Friday, November 10, 2017

Manos Del Uruguay Serpentina :: Review


A few months ago I was asked if I would like to try out and review a new yarn line by Manos del Uruguay. I've never knit with any yarn by Manos before and after taking a peek at what the new yarn line looked like, I was intrigued. Squishy thick and thin handspun? That type of yarn was my very first yarny love! Then I read about how Manos is actually a non-profit organization that assembles skilled artisans in women's cooperatives throughout the countryside of Uruguay with the aim of bringing economic and social opportunities to rural woman in their hometowns. It's awesome that each skein of their certified fair trade yarn is helping a woman in Uruguay support her family. 

Ok, I'm in. Sign me up!

So let me introduce you to the newest yarn to the Manos Del Uruguay line up, Serpentina:


» First Impressions «
When the yarn arrived on my doorstep I immediately ripped open the package and pulled out the skein. I was expecting the yarn to be squishy (and it is! So, so squishy!!) but I wasn't prepared for just how buttery soft it would be. It's so soft and smooth that I couldn't stop squeezing and hugging my skein! It didn't surprise me when I learned that the wool is an extra fine, superwash merino top. What did surprise me, was the colour. I couldn't decide which colourway to pick - it was a toss up between this one, which is called Coco, and two others. At the last minute I panicked and went with Coco because who doesn't love a beautiful grey?

I learned that every shade within this yarn line is named after a woman of consequence and achievement, like Malala (Yousafzai), which is a mix of yellows, oranges, red, pinks, purple, grey, and black (so, SO gorgeous!! Look it up, it's just stunning!); Pina (Bausch, a highly influential German dance performer/choreographer/teacher), which is a mix of pinks with some grey and black - I thought might be too predictable of me to pick; Frida (Kahlo), Petrona (MartĂ­nez), and Mother Theresa, to name a few.


Anyways, the colouring surprised me because when I opened up the skein the grey was intertwined with the natural white wool so randomly that you couldn't see a set pattern of colour like you would normally see with hand-dyed yarn. That's because the fibre is hand-dyed first and then spun by hand on a spinning wheel. The yarn got its name, Serpentina, from the way the colours spiral and twirl together that's reminiscent of the paper streamers thrown at the Carnival parties. How fun! I love hearing stories like that, of how things are named or created. And because the colours are totally random throughout the skein, they technically won't stack or pool! That's perfect for knitters like me, knitters who get anxious about not being able to control how the colours will play out in their knitting.

Also, how's this for super cool - since every skein is a unique work of art, it's signed by the spinner!


» The Swatch «
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this fact numerous times before but I'll say it again, I'm not a fan of swatching. I know, I know. It's weird. You would think that for someone who loves the act of knitting would also like to knit swatches since it's basically just, well, knitting. But I don't. I just want to skip ahead and get straight to the knitting on a project. There are times when I do knit a lot of swatches and that's when I'm trying to sort out colour combinations, knitting new-to-me stitch patterns, knitting with unfamiliar yarns, or when the stitch gauge called for is really far off from my own. I'm definitely not one of those knitters who knits swatches for fun. Since I was unsure of what to knit with this skein of Serpentina and since I'm a little rusty at knitting with thick and thin yarn, I decided to (gasp!) knit a swatch.

Serpentina is classified as an Aran weight yarn, making it a versatile yarn - perfect for cowls, hat, mittens, or any other next-to-the-skin item. The thinnest parts, in my skein at least, I would say never went thinner than a thick fingering weight. I was a little skeptical as to how even the gauge would be and how the finished fabric would look with the varying thicknesses but after a light blocking, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my swatch turned out rather consistent.

This might be shocking to hear but I thoroughly enjoyed knitting this swatch! The yarn is just so lovely to work with. Aside from the softness, the yarn is also smooth and glides wonderfully through your fingers and from needle tip to needle tip. Whenever I knit with a single ply yarn I find that I usually split it somehow (mostly on the purl side) and tend to pull little bits of fibre out of place several times throughout the project. I didn't do that once with the swatch! And the colours...I absolutely love how subtle the various shades of light grey sneak in and out, sometimes so light that you have to look closer just to distinguish it from the natural. The darker grey stitches are my favourite bits!



