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Handy Chart of Yarn Weights

LBHandknits

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I am putting this up mainly so that I can  link to it on the Pattern Support page, to assist with questions about yarn substitutions.

But now that we are here, why not chat bout yarn weights? 

It's a topic that confuses even experienced knitters. And understandably so! Because there is a headache-inducing degree of subjectivity to it. So if you are searching for terms such as 'standard yarn weights' on the internet and finding conflicting or overlapping sets of 'standards' do not be alarmed - that is just how it is. The above chart is not intended as a definitive system to overrule all other systems. It is simply my system, and if you are using my patterns it might be handy to have it as a reference. 

The other important thing I wanted to note, is that yarn weights are really a continuum. As far as exact meterage, more often than not a yarn will fall in between categories, in which case it will usually be labeled according to the heavier category (even if in actual meterage it is closer to the lighter category!).  For example: a yarn with a meterage of 425m/100g will be labeled as Fingering weight. A yarn with a meterage of 375m/100g will be labeled as Sport. A yarn with a meterage of 240m/100g will be labeled as DK. A yarn with 190m/100g will be labeled as Aran.

The above is important to be aware of. Because when choosing a suitable yarn substitute for a pattern, it is not merely a question of whether you are able to meet gauge with this alternative yarn. And neither is it enough to ensure that the subsitute yarn belongs to the same weight category. It is crucial to check the actual meterage of the yarn you are considering substituting with, and to compare it to the meterage of the yarn used in the pattern.

For example, let's say a pattern calls for a yarn with a meterage of 200m/100g, which makes it a DK. You decide to substitute with a different DK yarn - only this one happens to be 250m/100g. Now, if you think about it, that is actually a significant difference in meterage! And this variation will certainly affect the characteristics of your fabric. Namely: The greater the meterage per 100g, the thinner the yarn, and the less dense (i.e. more drapey, less structured) your resulting fabric will be (assuming you are meeting the gauge stated in pattern). And while in some instances that may actually work well, in others it may compromise the garment you are knitting. It really depends on the pattern, and on the designer's intent.

So how do you substitute yarn, while ensuring that the fabric you create stays close to what the pattern intends?

Well, the obvious answer is: Look for yarn with meterage that matches as closely as possible that of the yarn used in the pattern. And if the yarn you like is off by a bit, consider what effect that will have on your fabric, and whether this is compatible with the type of garment you are looking to knit. So, for example: If you are knitting a flowing drapey shapeless sweater, going with a slightly thinner yarn than specified in the pattern could work, enhancing the qualities inherent to the design. On the other hand, going with a heavier yarn could make the garment more dense and rigid and therefore detract from these qualities. Conversely, if you are knitting a jacket that is intended to be quite structured and cloth-like, going with a slightly heavier yarn (and therefore making the fabric even denser) could work nicely, whereas going with a thinner yarn might not. 

Of course, yarn weight is only one aspect of what determines the characteristics of a knitted-up fabric. Considering the fibre content is also crucial. In particular, it is worth mentioning that there are yarns which play by their own rules as far as what weight they are according to their meterage, vs what weight they are according to their 'behaviour.' But that is a separate topic. 

And of course, if you are comfortable recalculating gauge and stitch counts, that gives you a lot more freedom to adapt a pattern to any yarn weight you like. But again, that is a topic for another time.

In the here and now, I hope my Handy Chart of Yarn Weights and its accompanying explanation, proves more useful than confusing, and helps you take the first step toward finding a suitable yarn for your pattern.

 

 

 

 

Here's Looking at You, Yo!

LBHandknits

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Since I mentioned the yarn dyer Ewe Momma in the previous post, it occurred to me this could be a good time for a public service announcement of sorts. 

The word Ewe. 

Knitters use it for all manner of puns. But not everyone is aware, that there are different ways to pronounce it, depending on your geographical location.

Given the nature of most of the existing puns, it seems the majority of English speakers tend to pronounce ‘ewe' as you. 

Hence: Do Ewe Knit? 

However, in the northwest of Ireland, and especially in rural areas, the word 'ewe 'is pronounced yo.

Hence: Ewe Momma!

