The awesome folks at Ashland Bay reached out to me a few months ago and asked if I wanted to try their yarns for a future design. I've spun their fiber before, since Webs only carries their fiber and not their yarn offerings, and had a great experience. (Especially with the Organic Polwarth! <3) I was intrigued to try some breed-specific yarns, and chose three different yarns to swatch with. Argentina is a 3-ply DK weight 85% Polwarth/15% Silk blend. Klickitat is a 4-ply DK weight, 100% Blue Faced Leicester. Dakota is a 3-ply worsted weight, 100% USA Targhee. I've spun BFL and Polwarth before, but I've never knit with either and have no previous experience with Targhee.
Look at those generous hanks! Ashland Bay is a wholesaler, so they don't sell directly to customers. Instead, retailers or hand-dyers often break these larger skeins up into the sizes they prefer to sell.
I decided for a fair tasting experiment, I would swatch each yarn in stockinette, a lace pattern and a cable pattern. I did use different needle sizes so each yarn would have a fair chance to shine, but I used my Knitter's Pride Royale needle set to ensure the same needle material was used for each. All the swatches were wet blocked with Eucalan and were pinned to blocking mats to dry.
Here are my impressions of each:
Klickitat, US 6: I wasn't feeling this one much as I wound it. I prefer very crisp stitch definition unless I'm purposely choosing a yarn with halo, and then I prefer going to the extreme and picking a kid mohair blend or similar. Klickitat does have a little bit of a halo going on, just enough to soften the stitches. However, it feels fantastic to knit with, much better than I expected. It's soft, cushy, and comforting. If you don't need super-duper defined cables or lace, then it performs well in multiple stitch patterns. I do like the slight sheen BFL has, it's not as intense as silk, bamboo or rayon.
Argentina, US 5: Argentina is smooth, but not soft. It's not scratchy or irritating by any means, just that softness isn't the main quality. Since it's only 15% silk I was surprised at how much the silk dominated the yarn. You know how silk yarns can sometimes feel...crunchy? Argentina isn't that textured, but I am reminded of that characteristic of silk when I stroke the swatches. I found it splitty periodically when working the cable and lace swatches. The stitch definition is really fantastic here, and I think the individual stitches look cleanest in Argentina than in the other two yarns.
Dakota, US 7: I admit...I was biased. I was looking forward to Dakota the most since I'm hoping to do a great cabled sweater in one of these yarns this fall and I wanted something that would rock those cables. Dakota did not disappoint. This is a nice, toothsome wool yarn. If you are used to plush merino yarns, Klickitat will feel softer to you than Dakota, but I like the texture here. It feels like a yarn that will wear really well without pilling quickly, and I like how bouncy the fabric is. It's the only one of the three that is closer to being pure white, as Argentina and Klickitat are noticeably yellower. (When viewed individually they all look natural, but together you can tell the shade difference.)
So which yarn is the winner? I'm not sure yet! Each would be great in different projects. I have some design ideas I'm working out the kinks with, so depending which way my inspiration goes will determine which yarn is most suitable. Many thanks to Ashland Bay for offering me yarn support and letting me test-drive these yarns!
Do you want to try them for yourself? I'm giving away three mini-skein bundles! You'll get approximately 40 yards each of Argentina, Klickitat and Dakota to play with.
To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me which yarn of the three you are most excited to try out. You have until end of day EDT on Friday, May 20th to enter. I will pick three winners randomly from the comments. Good luck!