Yesterday (well, I read it yesterday) there were some posts to the Knitlist about coned yarn, which my red wool that I'm knitting Mom's Fuzzy Foot happens to be. These remarks shed some light on my query about its properties:
"There are a couple tips: 1) knit your swatch and let it lie for 24 hours--the process of coning the yarn makes it stretch a bit and it will need to relax to get a true gauge.
2) When knitting from the cone, I wind off a couple rows' worth of yarn ahead of time so that the 'relaxing' begins before it hits my needles. Check your yardage before you begin--and remember, this may be the 'stretched yardage'--so make sure you have some extra yards (not miles, yards!)"
I used my groovy ball winder to pull two big hunks from the cone before I started, since I wanted to knit with a double strand, so the relaxing probably happened. And, since I've already knit one FF pair, and this is to be felted, I confess I didn't knit a gauge swatch (gasp!).
"Cone yarn usually has a different hand then skein yarn. It is designed for commercial machines and often has a finish on it (sometimes oily) that makes it easier to work in machines. Be sure to swatch it (with washing) so that you can see how it will end up. Coned yarn almost always blooms quite a bit in the swatch. I use lots of coned yarn, as do my friends, but experience has taught that it needs more foresight than a lot of skeined yarn (which has usually had either no finish - or the finish washed off in the skeining process).
This is the comment that seems to relate to my sense that this yarn is a bit rough to the hand. And I got one more email reply to my post about that, suggesting shampoo and conditioner, much like Bonne Marie did when I wrote La Bonne Tricoteuse at Knitty about recycling yarn. I'm into the toe decreases now, so I may even get to the felting tonight. Perhaps I'll give it a handwash with the shampoo and conditioner first, pre-agitation.