Himalaya Recycled Silk
Himalaya Recycled Silk

Yarn Profile: Himalaya Recycled Silk

First Impressions
Simply put, the idea is brilliant: Buy shredded remnant fibers from weaving mills in India and ship them to a group of handspinners in Nepal, where they are magically respun into yarn.

The result is an extraordinary material with vibrant color and texture. It's unlike anything I've ever seen. Although you can choose from two basic color themes, each skein is otherwise unique.

Knitting Up
Any "art" yarn presents greater challenges when knitting up, and Recycled Silk is no exception. Little shreds of fiber protrude from the body of the yarn and can, on occasion, cause snagging.

Use care when undoing stitches, because this can pull more fibers from the yarn. Also, to prevent loose ends from fraying, tie knots in them.

As a handspun yarn, the spin isn't entirely consistent. At some points it tightens, causing the yarn to kink up slightly.

As long as I loosened up any twisted areas while knitting, the kinks dissolved completely into the knitted swatch. Stitches were surprisingly even and there were few gaps, despite the yarn's varying thickness and texture.

Any problems were outweighed by the immense pleasure and amazement I derived from watching the colors unfold before me.

Blocking / Washing
First I washed the swatches in cold water as recommended. There was only a hint of bleeding, and only a few small strands came loose from the swatches.

The fiber exuded a strong almost oil-like odor while wet, but once dry the smell dissipated. Swatches required a little bit of prodding to get back into shape, but once fixed they held their shape.

Silk isn't a hearty fiber. Take recycled silk fibers and spin them together and you'll get a bit of deterioration, no matter how fine the spin.

Nevertheless, surprisingly few fibers came loose from the yarn while I was knitting. Like a good mohair, the loose fibers are actually tightly held by the core yarn.

Only after what I consider undue thrashing did the loose fibers begin to fall out of the swatches. In the process, the swatches softened and became even more floppy than they were originally.

I'd classify this as a semi-delicate yarn appropriate for special garments that will be worn by considerate people. This means no football jersies or newborn blankets.

I love this yarn, both because of the resourceful cottage industry it represents and because of the exquisite end results. The price, relative fragility, and limited pattern support are easily surmountable obstacles.

The Handworks Gallery has two patterns to support Himalaya, and it's easy to find other patterns that knit up at 3.5 sts/inch. Even as a scarf, the Recycled Silk would be extraordinary.

If you like smoother knitting and steady colors, you can stick to the company's non-recycled product, Himalaya 100% Silk. But if you aren't afraid of color, don't mind a bit of texture, and are looking for a truly different knitting experience, please give Recycled Silk a try.

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Previous Reader Comments
"About the Himalayan recycled silk yarn: I made a basic crocheted hat pattern using this yarn, with millenery wire in the brim. It is a little heavier than I expected, but worked up evenly with a large crochet hook, and holds its shape nicely. The colors are beautiful." playmisty4me, 4/9/2002

"The Himalyan silk was great fun and I made a wonderful evening bag on small needles. And a sweater mixing it with mohair and some cotton in stripoes. It is really stunning and fun to work with." poetdove2, 9/11/2001

"I used it in a pillow cover. I loved working with it and found no over twisting in my skein. The color is just strikingly beautiful! See a picture of pillow done in Himalaya at http://www.witznd.net/knitter." Sue, 5/21/2001

"I wasn't very happy with this yarn. The colors are beautiful and I liked the texture, but that is about all it had going for it. For one thing, it was very difficult to knit with. It kinked up so badly I had to stop every row or two and unwind it. I also had to be very careful unkinking it because it would break in two. I had to count every stitch as I knit because the yarn varied in thickness sometimes from one stitch to the next by so much that I kept loosing stitches if I didn't. It was also almost impossible to unknit. And lastly, the top I made was uncomfortably heavy. I definitely don't feel it was worth the high price tag I paid for it." cputnam1, 5/21/2001

"I sold a batch of the Recyled Silk in my shop and was thrilled with the color etc. One customer made a sweater out of it and feels it is a bit heavy to wear; thinking of reusing the yarn in another garment with other yarns. To each his own. 'Just One More Row' has a lovely purse pattern using this yarn." knitwit, 5/17/2001