Bijou Basin Ranch Himalayan Trail Review

Disclaimer: I was sent a skein of Himalayan Trail for free in exchange for this review.

Bijou Basin Ranch's Himalayan Trail was my first experience knitting with a yak-based yarn. As a former yarn-store employee I've fondled lots of exotic fibers, but haven't used most of them since I prefer to stick with yarns that promise to wear well, rather than reaching for softness. A 75% Yak Down/25% Super Fine Merino fingering weight blend, Himalayan Trail retails for $25 and nets you 200 yards for that price, putting it in luxury yarn territory for most people. 

On first glance, Himalayan Trail reminded me of some 100% Cashmere yarns I've seen, thanks to its visual softness. You know how some yarns have a strong halo? This yarn doesn't have a halo per se, but a general blurring of the edges (as if it were a photo that's slightly out of focus, if that makes sense), rather than having tightly twisted, strongly defined, crisp plies. However, once you start to work with it the yarn feels hardier than 100% Cashmere, no doubt due to the merino content. My swatch has been kicking around my office for two weeks with no visible pilling, shedding, or other such fiber malarkey.

Some yarns know exactly what they want to be, and Himalayan Trail is one of those yarns--lace, lace, lace! I tried a stockinette and brioche swatch for kicks, but didn't get very far on either one because it well, felt wrong for this yarn. Knitting lace with Himalayan Trail was a joy and it blocked very crisply with only a steam block.

Note that the color in the photo above is not true to life, I edited the desk shot with an emphasis on high contrast and strong, saturated colors. I'd say the other photos in this post are truer to life. This is Pistachio, and it has a subtle, slightly under-saturated look to it, with shifting bands of color thanks to the hand-dyeing process. Bijou Basin dyes a range of colors in-house (like this one) and frequently collaborate with indie dyers for limited edition offerings.

At only 200 yards, your pattern options are limited to smaller accessories for a single-skein project. I particularly like Collister by Kirsten Kapur (top) or Straightforward Mitts by Mone Dräger (bottom).

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What would you make with a single skein of Himalayan Trail?

Yarn Porn & A Sneak Peek

Yes. Just yes.

That is Fyberspates Vivacious DK, and I'm working on a garment planned for late summer release. Should everything go according to schedule, that is!

I'm going to TNNA this weekend and wanted to bring a new project with me for my travel knitting. My stripey shawl is almost complete, and it's become unwieldy at this point. This is the only other planned warm-weather design I have, so I figured why not get it started! I've had the yarn in my stash for a bit and am pleased as punch to finally be working with it. That sunny yellow is so cheery and I love the crisp stitch definition. Happy yellow summer knitting!

Ashland Bay Yarn Tasting + Giveaway

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.

L to R: Klickitat, Argentina, Dakota

L to R: Klickitat, Argentina, Dakota

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.

Tsuki wanted to photobomb my swatches! Top row: Argentina. Middle row: Klickitat. Bottom row: Dakota.

Tsuki wanted to photobomb my swatches! Top row: Argentina. Middle row: Klickitat. Bottom row: Dakota.

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!

Yarn Porn: Destash Edition

Time to come to terms with some of my stash. These babies need new homes! If you're interested, follow the links to see more details on my Ravelry destash page. If you're not in the market for new yarn, just enjoy the pretty pictures.

Yarn Porn: Chester Farms Pride of the Flock

One of the many perks of working in a yarn store is we all put our destashes up for grabs in the kitchen, which is how I wound up yesterday with 9 skeins of this:

Oh HELL yes! That beauty is Chester Farms Pride of the Flock. According to Ravelry it's discontinued, and Chester Farms rebranded to Cestari. It's made in the United States which is an extra bonus! I'm finding as time goes on, I am appreciating more and more these natural, woolly, old school yarns. Of course I still love me some hand dyed superwash, but this type of yarn just FEELS like sheep. I like sheep.

The label only gives the weight of the skeins, but if Ravelry's database is correct I have 1890 yards to play with in color Dark Opal. I'm thinking a gorgeous cabled textural oversized sweater from Brooklyn Tweed. Going clockwise from top left: Cordova, Larus, Stonecutter & Ondawa.

Fall sweater goals! Just got to finish my Tinder before I can allow myself to cast on for another selfish sweater project aka professional development.