Zealana yarns

Rimu yarn and Vogue hat

I’m back from vacation and surprises await!  Unlike Lea-Ann, I usually like surprises and this was an interesting one.  As I am getting filled in on what’s been going on and what I need to do, yada yada, Lea-Ann shows me (a picture of) a hat that is in the fall issue of Vogue Knitting that is made using a yarn from Zealana, a yarn co. out of New Zealand.  That in itself is nothing all that unusual, however the fiber for this yarn is 60% NZ Merino; 40% Possum.  Yep, I said possum.  Before you shudder in disgust (which I admit I sort of did) I have to tell you that it is very soft and not large rodent-ish at all.  Also a plus is the fact that it is 55% warmer than merino wool and 35% warmer than cashmere.  Add to that the low prickle factor, resistance to pilling, and durability and it starts to lose some of the “yuck” impression.

I am going to fill you in a bit about the possum problem in New Zealand and give a few facts about the possum fiber because I find this all incredible interesting.  The brush-tail possum is not a native animal to New Zealand and is causing all kinds of environmental havoc.  They have no natural enemies and they now number about 15 possums per person (that’s 60 million possums!).  In one night they destroy approximately 20,000 tons of vegetation.  As a result various organizations are trying to control the number of possums as a means of protecting the eco system.  Count it as a bonus to us that possum fiber turns out to be quite unique and has many redeeming qualities.  I mentioned the prickle factor above, or lack thereof in regards to possum.  Possum fiber is tapered and is approximately 1 to 2 microns at the tip.  This means that the ends of the fiber are waaay below the threshold of 30 micron, the level that has been shown to cause “prickle” sensation.   Because the fiber is hollow it has exceptional thermal properties (also referred to above).  Zealana fabrics (such as those using Rimu yarn) will absorb reasonable quantities of moisture without feeling damp, also helping to retain body heat.   The Rimu yarn is strong and hard-wearing with little pilling.  And it really does have a nice feel.

brush tailed possum

So, now that you know a little about the possum fiber what do you think?  Could you get over the idea of how ugly and beady-eyed a possum is?  Can you get past the idea that it is a nasty pest of an animal and love it for it’s fiber?  (okay, maybe not love it, but at least look at it a little differently)  Does it matter to you what a fiber was before it is spun into yarn?  I have to admit that once I got over the initial reaction I am looking forward to receiving the Rimu.  I keep touching the sample ball and have decided that it really doesn’t matter that they are a pest in New Zealand, or that they aren’t the prettiest animals.  The finished product redeems the animal and proves that beauty isn’t everything.  I can’t wait to get this in!!


*Updated 8/6/09

Now that I have some comments I will admit that I was going to use a different picture of the possum, but they were all so darn cute that I didn’t want to influence anyone!  This possum is not like our Opussum, it eats vegetation only, the tail isn’t so rat-like, and the teeth don’t appear to be so fearsome.  However, it is still considered a pest and creates all sorts of environmental issues.  We just received the yarn that we are going to do the samples out of and it is all wonderful!

5 thoughts on “Zealana yarns”

  1. This sounds very interesting. I’ve heard of possum yarn before, but never seen or touched it. After looking up these interesting creatures, they are not like our American “rat-like” possums. These look more like a “bush baby”, to me. Therefore, not yucky!

  2. A. Warped, Knitter

    I knit up a small sample of the Rimu today and it looks and feels really soft. I particularly like the way the fine black hairs are scattered through the yarn- really gives depth to the color.
    I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I think the New Zealand Opossum are much nicer looking that the ones that forage in my yard.

  3. I saw the sample Mary knit and it really is soft. The color is quite nice also. Susan I took a peek, I know you do not like us to know what is under the desk or on the desk, but I could not help myself. Looks like some good stuff. I was basically good today, not 100 percent, but almost….I do love yarn sales.

  4. I have used several Zealana yarns and don’t know which one I love the most. The yarn is very light and a treat to your hands! I have knit two scarves and they both turned out beautiful – next project is the Vogue Hat in Rimu fingering!

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