That’s right: If you pronounce it correctly, it sounds like you are saying Yo’ Momma! Get it? It’s, like, supposed to be funny?

Ok, maybe not so much once I had to explain it. But the number of times I’ve heard people mispronounce this dyer’s name made me realise something had to be done. Some people were clearly missing out on the pun!

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And FYI, Ewe Momma - aka Tracey (pictured here at Woollinn with Terri of Fine Fish Yarns, and a rather deranged-looking me) - is a fabulous yarn dyer based in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, where she now also has a brick & mortar yarn shop. Should you ever find yourself in the area, Enniskillen is quite beautiful, with cafe-lined cobblestone streets, surrounded by lakes and mountains.

Tracey’s shop is situated right in the old town centre, so be sure to pay her a visit -  and amaze her with your correct regional pronunciation of ewe. 

 

Everyone's Autobiography

LBHandknits

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When I tried to choose a sweater to wear at Woollinn, I faced an interesting dilemma: All my weather-appropriate sweaters were being used as samples. So of course I had to knit a new one.  And to make it tie in with an Irish yarn festival theme, I brought to life an idea I've had for some time: to blend 3 skeins of sock yarn from separate local dyers, for a sweater that appeared to be knitted in one colourway. See if you can follow my logic here:

We all buy single skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn, which then accumulate beyond the point where they are likely to become socks any time soon. For some of us this means having single skeins in lots of random colours. But others, like me, tend to buy the same colourways again and again. So, for instance, I have accumulated a pile of single skeins in various variegated greens, and also a pile of mauves. Realistically, I am not going to spend the next year knitting pair after pair of similarly coloured socks! So it occurred to me, that I could turn some of these seemingly mismatched skeins into a sweater quantity, by putting together a set of 3 and strategically blending the colourways.

I will describe how to do this, for anyone who would like to try:

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1. Choose Your Yarn
Out of yarn which you already own, select 3 fingering-weight skeins of hand dyed variegated yarn, each from a different dyer, in variations of your favourite colourway. If you find that you have more than 3 to choose from, you could select thematically. For example: choose skeins from 3 of your favourite dyers. Or 3 skeins that you think are least likely to become socks any time soon. Or skeins from dyers local to you. Or skeins acquired while traveling. You get the idea. Whichever ones you select, the key here is for the 3 colourways to be sufficiently similar, so that they will blend together when alternated, without creating a blatantly striped effect. For best results you also want to aim for similar meterage and bases. For example, I would feel comfortable mixing BFL sock yarn with merino sock yarn. But I would not mix, say, merino singles, with high-twist BFL-nylon, with a mohair blend, as those are quite differently-behavig bases. But of course it is up to you.

For my Woollinn sweater, I selected 3 skeins of variegated light-green sock yarn from 3 Irish dyers:
. a merino-nylon from Fine Fish Yarns,
. a BFL-nylon from Woolly Adventures, and
. a BFL-nylon from Ewe Momma.
All three of the colourways were speckled, but in completely different ways. And the shades of green were also quite different, in terms of saturation and cool vs warm tones.

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2. Choose Your Pattern
Find a basic sweater pattern that calls for 3 skeins of fingering weight yarn. The design should be sufficiently plain so as not to compete with your variegated colourways. In other words, you probably do not want to get involved with cables or lace here. A basic raglan design should work nicely. Or something with an interesting construction or neckline. 

My Woollinn sweater is based on a design I am working on, called A Gentle Morning (not yet published), which is a simple henley top with contiguous sleeves. 

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3. Alternate Skeins as You Knit

If you have ever worked with skeins of yarn from different dye lots, or even with hand-dyed yarn from the same dyelot sometimes, you will already be familiar with the concept. But basically: Work with the 3 skeins at the same time, alternating between them as if you were knitting stripes. 

One way to do this, which makes for the most even blend, is to work all the colours equally throughout the sweater. For example:
Work 2 rounds/rows in colour A.
Work 2 rounds/ rows in Colour B.
Work 2 rounds/ rows in Colour C.
Repeat all the way through the sweater.

