I feel I would be doing this yarn a great disservice if I didn't first cover some basics about the fickle fiber that is cotton. There are fibers you can really depend on, like wool and linen and you can anticipate how they will react under various circumstances - however, there are many other fibers that react in unexpected ways. Alpaca is one that I've written about briefly from time to time and I normally refer to it as the double-edged sword of fiber. It has so many useful characteristics, but if not handled correctly knits can grow to enormous sizes, completely loose shape, and cause us hardworking needle artists unparalleled grief. Cotton is another that works under its own set of rules. Generally speaking, cotton shrinks when blocked rather than growing and it shrinks lengthwise, so pieces can suddenly become wider because they have, in fact become shorter. It is an unforgiving fiber that has no spring or stretch and can sometimes highlight every inconsistency in tension. Now, the benefits are enormous otherwise cotton wouldn't make it into so many products we use every day. It is a breathable fiber that becomes softer with wash and wear, it's durable, and extremely comfortable against the skin - I love that the Feel Good Fiber Co is converting it into a versatile and useful yarn product.
Obviously, SilverSpun is not 100% cotton, but at 87% it is reigning fiber. Most useful cotton knitting yarns are blended with some other fibers. Most useful cotton knitting yarns are not blended with silver. There are a few bullet points the company feels are important for consumers to know and understand when considering SilverSpun and they are as follows:
I'm using the new sock weight version of the SilverSpun yarn, but I don't know that I would necessarily use it to knit socks. The elastic blend makes the yarn just as stretchy and bouncy as any fine wool sock yarn, but because cotton has the tendency to shrink length-wise and even become wider with wear I'm not sure it's the route I want to take. I'm a notoriously picky sock knitter mostly because I sort of hate the whole process but that's another story altogether.
The strands look a little like a boucle yarn because of the pull of elastic so I am eager to swatch and find out how evenly the stitches work up. This is so far from any yarn I've used before in texture and fiber content that I don't really have any experience to draw from when anticipating what the fabric will look and feel like. I don't think heavily textured stitches are the way to go though since cotton tends to soften fabric, bringing down stitch detail.
It's day 2 and swatching was a breeze - this is some of the softest cotton I've had the pleasure of laying my hands on. It's a combed cotton which means it was picked so that the fibers lay in relatively the same direction and spun without the use of chemicals. This is a superior method for processing cotton and the added effort shows. I was pleased with how forgiving the strands were and how it knit up to an even, lightly marled fabric. After knitting my swatch, I washed it and let it air dry. On the Feel Good Fiber Co website, they have a section about pre-washing the yarn before using it, effectively pre-shrinking it. I didn't do this because I don't know how many people are going to seek out that much information before diving in. Even though I cast on 32 sts and worked 40 rows as recommended on the label for 4", you can see just how much the yarn shrinks after washing. I'm certain that had I pre-shrunk the yarn, my swatch would be spot on gauge.
I really took my time and thought about what I wanted to use this fiber for. The swatch shrunk a little more than I expected as I said before, but it became a beautifully even, tightly woven, dense fabric. The reverse stockinette is actually stunning even though I normally don't care for the look of it and I'm feeling pretty confident that even though some garter, ribbing, and even cabling may work beautifully, I don't want to go with any tedious stitching with this yarn. After spending days stretching, petting, and talking to the swatch I decided it wanted to become something for baby. Why? Because non-fiber loving people often (and I mean almost always) look at you like you must be delirious putting wool on a baby even though it makes perfect sense (!) and this cotton is indisputably stretchy, soft, and baby-friendly. Also, the silver provides thermal properties to an otherwise cool fiber which makes me think it will warm baby to perfection. I set out to find a simple little thing that did not go on baby's feet or head and settled on the Newborn Vertebrae by Kelly Brooker. We have a new nephew arriving August/September and this is destined to be his.
The pure softness of the yarn made it a hard knit to put down even on size US 3 needles! I am truly pleased with the finished Vertebrae and I'm glad I went with my gut and avoided a lot of textured stitches. The big question here is, did I alter the pattern for the shrinkage? And the answer is, No. I looked over the photos on Ravelry on the pattern page to get an idea of how the piece fit a newborn (oh how long it's been since I've had one in my arms!) and it actually seemed a bit large on those fresh little babes despite how tiny it looks in my hands. I think the beautiful elasticity of this yarn will forgive any snugness. Also, I barely made a dent in the hank of yarn knitting this tiny cardigan. 400 yards is a generous amount by any standard and the designer in me can't help but daydream about what other, larger, and totally unexpected things this yarn could become.
If I was planning on knitting an adult-sized piece where little things like gauge and fit matter by leaps and bounds I would take the company's advice and pre-shrink my yarn without a doubt. I think pre-shrinking would dispel some of my hesitation about knitting socks with a primarily cotton yarn also. I honestly didn't know what I was getting myself into with this yarn since it's so unique and uncomparable to anything I've used before but, man am I glad I took a step outside my comfort zone! I just know my sister-in-law is going to love this cardigan for her new baby boy and I'm already wondering what I can knit with it next.
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.