Friday, 18 January 2019

Knitting a Swatch Helps Predict Yarn Yardage

"Like my new scarf?"
"It's enormous, Beaut. Certainly keeps your ears warm. Wouldn't you be better off wearing it round your shoulders?" My companion, Elinor Gotland, tugged at the lower edge, but I shrugged her off. 
"I like wearing shawls as scarves, and I like big scarves."
"Don't get your neckwear in a knot. Far be it from me to smother your personal style." We walked on in silence until she reached out to tweak the scarf again. "The colours are too cool for you and it's hardly your new look for this winter. I'm sure I've seen this pattern before."
"Mmm, it's from Shawl Joy, same shawl I knitted in Brooklyn Tweed Targhee wool a couple of years ago. It's just come out bigger in the Danske Pelsuld Gotland yarn."
"To be honest, Beaut, it's just too big. You could have dodged the outsize issue if only you'd knitted a tension swatch. I'm amazed you had enough yarn to finish the pattern."
"Ooo, look at all those crows flocking down to the hollow over there."
"Probably meeting for lunch. They don't call it a murder of crows for nothing." Elinor plunged her own beak in for the kill. "Shouldn't this shawl have a fancy bind off?"
I felt like a trapped rabbit with nowhere to run.

I really like both the knitting and the look of the perpendicular border in The Rain Outside pattern, but I did run out of wool.
The pattern calls for 714m double knitting yarn. The first shawl started out as 300g of Targhee, which should have been about 795m. When I had to miss out the last couple of rows in order to have enough to do the fancy bind off, I blamed it on the fact that 100g of the Targhee had been handspun and quite probably, my measuring of the yardage was wrong. The Gotland version was also made on 4mm needles and entirely millspun. According to the ball bands, 300g should have been 825m, yet still I ran out of yarn.
My companion sighed.
"I knew you'd buggered up something when I saw this shawl blocked out - it was too long for the double bed. You're a loose knitter and a Slack Alice. If you'd gone down a needle size, you'd have got the right dimensions and had plenty of yarn to do the border." 
I couldn't argue. I've always felt that size doesn't matter with shawls, one of the many joys of knitting them is that there's no need to do a tension swatch before beginning. Comparing these two, the Gotland is wider and longer than the Targhee, not only because it has more rows of knitting, but also because the tension is 15 stitches to 10cm while the Targhee has 17. The pattern actually says there should be 18 stitches to 10cm and the final wingspan should be a whole 50cm shorter than the Gotland actually is. I was forced to admit a tension swatch is not only needed for getting the bust size of your cardigan right, working a shawl to the correct gauge would also ensure the yardage stays predictable.
"Fair play, Elinor. Size matters."
"Too right." My companion swooped down the hill, scattering the birds as she shouted "Eat crow, Beaut."

In the final analysis, I enjoyed knitting both shawls and I'm happy wearing them. The characteristics of the two kinds of sheepswool have proved much as I anticipated. The Targhee is still cuddly and soft and I'm pleased to report it has stood up to two winters of wear without pilling the way Merino yarn tends to. 

The Gotland is more lustrous and bloomy. It drapes better and is likely to be at least as durable as the Targhee, although more sensitive family members consider it a bit scratchy. I bought it chiefly because I loved the colours - seems I have a predilection for the effects of overdyeing grey yarn. Gorgeous shades in themselves, but maybe not right for me.

"This would suit someone with grey hair, Elinor."
"Only if she had a very long neck, Beaut."


  1. I happen to love the purple/green! I'd have grey hair, but unfortunately not a very long neck:) and I am with you on large scarves/shawls - I don't like the ittybitty things, either a proper one or none at all, that's me:) and you can always let the long, narrow ends hang free... just because your companion is short and a bit stubby - she's jealous, that's all:)

    1. Elinor just informed me that svelte and petite is timeless

    2. svelte - wouldn't have come to my mind thinking of her:) but ok, it's always good to have a lot of self-confidence....*wink*

    3. Elinor makes Mae West look like a schoolgirl. Life gave her curves and she's not afraid to flaunt them :)

  2. I used to learn knitting from my mom. It got my interest since I was around 8 years old, however I could never learn it. I mean not completely, I can still knit but not up to the mark.

    1. Long as you are happy with your results, or just the knitting process, who cares about being up to the mark? My knitting was and still is a bit hit and miss, but the more I do, the more I learn :)