Thursday, December 15, 2016

Swatch-a-week Project

I make knitting patterns for a living, so I have a lot of yarn. A good amount of it is set aside for particular projects, but I also have an ever-growing collection of single skeins that I want to try out with the idea that I could design with them someday. But as much as I love the idea of playing with new yarn, it turns out that it's hard to squeeze play into my pretty packed work schedule. So instead I've decided to just make it a part of my weekly routine with the swatch-a-week project. If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen my swatches so far, but I wanted to do a little round-up to talk about some of the yarns that I've tried and what I think of it all.

How the project works:
Each week I choose a yarn and make a big swatch with it. I measure and photograph it pre-blocking and post-blocking, and then take a short video of the fabric to share how it behaves at the gauge I knit it at.  (I didn't think to take videos of the first few swatches - sorry!) I also write down my needle size and gauge on the label and tie the label to my swatch so I have a starting-point if I decide I want to design with that yarn.

Where the yarn comes from:
Most of the yarn I use was given to me by the yarn company. Sometimes yarn shops will give me yarn and sometimes I do buy it. I only accept yarn I'm intrigued by, so if it seems like my reviews are super positive, it's possible I'm unconsciously biased because the yarn was given to me and I want to be nice to the yarn co, or it could be that I just know what I like in the first place.


Yarn: Noro Kureyon (left)
Where I got it: YarnCanada.ca sent it to me.
Needles I used: US 7/4.5 mm
Gauge I got: 16 sts/27 rows = 4"/10 cm
What it's like: This is a 100% wool worsted weight yarn that feel like a singles, but it's got two plies in there. It's very wooly in the best way and it has a dry, slightly toothy feel. I love a good crunchy wool yarn, so I'm definitely into it, though if you only like super-soft yarns, this one might not be for you. It floats more than drapes once it's knit up. And watching the colours change is so, so addictive. I really didn't want to bind off my swatch because I wanted to see that neon green knit up!
What I might design with it: I'd love leg warmers with it, but I know I'm a bigger fan of leg warmers that most people, so I think I'm more likely to do a hat. I'm really tempted to try colorwork with it, but I'd need just the right contrast colour to make it work. It isn't super soft, so I probably wouldn't do a cowl out of it, but thick mittens could be great.
Where you can get some: If you're in Canada, YarnCanada has a great selection of colours. It's also available at Webs and a whole lot of local yarn shops.

A video posted by Andrea Rangel (@andrearknits) on

Yarn: Spincycle Yarns Debauchery (top, second from the left)
Where I got it: Spincycle gave it to me at TNNA.
Needles I used: US 0/2 mm
Gauge I got: 38 sts/62 rows = 4"/10 cm
What it's like: Debauchery is a 100% BFL plied lace weight. It's light and floaty and wooly. I think I need to knit this up in a lace stitch pattern to truly see its potential because, while I liked it in the Stockinette, my swatch seemed a little sloppy. (I'm not great at knitting at such a tiny gauge.) The fabric is soft and exhibits one of my favourite combos of characteristics - delicate but rustic. 
What I might design with it: This would make a stunning lace shawl. I'm thinking a pi shawl or a huge rectangular wrap that would take a year to knit. Or this could be a gorgeous lightweight shrug or cardigan to wear with fancy dresses.
Where you can get some: Check out the Spincycle website.

Yarn: Amano Puyu (bottom right)
Where I got it: Amano Yarns sent it from Peru.
What it's like: This one is pretty unique and made with some modern technology. It's a super bulky silk/alpaca blend that's made by forcing alpaca into a silk cage with air pressure. It's shockingly soft with a very noticeable halo, and it's really light for silk/alpaca thanks to the construction method. The big stitches melt into each other thanks to the alpaca halo.
Needles I used: US 13/9 mm
Gauge I got: 10.5 sts/16 rows =4"/10 cm
What I might design with it: Because it's so incredibly soft, I want to wear this directly next to my skin - I'm thinking neck wear. I'd love to make it into a cowl or a big shawl. I think I'll avoid very interesting stitch patterns because the halo would probably just obscure anything more complicated than Stockinette or garter. Then again, I think I'd love the subtle cables I could create with this. That would be so incredibly lush!
Where you can get some: Try your local yarn shop or Webs.

