By now you will hopefully have seen our latest fluffy yarn addition to the ECY stable (or should I say.. garden) - Lowther Lace. We had seen this yarn around for a while but had been resisting as we already had a fluffy yarn, Eldwick Lace. However, with quite a few people feeling sad because they can’t use mohair, I decided it was time to offer something fluffy that isn’t mohair (note that this does also shed fibres though!). Hence the fluffy baby alpaca/silk yarn came along. I did a YouTube video about it which you can watch HERE if you like, but this blog post is designed to sit alongside that, so I will try to make sure I cover everything here that I covered there.
Here's how it looks next to Eldwick Lace (which is on the left) in the same colouway, Driftwood - you can see how that is more shiny and fluffy whereas the Lowther Lace is more matt and fuzzy.
WHAT IS IT?
Lowther Lace is 78% baby Suri alpaca, and 22% mulberry silk, with 300m/378 yards to a 50g skein. Suri alpacas are one of two breeds of alpaca and are vastly less common than Huacaya alpacas. The fleece is quite different as well. You can read more about them HERE.
This yarn is a bit thicker compared to Eldwick Lace, even without the fluff, the core itself looks thicker. I measured it at 18 wraps per inch, although with fluffy yarns it’s hard to know how best to measure wraps per inch - do you include the fluff, squash the strands up to each other, or leave a bit of room for fluff but not loads? I did the latter on the basis that that’s how it is when you knit or crochet with it (if that makes sense). I did a lot of testing and came to the conclusion that it works best on 3 - 4.5mm needles, and a 3 - 5mm crochet hook. You might like how it looks on bigger hooks and needles though - especially with being fluffy.
So that’s the basic stats! Let’s talk some more about the details.
As I said, I did a lot of testing for this yarn as I fully expected to get a lot of questions about it - they’re the same questions we were thinking ourselves so that makes sense. For example.. what would you make with it, what needles/hook would you use, etc!
I did start with very small needles - I know you wouldn’t really do that but I had to just check. So on 2.5mm needles what I got was a really dense, fuzzy fabric. It actually looks like boiled wool! It’s fairly tricksy knitting with fluffy yarn on small needles so I wouldn’t really recommend this.
The next size I tried was 3.5mm needles. This is my go-to size for most projects using fluffy lace and 4ply yarns so it made sense to try that next. I am very happy with the outcome; the fabric is light but still fuzzy, you can actually see the stitches, and it’s much easier on the hands. The gauge I got (after blocking) is about 19 stitches over 10cm. That’s the kind of gauge you normally get with aran yarns! It does work well with the fluff though.
Following this it made sense to try a 4.5mm needle size next, although I’m sure 4mm needles would have worked well too. On 4.5mm needles you get a very airy and open fabric - it’s a bit too open for my liking but I know that this sort of fabric will appeal to a lot of people. It feels like it would almost float in the air like a feather!
Here are the three basic knitted swatches together:
Of course, we have to test it for crochet as well as knitting (I’ve always done both anyway), so I started on a 3.5mm hook and I actually found it really difficult to do. The fuzz combined with tight stitches makes it really hard to get the hook in, and because you can’t see the stitches it’s also really hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. I’m sure it will work for some people but personally I wouldn’t recommend it. Apologies in advance for the awful edges on my crocheted squares!
Moving straight up to a 5mm hook though this was so much more successful. It was much easier to do and you can see the stitches. The resulting fabric is much nicer as a result - well I think so anyway.
(As I said - maintaining a straight edge in crochet is really not my strong point!)
Here are the two together:
I've used three different stitches in these which is why the rows are varied.
USING IT WITH OTHER YARNS
Another question we get asked about fluffy yarns, and which we immediately think ourselves is: will this work held double with other yarns? So of course experiments ensued!
Yarn combining does of course open up even more creative opportunity, so this bit is really fun.
The first thing I tried was Lowther Lace (using Thunder in all of these swatches) with Nateby 4ply in Briar Rose. Nateby 4ply is our silver sparkly 4ply made of superwash merino, nylon, and silver lurex. It’s a different type of sparkly yarn to the ones with stellina in, and the lurex sparkle is much more sparkly than stellina. I love these two together, the fuzz of the Lowther Lace doesn’t diffuse the other yarn as much as the fluff of Eldwick Lace does, so it does look different to that. You get more of a sort of marled effect. This is great because you can see the sparkle of the Nateby 4ply, but still get the fuzz of the Lowther Lace. Of course I do like these colours together, too. So I’m calling this one a win.
Next up was Lowther Lace (still in Thunder) with Coniston Fingering also in Thunder. I was really curious about this because Coniston has mohair in it so has a fluffy halo itself, and it takes the colour darker than Lowther. What you end up with is a gorgeous fuzzy/fluffy fabric with a slightly marled effect. Again, I absolutely love it. I’m going to end up saying that about them all actually as they all tick different boxes! I could totally see a lovely cosy garment in these two yarns held together though. And I know it’s not as eye-catching but I do love the idea of using the same colourway on both - with the Lowther always coming out lighter it gives depth to the colour when you look close-up, but the overall effect is quite rich.
