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A skein of Rowan Calmer
Calmer once knitted up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Rowan Calmer

First Impressions
When it was released at the beginning of this year, the response to Calmer was surprisingly low-key but overwhelmingly positive.

The first thing you'll notice is Calmer's exceptional softness. But take a strand in your hand and you'll discover its other welcome trait: tremendous elasticity.

Rowan has taken a fine thread of 75% cotton / 25% acrylic and knitted it into a fine circular tube. Then two of these tubes were plied together in such a way that they form a cohesive jumble of smooth, blended fibers -- no crispness or precision here.

Calmer is available in 14 varied colors, all of which convey the same muted calm of a still ocean on a cloudy day. For this review I used a pale blue Calmer, similar to faded denim.

Knitting Up
My mistake was to knit the test swatches with Red Heart Starters for Kids needles. Although they're short and handy, the needles' plastic surface became sticky against the yarn, causing it to skip and drag as I tried to keep my knitting smooth and even.

My swatches emerged looking rather puffy but lightweight, mostly even, and extremely wearable. There was no snagging, regardless of whether I was knitting or purling.

Because the yarn is so stretchy, Rowan recommends an unusually large needle size (US 8), which helps give the illusion of speedy progress.

Blocking / Washing
Swatches washed in cold water performed fine, without any shrinking, stretching, or apparent damage to their overall integrity. When I washed the swatches in warmer water, they shrank ever so slightly by a factor of a quarter to a half of a stitch per inch. Vertically they also shrank slightly from 7 rows per inch to 8 rows per inch, although because of the sticky needles it's difficult to verify that the gauge in both swatches was completely identical.

In all cases, however, the swatches did require careful blocking to resume their perfect square shapes.

Wearing
Calmer has a pleasant neutral feel against the skin, not hot or stifling, yet not sleek or chilly. My swatches had marvelous elasticity to them, but it was a one-way elasticity: Once stretched out of shape, they stayed that way until I tugged them back manually.

Conclusion
I consider Calmer a "designer" cotton because of its sophisticated makeup, higher price, and fabulous design support from Rowan's Kim Hargreaves.

You'll need approximately 10 skeins for a long-sleeved medium-sized women's sweater (more if you choose one of the more elaborate patterns), which translates into $105.00. For some, this might be too high for cotton, which is traditionally a less expensive fiber than its animal-produced counterparts.

To its credit, Calmer is a lovely yarn with excellent stitch definition and wearability. If you wanted to splurge on a cotton garment, this would be among my top candidates for the job.

 
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