Every now and then, I get a request to test out a gadget or doodad for knitting, and as long as my schedule permits it, I am more than happy to do so. A couple of months ago, I got an email that I opened up and began reading. It read something like, “Would you be interested in trying out a new yarn from Manos D–” and I don’t even know what the rest of the email said, because I just hit reply and said yes.
Ok, that’s not exactly how this works, but you get the idea. Manos Del Uruguay has such a fantastic reputation for their yarn quality and color that I was more than happy to have the chance to put a hank of their yarn through its paces.
A week or so after saying “Not just yes, but heck yes,” the yarn arrived at my home. Manos Del Uruguay Alma is a new single, woolen spun superwash merino. Yup, superwash. Yup, merino. This yarn felt like clouds made of whispered promises and sun-kissed dandelions.
You may not know what I mean by that, but if you find yourself in a room with a hank of Alma and run your fingers over it, you’ll understand.
Alma is a fingering weight yarn and comes in at a whopping 546 yards. I knew that was a lot, because they told me that was a lot, and I believed them. I started poking around for a pattern that I thought would do the yarn justice and settled on the Strangling Vines Lace Scarf. There were quite a few shawl patterns I could have done with this much yarn, but I thought I’d prefer a super drapey scarf. Strangling Vines is a lovely, but relatively simple four-row repeat with only two “real” pattern rows and those only vary according to whether you start or end the row with a knit stitch.
So, perfect. I had my softer-than-tender-kisses yarn and a pattern that looked lovely and that could be knit while I watched TV or talked to a friend or took part in a heated negotiation. I was ready to go.
I cast on and immediately had problems of my own devising. First of all, a friend I hadn’t seen in a year came to visit, and while the pattern was chat-proof, it was not laugh-your-head-off proof. So, a bit of the lace section jumped off my needles and immediately laddered to the bottom of the 4 inches I’d knit so far. Alma is soft, but it is not grippy. If you’re going to knit lace, take the time to use lifelines periodically.
I was not about to try to repair a ladder the had dropped all the way to the cast on edge, plus I was having a couple of other issues, so I decided to frog it and start again. As I cast on again, I added enough stitches to accommodate an additional pattern repeat. (Personal preference.) And I also took the opportunity to swap out my needles for ones with a blunter tip than the lace needles I had started with. Because the Alma is a single, I kept stabbing through it with my sharp-tipped needles. Switching to a blunter tip solved this issue for me. Always match your needles to your yarn, friends!
After restarting the scarf, I knit on it pretty much constantly. And I mean constantly. When they say 546 yards is a lot, they mean it.
I knit at my kitchen table while catching up with my friend. I knit in my bedroom while talking to my husband.
I knit at the ball park.
I knit at the Basketball Hall of Fame.
I knit on the way to be a counselor at a day camp.
I knit on this project constantly, and I’ll tell you why. These gifted skeins come with deadlines. When you agree to do a review, you tell them what month you’ll post the review. I agreed to August. I started confidently in July, thinking it would take a couple of weeks of knitting time to get through this hank. You’ll notice the this post is going up at the end of August. They are not kidding when they say that 546 yards lot. It is generous.
The Strangling Vine pattern doesn’t have a recommended stopping point. You stop when you get a scarf long enough or you run out of yarn. I decided as I cast on that I was going to go the distance with the Alma. The scarf was going to be as long as the hank allowed.
When I got to the point where I could wrap it once around my neck, I started knitting it wrapped once around my neck. I secretly harbored a hope that it would end up long enough to wrap around twice. But by that point, the ball was looking like it was getting close to the end.
Apparently, a ball of Alma is akin to the Tardis, though, because what remained was more than it appeared and the yardage just kept going. I easily got a second wrap out of it. All told, one ball of Alma ended up knitting a scarf that was 8.5 inches wide and 7 feet 8 inches long. After blocking, there was just a slight halo to the yarn and a very few tiny pills had formed, but nothing worrying or egregious. Still, I would recommend this yarn for something that will be used gently; a scarf or shawl for dressing up an outfit would be ideal.
It wraps comfortably around my neck twice and hangs to my waist. Where it rounds my neck, it is warm and soft, but still very lightweight. It feels beautiful against the skin. It’s luxuriant. It’s a caress you can wear all day.
One of the things Manos Del Uruguay is known for is their vivid colors, and Alma is no different. The one I used is the Devotion colorway. It’s a tonal sea blue. Some short sections, likely due to how the yarn was tied in the dyeing process, were white. However, I blocked the yarn in warm water, and it released a bit of dye that seems to have then been taken up by the white sections. They are still lighter than the main areas of the scarf, but I like them.
I am a knitter with a well developed appreciation for tonality and the unique quirks of hand dyed yarns. I was initially a little worried that those outside of the knitting tribe would not appreciate the coloring of the yarn for what it was, so I asked around. The response was universally positive. Beautiful yarn is beautiful.
Honestly, it makes me a little grumpy that I love it so much, because it’s going to be a Christmas gift for someone else. I will be buying my own hank of Alma to knit with again.
I very much look forward to it.
More things to know:
Manos Del Uruguay is a non-profit dedicated to bringing economic opportunity to women in rural Uruguay. Their yarns are hand dyed and hand spun, and they are doing great things. As someone who spent many years in the developing world, I have great admiration for companies who look for ways to help people connect with economic opportunities to provide for their families. Read more about their business here.
Fairmount Fibers, the North American distributor for Manos Del Uruguay, kindly supplied me with the hank of Alma to try out. Many thanks to them for their generousity.