From Biju Basin Ranch:
“Established in 2005, Bijou Basin Ranch is a small family owned and operated yak ranch situated on the open plains of eastern Colorado, about 65 miles southeast of Denver. We produce and sell high-quality fibers and yarns made with premium yak fibers and other luxury fibers. We raise registered, full-blooded Tibetan yaks that have superior glossy coats which are harvested annually. We also supplement the fiber we harvest from our yaks by purchasing quality yak fiber from other yak ranchers across the country and abroad. Our yarns are made in the USA as well as abroad, and many are hand-dyed with care by color experts at various large and small dye houses primarily here in the US but in some cases abroad as well. Our full range of yarns and fibers are sold under the Bijou Spun label through our online store. We also attend many fiber festivals and other knitting-related events each year.”
Now, I don’t normally open these reviews with a quote like this from companies, but I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. This is a mix of all of my favorite things: family company, state-side sourcing and processing, consideration and care for the details that I think are so important in a quality product like animal care and dye processes that provide income to independents near and far. The company regularly partners with various Indie Dyers to create unique, one-of-a-kind colorways. The current roster includes Miss Babs, Colorful Eclectic, MJ Yarns, Lattes and Llamas, Fiber Optics, ModeKnit Yarns, and Lost City Knits.
Unique is an understatement when talking about this yarn in particular. I selected the Gobi Fingering in color Herja because it was such an unusual color that seemed to be iridescent and color shifting. When the yarn arrived, I was not disappointed! Here are the yarn stats:
Fiber Content: 35% Baby Camel, 65% Mulberry Silk Available in the Valkyrie series of 9 hand-dyed colors by MJ Yarns
3.45 oz skein = 435 yards/400 meters Fingering weight (16 wpi)
Recommended needle size: US 3 - 5, 6 stitches per inch
Care Instructions: Hand wash, dry flat for best results.
The mix of baby camel and silk is dreamy. It’s magical. It’s slack and silky. It’s shiny and full of depth. It smells like earthy, deep, delicious landscapes. My kids roll their eyes when I smash my face into new yarn and huff deeply, but scent is powerful and some yarns just purge their history through those little molecules. The shiny silk is the luxurious green that dominates the yarn color, but the baby camel is perhaps a purple/grey and the hazy quality of the baby camel floating alongside the silk is what makes the yarn appear to shift color. Magnificent. As usual, I took a close look at the yarn construction before swatching to determine what stitches I thought would highlight the yarn and vice versa. Even though this is a fingering yarn with no recoil - no bounce - it is a 3-ply yarn which made me think it is nicely balanced and will show off plain Stockinette and textured stitches beautifully -plus- because it’s so slack with a large silk content, i thought it would likely show off some openwork, too. As you can see from the above photo, I mixed Stockinette and mesh with some crossed stitches to get a feel for how the yarn would behave and how the color would appear when worked in various stitch patterns. Of course, the Stockinette was even and balanced - the mesh opened up a bit and would likely be a show-stopper on a larger scale - but the surprise for me was the way the crossed stitches changed and reflected light. It’s tough to photograph, but the crossed stitches resembled little fish scales, appearing to pop off the background of Stockinette.
If I had a few hanks of this yarn, I’d be working up a large, lacy shawl that had tons of interest and stitch work. Think … the Succulent Shawl by Maria Montzka or the beaded beauty, When the Flowers Bloom by Lily Go or the modern lace and texture of Whitley Bay by Christin Kimsey. But, alas, I have one precious hank and so I decided to work up a sweet little Appia Cowl (size large) by Hilary Smith Callis. It has some nice texture and I think the drape of the yarn will suit the cowl nicely.
