Harborside Aran: An Introduction and Review
It’s always exciting to introduce a yarn like Harborside Aran to the Brown Sheep family. It’s especially exciting when the new yarn arrives in time for fall and the high crafting season!
Harborside Aran is the latest addition to our line of pure wool yarns. Brown Sheep Company have developed a well-rounded and well-respected class of 100% wools, from Nature Spun to Burly Spun, Shepherd’s Shades, Prairie Spun DK, and others. Available in a diverse range of weights, our 100% wool yarns offer crafters a beautiful fiber for knitting, crocheting, weaving, felting, and more.
About Harborside Aran
Harborside Aran is a 4-ply yarn spun with a mixture of Columbian and Rambouillet sheep fibers from the United States. As you’ll see shortly, the weight is a bit thicker than a worsted, but thinner than a bulky wight—a true aran weight yarn. Here are the official specs:
- 100% wool
- 4-ply yarn
- 100 grams
- 162 yards
- Gauge: 16 sts per 4″
- Needle size: US 9
Harborside Aran’s conception and creation was wholly inspired by the traditional sweater styles and knitting techniques celebrated in the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland. The eponymous Aran sweaters worn by the fisherman who worked and lived on the islands have inspired knitters since the late 1800s. Traditional Aran sweaters were made with 100% wool. They were highly durable, hydrophobic—a necessity at sea!—warm, and, perhaps most notably, usually knit with high-relief textures and cable motifs. Incorporating textural stitch work like ribbing, plaits, bobbles, cables and Celtic Knots created a doubly warm fabric well suited to life at sea.
Harborside Aran’s soft but woolly feel and palette of 17 colors harken back to the Aran sweaters of old. You can practically see the Irish thistle in the warm Fuchsia Coral color, and the Golden Seahorse color is reminiscent of the gorse that blooms year-round across Ireland. Each of the colors holds a little bit of the Emerald Isle.
Brown Sheep Company were kind enough to send me four skeins of Harborside Aran to play with before the yarn officially lands on the website (looking for Harborside Aran right now? Check out our store locator for the Brown Sheep Company purveyor nearest to you).
I chose Harborside Aran in Nautical Navy, Sea Monster Green, Harbor Fog and Golden Seahorse. If you’ve been participating in our yearly shawl MKAL, you probably recognize these color pairings. As you can see in my True Blue Shawl, I have a thing right now for navy, green, and gray!
The first thing I noticed when I received the skeins was how plump and soft they were. Harborside Aran has a high smoosh factor. Winding the skeins into cakes was a quick delight. I wound the gray skein last—it looks slightly smaller because I sped up my winding on the swift. Can you tell I was excited to start knitting??
Knitting with Harborside Aran
I opted to cast on Harborside Aran with the recommended needle size—US size 9—and used metal needles. The yarn slid easily off the needles and it didn’t chafe my fingers, which I loved. I tend to hold tension in my yarn by wrapping it around my middle and pointer finger. That means as I’m knitting along, really woolly yarns can irritate my sensitive skin as they slide over fingers. Not the case with Harborside Aran! The yarn is buttery soft.
Since Harborside Aran was inspired by classic Aran sweaters, I wanted to test out some different textural patterns. I chose 4 different swatches: a mixture of garter and stockinette swatch, a lace swatch, a bobble swatch, and a cable swatch. I noticed right away that Harborside Aran has a lot of spring to it—it’s bouncy and robust, and the ply has the perfect level of twist. It’s not so loose that I ever split a stitch (not once!), but it’s just loose enough to remain a little airy.
I tend to be a tight knitter, but I felt very relaxed when knitting with Harborside Aran. I would probably do another swatch test to get a true idea of my gauge, because I got the recommended gauge (4sts = 1″) in stockinette before blocking. And I knew right away that my gauge was going to grow once I blocked.
Blocking Harborside Aran
My bobble swatch (let’s call them blorbles at the pre-blocking stage, because that’s what they look like), lace swatch, and cable swatch were a bit tighter (closer to 4.5-5sts=1″), but I knew those would loosen up to the listed gauge after blocking. I loved the way each of these swatch fabrics felt. If I were knitting a sweater in Harborside Aran, I could easily use a pattern that called for anywhere between 14 and 18 stitches to the inch.
I didn’t block my stockinette/garter swatch as aggressively as the other swatches. It didn’t need the stitchwork opened up, so I simply washed it and laid it flat on the board.
Before and After Blocking
I’m really happy with the before and afters.
This yarn blooms beautifully when you wash and block it. My blorbles became proper bobbles! And, as predicted, my gauges for lace, cables, and bobbles were approximately 4 sts to the inch. The stockinette/garter swatch was closer to 3.5-3.75 sts to the inch. This is a yarn that really sings with textured stitch work.
All in all, I’m very pleased with how Harborside Aran works up in a variety of stitches. It’s plush, soft, bouncy, not-at-all splitty, and the classic, vintage-inspired colors feel timeless to me. The one thing I didn’t do was try something with multiple colors. I’m already dreaming up a hat and matching fingerless mitts that use some slip stitch color work magic.
Are you excited to try Harborside Aran? Let us know!
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