Note that the reason I suggest alternating every 2 rounds rather than every single round, is that if working in the flat or doing short rows, the yarn would need to 'return' before you can alternate colours again. But if your pattern is mostly in the round with only brief flat sections, you could  alternate every single round for most of it, and every other round for those sections where you have to go back and forth. 

An alternative way to blend the colourways, would be to aim for randomness. For example:
Work 1 round in Colour A.
Work 2 rounds in Colour B.
Work 3 rounds in Colour C.
Work 2 round in Colour A.
Work 3 rounds in Colour B.
Work 1 round in Colour C. 
Continue varying each colourway's stripe thickness all the way through the sweater.

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And yet another alternative, would be to use either of the methods above in a central location (i.e. the yoke) and then gradually separate the colours so that you have substantial sections knitted up in each individual yarn. 

For example, here is what I did with my own top-down sweater:
. Yoke: Alternated 2 rows/rounds of each colour evenly.
. Bodice: Started out as for yoke, then gradually increased the number of rounds in Colour A, until I was knitting the lower part of the bodice with Colour A only.
. Sleeve 1: Started out as for yoke, then gradually increased the number of rounds in Colour B, until I was knitting most of the sleeve with Colour B only.
. Sleeve 2: Started out as for yoke, then gradually increased the number of rounds in Colour C, until I was knitting most of the sleeve with Colour C only.

If you transition from the 3 colours to a single colour gradually, it is surprisingly unnoticeable - unless you know to look for it - that the sweater contains swathes of separate colourways. And the benefit to this method is mainly sentimental: You can look at portions of your sweater and identify patches from specific dyers. For instance, I think of my left sleeve as the 'Fine Fish Sleeve,' and so on. 

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I think that combining single skein yarns from our stockpile into our own unique 'custom' colourway blends in this manner, can be an interesting exercise - in that it makes us consider our colour preferences, as well as our yarn acquisition histories. It is for that reason I call this recipe 'Everyone's Autobiography' (which, yes, is a Gertrude Stein reference).

Also, if you are looking to decrease your stockpile of variegated sock yarns, this can be a useful and wearable way to go about that.

Personally, after 2 years of being genuinely open-minded and experimenting with superwash nylon blend yarns, I am returning to my original preference for working with minimally processed yarns only (yes, even for socks!). So most of my remaining superwash sock yarns will probably either be gifted or become 'Everyone's Autobiographies' in the course of this coming year.  

I hope this has been useful. If you would like to knit an Everyone's Autobiography and have questions about combining yarns, selecting a pattern, or alternating skeins, feel free to ask!

 

 

Woollinn - A Yarn-Fumed Overview

LBHandknits

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In this third time that I sit down and try to write about Woollinn, I am coming to terms with a bizarre realisation: I do not actually remember much of it. I mean, I know things happened: I was there for 10 hours! I know I walked around, spoke with people, saw a great deal of yarn, got my picture taken. But beyond that, it's a blur. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep. Or the yarn fumes. Or perhaps seeing my designs on display was more than my psyche could cope with, and so it retreated into a fugue state? Yes, probably that.

Considering how new I am to the world of fibre festivals, it is hard to believe that Woollinn was already my 4th one... In less than a year, and without ever leaving the Emerald Isle! To recap: Last August, I attended Northern Ireland's Yarnfolk, purely as a visitor. Then, in September, I was an exhibitor at the small and very indie Flax Fest, in Co. Derry. In November, I staffed the Apple Oak Fibre Works booth at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Dublin. Woollinn was an event different from all of these, and my role in it was different as well.

The Republic of Ireland's first yarn festival, I would describe Woollinn as a 'classic' 3-day fibre event. In a broad sense: There was a marketplace, with local and international vendors selling yarn. There were workshops and lectures with renown personalities in the fibre industry. There was catered food, a lounge, and evening entertainment. Unfortunately, I had prior plans for most of the weekend which could not be changed. So I did not actually experience the majority of the festival, but was only there for the day on Friday, most of which I spent in the marketplace.

