Meet the Yarn: Milky Way

80% Milk Protein, 20% Superwash Merino
+/- 500 yd / 457 m
8.5-9 sts / in US #1

Milky Way presents vast possibilities and could easily fulfill many of your yarn needs.  Milk protein fiber seems new and cool, so I was surprised to find that it was developed in the early 1930s.  Milk protein fiber was extensively used through the 1930s and 1940s, but nearly disappeared in the late 1940s.  It continued to be used, but was not part of the consumer conciousness again until the 1990s.

Milk protein is a natural product, and the process for creating fiber from the casein protein derived from milk is a wet spinning and drying process.  It is not listed as a manufactured fiber on government and international standards lists.  I thought it might be a rayon, but casein is a protein, not a cellulose fiber so it doesn't qualify. I learned quite a bit reading a patent application for a new process of producing milk protein fiber, and from historical information. You can get a nice idea of the state of milk protein fiber here

If you look at this second post on the Fiber of My Being blog you will get the information that I think as a knitter, you really want!  You can see from the photos of the fiber, that it has a distinct luster, and that is what gives Milky Way its soft sheen.  It also makes it a little slippery which gives it good drape and allows the stitches to open up. The stickiness she refers to is both a positive and a negative.

I originally selected Milky Way for an update of Belon, a garter lace shawl.  A revision of the current pattern, with the sample done in Milky Way, is due out in the fall of 2017.  I have personally knit Belon in three different yarn types:  1) pure silk, 2) a cotton-merino-possum blend, and 3) a rayon.  The silk and rayon were quite slippery and had lovely drape.  The silk was light-as-a-feather, while the rayon was a similar weight to Milky Way, so had more substance.  The cotton-merino-possum made a slightly more casual fabric, but it still had great drape. 

So Milky Way had to meet some high expectations. What I found was a perfect blending of the characteristics of the three other yarns I had used.  I ended up with a lovely shawl (knit by someone else!) with great drape that showed off the stitch pattern to perfection.

Belon Blocked

Eventually I got curious about what else you could do with this yarn.  Milky Way has a lot of projects on Ravelry (324!) with a lot of smiley faces, proving its vast possibilities. I was struck by the variety so I started doing an exploration swatch.  I’m a loose knitter, and started with a US size 3(3.25mm) needles.  I started with seed, then did some garter.  

Milky Way in Seed Stitch, blocked.

Milky Way in Garter Stitch, blocked.

I got to thinking this would be a great yarn for a camisole in my archives, so I cast on to try the Lifted YO pattern (hated it) and tried it with a seed background instead of stockinette.  I liked it, but it was not worth the effort of working seed stitch.  I moved on to the Berry Stitch I loved from some projects I did for Love of Knitting, pairing it with a 3x3 rib. I wet blocked the swatches, which made everything better, and mostly smoothed out some sticky stitches.

Milky Way in Lifted YO stitch, blocked.

Milky Way in Lifted YO variation, blocked.

Milky Way in 3x3 Rib, blocked.

After a couple of days of looking at the patterns on Ravelry I decided to try something else.  I wasn’t convinced I wanted to work in stockinette because the stickiness of Milky Way makes some stitches uneven and I would need to go down to a US size 2(2.75mm) or smaller to get denser fabric.  I’ve got more than a skein of Milky Way on my shelf and I started considering what I would most enjoy making.  I started swatching Pinnacle Chevron, on US size 2(2.75mm).  I got a really interesting fabric as the knits and purls curled around each other. 

But we know that what we see in its raw form isn’t always what we end up with, don’t we?  So off to wet block and see what I would end up with.  My experience is that this rib flattens out quite a bit.

To round up my thoughts on the vast possibilities of Milky Way:  

  • This is a lovely soft, smooth, yet not slippery yarn, with great luster, and significant drape.  
  • It is perfect for a shawl, but there vast possibilities beyond shawls. 
  • Try different stitch patterns to make it sing for you—peruse those projects on Ravelry.  
  • There are some Milky Way advantages: 
    • blended with 20% merino, it has the softness and springiness of merino although it is a flat-ish yarn; 
    • the properties of milk protein are moisture absorption and conduction (i.e., comfort and quick drying), luster, similar feel to merino, and it takes dye well.  
  • Blocks well both wet and steam. Find instructions for wet blocking here and steam blocking here.
  • Stickiness of the milk protein fiber can cause stitches to be uneven* and made it a little maddening when I split a stitch.  *There is an argument that I shouldn’t read subtitles and knit!
  • All fibers made with wet spinning are weak when wet, so wash away, but take care when taking it out of a bath.

I am including charts for the stitch patterns I used.  Note that I make Action Charts, which mean that a knit is always a knit, and a purl is always a purl—or what you see is what you do.  

