Knit with Possum Fiber from Zealana Yarn

This article, by Lindsay Smith, is published in Knits Gifts 2015. 

Courtesy of Woolyarns

Photo courtesy of Woolyarns

The Australian brushtail possum is not the same animal as the American opossum, with which you might be familiar. The Australian variety is an invasive species to New Zealand, and it has been destructive to the island nation’s ecosystem. But it also produces luxurious fiber that is ideal for handknitting.

In 2005, the New Zealand government called upon the company Woolyarns to create a line of handknitting yarns that would aid in the responsible management of the brushtail possum. Thus, the Zealana brand was born, and it was introduced to the United States in 2006. Since then, Zealana yarns have increased in popularity and are now sold in more than forty countries around the world. Woolyarns is constantly refining fiber blends to create unique commercial and handknitting yarns—blends such as possum/cashmere and possum/merino.

Knitters love possum fiber’s qualities: It is naturally superwash because the fiber does not felt, nor does it exhibit the same problems with pilling that you find with some fibers. The strands of hair are hollow, so the fiber is warm and lofty, yet it is also thin, which accounts for its exceptional softness. Possum takes dye well. It’s easy to mistake possum fiber for cashmere or angora—the yarn has that same kind of irresistible halo.

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Leaf Panel Beret kit; available for purchase here

Because New Zealand’s climate includes all kinds of weather (with seasons opposite of those in the United States), each yarn is based on a need you might have for a specific garment. For example, Cozi is intended for use in sock projects and has a little bit of texturized nylon for durability and stretch. Luxuria Air is top of the line: an extraordinary blend of 40% possum, 40% cashmere, and 20% mulberry silk. This yarn would make a perfect smoke ring, lace scarf, or delicate beret. For an elegant one-skein project in this yarn, consider the Leaf Panel Beret by Kim Haesemeyer (shown above), which comes packaged as a kit in a delightful little hat box.

Across the yarn lines, Zealana’s distinctive palette was inspired by the landscapes of New Zealand. Woolyarns’ headquarters is located in the Wellington region on the North Island, which boasts snow-capped peaks, green hills dotted with sheep, and the crisp water of Wellington Harbour. The sophisticated range of nature-inspired colors suits the brand’s overall luxury aesthetic.

That aesthetic is reinforced in the packaging of the yarn—each ball is wound into a compact package with an embossed, metallic tag attached around the middle. The company sent me a few samples to review, and I was delighted at the pretty packaging. And the first time I felt the possum fiber, I couldn’t believe how soft it was—as soft as qiviut, I thought. A couple of balls of possum yarn would make a very thoughtful gift—maybe one or two balls of laceweight Kiwi wrapped ever-so-carefully in tissue, set inside an exquisitely wrapped box.

Zealana’s pattern collections are also simple, sophisticated, and designed for the modern knitter. You can find more patterns and info on the yarns online at www.zealana.com.

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