When collaborating with KPC Yarn to design new yarns, my goal was to create qualities that added something really special to an already crowded market. The yarns needed to be interesting, extra luscious and tick three main boxes:
1). the fibres making up the yarn needed to be ethically sourced and produced;
2). the yarn had to have a light footprint on the environment and help solve the problem of pre-consumer fashion waste; and
3). be of such a high quality that they would create knits and textiles that would stand the test of time.
KPC Yarn went on to spin four beautiful qualities of yarn, known as The #Knitwell Collection. I am really proud of these yarns. They have indeed ticked everyone of my boxes. You can read more about the collection here. You can view The #Knitwell Collection Lookbook here. You can view the various yarn qualities here.
But apart from some beautiful imagery, and unless you have tried them, it is so hard to convey online the quality, tactility and luxuriousness of these yarns. So I've asked my friend and colleague Rosie Taylor of The R Space to write a special blog post explaining the more technical aspects of the #Knitwell Yarns. At the time of their creation, Rosie worked for KPC Yarn and was intimately involved in their development, refinement and final form. Suffice to say Rosie knows these yarns well and has worked with them extensively whilst creating the considered suite of patterns launched with the yarns. These days, Rosie is back in the UK working on her own projects, including creating new patterns and designs for me from time to time, such as this stunning cable knit cardi below.
So it's over to Rosie. I hope you find this helpful.
"It's September in the UK now and I’m about to pull out my winter clothes as the seasons start to change. I’ve got about 10 hand knitted jumpers packed away (out of reach of the dreaded moths) but still, I’d like to cast on and get a new style on the go. Hand knitting takes time, we all know that! But one of the things I love about a good hand knit, is the warmth-reliability factor, the quality. This comes down to using a good yarn, packed full of high quality fibre!
The #Knitwell yarns' structure has been carefully crafted to ensure maximum warmth. For our super chunky recycled cashmere yarn Grace, there are 15 ends plied up together. That’s a lot of bang for your buck! The result is a dreamy, cosy, warm-air-trapping structure that will NEVER get thread bare! And given the property of the cashmere fibre being fluffy, the plied up structure has a voluminous shape to it as well as being lofty, warm and super soft.
Out of all three qualities developed for #Knitwell (recycled cashmere, merino and recyled cotton), Grace has the lowest twist during the production process. This is to enable every single one of those luxuriously soft fibres to breathe, and ooze that cosy fuzzy feel, but with just the right amount that the yarn does not split.
Meadow, the Australian merino super chunky, has a different structure all together. Although you can achieve the same gauge for both of these super chunkies, the technicians came up with a different method of plying, to create the best outcome for the way the merino fibre behaves (which is totally different to cashmere). Meadow uses 5 plied up groups of 8 ends. That’s 40 fine, high twist, high quality ends in total, (40 strands of 2/48Nm to be precise) made of 100% Aussie merino 17.5micron fibre.
The result is perfect. The issue of pilling has been considered and avoided in multiple ways. Meadow’s super structure avoids classic woollen pills because of this plying method and also a carefully selected micron length. Working with a high twist, superfine micron fibre creates an interlocking structure that means fibres are unlikely to come loose (the dreaded pills) but what this also means, is that you need MORE fibre, more ends, to create the same weight (thickness) yarn. So, grouping 8 ends together, and then plying 5 lots of 8, creates a lofty, beautifully textured, and fibre-firm yarn.
A little more on microns…
The 17.5micron (classed as super fine) merino wool fibre combines a super soft handfeel, typical of merino wool, but avoids pilling that sometimes ultrafine lengths can struggle with, because the fibres are more likely to interlock. They are bigger in dimension, slightly more scaley in comparison, meaning easier to interlock with one another and therefore less likely to come loose. They are also super-duper soft.
Your average super chunky yarn would have a very different structure. Roving yarns are popular with many spinners as they use minimal fibre and minimal production processing to produce them. This is great for creating cost effective yarn with higher yardage (because less fibre is being packed into each yarn) for the same grams. But… for me this is not what hand knitting should be about. Hand knitting takes time and thought. A lot of thought. Design, colour, fit, season… Will I want to wear this item for years and years (since I’m going to be spending hours and hours knitting it)? So for me, I want to pick a yarn with longevity and timelessness. A yarn that’s not going to pill (an unavoidable problem of the roving structure), one that won't be threadbare and bobbly underarm. That’s why #Knitwell is so much more than the colour and composition but also the yarns' structural design.
Soul, a recycled cotton donegal in aran weight, is also packed full of fibre and has the highest amount of twists per minute out of all 3 of the yarns. In total, Soul comprises 10 singular ends and, like Meadow, has been plied up by 5 groups, but this time consisting of two ends, 2/16NM x 5, again, to be precise.
The additional twist has been added to help with pilling but with the support of the natural behaviour of linen, Soul has no problem keeping those little balls of fibre from forming. The higher twist also helps keep the fibres compact as linen has a tendency to split. The combination of recycled cotton, linen and nylon is a long lasting, breathable and all-rounder yarn. Not to forget the neps (or Donegal texure to others). This is a HUGE trend in high end fashion, trickling all the way down into the high-street. The arts and crafts has never been so in style.
So, what exactly does Nm (New metric count) mean?
The Nm or yarn count of a yarn refers to it’s thickness and is determined by its mass per unit length. Usually it is measured by the number of grams per one kilometer of yarn. This unit of measurement is called “Tex”. The yarn count also gives a vague indication to its ply up method. The first number can also indicate how many final ends there are in the finished yarn design. For example, if you have a 2/48Nm yarn, that’s 2 ends of 1/48Nm. If you have 1/9Nm, that’s just 1 end of 1/9Nm.
The thing I love the most about these yarns is that they are DESIGNED for real yarnies. They haven’t just been chucked together in a bog-standard way that is cheap and will wear fast. They have been designed to stand the test of time and cleverly pieced together to show off the fibres in the best way possible. As a yarn technician myself, who tested these #Knitwell yarns, there was nothing I loved more than getting these beauties just right. Knowing that the hand-knitted jumpers I’d be making would keep me the upmost cosy during those winter months.
These yarns have been made by specialist crafters/technicians alike, for whom I have THE most respect.
Novotex, the mother company of KPC Yarn, is one of the world largest single site spinners producing yarns for high end fashion and knitwear brands. It is their artisan technicians with years and years of experience, who have made the #Knitwell yarns. They know their stuff! So much design work goes into making a specialist yarn before the actual spinning process occurs. It's no wonder the #Knitwell yarns truly deliver!
Novotex's hand enables KPC Yarn to create market leading yarns in terms of fashion trends, quality construction and materiality as well as technological trends. I think this adds a whole new dimension to the #Knitwell yarns that may go unnoticed. The fact that the #Knitwell yarns are able to blend pre-consumer recycled fibre, for a hand-knit company, this is a big deal. Being a supplier to high end designers also means that the standard of certifications and production is extremely high and therefore legitimate. #Knitwell truly does encapsulate high quality and high-end design. They aren’t just hand-knit yarns but high-end design tools."