Stitch patterns: 

What I used:
Milky Way in Seaside
Size 3(3.25mm) Addi lace circular needles
Brittany size 2(2.75mm) dpns (as straight needles)
Clover ring markers.

The current version of Belon is available on Ravelry or on JillWolcottKnits.com where you can also sign up for my newsletter.  I’ve written about blocking in several blog posts.

Pattern Spotlight: Disrupt Scarf

I knew Anzula had gorgeous colors and scrumptious bases before I sent my submission for the summer 2017 issue of Cast On magazine; as I had met Anzula fibers at the very first STITCHES South market in Atlanta in 2009. My magazine submission was fairly straightforward. I've spent the last year and a half exploring a technique for working stockinette-based laces reversibly from extant patterns and stitch dictionaries. I was eager to share this technique with a larger audience. Since The Knitting Guild Association focuses on teaching good technique, I thought Cast On would be the perfect venue. It was editor Arenda Holladay who decided the project should be in a large-gauge yarn.

I was skeptical, although I had successfully experimented with a variety of yarn types and gauges in reversible lace. Arenda pointed out that super bulky yarns are very much on trend. And working in a larger yarn would make it easier to learn a new technique, as it would be very easy to see the stitches. Of course, Arenda chose Burly for the scarf. I picked the Petunia color, as hot pink is becoming one of the colors of 2017. The color, scale, technique, and pattern all seemed to be disruptive.

Reversible lace involves working lace patterning across a ground of 1×1 ribbing, rather than garter or stockinette. As with all magic, it comes with a price — twice as many stitches, so twice as much yarn. In Burly this produces a thick, incredibly squishy fabric. The Disrupt scarf is substantial, weighing over 400 grams. It is long enough to wrap around your head to keep your ears warm on a cold day. As typical of Anzula's bases, the hand of this yarn is next-to-skin soft. When you wear this scarf, it feels like a big comforting hug. It is the sort of big, warm, cushy scarf that boldly vows, "As your bodyguard, I will protect you from whatever foul weather comes your way."


The Disrupt scarf pattern is available in Cast-On Magazine, the online knitting magazine of The Knitting Guild Associate, and is available to all members. 

You can find more from Jolie on her blog and Ravelry.com.

Artem Shawl by Steve Rousseau, Knit by Isabella Zorman in Anzula Breeze

Wow, I feel honored to contribute to the Anzula Blog! What a pleasure to work with Anzula Breeze in Emerald and the Artem Shawl by Steve Rousseau. Yarn and pattern work very well together, a beautiful combination. I'm very happy with the result.

Some time ago, I came across Steve Rousseau Designs. Lots of beautiful, rectangular shawl patterns to choose from. It is because I used to work as a mechanical engineer drawer and my love and attraction for geometry, sure enough I had to bookmark it under "what's knitting" and keep an eye on the "Artem" pattern.

While I was finishing up a cardigan, already pondering on a possible next knitting project, I got this idea to spoil my mother-in-law with a knitted gift. Knowing her, I knew it had to be a turquoise/emerald color. With this clear idea, I went to my local yarn store, here in Ithaca NY, but I couldn't find the right color, nor the suggested yarn.

Lots of SRDesigns use Shibui Knits pebble, a silk, merino, cashmere yarn. And I wasn't sure about the merino. Although soft, my mother in law thinks it's itchy. Many thoughts about this gift and online yarn research continued over the next few days.

She is an elderly woman who loves "elegant" but doesn't want it to be ruined. I'm afraid it would lie dormant, nicely wrapped in silk paper, ever hopeful that it will one day fulfill its destiny.

I've read somewhere that making a hand-knit gift is an emotional experience. So is online yarn shopping! I can't touch the yarn, and the colors are more often miles away from reality and I miss talking to the yarn experts! But I did find Fancy Tiger Craft in Denver, sells online with a nicely organized website. This is where I discovered Anzula Breeze the first time.

It was love at first sight! Honestly, the more I knit, I could swear some yarns scream "pick me, pick me!" I had some very fantastic results in the past. Being silk and linen, Breeze is heavenly soft, drapes beautifully, is elegant with a slightly rustic touch, very nice stitch definition and the subtle variation in tone adds unexpected depth.

I used About 1 1/2 balls of Breeze, US needle size 3 to match the gauge. The shawl finished measurements after wet blocking, 24 inches by 74 inches.

The Artem pattern is easy to follow, once established, it becomes quite intuitive. But still, don't binge watch your favorite show, I had to unravel a couple of rows!

Wet blocking such a large piece was a bit intimidating at first. a) where do I block it? and b) I don't even have that many pins. At the end I did not have to use any pins! Other than stretching a bit and even the lines, Anzula Breeze holds the stitches very well.

I'm very, very happy! In fact so happy, that I ordered some more Anzula Breeze to combine with a Isabell Kraemer sweater pattern. I'll keep you posted!

Isabella Zorman