A skein of Mericash
Mericash knit up
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Yarn Profile:
Mericash

First Impressions
Ask me if a single-ply merino/cashmere yarn is a good idea and I'd say no, probably not. Both merino and cashmere fibers tend to be on the short and delicate side. The amount of twist they'd need to hold together reasonably well under duress would be far too much for a balanced single-ply yarn.

If the single were spun too tight, it would cause the fabric to tilt, or bias, in the direction of the excess twist in an attempt to release it. Spun too loosely, the yarn simply wouldn't hold up with wear. But plied together with two or three other plies, you'd have yourself a pretty good yarn.

But then I got a package from Punta del Este introducing their new yarns from Uruguay, and it included this single-ply yarn made from 80% Merino and 20% cashmere. My hands were so happy touching it that I decided perhaps I should put my ply theory to the test and see if it's really true.

Knitting Up
Mericash is soft, soft, soft. I cannot stress this enough. The label even proudly indicates the micron count of the Merino. Microns are an industry measurement of the actual diameter of a fiber, with one micron equaling one-millionth of a meter. The smaller the micron count of a fiber, the finer and softer the fiber will be.

In this case, the Merino is 19 microns, which is very soft—I'd classify it as superfine. Mind you, Merino can go finer than the 19 microns, but this is still very good. By comparison, quality cashmere will average 16 microns.

Each skein holds a generous 260+ yards of yarn. Sometimes the more loosely spun short-staple fibers will stick together on the skein after they've been dyed, making ball-winding a somewhat tedious process. Such was not the case here. I was able to spread the hank on my lap and wind it into a ball without need of a swift and ball winder (of course those would make the winding go faster, but I was in no rush).

The label gave no recommended needle size, but the press materials indicated a suggested size of US 5 (3.75mm). Fairly quickly I could see that a US 5 produced far too open and loose a material for my taste, so I switched to US 4 (3.5mm) and the fabric pulled together nicely. I also figured that the tighter the fabric, the greater its resistance to abrasion would be.

Knitting was smooth and reasonably easy, although I was not able to knit by touch alone. Each time I tried, I ended up snagging a portion of the loosely spun fibers instead of the entire strand. When I did so, those fibers came loose from the rest of the strand and puffed out of the fabric. For this reason I also wouldn't recommend using needles with extremely sharp tips, since that's only asking for trouble.

My stitches appeared for the most part even, although faint differences in the yarn's own thickness and degree of twist did show up as slight irregularities in the knitted fabric. This is typical with single-ply yarns, but I suspected that the irregularities would even out a bit in the wash.

I had so much fun touching this yarn that I kept swatching, adding a subtle stitch pattern and then a 1x1 ribbing. The yarn also performed beautifully in seed stitch.

Blocking / Washing
The very second my swatches hit their soapy bath, they relaxed and became the knitted equivalent of wet tissues. There was no bleeding or fading whatsoever, even when I upped the wash temperature from the recommended cold to a more palatable warm.

The swatches blocked beautifully, rendering fluid and cohesive pieces of fine, thin fabric. The yarn wasn't spun tightly enough to create a bias—all the swatches, in both stockinette and textured stitches, held a perfect shape.

Wearing
While my swatches may not have biased, they did start to blur and pill after a moderate amount of friction, quickly losing their clean surface definition and adopting an increasingly blurred, worn look.

The more friction they experienced, the more blurred they became. Some yarns produce popcorn-like pills that are easy to remove. Mericash produced more vague and well-attached clouds of excess fiber along the fabric surface. Pulling them off upset the fibers that were still firmly rooted in the fabric, so I'd recommend testing a sweater shaver and seeing if it works any better.

This worn look would be perfectly fine for any kind of scarf, which would also let you enjoy this delicate softness around your neck. Or you could use it for mittens or fingerless mitts as long as you knit the fabric on smaller needles for a firmer material. I wouldn't use Mericash for socks by a long shot, except for perhaps a special pair of supersoft warm bed socks that never see a floor.

As I was working with Mericash I kept thinking how fantastic it'd be for a very special keepsake baby gift—a sweater, or perhaps a hat and bootie set. Definitely not a baby blanket, which needs to be far more durable (and machine-washable, ideally). By the time the garment starts to show any signs of wear, the baby will have long outgrown it and it'll be safely packed away in the archives.

Conclusion
This is just one of several yarns that will be released under the Punta del Este Yarns label. Others will feature wool, linen, cotton, alpaca, and other types of fibers and spun in different ways—including a linen/cashmere blend I'm eager to try. I can't yet say what kind of pattern support they'll offer, but I assume there'll be something.

Colors in Mericash run from saturated solids to space-dyed hues (these yarns have a semisolid look rather like the kettle-dyed colors in Malabrigo) and hand-painted colors (these are pleasantly harmonious hues, not the usual jar-of-jellybeans color fiesta that turns to mush when you knit it up).

And there's no denying the price, $16 for 263 yards—a good deal for such a soft merino/cashmere blend. Were you to knit a women's sweater (with a 40-inch bust) using Mericash, you'd need some 2,000 yards, or approximately 8 skeins. That keeps the bill under $130.

Given the yarn's quick tendency to pill, however, I wouldn't go that route. Instead, I'd probably get three skeins and knit myself a truly luxurious scarf. (When you're wearing a scarf, you get to enjoy the soft fabric without seeing the pills!) Perhaps Vyvyan Neel's Argosy or Evelyn Clark's Shetland Triangle from Wrap Style, something I could wrap around myself when I need a fiber hug.

 

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