Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Precious

I've discovered lately that the only knitting that I have managed to do over the past few months has been very basic.  Garter stitch, stockinette, ribbing...  I think I just don't have the mental energy to focus on a project that involves colorwork, cables, or lace.  Lately I've been rediscovering the comforts of mindless knitting and today I have something truly luxurious to show you.


This, my dear readers, is the softest, most decadent knitted piece I own.  Some people may scoff and say, "Seven feet of 3x3 ribbing?  I'd rather stew in a bath of leeches than commit myself to such a project!"  I pity those people because those people will never experience the instant comfort, the true bliss that this scarf brings to one's life.


It's obviously not the pattern that makes this scarf so special - it's the yarn.  My sister and I happened upon this yarn while visiting Bella Lana in December.  In the ball this yarn didn't seem like anything special.  Sure, the colors were nice and the yarn was soft enough, but I didn't think it was anything to warrant the cost.  The samples, however, told a different story.  It was hard to believe that the scarves, hats, and fingerless mitts I was petting came from the same yarn that was wound in those balls.  Clearly the samples had gone through some magical transformation and when the shop owner bestowed upon us the secret to these scarves, my sister and I both scooped up enough to make one of our own.


The secret, if you can believe it, is to throw the entire scarf in the washing machine when you are done knitting it.  Scary, right?  Yes, it is.  60% of this yarn is merino and nowhere on the ball band does the word "superwash" ever appear.  I didn't trust my washing machine, so I decided to hand wash the scarf with a touch more agitation than usual.  I then laid it out to dry and waited for the magic to happen.  It didn't.  Nothing changed.  I waited another day.  It remained the same.

I should tell you, the shop owner did not say, "put this scarf in the washing machine on the gentle cycle with no agitation."  No, she said, "put this scarf in with a regular load of laundry.  I washed mine with jeans."  And so I did.  I put the scarf in a pillow case, tied the end shut, and threw it in the laundry with a bunch of other stuff.  Regular cycle, warm water.  I then chewed my fingernails for half an hour while the cycle ran.  Folks, that shop owner did not steer me wrong.  What I pulled out of that pillow case barely resembled what I had put in, in the best possible way.  What I pulled out was a soft, fluffy, warm scarf with a halo to die for.  A halo made up of short, soft, brown fibers that gave the color a depth that one can only dream of.  I tried to take a photo showing you the difference of an unwashed scarf (left) and washed scarf (right) to demonstrate how significant this change is.  You can't truly see how incredible the difference is, but it's a start.


Are you ready to hear what the other 40% of that fiber was?  The 40% that lent this scarf its warmth, softness, fluffiness, and depth of color?

Possum.

I made my friend a skinnier version of the same scarf and she wrapped it around her neck and praised its beauty, only to tear it off and throw it on the floor as soon as she discovered what it was made of.  She has since embraced the possum.

The yarn is Zealana Kia Ora Rimu DK and it comes from New Zealand.

I know that many of you living in North America, when I said "possum," envisioned the American Opossum and got a chill down your spine at the thought of wrapping something like that around your neck.  Just so we're on the same page, this is the American Opossum:

Photo courtesy of AndrewKantor on Flickr
I don't want to be near one of those, dead or alive, any more than you do.  The possum fiber in the Zealana yarn does not come from the American Opossum, but rather the Australian Possum, which is in no way related.  They are both marsupials, but that's about all they have in common.  This is the Australian Possum:

Photo courtesy of kooky on Flickr
See?  Not nearly as terrifying.  If you're ok with your fiber coming from a sheep, you should have no problem embracing the possum.  I can't say that I will be indulging in much more of this yarn as the carbon footprint must be gargantuan to get the yarn to the US and I don't think the animals are sheared like sheep if you catch my drift (they're invasive to New Zealand and dealt with in much the same way as brown rats may be treated in NYC), but the scarf sure is nice to have and I'm glad that something useful and beautiful was able to come from the possum.  I've said my thanks and consider this scarf an homage of sorts, providing warmth and comfort as a legacy through which the possum may live.


Thank you, dear possums, you won't be forgotten.

5 comments:

  1. Oh I AM glad you looked up the difference, because it never occurred to me to do the same, and I was horrified by the idea of smelly possum yarn. Those other things are right cute, though. Who knows - maybe if they discover how lovely the fiber is, they'll farm them instead of culling them...

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  2. Precious possum, who would have thought? Not me at least, because I must confess I didn't know the difference between the two species. (Have seen an opossum once, which was more than enough - and the sight certainly didn't generate any yarn ideas!)

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  3. I agree, Peter--my possum scarf is the warmest, prettiest, softest knitted thing I have and I LOVE it. I may need to get one in every color. Too bad they don't make a nice royal purple...

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  4. My mom got me opossum-fiber gloves from New Zealand and I had imagined it coming from the animal in the first photo...I feel better now.

    And that yarn does really look transformed. So luxurious!

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  5. I think there's a lot to be said for "mindless" knitting. I just made my first baby surprise jacket, pretty mindless, and wickedly interesting how the blob becomes a sweater jacket. Lorna's laces superwash... it GREW horribly when I tried to block it out, and then I threw it in the dryer with a bunch of towels, and it is fabulous, all packaged up and ready to mail to the new mom.

    And that possum blend yarn is UBER soft!

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