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Saturday, January 31, 2009

kitty: mink and cashmere yarn *updated*

This year for me I have decided it will be the year of new yarns. Focusing on things that are unique, rare, luxurious, and exotic. Lets face it I do not need anymore mainstay yarns in the stash.

The first of these yarns would definitely have to be a mink and cashmere blend. I first read about the blend when trying to find something interesting to spin. One luxury roving post I read talked about a woman who was collecting mink hair from her pets and blending it. I immediately contacted her to be added to her list and she mentioned that she had seen someone selling a similar blend of yarn.

First Impression & Thoughts:

First of all no animals were harmed to obtain this yarn. This was a crucial detail for me!


UPDATED: (FEB 1, 2009)

After MG wrote the comment the other day I contacted them and asked how the fiber was collected and whether the minks were wild or farmed.

I got a response from Craig, below is paraphrased from his email.

The minks are brushed and the fibers are then removed from the brush. It is a cumbersome processes, but this was the only way to keep the fibers long enough for spinning. The minks are also farmed raised like you would sheep.


The possum yarn from Australia has always interested me, but from what I have been told and now read, it is somewhat a bi-product from the food industry. Since possums are eaten for food. Which I would be ok with, but other sources talk about the fact that they are also be hunted for there fur. Possums were introduced in 1837 for the fur industry and now hit epidemic levels. Destroying natural vegetation and have no natural predators. Though the destruction is horrible, being hunted for there fur is not acceptable. I couldn't buy the yarn for that reason.

Even knowing that the animal was not harmed I had to think long and hard how I felt about it. In the end I made the decision I was ok with it and ordered three hanks to try.

The yarn came in a plastic bag with a print out about the washing instructions, name of the company, and suggested gauge. The hanks of yarn are not labeled. What really touched me was a greeting card was placed in the box with a hand written note. This really reminded me of Yahaira, I so miss her store and her beautifully hand written notes when I ordered. :(

When you run your hand into the bag to fondle there is instant love. Like petting a kitten who had been sunning itself all day and freshly bathed. (Ok I really felt guilty at this point and wondered if I should have bought the yarn.) The yarn made me want to swatch instantly. (Sadly I had to get back to work.)

Manufacturer: Grand Northern Yarns
Website: www.greatnorthernyarns.com
Ebay: Pouchet Island

Name of fiber: No Name Given
Fiber Content: 70% Mink / 30% Cashmere
Price: $19.95 website $21.25 ebay
Ply's: 3ply yarn made up of 3 yarns that are 2ply
Colour: Natural and listed on the site that he will soon have black
Weight: DK Weight Label Reads 5.5 st per inch on US 6
Tested: 5 st to an inch on H&S Ebony 4.5mm

Washing:
Instructions read "Like cashmere this yarn and should really be washed either before or after knitting in order to achieve the full blossoming of the yarn. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes in water, add cashmere soap or baby shampoo, gently wash, dry flat, never twist."
Tested: I allowed it to soak for 15 minutes in slightly warm water. Then I added an organic baby shampoo and gently washed. After blooming the yarn increased its thickness by double.

Knitting UP: The yarn is pretty splitty, though I was test knitting with ebony Holtz & Stein needles which are sharp. I kept having to stop myself from splitting the fibers.

After a few stitches I also realized why in the instruction it suggested that you soak the yarn for 15-20 minutes after knitting. There is a fine oil on the fiber, but I am sure that was added to control the static during the spinning processes.

You don't actually feel the oil or smell the oil, but it does give the yarn a controlled, weighted feel. It is not bothersome enough to make me want to wash the hanks prior to washing. The yarn is far more manageable in its oiled state than once you wash it and it becomes feather light. Plus you get the reward of how marvelous your project will bloom after you wash it in the sink. (OK I love the surprise of Coulmart Yarns)

The yarn has very little elasticity but does have a nice bounce. It is very tender but it grips your needles and hands while you knit each beautiful stitch.

All in all the yarn behaves well. It didn't twist in an odd way that made things difficult to knit or require you to re-tension the yarn in your hand. The stockinette was fluid and even.

