Billow by Knit Picks
Fiber Content: 100% Pima Cotton
Weight: Bulky Weight
Knitting Gauge: 3 - 3.75 sts = 1" on US 10 - 11 needles (6.0mm-8.0mm)
Crochet Gauge: 8–11 sc = 4'' on K-M hooks (6.5mm - 9mm)
Put Up: hank
Care: Hand Wash/Dry Flat
Price: $5.99 each
Color Palette: 16 colors
Patterns : 9 patters for purchase using Billow via the Knit Picks website.
First Impressions of Billow
When I first touched this skein of yarn I could not believe the softness. The way the yarn feels and how it rebounds when you squeeze it is a pure delight. As I wound it from the hank into a center pull ball I still could not get over just how soft it was. The next thing I noticed as I wound the hank was the yarn would go from a wonderful cushy bulky to a, I kid you not, lace weight thickness in places. I was really surprised the yarn got that thin. I thought "Is this right?" So I went to the Knit Picks website and looked at the description for the yarn. The description reads "Eight plies of super soft pima cotton create a slightly thick and thin texture..." In my opinion it should ready slightly thick to very thin. While not a fan of yarns having that drastic of a variation in thickness I did love the way it felt in my hand, I just had to knit something with it. How could I resist?
Swatching with Billow
For the crochet swatch I found Billow also worked quite well. The thinner aspects to the yarn stand out a bit more in crochet when they end up making a full stitch since you end up with stitches that look like they went on a drastic diet compared to the ones made from the more consistent bulky/super bulky sections. I did manage to end up having many of the thinner sections end up at the top of my crochet stitches so I was able to hide them in the swatch by working the new stitch over them.
When it came to the Abuse Olympics Billow had its ups and downs. Let's start with the ups. This yarn unknits very well. Undoing your stitches is definitely a breeze. On the other hand when you are frogging a section of yarn Billow does not hold up so well. Remember those errant fibers I told you about earlier? They immediately begin to show up. By frog number two little pills are showing up and by frog three you will need to take a damp cloth and gently go over the surface of the yarn to remove the pilling and clean the yarn up. I found this to be really disappointing. I had so many visions of some over sized baby blankets and I couldn't imagine making them after this simply because of the pilling.
Making a Project with Billow
Final Thoughts about Billow
When it comes to the varying thickness I did find the yarn more of the fuller, larger, thickness vs the thin, dense thickness. Unfortunately, when you get into some of the really thin areas it shows up in your work clear as day. If you want this effect Billow will give that to you. If you do not want this effect you will not be happy with Billow. I would be absolutely in love with this yarn if the variation had a more limited range of light worsted to bulky. In my opinion it would still provide the textural variation in the finished fabric without having the occasional drastic change to lace weight. With that said a large part of loving or hating variation in thickness comes down to personal preference combined with the look you are seeking to obtain in your finished fabric. Regarding hand Billow is immediately inviting, the fullness and rebounding nature to the overall fiber is what you would envision if you were squeezing a cloud and reflects in your finished item. I find the overall nature of the fiber to conjure images of rustic, artisanal, raw finished items be they a simple hat or full sized afghan. The raw cotton is an inviting aspect to this yarn however the little fibers that shed make it a bit irritating (in the irritating to the eyes/nose/throat sense) to work with. This shedding also results in an item that is quick to pill. While pilling is expected in virtually all knit and crochet work to some degree it happens pretty quickly here.
Billow is not, in my opinion, a fully versatile yarn which can work across various types of projects and styles. I don't think it was intended as a catch all fiber nor is it billed as one. I would be remiss if I did not say Billow is one of the richest cottons I have felt and that same richness carries through to the finished project. This yarn just needs matching with the right project and the right person. In the end I find myself asking the question "Would I use this yarn again?" The answer is "Yes... if the right project came along." If I were making a decorative throw that would be a static piece I would have no problem using Billow for it. If it were for a sweater I just couldn't see myself using it because of the issues already discussed. Like I said it needs the right project.
This yarn is really hard to rate because so many aspects to this yarn are really going to come down to personal preferences and individual likes and dislikes. For the artistic knitter who is looking for something that creates diversity across the fabric and wants to use a plant fiber this would be a recommendation I would make to them. For the average knitter/crocheter it is one of those fibers a person will either love or hate. When it comes to hand the yarn is a five stitch marker without a doubt. When it comes to the versatility of the fiber I regrettably have to rate it a two stitch marker. There just is too limited a range of use in my opinion. For the artistic potential the richness/visual interest the yarn can provide for those looking for these specific qualities this is a four and a half stitch marker in this area. The variation in thickness and muted, yet well saturated, coloring is a definite boon. The limited color range in the palette is what keeps it from being a five regarding this very specific attribute. When it comes to ease of use, because of the shedding inherent to the fiber, I would have to rate it a three at best. If you have sensitive eyes/nose/throat I would have to encourage you to veer away from this particular yarn. In the end I would give this an overall rating of 3.5 stitch markers with a qualification. The qualification being you really need to try it for yourself to see what you think because this is a yarns where personal preference strongly come into play. It's not a run on the mill yarn where there are a slew of comparable yarns nor is it a shabby yarn with no quality behind it. This is one of those rare instances where the pros are matched by the cons. There is potential in this particular yarn. The formulation just needs a bit of work especially to reduce or eliminate the shedding issue. For pricing and yardage the yarn is a reasonable buy so giving a one skein project a go to evaluate the yarn for yourself won't break the bank. Knit Picks does have some great products to choose from like their Comfy Fingering Yarn (click for review) so when you are looking for that one other item to get you to the free shipping mark a skein of Billow may be a worth while option.