Through the ups and downs of the past decade, our yarn market has seen consistent growth in one particular area: color. Not just offering colors in yarn, but offering hand-dyed colors. The number of hand-dyers who have come (and, alas, gone) is extraordinary.
This phenomenon has proven challenging for large yarn companies that have a big base of "legacy" yarns they must support, all of them dyed by machine in solid colors. We love our solids, we need them. But we also crave a little spark in our palettes; that's when we pick up a skein or two (or 12) of the unusually hued stuff.
The logical solution is for the larger companies to add hand-dyed offerings to their line-up. Some have done this, but they've faced the challenge of being color "newcomers" in a full market. Tahki Stacy Charles took another approach: Partner with a leading hand-dyer instead.
In December 2012, Tahki Stacy Charles announced a new venture with Artyarns. Called TSCArtyarns, the new company would operate independently of either "parent" and focus on offering affordable hand-dyed yarns to the handknitting market.
This isn't Tahki's first foray into the artisanal market. Last year they launched their Saratoga Collection featuring New York-sourced and spun Cora yarn, the hand-painted colors hand-dyed by Jill Draper. The Artyarns pairing is a suitable one in that both companies share certain core values: an appreciation for high fashion and for the qualities of a well-milled Italian yarn.
TSCArtyarns is launching with three yarns each of which can be traced back, directly or indirectly, to the Tahki Stacy Charles line-up. Basically they've taken the skeleton of three proven bases and given them the gift of greater color. Please note that these yarns are so new, they're just now being previewed at TNNA in Long Beach. But they should be in your LYS by spring, and with this sneak peek, you'll be ready.Adora
97% cotton, 3% polyester
25g / 80 yards (73m)
24 stitches and 28 rows per 4"/10cm
Adora is definitely a summer yarn. Most reminiscent of Tahki Cotton Classic, it's made from four two-ply strands of what appears to be mercerized cotton. These four strands have been plied together in the opposite direction of their initial twist to create a true cabled yarn, which has then been re-plied in the same direction, but more loosely, with a fifth two-ply strand. What Adora lacks in elasticity, it makes up for in strength. Adora will launch with eight colors, four of which have strong variegation and four of which have more subtle coloring.
As a nod to Artyarns' penchant for sparkle, sequins have been sparingly fed into one of those initial four plies. Not a ton, but just enough to elevate this from a utilitarian cotton to something special.Zara Hand-Dyed
100% extrafine Merino
100g / 240 yards (219m)
22 stitches and 28 rows per 4"/10cm
Zara is a classic staple from Filatura di Crosa, which is the Italian fashion branch of Tahki Stacy Charles. It's made from an extremely fine grade of Merino and consists of six very thin, loosely plied two-ply strands of fiber that are then all plied together, with all of the twist going in the same direction. Technically it's an S-on-S cable construction.
Such a ply construction produces an extremely round, plush yarn with exceptional bounce and stitch definition. Imagine knitting with a big piece of spaghetti. It's fantastic for ribbing, stockinette, and any kind of textured stitchwork. The only area where it falters is in stranded colorwork, but with 16 semisolid hues (only three of which have any dramatic degree of variegation) you'll have plenty of color intrigue.Tranquility
60% extrafine Merino, 25% cashmere, 15% silk
57g / 400 yards (366m)
22 stitches and 28 rows per 4" / 10cm
The most luxurious of the offerings brings to mind a marriage of Filatura di Crosa Nirvana and Superior, otherwise known as one of the most extraordinary pairings possible.
Tranquility is made from two component yarns that have been stranded, rather than plied (i.e. twisted), together. The first is a brushed cashmere with a silk binder thread reminiscent of Superior; the second, a two-ply strand of Merino reminiscent of Nirvana but, on closer examination, with a slightly more relaxed ply angle similar to one of the component strands in Zara.
Artyarns has a reputation for using high-luxury fibers like cashmere and silk in its yarns. Rather than twist everything together to create a plied yarn, they tend to strand the yarns side by side. Some stranded yarns can be a challenge to knit with because the components have no energy holding them together. They come apart and your needle can easily snag only one by mistake, leaving the other sad little loop behind that you won't notice until you've worked a frustratingly large number of rows.
But some stranded yarns have enough surface texture in one or the other component that they "hug" one-another and behave as one, no twist necessary. They don't snag, they knit easily and produce beautiful results. That's Tranquility. Each 400-yard skein is $49.90, which puts this in the luxury realm—but do remember that it's made in Italy from luxury fibers. Sometimes you have to pay a premium for the good stuff.
Hopefully if the launch goes well, we'll see more yarns—or more colors in these yarns—in the coming year. For now, be on the lookout for these yarns at your LYS later this spring. I suspect they'll update the TSCArtyarns Web site with a list of stockists very soon.