It's A Great Yarn...For Some Other Pattern

Aug 5, 2010

I finally made it to the armholes on my Tattoo Tank.

Lest you think I am a slacker who sits around all day eating chocolates and watching soap operas: I not only made it to the armholes, I am also done with the armhole shaping on the back, AND I have completed the back all the way past the cute little heart lace motif which gives the tank its name.

I did, however, have a Moment when I finally reached the point where I was ready to work the armhole shaping. You know, a Moment. One of those Moments when you go dig up the pattern, and read through the next section, and then you look at your knitting on the needles and you go...Ohhhhh. Noooooo. Yeah, one of Those.

My particular Oh No moment was in honour of my ever-changing stitch count. This yarn...it vexes me...it vexes me. It causes the fabric to GROW and morph and change, before the knitting is even done! I'm to the point where I'm going by measurement alone, not stitch count, because the yarn is so slidey that its slip-slidin' away from itself and creating havoc with silly conventions such as gauge. I knit...I measure. I knit some more, tweaking stitch counts as needed...I measure some more. In the end, it's the measurements that count, not how many stitches you have.

Lest you think from my words above that I detest this yarn: Not so. I actually think it's a splendid yarn: a 50/50 cotton/Tencel blend, worsted weight, spun with a shine and smoothness that are pretty enough to make my knitter's heart go bunga-bunga. But like every other yarn on the planet, it has its quirks. This yarn's particular quirk is that it is so shiny and smooth that it slips around in its own stitches, making a mess out of my careful gauge math.

Am I going to rip out my project and walk away in disgust, shoving the yarn tangle into the nearest trash can? Nope. I'm a knitter, yarn is my passion...and I am its master. Every now and then, however, I am also its student, and this project is one of those times.

I've learned something important here: This yarn, lovely and shiny as it is, is the wrong sort of yarn for this sort of tank top. This yarn is strong-willed; it wants to wander all over the place, stretching stitches and rows to follow gravity's call.  This darling top has wide swaths of unfettered space to show off the lovely smooth texture and glossy shine of the yarn, but it doesn't have one thing this yarn needs in order to become a successful knitted garment: Structure. This yarn needs fences, corrals, gates, walls; it needs lines for it to colour within. It needs to know where it is allowed to go, and it needs to know when to stop wriggling around in its seat. This yarn would be better in a top with seams, with some sort of waistband or other horizontal fencing. It needs places in the fabric where the flow of stitches is purposefully interrupted, so that its natural tendency to move around has a stopping place every now and then, helping the fabric to (more or less) hold its shape.

The Tattoo Tank is seamless, and has nothing in the way of structure. If I had had more experience with this type of yarn, I might have foreseen that this yarn wasn't going to play well with this tank. However, I admit that this is the first time I have knit with anything containing tencel, and despite my Really Big Swatch, I didn't foresee this.

It happens. We are not omniscient, we are not All-Knowing. And that's not the point, to be All-Knowing when it comes to yarn. It IS the point to be Master of your yarn, however. And master craftswomen (and men) see a project such as this, where yarn does not match design, as a challenge to their ingenuity and creativity.

In other words: I'm not going to rip this out, even though I know in my heart this is the wrong yarn for this pattern. I'm going to keep going...and I'm going to use my clever knitter's brain to Think This Through, to come up with adjustments that will turn this yarn/project duo from Fail to Win.

Note that this does not mean that I am saying it is bad to rip things out if they aren't working for you. Rip away if you need to; please, be my guest. Sometimes ripping just feels so good, to undo all the cursed stitches in order to make new ones–maybe not new ones with this pattern, but new ones with this yarn and some other pattern in order to create that happy marriage of yarn and project. If you find your project and your yarn are not right for each other, you can try to come up with a solution, or you can rip, rip, rip. Your choice.

This yarn would make a really soft, really pretty lap blanket for chilly fall evenings. A blanket doesn't really care about gauge. And this yarn is velvety-smooth and soft and would be lovely to take a nap under...

But methinks it might also make a lovely summer top for a certain intrepid knitter.  If she is clever enough, that is...

And so it is that I still say: Bring it on, sassy yarn. Bring. It. On.

– Sandi

P.S. Want to know what's up next week? I'll share how I resolved an armhole-shaping dilemma.

P.P.S. Feel free to leave a comment because everyone has something to say... :)

 


 


Sandi Wiseheart
is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.


