Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The "S" word

I am living proof that you can convince an old dog to do the old tricks she never bothered to do before. Huh? Well this Old Knitter has finally learned that if you want the outcome of your knitting to be what you expect(ie, if you want the sweater to fit), then you must SWATCH. Whew! There, I said it...the S word. SWATCH. You know, that thing I never did way back when I first started trying to knit sweaters from craft store quality yarn, only to discover that the finished garment was big enough for two people at least 8 feet tall to wear...at the same time! Don't ask me why I didn't figure this out until the sweaters were finished. I don't know. They had big wide horizontal stripes too (eek!). And some were knit out of Sugar n Cream yarn, so they continued to grow, and grow, and GROW!

So... I am older and wiser now. I'm a much better knitter too. This means that I have repented of my sins and have given in to the knitting of swatches. LOTS of swatches. I have committed to Knitting Fearlessly along with the rest of knitting world that reads the Knitting Daily blog. For me this means I will knit a "big girl" sweater this year. Given that it is September already, my time is running out and I need to get going. I have dug through my yarn & pattern stash and conducted intensive "research" at my LYS and my favorite online retailers in preparation for this big event. But before any serious decisions about patterns and yarn could be made I knew I had to swatch. I'm talking serious swatching! And so I have! There are funny little blocks of knitted fabric scattered across my room/studio and copious detailed notes scratched into my sketchbook as evidence that I am making progress! Scary, I know.

Up first was some Italian 15/44 Extrafine Merino DK (aka Baruffa Cashwool) from ColourMart.com. Richard was very gracious to send me samples of 3 colors (Tartan Rose, Tartan Green, Geranium) I was interested in purchasing. The samples arrived last Thursday and I wasted no time in swatching to see how this yarn knitted up. Each yarn sample was 7g/~20 yds. I measured them at ~13wpi. Gauge measurements were taken at three intervals: 1)immed. after knitting with the swatch pinned out but not stretched, 2)after handwashing in very warm water with shampoo and towel drying (sample still damp), and 3)after tumble drying for ~15 min. on the low heat/knit setting. All swatches were stretched, rubbed and otherwise "abused" by hand while still damp. Here are the gauge measurements:

A. Tartan Rose - US 5/3.75mm Addi-lace needles, cast-on 30 sts
1) 24sts x 32r/4"sq or 6sts x 8r/1"sq
2) 26sts x 32r/4"sq or 6.5sts x 8r/1"sq
3) 24sts x 36r/4"sq or 6sts x 9r/1'sq
A fairly firm fabric, great for designs in St st that require body, great for a sweater; the yarn was easily split with the pointy lace needles.

B. Tartan Green - US 6/4.0mm Addi-Turbo needles, c/o 30sts
1) 22sts x 30r/4"sq or 5.5sts x 7.5r/1"sq
2) 24sts x 30r/4"sq or 6sts x 7.5r/1"sq
3) 22sts x 34r/4"sq or 5.5sts x 8.5r/1"sq
Knit wonderfully smooth on the turbo needles with no splitting whatsoever, a very nice fabric that was neither too firm nor too loose. My #1 choice for gauge :-)

C. Geranium - US7/4.5mm Addi-Turbo needles, c/o 26sts
1) 20sts x 28r/4"sq or 5sts x 7r/1"sq
2) 21sts x 28r/4"sq or 5.25sts x 7r/1"sq
3) 20sts x 34r/4"sq or 5sts x 8.5r/1"sq
Technically this is a worsted gauge, but the fabric was more open or loose, not as cohesive for a St st project such as a sweater, better for lace. This swatch stretched out quite a bit after washing, though drying returned the body back to the knitted fabric.

I found the yarns pleasant to knit in their original, unwashed state. Splitting may be an issue if pointy-tipped needles are used. The fiber bloomed beautifully after washing and a brief tumble-dry. There was no evidence of felting> I would briefly finish drying the completed item in a tumble-dryer the first time, but would not machine-wash or routinely tumble-dry this yarn. My final swatches were wonderfully soft and cuddly, perfect for sweaters or baby things. It is very evident that this is a premium/best quality merino wool yarn.

I fell completely in love with this DK merino yarn. It will be the best yarn I've ever attempted to knit into a sweater. That fact alone bodes well for the success of my project. I will be FEARLESS! I will also post about my other swatches as I get to it :-)