Finally I also tested this with Milburn DK in Damson for something totally different again. This colourway is discontinued by the way, so if you like it enough to want some you’ll need to get it before too long. Anyway, again, I love this fabric. Because the Milburn DK is obviously thicker than the Lowther Lace, it creates an even more marled and tweedy sort of effect, where the Damson is the main thing, and the fluff is more of an accent.
To summarise: Lowther Lace works well with other yarns. With a 4ply yarn, I would try 4.5mm needles as a starting point; and with a DK yarn I would try 5mm needles as a starting point.
The next thing that this leads me on to is colour combining when using two yarns held together. You can go for high contrast or low contrast, with clashing hues or complimenting hues. Personally - this should come as no surprise - I prefer lower contrast and complimenting hues. It’s all very well having two contrasting colours when you’re looking closely at the fabric, but once you back away the colours will merge into each other and it can cause what I call clown vomit, ie. horribly clashing colours. If that’s your thing then that’s absolutely fine, but it’s not mine. What you have to remember is that the fluffy yarn will diffuse the other colour. So, for example, if you have a Charcoal 4ply yarn held double with Lowther Lace (or Eldwick Lace) in a light colour like Linen, what you’re going to end up with is a medium to light grey effect. You’ll be able to see the individual yarns closeup though.
My biggest note here would be to be careful what you combine greens with. I love green, I think it might be my favourite colour, but it’s not easy to combine with other colours - well I don’t think so anyway. Colours that I think go best with green would be greys such as Charcoal, Ash, Steel, Rain, Silver Birch, and so on; also blues (to create a more turquoise or teal sort of look), yellows, and some browns - although that depends how sludgy you want the over all effect to be.
Orange can be a bit tricksy too - I would use an orange held double with some greys like Charcoal, and Ash; orangey-red colourways such as Red Kite, and the warm yellow/sand/light oranges such as Harvest Gold, Mellifer, Sand, Grace (a rare one), and so on. Again though you could mute the orange with a silvery or a creamy shade.
There’s more on this topic in my Eldwick Lace blog post from when we debuted that - you can have a look HERE if you like.
WHAT COULD I MAKE WITH IT?
This is another expansive question and answer! There are so many things you could make with this yarn, but I will make some suggestions below. Basically look out for patterns that call for a mohair laceweight yarn as you can usually substitute Lowther Lace instead of the mohair - just make sure you swatch. And since it will work up to roughly a DK to aran sort of gauge nicely, you could also look for patterns that call for those yarns/gauges (so I’d say 28-22 stitches per 10cm) and swap in Lowther Lace. If the pattern is written for a non-fluffy yarn then you will need to keep that in mind - your fabric will be much lighter, but it’ll probably be just as warm! Suffice to say: swatch, swatch, and swatch some more.
Crescent shawl using fluffy yarn and DK (not held together): https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cumulus-skies
Large cosy shawl using fluffy yarn plus 4ply yarns:
Scarf/shawl using 4ply and a fluffy contrast yarn: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/reverberate-2
Beautiful shawl using two colours of fluffy yarn: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/volvox
Cosy hat using fluffy yarn held double with a 4ply yarn: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/salt--honey-slouch
A sweater made using fluffy yarn on slightly larger needles: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/kersidan
A sweater made using two strands of fluff held together: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cumulus-blouse
I made one of these in Eldwick Lace held double and I absolutely love it - you can see it here: https://www.ravelry.com/projects/VMagnus/cumulus-blouse
Cardigan using fluffy yarn held double with a light fingering weight (suggest something fine like Milburn 4ply, or Askham 4ply or Lace as a substitute): https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/girlfriends-cardigan-anke
Big cosy sweater which can basically be made in whatever you like as long as you get gauge, according to what type of fabric you want: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ranunculus-3
So you could do it in two strands of fluff held together, or you could do what I did which was two strands of fluff held together with a strand of 4ply, to make a chunky-ish sort of thing. It’s resulted in a light but warm and wintry sweater - you can see it here: https://www.ravelry.com/projects/VMagnus/ranunculus
Notice how because I’ve used a light shade of fluff with a very dark main colour, you totally lose the stitch definition in the yoke!
Another sweater with a lovely lace yoke, and using fluffy yarn held double with 4ply: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/love-note
A cardigan which stripes between fluffy yarn and non-fluffy yarn (4ply/fingering weight) - you could just as easily go for contrast colours in this, as well as more similar colours: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/elton-3
There are a couple of patterns calling for Lowther Lace already as well - firstly Michael Harrigan has designed a beautiful shawl which uses two skeins (he’s used colourway Dianthus). It’s called Lacy Circles and is HERE on Ravelry. He’s also holding a KAL for it throughout June 2020.
And finally, I am in the middle of writing up a shawl pattern which uses two skeins of Lowther Lace and a set of five Rosedale 4ply mini skeins. It’s going to take me a little while though as I have reams of notes to translate into a cohesive pattern, and then it’ll need all the editing and test-knitting it can get! Watch this space!