Possums are cute, right?
Not to many New Zealanders. This second series of the Fibre Exchange is about possum fibre. Here in New Zealand, possum fibre is huge. Walk into any touristy store and you can expect to find a combination of possum merino wool socks, possum fur willie warmers and possum fur gloves.
But before coming to New Zealand, I had heard almost nothing of knitting with possum fibre. And to be honest, it sounded a bit cruel. After doing a bit of research, however, I soon discovered just how not cruel using possum fibre really is.
Let’s get into the history of the possum fibre industry.
Brushtail possums were first brought to New Zealand from Australia in the 1800’s to establish a fur industry. As the fur trade died out in the early 1900’s, the possum population quickly spun out of control. Since then, the New Zealand government has been struggling to keep the numbers down as possums eat and destroy the native New Zealand vegetation and trees that so many of the New Zealand birds (including the famed kiwi!) depend on.
The luxury fibre industry first began incorporating possum fibre into wool in the 1990’s. Over the years, possum merino wool has become more and more recognized as a luxury wool, with properties surpassing even that of cashmere. According to Zealana, their possum merino wool is 55% warmer than merino alone, and 35% warmer than cashmere.
Not only that, but the hollow nature of the possum fibre make it very lightweight (a perfect excuse for me to bring along more balls of yarn than necessary on my backpacking trip).
Hmm, I wonder how it possum merino wool would compare to yak?
For the Askews me shawl pattern by Stephen West I have been working on (or should I say getting frustrated at), I bought a 2 ply yarn with only 10% possum (I found some yarns with 40% possum, but those were a bit too pricey for me). I love the colour and feel of it, and cannot wait to finish this project!
As I think I went in a bit over my head with the Stephen West pattern, I’m thinking of putting it off to the side and instead using the yarn to make a Purl Bee 2 Colour Brioche Cowl, and then moving up to the Stephen West shawl once I get the hang of 2 colour brioche. Baby steps.
Have you used possum fibre in your knitting or spotted it in any shops lately? How do you like it?
You might also like: The Fibre Exchange Part I: Merino Wool