I was delighted to receive a cone of “Cotton Bambu” and one of “Nile” from Silk City Fibers last week because there is nothing I love more than high quality yarns. I know these might be a little pricier than some of the yarns out there, but if you subscribe to the philosophy of “fewer sweaters, but better sweaters” you can easily justify the cost. Even though we are at the start of winter here in Connecticut, I was excited to play with some summery yarns because (1) it will be summer up here on the hill once we get through winter and spring and (2) it actually is summer in some parts of the world right now!
“Cotton Bambu” (on the right) is 51% cotton and 49% bamboo, is one of the “new” blended, natural fibers, and has approximately 1050 yards per pound. The combination of the two fibers produces a really superb, lustrous summer yarn for mid-gauge (and bulky) machines. “Nile” (green cone on the left) is a 100% organic cotton tape or ribbon yarn with approximately 2100 yards per pound that runs beautifully on standard gauge beds. Many yarns of this type are too heavy for standard machines so this is a real treat!
Let me start with the “Cotton Bambu” first because you know that I love my mid-gauge machines and I am more than a little addicted to hand-manipulated techniques. This yarn creates gorgeous textures that stand right up off the surface of the fabric. All of the swatches were knitted on stitch size 6 on my SK860. The stockinet gauge was almost a perfect 6 sts/8 rows per inch, making this a sport weight yarn. If you work on a bulky, you will probably need to work near the bottom of the stitch dial – around size 3 or 4. I no longer own a bulky/chunky so couldn’t test this out. I suspect it would run fine on Passap because the needles are bigger and a bit further apart (5 mm) than Japanese (4.5 mm) standard gauge machines, but I didn’t test that out either.
The luster of the yarn really contributes to the depth and texture of this 3×3 cable. I latched up a single stitch at each side for further definition, but even before I did that, the cable stood out beautifully from the background fabric. My swatches have all been washed and it didn’t affect the shine at all.
I’ve tried this tuck stitch “mock seed stitch” with lots of yarns over the years, but I don’t think it has ever popped quite as well as it does here, and the row of popcorns stand right up off the surface. The rich sheen of the yarn doesn’t hurt at all here! It just deepens the texture.
Columns of 3-stitch twisted stitches alternate with pairs of knit stitches, all divided by latched up tuck stitches. The texture is so deep you can almost measure it with a ruler! I love using reformed tuck stitches to bring a little width back into cabled and twisted stitch fabrics. With enough of them in a garment, I would work with a ribber rather than latching up as I did here. Hand knitters sometimes criticize machine knits for looking flatter than their hand knits, but there is nothing flat about this texture.
This is the only swatch I wasn’t entirely happy with because the long ladder bars seem to highlight the lightly plied 8-strands that make up this yarn and I thought it looked a little “stringy” when used this way. I’m also not sure how well it would wear. That said, the barely plied structure of this yarn is probably what contributes to its softness and sheen, but I still like it better in more secure (i.e. less likely to snag) fabrics.
I did my first “Nile” swatches on the mid-gauge and found that the stockinet fabric was fine, but a little more sheer than I might want, even after I washed it. So, I moved over to the standard gauge machine and was delighted by how easily it knitted! I work on a Silver Reed SK840 so my stitch sizes will be different for those of you on other machines, but it should help give you an idea of stitch sizes to start with.
The swatch on the left is standard gauge, while the one on the right was knitted on stitch size 4 on the mid-gauge. I think they both look great, but the standard gauge is a little less sheer. I think it all depends on your taste and what you are knitting. I’m tempted to try knitting this yarn on the mid-gauge with a much larger stitch size so that the fabric is more open – I would wear a tank top underneath something like that to avoid getting arrested.
I knitted the tuck stitch swatch on stitch size 8 and after I washed it, wished I had gone up to a 9. I love the way you can see the character of the yarn where it forms the tucks and how that contrasts with the slightly tighter looking background stitches. I was surprised that I had no issues knitting this pattern with four tucks on a needle. They all knitted cleanly and without problems once I added an extra weight in the center of the knitting to remind the stitches to stay put. Because this is a flat yarn, it tends to want to stand up a bit more than some and I definitely found that a bit of extra wight helped – not a lot, just enough to remind it to stay down.
The 2×2 cabled swatch does not have any purl stitches alongside the cables and I think they still show up well. I was tempted to add a latched-up tuck stitch in the middle of the three plain stitches and think I still might do that if I decide to cable my “Nile” sweater. Not sure I would try 3×3 cables with this unless I raised the stitch size from 8 to 9.
I was really surprised that I had no problem knitting this Peacock Tails swatch, which requires transferring 6 stitches to the same needle. I raised the stitch size to 9 to avoid any problems for the machine. I loved the way the yarn looks when more of its surface is visible between knitted stitches – so I decided to try the next swatch with the lace carriage.
Let me begin by saying that the Silver Lace carriage is used for both the knitted rows and the transfers, unlike Brother machines which use two carriages. I think I would prefer the Brother machine for knitting lace with this yarn because there is a greater range of stitch sizes available to you. While the main Silver Reed carriages go all the way to size 10, the lace carriage stops at size 8 and I found that every so often the carriage messed up a transfer. I think a slightly bigger stitch size would be better – and, of course, even weighting.
Please note that some of the “Nile” swatches appear sort of minty green – that is just the lighting/photography – the Peacock Tail swatch is true color. You can see these yarns and lots of others at Silk City Fibers. Remember, no matter where you are, they ship world-wide!