Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Yarn Snob Recants

Sometimes a wonderful yarn is right under your nose, it is just mislabeled. In the past, I had tried Lion Brand “Fisherman’s Wool.” And, I did not like it at all. The yarn band recommended big needles, i.e., US # 9. When Lion Fisherman’s Wool was on sale, I would buy some, and start something using the recommended # 9s, and I was never happy with the product. For example, I have one knee sock that I knitted from this yarn in a fancy Scottish pattern on # 6 needles, and despite the fancy pattern, it looks - Well, home made. I could never bring myself to knit its mate.

But the other day I was looking for a portable project, and I hit upon taking little balls of left over yarn from my stash and knitting the same little pattern swatch on US # 1 needles from each of the different yarns. You guessed it! One of the balls of yarn was left over Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool.

I got back, and had a bunch of 3-inch square swatches in my bag. After blocking, the swatch that I liked best was from the Lion Fisherman’s Wool. Knit continental style, at 7.4 spi (over moss stitch), it is a firm, flat fabric with excellent stitch definition. With a knitting stick, I can easily knit it at 8 spi and the effect is even better. Forget the fancy wool I bought in Scotland last year, my next gansey is going to use Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool. I am very excited! Because it is a firm fabric, a gansey knit from this yarn will require real attention to tailoring. It requires knitting a garment that fits and is carefully blocked. And, it is a warm fabric – maybe too warm to wear in modern centrally heated buildings. But, it is a glorious fabric. Unfortunately, it only comes in the natural cream color, but it is less itchy that the wonderfully colored Cottage Craft yarn that I love. So get ready to dye. (I have no connection to either company.)

One funny thing is that Lion sells a wide variety of knitting stuff including needles, but the finest needles that they now sell is #2. Go figure.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Experience revised, and methods compared!

Surprise surprise!

This gansey is a mess. 10,000 stitches knitted on 4 different systems: Old circular (#1), new circular (#1), continental and English with knitting stick on US # 1 tight and US # 0 loose, so there are some variations in tension. What a weaver would call, "Lazy Lines." But, the average is about 7spi with a yarn weight of 1,100 yd/lb.

With the circular needles and continental knitting method, the effort to push the stitches around the needle was substantial. I never had this problem before when knitting looser fabric with GOOD circ. needles. Perhaps I would have done better to have knitted more loosely with #0 needles, but that would have taken more effort just to form such small stitches with this thick yarn. As it was, the effort to consistently form tight stitches was substantial. Nevertheless, circular needles/ continental method were the clear winner for travel and safety.

With the DPN, knitting stick, and yarn controlled with right index finder; the effort to move the stitches on the needles is much less, and the effort to maintain consistently tight stitches is less, while the actual speed of stitch formation is similar or better than continental method. I have some trouble with the first 10 stitches on a needle, so I just knit the first 10 stitches on each DPN in continental style before putting the needle in the knitting stick and switching the yarn to my left hand. All things considered, the time to move the yarn back and forth between my right and left hands is much less than the time to move stitches around the circ. needles. Over all, I am getting more knitting done with less effort. This fast and easy production is offset by the real issues of long sharp steel DPN.

Some old texts say that it is important to keep the tips of the knitting needles smooth and polished to avoid fraying the yarn. SHEEP POOP! It is important to keep the needle tips smooth to protect your fingers. I was in a hurry to test some new needle designs and did not polish the reground tips carefully. I ended up ripping my right index finger tip to bloody shreds!

While this gansey is clearly a beginner's practice piece, I am beginning to really see the potential of what I am calling high definition knitting. I think it is worth the effort.