Just Our Yarn Caravan
On the skein, Caravan looks and feels like a very good sturdy Shetland—perhaps Alice Starmore Hebridean 2-Ply, Jamieson's Shetland DK, or the yarn in Hanne Falkenberg's kits. It even has the jumbled woollen spin, delicate heathered colors, and dreamy lanolin fragrance.
But Caravan has a secret ingredient that lies dormant until you wash and wear your garment. That ingredient, my friends, is camel down. And it singlehandedly elevates this yarn from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
Using a sharp-tipped pair of Knit Picks Options needles, I cast on. Even the stitches in that first cast-on row were a pleasure. Steady and compact, they clung confidently to one needle while allowing themselves to be worked and manipulated by the other.
Perhaps it was the extra-sharp tip on the Knit Picks needles, perhaps it was my bliss-induced state of distraction, but I wasn't entirely able to knit by touch alone. My needles snagged the yarn just a few times, but more often the fibers held onto one another in a way that made make me think I'd snagged something.
The good news is that this yarn is so lovely and obedient that it's a pleasure to watch your stitches unfold. I found myself not wanting to look away for fear I'd miss something.
Blocking / Washing
On the label, Caravan's wash instructions simply say "hand wash cool, lay flat to dry." And that's fine. But Just Our Yarn handed out separate, more extensive washing instructions at the festival that I've listed in the column at right. To experience this yarn to its fullest, follow those instructions word for word.
The minute my swatches hit their warm soapy bath, I could feel them relax and soften. Camel down doesn't felt very readily, so I felt safe giving the swatches a healthy dose of to-and-fro swishing in their bath. They released a small amount of pinkish orange color that rinsed clear on the first try.
I could feel the transformation even before I pulled my swatches from their rinse. They had become delicate, fluid pieces of fabric. They blotted dry easily and required no blocking. At the appropriate moment I put them in the dryer for the prescribed period of time ("no heat!" was my mantra), and finally took them out to admire. To say "they got fluffy" doesn't quite describe it, so here's a picture.
I do have a note on gauge, however: While my unwashed swatches knit up to 6.5 stitches per inch, the final swatches—with dryer treatment—had expanded to an even 6 stitches per inch. If you plan on using Caravan for any item where precise fit is vital, I urge you to knit and wash a swatch first.
The hand-painted colors gracefully shift from hue to hue without any loud or awkward transitions, making the yarn entirely suited for all sorts of things. But its fuzzy surface will conceal more elaborate cables and stitchwork, so I'd stick with simple stockinette, garter stitch, and lace.
And now, here's the catch: Just Our Yarn is a two-woman business. Diane and Cathie aren't set up to sell wholesale, they don't repeat their colorways, and they aren't yet equipped to handle huge volumes of online orders.
They maintain a busy festival schedule, including Stitches West and Stitches East, the Maryland and Massachusetts Sheep and Wool festivals, the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival, and several other events across the country. And for the devout online-only shoppers, they are planning a mid-February relaunch of their Web site that will include online ordering.
So, in exchange for sharing my secret yarn find with you, I ask that you please tread gently with these folks and be patient. Trust me, the rewards will be well worth it.
Just Our Yarn
35% camel down
7 sts per inch on US 3 needles
Average retail price
Where to buy online
Just Our Yarn. Online ordering should be launched mid-February 2007. You can browse yarns and colors on the site but will need to email them for order details.
Weight/yardage per skein
Country of origin
Hand-dyed in U.S.A. (fiber source not listed)
Manufacturer's suggested wash method
Hand wash in warm water with mild soap, for extra softness add hair conditioner to first rinse. Lay flat to dry. When 75% dry put in dryer with NO HEAT. Tumble for 15 minutes checking several times. Remove from dryer and finish drying flat.
Color used in review
CW06-016—please note that Just Our Yarn does not repeat colorways, although they often have similar colors from batch to batch.
Just Our Yarn does not yet sell its yarns wholesale.