Visit Wise Geek for a great definition of tweed and what makes a tweed. Below is a short excerpt:
Tweed yarn is a type of yarn that features contrasting flecks of color on a solid background. The flecks of color are often small pieces of short fiber leftover from carding spun together with plies of another fiber. Most kinds of tweed yarn are made with wool, and many varieties are known for their rough, scratchy texture, as well as their warmth and durability. Some tweed varieties are blended with softer luxury or synthetic fibers in order to lessen the scratchiness of the yarn. Tweed yarn is available in a wide range of yarn weights, or strand thicknesses, though lace weight tweed is not as common as worsted or aran weight tweed.
I love to work with tweed yarns and lately I have been working with some of the best! One is no longer available – Rowan Scottish Tweed DK by Rowan Yarns (originally named Harris Tweed, the yarn had to undergo a name change after a trade name dispute) and the other, Milarrochy Tweed is brand spanking new! Tweeds come and go – they are a more interesting yarn than the basics, but they are not so interesting so that when knit that they obscure the patterning that you are creating. And Tweeds shine when they are used in colourwork patterns like fair-isle. All the flecks of colour, called nepps, pull every colour together!
What is it that makes tweed yarns different from the others? It would be the nepps – little flecks of colour, quite often made of Donegal wool, that are spun into the solid colour base yarn. Tweeds have been made from silks, cottons, alpaca, and acrylics, but most commonly tweeds are made with wool. Good woolly wool usually, something with a bite and crispness that make your stitch work standout and your knitting sing!
I have worked with many tweeds, Rowan Fine Tweed, Rowan Tweed DK, Spindrift, Lang Merino Donegal, Donegal Tweed, Summer Tweed and other variations on the tweed theme. Most share the traditional wooly hand, a little picky and a little stiff, Lang Merino Donegal is one of the exceptions, being merino it is softer than the others.
Milarrochy Tweed by Kate Davies is a new tweed on the market and it is a welcome addition for a number of reasons. One being, that Rowan has discontinued its more traditional tweeds, Rowan Fine Tweed and Rowan DK Tweed. Both were beautiful woolly, neppy yarns, with fabulous colours and shading. So Milarrochy Tweed helps to fill in the gap. The other – while it has a traditional tweed look, it is much softer than a traditional tweed, once washed and blocked.
Milarrochy Tweed; 70% wool, 30% mohair; 25grs; 100m; has 12 colours, designed to work together in a variety of ways. See Kate Davies own blog post for the breakdown of colours in the current (2018) palette. I can hardly wait for more colours to be added in the future.
Milarrochy Tweed knits just like any other traditional tweed. It is wooly, a little sticky, a little stiff and has great body. Like most singles it does has a tendency to get a little thin in spots; I am a firm knitter and had no problem with breakage. I did break the Fine Rowan Tweed a couple of times. The colours blend beautifully while working fair-isle. It was a very satisfying knit.
It was after blocking that this yarn became exceptional – at least in my eyes and hands! Milarrochy Tweed softens and blooms like no other tweed that I have worked with, developing a drape and filling in the colours with a delicate halo! This is all due to the addition of the mohair. Thirty percent mohair does not sound like a lot, but it is enough to change the yarn into something quite unexpected and quite beautiful. I am looking forward to working more projects with this yarn, my future sweater in the Gloaming jumped up a number of places on my ever growing and ever lasting queue.
The other tweed that I am currently working with is Scottish Tweed. It is out of my stash and sadly is no longer available – it is/was however, a perfect tweed, with lots of body and bounce. The flecks of colour in this yarn are rich and subtle. I am not always a fan of subtle when working with tweed, I like a colourful palette of nepps, but for the current project, Carbeth by Kate Davies, the subtleness of the colour is perfect.
Rowan Scottish Tweed DK; 100% wool; 50grs; 113m; it had a great range of colours and is well worth tracking down if you are looking for a good tweed. Though those stashing it on Ravelry may not be willing to part with it!