If wool and cotton are the perfect blend for yarn (which they are), why are they so rarely paired together? Are we too set on the notion of cotton being for summer, wool being for winter, and never the twain shall meet?
In reality, these two fibers combined form an ideal ecosystem for the human body. Each compensates for the other’s shortcomings in an almost perfect match of opposites.
With the exception of the gloriously tweedy O-Wool Balance, most wool-cotton blends have been very smooth, worsted-spun, traditionally plied, and not exactly oozing skein appeal. Which may be part of the problem.
When I first saw Katia Cotton-Merino on the shelf, I assumed this fluffy concoction of heathered novelty tubing was synthetic. I reluctantly reached in for a feel, then scanned the label, and a whole new story began to emerge.
Knitting Cotton-Merino was a joyful reminder of the good that can come out of novelty constructions.
A traditionally spun and plied yarn with 70% cotton won’t have much bounce or give to it, unless that other 30% contains something super stretchy like Lycra. But here, Katia has chosen a tube/tape/chainette construction to fabricate crimp and give an airy sense of weightlessness to the otherwise dense, crimpless cotton fibers. And that’s not all. To finish it off, extra fine Merino fibers have been shot within that tube to lend a delicious halo that begs to be squeezed.
The yarn hugged my fingers, making tension on knit and purl rows equally easy. It slid smoothly, gripped the needles, and happily formed whatever stitch I tried. By the third row I was knitting and purling by touch alone. Only a few times did my needle tip snag the wool wisps, but it wasn’t nearly the distraction of, say, a brushed mohair.
There were no knots or irregularities in my skein. My stockinette looked beautiful, and it was hard to stop my mind from imagining which sweater this could become.
The more I knit, the more intrigued I was by the halo. The wool fibers aren’t as obviously shot through the center like they were in Blue Sky Fibers Techno. I couldn’t find any substantial inner core of wool fibers when I un-worked the tube. Rather, they’re delicately held throughout, as if they were blowing about when the tube was being knit and just happened to get caught in the stitches.
While wool becomes weaker when wet, taking on the wispy demeanor of a tissue in the wash, cotton does the opposite: It gets stronger. I could feel it the minute I submerged my swatch. After several dunkings and squeezes, my swatch became fully saturated, taking on a denser, stronger feel. My warm water washed and rinsed clear, leaving no residue.
If I hadn’t known the fabric was 70% cotton, I would’ve thought I’d felted my swatch. The difference in thickness and density is that dramatic.
With blotting and slow, patient drying on a towel, the swatch returned to its pre-wash dimensions. The stitch definition remained clear, but the fabric had gained a smooth cohesion.
My dried swatch had marvelous come-hither appeal.
Here’s where the wool/cotton blend really excels: when being worn. The human body is constantly releasing moisture. What our clothing does with that moisture dictates how happy or uncomfortable we’ll be.
With its evaporative cooling qualities, cotton will prevent you from getting too warm. But the wool, with its absorptive heating qualities, will prevent you from getting too cold. The more dramatic our temperature swings, the more ideal a wool/cotton blend can be.
This particular yarn offers 70% cotton, suggesting the blend will err on the side of warm-weather comfort. But that 30% extra fine Merino is no slouch, especially in a construction where it can trap loads of still air.
I’m tempted to knit a sweater out of this and get back to you. Maybe Joji Locatelli’s Worsted Boxy, or Carrie Bostick Hoge’s Lila, or even Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Koto, with the gauge of each slightly tweaked?
It’s been a long time since I fell in love with such a refined, novelty-style yarn. In my quest for “true” wools, I’ve totally overlooked what’s happening with the more highly produced yarns. Lesson learned.
Color is another quality of this yarn. Cotton-Merino gets its beautifully uneven, two-tone shading from the fact that the wool fibers have been dyed but the cotton tube has not. The gently colorful halo anchored by a white-mesh underpinning gives glorious depth and visual intrigue. I can’t say enough good things about this yarn.
Ironically, Katia describes its Concept line (of which this is a part) as “beauty without artifice, richness of materials, purity of colour and textures, timeless, a return to simplicity of form.”
While I wouldn’t call the yarn’s construction “simple,” the beauty, simplicity, and richness of the finished fabric are absolutely spot-on.
