Before we begin, it turns out I have an apology to make. Y'all don't mind holding on for a sec, do you?
I am so sorry that I offended you by calling you bugs, or
even worms. You are animals, full and respectable members of the animal
kingdom, and if my words caused you harm, I sincerely apologise. I hope
that we can put this ugly misunderstanding behind us, and that, when I
hold your lovely dried spit--er, hardened extrusions--in my hands, that
you and your ancestral spirits will look kindly upon me and guide my
knitting, so that my work will do honor to you and all of animalkind.
There. Whew. I had visions of silkworms dancing all around my bed,
with little signs, chanting, "Animal Rights For Bugs! Animal Rights For
I needed to make amends, you see, because I am going to talk about the yarn I chose to make the Gathered Pullover,
which is part silk. (Good to appease the silkworm union before I
venture into touching their extrusions. If you know what I mean.)
But let me start at the beginning.
Hana Jason's Gathered Pullover
Today, I'm going to walk you through how I chose the yarn for my Gathered Pullover, because maybe I chose the right yarn...and maybe I didn't.
The original yarn specified for this pattern is the always-lovely
Brown Sheep Top of the Lamb. I own so much Brown Sheep yarn that I
think the warehouse has me on speed-send. ("Back up the truck to the
driveway, folks...just back 'er in!")
But as I have discovered from past sweater adventures, my skin does
not adore this yarn as much as I adore it. Like many wool yarns, it is
a bit on the prickly side. This "prickly factor" is common to many
wools-from-sheep, depending on the breed, the way the yarn is spun, and
probably the phase of the moon. The prickles are due to short fibers
within the wool itself, fibers that stick out of the yarn. Some of
these fibers might be slightly thicker fibers than the main wool, some
might just be the main wool being unruly. Different breeds have
different amounts of Prickle Factor, and different spinning and
processing methods alleviate this Prickle Factor to some degree.
And some folks do not even feel the Prickle Factor.
The Gathered Pullover is meant to be worn fairly close-fitting; I
would want to wear it next to my skin. Thus: Prickle Bad. So, I needed
to walk away from the lovely Brown Sheep, and choose something
What are the special needs of this sweater in terms of yarn?
The Gathered Pullover is drapey, so the yarn cannot be too stiff.
(Part of this drape is achieved via a rather large gauge, but still,
the yarn must cooperate.) The most noticeable feature of the pullover
is the central cable...and now we have a challenge. We have to find a
non-stiff yarn which will also accommodate a cable.
What yarn is best for cables?
Well, what exactly is a cable? A cable is a structural, almost
sculptural element in the fabric, where the two-dimensional fabric is
built up upon itself, via twisting and overlapping stitches, in order
to create a three-dimensional effect. One important element of the yarn
is The Grab Factor: in order to hold the shape of the cables, the yarn
has to grab on to itself a bit. If the yarn is too slippery, the cables
will just sink out of sight, pulled by the weight of the yarn into
oblivion. If the yarn is too stiff, well, again: we need a bit of drape
you look at the royalty of cabled sweaters, the Arans, they are made
out of very "sticky" wool—the yarn definitely has the ability to grab
on to itself and hold the intricate shapes of the cables. We learned in
the last post that wool has lots of little scales running along the
fiber; these scales, even when closed, give the wool just a little
roughness, just enough texture to not slide around too much. In
traditional Aran wools, there is also quite a bit of lanolin left in
the yarn, which helps the grab factor.
However, for this sweater, Aran wools are not want I want. I want
something a little grabby, but smooth to the skin. I also need drape. I
What alternatives to 100% wool could I find?
Cotton was out--it has no memory, thus is way too stretchy. 100%
silk was out, because I am on a budget. But silk...I like silk. Hm.
What about a silk blend? Silk and wool together. Silk for the drape and
sheen, wool for the grabbiness needed to hold the cable together. So I
wander around my LYS until I come up with Crystal Palace Creme, which
is 60% Merino and 40% silk. (Sadly, this yarn has now been
discontinued.) I knit a swatch, and the cable seems to hold, the fabric
feels good against my skin, and the purple is gorgeous.
And so the knitting began. Yes, I swatched until I wanted to scream,
switching needle sizes (and materials--I got more accurate gauge on my
size 9 wood needles than on my size 9 metal needles!) until I got
exactly the fabric I wanted. It is true that I knit it in the 44.75"
size, and before I even got to the sleeves, I had lost enough weight so
that I will have to go down a size in order to make the sweater look
right. But: What do you think of my yarn choice, given the cables and
the drape? What would you have chosen, and why? Let us know what you think!
Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.
What's on Sandi's needles? Laceweight alpaca/silk, and on another set of needles, lovely tan worsted wool-from-sheep, and on another set, silk/merino DK.