>>This seems like a good time to throw this out there - I buy the patterns that I knit for these reviews and you should, too! Any indie designer will tell you that every single dollar helps. Designers aren’t just knitting and designing for fun (though that’s a big plus), they’re also spending quite a bit of time and money to get these patterns to the people. The cost of tech editing alone could equal a dozen pattern sales (or more!) which means that’s where the designer breaks even if, of course, they were able to obtain yarn support, photograph the garment themselves (or if they have a generous photographer friend), and format their own patterns. I understand it’s hard to trust a designer that you don’t “know” and to purchase a pattern without any guarantee of quality, but as self-publishing has become more and more common, designers are doing all they can to put out quality. Years ago, it was harder, but times are changing.<<
Now that I have that out of the way, back to the review. Knitting with Gobi was a dream. I had very few issues with the yarn splitting and it occurred when I was getting though the heavily increased sections of the pattern where the stitches were crammed onto the needles. It didn’t help that so many of my tools are worn out from -probably billions- of hours of use (!) so my circular needle was snagging. With all of that working against us, this precious little yarn and I made it through unscathed. I want to mention, too that even though the yarn may appear very slippery and shiny, in reality it really isn’t so slippery that it’s frustrating to work with, and just slippery enough that it slides gently along as you knit. As I mentioned before, the silk and camel work together to create a unique color, but the pair are also matched to create a unique texture. The silk absolutely is responsible for shine and slickness, but the baby camel provides some tooth and the subtle halo. I worked the Cowl in the large size, but on size 5 needles - a size more appropriate for the yarn - and because it’s a cowl, the gauge wasn’t of huge importance. Even though I worked the large size, I still had nearly a baseball-sized ball of yarn remaining. I’m already scheming ways to use that precious little ball. Maybe a sweet little collar like the Picot Edge Collar by Carol Meldrum with the yarn held double or held with some sort of fuzzy lace-weight? If I do knit one of these darlings up, I’ll post an update!
Normally, I have a really good idea of how something is going to block. If you’ve read many of my yarn reviews or blog posts, you may know that I start thinking about blocking from the moment I cast on. I am the biggest proponent of nailing this final detail because it can completely transform nearly every single knitted piece. However, maybe it’s because I’m not expert when it comes to working with baby camel or maybe because of the usual lumpy-lacy-weirdness that is so common with any piece that depends on blocking to breathe, I never felt easy about how the finished cowl would turn out. I second-guessed myself many times hoping that the whole thing wouldn’t loose it’s shape completely and become a mass-less, liquid-ish pile of yarn. I went back to the swatch to re-assure myself that it still had form; it still had bones after I blocked it, and this cowl would, too.
As you can see from the photos, all of my hymning was for nothing. The cowl absolutely came alive when it was blocked, and even though it does have superb drape as I had anticipated, it also has form. I wet-blocked this as I do almost everything by dunking it in cool water like a maniac. Spraying and pinning would work nicely also, but I don’t recommend using any blocking method that uses heat because of the high silk content. The hubs and I went out for lunch on an abnormally cold October afternoon, and since the cowl had just dried, I snapped these pics quickly before I threw it on and ran out the door. Oh - it was soft and warm and so light I forgot it was even there. The only change I made to the pattern was that I swapped the hem on the pattern for a folded picot hem and I wanted to note that I used an elastic joining method for the hem since the yarn itself has no elasticity itself - just in case anyone was wanting to do the same (and you should for the record).
To sum things up, this yarn really is magic, dreamy, color-shifting, smooth, and shiny. I’m always such a sucker for those squishy, bouncy, wools that I don’t often give yarns like this a chance. I’ve officially been convinced that there is room in my heart (and my stash) for some more Gobi. I want to thank Bijou Basin for supplying this divine yarn for review and for taking such an active roll in the fiber arts community through collaboration and dedication to producing quality products.
Social Media: @BijouBasinRanch
Hashtag: #bijoubasinranch #allureinaction
Ravelry Group: The Bijou Basin Ranch Fan Club
Disclaimer: I received no monetary compensation for this review; I did however receive the product in exchange for posting my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with the company mentioned in this post. Your experience with the reviewed products may differ from my own.