A skein of Rowan Polar
Polar once knitted up

Yarn Profile: Polar

First Impressions
At first glance, Rowan's Polar looks like a pretty standard bulky yarn. It's a loosely spun single-ply yarn, similar to Lopi, but much softer and with a more consistent thickness.

Rowan has added an unusual twist, however, in giving the yarn a touch of alpaca and acrylic. The result is a buttery softness, slightly heathered effect, nice weight, and just the right amount of loft.

Rowan's new yarn is available in 10 colors, with pattern support beginning with the recently released Rowan Knitting Magazine #30 (Fall 2001).

Knitting Up
Polar is pleasant to work with. The yarn slid through my hands easily, and my stitches appeared clear and even. The three stitches-per-inch gauge gives you fast progress, but not so fast that you're left with enormous stitches that scream, "This was really easy!"

One word of warning: As with any single-ply, loosely spun yarn, you'll need to pay attention while you knit. I used Addi Turbos with a slightly dull tip that helped me avoid any significant snags or splits.

Eventually, I was able to knit by touch alone, with only a few pauses to make sure everything was intact.

Blocking / Washing
The difference between the unwashed and washed swatches was like night and day. Unwashed, the swatches felt thick, tight, and springy -- similar to most other wool-based bulky yarns I've reviewed.

Washed, however, they became loose, relaxed, and unbelievably soft. The surface texture became a gentle fuzz after just a moderate amount of agitation in the wash, replacing the sharp stitch definition with a soft, cloudy look. The swatches themselves took on an exquisite drape that you normally don't see in this gauge yarn.

Even more surprising, however, was the fact that all this happened without any real change in gauge. Three stitches to the inch, right on the mark.

Polar's incredibly loose spin puts it at risk for poor wearability. However, the alpaca and acrylic content provide the equivalent of solid steel reinforcement.

The average fiber staple length was five inches or more. If you unravel a six-inch section and pull, you'll be able to break a strand. Otherwise, while spun, it's surprisingly hefty.

As I already mentioned, the swatches developed a surface fuzz after a very basic wash. I happen to like this effect because it produces a cohesive piece of fabric.

Beyond this surface fuzz, however, Polar kept its strength through several thrashings. Finally the surface began to adopt small clumps that were -- for the most part -- easy to remove.

Polar is an excellent compromise for those who like a bigger gauge but dislike a truly bulky look. It has a lovely drape and cloudy softness, not to mention phenomenal pattern support from some of the best knitwear designers today.

Sure, it has its limits. You get a slightly fuzzy look instead of crisp, clear stitch definition. You can't toss it in the washing machine. And it's only available in 10 colors.

Whether these sacrifices are worth it is up to you. For me, they are.

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Reader Comments
"I started a sweater in the Rowan Magazine 30. It's an orange turtleneck sweater out of the Polar and I love it! I started knitting it on Sunday and am already half way through the sweater. The Polar is wonderful to work with. It's so soft. There is a far amount of wool in it, but the alpaca makes it oh so nice. I was on a yarn diet, but this yarn and pattern caught my eye and demanded to be done. Now I'm hoping to have the sweater finished in a week and just in time for the first really cold spell. If you want a bulky very soft yarn, Polar is for you!" erica, 10/03/01