Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review - Swans Island All American Collection

My favorite yarn company, Swans Island, recently released a new yarn that is 100 percent American made. It's a rustic worsted blend of rambouillet wool from the Erk Ranch in South Dakota and alpaca from small farms on the East Coast. The 2-ply yarn is lofty and dyed in 16 gorgeous, heathery, natural tones that evoke the small Maine island the brand is named for (and was originally located on).
© Swans Island Company
Swans sent me a batch in lichen*, along with the Brigantine pattern to make up a sample for their shop. This color is so gorgeous. It's a perfect gold-green with the usual subtle tonal variations that makes all Swans yarn extra special. It's so lush and rich and pretty. When I first started working with the yarn, I thought it was sort of stiff and itchy and thus would be best suited for outerwear or tougher garments not worn right next to the skin. But I soon discovered that the yarn really softens as you work with it; most likely due to some lanolin residue from the sheep wool.
The yarn works up into a very sturdy, dense yet still soft fabric. It doesn't have as much drape as a merino or most other alpaca blends, but this makes it absolutely perfect for showcasing cables and other structured stitches. I also think it would make stranded colorwork sing.
With less drape, this yarn also washes really well. My swatch came out the exact same size after blocking as it was before. This isn't always the case with some of the other SI yarns, especially their Pure Blends line. But a good soak does give the wool an opportunity to really bloom and add even more structure. It also softens the yarn even more.
The added structure also means garments made from this yarn are very cozy and warm and have a bit more weight to them. I wore this sweater for about half an hour in 10-degree weather, and the only part of me that felt cold was my hands. And I seriously did not want to take the sweater off when I came back inside. Yes, it's that cozy. It's like wearing a sheepy hug. And you can see the alpaca seem to approve of it as well.

I should also note that there is the occasional small bit of VM (vegetable matter) in the yarn. But it's easily picked out while knitting and for me, didn't detract from the experience at all.

As for the pattern, it isn't something I would normally choose for myself, but I really enjoyed working it up (probably in large part because of how much I love the yarn!). Even though all the cables and the moss stitch panels mean it’s not exactly mindless in-front-of-the-tv knitting. You have to pay pretty close attention to all your different counts. My favorite part is the lovely hourglass shape created by the claw cables on the sides--I didn’t even realize this was happening while I was knitting!
If I had made this for myself, I would’ve knit at least another inch before joining the sleeves, and then shortened the upper bodice by an inch or so as well, as the arm scye is too long for my particular shape. But I’m super petite, so it’d probably be fine for others! I’d also bring the neckline in more, as boat necks always make me feel like I have to constantly fiddle with my bra and/or tank top straps. (see the rest of my project photos and notes here)
That being said, the All American is a good yarn to try a boatneck in if you're wary, because the extra structure of the yarn will make it less drapey and loose than usual. I think this design would be adorable with a collared oxford underneath too, but I didn't have one that matched! 
I know this photo doesn't showcase the sweater very well, but I couldn't resist Bear's absolutely perfect camera pose.
Bottom line, this yarn is a wonderful addition to the already amazing Swans lineup. It has excellent structure and stitch definition and works up into a dense and warm fabric that is soft enough to wear against the skin, but will likely be very hardwearing and long lasting. I can't wait to knit with this again. I have a hooded gansey planned, as well as a loose-fitting colorwork pullover.

Stay tuned for an interview with one of SI's master dyers about the inspiration and process behind the All American Collection!

*Disclaimer: Though Swans Island sent me the yarn and pattern, all opinions are my own and 100 percent honest!

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