» The Knitting «
For days I couldn't decide what to knit with this lovely skein of squishiness, then I remembered that a few special babies will be arriving early in the new year! A baby knit, of course! And from what I've seen on Instagram, babies in handspun handknits make the perfect combo.

I decided a cute and whimsical pixie hat is what this skein of Serpentina must be, and went with the Pixie Tadhg pattern by Dee Bryant. The pattern was easy to knit - once you get the stitch marker placement and ribbing sorted out. I found the wording of the stitch marker placement to be super confusing and the notes the designer made on the subject on the Ravelry pattern page wasn't that much more helpful. As for the ribbing, well, first of all, I used the alternate cable cast-on method that was recommended in the pattern. I had to do a few attempts since I had never done this cast-on before and had no clue how to join it in the round. I was impressed with how well the yarn held up to my constant ripping and frogging back and didn't look like it was going to turn into a strand of fuzzy matted fibre like I've seen other single ply yarns do.

A few searches on Google and I finally found out, via Woolly Wormhead, that when you use an alternate cable cast-on in the round, you have to knit a row flat THEN join in the round. It would have saved so much time, effort, and headache had the pattern just added that note somewhere in the directions. Once I finally got going, the rest was easy peasy and voilĂ ! A super cute pixie hat! 

I decided to do braided ties rather than icord ones just in case the recipient's parents wanted to either cut them off or cut them shorter without running the risk of the ties unravelling. I absolutely love how the hat turned out, I adore that little nib at the crown! I love how the stitches are so defined and how the thicker parts of the yarn add a little texture and interest in the simple stockinette. The grey really does knit up randomly and is distributed throughout the project evenly. Not once did the grey pool, flash, or stack up unevenly. I can't wait to see a little wee one wearing it!


:: Hat Details ::
Pattern: Pixie Tadhg by Dee Bryant
Yarn: Manos Del Uruguay Serpentina
Colour: Coco (P1562)
Needles: Knit Picks Harmony Wood (now called Rainbow Wood) Interchangeable Circulars in 5mm (US 8)
Ravelry Link: MisoCraftyKnits Serpentina Pixie


» Final Thoughts «
I'm happy to report that I really enjoyed knitting with Serpentina, and that my very first experience with a Manos yarn was a delightful one. I can't recall the last time I've knit with handspun, it was such a treat for my hands! The soft merino felt so luxurious and even if this wasn't a baby knit, the Aran weight makes for super quick knits. Perfect for holiday knitting...hint, hint! 

Unless it's for socks, I normally shy away from variegated yarns but after learning and then experiencing it for myself how this yarn doesn't get me all anxious when it comes to colours pooling and whatnot, I feel more comfortable to knit more with this yarn. I would stick to accessories though, like hats and cowls, until I can see for myself how this yarn wears and if it will show that wear a lot or not. Because of its superwash characteristic, I do feel comfortable knitting and gifting baby items made from this yarn, but again, would stick to patterns that wouldn't require the item to be washed a lot (like baby hats!).

Thank you so much, Fairmount Fibers (the North American distributor of Manos Del Uruguay yarns) for giving me this opportunity to try this heavenly yarn! I might not have picked it out myself, as I'm a creature of habit and tend to stick with what I've used before. But now I look forward to picking up a skein or two to knit myself a cowl to go with my new raincoat. I seriously can't stop thinking about that Malala colourway!!


If you would like to give Serpentina a try, or would like to know more information about Manos Del Uruguay, please check out the following links:

:: Facebook :: Twitter :: Instagram :: Ravelry :: Pinterest ::





:: Disclaimer ::
I am not affiliated with the company mentioned in this post. I received no monetary compensation for my review. I was sent yarn for review purposes in exchange for the possibility of posting a review. The wording and opinions I've written are my own and I will not be receiving any commissions from the links provided in this post.

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