A skein of Silk Rhapsody
Silk Rhapsody knit up
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Yarn Profile:
Silk Rhapsody

First Impressions
Many people reserve the term "novelty yarn" for fluffy synthetic concoctions. But Silk Rhapsody proves that you can have a novelty effect with entirely natural materials.

It's no coincidence that Silk Rhapsody has risen in popularity while synthetic novelty yarns have declined. As people discover they can achieve unusual visual effects naturally, they quickly become hooked.

Silk Rhapsody consists of two strands of yarn that are wound onto the hank together without any plying at all. The first strand is a smooth, lustrous single ply of silk. The second is a fine, delicate strand of brushed mohair combined with 30% silk. Together, the luster and delicate fluff have the effect of early morning fog over a placid pond.

I've coveted this particular skein for a long time and decided—in honor of a spring that should have reached here by now—to cut the ties, wind it off, cast on, and start playing with it.

Knitting Up
Before you can even begin knitting with Silk Rhapsody you have to wind the hank into a ball, something that's a little more challenging than with the usual skein. This is because you're dealing with two strands that haven't been twisted together in any way, and one of which has more elasticity than the other. I strongly recommend using a swift or asking a friend to hold the hank for you—anything to hold the hank tight and keep the yarn you're winding separate from the yarn being left behind.

Despite my best attempts to keep an even tension on both strands as I wound, I found that I gradually developed a surplus of the brushed mohair. After a while this surplus started to tangle with the yarns I was pulling.

I could've simply cut the mohair and trimmed the surplus, but that would've resulted in a knot. So I slowly and carefully finished winding my ball and had approximately three yards of leftover brushed mohair.

Silk and mohair blend beautifully in yarns (even in the brushed mohair/silk strand here), but pure silk on its own is not a very "engaging" yarn—by this I mean it doesn't snuggle up to its neighbors. Repeatedly I found my medium-tipped needles selecting only the silk ply and leaving the brushed mohair ply behind.

These dropped stitches manifested themselves in the fabric as little loose loops that I kept having to frog and reknit. Not fun. I swatched on much bigger needles with duller tips and had even more snagging problems. The key, I discovered, is to use needles with texture, such as wood or bamboo, to control the yarn. Also, be sure to work in a well-lit environment. With good lighting and attentive knitting, the snags slowed.

Despite the yarn's recommended gauge of 22 sts per 4 inches (10cm) on US 8 (5mm) needles, my gauge was closer to 19 stitches. Moreover, I found I had more fun with this yarn when I knit it up on much larger needles. The silk gives strength and body to the large stitches, letting the fabric drape and flow beautifully, while the fine mohair surrounds the whole work with a faint halo. It's an intriguing blend of come-hither slinky elegance and come-hug-me approachability.

Note: After this review was published, I began working on a shawl with a different skein of this yarn. I noticed two things that didn't appear in my test skein. First, small airy pills of what appeared to be silk came loose periodically. They were easily viewed and removed. Second, in a few spots the brushed mohair/silk strand had visible irregularities. I don't know if I just got an odd skein, but I still felt it necessary to update this review.

Blocking / Washing
What you see is what you get with this yarn. There's no astonishing transformation or disappointment in the wash, you can rest assured that what you knit is pretty much what you'll end up with.

I should note that although the yarn label suggests dry cleaning, a gentle wash in lukewarm water was fine for my swatches. There was no bleeding, fading, or loss of luster.

Wearing
Despite its cool feel, silk is a very warm fiber. Mohair is warm too, and the halo of brushed mohair fibers helps trap still air for additional warmth. Add the fact that Silk Rhapsody has elegant shimmer and weighty, relaxed drape and you have an ideal yarn for any kind of shawl- or scarf-like adornment.

The single ply of silk is prone to snags and it does tend to flatten a bit with wear. You can wash and reblock the garment to refresh the mohair, although the silk will remain flat and fluid.

Conclusion
The yarn itself is intriguing, but it's the color that makes Silk Rhapsody extra special. Artyarns owner Iris Schreier oversees a dizzying palette of hand-dyed colors ranging from tranquil shifting hues to fully saturated colors that have the visual impact of a pair of cymbals crashing.

For this review I chose a solid hue, but Iris also offers many variegated colors, and she will also custom "dip-dye" a yarn with multiple hues of a solid color to achieve a flickering, somewhat variegated effect. Choosing colors is itself a bit of an ordeal.

This yarn comes in sizeable 260-yard hanks priced at approximately $39 apiece. Behaviorally speaking, its main characteristics are weight, drape, and shimmer. A medium-sized women's pullover would require approximately 5 skeins, or cost $195. The garment would be relaxed and slinky, possibly stretching out of shape over time (although knitting at a tight gauge will help hold the fabric together some).

Another idea: Let the colors and fibers tell the story in a very simple shawl. I decided to explore this approach and see how much of a shawl I could get from one skein. Tune in next week for the results, complete with pattern!

 

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