Raise your hand if you're a Natural Fiber snob. I am. The absolute worst. I can't stand manmade fibers, or even blends thereof. They pill. They stretch. They are shiny when they shouldn't be, and dull when they should. They receive color in bizarre and unnatural ways. They always look like cheap impersonations of something real. Even wool that has been treated to become "superwash" is too much meddled-with for me to really love it. Snob Snob Snob. There, I said it.
I recently began an experiment in changing my own obtuse mind.
This is Rowan's Brea pattern (a sleeve, to be exact), designed for their Lima yarn. Lima is an extremely special and unique yarn, in that it is actually a knitted cord of pure alpaca. While Alpaca lacks bounce and elasticity as a fiber, when millspun into this uniquely-shaped yarn, it is full of air, and as elastic as anything.
And every 109 yards of it retail for $12.50. Which brings the Brea sweater of my dreams to about 180 sheckles. Now, I may be a fiber snob, but fiscal realities will from time to time intrude.
Enter a funny little yarn made by Berroco, called Comfort. Comfort is neither new, nor interesting, at first glance. What it is, though, is cable-spun, which construction is as close to the esoteric formulation of Lima as I have been able to come, at about 1/4 the price.
Whence comes this affordability? It's plastic. That's right. Probably made of recycled milk bottles, or those thingys that hold together soda cans. (That's the hopeful view. The less-hopeful one involves polluted Turkish streams and three-eyed fish, but let's please not go there today). Comfort is made of 50% super-fine nylon, and 50% super-fine acrylic. It comes in a staggering array of colors, some of which are almost as complicated as a Shetland wool. Its sheen is neither unnaturally shiny, nor off-puttingly flat. And the cabled construction makes a fabric that is, in a word: fluffy.
But here's the craziest thing ever: Berroco Comfort has fixed a knitting problem that I have struggled with for years, and I don't know how or why. For as long as I have been making cables, my last knit stitch before a purl stretches out of shape, or some other how gets too loose. Every trick in the book has failed to correct this idiosyncracy in my knitting. I have resigned myself to a lifetime of the left-most stitch in every cable I knit being elongated and loopy.
For some reason, when I knit with Berroco Comfort, this problem has disappeared. I cannot explain it, but the cable-knitting albatross I had accepted as a permanent part of my knitting experience has magically flown.
So Gentle Readers, so clever and wise; Riddle Me This: Why should an evil cheap yarn from the Dark Side magically cure a lifetime of ill knitting ju-ju? Am I going to have to become a Berroco shill and make everything out of plastic yarn from now on? Has something happened to me physically that solved the loose-stitch problem without my knowledge? Like the sitcom where someone gets a bump on the head and goes from blundering fool to super-genius? I know I should try a few cables in a natural fiber to test that theory. But I'm afraid of jinxing the Brea sweater. Since things are suddenly un-broken, I'm loathe to fix them prematurely.
In any case, I am happily reassessing a my history of manmade-fiber loathing. Perhaps it's time to change my luddite ways and embrace the new? Or maybe I just got lucky. Either way, I do love a space-age polymer.