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Rowan Wool Cotton
Rowan Wool Cotton

Yarn Profile: Rowan Wool Cotton

First Impressions
I was surprised when I first heard that Rowan was replacing its 100% wool Designer DK line with a wool/cotton blend. Wool and cotton aren't fibers I'd normally invite to the same party, since one is an animal protein, the other a vegetable fiber.

But I also knew that if anybody could pull this off, it'd be Rowan. The U.K.-based designer yarn manufacturer produces consistently excellent materials in subtly exquisite colors, and sure enough the DK Wool Cotton is no exception.

At first glance, you may think this yarn a tad boring. Its texture and spin are steady and consistent but lack any Mussoni-esque slubs or flash. But flash isn't the point here. You use Rowan yarns when you have an exquisite pattern and don't want anything -- yarn included -- to get in its way.

Knitting Up
Each fiber balances out the negative characteristics of its sibling. The merino adds just enough elasticity to the inflexible cotton, while the cotton adds a softer handle and eliminates any potential scratchiness from the wool.

Using #5 (3.75mm) needles, I was able to gather steam quickly and easily. The consistent texture and spin of this yarn makes it easy to knit on auto pilot without having to worry about snags, extra twists, or slipped stitches.

The cable spin is composed of four two-ply strands. While I've had problems with similarly spun yarns in the past (such as Baruffa Maratona, which came unspun while I was working with it), this yarn held its body beautifully.

Overall, it has a pleasant, soft handle and produces steady, even, and consistent-looking stitches.

Blocking / Washing
My swatches washed beautifully, flattening out into even, pliable pieces of fabric that were light but still offered a moderate amount of drape. There was no fading or bleeding whatsoever.

The swatches expanded ever so slightly from 23 stitches to 24 stitches over 4 inches, so do plan for a potential expansion by a factor of 1/4 stitch per inch.

I wouldn't recommend this yarn for high-wear garments or anything you want to look brand new forever. The yarn itself is extremely strong with lots of body. But after only a moderate amount of thrashing, the swatches began to show signs of fiber degradation and pilling.

On the plus side, they also became exquisitely soft. If you don't mind the slightly aged cotton look, you'll love this yarn.

Despite the pilling problem, which I see as an inevitable result of the cotton/wool mix, this is a lovely yarn. It is wonderfully soft -- increasingly so with each wash -- and comes in a good variety of colors. It'd be particularly fitting for anyone in a warm climate who wants a lightweight and comfortable sweater that doesn't provide excessive warmth.

Some yarns do all the work, but this one will need a design or stitch motif if you really want it to shine. (Not to mention the fact that endless stockinette at this gauge could get a trifle boring.)

Although Rowan is usually considered a luxury yarn, this particular line is reasonably priced at $7.50/skein, with each skein holding 123 yards. Still, if you don't have the patience or budget for a large garment, you could also use this for a luscious pair of socks, as long as you use nylon reinforcement for the heels and toes.

Reader Comments
"I am using the Rowan Wool/Cotton on a sweater for a friend that has a simple but effective geometric design using stockinette, reverse stockinette and seed stitch. I love the feel of this yarn while I am working with it and agree that it really shows up the pattern. It is a dark navy blue color and I was experimenting with some techniques on the neckline which resulted in me unraveling it about four times and the yarn still worked up as if I was just unwinding it from the skein." pkegh, 2/24/01

"When I read the review of the new ROWAN yarn, it sparked my interest. I like to knit with cotton, there it is soft and not too hot here in California, but after many washings the garments, the colors always fade a lot. Also in the winter months it is a bit too cold, and wool is a bit too warm. The combination might just do it, and so I will try this yarn." eliwilsch, 12/03/00

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