When yarn choice matters

Some days we can grab a skein of yarn, print off a pattern, and be off to the races on a new project, thoroughly caught up in the excitement of casting on. But sometimes, matching yarn and project takes a bit more thought. As I recently found out with my current sweater project, Dark and Stormy by Thea Colman.

Dark and Stormy is a top-down, raglan cardigan with a shawl collar and a large cable down the  back. There are two smaller cables alongside each front edge, but the rest of the sweater is in stockinette. I have a sweater lot of Berrocco Ultra Alpaca in a dark, foresty green that has been hanging out in my stash for a while now, and I thought it ould be perfect for this project. In a fit of enthusiam, I cast on and started knitting away merrily.

After getting about half way through the yoke, I took a look at the cable on the back and thought to myself "Self, that cable is kind of getting lost..."

While I was loving the colour, the halo from the alpaca content was not really pushing my buttons as far as the texture went. I went to Knit Night and took a wee poll of the assembled multitudes: the overwhelmin consensus was that this was perhaps not the best yarn for this pattern. Allison pointed out that I have a sweater lot of SweetGeorgia Superwash Worsted (also in green) that might work better, because it is a much more tightly plied 100% wool yarn. So I went home, and cast on with the new yarn.

Hopefully you can see easily how much clearer the stitch definition is, and how much better the cable looks. Heck, you can actually see the cable, which is definitely a step in the right direction!

This is a very good example of why some patterns need a particular type of yarn. A design that depends on a texture pattern for full impact, like Dark and Stormy, is best suited to a multi-plied yarn with a fairly high twist so that the stitches pop. The Ultra Alpaca, with it's 50% wool/50% alpaca fibre content, is a lovely yarn, but the lack of crimp in the alpaca makes for a much softer and blurred stitch definition. Not great for this design. It's also not as round and tightly plied as the Superwash Worsted, another reason why the stitch definition isn't what I wanted for the cables.

Other yarn-pattern combinations that won't work so well? Socks in merino singles or pure silk yarn; mittens in softly spun anything; a fitted and shaped sweater in 100% cotton. Singles yarns or softly spun and plied yarns are terrible for anything that needs to be hard wearing, while silk and cotton have almost zero elasticity, and won't hold their shape. Sometimes this mismatches can be compensated for by stitch pattern (like ribbing to add elasticity), but I think I'd rather start with materials that are suited to the item I'm making!

That's not to say you have to knit every design in the exact same yarn the designer used, but take a moment and think about why they chose the yarn that's used for the sample. Sometimes it is as simple as that was the yarn that was available, either in their stash or in yarn support. But hopefully the designer spent some time with that yarn trying to figure out how it would work best. If you take a few minutes to think about the yarn you're choosing for your project, your chances of ending up with a disappointing FO go down.

I'm happy to say that the Superwash Worsted is the perfect yarn for this sweater, and it is moving right along! Body is done, and one sleeve is underway. Whether or not it's finished by Christmas remains to be seen....

The Nordlándda Collection: Fauske and Rosta

Above photos copyright 2015 The Fibre Co. & Tommy Martin

Today I want to talk about two pieces from the Nordlándda Collection that share a common edging - the wonderful, occasionally fiddley, applied i-cord edge. Rosta is one of the simpler pieces in the collection, with a wide panel of stockinette bordered by two loose cables, while Fauske is one of the more complex, with an intricate cable border and an expanding and contracting panel of a smaller, very traditional cable motif, but both use an applied i-cord to generate a tidy edging that won't roll or curl when you're finished.


There are a couple of tricks for getting a nice i-cord edge that lies flat. First off, for both of these pieces, the i-cord is made by slipping the last three stitches of every row. On the right side rows, the last three stitches are slipped purlwise with the yarn in back, and on the wrong side rows, the stitches are slipped purlwise with the yarn in front. In both cases, you want the yarn to be on the right side of the fabric for working the start of the next row.

