Yarn Review: Tosh DK by Madelinetosh

Yarn Review: Tosh DK by Madelinetosh               

Tosh DK is a very versatile, multi-ply merino yarn in DK (double-knit) weight. For a single ply dk weight yarn you’d have to use Tosh Merino DK, which will be covered in a separate post.

Quick Facts: Tosh DK mtosdk-oxblood-large

  • Official Name: Tosh DK
  • Primary Fiber: Merino Wool
  • Specific Fiber: 100% superwash Merino
  • Length: 225 yards / 206 meters
  • Gauge KNIT: 20 – 22 sts = 4in / 10cm
  • Gauge CROCHET: 12 – 17 sts =  4in / 10cm
  • Needle size: US 6 – 7 / 4.25 – 4.5mm
  • Hook size: US 7 – I9 / 4.5 – 5.5mm
  • Care: machine wash in cold water / gentle cycle / air dry flat
  • Note: As of Jan 2010 Tosh Worsted was renamed Tosh DK
  • Where to purchase: Check the stockists at their website (enter your country) or the online stockists. In the US and Canada, Madelinetosh is very popular and readily available. For Europe, it’s a bit more difficult and more work to find, but possible.

The Company: Madelinetosh                         madtosh-logo       

Amy Hendrix, founder of Madelinetosh, began in 2006 with an idea of creating an artist’s palette of hand knitting yarns, fulfilling a desire for the perfect hue. Enthused with a love of painting and influenced by the rich history of art in textiles, she sought to create a color palette guided by the subtle nuances and layered depth of colors found in the natural world.  The wool is “ethically sourced from Peruvian and South African Spinning Mills” and “locally dyed by hand in Texas”, the website says.

The Fiber: Merino Wool

Merino wool bears a name which is widely recognized because it so often appears in descriptions and on yarn labels. The omnipresence of Merino wool on the market leads to the (false) conclusion that it’s just a single consistent type of a soft fiber. But on the contrary Merino consists of a span of ultrafine Merino wool types to very coarse ones.

Icebreaker Merino Sheep

Merino Sheep (© Icebreaker)

Merino sheep – which initially originate from a   breed between Spanish ewes to African rams   in the 12th/13th century – grow large quantities of dense, fine wool with regular crimp patterns. The high density of the wool is due to the large number of wool follicles in the skin, compared to other breeds. (Source)

So the fibers of Merino wool are closely packed, which makes it hard for dirt to get down into the staples. It is also protected by a lot of grease which has to removed thoroughly by washing. But be careful, Merino loves to felt easily as well. Who ever threw a Merino sweater (not made from “superwash quality” wool) into a washing machine knows what I’m talking of…

Talking about “superwash” quality: “Each hair of wool is made up of scales. Felting occurs when these scales bind together. The superwash process prevents the scales from binding in one of two ways. Some superwash wools are given an acid bath that removes its scales. Alternatively, the yarn can be coated with a polymer or resin; this is essentially a protective coating for the yarn to prevent felting. A yarn can be treated with either or both methods to become superwash.

wool fibers microscope scales

Wool fibers under a microscope (source: galleryhip.com)

It’s important to remember that excessive heat (such as with a hot setting on a washing machine or dryer) can damage a superwash coating, which may lead to felting. That is why we recommend cold washing and flat drying with our superwash wools. Also, keep in mind that superwash wools tend to stretch a little more than normal. This is because the scales of the yarn cannot bind together. It’s especially important to do a proper gauge swatch with a superwash wool to see how your yarn will stretch.” (Source)

Yarn Review (and the reason why you are here ;))
Pros:

  • Mtosh DK colors eatsleepknit

    Mtosh DK colors at Eatsleepknit.com – click for full size

    Variety of beautiful colors, I counted ~120 different colorways on their current website, but you might get even more or different ones from older seasons at different stockists (f.e. on the picture it’s even 195 colors (source: eatsleepknit.com, no I don’t get commissions ;)). Of course not all stockists have the same colors, but if you are as crazy as me, you even check for special colors at different stockists. Some colors sell out quickly, some are still available even when a new collection comes out. And yes, there are new colorways every season. *swoon* ;) … Oh, and of course it’s better to check the colors directly in a brick-and-mortar shop if possible in any way. The colors displayed on photos at online stockists are so different sometimes that even comparing the same colorway at different stockists can show a color which is way off the real color (and as every monitor displays colors differently as long it’s not professionally calibrated, it’s not even their fault.) So go for the real experience and check out the colors in real life if you can.

  • Springy and bouncy to touch, but gets very soft after washing by hand (sometimes desirable, sometimes not). But I also tend to use Soak, maybe it helped getting the wool even more soft. The softness is of course also great for items worn on your skin like hats or scarves, because there’s really no itchiness. And I’m very picky in this.
  • Good stitch definition, though not as good as the single ply version Tosh Merino DK. But I guess this accounts for every multi-ply yarn, as cables seem not to be as clear as in a single ply yarn.

    purl ridge scarf westknits sunnyi

    Purl Ridge Scarf (Pattern: Stephen West)

  • Machine washable (but I didn’t try this yet).
  • Blocks out nicely so you can adjust a lot which might have gone wrong while knitting your piece concerning size etc.

    purl ridge scarf westknits sunnyi

    Purl Ridge Scarf (Pattern: Stephen West)

Cons:

  • Yarn splits easily while knitting, at least for me (I’m using KnitPro interchangeable wood needles). Because of this, I prefer the single ply version Tosh Merino DK, but it isn’t as readily available for me as the DK version.
  • Somewhat expensive: if you’re buying a skein or two for a small project (hat, mittens, scarf), it’s not horrible (about $19/20€ per skein) but if you need more, it adds up of course.
  • I didn’t experience any bleeding of the colors during washing so far, but I heard even if they might bleed a bit, the colors don’t tend to bleed into each other.
  • No real dyelots: As the wool is dyed in small amounts by hand (4 skeins per dye process), you might experience color changes, even if you buy skeins from the same “batch”. In fact there isn’t anything like a real dye batch or dyelot you can follow to ensure color consistency for your project, but a little trick (my LYS told me) is to pay attention to the small ribbons attached to the skeins when you have the chance to buy the wool in person at a brick-and-mortar shop. Every “batch”/4 skeins have the same ribbon color attached to them.
MTosh Merino Light Dye Lots

Dyelot ribbons, here MTosh Merino Light

  • Dye issues: But even if you pay attention to the ribbons, you might end up with slightly different shades of the same color and a striped project which I just experienced for the back of my Sous sous sweater from the KAL at loopknitting. You might want to alternate skeins to avoid this, but I can live with it, so I didn’t. But it can look like in this picture. You can (hopefully) see the slight color change in the middle section – from a darker shade to a lighter shade, when I started a new skein. And both skeins were from the same “dye lot” (according to the ribbons).

Sous sous sweater

 

Conclusion:

Of course the high price and the dye issues are reasons not to choose this yarn, but in my opinion, the unique colors and the non-scratchiness are rarely beaten by any other yarn. Though my favorite yarn from Madelinetosh is Mtosh Merino Light, but this is another story I will tell another time… ;)

Hopefully this little review will be of use to some of you when you are pondering over the difficult question which yarn to use for a special project. And congrats to anyone who made it this far and read everything. ;)

*****

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