Thursday, 10 December 2009

Knitting: sample, sample, sample!

A sample swatch in homespun brown alpaca

With all my sitting down time, I've been spinning and knitting. I'd thought I'd be working on my cross-stitch project, but it's been taking the back foot. I've started to learn that one of the reasons I've never liked knitting is because the yarns normally recommended for beginner knitters are too chunky for my taste, and that I apparently spin a very precise fingering-weight yarn. Who knew? I found that I had some dark brown handspun alpaca in precisely the right weight to give a good sample on one of the projects in the book I bought last weekend, so am currently knitting that on 3.25 mm needles.

I've also been spinning up the camel and silk roving.

Camel and silk roving on bobbins, L-R, darker variation and two bobbins of the lighter.

The intention had been to make a three-ply of two strands of light and one of dark, but the pattern I would like to use this for was originally written for a knitting machine, with a gauge of 33 stitches and 42 rows to 10cm. Three-ply would be too thick for that, even at the fine rate I spin. So I sampled. I tried various plys of the two colours, at various thicknesses of ply, and knitted the lot into a sample on the finest needles I have in the house, 3mm. The different variations were marked with a small amount of dark roving spun into the ply as it was made.

Sample swatch, with dark smudges to mark variations. L-R, two-ply one dark one light, three-ply one dark, two light, two-ply both light, three-ply all light.

It was immediately apparent that three-ply was a bit too thick for what I want here, and that two-ply gave a lovely soft drape and could even afford to go slightly smaller on the needles. In addition, a check of the gauge showed that on 3 mm needles, 33 stitches and 43 rows comes to almost precisely 11cm, so it's still slightly too large. The ribbing and pattern on this project are complex enough that I don't really want to be fiddling with adjusting numbers of stitches. So I'll be knitting another sample swatch for this project before going too much further with the plying. For a non-knitter, I own an awful lot of knitting needles:

But the smallest I have is 3 mm. Or so I thought. I've just remembered that I own a pair of 2.75 mm circular needles, so will have another go on those to try to get the gauge. The question now is, do I want to go for the all-light ply (saving the darker variant for another project) or do I like the dark-light marl?

Top: dark-light marl. Bottom: all-light two-ply.
This photo doesn't really do the colours justice as the darker marl is a beautiful caramel colour. I haven't made a decision on this yet, as both colours are lovely. The project I intend this for was originally done in white and I'm trying to remove that prejudice from my head before I make a decision. A friend is coming for lunch today so I'm going to canvas her opinion on which colour suits me better before she sees the original project. In all honesty there' s little enough difference between the two that it may not matter. In the meantime, until I make a decision, I'm spinning a second bobbin of the dark.

And finally; a photo for Meg, to assure here that I'm not torturing the gumnut babies!


  1. Yum! those are delicious swatches; the alpaca is really, really lovely. What pattern have you slated for that lovely stuff??

    As for the camel/silk: luscious!! I think that either colourway would be lovely; it depends on what you like best. I suppose the other consideration is what you'd have left over; if you go for one of each, you'll have a project's worth of mostly-light stuff left. If you go for two light strands, you'll have mostly dark left... Not that I plan ahead or anything!

  2. The alpaca is actually chocolate brown, the funny lens on my camera altered the colour significantly. Do you remember the pattern with the v-shaped cowl-neck, early on in the book? It was knitted in pink in the book. I'm knitting it up in that, as I have just enough alpaca to do so.

    The camel/silk is SO SOFT and absolutely luscious. Worth every singe penny I've spent on it. I have thought about what I'd have left-over, and if I go for dark-light I suspect I'll have enough for 3-4 bobbins of each colour, so it would be fairly even. I haven't thought any more about colour yet, I'm taking a break from it. One may well suit my complexion better than another.

    Whatever I have left over, I had thought that a matching scarf might be a nice accompiment to the top...

  3. Interesting insight about yourself and your knitting. Sounds like you are probably a lace knitter! The samples are lovely and I really like those big bobbins.

  4. Yes, thank you! I cringed, thinking you were mighty close to the babies, but then reading your last line, I am reassured you are aware of where my attention is!

  5. I have tried lace knitting once - about four years ago - Leigh, and I did enjoy it. But I have to confess that my bias to the practical and plain means there are only so many lace projects I'd want to do. I do have my eye on a lace sweater as a project though, I just haven't figured out what yarn to use yet!

    Meg: always happy to reassure - LOL!