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Comments

DelVecchio wrote
on Aug 24, 2010 7:41 AM

Is there something I'm missing on the instructions for the Vacation Scarf?

on Aug 10, 2010 4:17 PM

Oh man, I know just how you feel...sometimes you just have to "knit through the pain" ;)

SandraM wrote
on Aug 9, 2010 6:53 PM

Hi Sandi, .....really miss your editorials on Knitting Daily!

suzzilator16 wrote
on Aug 9, 2010 4:36 PM

really enjoy this article...because, I, too, talk to my yarn...and it talks back.  sometimes it is very sassy indeed, and then I have to determine what my response will be...the challenge.  I love it.

BetteN wrote
on Aug 8, 2010 2:21 PM

Sandy,

One other thing that the swatch doesn't always tell you -- DRAPE. It is just possible, that this structure-less tank does indeed love the yarn you have chosen! When you finish the garment, block it, and then wear it, it is entirely possible that the weight of this slinky, slidey yarn will pull it down so that the width of the stitches are narrowed, and the lovely top clings ever-so-perfectly to the curves of your Very Cute Body. This is only discovered by the intrepid, the fearless, the not-to-be-overwhelmed knitter. YOU. And, I know because I knit a lovely Nora Gaughn top in bamboo (also slinky and  ill-behaved) and discovered that the yarn DID want to be a lovely tank, no matter what the gauge said, no matter how wide the body of the garment. It worked! Good luck.

BetteN wrote
on Aug 8, 2010 2:21 PM

Sandy,

One other thing that the swatch doesn't always tell you -- DRAPE. It is just possible, that this structure-less tank does indeed love the yarn you have chosen! When you finish the garment, block it, and then wear it, it is entirely possible that the weight of this slinky, slidey yarn will pull it down so that the width of the stitches are narrowed, and the lovely top clings ever-so-perfectly to the curves of your Very Cute Body. This is only discovered by the intrepid, the fearless, the not-to-be-overwhelmed knitter. YOU. And, I know because I knit a lovely Nora Gaughn top in bamboo (also slinky and  ill-behaved) and discovered that the yarn DID want to be a lovely tank, no matter what the gauge said, no matter how wide the body of the garment. It worked! Good luck.

MicheleB wrote
on Aug 7, 2010 5:12 PM

You *are* the boss of your knitting! Me, too. Whip 'em into shape. You go, girl!

Lirianna wrote
on Aug 7, 2010 1:45 PM

Wow... that is incredibly beautiful!!!  I love that color and it sounds absolutely to-die-for soft!!!   Some day I hope to be good enough at knitting to attempt something like this!!!  

I would wish you luck but it sounds like you don't need it!!   : )

jean01 wrote
on Aug 6, 2010 11:30 AM

I have a sweater that I've worn a lot this summer . . . that was ripped out twice before I found a suitable stitch for it.  It's problems were visual, not structural as with your garment.  The point is, though, that sometimes this happens.

Thanks so much for sharing this publicly so that everyone knows that this kind of thing happens to the best of us from time to time.

Hope that the t turns out to be wearable and that you don't end up frogging it.  But if you do, that's OK too.

MaryN@21 wrote
on Aug 6, 2010 9:58 AM

I have the same situation, albeit alpaca/tencel, that I have unravelled 3 previous projects because of the learning curve using this type of yarn to suit the pattern.   Unlike many others, I do not see 'ripping' or unravelling and beginning again a 'failure' - or the ' wasted' time initially put into the project.    Just like you said, Sandi, we can be a student as well as the Master of the yarn!!!   I've adjusted to negative ease, smaller needles and now have this knowledge ready for  the next time I use this type of yarn = POWER!!!!!

LindaH@7 wrote
on Aug 6, 2010 9:45 AM

It sounds to me like it wants to be a tunic to wear over a turtleneck during the fall or winter.  Then oversized is a good thing.

BonnieC@11 wrote
on Aug 6, 2010 8:48 AM

Bring it on, indeed!  Good job.

yarngirl wrote
on Aug 6, 2010 7:29 AM

Sandi, I'm glad you're not unravelling this top.  I think that the very thing that makes this yarn problematic, its softness and flexibility, will also make the top a pleasure to wear.  You never know, it may even become a favourite.

I had a similar problem to yours when I began knitting with pure bamboo.  It stretches like anything.  I made a tank top that really hung on me.  So I added rib to the neckline and armholes using considerably smaller needles.  This, as you say, gave "fences" to the fabric, and now I'm enjoying my top.

DebbieR wrote
on Aug 6, 2010 6:08 AM

Sandy, your top is beautiful and i'm glad you won't be frogging!