We had to get to yarn and stitch pattern eventually! This pairing is what we want to solve most, but is actually a fairly difficult topic to address. I’ve been looking at the make up of yarn to better identify why some yarns work and some don’t. I’ve introduced fiber content, fiber processing, ply, twist, and color. Each is important although they tend to work together. They are what creates the wonderful yarn we hope to make something equally wonderful from.
How Do You Decide?
You can look at a yarn and see many things about it (and feel some if that is an option) that will give you guidance in choosing a stitch pattern for that yarn. What concerns me is how many times a yarn and stitch pattern are put together unhappily because the desire is stronger than the signals the yarn and pattern are sending out.
As a designer I am frequently asked which comes first, the yarn or the idea. I would say it is about a 50/50 proposition. I have some yarn sitting on my desk right now waiting for me to decide whether it is appropriate for the stitch pattern I had in mind for it. It arrived and was much more luscious than I remembered, and I’m now having some new ideas. Equally as often I have an idea or a stitch pattern and I go searching for a yarn to suit it. Sometimes it is the two things brewing together to get to that perfect yarn and stitch pattern match.
By the time I release a design as a pattern I am absolutely certain that I have chosen the right yarn and stitch pattern. It isn’t always a seamless path to get there, but I am probably more often hung up on a finishing technique than I am on matching yarn to stitch pattern.
Tools for Matching Yarn and Stitch Pattern
As a knitter your task is to match yarn and stitch pattern too. You could easily use what the designer used, and be fairly certain of getting the same result if you get gauge. But that isn’t the path most people choose, so you need tools to make good pairings: Research, observation, trial, more observation; repeat from * as needed.
- *Research: Examine the original yarn used;
- Observation: Look at photos and if possible, look at a sample of the project and original yarn; Look at projects in your yarn and if possible, look at other things in that yarn IRL;
- Trial: Swatch in pattern in the yarn you want to use; Block your swatch; Adjust needle size if stitch gauge isn’t accurate in blocked swatch;
- More observation: Look at the swatch and compare it to the photos/sample;
- Decision: Will this yarn give the result you desire? Abandon or proceed more fully informed.
A lot of the information you need can be found online. Some of the information will come through the process of working with the yarn and stitch patterns. This is a place where you can be accumulating knowledge with every swatch and project you make. Sharpen your observation skills and make good use of the time you poke around online, but also, perhaps, give yourself a chance to try things out by swatching.
Making swatching part of your process:
- Don’t have enough yarn? Buy an extra skein in another color or dye lot.
- Don’t want to spend the time swatching when you could be knitting? Okay, you will be knitting, and you will learn about
- The yarn,
- Your knitting (are the needles the right ones? do you like working that pattern? is it what you expected?)
- But don’t I have to buy a pattern first? The pattern is a relatively low-cost item, so consider what you might save by having all the information first! Give it as a gift to someone who can use it if you end up not using it. Use an online stitch resource to find the stitch pattern.
- But once I buy a pattern, I want to start my project! Making a swatch is starting the project. You will now have time to consider the pattern as you go through the swatch process. You can assemble the other things you need, and maybe try out techniques on your swatch.
- Making a swatch and blocking it takes sooooo long. Yes, it does.
- It might take a two or three hours of knitting;
- Add the time it takes to wet block and dry (do it so it drys overnight or while you are at work!).
- Even more time if you need to redo the swatch.
- Making a swatch is a waste of yarn! Reread this post. It is about what you learn from it, not the swatch itself.
- What do I do with a swatch? I use the yarn if I end up needing it. If I really don’t like my swatch, I just take it out and reuse the yarn. I save swatches that are useful to me, and when they are not useful to me, I throw them out. They did their job.
You can see where I’m going can’t you? You are knitting. You are working to insure that your project will come out the way you want it to. Taking a little time and fully considering your yarn and stitch pattern can be quite beneficial. Swatches are great take-along projects, so you can use them for that. I use them for when I’m bored on another project. The time used to make the swatch makes me eager to get back—and finish the other project so I can start the next one!
Next up: Garter stitch.