A Weighty Subject

I’ve been made aware (in a traumatic way) that not all skeins of yarn are created equal – they don’t all weigh what the label says they do.

Recently, I was knitting this lovely small shawl

Blue Lagoon Scarf/Shawlette

and I ran out of yarn long, long before I should have.  The only reason I caught on is that this was the second time I used that yarn to knit the same pattern.

The yarn was Knitpicks Chroma fingering weight.  I called the nice Customer Service queen and she apologized profusely and immediately dispatched another ball at no charge.  She asked me to let her know if there was a problem with the new ball, because that might indicate there were short weights for the whole dye lot.

The new ball was fine, but this whole experience made me think (uh-oh) and I began to weigh many different yarns.

Here are some results.

Yarn

Labeled Weight (grams)

Actual Weight (grams)

Noro Kureyon             100               99
            100               90
Noro Kochoran             100               92
            100              107
            100              107
            100              103
            100              97
            100              92
KnitPicks Gloss DK             50              47
            50             49
            50             50
            50             52
Karabella Soft Tweed             50             53
            50             50
            50             50
KnitPicks Stroll             100             102
Noro Silver Thaw             100             97

What I discovered:

1.  Yarn weights are all over the place.  8 were under weight, 6 were over weight, and only 3 were accurate.

2.  Some of the underweight balls were very short, up to 10% less than labeled.  This can cause a big problem if the weight indicates that there is less yardage than labeled.

3.  Noro was the worst offender.  The reason I weighed so many Noro yarns is because my first results were so crazy (and because I have a lot of Noro).  Karabella was pretty consistent, Knitpicks Gloss was pretty close to stated weight or a bit over.

Now, all this brought more questions to my inquiring mind.

What does it all mean?  Is the yardage short?  Is the yarn underweight because it lost moisture in storage?  Does humidity in my house affect the weight?

I am willing to believe moisture is a factor, but 10% underweight is a bit much.  I googled around a bit – searched underweight yarn skeins – and found plenty of yarns for sale with the disclaimer “slightly underweight”.

Of course, I absolutely do not believe any of this is done purposely.  But, it’s impossible to know how much yarn I use if I don’t know what I started with.  And sometimes I need to know.  For example, when designing a pattern it’s necessary to know how much yarn it takes.   Also, if I don’t know how much I started with, I don’t know what I have left.  Since I often use leftovers for smaller projects, that matters to me.

So,  I’m weighing all my skeins from now on before I knit them.  I’ll record the weights on my Ravelry project page.  And, if I notice a consistent pattern of shortages then I’ll be able to make an informed decision about buying that yarn in future.

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Fair Isle Success

I have completed the Temple Kitties hat – my first Fair Isle attempt.  I’m really happy with it – what do you think?  I love the tweediness of the yarn, the contrast between the colors, the fit, the softness – everything, really.

Thanks to Lydia for modeling.
Thanks to Lydia for modeling.

The yarn is Knitpicks City Tweed DK.  My colors were Kitten (cute name!) and Poseidon.  Poseidon is no longer available.  I had a ball lying around, left over from a sweater.  I’d been wondering for a long time what to do with one 50 gram ball of DK weight yarn.

Here’s a link to my Ravelry page for this project, which shows the details, including the yardage I used.

This is what I learned, along with a bit of advice for other Fair Isle novices:

1.  Choose an easy hat pattern in a heavier weight yarn for your first Fair Isle project.  I chose a pattern with two color knitting on only part of the hat, and in a DK weight yarn.  The trim around the base was rather fiddly and time consuming, but looks wonderful – the photo doesn’t really do it justice.  Hats are small, finished quickly and the construction is simple – you don’t want to add a lot of complicated, unfamiliar techniques to this first project.  Make this project for yourself, and select a pattern you love.  This will keep you motivated if you struggle a bit in the beginning.

2.  If you have a problem, take a deep breath, tear it out as soon as you see the problem, give it a day or two, and begin again.  You will succeed.  The awkwardness of handing the yarn will get much better very quickly.  It’s like anything else (think of when you learned to ride a bike) – practice makes perfect.  That’s a cliche for a reason – because it’s mostly true.  Perhaps a better saying would be “practice makes much better”, but that’s not as snappy, is it?

