Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Retrospective: The year in yarn

As 2011 draws to a close, let's take a look back at yarn:  what new yarns charmed us? what old yarns did we say good-bye to? what trends seemed to be peaking and what trends seemed to be revving up?

Let's get the bad news over with first. This past year, we bid a sad good-bye to Rowan Calmer, a cotton/acrylic blend that was a workhorse yarn for those sensitive to wool and those living in warmer climates. I don't know why Rowan discontinued this versatile yarn, but damn, it makes me sad.

We also lost Mission Falls this past year. Mission Falls 1824 wool was a great and well-priced yarn in a lovely palette.  Its cotton sister was soft, plush and cozy, and came in a similar palettte.  Also getting out of the knitting yarn business:  JCA/Reynolds, although they continue to sell their needlework lines.  That means bye-bye to Whiskey and Soft Sea Wool, although Lopi is now being distributed by Westminster Fibers.

Another yarn I was sad to see discontinued was Nashua's Julia, a wool/mohair/alpaca blend created by the lovely and incredibly talented Kristin Nicholas.  The palette of colors for Julia was wonderful, created for mixing and using together, and we'll miss the way Kristin combined those colors to produce gorgeous colorwork garments.  (I am sure, however, that she will end up designing beauteous things in other yarns, but still....)

Just after the fall fiber season closed, the Sanguine Gryphon partnership announced that they would be splitting, reforming two separate dyeing companies: The Verdant Gryphon & Cephalopod Yarns.  Hand Jive Yarns and Kitchen Sink Dyeworks (Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark's dyeing business) also are hanging up their dyepots to pursue other fiber ventures.

When it comes to the new stuff, some of my favorite designer-led yarn companies released new yarns:  Veronik Avery's St-Denis line released Sommet, a luscious baby alpaca that can be substituted for Nordique in St-Denis patterns.

Quince & Co. had a limited-edition set of natural yarn colors in some of their most popular base yarns, and recently introduced fingering-weight Finch in all-American wool, along with organic linen Sparrow.  Brooklyn Tweed gave us Loft, a fingering-weight tweedy wool in a versatile palette of colors that blend beautifully.

Our friends at Westminster Fibers have done some reorganizing. Nashua Handknits has been discontinued as a brand, but some of the yarns, like Creative Focus Worsted, have been folded into the Rowan line.  In addition, Schachenmayr yarns are now being sold under the name SMC and SMC Select.  I saw some of these yarns at TNNA and they are quite lovely (there's a line of Extra Fine Merino yarns that are especially nice).

Lion Brand Yarns premiered a line of Martha Stewart branded yarns, and I was kind of surprised to see some novelty yarns in the mix, like a glittery eyelash yarn and a really bulky roving encased in thread.  There are more traditional yarns in the line, too, like a pure merino and a merino/alpaca/acrylic blend.

Lorna's Laces introduced Solemate, a blend of superwash merino, nylon and a fiber called Outlast, which is designed to help adjust to the wearer's body temperature; Solemate has proved so popular that a sportweight version is coming soon.

When it comes to yarn trends, the first things that comes to mind are the ruffle yarns -- they were everywhere at the fall shows. Even Rowan came out with Kidsilk Creation, a kind of mesh knit in Kidsilk Haze that allows the knitter or crocheter to quickly create ruffled scarves.

Handpaints were still popular, although the craze seems to be slowing down a bit. I think that the focus of knitters has contineud to move away from wildly colored multicolored yarns to more muted colorways and semi-solid/solid colors.  Apart from handpaints, we saw a lot of chainette yarns, like Rowan's Lima and Debbie Bliss Paloma, and generally speaking, alpaca seemed to be in a lot of yarn blends, adding its distinctive halo and soft hand.

Those are my impressions of 2011: the year in yarn.  What did I miss?  Did you discover a brand-new yarn that you loved? Did you say good-bye to a discontinued yarn that I didn't mention?  Speak now or forever hold your peace.....


Unknown said...

Personally not sorry to see Kryptonite, I mean Calmer, be discontinued. My knitting never looked more uneven than in Calmer, and I know I'm not alone. Definitely sad that industry consolidations caused some great yarns like Julia to be discontinued.

Another chainette was Cascade Cloud (the dyed version of Eco). Which brings me to the trend of brand extensions - 220 Sport, 220 Fingering. Clearly they were building on the name "220" and ignoring the fact that the put up of the new yarns weren't actually 220 yards :). Confusing!

I do agree with your other observations about a continued move away from true variegated to more tonal in the hand dyes.

Hannah said...

Cloud is definitely worth mentioning - I am more excited about this yarn than any other on the market!

I was disappointed to hear about Reynolds, but it seems like St.Denis (a yarn I love but was worried for the success of) is doing well!

Carol said...

Ah, I haven't seen Cascade Cloud in real life but it looks great. Thanks for the heads-up!

Yes, I noticed the brand extensions at TNNA -- Berroco did a lot of it, too, with chunkier versions of Vintage and Blackstone Tweed. Makes sense to maximize your brand recognition like that...

Anonymous said...

thanks for this post. I always enjoy hearing what you have to say. I recently was looking at some swans island yarn...especially the fingering weight..quite lovely. 500 yard skein.mary in cincinnati

AmyPinSeattle said...

I'm knitting with Mission Falls 1024 for the first time...really bummed that the company closed because I'm LOVING it.

Any suggestions for an alternate? The feel, the weight, the superwash, the price...eagerly looking for a comparable yarn!! I'd totally love to make a sweater for myself out of this yarn or a like yarn.

Carol said...

Hmmmm.....Cascade 220 Superwash is similar but not quite the same hand. You could take a look at Berroco Vintage; I'm knitting with this and even though there's an acrylic component, and I'm not a huge acrylic fan, it's very wool-feeling and soft and a nice price point. Lorna's Laces Shepherd worsted is close but unfortunately handdyes are always more expensive. Spud & Chloe sweater? when you compare yardage, not that different in price. Bliss Cashmerino Aran is in the ballpark. I haven't knit with Valley Superwash, from WEBS, but it's also superwash at a good price point. HTH!

Kristin Nicholas said...

Hi Carol - Thanks for including the obit on my Julia and linking to my website. It is so sad to see it go and I am thankful that you deemed it worthy to be included.

Can't believe all that you have going on. My best for 2012. I'll be at VK Live in NYC but only Friday & Saturday nights. Will you be there then?
As always,

AmyPinSeattle said...

Thanks for the suggestions Carol!! I'll check them out!