Long time woolybaabaa.com shoppers know that I got my start with the Dale of Norway yarns. I will be forever grateful that I was able to first work for their US distribution office and then go on to create my own business selling and supporting their quality products and getting to know their amazing fans. This coming March will mark five years since they decided to stop distributing in the US, and since then I have been on a hunt to find yarns that are comparable in quality, gauge, price, color selection, wearability, durability, washability, wound into center pull balls and most of all, something I want to confidently recommend to knitters when they are embarking on a fair isle project that is worthy of their talent, time and money. That is a tall order!
I have been sampling many yarns over the last five years and I even tried creating my own yarn. Let me tell you, either I am extra-picky, or such a yarn didn’t exist to replace either Falk or Heilo that I can easily represent. By that I mean, yes there are other Scandinavian wool companies making similar yarns, but being afforded the opportunity to sell them involves a bit of a club membership to which this American gal doesn’t have. This summer I came across West YorkShire Spinner’s ColourLab and put it through my tests, and I am very happy to report it ticked all of my boxes!
Colour Lab is closest to Falk because it is machine washable, so Falk is the quality of yarn I’ll use as my benchmark.
The recommended gauge for Falk is 5.5 sts to the inch on size 3 (3.25mm) needles. The recommended gauge for ColourLab is 5.5 sts to the inch on size 6 (4 mm) needles. I knit my test sweater on size 4 (3.5mm) needles over color work and size 3 (3.25mm) needles over stockinette and came out exactly at 5.5 sts to the inch on both. I used to use size 3 (3.25mm) needles when working with Falk on both colorwork and stockinette stitch in the round. It’s a minor adjustment that has as much to do with my knitting style as the yarn.
“Put up” refers to how the yarn is sold, either wound into center pull balls or sold as hanks that then must be wound or hand rolled into a ball. Falk is sold as center pull balls, same as ColourLab. The only difference is Falk is sold in 50 gr balls with 116 yds (106 meters) and ColourLab is sold in 100 gr balls with 245 yds (225 meters), so you are getting more yardage per ounce with ColourLab, which suggests that ColourLab is thinner or simply lighter than Falk. If that is true, it isn’t noticeable. The finished piece feels substantial and normal weight for a wool sweater.
I use my Falk sweaters mostly as outdoor wear when being physically active. I find them a bit too warm for inside wear unless it’s a particularly cold day. I knit my test sweater for a child so I can’t speak to the warmth level of ColourLab but being 100% wool I have no doubt it is just as warm albeit a slightly lighter weight sweater. As to the durability of ColourLab, I “winged” my pattern in both shape and motifs, so needless to say I ripped out a lot. The yarn held up beautifully, stayed twisted and I didn’t find even one knot in the 4 balls I used.
Five years ago a 50 gr ball of Falk was about $8. ColourLab is $10.50 for 100 gr today, so a solid value for sure. My most recent color card for Falk had 56 colors on it. ColourLab currently offers 18 solid colors and 5 variegated colors, which isn’t bad for a new yarn. Hopefully we’ll see the palette grow as it gains in popularity. The colors are rich and crisp and have minimal bleed when washed, another very important metric on my quality checklist. While on the subject of washing, I’d like to add that Colourlab doesn’t “grow” much when wet. Anyone who has had the experience of watching their sweater come out of the washing machine or tub and seen it look like it’s now for an NBA player, knows what I mean. Super washed wools have a tendency to stretch when wet and hopefully shrink back up when dry. Colourlab stays true to size during the washing process, and blooms beautifully into perfect stitch uniformity, but of course, it cannot be machine dryed, It is 100% wool!
All told, ColourLab is a worthy investment both for my business and my knitting. I hope you will give it a try and share what you think.