by Fiona Ellis
I know, I know, most of you hate to do gauge swatches or even swatch with new yarns in general. But some knitters do love to swatch - it is still knitting after all. And maybe itʼs the delight we take in swatching that leads us into a life of designing. Although, just in case you think that I am saying this with a superior air, I will tell you that I also hate to do gauge swatches when making something for myself and if you promise not to tell I will let you into a secret -- I start on a sleeve which is really not much more than a large swatch and if I get gauge Iʼm off to the races and if not . . . well . . . back to square one.
Seeing as I love to swatch and you might hate to do so, this blog piece is perhaps a perfect marriage. In the Spring issue of Twist Collective my design Pamela was featured worked in Classic Elite Yarns Classic Silk, 50% cotton / 30% silk / 20% nylon.
After it was completed I still kept wondering what that lace patterning would look like in a different yarn. How would it affect the stitch definition and the way the fabric drapes for example? So I spoke to the nice people at Elann Yarns and asked if I could get my grubby little mitts on a few sample balls to try it out. Here are the results of my experiments. Each of the swatches was produced on a 4.5 mm needle (the size my pattern calls for) and produces the same gauge as the pattern describes but the effect produced is a little different between each of the yarns. Suggested needle sizes for the Elann yarns are 3.25 - 3.75 (US 3 -5) except for Pegasus which suggests 4.5 mm (US 7), the Classic Elite yarn suggests a 4 mm (US 6).
Elann Pegasus (white-shiny): 52.5% mercerized cotton / 47.5% viscose.
Elann Luna (off white): 55% viscose / 45% cotton.
Elann Camila (oatmeal): 50% cotton / 50% linen.
Elann Callista (peach): 50% viscose / 25% cotton / 25% linen.
Elann Pure Bamboo (white-matt): 100% bamboo.
The sample in Pegasus is most like the original because of its weight, but with the sheen from the viscose and the mercerized cotton it gives it a more festive "party" or evening look.
Next in similarity to the Classic Silk is Luna, also because it is close in weight, but it is a tiny bit lighter so this swatch has more drape and again the sheen gives it a different look to that of the Classic Silk.
Camila has lovely stitch deﬁnition and the linen content gives a dry hand to the fabric (in other words, it feels crisp). It is slightly more drapey than the original version in Classic Silk because I used a needle size larger than is called for.*
Callista has both the sheen and crisp hand plus has even more drape than Camila which is this sample is almost limp. If I was going to use this yarn I would try it again on a smaller needle size for comparison.*
Pure Bamboo is the most different from the original yarn and because it is a much thinner yarn the 4.5 mm needles felt a little large when working it, but the lighter and more open feel gives considerably more drape. Again I would re-swatch this yarn on a smaller needles to compare the feel of each one. But worked as it is it will produce a different appearance than the original but it may be a look / feel that you prefer. Which proves that you can never tell until you have tried to yarn to know how it will work.
Something to note about the lace patterning for “Pamela” is that the stitch patterns look similar to each other because they are in fact just variations of each other. The ﬁrst stitch pattern (lower half) has the lace worked on both the RS & WS but then as you move to the upper section (both of the swatch and garment) the pattern is elongated by the addition of “plain” WS rows between each “patterned” row. This produces a less open fabric which is something you might be looking for in the upper half of a sweater.
So think about yarn options when you look at sweater patterns, and about how playing around with different yarns can change a sweater's feel and style. Have fun.