I was very pleased when Sonja of Blacker Yarns offered to send me sample skeins of their new Lyonesse yarn to review, and I’m delighted to share a review with you. I was given two samples to play with: One icy blue Aquamarine in DK and a shimmery Ruby in 4 ply.
I have to say right off, I’m a massive fan of Blacker Yarns, so this review might be biased! I credit them with getting me into learning more about sheep breeds and eventually learning to spin. However, I’m going to stick to the facts so you can get an idea of what it’s like to work with.
In this review I take a close look at the yarn to give you an idea of what it’s like.
- The theory
- In the ball
- Swatching and knitting with it
- Wear testing
- Overall Impressions
- Pattern ideas
Theory: For a state of constant transition
Here’s the theory: The worsted spin of this squishy soft wool blended 50/50 with linen means this will yield a drapey fabric that would hold its block. It might even wrinkle or loosen with wear, but the wool will give it that bit of elastic spring back. Exactly what I’m looking for.
I love the idea of transitional clothing which is warm but cooling, light and easy to layer. Spring or autumn, seasonal transition might mean warm and balmy in an afternoon, and cold in the evening. Where I live, we’re pretty much transitional weather all year round, and you rarely get balmy weather at all. And with air conditioning and heated building, you need to dress in layers to adjust to the transitioning temps all year round.
Intuitively, I’ve wanted to use linen/wool blends. Though I’ve never spun or knit with pure linen before, but I’ve spun with a flax/wool blend from Hedgehog Fibres recently and I was truly amazed at the benefits of both fibres. You’d be surprised to find there aren’t actually that many wool/linen blend yarns on Ravelry (12 in DK weight.) I was delighted to know hear Blacker have a new wool/linen blend launching soon!
In the ball
If you judge a yarn like this in the ball, you’ll be completely misled. It doesn’t yield when you squeeze it, with the strong linen fibres pushing back. I suspected it was going to be fun to swatch and discover the transformation.
This is a very well-blended combination. You can see little errant flecks of linen here and there, so it’s not so blended that you can’t see the distinct fibres. The sheen of the linen does come through, as does the way the dye is take up differently by the fibres.
- The 4 ply yarn has two plies, and it’s not tightly plied. I’d expect this to take lace very well and for the stockinette to be a bit nubbly.
- The DK weight yarn has three plies (the same singles in the 4 ply weight), and it’s nice and round. I’d expect this to work well with lace and subtle textures.
I decided to start my experimentation by making two flat swatches in each yarn, one in the suggested needle size, and one in the needle size up. Going up a size could emphasise the drape, and it’s often used for adding a little swing to a project such as a tee or tunic, which are precisely the types of garments I have in mind.
The yarn was really nice to work with. It’s a bit grabby, so I used metal chaigoo needles. I didn’t find it rough in the hand like I’ve heard reported about pure linen yarns. It was easy to work with.
You can see in my unblocked samples that my knitting suffers from “rowing out”. I do a lazy purl which means my purl rows are shorter and use less yarn than my continental knit stitches. I know that linen is meant to show every tension problem you have, but I was curious if the wool would be more forgiving.
- 4 ply: As I said, I have a funny way of purling which sort of unplies the yarn, so I did notice some splitting with the 4 ply. I still loved knitting with it.
- DK: I expected some splitting, but I didn’t have any trouble with that with this 3-ply DK.
Here you can see I swatched with garter stitch edges. Unwashed, the swatches curled at the ends. I was curious if I was going to need to pin them after washing.
This yarn didn’t melt in the water like some silks and merinos do. It held its own. I gave it a good 30 mins soak in warm water with a tiny bit of wool wash. Overnight, they dried perfectly flat with no pinning needed.
And sure enough, my wonky stitches and rows looked more even after washing. Yay for wool!
When I picked up the swatches I found them crispy to touch. They weren’t floppy or squishy, but had quite a lot of body, like new linen. I was sort of disappointed that they didn’t have the drape I expected: but my test wasn’t yet finished! After wear-testing, the yarn was transformed.
On first squeeze, the swatches get wrinkled and hold a shape!
