs tend to employ clean, fine geometric motifs using simple knit and purl stitch variations and lots of color. Her closest design compatriots would be Hanne Falkenberg or Vivian Høxbro, although each has her own distinct style.
Like pointillist paintings, Isager’s designs rely on the detail you can only get at a fine gauge. Try her designs using a thicker yarn and you’ll likely lose the picture. For this very reason, all three yarns in the Isager Yarn line knit up at a fine gauge—from lace to fingering and light sportweight. They are designed to work separately as well as when stranded together for effect.
As of this writing, the yarns are still making their way to stores. To find a retailer near you, check with Isager’s distributor.
Meet the Yarns
We begin with Isager Wool 1, a deceptively delicate yet thoroughly sturdy single-ply, lace-weight 100% wool yarn spun in Denmark. Each 50g skein holds 340 yards (310m) and retails for $11.50.
It is currently available in 21 colors, including beautifully heathered natural shades such as the one you see here (called 6s).
Wool 1 is ideal for fine garter stitch and lace motifs because it has the strength necessary to hold fabric open and maintain its three-dimensional qualities.
Next we have Isager Alpaca 2, a succulent two-ply blend of 50% Merino and 50% alpaca. Spun in Peru, this yarn knits up at a light sportweight gauge and ships in 50g skeins of 270 yards (247m).
Isager Alpaca 2’s incredibly plump, bouncy, and soft hand makes it the front runner in the “squeeze me” category. The plumpness and bounce are distinct traits of the Merino, but the 50% alpaca still lends a hint more weight and drape to the finished fabric.
Although it has been spun worsted, the yarn develops a very delicate halo with each wash. Priced at $10.95 per skein, this yarn is currently available in 21 gorgeous hues.
Finally, we have the workhorse of the line, Isager Highland Wool. Spun in Scotland, this two-ply, fingering-weight wool yarn comes in 305-yard skeins (279m) weighing in at 50g and retailing for a mere $8.95 per skein. Considering the value of the Dollar and the quality of this yarn, that’s a steal.
Isager Highland Wool is currently available in only 12 colors, all of which have an exquisite heathered hue (including the Maize shown here). This yarn and Isager Wool 1 can be stranded together for a slightly thicker and more visually complex fabric.
Waiting for High Tide
All three yarns could be used for many purposes, but they are the absolute ideal material for realizing Isager’s designs (as well as those of her daughter Helga, which are sold under the name Amimono). So it’s frustrating that as of this writing, the vast majority of those designs aren’t yet available in English.
Vivian Høxbro generously provides an online translation of popular Danish knitting terms into English, and I’ve been using that tool to make my way through Isager’s Danish books. As most knitters know, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
But ultimately, be aware that what we currently see is just the beginning of a much greater wave of patterns. Isager has signed with a U.S. distributor (the same folks who bring us Opal yarn) and they’re working to bring the first English pattern booklet out this fall. It contains only eight of her designs, and I sincerely hope we can get more soon. She has dozens of others, and, I’ll confess, I’m impatient.
I’m telling you about this yarn now because I want you to be ready for Isager Yarn when it does arrive at your LYS, which it should very soon. This yarn is special, and Isager’s patterns are even more so.
I am happy to note that since this review was published in October 2008, Isager Yarn has, indeed, made its way to yarn stores and stashes around the world. But I love re-reading this review and imagining that tender time right before these yarns arrived. – Clara