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Knitting For SOAR (plus VOTE on my next sweater)

Nov 5, 2009

Knitting For SOAR

You might have noticed that I did not post last week (bad blogger!).  My excuse? I was at Interweave's Spin-Off Annual Retreat, learning all about my most favorite thing: Yarn. My SOAR adventure was, in part, a mission to find out more about this beloved substance, to see if I could make better yarn choices in my knitting. I figured the more I knew about yarn, the better knitter I could become.

My very first day there, the instructor hands me a puff of cashmere fiber and tells me to make some yarn with it. Yes, really. (And it just got better from there–we even made bunny fur yarn!)

That's what it was like. For SIX DAYS, people. For six days, people like Abby Franquemont and Judith Mackenzie McCuin and Maggie Casey and Amy King kept showing me things about yarn that made my little knitter's head explode.

Learning About My Own Knitting

As I was packing for SOAR, I realized that I needed a knitting project to take with me. The white starry baby blanket wouldn't do, as it is too big (and too white) to take on a plane. I finally decided to start a new project, just a bitty one (no, really, I can finish this one, honest I can...really...). In honor of SOAR, I chose to use some of my own handspun yarn–a 50/50 alpaca silk blend that I spun up into silky soft 2-ply sockweight yarn. For the pattern, I chose Pretty Thing, the Yarn Harlot's lace cowl design. That's a photo of it–I love how the pinks softly change from light to dark, like the petals of a rose. Makes me happy just looking it it!

By the time I got to SOAR, I had the cowl nearly half-done (see?). I set the knitting aside during the classes in favor of my spinning; once I got home, however, I was ready to knit again. I picked up the cowl project...and with all that SOAR knowledge so minty fresh in my mind, I realized that my lovely rose-colored yarn might not be a good choice for the cowl after all. (Rats.) Here's why:

What Have You Learned, Dorothy?

I took Robin Russo's three-day workshop on Exotic Fibers–including, of course, alpaca and silk. Robin challenged us to think of fibers and yarns in terms of words like elasticity (or memory), strength, softness, and sheen. A yarn made entirely of silk, for example, will have high marks for strength and sheen, but low marks for elasticity, as silk has no ability to "bounce back." Likewise, alpaca gets high marks for softness, but relatively low marks for memory when compared to its woolly cousins.

And therein lies the problem with my little pretty cowl. My cowl by its nature needs to be elastic–I want to pull it on over my head, and then have it snuggle charmingly against my neck. My handspun yarn is half silk (thus sheen, strength, and softness, but no memory); and half alpaca (thus softness and sheen, but not a lot of memory). While the yarn is a great choice for wearing against my skin, it may not be a great choice for something that needs to keep its shape over the course of a lot of stretching and pulling.

What might work better would be something with a little wool in it–say, an alpaca/silk/wool blend. (I'll keep that in mind for next time. It's Canada. The first snowfall is mere days away. Surely I will need more than one warm cowl during the next six months.) However, my cowl might be fine as is, because it's all lace. Lace has a bit more structure to it than plain stockinette, and this structure can bring a bit of elasticity to the mix, depending on the stitch pattern and the gauge.

As my SOAR instructors kept saying: It Depends. Try It And See.

I've decided to finish the cowl, block it, wear it, and then See What Happens. It's an experiment, a learning experience. If I learned anything at SOAR, it's that you never truly know anything about yarn until you try it out–because as we knitters know all too well, our mistress Yarn certainly has a mind of her own!

Stay tuned. I'll show you the cowl when it's finished and maybe do some stretch tests with it. That ought to be interesting...and give us all some good information for yarn choices along the way.


Sweater Poll: Choose Which Sweater I Knit Next!

Two weeks ago, I asked you to submit ideas for my next on-the-needles sweater project–and you responded with dozens of pretty sweaters! So the nominations are in, and I've counted your votes. Here are the top five sweaters you suggested I knit next: Tangled Yoke Cardigan by Eunny Jang; Central Park Hoodie by Heather Lodinsky (big girl sizing by Lisa Shroyer); Farmer's Market Cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchio; Curry Cabled Cardigan by Cathy Payson; and Sienna Cardigan by Ann E. Smith. Great choices everyone! Thank you.

Now vote for the final choice! Which one should I knit next for myself? (Go ahead, boss me around. You know you want to.)

Choose my next sweater project!


Knit with joy...

– Sandi

P.S. Let me know what you think! You can email me at or you can leave a comment.


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+ Add a comment


Yvonne@7 wrote
on Nov 11, 2009 9:18 AM

Greetings from friendly Maitoba where the winters are cold - Definitely the Sienna - mom is right ! Besides I would also like to try this sweater and have company along the way -  

Kelleigh wrote
on Nov 6, 2009 6:59 PM


I vote for the Sienna.  Besides, Mom is always right.  Took me far too long to realize that ;-)


Donna@28 wrote
on Nov 6, 2009 1:30 PM

Hi Sandy, I have also knit the Pretty Thing cowl and don't know how to block it. What is the proper way for something round?  I used sock yarn with wool in it, but it itches. I'm thinking about trying again in bamboo. Do you think that will work?

You might as well knit the Sienna cardigan since you already have a request for that one that carries a lot of weight ( your Mom) .  Anything with cables will look great!


on Nov 6, 2009 12:19 PM

I vote for the Farmer's Market Cardigan, because I really DO NOT understand how the pockets and the curving cable all come together. I have read all the directions and I just don't get it. I would really like to see step-by-step stages of how this sweater is knit, then I might tackle it myself!

Plus I think the curving cable would be very flattering to womanly shapes, and I love sweaters with pockets!  Gotta have a place for the iPod!

SusanG@48 wrote
on Nov 6, 2009 9:08 AM

I vote for the Farmer's Market Cardigan.  

SharonC wrote
on Nov 5, 2009 5:34 PM

I voted, by the way, for the Curry Cable

SharonC wrote
on Nov 5, 2009 5:31 PM

Sandi, if you want to be warm, it's gotta be the CPH. If you don't want to be bored while knitting, the Curry Cabled would have my vote. Oh, and some of us worry about you when you don't post! LOL

TammyT wrote
on Nov 5, 2009 4:49 PM

I think the Curry Cabled Cardigan would really show off your pretty curves!

on Nov 5, 2009 3:42 PM

This post was mentioned on Twitter by InterweaveNews: Sandi wants YOU to VOTE on her next sweater. My vote is the Farmer's Market Cardigan!

MarthaS@20 wrote
on Nov 5, 2009 3:31 PM

Sandi, my love, what is this about knitting yourself a sweater when your Mother Dear would very much enjoy a hand-knitted sweater from my first born?  I vote for the Sienna Cardigan by Ann Smith - that one is just right for me, don't you think?  Great for winter here in snowy Illinois.

The Mother Who Loves You  

fracksmom wrote
on Nov 5, 2009 2:56 PM

I vote for the hoodie.......

fracksmom wrote
on Nov 5, 2009 2:56 PM

I vote for the hoodie.......

CecilyG@2 wrote
on Nov 5, 2009 2:30 PM

I vote for the Farmer's Market Cardigan!