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One of the most fun jobs I have with Ancient Arts is to plan new yarn bases. I’m always on the look out for a great yarn mill with something super yummy to offer. It can be a challenge at times as there is so much wonderful yarn out there (and so much not quite so wonderful yarn I hate to say). Add in the need to stay with trends in stitching and it can become a very complex process. The final element that makes this a super fun but super challenging thing to do is the yarn has to be suitable for hand dyeing! That means no finishes/stabilizers/coatings (did you know a lot of yarn has these?), no weird sized skeins (240gm is just not as helpful as it could be for a company that sells yarn in either 100 or 115 gram skeins), and of course I want the BEST fibres as they take dye so much better!
So what started my search for the yarn that would become Bunny Hug? Two things. Texture in knitting and crochet has been trending for some time now. It has taken several forms, including stitch patterns, and also in the form of the texture of the yarn itself. Second, yarns that are blends of fibres are trending, and for good reason! Yarn that is made of more than one fibre type takes the best from each of the fibres that go into its spinning. So a silk linen yarn like our Indulgence yarn takes the strength and breathability of the line flax (linen) and the sheen and drape of the silk, to form one harmonious and yummy whole. Together they can make a better yarn than apart.
In order to achieve these goals we all chatted and pondered and in the end the ladies of Ancient Arts decided we wanted a boucle style yarn made from a fibre blend. Boucle is really fun and bouncy and has marvelous texture, and yet there isn’t that much of it out there being hand dyed. It has to be just the right boucle too – none of us like yarn that is splitty, or snags the needles, or sheds, or pokes one in the neck! It has to be functional: if I’m going to put my hard earned dollars into it I want the project I make to be fun, and to last, and to feel great! As a result I interviewed many yarns, testing them for dye ability, knit and crochet worthiness, and wearability. Along the way I found a lot of yarn I liked, but it wasn’t until the last yarn that I found one I LOVE!
The winning candidate is made in Italy by a mill that specializes in yarns made from the very best quality fibres. That’s a win right there, because as someone who has been a hand spinner for 20 years (wow time flies) I know that the best yarns come from the best fibres and fibre prep! This particular yarn has a number of fibre types that go into its construction and each was chosen for just the right reason. Beautiful extra fine merino wool adds loft, and elasticity, and warmth while being lovely and soft. Super kid mohair, the finest and softest grade, adds strength, softness, helps the yarn breath, and glows when dyed. Angora is light as air, so, so soft and warm, and insulates. And nylon dyes well, adds strength, and helps bind soft fluffy fibres that might like to go see the world (looking at you mohair and angora) in their place. The final result is a yarn that is strong but super soft, deliciously warm, but not too warm, all at once!
And then there is this… The blend of fibres means that it dyes beautifully too. Non-superwash wool and angora dye softly, muting colours, but this is offset by the super kid mohair and nylon that add back some brilliance!
The structure of the yarn is super important too. Boucle yarn can be made with many structures… big and loopy, loose or tight, many plies or just two (really this is more of a spiral yarn) and it all affects how it knits and what the final fabric looks like. Many of the boucle yarns I tested are so, so pretty, but they don’t wear well and were harder to knit. As an amateur I had to forget trying crochet them entirely. I’m some cases what looks so stunning in the skein started to fray when knit and worn. That’s no good! Of course the viability of a yarn is very much all in the choice of project, but my goal was a yarn that would be nice for a wide range of projects. Many of the interview candidates were not.
This brings us to Bunny Hug. It has it all in my books! It’s a boucle but it’s a tightly spun boucle where the loops are not so large that they catch on needles. And oh how I tested this yarn for that! For test 1 on workability I used super sharp lace needles from three different companies to test! (For those who are curious Hiya Hiya, Chiaogoo and Signature.) Not a snag or a catch. That amazed me. It knit as fast as any smooth yarn! I tried crochet hooks in all sizes and materials I had (plastic, metal, bamboo) and it slid along nicely and the hook went in the loops just fine. Wow! So test 1 how easy is it to actually work with was passed with flying colours!
Test 2 consists of what can I make with it? What sort of fabric does it form? Well first I found this yarn works very well for your standard knitting techniques. It works nicely in both garter stitch and stocking stitch. It adds texture to your work, but you retain some stitch definition too. And as someone who LOVES to knit lace, I wondered whether it would work for that too. Yes it does! The loops are small enough and well behaved enough that I could make lace stitches show! Now there are some limitations of course, as this is a textured yarn. Lace will show, but it is not as defined as it would be with a smooth yarn. However, it does show decently well and that really expands the options available when choosing patterns. This yarn makes wonderful shawls, cowls, and sweaters. I could easily see it being wonderful as mitts and hat too! There are a LOT of options for it, and the big skeins mean you can do a lot.
Test 3 so what does the yarn feel like? And with angora and mohair in there does it shed? The yarn is very soft. Not insane super cashmere I can hardly feel it soft BUT it’s very close! VERY close. And the squish factor is AMAZING! It is so SQUISHY!!!!!!!!!!! I could hug it all day! And in case you wonder how it got it’s name… now you know. It has bunny fluff in it and it’s so huggable! And for those who will also wonder… yes it draws on a wonderful Saskatchewan name for a hoodie (Bunny Hug) which makes total sense as it is dyed in Canada and all my mother’s and husbands’ family come from Saskatchewan. As for shedding… its so well spun that I was flat out amazed at how well it holds together. It does better than many pure wool yarns! The only shedding I noticed was a teeny bit of fluff that came out when I wound it into a ball using my most abusive ball winder (got to test that strength you know) and a very heavy swift. The amount of fluff that came out would fill a thimble, and when I rewound it no more appeared. I’ve knit it into several projects, including a shawl that I have been wearing every day and nothing has shed. No bunny fluff, no strands of mohair, which is a very nice thing given I like my fancy black shirts!
So this is the story of Bunny Hug, our latest yarn, and how it got its name. You’ll have to excuse me now as I need to go find my shawl so I can be hugged by a bunny ’cause I like it! And start that hoodie in it that I MUST have… In the mean time don’t forget to get your free copy of the pattern for the shawl above!