Sunday, May 15, 2011

Swatchin' and Doodlin'

I have a great deal of a crinkly teal yarn - it was given to me.  I don't exactly know what it is, except that it's a thin industrial yarn, all synthetic.  It's teal-colored, and teal is a nice color for me.

The yarn therefore, represents a nice little challenge.  What shall I knit with this particular mystery yarn?

The first step is to do some swatching.  I tried the crinkly yarn by itself at about a tension 4, and it was nice enough.  It was pretty on both sides, with a subtle boucle look and a bit of a gleam.

I thought I'd try the yarn in a thread lace (Studio knitters call it "punch lace" along with another even thinner yarn.  Some things to think about with thread lace:

1.  Both yarns have to run through the needles together, forming two-strand stitches, so they can't be terribly thick.  Therefore, thread lace is a good way to use thin stuff.

2.  The non-selected needles will have both yarns in the stitch, and the selected ones will have only one - the "thread," since you usually use thinner stuff for those stitches, which makes the fabric look lacy.

3.  Thread lace is fast since you do no extra passes of a lace carriage.  That makes it practical for large projects, like curtains.

4.  The two yarns do not have to be the same color.  I had a close match with my yarns, though.  Using contrasting colors gives quite a different effect.

5.  Thread lace can be used for texture by using two of the same yarns.

6.  You never know what you're going to get and what you will like best unless you work swatches.  And one swatch does tend to lead to another...and another...

I knitted a bunch of samples with the two yarns, and decided this yarn looked best with a tight tension (I tightened every swatch job until I got all the way down to 3) and a "killing" steam job.  I steamed the utter life out of the swatches so they lie very flat and the fabric acquires a silky drape.  Even then, I had to be careful not to overdo the heat and steam, because I didn't want to actually melt the fiber.

I do most of my knitted sweaters with a charting device, the Knit Leader, and I am venturing into doing some Knit Leader projects with my readers.  I've been wanting to make a top out of this yarn.  I'll be asking y'all who want to learn the charting device to find a yarn for a fitting sweater and to do a gauge swatch.  This teal is one I'm doing - you will be doing something else because the beauty of using a charting device is you use YOUR yarn in YOUR size project.  Your first step is going to be swatchin' and doodlin', too.  For your fitting sweater, your swatching will reveal whether the yarn you have chosen is easy to work with and hopefully, in the middle of your machine's range of thicknesses

I decided that most of these thread laces were just too open and see-through for my desired project.  They could be very nice for a lace cardigan to wear over a shell, but that wasn't what I wanted.  I wanted a top to wear by itself with slacks.  I finally used pattern #590 from Stitch World with the double height key and got this last swatch.  This photo is an extreme close-up, and it's not at all see-thru.  Killed and laundered, I still like it very much, so it's a "go."  I have so much of this yarn that I might do one of the fru-fru flowery thread laces later.

For a real garment, I need a measurable gauge swatch.  Doing a good gauge swatch, blocking it and washing and drying it, are essential steps for a successful project. Note the markings on my gauge swatch - two horizontal lines and a series of dots in a column on each side, made with contrasting yarn, to facilitate measuring for gauge, and note the 3 eyelet holes along the bottom, which indicates I used tension 3.  Also, follow this rule:   When you do a garment in an all-over stitch pattern, do the gauge swatch in the stitch pattern, too.

Over the years I incorporated tips I heard for very good gauge swatches and developed a routine, which you can see here in Lesson 28 of my beginner machine knitting videos:


  1. Oh Diana, thank you so much for taking on the knitleader and being willing to show us lost sheep how the thing works. I have one of these and it has never been out of the box because I truely do not understand the manual instructions. I am soooooo much a visual learner!! I can't wait for more on this topic!! If you need suggestions on your next topic may I suggest a tutorial on how to use knitting machine electronics!! ;)LOL Another part of my machine that is unused. :( Thanks again, you are a true God send!! Dana

  2. Fascinating! Would you please show a picture of the finished project when it's completed. LOVE the color.