I had to try twice, the first time something got twisted.  it wasn’t the cast on;  the disaster happened later.  I didn’t discover the problem until row 12 of the 23 row chart, and I was quite miffed about it.  Tore it out completely, came back in 2 days and started (carefully) again, had no further problems.

3.  Don’t freak out about the fit until the project is done (or at least halfway).  I wasn’t sure it was going to fit, it seemed huge in the beginning, but now that it’s done I think it’s just right.  Fair Isle doesn’t stretch like stockinette or garter stitch, so it will be difficult to gauge fit in the beginning.

4.  If you have a hard time handling the yarn, try holding it another way.  I’m a continental knitter, so I hold both yarns in my left hand, but I know that won’t work for everyone.  The person who taught me recommended I hold one yarn in the left and one in the right hand, and that was so uncomfortable for me I knew I’d be struggling harder than necessary.  Experiment, but give your normal way of holding the yarn a good try first.

5.  Make another Fair Isle project soon to build on your learning.  Try a pattern in fingering weight yarn.  How about a pattern designed to use 2 yarns only, one plain and a long color change yarn?   I have a couple of balls of Mini Mochi in a bright rainbow colorway, I plan to use a creamy white to contrast.   Here are some pattern ideas I’m kicking around:

Montreal Hat by Drops Design Hat

Montreal Hat from Drops Design

Or maybe this hat designed for Mini Mochi

Mini Mochi Hat

Whatever pattern you choose, keep it simple, without a lot of new techniques, The corrugated ribbing shown on the Mini Mochi hat above is simple, so I might try that on project number two. I’ll  save tricky new stuff for project number three.

Here’s a one question poll for my readers.  I’d love to know if I have any Fair Isle experts out there.

 

I’d love to hear about your experiences with this technique, and any advice from the experts.

DPNs vs. Circulars

I am a die-hard circular needle user.  When making hats, gloves, or anything else small and round, I dig out my circular needles and go to it.  This means I need 2 sets of needles free (since I need 2 sets for this to work), and I have to manage all the cords.  I like the end product and that when finished with stitches on needle number one I can just drop the needle and move right on to needle number two.

This has caused me to develop the bad habit of just dropping a needle when I’m done with it – it’s hysterically funny to me how many times I drop a straight needle right onto the floor before my brain adjusts.   I have to drop a needle literally 20 times before I get it.

I have tried to use DPNs in the past.  Here is a photo that illustrates how it seemed to me.

photo credit YarnsandThreads.com
photo credit YarnsandThreads.com

But I’ve decided to try again, so, the Knitpicks order I submitted last night included a couple sets of DPNs to play with.  I ordered a pair to make worsted weight gloves (I’m going to be making a lot of those over the summer), and a pair to make the Fair Isle mittens I’ll be making soon.

I also ordered a circular needle for the mittens, just in case I can’t make it work.

I wonder what my readers who knit prefer.  Please take the little poll below (it’s only one question), and I’d love you to comment about why you like the ones you use most.

I guess I will look for some YouTube videos on using DPNs to help me get going. Watch for further developments in this learning process.

Journey to Fair Isle Begins

I’ve had my Fair Isle knitting lesson and I really want to thank my teacher, Wendy. She found my lack of patience amusing (she said I was “funny”, I hope that wasn’t code for “annoying”).  That is a good wake up call for me – I tend to be quite impatient.  Many people have said to me “I couldn’t knit, I don’t have the patience”.  I typically respond  “Knitting helps to increase my patience”.  Clearly, I have a way to go in this area!

I am ready to take the plunge into Fair Isle, and I’ve chosen my first pattern. It’s going to be Temple Cats , designed by Suzanne Frary, knit in Knitpicks City Tweed DK.  I’ve loved this pattern since I first set eyes on it, at least a year ago.

Photo Credit Susanne Frary
Photo Credit Susanne Frary

For the background I’ve chosen Kitten, described as having soft hints of camel, ecru, light wheat and cream, and the kitties will be a watery blue. I have one lonely ball of Poseidon, a discontinued color, that’s been knocking around my stash for a few years (leftover from a sweater). It’s time has come!

I really love this yarn, it’s super soft and very beautiful.  It’s 55% merino wool, 25% superfine alpaca, and 20% donegal tweed.