A video posted by Andrea Rangel (@andrearknits) on

Yarn: Quince & Co. Sparrow (bottom, second from the left)
Where I got it: I bought it from Beehive Wool Shop in Victoria.
Needles I used: US 3/3 mm
Gauge I got: 25 sts/37 rows = 4"/10 cm
What it's like: Sparrow is a 100% Linen fingering weight yarn. It's smooth with a bit of crunchiness while knitting, and it feels surprisingly cool to knit with (like temperature). Plant fibre yarns that don't have any elasticity are often hard on the hands, but I was comfortable knitting with it. The fabric just drapes for days. It definitely softened up a lot with washing.
What I might design with it: I'd love to have a generous summer wrap, camisole, or dressy cardigan and I really want to try this out in a few different lace patterns.
Where you can get some: Quince & Co. website

Yarn: YOTH Father (top right)
Where I got it: I bought it at Knit Fit in Seattle.
Needles I used: US 7/4.5 mm
Gauge I got: 16 sts/24 rows = 4"/10 cm
What it's like: Father is a 100% Rambouillet, plied worsted weight. It's a really middle-of-the-road yarn in that it's very soft, but also wooly. It's got a lot of bounce, but it's also pretty buttery. It doesn't have a ton of drape, but it does have a lovely weight to it. The colour is really matte with a subtle semi-solid thing. It's on the heavier 
What I might design with it: I actually had a plan for this particular yarn and bought a sweater quantity of it so I could make myself a Valley Trail Pullover. (My contrast colour is Blue Raspberry.) I didn't follow my usual swatch-a-week procedure with this one in that I made a sleeve-as-swatch for an actual project rather than just a rectangular swatch, but I feel okay about bending the rules a bit. I have no doubt this is going to be a very wearable sweater, but I'd also love this in a big, 2-color crescent-shaped shawl that I'd wear wrapped like a mega-scarf.
Where you can get some: YOTH website

Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Arbor (top middle)
Where I got it: Brooklyn Tweed sent it.
Needles I used: US 4/3.5 mm
Gauge I got: 21.5 sts/36 rows = 4"/10 cm
What it's like: Arbor is Brooklyn Tweed's latest yarn and it's really different from the rest of their line. It's a worsted spun, smooth, plied DK Targhee wool. It's a super clean, matte yarn that felt effortless to knit with. The fabric was surprisingly dry and light and even though the construction is so different from other BT yarns, it actually fits right in with them. Like the rest of the line, Arbor is grown and manufactured in the US.
What I might design with it: I feel like this one could be anything. I've seen it knit up in cables and the stitch definition is stunning. I think this would make a perfect mid-weight sweater and a gorgeous lace wrap. It leans more toward elegant than rustic, so I'm not going to let go of my Loft and Shelter (since you know I love the rustic), but so far I'm a big fan of this new addition.
Where you can get some: Brooklyn Tweed website

A video posted by Andrea Rangel (@andrearknits) on

Yarn: Fibre Company Arranmore (bottom middle)
Where I got it: Kelbourne Woolens sent it.
Needles I used: US 7/4.5 mm
Gauge I got: 16.5 sts/29 rows = 4"/10 cm
What it's like: Arranmore is a tweedy aran weight Merino/silk/cashmere blend with a ton of gorgeous texture. Like the other Fibre Co. yarns, it's got amazing colour depth and richness and as you would expect from the fibre content, it's incredibly soft. My husband saw the skein and said it was the coolest yarn he'd ever seen. My skein was the colour Cronan.
What I might design with it: An oversized cable-y sweater would be amazing! I'd also love a good winter hat, and even though the yarn itself is so textured, it's calling to me to add more texture - knit/purl patterns, cables - anything with a bit of a 3-D feel.
Where you can get some: Try your LYS or Webs.

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