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A skein of Cotton Angora
Cotton Angora knitted up and washed
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora

First Impressions
I can see how appealing this yarn was in the design stage. Imagine pairing a soft cotton with an equally soft angora. How heavenly!

Indeed, on the skein, this is a beautiful and exquisitely soft yarn. It has marvelous pattern support from its namesake, British designer Debbie Bliss.

But like a pebble in a pond, the minute this yarn rubs against any other fabric, the perfect exterior is marred. And unlike water, Cotton Angora will never return to a state of calm.

Such surface blur is standard with angora. But against a backdrop of cotton, the effect is quite different.

Cotton Angora is available in 15 colors, and for this review I used color 12.

Knitting Up
Cotton and angora are both inelastic fibers, and this yarn has little if any stretch to it. Nevertheless, the eight loosely spun plies held together well, only occasionally coming un-spun on the last stitch of a row. Even then, my needles didn't snag them.

The yarn slid easily through my hands and cooperated comfortably with my needles. In no time I was able to gather speed knitting by touch alone.

Both the yarn and the finished fabric felt distinctly warm to the touch, obviously a gift of the angora.

Blocking / Washing
In both lukewarm and warm water, my brightly colored swatches didn't bleed one bit. But even as I was setting them out to dry, I could see that their surface had softened into what should have been an angelic halo of angora but, when blended with cotton, only looked like a Kleenex that had been in someone's handbag one month too many.

The washing caused no gauge change, and my swatches dried into perfect, relaxed squares. Only minimal blocking was required

Wearing
Before beginning this review, I carried a skein of Cotton Angora in my knitting bag for several days. Even during that brief period of time, before one stitch was made, the skein began to show signs of wear.

To its credit, this is an extremely soft yarn, and the 20% angora provides plenty of warmth. But the most modest friction will start to separate the angora fibers from the yarn, producing cloudlike clusters of delicate fibers. They can be removed with almost no effort, but the surface beneath them remains blurred.

My swatches produced so many loose puffs of angora that I began to wonder just how much angora would be left by the end of the tests. Nevertheless, the fabric itself held up well, showing no signs of structural deterioration or stitch degradation.

Over time the swatches stretched out of shape—as is the habit with cotton—and the overall surface blur caused the yarn's color to appear lighter. (View a comparison image of an unwashed swatch [on the left] and an "aged" swatch [on the right].)

Conclusion
Being the avid angora fan I am, I was intrigued by the notion of a cotton and angora blend. But I knew it would be risky.

Although Cotton Angora is composed of eight plies, which should help give durability to the finished fabric, the fibers simply don't hold together well.

Don't get me wrong. The fuzzy glow of angora is one of my favorite sights. But in this cotton blending—whether because of the fiber preparation or the innate nature of the two fibers—the glow looks more like that of a tired cotton sweater that's been worn one time too many.

I know that some knitters will have a more favorable reaction to the the surface deterioration than I. If you fall in love with the yarn and the surface wear issue isn't important to you, you will have a very soft and warm garment. Cost-wise, a woman's medium-sized long-sleeved sweater will average 12 to 14 skeins, or $95 to $111.

Because of the yarn's inelasticity, I would recommend against any significantly ribbed or cabled patterns. Initially, they will look absolutely beautiful. But there isn't enough bounce or fiber memory to hold their shape with wear. You'll need to wash and re-block your garment frequently. Otherwise, simple stockinette and colorwork will be your best option.


Note: After I published this review, I received an email from Deborah Robson. She was editor of Spin-Off magazine from 1987 to 2000, and she had this to say: "I have seen/experienced hand-prepared and handspun angora/cotton blend yarns that were exquisite. I don't think the blend can be done effectively with mechanical processing, but it can be a wonder when done by a knowledgeable handspinner working with premium (plucked, not shorn) angora and the right length/type of cotton; the two fibers have to be carefully harvested, matched, blended, and spun. But it can be done!" Thanks for the insight, Deb!

 
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