As we dive deeper and deeper into our knitting for future patterns, the ability to share what we've been up to has decreased even more dramatically than before. (More on that in a bit). We both know that is no fun for a blog, especially one that is supposed to be about knitting, so we thought we would try something new. Each week for the next few weeks, we're going to do a post not about the knitting, but about the yarn, highlighting a Fibre Company yarn, its properties, qualities, and uses. This week, we wanted to start with Road to China Worsted, a long-standing member of the line.
Road to China Worsted is, like all Fibre Company yarns, a blend of many luxurious, high-quality fibers and each skein is individually kettle dyed to a specific formula created by the original founders, Iain and Daphne. It began its life with Soya and Yak, but evolved to its current (and permanent) permutation as 65% Baby Alpaca, 15% Silk, 10% Camel + 10% Cashmere. The words most commonly used to describe Road to China Worsted are "Luxurious", "Soft", "Warm" and "Drapey". Road to China Worsted, (RtCW), befitting its name, is a Worsted Weight yarn. The label has a recommended gauge of 18-20 sts/4" and 69 yards per 50 gram skein and we have even knit it happily at about 16 sts/4". The fiber content (mostly alpaca and silk) and yarn properties (densely spun and plied) of RtCW makes it heavier, hence the fewer yards per skein. In other words, you are still getting the same amount of fiber, but a skein with more weight (and drape) to it. And, finally, the yarn construction. RtCW is a 3-ply yarn, meaning it is comprised of 3 individual strands of yarn that are twisted (or plied) together.
So...what does all this mean for you as a knitter?
Lets start with the fiber content. Like many Fibre Company yarns, the majority of RtCW is alpaca. The alpaca is warmer than sheep's wool and has no lanolin, and is quite silky and has drape. Silk, by its nature, is a flat fiber, so it reflects light, which creates a subtle sheen to the yarn. It also is known for its strength, drape and softness. The Camel adds...well, warmth and softness, but no added weight because it is such a light fiber. And finally, Cashmere, which is a warm and soft (there seems to be a running theme here...) fiber, which is also lighter in weight.
Due to its fiber content, RtCW is a perfect yarn for projects that are worn next to the skin. It is also a yarn, that although drapey, due to its construction, has good stitch definition, so it is perfect for Fair Isle or knit and purl patterning. We also love knitting it tightly in order to create a fabric with good structure and all of the aforementioned properties. For many of our Kelbourne Woolens patterns, we have been focusing on accessories (they are cute, quick knits, perfect introductions to the yarns, and make it easy for LYS to have a sample on hand), and while we have both knit sweaters out of it with great results, we believe RtCW is the perfect accessory yarn.
The Mi'raj Shrug (rav link here) is an example of a project that really uses RtCW to its best advantage. First, the garment itself is an incredibly versatile accessory that provides just the right amount of warmth without overheating the wearer. We have found this time of year -- unpredictable night and morning weather, still over air-conditioned stores and trains, and warm and sunny days -- just begs for an accessory such as this.
For the garment to really "work", there needs to be drape in the final fabric. Otherwise, the fit would be uncomfortable and stiff and awkward at the arm to back transition. Because it is meant to be worn over sleeveless or short-sleeved shirt, the fabric has to also be soft enough for next-to-skin contact -- all of these requirements are easily fulfilled by RtCW!
Another project that uses RtCW to great success is the Opus Spicatum hat (rav link here). When designing this little beret, Kate had a few things in mind: she wanted to show off the richly shaded tones, something that would keep her head warm, and also a hat that would play up the drape of the yarn instead of work against it.
The end result was a slightly slouchy beret in a Fair Isle pattern. The stitch definition makes the patter really pop, and it is soft enough to be worn next to the skin and warm enough for winter wear.
A blog post wouldn't be complete without some obscure photos of current works in progress. At this time, we both have a RtCW project on the needles. Kate's is a loosely knit accessory and Courtney's is a tightly knit garment -- together, they are perfect examples of the versatility of this really wonderful yarn.