a skein of Patons Classic Merino wool
Patons Classic Merino knit up
click each image to enlarge
Yarn Profile:
Patons Classic Merino

Reviewed by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

First Impressions
Paton's Classic Merino is a Canadian staple yarn, found hanging out in the stashes of those in the Great White North with the regularity that Cascade 220 crops up south of the border. It's a soft and softly spun three-ply 100% merino wool that comes in a range of styles and colours as diverse as the Canadian landscape itself. There are 12 heathers, 2 marls, 7 variegated versions, and a range of 25 solids, all coming to you in a practical, ready-to-use pull skein.

It's not a posh yarn, or a fancy yarn, or a luxurious yarn. It's a decent, upstanding basic yarn with no pretension. Tried and true, practical and inexpensive with extensive pattern support, it puts knitting with natural fibres within the grasp of most budgets.

At 100g, it's got 205m of yardage, all for the soundly good deal of about $7 bucks (Canadian). The photos here are of a favourite colour of mine, "Dark Natural Mix."

Knitting Up
I admit, I have a sentimental place in my heart for this yarn, having used it a great deal in my knitterly life, mostly because I've always been broke, and when I haven't been broke, I've been thrifty.

It has a very soft hand, probably soft enough for those of us who have some wool immunity to wear next to the skin (though my sister finds it scratchy...but I think she's trying to bug me). It's soft without being flaccid (which is a word I think is grossly underused in the yarn world), plump without being pudgy, and has a charming degree of elasticity, making it especially pleasant to use for cables.

The stitches are easily manipulated and stretched as you move things around, and obediently snug right back where they belong when you're done. There's really decent stitch definition, although not fantastic, mostly due to the softer spin and ply.

Blocking / Washing
With Classic Merino, much like Canadians, what you see is what you get, and there's very little difference between an unwashed and blocked swatch and the one that's had a bath.

Thereís a slight bloom, and the stitches even out and sit even more politely...and perhaps a little colour bleeds into the water at higher temperatures with some of the more intense skeins (red, black, bright blue) but, when washed in cool water (like it should be, dare I say it), there was no loss at all.

Being a softly spun wool, it holds its blocked shape nicely, without losing all of its body or elasticity.

This yarn, being a yarn made from a short stapled wool that is softly spun (without much twist), shows wear the way that almost all yarns in this category do. After a couple of wears, you're likely to see some pilling in areas that experience a lot of friction (beneath your arms in a sweater, for example). The pills are easily removed by a sweater stone, shaver, or dedicated knitter, and don't usually recur to the same degree once they've been taken off once.

I donít hold this against the yarn, since there are many, many far more expensive Merino yarns that pill exactly the same way or way more. It's the nature of the beast. Yarns with softly spun short fibres are almost always going to show wear pretty quickly, and at this price point, Classic Merino performs exceptionally well, especially when compared to its fancier peers.

I would be hugely remiss here if I didn't mention one of the advantages of a softly spun short-stapled yarn, especially this one. Patons Classic Merino is an excellent felting yarn. Fantastic, in fact.

When I threw the swatch in with my regular wash for just one short trip, it yielded a spectacularly even and flat example of fulled fabric. I've made countless pairs of felted slippers from this yarn, and I prefer the results to almost all other yarns.

I like felted knitting to look like true felt. Flat and smooth, not hairy or lumpy, and Classic Merino gives me exactly what I'm looking for: a sophisticated, firm, subtle fabric with no stitches visible at all.

Patons Classic Merino, the Canadian staple, has a lot in common with the people and the country it comes from.

It's a good looking and unassuming yarn that gets the job done without being flashy. It's a warm and reliable yarn, diverse and helpful, and it seems to me to be the yarn equivalent of a cozy bowl of oatmeal on a Canadian winter morning.

One skein in your stash holds the promise of warm mittens or a toque, and for less than $50 for a medium-sized sweater, it's an inexpensive workhorse of a yarn that does exactly what you expect it will, every time, every knit, without fail.

This yarn isn't the best yarn you'll ever knit with, nor the most durable or pretty. It's like the Volkswagen Bug of yarn. Reliable, easy to use, inexpensive, and practical. My stash wouldn't be caught dead without it.


Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is the author of Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again, as well as Things I Learned from Knitting, Knitting Rules!, At Knit's End, Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off. She maintains a popular blog from her wool-filled home in Toronto, Canada, where she lives with her husband and three daughters.

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