A skein of Malizia
Malizia knitted up and washed
click each image to enlarge

Yarn Profile: Cascade Malizia

First Impressions
The word "novelty" tends to conjure up images of the new and unusual, but I haven't seen a new or unusual novelty yarn in a long, long time.

My hope was recently renewed when I set eyes on this surprising creation from Cascade Yarns.

It begins with a railroad-style ribbon with zigzagging ties between the rails. A strand of space-dyed satin runs down the middle, and it forms loops on the outsides of the rails every inch, like butterfly wings. (View a closeup.)

The color choices are outstanding, ranging from stark contrasts to warm complements. The contrasting colors (with the railroad in one color and the satin in an entirely different color) produce an icy "pop" effect, while the complementary colors produce a more velvety depth.

Overall, it's an amazing yarn worth a second look—and a third, fourth, and fifth while you're at it.

Knitting Up
From a knittability perspective, this yarn is more challenging than your average worsted wool. Every time the crisscrossing threads venture from one side of the railroad to the other, they create a large empty space that's dying to come in contact with a needle.

The butterfly wing loops create even more snagging potential.

And yet, surprisingly, I managed to navigate the potholes and have a relatively smooth ride. I did take some precautions: I chose dull-tipped wooden needles to minimize the snagging potential, and I kept my pace very slow and steady, with my eyes never leaving the needles.

Although my needles did snag periodically, it never caused visible damage to the finished fabric. The seemingly loose butterfly wings are actually firmly secured in place by the railroad, so that even when my needle hit them, it didn't pull anything out of shape.

The only other issue was with my hands, which tend to get rough during the dry winter months. Those rough spots kept dragging on the satin core, pulling loose tiny wisps of fiber.

The wisps weren't too visible in the finished fabric, and this is just one of those inevitabilities of working with smooth satiny materials during the winter months.

My finished swatches were stunning. The intense colors are rendered more vibrant by the satiny sheen of the core fibers, and the butterfly wings pop out of the fabric to produce a striking—but not overwhelming—sense of three-dimensional depth.

Blocking / Washing
Washing presented no problems or challenges. My swatches quickly absorbed their cool water bath, and I could feel the kinked-up stitches relax nicely.

I rinsed them, blotted them with a towel, and then dried them flat away from heat or direct sunlight. The little butterfly loops had flattened onto the fabric. I ran my finger along the fabric surface a few times, and the loops popped back up just fine.

Sometimes I've found that the shinier, satin-style novelty yarns can become a bit flat and listless after washing. The miracle cure is to add a tiny dab of hair conditioner to the rinse, which I did with my second round of swatches.

Perhaps it was only psychological, but those softened swatches seemed to have a little bit more fluidity and luster to them.

As with most synthetic railroad yarns (with or without wings), Malizia produces a cool and inelastic fabric. While not cuddly soft, its textured firmness is not abrasive or rough against the skin. In fact, I could imagine it feeling most welcome on a hot summer evening.

The tiny wisps of satin do tend to catch against anything slightly rough, so keep those hands moisturized, and watch out for spintered wooden chairbacks.

After an extended period of abrasion, those loose wisps introduced a somewhat sloppy blur to the otherwise crisp and velvety fabric.

I've had this happen with other novelty yarns that incorporate fine satin-type fibers, and there's not much you can do—it's part of the game.

While some novelty yarns keep getting less and less expensive, Malizia still comes at a premium: $18 for a 54-yard skein. I suspect this is because it takes a lot more work to create one yard of this yarn than it does some of the more basic novelty yarns.

Fortunately, Malizia is rather like saffron. It costs a lot, but you only need a little bit to get the full effect.

It'd be brilliant as trim for a hat or mittens or a bag or anything that needs a little burst of color and texture. (I took a skein of Knit Picks' Elegance and knit up two possible trim examples: first, adding Malizia alone as trim; and second, knitting Malizia and Elegance together for a thicker, less distinct border.

You could also spice up any scarf by adding a row of Malizia every few inches, and incorporating it into the trim or fringe. I've also heard people using it as trim on felted bags, although I suspect some of the crisp shimmer would be lost in the felting process.

But otherwise, using one skein or 20, anything you do with Malizia will be bright, vibrant, and eye-catching. You'll have to pay attention while you knit, and the yarn will eventually lose its resiliency after a few seasons—but I think it's still worth it.

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