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Fine knitting with fine yarns

May 23, 2011

I was in Seattle last week and I had a wonderful evening with my knitting group there. I've missed them so much! We were talking about our current projects and it turned out that almost all of us were knitting with either sport-weight or DK-weight yarn.

   
What a difference! The dress on the left was knitted with bulky yarn at 3 stitches per inch; the dress on the right was knitted with a fine yarn at 7 stitches per inch.
I've come to the conclusion that the knits I like best are knit on size 5 or 6 needles; they're the ones I wear most often. My group agrees with me—they like how the smaller-gauge projects drape and flatter.

Don't get me wrong, I love a bulky sweater vest for the winter, in fact I've about worn out my Heather Hoodie! But I do think that smaller gauge sweaters are more flattering to my rather round figure. Check out the photo at left: Even Barbie looks better in a small-gauge dress!

One of the problems with knitting fine-gauge yarn is that it can take a long time! My smaller-gauge projects are always worth it, but I have to keep reminding myself of that as I'm knitting.

The authors of my favorite fine-yarn knitting book, Knit So Fine, have come up with a list of ways to keep knitting without losing your steam!

Staying Motivated

Of all the reasons knitters give for not using fine yarns, we most commonly hear that they don't want to spend so much time on a single project. We live in a world of instant gratification, and even knitters have grown accustomed to projects that are "quick-knits" or that can be finished in a weekend. While there are some projects that knit up quickly in fine yarn, the fact of the matter is that most projects are going to take, well, a while. If you're afraid you'll poop out before your sweater is finished, try some of these tricks to keep yourself knitting:

  • Alternate a fine-gauge project with a quick-knit one. Whipping out some caps or scarves will help satisfy your need for accomplishment.
  • Take time to knit at least a few rows every day. Whether you use knitting as time for quiet relaxation or while listening to music or watching your favorite TV show, allow time to enjoy it daily.
  • When knitting large pieces, such as sweater fronts or backs, measure your progress every few days, not every few hours. It takes time to make progress with fine yarn, and you may only depress yourself if you find that you've added a mere half-inch since you last measured.
  • Join a knit-along or write a blog about your sweater progress.
  • Set small goals such as finishing a cuff or working two inches instead of always looking to when the project will be finished. Try writing these goals on a piece of paper and crossing them off as they're accomplished.
  • Find a knitting buddy and arrange times to get together to knit and encourage each other.
  • Treat yourself to a small pleasure when you reach particular milestones-and ice cream cone when you finish the sleeve, a new CD when the front and back are done, or a ball of sock yarn when you're ready to block.

—from Knit So Fine

    
Drapey Silk Top from Knit So Fine
Knitting a whole garment with sportweight yarn may seem daunting, so I suggest you get started with a small project, such as a tee or a vest.

I love the Drapey Silk Top by Carol Sulcoski. It's in Knit So Fine, and it provides all that's great about small-gauge knitting. It's a beautifulfabric, it's flattering, and it's multi-seasonal. The loose crossover fronts accentuate the luxurious drape while the twisted rib edging hugs the waist. You can dress it up or down all throughout the year.

Start knitting fine with Knit So Fine! I know you'll love it as much as I do.

Cheers,


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Comments

Linda KS wrote
on May 29, 2011 5:26 PM

Another fan of fine yarns here--just wish there were more sweater patterns available for these fine yarns. Seems like 90% of the patterns out are for worsted or bulky knits. I don't mind that knitting with fine yarns takes longer because I know I will use and enjoy the end product much more than if I had used a heavier yarn. And like others, I will sometimes take a "break" and knit a small item (hat, etc) in a worsted weight. Then I am back to my fine yarns again and enjoying it that much more!

Amontillada wrote
on May 25, 2011 7:07 AM

I love fine knits! All the way down to really fine--I mean zero knitting needles and fingering yarn. (Socks are my friend!) I'm knitting a lace scarf by Galina Khmeleva from Pieceworks 2008 lace issue. When I got that issue, I thought "I have to make that someday." I'd done lace edgings and doilies, but nothing this large.  I have been working on it for quite a while! Because of the space needed to lay out the chart and keep the knitting on the safe table, I usually work on it at my LYS, where I have plenty of encouragement.  

And I need to do it under direct light, like any small-scaled craft. I have done several larger projects that I can knit more quickly, in the passenger seat of the car or wherever, for breaks. Some of these are hats for premature babies or for chemotherapy patients or prayer shawls for a church program, and others are presents for friends or relatives.

on May 24, 2011 10:57 AM

@lucille Reilly...

what is combination knitting?  i would love to knit faster.

on May 24, 2011 4:29 AM

Knitting with finer yarns is a mind-over-matter exercise for me. If I sit back, relax and enjoy the process, the fact that it's taking so long to actually finish the project is less important. It's all knitting, fine or chunky, and the knitting is what I like.

robynjh wrote
on May 23, 2011 4:21 PM

I also prefer the fine knits.  I was wondering if anybody has patterns specifically for 100% suri alpaca in sport or lace weight?   Suri alpaca drapes and has fantastic sheen, but I haven't found any patterns made with this wool in mind.

GerdaP wrote
on May 23, 2011 3:59 PM

Hi Kathleen,

I love knitting with fine yarn, but I do break up that fine work with some "heavier" projects.

Most of my projects are on 5's and 7's, bigger needles feel like logs to me!

jmadjedi wrote
on May 23, 2011 2:01 PM

Another bullet might be: have 3-4 projects going on at once.  Then I can choose if I want a challenge and tackle the sport weight argyle sweater, zip through a bulky beanie for the women's shealter or or just turn off my brain, turn on an old movie and knit the seed stitch patchwork squares of my latest afgan.  

on May 23, 2011 9:50 AM

To the comments, I would also include exploring knitting methods that help us knit fast!  I took up combination knitting a few years ago, which tripled my knitting speed and quaded my ribbing speed.  I feel better about knitting with finer yarns because, while I expect knitting to take time, knitting takes less time with a fast, "in-out" (just two moves per stitch!) needle action.