The other tip is to keep the i-cord stitches a little bit loose as you are knitting, Because the i-cord is only worked every other row on each edge, if you work those stitches tightly, the i-cord will be shorter then the rest of the piece, and your finished item won't lie flat when it's blocked. Be careful to leave a little extra slack in those three edge stitches, and you should end up with a beautiful finished edge.

Please come join us in the A Yarn Story #AYSWInterCablesKAL on Ravelry - Carmen has some gorgeous prizes lined up, and we'd love to see your take on the Nordlándda Collection!

Note: If you are in Europe and would like to purchase one of the patterns from the collection without paying VAT, please go to the Nordlándda page and be sure to include your Ravelry ID (if you have one) when you check out. The pattern will be emailed to you and put into your Ravelry library. Thank you!


Today is the launch of my new collection of accessoried, Nordlándda, from The FIbre Company. I'm going to be blogging about each of the pieces from the collection over the next few weeks, but I wanted to show them all to you as a whole.

By the time this post goes live, the patterns will all be available on Ravelry. I'll get them up shortly over here. In the meantime, I hope you like them! If you're interested, A Yarn Story is kicking off their #AYSWInterCablesKAL with this collection today, so come on over and join in!

ETA: the patterns are now up on the website, so if you'd like to purchase them without paying VAT, head over here! If you include your Ravelry ID with your order, I will gift you a pattern for your library in addition to email you the pdf. Thanks!

Fait accompli

I've just returned from a trip to the post office, to send out a very special pile of knitwear.

It's been a bit of a crazy few months while I've been working on this collection. I've had a few shows, looked at a lot of very expensive and not very nice property, been back to the States on a scouting trip against the possibility of moving back next summer, seen family, come back, put on a Yarn Crawl and Marketplace, seen more expensive real estate, starting visiting secondary schools with my daughter, put in an offer on a house, had the offer accepted...you get the idea. And all the while I've been plugging away at this accessory collection, in the fantastic Tundra from the Fibre Co.

As the pieces have only just gone off for their photo shoots, I'm not going to reveal too much, but I will share these details: there are three hats, two pairs of fingerless mitts, two cowls (one of which comes in two sizes) and a long, narrow shawl. All of the pieces have cables and texture - some are all over, some have just one focal cable, some have an all-over cabled pattern. All are worked in bulky weight yarn, so they knit up super fast. They all take between one and three skeins of Tundra, and are super soft and squishy.

Over the next few weeks I'll share more details of each piece and the construction, but I didn't want to go much longer without letting you know that I'm still here, and there is still lots and lots of knitting going on.

In the works

I've been thinking about cables lately, despite the fact that it's nearly August. Specifically cozy warm cables worked in luscious yarn that can snuggle up around your neck, or cuddle your ears or warm cold fingers this upcoming winter....in other words, I've got cable patterns on the brain, a box full of yarn support, and I'm venturing boldly into Accessory Collection territory. 

Warning: post conatins photos dangerous to cold sheeping intentions

This collection is happening in collaboration with the wonderful people over at The Fibre Company, purveyors of incredibly special luxury yarns with beautiful palettes of colours. The yarn I'm working with is their chunky weight Tundra, a blend of 60% llama/30% merino/10% silk. 

Prototype #1, in Bearberry

Prototype #1, in Bearberry

To say that this yarn is squooshy is a gross understatement! It is a true pleasure to work with, and being a chunky weight means that the projects are knitting up super-fast. The first prototype is done and blocked, and has me wishing it were just a bit colder so I could wear it constantly.

Prototype #2, in Larch

Prototype #2, in Larch

Prototype #2 is on the needles and well underway - I need to do a bit of figuring on how the crown decreases are going to work, but I'm hoping to have this done by the end of the week before we go on holiday. Sadly, I won't be taking any of this yarn with me on our first summer holiday - backpacking + Italian August + llama are not a good combination in any scenario. But I'll be back to these for the second trip of the summer to the States, when I will be child-free for at least a week, and have lots and lots of time on airplanes...knitting bliss!