Wollmeise: yarn review

After the appearance of the elusive Wollmeise at the recent I Knit Fandango this past spring, it seemed like a good time to review this yarn on the blog. Wollmeise isn’t as hard to come by as you might think – although because it is mostly only available online, hopefully this review by Robynn will let you know a little more about it.

L-R: Gluckstag, Amazonas, Franz with Chickenpox, Flohmarkt

Louise’s I Knit Fandango acquisitions from Wollmeise, L-R: Gluckstag, Amazonas, Franz with Chickenpox, Flohmarkt

Sold directly from the website, which usually has a few colourways of each yarn in stock and many more to ogle. Also sold at shows (usually in Germany), through Loop in London (physical store only) and The Loopy Ewe.

Wollmeise Pure in Himbeere

Wollmeise 100% superwash merino in Himbeere

Pure: Superwash merino, 525m/575 yards per 150g skein Twin: 80% superwash merino, 20% polyamide, 467m/510 yards per 150g skein
Blend: 70% superwash merino, 20% cashmere, 10% polyamide, 500m/545 yards per 150g skein

Wollmeise is one of those yarns. The name everyone knows, the one you’ve heard is hard to come by and even harder to let go. The one synonymous with obsession. The one with a dozen Ravelry groups devoted to it, at least one of which is among the most active on Ravelry – and is entirely fan-run. The one that comes up every so often in Ravelry threads that start with “What’s all the fuss about?” and turn rapidly into 30 pages of Very Strongly Held Opinions. It is, arguably, a cult.

So the only reasonable way to start a Wollmeise review is to answer that question: what do people love about it? There are three answers: the colours. The stitch definition. And the generous put-up. (Ok, that last one doesn’t sound like a very strong selling point by itself, but in combination – it’s a definite plus.)

Wollmeise - silver

Wollmeise Blend in Silver

Claudia Höll-Wellmann, the Wollmeise dyer, specialises in astonishingly vivid, super-saturated hues: brights, darks, tropical variegateds and gothic semi-solids. A wall of Wollmeise (such as that seen at London’s Knit Nation a few years ago) is almost literally stunning; the intensity and range of the colours can leave you dazed. And her eye for colour combinations is unerring; while I’m not equally drawn to every single colourway, I’ve never seen one that is less than gorgeous.

That alone – a talent for colour mixing, and a willingness to build a vast range of repeatable shades – built her reputation. But it’s the distinctive texture that turned the sock yarns into an iconic brand. When people talk about Wollmeise, it’s almost always Pure or Twin they’re referring to. Both of these are super-smooth, super-taut yarns: multiple plies twisted together under extremely high tension, to the point where they suggest cotton rather than wool. No fluffiness here; no pilling. Which makes for perfectly crisp cables and high-relief texture, as well as robust, durable socks, even with the Pure merino yarn. It also means a distinct lack of bounce, which is why my own stash is pretty Wollmeise-light – I love the colours, but I like a yarn I can squoosh.

Wollmeise Blend in Zarte Knospe

Wollmeise Blend in Chartreuse

Recent addition Blend shakes things up a bit. The 20% cashmere content adds softness, warmth – and a powerful reason to ease up a bit on the spinning. No point in twisting cashmere so hard that it doesn’t feel like cashmere any more, so Blend is noticeably more relaxed than its sock yarn siblings, and is reviving my interest in the line. Another difference: Claudia is offering it in a few more smoky, woody, earthy shades than her usual (such as Kakao, or the tea rose pink Gloire de Dijon – the closest I’ve ever seen to a Wollmeise pastel), as well as the intense brights you’d expect. But, so far at least, no variegateds.

Wollmeise Blend in Fucsia

Wollmeise Blend in Fuchsia

While fairly smooth for cashmere, and with 10% nylon content making socks at least an option, Blend has a gentle fluffiness and sheen that could be used either to soften the high-definition cables of a typical Wollmeise pattern, or to lift a simpler style out of the ordinary. Personally, I would love to use it for something to wrap around my neck, where I could best enjoy the luscious feel of it while also ensuring maximum show-off potential – something like the Ironbridge Cowl. Pure or Twin, meanwhile, would be at their best making the leaves pop in Leave It to Me, or the columns in Raymi. And if you’ve got one of Claudia’s jewel-like variegated skeins to play with? Slipstream Mitts and Cowl would be just what you need to make those colours sing!

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