Blocking and washing: I followed the instructions that were outline on the printed instructions and used a baby organic shampoo. The oil was removed easily and the yarn plumbed up so delightfully when wet.

After a close examination, there were also no fibers left floating in the water after the soap was rinses out. I left the water to set until the suds died down to evaluate the shedding.

The multiple plies are somewhat loosely spun together. It took a lot of tugging though to break the strands with your bare hands.

The gauge didn't change that much after it bloomed though the yarn is much plumper and has a lovely soft halo. The gauge was originally around 5.5 sts/inch to around 5 sts/inch. I didn't like the stitches as much using a 4mm.

It dried somewhat flat. There is some light curling on the edge as you can see in the first photo. I only patted it dry and didn't pin block it.

Wearing: Hard to tell. I did carry the swatch in my pocket all day and kept it between two piece of cotton. There was some light shedding with the friction between the cloth. I worry about pilling but no way to obtain that data at this point.

Conclusion: The yarn is defiantly decadent, long term wear and tare will only be able to be determined after I decided what to knit with the yarn. The yarn upon first swatching does seem very forgiving. Since I split several of the stitches and they bounced back.

At 200 yards there is a good amount of yardage for what you are buying.

I would have to say I wholeheartedly would recommend this yarn and it certainly fits into all of the categories I am seeking for my year of exploration.

If you have any other suggestions for yarns to try, please let me know. I love trying the unusual.

This photo and the swatch photos are the truer to the actual colour then the close ups. Those photos were taken in the shadow of the folds, but clearly depicted the structure of the yarn body with hallow.

7 comments:

  1. did they give you good info. on how the mink fiber is obtained? i'm glad to see they emphasize the minks not being harmed, but i'm curious about the details... whether the minks are wild or farm-raised, how big the "flocks" are, how they get the fibers from them and such.

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  2. Now all we need to do is cross a mink with a cashmere goat. Wow! What a superlative mixture!

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  3. mink AND cashmere?! oh, wow- I need to get some! thanks for such a great review.

    - Julie

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  4. Hi, I just wanted to give you some more info on possum yarn. This yarn comes from New Zealand, not Australia. In Australia it is illegal to hunt or kill possums, which is a very contentious issue since they are also an endemic pest, destroying crops and vegetation at an alarming rate. In New Zealand possums are not hunted for fur or food (although a very small possum meat industry exists), but are culled as part of a national preservation of wildlife strategy as possum numbers are very high. The fur has been harvested for fibre and yarn as a by product of this cull - in other words the animals are killed in specified numbers and their fur is either left to rot or used for yarn. I don't think it is therefore cruel to use the yarn - I think letting the fur rot is a terrible waste. There is a long history in Australia and New Zealand of the use of possum furs for clothing as a way of controlling animal numbers and unlike many other animals whose numbers have dropped over time, possums numbers have grown significantly. The yarn is lovely to knit with and wonderfully warm and I'd really encourage you to give it a try.

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    Replies
    1. Possums are not a pest in Australia, they are native animals (and they definitely are not killed or eaten in Australia). They are however an introduced species in New Zealand where they have become a serious problem. Julie from Australia

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  5. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you are being sold a bill of goods.I questioned this same gentleman personlly a few years ago preparing for an article I wanted to write on "fur" yarn. I was not convinced at all. Mink are mean natured, and not about to be ccombed or sheared with out a major fight.
    Please read the below quote from the Canadian Fur trade
    http://www.furisgreen.com/animalwelfare.aspx

    Humane euthanasia
    Farmers are responsible for their animals’ care from birth to death. Mink are generally euthanized with bottled carbon monoxide gas. When harvest time comes around, a mobile unit is brought to the cages to eliminate stress that might be caused by transporting them long distances (loading, unloading and transporting animals is generally much more stressful for them than the actual slaughtering operation.)

    I hope that you reconsider your humane yarn choices

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  6. We are producing 100% cotton yarn of several counts ranging from 10/s up to 40/s for knitting and weaving.
    yarn exporter in Pakistan
    standard textile Mills Pakistan

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