Friday, 15 August 2014

Choosing the best yarn for the job: Cables and fancy stitchwork

Decisions, decisions....

When designing and/or knitting an item it's important to consider what type of yarn is going to be most suitable for the project you have in mind. Getting this right means an enjoyable and deeply rewarding knit. Getting it wrong, however, can be a truly disheartening and costly experience in terms of the time and money you'll feel you will have wasted. There is such a plethora of different  yarns  available out there to choose from, but how do you go about choosing the one that's going to work best for your project?

The key is to consider the different characteristics of the yarn which includes the weight (i.e. thickness or fineness), texture, colour, fibre and handle. I touched on  some of these previously in my tutorial on substituting yarns, but here I'm going to talk you through a specific example.

I think it is a good idea to consider this before you start looking at the yarns, otherwise you will not be focussed on the job in hand and, once surrounded by all that knitterly loveliness, you will be seduced by whatever most catches your eye and pay less attention to your mission - which is to ensure a wonderfully successful and satisfying result for your intended item.


What is the brief?

If you are designing you will have some ideas in mind, but even if you are knitting someone else's pattern it is helpful to consider the following questions: Who/what it is for? Will it require frequent washing? How hard wearing does it need to be? Any relevant factors about the wearer - do they have a wool allergy for example? What season is going to be worn for? These are by no means exhaustive, and you may have other questions or considerations of your own.

So for my brief, I am looking to make a women's neckwear item for the early autumn. As it is worn around the neck it can't be 'scratchy' as your skin is very sensitive in that area. Also it will probably be worn very regularly so will need to wash well and easily. I intend to have plenty of stitch detail with cables, textured stitches and maybe some beads to boot. A good range of colours is always a plus so you have plenty of choice, and I like my colours to be rich but not harsh. I always like to use a quality yarn if I'm investing all those valuable life seconds into something, but I'm not looking for anything too luxurious. So putting all that into the equation, I've plumped for Rowan Wool Cotton. A staple and real workhorse of the Rowan range, this yarn's characteristics and reasonable price make it an ideal choice:

Weight: A DK yarn knitted on 4mm needles, this won't be the quickest knit, but is a great weight for showing off detailed stitchwork such as cables. The thicker the yarn, the bigger the scale of the cables, and as this is for a relatively small area I need to keep it to a pretty small scale.

Fibre & Handle: 50% wool and 50% cotton makes for a very soft, non-scratchy feeling fibre. With some of the  the plump springiness of wool but with the coolness and drape of cotton, this is a great choice for early Autumn wear

Texture: The smooth texture and high twist spin of the yarn makes for excellent stitch definition which is hard to be beat - great for showing off all that lovely cable stitchwork

Colour: Wool Cotton comes in a wide range of delicious solid colours, ideal for showing off detail and  stitchwork which would be obscured by a fancier colour treatment. With 20 shades to choose from, there's bound to be at least one colour the intended wearer is going to love.

Aftercare: Machine washable at 40% this yarn washes exceptionally well, softening even more in the process.

So now I've come to a decision on the type of yarn I just need to make a decision about the colour - now that is a tough choice to make but I've got it down to either of these two - which one do you prefer?

Ship Shape

Cables and textured stitches can seem really complicated, and certainly look the part, but they are surprising easy once you know how. If you haven't tried it yet, it's a great string to add to your knitterly bow. If you live in the Swansea area you may be interested in my September Workshop on the subject. I'll be making a design as per the brief above and I'll show how this progresses in future posts. The plan is for this be offered as a free pattern to all those that attend the workshop, and will also be available to purchase on my website and via Ravelry at a later date.

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