Atlas: Up Close with This New Yarn
Pear, Merlot, Skyline, Mallard, Cork
I’ve been good about keeping this Modern Daily Knitting secret. A yarn!
Not just any regular yarn, but an intentionally designed, squishy, soft, and delectable yarn. Atlas.
Cue Kool and the Gang! Dance party in the warehouse! Let’s celebrate!
The MDK team built this yarn from scratch, making decisions to create a lofty, smooth, buttery-soft yarn with good stitch definition.
The yarn is made from single source Rambouillet sheep, spun with a worsted draft, and low twist, and twisted into three plies. Let’s see what that means for your future projects.
Rambouillet fiber is known for two things: softness and amazing crimp.
See the squiggles in the locks that look like crinkle-cut French fries? That’s crimp, a lot of crimp. Crimp makes a yarn elastic, springy. A garment made with this yarn will keep its shape and stitch definition. Crimp also helps a yarn made with light twist keep its structure, which is key for this yarn.
Just as fine as Merino, Rambouillet has more spring and durability. Rambouillet has a matte surface that gives it has a particular richness when dyed.
Single source means it comes from one farm in California. These are happy sheep treated with care and compassion. Just look at those faces.
When will we develop squish-o-vision? Oh, for a way to allow you to reach through your computer screen and feel yarn. The squish may be the first thing you notice about Atlas when you touch it. You know it’s going to be soft; it looks as soft as that pair of jeans you’ve been wearing for ten years, and it is. The squish is what’s surprising.
You can see in the strand that the yarn has a lighter ply twist than say a sock yarn, or even some everyday yarns. Looking at the untwisted yarn photo you can see the lower amount of twist is also in the individual strands.
A low-twist yarn is usually more tender than Atlas. The crimp makes the magic here. The crimp of the fiber adds stability to the yarn at this lower twist. If this was another fiber, say Corriedale, a fiber with less crimp, I doubt the yarn would hold together as well as this Rambouillet.
The yarn is spun with a worsted draft which keeps the outside smooth. The light twist traps air in the yarn making it light and warm, and the springy energy of the crimp makes the yarn elastic as well as helping to hold it together.
Making this yarn a 3-ply is genius. Even with all that crimp, the yarn is fine and soft, which gives it an inclination toward lax stitch definition and pilling. Adding a third ply protects the individual plies; the surface of each strand is exposed to less abrasion since the plies all roll in and tuck together. Three plies makes a rounder yarn, which gives this soft-looking yarn better stitch definition than you might expect.
It surprised and delighted me how well this yarn works with all my stitch samples. It has a fascinating quality of looking (and feeling) soft, yet having good stitch definition. I wouldn’t call it crisp stitch definition, but look at the stitches. I see edges, and every stitch pattern I used is clear.
I knit all these swatches (except one) with the same needles that gave me 4.5 stitches to the inch.
Atlas makes a great stockinette fabric. The fabric is smooth and even, perfect for all kinds of knitting. Because it is a 3-ply yarn, it makes very tidy stitches even if they aren’t crisp. I won’t stop talking about how soft this yarn is either. It has a different type of softness from Merino. Merino is like buttercream frosting, and Rambouillet is more like homemade whipped cream.
I went up a couple of needle sizes to see how Atlas shifted to a looser gauge. As I knit at the larger gauge, I could see that the stitch definition became softer. You can see in the closer photo that it loses stitch definition. The gauge is 4 stitches to the inch, and I’m not sure I would knit a shovel-the-snow sweater at this gauge, but I would make a cardigan to wear while I work at my computer every day, or to go out and about into the world.
The larger gauge makes a fabric that’s not quite as durable or has the quality of stitch definition that the tight gauge does, but it does give us something else that is elusive with a loft yarn, a bit of drape. You can see that the swatch on the left (4 stitches/inch) drapes, and bends differently than the swatch on the right (4.5 stitches/ inch). I would definitely go up a needle or two if I wanted a shawl, scarf, or cowl to move a little.
Usually a 3-ply yarn knit into lace emphasizes the decreases—a 3-ply yarn really wants to stack and show texture. But because of the softness of the fiber and twist in this yarn, I find this lace swatch to be really balanced between holes and decreases. I don’t see a big ridge where the decreases are and the yarnovers are staying nicely open, two things most 3-ply yarns wouldn’t do.
I pulled a cable pattern from Field Guide No. 9: Revolution with patterns by Norah Gaughan and was astonished at the stitch definition in my swatch. The twists are bold, and the cables have enough lift that they cast shadows on the reverse stockinette. The cables look clean, if a little soft. It’s pretty amazing. Even more amazing is that this swatch is knit at the looser end of the yarn’s gauge range. If I knit this with a gauge of 5- 5.5 stitches/inch, the cables would be even meatier.
How did I forget how great slip stitch colorwork is? This yarn knit in a two-color slip stitch from Barbara Walker One. It has excellent texture, and the three plies of the yarn help to keep the colors and yarn distinct in the pattern. Do you remember how waffle-weave Henley shirts used to feel? It’s like that. At this gauge with stranding, the fabric is all squish and no drape, it would make an excellent warm sweater or snuggly accessories.
Atlas is a shapeshifter of a yarn. It works in unexpected and sometimes mysterious ways with texture, color, and lace. It’s a yarn that’s happy snuggling on the couch as a blanket or keeping you warm as you wander in winter woods. You could do some swatching to test drive its versatility, or jump in and make a sweater right from the start! Disco or ballroom, Atlas is a dance party in your knitting bag.