By Clara Parkes
Is it possible to improve upon perfection? Is it even appropriate to try? Of course this depends on how you define "perfect." But a certain portion of the knitting population—myself included—would use three words to define perfection: Rowan Kidsilk Haze.
My first swatch was a cheater. I chose Tilli Tomas Symphony Lace, a regal and decadent three-stranded concoction containing a superfine strand of brushed mohair (sorry, Kidsilk Haze is a hard habit to break) loosely plied with a strand of shiny gold thread.
The silk has a much stronger presence than in Kidsilk Haze, flowing uninterruptedly across the faces of the stitches, punctuated by the occasional random bead. The shiny gold gives a brightness to the finished fabric and is especially striking in sunlight. While knitting, I could feel a hint of scratch from the shiny gold thread, but once I washed and blocked the swatch, the halo obscured most irritation. To knit the size for a 39-inch chest, you'd need four skeins, costing $156.
Silk can be fairly dense at 100 percent, so I decided to forgo the beads and let the fibers provide all the shine. The swatch blocked beautifully. This particular instance of feather and fan does not make use of a purl ridge, making the fabric even smoother and more fluid. Here you'd also benefit from the Alchemy color palette playing itself out over a large fabric surface area. The 39-inch-chest size requires six skeins, bringing the bill to $168.
Finally, I moved from fluidity and elegant functionality to a yarn that would compete solely on its merits as a showstopper: 1/20 Silk Stainless Steel from Habu Textiles. The finest of the yarns I tried, it is made from three plies of lustrous silk around which is loosely plied a thin stream of stainless steel—the proportions are 69% silk and 31% stainless steel. You feel only the silk but your fabric can be gently pulled and nudged into different shapes.
The stainless steel is excellent for holding open the YOs and accentuating the SSKs and K2togs, but unless you're a knitting machine, it will accentuate any and all irregularity in your tension and stitches. I chose to see these irregularities as personal touches, like the pen-and-ink scribblings of Picasso. You'd need five cones for that 39-inch-chest sweater, keeping the tab at an economical $65.
But if I were to swatch this one again, I'd probably pair 1/20 Silk Stainless Steel with an equally fine strand of something softer and fuzzier, like…brushed mohair? As I said, Kidsilk Haze is a hard habit to break.