By Vanessa Coscarelli Black @vanessaknits
¡So there I was for the umpteenth time ripping out my work when it the inevitable happened — RIP! The roving wool I had been working with to knit a sweater (for which I had no pattern) tore into two pieces — one in each hand. I sighed. This was the reason roving wool and I would never be friends, I thought.
If you follow me on Instagram (@vanessaknits), you know that it’s no secret that I’m a “frequent frogger.” Very rarely do I sketch out a design idea that I envision in my head. Instead, I opt to dive right in. Cast on, knit, and more likely than not, undo my work. This has always been my design process which is fine in most circumstances. That is, unless you’re working with roving wool.
If you’re not familiar with this type of fiber, roving yarn is a thick, often bulky or super bulky weight yarn that is not twisted or plied like most other types of yarn. There is, of course, a bit of twist in the fiber (just enough to hold it together so it can be manipulated by needles or hooks), but for the most part, it is a rustic wool that produces a plush fabric.
Did you catch that word back there? Rustic.
That was my attempt as cluing you in on the fact that most roving wool is itchy. I had worked with many different brands of roving wool only to find that despite being soft on the hands while knitting with it, I often was not able to actually wear the garment for long directly on my skin without breaking out in a red, itchy rash. Was I allergic to wool? No (see also: my yarn stash is bursting with merino wool). So after many hats and even a sweater knit in roving wool, I had given it up cold turkey. Roving wool was officially placed in an extended time out.
Enter Yana by Amano Yarns. A truly different roving wool that is just so fun to work with. When Amano asked me to design a few pieces with this new yarn I was both excited and a bit hesitant. Would I be able to come up with a design before accidentally tearing every piece of yarn they sent me?
When the box arrived from Peru, I tore it open to find the biggest roving wool I had ever worked with. And it was noticeably different. Here’s how:
1. It’s a two ply roving wool. WHAT? Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. How come I had never seen roving twisted like this before? First impression? This looks cool.
2. Holy cannoli this hank of yarn is BIG. I’ve worked with super bulky yarns for years but this is definitely a jumbo weight fiber. Second impression? This will work up really fast.
3. The colors are so VIVID! I excitedly pulled out the red, bright pink and neon yellow yarns. Third impression? This is going to be fun!
Once the excitement of unpacking the yarns was through, reality set in. This is roving wool. I’m going to ruin it before I can come up with designs I’m happy with.
Despite my doomsday thinking, I got to work. I carefully unwound the skeins and placed them on my yarn swift to wind into neat and easy to work with cakes. I was extremely careful to not accidentally snag the fibers. After winding the yarns I noticed something. There was no shedding all over my yarn loft like often happens with other roving fibers. Interesting, I thought.
It was time to cast on. I knit for a bit, trying to gauge what size needle to use for such a heavy weight yarn. My first needle size was clearly too small as the drape of the fabric was stiff. Who wants to wear a stiff pullover? Nope, not me. Dread set in. I would have to frog my work; rip out rows of knitting of (what I thought was) delicate fiber. I took a deep breath and began undoing my stitches. I was shocked that the fiber held up! It did not tear in two. It did not shred at the points where I was pulling. It even looked like new despite the wear and tear it was enduring.
Repeat that last paragraph a few more times and you’ll be at the point where I finished my designs. From a super fun boxy pullover to an oversized pom pom hat, I knit every bit of Yana yarn in that box, used and abused it until the designs were just right, and in the end the pieces looked fantastic. This yarn is unlike any other roving wool I had ever used in the past. It held up to my frequent frogging and most importantly, it was luxuriously soft on the skin. If given the chance to snag (pun not intended) some of this new yarn, do it. You can thank me later.