Yarn Review: Rowan Hemp Tweed
The highly anticipated new season Rowan Hemp Tweed has hit the LoveKnitting shelves and we couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss is about! Jenni sat down with the Smiles team to get some real feedback from real knitters.
First things first, what is hemp tweed? Hemp is from cannabis, right? So what does that have to do with yarn? We asked the lovely folk at Rowan to give us some perspective and insider knowledge on the history of hemp in textiles:
Hemp comes from the plant Cannabis Sativa L, a remarkably versatile yarn for textiles and offers some biodiversity to farmers where it is grown, it is also environmentally friendly and can be used as a biomass fuel. Hemp is used to make paper, and, famously, bank notes used to be made from it. Every last bit of the plant can be used: hemp seeds, hemp oil and even a type of building material called Hempcrete has been developed. Hemp is naturally mildew resistant and so perfect for ships and was historically used to make ropes and sails. Henry VIII encouraged its cultivation to supply rope and sailcloths to his naval fleet – in fact the Arabic word for hemp is canvas!
How is Hemp Tweed made?
Like linen or ramie, hemp is a bast fibre, meaning that it is extracted from the stem of the plant. The long fine fibres suitable for textile use are mostly on the outside of the stem, while shorter hurds in the centre are used for other purposes. The process of extracting these fibres is called retting and can be achieved by soaking the stems. Large crops are left in long heaps, or windrows, in the fields where they are cut to allow them to ret and the dew to ret them where they lie. This process allows the fibres to separate ready for the mill. The proportion of 75% wool to 25% hemp in Rowan Hemp Tweed was arrived at through trial and error to get the best of both of the fibres. Combining the natural properties of hemp with the softness of merino is a great way of getting the benefits of both – strength and softness, texture and colour. The colour combinations are interesting too as the fibres take dyes differently meaning a mottled, tweed effect is achieved. The first step of production is to blend the wool and hemp, and this is done using five different machines that blend the fibres step by step. This goes into the spinning machine, then the single yarn goes into the twisting machines to be plied before being dyed and balled. The new yarn knits up beautifully and comes in a wide range of blending, muted colours that you’ll enjoy!
Now that you know what it’s all about, you’re probably wondering whether you should try it. We know it can sometimes be difficult to take the plunge to try new yarns, especially without being able to give them the squish and sniff test, so we thought we’d get you some feedback from real knitters. Let’s hand over the (tweed) ropes to our Smiles team. If you haven’t met them before, we introduce some of the team here.
How does it feel?
Bronwen: Surprisingly Soft, I thought it would be quite rough. I also thought it would have more of a smell, but it doesn’t.
Sian: Yes it’s really soft! It’s almost like twine, it’s very solid and there’s not much stretch so it would be very hardwearing.
Klawdia: It’s so smooth and has great structure.
Hero: So soft and smooth.
(Just to point out, we all squished this against our faces and had a good sniff!)
How does it feel on the needles?
Sian: It moves really well, I’m knitting with Knit Pro Symfonie needles and it just feels great on them. The tweed is also nice running through my hands, I thought it would feel rougher. It has a slight drape too which is lovely considering its high wool content.
Klawdia: Suprisingly silky, I’d definitely buy this!!
Hero: It knits up well and has beautiful stitch definition.
What would you make?
Bronwen: I think it’s soft enough for a winter jumper and would be long wearing.
Sian: Definitely! This would be good for a Fisherman’s sweater or kids knits, but I think I would make thick boot socks as I wouldn’t worry about the texture wearing down.
Klawdia: I would make a coat!
Hero: This yarn would be great for cabling because of the texture and stitch definition, so I’d probably make a jumper.
So what did they think overall?
We think this yarn is great for the eco-minded who want to support organic trade and those that want to try something new. It has a fair price for its yardage and the shade choice is suprisingly vast and lovely. Also a tip from us if you do decide to try it is to use it with size 4mm needles.
Sian declared she was a ‘fan!’
So, what do you think? Would you try it?
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Last updated: August 27th, 2015.