Friday, October 11, 2013

Fiber Feature - Mink

I thought writing about mink yarn would be a breeze! Mink have been raised on farms since the late 1800s so there should be a ton of good solid factual info out there. Right? Wrong! Mink is such a new fiber to the yarn world that little has been written on the subject.

How did the subject of mink yarn come up? Because we carry an absolutely lovely 100% mink yarn - Mimi, from Lotus Yarns! I mentioned Lotus yarns in my last Fiber Feature post about Yak. Lotus is a high quality spinning mill that produces custom natural and luxury fiber yarns for some very familiar labels. Now Lotus Yarns is producing luxury fiber yarns under their own label and Trendsetter is the US distributor for them.

You must touch Mimi to get a true appreciation for how soft it is. It is every bit as soft as Yak down but doesn't have that smooth cool butter sensation. The feel is warmer, much like cashmere, which it is often blended with.

Mimi is a thin yarn, and looking at it I would classify it as a light fingering weight. I have noticed that based on Trendsetter's information some sites are listing it as a sport weight and others a lace weight. The label doesn't give a stitch count but does recommend a US 3-4 needle, suggesting to me something lighter than sport but not as light as lace. Mimi comes in solid colors and now Trendsetter has teamed up with Alchemy to create beautifully hand-dyed colors - Mimi Hand-dyed. The hanks are 330 yds per 50 grams so you get enough yardage in one hank to work a nice sized cowl, scarf or small lace shawl.

Mink have a dual coat consisting of a soft undercoat and long outer guard hairs. The guard hairs are stiffer and slightly prickly feeling. But the undercoat is soft and helps to insulate the animal from the cold. This undercoat is the fiber that is spun into yarn, after processing to remove the guard hairs. I couldn't find any information on micron count but it's inferred that it is in the same range as cashmere and angora. The fibers can be as long as 1 1/2 inches but are often shorter. American mink have the longest coat so are the species most cultivated for fibers. Because of how short and fine the fibers are, you will often find mink blended with other fibers. When I've removed a few fibers from a strand, Mimi seems to have a staple length on the longer side of the range and is comprised of 3 plies. Each of the 3 singles is tightly spun, the tight twist helps to make a strong yarn.

Now for the question I know you all are asking, because I asked it too. Are the mink harmed obtaining this fiber? The answer is no! Yes, they are farmed and the fibers are shaved or combed from the animal about 3 times a year, when they would normally shed their undercoat. This process is very similar to how we get angora from rabbits and wool from sheep. Well treated animals provide the best quality fibers which are worth the highest prices so it is in the mink farmer's best interest to have healthy, happy animals. An animals coat is the first place signs of stress appear so fiber producers are highly motivated to take the best care of their animals. Their livelihoods depend on it!

I hope this has been informative, the yarn is yummy to the touch and would make lovely, delicate, lacy projects such as cowls, shawls & scarves as special gifts for the holidays. Here are some patterns that this yarn would be lovely in:

Asterope by Rosemary "Romi" Hill:

Asterope

Cilantro by Indiegirl:

Cilantro

Clarus by Laura Nelkin:

Clarus

The Guernsey Triangle by Brooklyn Tweed:

Guernsey Triangle


Or Buttonwillow which is also by Romi Hill:

Buttonwillow

If a scarf or cowl is more your style, try the Cream and Sugar Cowl from Never Not Knitting:

Cream & Sugar Cowl

Or, the Churchmouse Diagonal Scarf and Wrap:

Diagonal Scarf & Wrap

Have fun and enjoy!
Terry


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for each of these articles featuring a different fiber and the people who make the yarn. I have enjoyed each one so far!

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