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As far as my role there: My designs were exhibited by several of the vendors. So basically, I circulated in an unofficial capacity and talked to visitors about my patterns, answered questions about the various yarns I work with, and so on. An interesting thing to discover, was that I like talking about yarn more than I do about my patterns. There is nothing I love more than giving long and elaborate answers to questions such as 'Will this pattern still work if I substitute the recommended sport-weight yarn, with a fingering-weight, knitted at the stated gauge?' I am seriously in heaven discussing things like this! Perhaps yarn shop employee is my true calling? 

At the show, I was recognised and approached a lot more than I expected - which was lovely and surprising, and also meant that apparently I did little of anything else! Unusually for me, I took very few photos. And I hardly had a chance to say more than a quick Hello to people whom I knew and was looking forward to chatting with. By the time all was said and done, in fact, I probably spent a total of an hour and a half on eating, personal conversations, and browsing the marketplace. 

In the marketplace, I had two general goals. One was to discover new yarns which are breed/place-specific and minimally processed. The other, was to meet two specific knitting industry people. I will not go into detail here, but, happily all of these things happened! At the end of the day, I went home exhausted but happy. 

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As far as general impressions of the festival: Firstly, the show felt unusual in that it seemed simultaneously small and big. By 'small' I mean, indie and relaxed in feel, with an emphasis on Northern European yarns. And by 'big' I mean there was a distinct international presence, not only of visitors but of well known personalities in the fibre industry.  Kate Davies, Louisa Harding, Nancy Marchant, Isabel Kraemer, Ysolda Teague, Woolly Wormhead, The Sockmatician, Karie Westermann, Helen Stewart, Countess Ablaze... The combination of the intimate, approachable vibe and these presences, created an interesting atmosphere.  

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Also notable was the venue, which was... how to describe this? A sports complex in the midst of an industrial development, just off the freeway, beside Dublin International Airport. Now, I am going to be honest here: As someone for whom yarn and knitting feed into a bigger picture which involves striving to live connected to nature, promoting small and characterful communities, and eschewing motorised transport in favour of walking and cycling, I have to admit the location felt at odds with the way I would conceptualise an Irish yarn festival.

That said, attending Woollinn made me see things a bit differently. Because in truth the venue actually made it very easy for me to attend via a combination of public transport and walking. I took an early morning bus to Dublin Airport, and from there I simply strolled - along an excellent network of tree-lined pedestrian/cycle paths - directly to the show's front door. A more quaint, picturesque location would have made getting to the festival difficult, or even impossible, in this manner for a car-free person. So in that sense, the organisers' choice of venue actually supports my lifestyle. To be sure, there are pros and cons to any festival location. But as far as accessibility and inclusivity, I cannot fault the Woollinn organisers' choice. 

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What else... Once again, dear readers, the problem is I was so 'high' the entire time, I cannot remember much! Out of what I do recall, highlights included meeting Kirsty of Cape Clear Sheep (who knitted the beautiful Scéal Grá above for her mother), as well as Deirdre of Olann And Magazine, Martina of Knit AnythingLouisa Harding, Carol Feller, Helen of Craw Craft Beasties, the Walk sisters, Ysolda Teague, and Kate of A Playful Day (who took my photo as part of her wonderful pop-up booth, but I don't know where to find it!) - as well as, of course, seeing all the lovely yarn folks whom I had already met previously. 

And my main disappointments were: Not being able to attend the panel on the wool industry in Ireland. Forgetting to buy the special super duper Woollinn wooden gauge ruler before I left. And... Well. I don't know how to say this nicely. But I visited the Countess Ablaze booth expecting all manner of abuse and dirty looks and eye rolls. And what do I get? The woman was feckin' lovely and pleasant. Ah well, perhaps I caught her on a bad day. 

Woollinn was staffed by an efficient army of wonderful and caring volunteers, spearheaded by Lisa, Jenny, and Jacqui of This Is Knit, and Nadia of The Cottage Notebook. I thank them all for this wonderful inaugural event, and look forward very much to next year!  

 

 

#Woollinnwardrobe Sorted!

LBHandknits

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...and with minutes to spare before bedtime!

Hopefully this subtle concoction (knitted with a blend of yarns from 3 separate Irish indie dyers!) will make me easier to recognise at Woollinn.