Jen | March 20, 2018
What an interesting yarn. I love the look of it. Very pretty. I would be a bit concerned about the merino migrating out of the cotton chain if it was knit into garment that received a lot of friction. I would be interested in a follow up review after it’s been used in a project.
Judy Lee | April 27, 2018
I have been knitting with the beautiful Katia, but experienced an allergic reaction to the yarn. My eyes became puffy each time I began knitting again. I use wools and super wash yarns but have never had a reaction. After 3 days testing my theory, I’m convinced it’s the yarn or the factory wash.
Have you heard of this before?
claraparkes | April 28, 2018
Hi Judy! I actually have. Did you give it a good wash (soak and rinse) to see if that helped? I would use the warmer side of warm water just to be sure you overpower whatever was causing issues. Please do let me know how this goes!
Astrid | March 20, 2018
Aargh! I’m only eight days into my 30-day yarn diet and I can feel myself slipping already. I would love to try this out, but I’m not sure that rewarding 30 days of yarn-buying abstinence with a yarn purchase is the best idea. For now, it’s going to have to go on my wish list.
Chelsea Lee-Keenan | March 20, 2018
I’m casting off my Humulus sweater worked up in the Cotton Merino light grey with pink contrast and all I can say is that it is the squishiest, comfiest fabric I’ve ever knit. I cannot wait to snuggle up into this sweater when it’s done!
Sharyn - YarnScout | March 20, 2018
I knit a sweater with this yarn 2 years ago. A little pilling, but not bad. Continue to sing its praises – sweaters, scarves, hats -you name it! We’ve stocked it in our store since it first was introduced. So glad you discovered this yarn!
kdwisni | March 21, 2018
I stumbled onto this yarn last week at the going-out-of-business sale at my LYS. Took it home and watched it and fell in love, so I was very relieved that it stands up to your rigorous standards. For those of us who travel a lot, finding a layer that is light in weight but wrinkle proof is really important. I’m thinking about a simple cardi with pockets like Ramona, but I will have to check out your suggestions as well.
Clara Parkes | March 21, 2018
Oh wow, I hadn’t even seen Ramona! Thank you for this! Do let me know what you decide to do with yours. We could have a Ramona-along. 😉
kdwisni | April 7, 2018
Clara, I cast on yesterday, and it’s a joy to work with. I started out using wooden cubic needles #9, but after about two inches I realized the I was slightly tighter than the row gauge, so I switched to regular #9 (I don’t have cubics in #10). Since this is a raglan pattern, the row gauge is super important. You can find me on Ravelry as kdwisni, where I’ve posted my Ramona. I’m hoping to finish it in time to take on a trip to Brittany and Normandy in late May.
kdwisni | April 25, 2018
I think I’ve gone overboard with this yarn. I paused my Ramona cardi briefly to whip up a caplet in a pale peach for my Mom in time for Mothers Day. You can see it as a WIP on my Ravelry project page. She will love this for spring evenings.
Pat Benson | December 30, 2018
Loved this yarn for a Christmas hat made for my brother, loved reading your review. I’m a new knitter and just discovered your book Knitlandia and this wonderful website.
Laura | November 14, 2019
Would love to hear more from you if you have knitted a garment in this yarn. I love knitting sweaters but hate the pilling I have gotten with all types of wool – superwash and non-superwash.
Fayelene O'Connell | November 30, 2019
Has anyone had any trouble with the yard “getting very narrow” every so often and being held together by one cotton thread – easy to break? Other than that I love the yarn. I had purchased just enough for a sweater but with the breaking found I needed another ball just to be sure. My yarn shop was out of the color so I ordered on line hoping the color and dye lot will be close enough to work. That is the only disappointing thing about this yarn.
Elizaa | January 18, 2020
Do you have any experience with washihing it in a washing machine but on hand wash mode? I would like to make a blanket for a newborn and hand wash isn’t very convenient…
Victoria Wilson | December 17, 2021
I have made a cardigan in Oceania colour 68, blue/maroon/white, it knitted up very well but once I washed it the red dye ran very badly, I washed in cold water and had to rinse more than 4 times for the water to be clearer, it has colour the white in places to a pink, very unhappy with the quality as this yarn is very expensive to purchase here in Australia, I have email the company twice with no response what so ever, very very disappointed, won’t be purchasing this yarn again.