Meet the Yarn: Milky Way, Part 2

Milky Way

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

Milky Way in Au Natural

Jill introduced Milky Way last May. In this post, I'll investigate how it behaves with a crochet hook.

What is Milky Way? It's categorized as a light fingering weight; Anzula creates skeins that are generous, about 500 yards (114g)! The fiber composition is 80% Milk Protein, 20% Super-wash Merino and it's a multi (four)-ply yarn.

This is also the first Anzula yarn I began to work with, so it is my favourite. Ok, one of my favourites--in truth I love them all. When I first saw it I knew it begged for a crochet hook. I enjoy knitting with it, but I think this yarn really shines in crochet.

While the milk protein creates quite a bit of grab when worked up, I found this yarn can be prone to more slipping than I expected. Yes, hand winding 500 yards sounds tedious, however I now recommend it. Why? I often mistreat my working yarn and it gets tossed in a project bag and while protected, those bags often get shoved into other bags. That can very quickly create a tangled mess that I've found doesn't happen with hand-wound balls. This is, in my opinion, a feature of the yarn and once I knew to work with it I no longer ran into issues. I'll post a photo of that further down in the post. It's not pretty (or fun to untangle).

The four plies of this yarn can split, but I found I was less likely to cause this with a pointed hook than a rounder one. I can attest that you can work and rework and rework the yarn again. I have a design I've been working on for almost five years that has survived a significant amount of ripping and do-overs.

What is this yarn good for? Any project where you want beautiful drape. Should you measure hanging gauge for this yarn? This will change depending on many factors from your basic gauge and stitch pattern to the construction of your project. If you are concerned, then I urge you to measure your swatch! I plan to cover a comparison of hanging gauges for different yarns in a future post (I need to figure out how to photograph them). With the high percentage of inelastic milk protein, if you are expecting ribbing to behave, I would call in some supplemental elastic to reinforce it.

I love this yarn in a half double crochet; that's my default crochet stitch though it's also lovely in both single and double crochet. It creates beautiful drape at 5 spi in single crochet. I love how the yarn takes the dye and works into crochet stitches. How does a simple crochet stitch compare to a knit swatch? I have a certain reputation as a "tiny knitter" and couldn't resist working it up on 2mm needles creating a stockinette fabric of 9 SPI. Wow. It's lovely, and the drape is amazing at this gauge.

Knit and crochet swatches of Milky Way in simple stitches: stockinette, garter stitch, single, half-double, and double crochet.

Knit and crochet swatches of Milky Way in simple stitches: stockinette, garter stitch, single, half-double, and double crochet.

How is this in a tried and true granny square? It pops next to garter stitch. I worried the motif would be flat and lifeless. It isn't. Do be careful when trimming yarn ends after working them in, I almost nipped the motif and the wayward ends want to be in the photos.

Milky Way granny square swatch next to garter stitch.

Milky Way granny square swatch next to garter stitch.

When I created my texture swatch I discovered a new love. Because this is a light fingering weight you can play with textured stitches that otherwise might add unwanted bulk or warmth to a project. I know this will create lovely garments and accessories.

Milky Way crochet texture swatch.

Milky Way crochet texture swatch.

This simple lace surprised me. This is the swatch where I had some issues with split stitches and a hook switch solved my problem. While this swatch is unimaginative, upon blocking my apathy to this particular swatch grew into adoration. I think it would be great for transitional and warm weather wear. The merino adds a hint of warmth without being overbearing.

Net stitch in Anzula Milky Way.

Net stitch in Anzula Milky Way.

The slight issue with my slippery yet sticky yarn? Here's a nice picture of a mistreated yarn cake. I found if I wasn't paying attention to my work area and some cat fur wound its way in, the result was super sticky stitches.

A Milky Way yarn cake that had a minor mishap.

A Milky Way yarn cake that had a minor mishap.

To end on a positive note, in addition to a baby/child cardigan that I hope to finalize and publish soon, based on the work in writing this post I now have sketches for accessories in textured and laces stitches. I'll try to release them soon!

Pile of Anzula Milky Way swatches.

Pile of Anzula Milky Way swatches.

All Milky Way swatches were worked in the Seaside colorway.

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 Berry Stitch, 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 where you can also sign up for my newsletter.  I’ve written about blocking in several blog posts.

Meet the Designer: Ruth Garcia-Alcantud of Rock + Purl

If you haven't heard yet, we are so excited about the booklets coming out from Stitch Sprouts that feature 3 of our most popular yarns - For Better or Worsted, Cricket, and Squishy! Over the next few weeks we will be introducing you to some of the designers who contributed to the booklets. Today's spotlight is on Ruth Garcia-Alcantud of Rock + Purl

Ruth wearing Clementine, knit in Squishy, shown in Seaside and Poppy.

