How Do I Pick Yarn for a Project?

I get asked this all the time.

There was a time,  when my knitting consisted of picking a pattern, buying the exact yarn that was called for, and knitting exactly to pattern, except for a few standard modifications like sleeve length. I would go rogue sometimes and change a color.

There’s nothing wrong with this. I still do that from time to time, because I belong to yarn/pattern clubs, or I am curious about the garment that was intended to be made. But most of my knitting now starts with thinking about a garment, and picking the yarn and pattern (or not) to make as close to what I envision the piece to be.

This may be my favorite part of the whole knitting process — the knitting that happens in my brain!

In the case of the Sweater KAL we are about to do, I picked the pattern (June’s Favorite Cardigan) for the design details of the cardigan. The story about the sweater that the designer, Hannah Fettig, told, made me envision the garment that I wanted to make.

SQUISHY. That is what I wanted. Something that would make the cardigan look hand made. Ideally, something that looked like handspun. And, I wanted a little bit of fuzz, because to me, fuzz is cozy. I also did not want this cardigan to be heavy, weight wise. This meant that I wanted a yarn that was spun woolen, and probably was a 2 or at most a 3 ply yarn. And if I couldn’t find that, I was going to choose a fiber that would add loft to the yarn. (Now you know why I started spinning. I’m a little bit picky….now if I could just get good enough at spinning to create exactly what I’m looking for……!!)

I could have gone a totally different direction. Squoosh factor can be achieved using a really bouncy, round yarn. A rounder yarn would give you great stitch definition, and if I really wanted to highlight the design details (which I love on this cardigan), I would have picked such a yarn, and in a light color.

Color is important here because of the cable and the stitch details. While there is nothing wrong with knitting this in a darker color, the beautiful details in the sleeves and around the front edge of the cardigan would show up better in a lighter colored yarn.

The yarn that the designer used for this cardigan, Quince  Co.’s Lark, would be an example of a rounder bouncier yarn I could have used for this cardigan. I know that at least a couple of our Sweater KAL friends, are using a yarn that would give wonderful stitch definition while being really soft and cozy. (Yes, you two with the cormo yarn, I’m talking about you!)

IMG_8956The yarn that I chose, Green Mountain Spinnery Green Mountain Green,  has a recommended gauge of 3.5-5.0 stitches to the inch. It’s 60% wool, and 40% mohair, which will create a fabric that should be light but warm, if knitted at the right gauge. Since I want to take advantage of the loft from the mohair, I will be knitting this to create a relatively loose fabric. I chose the variegated yarn (and I went through the entire stock at the Spinnery when I was up there for the Spring Retreat) to chose a lighter colored, less obviously variegated skeins. The variegation is subtle enough, I think, to not detract from the stitch details.

Because I know what kind of fabric I want, this makes swatching relatively important. I will admit — sometimes I do not swatch and use a part of the garment itself as my “swatch” (and yes, this means sometimes I rip out large projects halfway through and start over). I won’t swatch if I’m knitting out of yarn I’ve used before, for example, or if I’m knitting a lace shawl. In fact, I know my knitting gauge is not 100% consistent and is very reflective of what other projects I may have on the needles (if I’m knitting lots of socks, my gauge will be a bit tighter, if I’ve been knitting many shawls, my gauge may be looser), or my stress level, or even time of day. So, I gauge for the “fabric”. I want to make sure that after I soak the garment, and let the yarn bloom a bit, that the end fabric has the drape, the squish factor and the feel that I want. And if I’m not knitting to the gauge called for in the pattern, I am more likely to take out the calculator and do some math rather than change the needle size to get the dimensions right.

Don’t worry, this is not hard, and besides we’ve picked a pattern that I think is pretty forgiving in terms of fit.

I will be swatching in the next few days. In the meantime, I’m still knitting and spinning away to clear the decks a bit before June 1.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: