Sunday 7 August 2016

Wool & The Gang Billie Jean Yarn Review + Free Summer Scarf Pattern

The British company Wool and the Gang kindly sent me a couple of balls of their new Billie Yarn jean to test.  My review is independent from the company.

Whilst Billie Jean doesn't pass the British made test it does have eco-friendly credentials: it's made from up cycled pre-consumer denim waste. That's right, it comes from the factory offcuts of your pair of jeans.

The yarn comes in two shades: dirty denim, which I used to knit a summer scarf; and washed out denim - a variegated blue colour. Wooly and the Gang says of both shades:
"This waste is ground back into fibre and women into our new Billie Jean Yarn. Using no chemicals and no dyes, we manage to save 20,000 litres of water per kilogram of upcycled material."
Each 100g ball costs £4.95, which I think is pretty reasonable as many 50g balls of cotton yarn from other brands can cost that much.  But how does it knit up? Despite the yarn splitting easily on the needles - after lots of pulling out I just had to accept that there would be a few split stitches - I found it softer and easier to knit with than Rowan's denim yarn. That yarn turned my fingers blue when knitting it up. Wool and the Gang does warn that there may be a small amount of colour transfer, but I didn't experience this. The company also says that the knitted garment may fade, like a pair of jeans does, during the first wash.

To test the yarn I made up a pattern for a summer scarf. I'm very pleased with the result. One ball produced a decent length scarf, although if I knit again I will make it a couple of stitches thinner in order to gain a bit of extra length.

Here's the finished scarf modelled by my friend Catherine:

Close up you can see the lacy design:

The pattern

I had a look through my well-used Vogue Knitting book to find a stitch that I thought would be suitable for a summer scarf. And I did! It's basic faggoting stitch. As well as being a simple-enough stitch to remember it creates some lovely cool (using the temperature rather than the fashion meaning of the word) holes between stitches.

Using size 6 needles I cast on 18 stitches using the cable cast on method.

Row 1: K1 * yo, SSK (repeat from * until the last stitch), K1.

Repeat row 1 until the ball is nearly finished, then cast off knitwise.

Wool and the Gang's yarn support

The company sells its own patterns to use with Billie Jean, including tops and a pair of shorts (?). I've found in the past that whilst the patterns are good quality they are, for the adult garments at least, one size only. This may be fine if you are five foot eight size 10 model, but it's certainly not for little me. When I buy a pattern I don't want to have to do extra work figuring out how to make the proportions smaller. Therefore, sadly, there's no sale from me.

If the patterns were multi-sized this is the one I would choose. It's a baggy, slouchy, weekend-style jumper that I think would be a perfect summer cover up for when the sun goes down:

Image courtesy of Wool and the Gang
I particularly like the wide sleeves and the neckline. So please Wool and the Gang, release the pattern in a woman's size 6 for me and the full gamut of sizes to fit the array of women out there who'd like to wear it!

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