Ruth wearing Clementine, knit in Squishy, shown in Seaside and Poppy.

What drew you to designing?

A very misshapen sweater following a pattern that I didn't write! I had just taken up knitting again in my early 20s and I realized I could apply my math and dressmaking knowledge to my advantage - from there on, modifications to existing patterns happened first, then designing my own once I had created a “vision” of sorts for my brand.

How do you encourage a novice to take up knitting?

Don’t be afraid! Everyone learns differently - whether it’s from a book, looking at someone else’s hands (maybe YouTube?) or even just hearing what your hands are supposed to do. Find out your learning method and follow through. I believe all teachers should be encouraging and nurturing, not scaremongers that tell you what you’re doing wrong; so if you find yourself not entirely loving whoever is teaching you, move on to someone better!

Ruth wearing Mediterranean, in Mermaid, shown in Cornflower. (As Mermaid is discontinued, try it in Meridian or Milky Way!) 

Ruth wearing Mediterranean, in Mermaid, shown in Cornflower. (As Mermaid is discontinued, try it in Meridian or Milky Way!) 

What's your favorite LYS?

I make a point of doing a bit of yarn tourism when I travel. Since I’m from Spain and visit family there occasionally, and my husband is from England, we have become regulars at some shops in those places! I am somewhat new to the Bay Area, and have found Knitterly in Petaluma, CA, to be an exquisite shop. 

My heart will also have a soft spot for Churchmouse in Bainbridge Island, WA - I had just started designing and the staff were very encouraging and sweet!

Favorite Anzula colorway? Line?

That’s just like asking which one of these cakes you want to try first! ALL OF THEM! I guess my fave fave line is Squishy, or maybe FBOW? Colorway? The brighter the better! Gimme all of them!

Maighdean Mhara, knit in Mermaid, shown in Seaside. (Again, if you don't have any Mermaid squirreled away, try it in Meridian or Milky Way!) 

Maighdean Mhara, knit in Mermaid, shown in Seaside. (Again, if you don't have any Mermaid squirreled away, try it in Meridian or Milky Way!) 

Do you have other patterns available in our yarns?

Clementine, Mediterranean, Maighdean Mhara, and Rockpool. And there’ll be more to come since I’ve 3 sweater lots waiting to be worked up!

Tell us about your projects in the booklets!

Alexa, knit in Cricket, shown in Poppy.

Alexa, knit in Cricket, shown in Poppy.

Alexa is an idea that had been floating on my head for a while - a slight positive ease garment with an A-line body, turned-up hems for stability and beauty, and a diagonal lace panel. It’s worked top-down (which is a true departure from my usual seamed pieces!) in one piece to the armholes, and the lace can be expanded as far as you wish!

Limetta, knit in For Better or Worsted, shown in Seaside and Avocado.

Limetta, knit in For Better or Worsted, shown in Seaside and Avocado.

Limetta is a hooded vest with a twist. It features Stockinette and Cables for texture, while relying on dressmaking techniques for the pocket placements and the zipper insertion. The I-cords on the body edges reflect the intarsia stripe edging on the hood… and with pompoms on the hood cords, there’s not a lot you can’t like about this!

Favorite TV show to watch or music to listen to while knitting?

I binge watch shows - I recently revisited The Killing, and am now going through The Good Wife. Music… I tend to listen to music when I’m doing desk work mostly! Right now, Spotify is playing the “Peace” playlist (you can find it under the Mood section). It’s a lot of instrumental, easy listening, calm music!

Rockpool, knit in Milky Way, shown in Slate.

Rockpool, knit in Milky Way, shown in Slate.

What's the most overlooked aspect of designing or knitting a finished piece?

The finishing. 

I understand knitters want to WEAR THIS NOW. But when you think you’ve spent hours and hours knitting a piece, why would you diss the finishing aspect so much? In a couple of hours you can seam up a sweater with sleeves - they offer better stability, the piece won’t roll around your body and the seams create a better figure. 

And weaving in ends! Change skeins at the edges of a piece to weave them in after seaming, along the seam line - instant invisibility! If you’re working in the round, don’t always change on the same spot! Alternate where your skeins end and use duplicate stitching to make those ends seamlessly disappear.

Do you teach classes? Where?

Right now I’m teaching drop-in 2 hour help sessions at K2tog in Albany, CA. I am lined up to teach throughout the 3 days of Vogue Knitting Live in Pasadena in April 2015! If you’re going, I’d love to see you in my classes/lectures, or even catch up for a selfie along the halls!

You can keep up with Ruth online on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and in her Ravelry group!  

Thank you to Ruth for the interview! You can get your booklets right now on Ravelry, or soon at your LYS. Watch for more interviews coming soon with some of the other Stitch Sprouts designers who created pieces for the booklets!