This is the fairly unscientific result of polling the staff. There was a lot of consensus, especially at the top of the list, though not necessarily about the exact sequence. Honorable mention: Plymouth Encore, not because we love it but because there are times when it serves a knitter’s purpose better than anything else; Nashua Creative Focus Worsted, which is too new to have proven itself yet.
1. Manos del Uruguay For color selection, hand, versatility, and the good feeling that comes from knowing the money you pay goes to people who really need it, nothing beats it. It’s the best of both worlds: the textural and color variations camouflage a beginner’s unevenness of tension, and also add a level of subtlety to any experienced knitter’s project. Also, many of us like a yarn that looks like people made it, not machines.
2. Koigu Premium Painter’s Palette Merino Because it’s never the same twice. Because it works on needle sizes from 1 to 15. Because, if you see a color you really really dislike, you can be pretty sure it’ll be someone else’s favorite color ever.
3. Schaefer Yarns, Anne Here, it’s not exactly a matter of versatility; socks, scarves, and shawls pretty much cover its uses. (People talk about using it for sweaters, but I have yet to see one—perhaps because it’s almost impossible to come up with three skeins that match closely enough.) But the fiber blend (superwash merino, mohair, nylon) produces a yarn of remarkable luster and durability; it has enough mohair-y-ness to hold the fabric together at loose gauges, but it never sheds or produces the familiar mohair haze. And of course, Cheryl Schaefer is an incredibly talented dyer.
4. Rowan, Kid Silk Haze Because everything you add it to—from eyelash to sock yarn to Point Five—gets better. Because it’s light as air yet very strong, hazy yet shiny, the star of the show or an invisible carry-along.
5. Noro, Kureyon This yarn was born to make plain sweaters interesting, but it took years before knitters and designers really began to work with its characteristics rather than struggling against them. Now, there’s a ton of great pattern support, and more coming all the time, that use the yarn to emphasize what interesting knitting can do.
6. Jagger Yarns, Zephyr Affordable luxury, in about 60 colors. If you could only have one shawl yarn, you’d want it to be this. Nice in sweaters, too, if you have the patience.
7. Rowan, Calmer We had to put one cotton on the list, and this one’s the best, in terms of both the knitting experience (good “bounce”) and the wearing experience (dry and light, with good resilience).
8. Classic Elite, Inca Alpaca The drape, softness, and warmth we expect from alpaca, in a stunning array of colors suitable for conservative scarves or funky color patterns.
9. Prism, Wild Stuff This one’s all mine; it didn’t appear on anyone else’s list. But long before the novelty-yarn scarf craze, Wild Stuff was out there. I never get tired of watching to see what yarn is coming up next, and Laura Bryant’s color sense leaves all the imitators in the dust.
10. Joseph Galler, Peruvian Tweed For scarves, shawls, or sweaters, the yarn provides enough interest on its own to sustain very plain work; but it also flatters simple stitch textures and openwork. Popular for both men and women. All the versatility of neutral colors, but never boring.
Do you disagree? E-mail us. We’ll collate and report.