The Yarn Detective: Nua Sport
I’m baking up a storm right now. It’s one of the things I’ve always done that makes me happy when I’m uncertain. I bake sweet, uncomplicated things: cookies, cakes, and brownies. I’m not looking for Paul’s handshake or Mary’s twinkle, I just want to zone out and make tasty treats.
For me, baking is all about interesting add-ins and familiar, but unexpected flavors. I thought about exactly this when I first touched Nua Sport. It’s not what I expected; it’s better.
Carol Feller has always had exceptional taste in yarn for her designs, so it was no surprise that her own first yarn is soft and resilient, makes clear stitches, and is brilliant for garments.
Nua Sport is 60% merino wool, 20% yak, and 20% linen. It’s a crazy-good combination for sweaters.
Merino is soft, elastic, and cushiony, with a matte surface. This is a regular merino, not a superwash variety. It’s like the perfect, velvety chocolate cookie.
Yak is silky, strong, warm, and durable. It has a bit of shine and a halo. It gives a slinky quality to yarn. It’s like biting into a brownie and finding a little pocket of caramel.
Linen is strong, crisp, and fierce, yet pliable. Its weight helps this yarn drape. Linen adds an edge to stitches, and is extremely resilient. It’s a fiber that doesn’t completely meld with animal fibers, giving the yarn a textured, rustic look. It’s the crumble of nuts in a sour cream coffee cake.
The Spin Style
Nua Sport is spun with a worsted draft. Drafting this way smoothes the surface of the yarn and keeps the fibers together and stable. It adds to stitch definition and reduces pilling.
Nua Sport has less twist than most merino based yarns. Using less twist allows merino to do its spring-thing. The yarn retains merino’s elasticity and pillowy squish. The yak and linen are what allow the reduced twist to work. A lighter twisted 100% merino yarn is a more fragile, with a tendency to pill. The yak and linen shore up and protect those delicate merino fibers, like the crust of a pie.
Along with the magical blend of fibers, Nua’s ply structure is diabolically clever.
Nua is made from four strands of yarn, but not in the way you think. It’s not four stands just twisted together into a 4-ply yarn. It’s something I call a 2+2 4-ply. In a regular 4-ply, four strands are twisted together at the same time, creating a round, durable yarn.
A 2+2 4-ply builds the yarn with an extra step. Two 2-ply yarns are created. Then, those two 2-ply yarns are further twisted together to create a 4-ply yarn. This structure does a couple of things: It creates a more durable yarn with loft, while allowing the twist to be softer. Much like a perfect soft meringue cookie baked just enough so the outside is crispy and the inside still gooey.
When strands are plied, air is trapped between the plies. Remember that in a 2-ply yarn, the strands push away from each other allowing for more air. Since this yarn is made of two 2-ply yarns, there is extra loft. The twice-plied structure is durable with less twist, making a yarn that is strong, but drapes.
For those of you who study yarn structure or are spinners, this is not a cabled yarn. All of the ply twist goes in the same direction instead of reversing.
For those of you that don’t regularly pick apart yarn structures, yes, I will be writing about unusual yarn structures soon. The variety is mind blowing.
The choice of fiber blend has a big impact on this yarn’s color.
The linen used is an unbleached natural color; think of a perfectly baked sugar cookie. The yak is a natural brown; it anchors all of the colors with an earthy depth. It’s the difference between baking cookies with light brown and dark brown sugar. Color on 100% merino can seem flat, due to merino’s matte surface. Yak imparts warmth and a whisper of shine to the color.
How does Nua Sport knit? It is sublime.
The shades are, from left: Unexpected Macaw, Chalk and Plum, and Frog on the Wall.
Nua is a pleasure just to hold. It’s soft and silky, but I’m not worried about future pills, and it is a delight to see the quality of the stitches it creates.
Shade: Kitten Fluff.
In stockinette, Nua’s fabric is smooth and the stitches are defined, though not as crispy as a regular 4-ply would be. There is a bit of softness there that I like. The fine hair-like wisps you see are bits of flax; they have body but aren’t pokey. I sat with a swatch resting on my neck for a bit and another tucked another in my shirt, to see if the swatches were prickly or itchy. They were not.
I don’t have to explain this swatch testing behavior to my family; in fact, they explain it to other people.
Shade: Chalk and Plum.
Lace is so happy knit out of Nua Sport. Here is another illustration of how the yarn construction is so well thought out. Four plies, and worsted spinning, make the garter and decrease line pop, but the softer twist and specific ply construction allow the holes in the lace to stay open.
Can we talk about this color? It’s my favorite right now. This is Chalk and Plum, a deep purple with the brown of the yak inviting it to be just a little dirty, and the flecks of linen make it wonderfully tweedy.
Look how crisp this texture stitch looks, but it still has springy oomph. It also has a good amount of drape. A 4-ply merino yarn with conventional ply structure would need a whole lot of twist to get this stitch definition, which would make it less inclined to drape or swing. This stitch is done by knitting three stitches together, then pulling three loops through the decreased stitch. Which means on the return row it can be a little sticky to purl into those loops, they tend to be tight or split or both. I had no splitting with this yarn, even with pointy metal needles.
The linen combined with the elasticity in the merino in this yarn does fantastic things for blocking too. It helps the fabric hold its shape. I had a few of those bump-outs on the side of my swatches that happen when I stretch my swatch a little too far. Usually they go away pretty quickly after I unpin, but on these swatches, they stayed and stayed. I steamed them out (mostly) for the photos.
Garments knit in this yarn will hold their shape and stitch pattern for a long time.
I’m going back to my baking; it’s ginger cookies today. Need a good cookie book? This one is my favorite.
I wonder what kind of cookies Carol Feller likes?