Technique, etiquette, and lifestyle advice for the modern knitter
By Patty Lyons
I love to make my sweaters on circulars—even cardigans. That way I know all my pieces will line up. Are there any guidelines to know when a pattern calling for "separate pieces seamed after knitting" cannot be changed to knit as one piece?
I remember when I first learned to knit in the round, I started converting every pattern for circs. After I learned about balancing stitches the hard way, making a k2,
I’m a fan of the structure of seams. If a designer created the pattern to be worked in the round, grab your circs and enjoy. If it was designed to be worked flat, embrace mattress stitch and a row counter. You’ll be happier with your finished sweater.
I'm a fiber artist and I have had many kind things said about my work, but I also get the same complaint from knitters all the time "What a waste of yarn." What do I say to people that feel I'm wasting yarn that could be used for charity knitting or making clothes?
Dear Unappreciated Artist,
I love fiber art and have been amazed at some of the incredible pieces created with yarn, felt, weaving, and crochet. It does not excuse such comments, but it helps take the sting out of them when you remember how knitters feel about yarn. We love it, we love knitting with it, and sometimes knitters have a blind spot when it comes to yarn.
Chin up and keep doing what you do.
As a new knitter, I'm not exactly sure what the density of a swatch—or any knitted fabric—should be like (other than lace). If I knit a swatch and get gauge but I can see light through the fabric, could that mean the yarn is actually too thin?
Here's why I ask. I'd like to knit a hat and I've begun knitting the swatch with a fingering weight yarn and size-3 needles, as called for in the pattern. After about an inch, I can see that I'll likely achieve gauge, but the fabric is much less dense than that of a pair of socks I just knitted. While not exactly lacy, light easily passes through the fabric. I'm concerned that it's a little too "airy," even if it is at the gauge called for.
I sure wish that along with suggesting a yarn weight, that patterns also gave the wraps per inch of the yarn used. It seems like wraps per inch (WPI) is a much truer measure of the size of a yarn!
Oh if only it were that simple. Let me first answer your general question about fabric and then we’ll dig into the “what’s in a name” of fingering and WPI. When you swatch, it’s not just for gauge, but to make a fabric that you like. In general, for things like hats, socks, gloves, and other items knit to negative ease (the item being smaller than the body part it’s going over), you want a fabric dense enough that air is not rushing through it.
When it comes to yarn category names, things get a little tricky. You see, not all fingering weight yarn (a broad category) is the same and even not all WPI are the same. Here’s my handy-dandy WPI sheep gauge and you can see the notation for fingering weight is 14 WPI
My sheep-shaped WPI gauge.
Here are three different yarns that are all listed as fingering weight with a WPI of 14. Let’s take a look at the contenders for your hat and how different they can be.
In this corner is a fluffy soft little wonder . . .
Yarn #1 is a four-ply alpaca and although it’s marked 14 WPI, I only got 13 WPI. The yarn’s published gauge is 28 stitches/ 4” on a U.S. size 4.
Fingering yarn #1 wraps up at 13 WPI.
Next up is this rustic, rugged beauty . . .
Yarn #2 is a three-ply 100% wool. I got 16 WPI! The yarn’s published gauge is 32 stitches / 4” on a U.S. size 2.
Fingering yarn #2 measures 16 WPI
Finally, this smooth, sophisticated darling of the yarn world . . .
Yarn #3 is a six-ply 100% superfine superwash merino wool. I got 14 WPI. The yarn’s published gauge is 28 stitches / 4” on a U.S. size 2 – 3.
Third time’s the charm; yarn #3 achieves the predicted 14 WPI
So what type of clues can you look for when substituting yarn beyond weight category and WPI? In the October 2017 Twist Collective, I wrote about yarn density and other elements to consider in yarn substitution. Now I’ll add one more: look for the gauge range and what size needle is used to get that gauge.
Remember this important fact: needles go with yarn and knitter, not with
So swatch on my friend, and don’t let weight category, WPI, or the gauge on the label sway you from judging the fabric you love.
Patty Lyons teaches nationally at guilds and knitting shows around the country. Her popular classes can also be found online and on DVD at Interweave, Annie’s, and Craftsy, where her “Improve Your Knitting Class” was named Craftsy’s most popular class of 2013. Her designs have been published in Twist Collective, Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits, and many more magazines and pattern books.