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A skein of Cornucopia
Cornucopia knit up
click each image to enlarge
Yarn Profile:
Kollage Yarns Cornucopia

First Impressions
Before you toss that freshly shucked ear of corn into boiling water this summer, imagine that same ear being transformed into yarn. Indeed, it's possible—and Cornucopia is proof.

Cornucopia is made of 100% corn fiber. Corn has a naturally high amount of starch in it. When these starches are broken down into sugars and fermented and separated into polymers, the resulting paste-like substance is extruded into fine, delicate strands that are cut, carded, combed, and spun into yarn. Unless you're a chemist, all you really need to know is that this natural fiber was originally derived from corn.

Is it just another marketing ploy, or does this new fiber really add value for knitters? That's what I hoped to find out when I started this review.

Knitting Up
Cornucopia is formed from a superfine strand of fiber that has been knit into a tube. It's a relaxed enough fiber that the tube collapses on itself, producing a flat strand of yarn that looks remarkably similar to homemade pasta. The knitted tube is a great way to present a fiber that may otherwise be too dense and heavy if all the fibers were spun together in the traditional way.

As with any flat yarn (especially with wider ribbon yarns), the immediate question was whether or not to go to the trouble of trying to keep the yarn perfectly flat as I knit with it. I decided to let go and see how it looked when allowed to twist in different directions. Otherwise, I would've had to stop every two rows or so and dangle my work to untwist the yarn.

Although the yarn was created with a fine strand of fiber, the knitted stitches of the tube are relatively large and open. Hold it up to the light and you have a beautiful, almost honeycomb-like effect. As I knit, my dull-tipped needles occasionally poked through the yarn. The good news is that the yarn bounced right back into perfect shape—there was no sign of damage, which you'll sometimes see in other similarly constructed yarns.

Because I was letting the yarn twist, the stitches had a somewhat lumpy, irregular appearance to them. But it was so consistently this way, and so enhanced by the natural texture and depth of the yarn, that the resulting fabric looked wonderfully casual and wearable.

Blocking / Washing
The label gave very little instructions beyond stating that it's either hand or machine-washable, so I put the swatches through my usual paces. No matter what the water temperature, there was no bleeding or visual fading in the swatches.

My swatches stayed firm and perky throughout the entire wash cycle, never relaxing into that wet-dishrag phase that can require extensive reblocking. In fact, they needed no blocking whatsoever.

The yarn is also machine-washable, which makes Cornucopia a great option for children's clothes. I would be careful about washing it with other items that have zippers or hooks, however, as they may snag and break the fine fibers.

Traditional spun yarns have the benefit of a thick layer of fibers all stacked together for security, but knitted tube yarns rely on the continuity of a single, much finer strand of fibers to hold the yarn together. I snipped just one strand in the knitted tube to see what happened—would the whole thing unravel? The other stitches absorbed the loss, and after a little more friction you couldn't even see where I'd made the cut.

In all the washing tests, my swatches dried very quickly and the gauge was unchanged.

Wearing
The fiber in Cornucopia feels similar to cotton, only lighter. My swatches had a plump, elastic feel, although this kind of fiber isn't notoriously stretchy. Against the skin, Cornucopia has a faintly firm feel, though I wouldn't call it rough or scratchy.

After a period of gentle but steady friction, my swatches began to soften on the surface, with loose fibers forming a comfortable cottony halo. Pills were extremely slow forming and easy to remove.

The hollow, airy tubelike structure enhanced the ventilation and evaporation qualities, making Cornucopia a good option for hot-weather wear.

The yarn doesn't mind stitchwork, either, although truly elaborate cables may be a bit lost within the innate texture of the fabric. I tried some simple k1/p1 ribbing and it looked snug and comfortable.

Conclusion
Although I don't see corn fibers making cotton obsolete any time soon, I do see them serving as a fresh, fun, and environmentally friendly alternative to cotton (although I don't know if the corn used for these fibers is genetically modified or not).

I should note that Cornucopia isn't the only corn-based yarn on the market. In fact, South West Trading Company has a new 100% corn yarn called A-MAIZing that has a similar knitted-tube structure to Cornucopia.

As for applicable uses, I see this yarn working very well as a women's short-sleeved top (simple styling and a medium women's size would run you about $62) or, even better, a simple child's top. Sure, other kids may be able to brag that their mother made their sweater, but imagine the fun they'll have adding, "And it's made of corn!"

 

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