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A skein of Nature's Palette yarn
Nature's Palette yarn knit up
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile:
Hand Jive Knits Nature's Palette Yarn

First Impressions
If you attended the Black Sheep Gathering or TKGA Fiber Arts Festival in Burbank this year, chances are you've already seen the brilliant colors of Hand Jive Knits up close. Begun by Darlene Hayes just a few years ago, this Sacramento-based yarn business specializes in naturally dyed yarns.

Natural dyeing requires far more time and effort but produces some truly stunning colors while treading gently on the environment. Rather than use synthetic chemicals or even natural dye extracts, Hayes uses actual dyestuffs (such as madder, cochineal, logwood, and brazilwood), harvesting almost one-third of all dyestuffs herself.

Hayes currently offers her Nature's Palette naturally dyed yarns in 30 solid colors and five multicolored options called "Odd Duck" because of the random process she uses to create them. Even among the solids, there can be a delicate shift among hues, as I noticed with the yarn in this review.

Nature's Palette is currently available in fingering and worsted weights. For this review I focus on the DK weight, which is the most common weight for her patterns, in the Light Teal color.

Knitting Up
Depending on whether it's used for socks, scarves, pillows, gloves, shawls, sweaters, or other items, this yarn can be knit on needles ranging from US 1 to US 10. For this review I knit my swatches on US 5 needles.

Knitting was easy on both knit and purl rows, with no snagging or other immediate problems. I did notice that my fingers and needles took on a faint hue of green from leftover dye in the yarn, but this was easily remedied with soap.

The worsted two-ply yarn has a tight angle of twist that adds bounce and elasticity, while the distinct two plies produce a pearl-necklace effect on the strand. Knit up, the yarn produces a rippling, textured fabric surface that's ideal for lace.

Blocking / Washing
When placed in cool water with mild soap, my swatches quickly relaxed and released their excess dye in a faint bleed. With one rinse, the water ran clear and the swatches were ready for blocking.

Even while wet, I could see a distinct surface bloom. The rippled surface had also calmed slightly.

Once the swatches dried, I saw no fading of color. But my unwashed 6.5 stitches per inch on US 5 needles had relaxed to a fairly steady 6 stitches per inch.

Wearing
Generally speaking, merino is one of the softest and most luxurious incarnations of wool. When subject to any kind of dye process, the fiber can lose some of its original delicate essence—but I was happy to see it return after I washed my swatches.

This particular yarn wears well because of the hard spin and two plies, although even more plies would help any harder-wearing socks.

True to merino, my swatches did not cause any itching, even when rubbed against more sensitive areas such as face and neck. This means you could make marvelous scarves and form-fitting sweaters with this yarn.

Conclusion
Hayes is generous with her skein yardage. Each skein of fingering-weight merino has 185 yards and costs $10. In sunlight, the luster in my swatches made me wonder if Darlene hadn't snuck a little mohair into the carder when nobody was looking.

Structurally the yarn reminds me of Koigu Premium Merino, only with more yardage, a lower price, and a dramatically different underlying color philosophy.

This yarn begs to be knit into socks or an openwork lace scarf. A medium-sized pair of women's socks with some trim detail will require 350 yards, or two skeins (a mere $20). A shawl similar to the Charlotte's Web shawl from Koigu would require about five skeins, or $50.

Sure, you could probably find a similar-weight yarn for less—but it may not be a pure merino that's been carefully hand-dyed in small batches right here in the U.S. using only natural dye materials. I know I have my eye on a few colors for my next pair of handknit socks.

 
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