Newer knitters often treat “exotic” fibers with awe. (Well, all of us fiber devotees will agree exotic fibers ARE something!) Sadly, many new knitters seem almost hesitant to touch these fibers – never mind knitting with them! “Maybe when I’m a better knitter” or “I just couldn’t!”
Well, you can, even if you’re a new(er) knitter!
I like to remind knitters that many “exotic” fibers were previously on the back or stomach of an array of four-legged creatures (e.g., yaks, musk ox, goats, etc.) as they trudged through streams, climbed up the sides of mountains, or lumbered across plains in all sorts of weather. (Anyone who’s ever spun unprocessed fiber can attest to the amount of various and often smelly, shall we say, organic matters in the fiber.)
With that in mind, I never worry about wearing sweaters I’ve knit or wraps I’ve woven out of exotic fibers. They’re warm and luxurious. If soiled, they’re hand washable! Once I was wearing a cashmere wrap while holding a friend’s baby. The baby started vomiting (think Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”), and my wrap took the brunt of it. The baby’s family was mortified and kept apologizing. As they offered to replace it or have it dry cleaned, I scraped off what I could 🙂 and then rinsed it in their sink. When I got home I washed it on the stove top. I started by immersing it in a very large pot of soapy cold water and then gradually bringing to a low simmer. Later, after a few gentle rinses (and a dab of vinegar), it was as right as rain!
So, what does the new knitter start with? As “exotic” fibers are often pricey, I suggest a low stress project that can be made of a lace weight cashmere. (Remember the yardage of each skein varies so what you can make from what skein also varies.) A nice first “exotic” project could be, for instance, a pair of knit cuffs or fingerless mittens. If the new knitter would like to try lace, I’d suggest a garter lace in a small triangular or rectangular neck scarf pattern – always great in cashmere!
Go on – treat yourself!