This week, readers, I've been to the newly-opened John Lewis store in Cambridge. It's a bit more adventurous with its interior design than I've known other JL stores to be, which is a good thing, and there are five floors to explore. However, don't rush there if your sole purpose is to buy yarn because the offering hasn't expanded in line with the size of the shop. There is actually slightly less choice in yarn here than I found in John Lewis Solihull the other week. For example, the Cambridge store really hasn't twigged to the popularity of sock yarn - that one forlorn Regia sock kit does not count because its massive 7" steel dpns would inconvenience the most experienced sock knitter, and as for learning socks on dpns that long & spiky ... best not imagine it. They have no other sock yarn for sale that I could see. To be fair to Cambridge, they do have a good selection of Rowan and a few other yarn brands in all the usual weights above 4-ply, including some bamboo products, so they're not completely off the mark.
One of JL's more interesting introductions to its yarn offering is Mirasol. It's a brand with a heartwarming backstory (the hyperlink takes you to the Mirasol Project website). The yarn originates on an alpaca ranch in Peru. The people there are economically disadvantaged, but they make great yarn. A percentage of sales of Mirasol yarn gets reinvested back into the alpaca farmers' community, where it does things like supporting local schools for the farmers' children.
So, in the absence of any standard sock yarn, I got myself two skeins of Mirasol Hacho, a 100% merino yarn with a recommended gauge of 22sts on 4mm needles. It reminded me of Colinette's Jitterbug, because of its thick, soft, squishability and variegated jewel tones.
This is shade 302, called 'Peacock Purple', although to my eye, there's a lot of blue in it, and it could stand up to a name with more weight, something less flashy. ... I dunno, you think of something. Cate Blanchett.
I've been experimenting lately with the gauge thing on socks (who am I kidding, experimenting is a euphemism for getting it wrong a lot). I'm finding on the Tiger Eye socks, knitted with standard 4ply sock yarn, that on 2.75" needles, I can reduce the number of stitches in a round from 60 to 56 and still get a good fit. Maybe even a better one. Also, Jitterbug claims to be 4ply but it feels like DK, the socks I made with it turned out large, in my opinion, and ever since I've wondered about knitting it at tighter gauge next time. The Mirasol Hacho, of course, implies DK in its gauge recommendation, but I'm just wondering what would happen if I knit socks from it, on my usual 2.75" needles, on 56sts. I need to find out, and for some reason I always need to do it the hard way. Of course, I have not actually cast on yet, but hey, maybe soon.