Why this pattern, you may ask?  Well – I love kitties, of course.  It’s relatively simple, and I think a DK weight yarn might be slightly easier to work with than fingering weight for a beginner like me.  I’ve knit some hats, socks and mitts already, so now will be adding the colorwork as the only really new technique.

Going to push the order button tonight on the yarn and pattern.  Watch this space for progress.

After An Absence

Well, I took a break from blogging and paid more attention to family concerns, but I’m back now.  I’ve been knitting a bit compulsively (my shoulder is actually a bit achy), and there are a lot of new things in my Etsy shop.

One of my latest things is this gorgeous shawl, knit in Noro Silver Thaw.  This colorway makes me think of the northern lights.  It’s an aran weight yarn and I really like the way the lacy bits came out.  It’s warm and soft, and it wouldn’t break my heart to keep it!

Silver Thaw Northern Lights shawl

We’ve also added some pretty mitts.  Here’s a pair (for petite hands) in wine and green (Noro yarn again).

wine and green noro mitts

Then there’s a pair in purple and orange (also in Noro and also for smaller hands).

orange and blue kochoran mitts 2

We’ve been knitting some entrelac.  A small pink, green, and gray one knit by Cheryl came out beautifully.  This is Noro Kochoran.

small kochoran entrelac

There’s also a larger one Cheryl knit from Noro Kochoran. Can you tell we really love Kochoran?

Large kochoran entrelac

There’s also the pointy shawlette/scarf I knit from Knitpicks Chroma.  Really happy with how it came out.  I did have some problems with the yarn.  The first ball was very short, I called Knitpicks and they very kindly sent me another ball.  They have excellent customer service!

Blue Lagoon Scarf/Shawlette

This is a large shawl knit in Noro Kureyon (hey, we aren’t partial – we love all Noro!)  Love these colors!

kureyon shawl

Cheryl wanted a break from Noro, so she knit this nubby dove gray cowl in Twinkle 100% virgin wool.

Twinkle Dove Gray Cowl

And then – back to Noro for this cowl in cool colors.

Noro Cool Cowl

My latest foster, the lovely and handsome Sheldon, was adopted recently through reTails.  Here’s a picture of him.  I miss him a lot.  He is cuddly and great with other cats, and he likes dogs – what’s not to like?  His adopters are very lucky!

Lovely Sheldon

We are taking a break from kitty fostering for a while.  My personal clowder of cats includes a couple of members who find all these “outsiders” coming and going a bit difficult to cope with!

New Mexico Shawl

I finished the turquoise and orange shawl and it’s now available in the Etsy shop. It reminds me of the desert southwest, New Mexico in particular.  As I was knitting it in public (at Panera, waiting rooms, etc.), a lot of people commented on the great colors, and mentioned New Mexico.  It was a favorite of the public!

I’m very happy with the colors (which will look great on almost anyone), the drape, the texture and the shape of this shawl.  It’s a winner, and I’m sure I’ll knit this pattern again very soon.  I have some KnitPicks Chroma that I plan to use on version 3 of this pattern.  You may remember version 1 was Noro Silver Thaw.

I almost hope no one buys this, as I wouldn’t mind at all if I get to keep it.  I seem to say that about a lot of my finished items!

Mesa Wingspan and Fingerless Gloves

I finished the latest Wingspan shawl, in KnitPicks Chroma Fingering weight yarn.  The colorway is Mesa.  I love the way it turned out, but I was absolutely on the edge of my seat as I finished, I was quite uncertain whether or not I’d have enough yarn.

Ravelry has a lot of these shawls made in the same yarn, with comments by the knitters about having 6 inches of yarn left.  I just can’t take that kind of stress!  I ended up with 3.3 yards of extra yarn.

Someone who loves the desert southwest would really enjoy this!  Many folks who saw me knitting this at Panera this week stated “that reminds me of New Mexico”.

I also put up a new Etsy listing this morning.  It’s a super snuggly pair of fingerless gloves.

The yarn is a wool, alpaca and silk blend, slightly nubbly.  Very toasty and soft, some lucky buyer will be very happy with them.

The entrelac scarf I put in the Etsy shop just the other day sold today to a lovely lady all the way in Australia!  I know she’ll really love it and treasure it for years. We are already planning another one in a different Noro yarn.  Cheryl likes doing entrelac and we both love the results (as do so many fashionistas).  I will be learning entrelac soon.  Stay tuned for that drama.