In 2002, working from the point of view of both designer and knitter, Catherine sketched out on a piece of paper her vision of the ideal yarn collection. She had one over-arching goal for the yarns: to enable the knitter to produce a fabric with an extremely stable and even stitch structure so that the finished project would maintain its original shape and appearance throughout its lifetime. For the collection itself, her aim was flexibility: a small selection of compatible and complementary natural fibers of the finest quality available; a color palette that was consistent across all the yarns; the ability to mix different yarns in a single strand; and the ability to build a strand of yarn on demand. A unique concept that would produce the ultimate bespoke yarn for handknitting. After several years of research, visiting mills and swatching, her yarn collection launched in early 2005.
In 2011, we learned that the mill producing our lovely merino had closed. It had been purchased by its rival and then shut down. A considerable inventory allowed us to continue offering the merino, but eventually our stock was exhausted. Almost four years of searching for a yarn of comparable quality and more than a year of color development later, the first shipment of our new merino arrived in early 2016. Our original collection of four yarns was complete once again.
We've welcomed the new yarn with a few changes that affect the entire collection. To acknowledge Catherine's original vision and to underscore the custom preparation each order receives, we've named the collection bespoke. To make ordering and substitution within a mix easier, we now identify the mixes by their components. This also lets the knitter know exactly which yarns are in the strand.
The founding principles of the collection remain. We continue to build each strand of yarn on demand, to offer bespoke in 100 yard increments, and to prepare the total yardage ordered in as few balls as possible.
From its inception, the unprecedented and unique flexibility of our collection has been embraced by knitters and designers alike, allowing them to re-think completely their approach to yarn choice and garment design. We hope the example of our custom preparation will further inspire knitters to create a personal collection of bespoke singles from which to build their own yarns at will.
Ours is a small collection of four yarns made from natural fibers of unsurpassed quality. The color palette is consistent across the yarns, each of which begins as a cobweb weight single. Handknitting weights from lace to aran and beyond are created by building a strand with multiple singles of the same yarn or by mixing different yarns in the same strand. Bespoke is custom prepared for each order.
100% merino extra fine superior, imported from Italy
For a crisply elegant fabric with a soft drape and excellent stitch definition.
100% royal baby alpaca, imported from Peru
For a lustrous, cozy fabric with a silky drape and a whisper of a halo.
100% cultivated silk, imported from Italy
A characteristic shimmer and liquid hand with superb stitch definition.
40% silk / 60% kid mohair, imported from Japan
A luminous silk core wrapped with a gossamer halo of kid mohair.
We take distinct pride in our yarns and have spent years sourcing these noble fibers and developing them into handknitting yarns. We want you enjoy working with them and wearing your bespoke handknits as much as we do. To provide all the information you'll need to create your own bespoke yarn, to work with it and to care for your finished projects, we've put together a Field Guide.
In our older patterns our yarn is identified as Catherine Lowe Couture Yarn, not as bespoke. Translating one yarn into the other is easy. If the suggested yarn is not a mix, the appropriate bespoke yarn has the same name. For example, if the pattern calls for Catherine Lowe Merino #5 or Catherine Lowe Alpaca #6, you would use bespoke Merino #5 or bespoke Alpaca #6. If the suggested yarn is a mix, it is identified in the older patterns as a CL blend, CL IV #5B for example. Click the button below to learn how to convert yardage requirements for the blends and for a chart that identifies the blends and their corresponding bespoke mixes.CONVERTING CL BLENDS TO BESPOKE
For us, one of the most exciting aspects of bespoke yarn is its breadth of gauge. A single weight of the yarn can be knit at significantly different gauges to produce stunning fabrics, each with its own unique characteristics. Our designs use special gauging and blocking techniques to manipulate the outcome of the fabric (more about that in the sections that follow), but it all begins with the strand of yarn. Click the button below to get to know bespoke. There are guidelines to help you build your own yarn and to anticipate the gauge and characteristics of the finished fabric, as well as stockinette gauge and needle ranges for each bespoke weight. Everything is summarized in table that can be downloaded and printed for easy reference.BUILDING A BESPOKE STRAND
bespoke yarns have been designed to produce handknits that will maintain their original shape and appearance as they are worn and repeatedly cleaned. When gauged correctly, they produce an extremely stable fabric, yet one with a hand and drape associated with woven textiles and unprecedented in handknits. In the ball, these yarns have the dry, non-elastic hand characteristic of thread; once washed and blocked, they literally bloom, and the knitted fabric acquires its familiar loft and softness.
The difference between working with a yarn prepared in this way and one prepared more traditionally for handknitting lies in how the knitted fabric is gauged. It must be knit at a gauge that allows the fabric to accommodate the fiber’s bloom once it has been washed and blocked without sacrificing the hand and drape required by the design. This usually means that the fabric is knit at one gauge, blocked to a second gauge, and then finished at a third. Our patterns are written for bespoke yarns and contain detailed swatching instructions specific to each design, the yarn it requires, the stitch pattern and the desired fabric. All the information and help you'll need are in the pattern. To substitute bespoke in a pattern written for a conventional handknitting yarn, or to use bespoke for an original design, you’ll need to swatch a bit differently than you may be accustomed to doing, with a particular focus on both the finished gauge and the characteristics of the fabric itself. Click the button below for directions that will guide you confidently through this process.SWATCHING BESPOKE
One of the most rewarding moments in the entire fabrication process comes after the final blocking when the knitted fabric leaves the blocking board, once it has been washed and blocked, and then allowed to rest. The moment is particularly rewarding not because it usually signals the end of the process, but because the transformation in the fabric can be truly stunning and is itself just compensation for the care and patience we’ve invested in the knitting. This is especially true in the case of bespoke yarns. Washing has removed the sizing that is part of the yarn‘s special preparation and that stabilizes it during fabrication, so we finally sense its characteristic softness and loft; blocking has set the shape and dimensions of the fabric, imparting the hand, drape and texture appropriate to the design. Click the button below for complete washing and blocking instructions that will help you exploit bespoke’s unique characteristics and create extraordinary knitted fabrics.WASHING + BLOCKING BESPOKE
Our yarns have been designed with a strong focus on the fabric they produce. By following our guidelines for swatching, washing and blocking, the fabric in your bespoke handknits will have an extremely even and stable stitch structure and will ensure that your finished projects will maintain their shape and appearance for many years to come. Proper care is also important. Click the button below for the care information that will give your handknits a long and happy life.CARING FOR BESPOKE HANDKNITS