But as soon as I flattened them out, the wrinkles smoothed out instantly. Literally, just after smoothing out, the wrinkles were disappearing as you can see in this pic. With more wear later, they even got smoother, the wrinkles are gone as if I had pressed them.
Wow! I roughed up the swatches vigorously, rubbing them together and generally abusing them. I saw some blurring with individual strands of flax giving way, but no pills whatsoever.
In fact, the more I roughed up the swatch, the softer and more supple it got.
Now the drape of linen and the worsted spun wool was coming through! I love the old linens my mum has given me. They are soft and supple like nothing else. As linen ages, the fibres break down and get softer, while still staying very strong. Overtime I’d expect a garment knit in this yarn to get softer and softer.
I’m super excited about the way this yarn wears. I think you could wear this all day and still look pretty sharp.
What surprised me was the elasticity of the swatches. Cotton or Linen yarns are known for not springing back, but I don’t think that is a worry here at all. The wrinkles smoothed out instantly, and looked so sharp and nice. I found myself thinking “tailored” as I look at the swatches.
In this pic, left is DK, right is 4ply. Top is recommended needle size, bottom is one size up, both after washing and wear-testing.
For the 4 ply yarn:
3mm – 27 sts x 39 rows. 4 mm – 22 sts x 32 rows.
- I liked the yarn in a needle size up, 4 mm, as compared with the 3mm needle. It’s light and airy feeling.
- The 3mm fabric was intriguing though, it wasn’t stiff, but it was firm, almost had a tailored feel to it.
- This is the same singles in the DK yarn, but in two plies. This indicates that lace patterns will show up well. I even noticed that the simple yarn overs I created to mark my needle size stayed nice and open. And yes, the stockinette does have a slight nubbly look it it, but I really like that.
For the DK yarn:
4mm – 21.5 sts x 30 rows. 5mm – 17.5 sts x 24 rows
- I noticed I liked the recommended needle size for 4mm more than the results with 5 mm. At 5mm, the fabric was a bit slack, whereas the drape was great on the recommended 4mm needles and it has a nice plush squish to it.
- This is the same singles as in the 4 ply yarn, but in three plies so texture is going to show up well, as would any twisted or mock cable patterns. Lace patterns would hold a strong block, and for that reason it would suit all sorts of shawl patterns which need drape rather than squish.
- The stockinette is so smooth and sharp.
Here you can see the crepe-like surface of the two plies in the 4-ply weight yarn at the bottom. And the smoother surface of the round three plies in the DK weight yarn.
Pattern ideas: Transitional knits
I have trawled Ravelry recently gathering up 74 tee patterns and 50 tanks in my faves list. I really love tees and tanks, I layer over a cardigan or hoodie and feel comfortable, whereas I feel a bit locked-in with a pullover. Eventually I’d like to replace my collection of free tech tees with handknit ones.
One of my favourite garments to wear is a grey knit linen tunic, with large matte metal beads on it. It’s drapey, and it’s gotten softer overtime. I wear it all year round, layered under various weights of cardigans, and over a tighter tank top. I’d love to knit another beaded tunic like it, or a lace tunic.
Another of my favourite items of clothing is a boxy tee, but its bright white and coral scream “summer” so I usually let it rest over winter. Because of the drape you can choose boxy patterns and they’ll look pretty not bulky.
- 4 ply: Because of the two plies this would be lovely for lacy garments.
- DK: I think the DK weight would be a perfect open cardigan. Patterns which have waterfall sides would benefit from the drape and sheen of the linen.
Get your hands on it!
Lyonesse will be available May 1st. You can stalk Lyonesse yarn on Ravelry here.
You can order the colour cards here. My default is usually blues and greys, and I certainly love the Aquamarine, but what’s interesting is that the deeper Ruby tone shows off the linen contrast more. I really like that flecked look which would be more visible in the darker colours.
I think I’m zeroing in on stripes using Lyonesse 4ply in Ruby with a natural contrast stripe on on 4mm needles. This would be nice in a boxy tee like Vasa or tank like Saco stripes. The Vasa tee would need 1 skein natural and 5 skeins in Ruby. At £5.75 a ball, that’s £34.50 for a large sized boxy tee, and hours of knitting fun.