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A skein of Portrait
Portrait once knitted up

Yarn Profile: Artful Yarns Portrait

First Impressions
Portrait is part of JCA/Reynolds' Artful Yarns line, which was introduced in the fall of 2001. This yarn's subdued color choices were a change after all the perky-colored mohairs I've been using.

Portrait has an interesting twist to it, if you'll pardon the pun. Most brushed mohairs have a nylon/wool core holding everything together, usually dyed to match the brushed mohair.

But Portrait's core is dyed an entirely different color (black), which gives the mohair the illusion of floating in and out of the core.

Portrait has a second interesting twist to it. While most brushed mohairs are a combination of mohair, wool, and some form of acrylic, Portrait skips the wool altogether in favor of viscose/polyester. Maybe this helps keep the price down, at least in theory.

And finally, all Artful Yarns have a free pattern on the label that requires only one skein. The Portrait pattern is an attractive lacy scarf.

There are seven available colors, with such interesting and descriptive names as Whistler's Mother, Madame X, and The Blue Boy. For this review, I used American Gothic.

Knitting Up
Portrait took a bit longer to get used to than earlier brushed mohairs I've reviewed. My stitches kept snagging the fluff from previous rows. Because of the rapid color changes, this snagging often pulled different colors into the stitches I was trying to knit. I finally was able to gather speed by the middle of my second swatch.

Try as I might, I couldn't get my stitches to look perfectly even. Rather than blame this on my technique (heavens no!), I decided it was the yarn's fault.

In all seriousness, though, this could be true. The mohair protrudes from the core at regular intervals, rather like flags, resulting in a slightly irregular thickness. For lacework or garter-stich garments, however, Portrait would be fine.

Blocking / Washing
There was no bleeding or fading with wash, nor did the gauge change.

The only time I worried was when I removed the swatches from the wash. They looked miserable. The areas with excessive fuzz were matted into little blobs, almost like someone had left corn flakes in the wash by mistake. Much to my relief, the swatches returned to normal once completely dry.

Portrait is surprisingly soft, with very little of the usual brassiness you get with brushed mohair. If you're at all sensitive in this regard, you'll find Portrait a welcome solution.

It also produces a surprisingly strong knitted fabric, possibly because of the higher synthetic content. I finally gave up thrashing swatches, partly from pity and partly from defeat.

Portrait requires two things of you: a preference for muted, almost oil paint-like colors, and a willingness to work exclusively with space-dyed blends. If you're still on the fence about it, you can purchase one skein and use the one-skein scarf pattern on the yarn label - a brilliant marketing technique.

As for the inconsistent stitch issue, it's only evident if you hold your garment up to the light. If you wear dark clothes beneath your sweater, you'll be safe.

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