Knitting Blog: Proving a Rule


Matching a yarn with a knitting pattern can be harder than it would seem. The first major consideration is gauge. You can’t use a fine yarn to make a heavy cabled sweater, nor can you use a bulky yarn to make a delicate lace shawl. Gauge distinctions can be subtle; a yarn that looks like it would be appropriate for a given pattern may not “make gauge” no matter what size or type of needles you try. The power of multiplication means that being off by just a wee bit from the pattern gauge can have an enormous effect on the size of a knitted item, as a small discrepancy multiplies over the inches of the item’s width.

The next consideration is color. There is a rule of thumb: complex patterns require a simple coloration, complex colorations require a simple pattern. In my experience, this rule of thumb is almost as immutable as the laws of physics.

Sometimes you fall in love with a yarn, and you buy that yarn, and then you realize that both major knitting considerations are making it really hard for you to make something with that yarn. This happened to me with a lovely skein of Punta Lace Handpaint, which I purchased for around $10 at Espace Tricot in Montreal.

Some multicolored yarns have long floats of color, so that color changes happen gradually and a textural pattern can still shine through the color. This yarn, however, has very short color floats, each one lasting for no more than a few stitches. No fancy lace stitch or detailed textural pattern has a chance in such a yarn. The rapid color changes drown out almost any patterning.

Here’s an abortive attempt to match this yarn to a project. Although the lace is supposed to have a leafy shape, it’s hard to discern any pattern in it due to the cacophony of colors in the yarn. I’m also contending with a gauge mismatch here - the Punta is a finer yarn than the purple sockweight yarn, and the two yarns do not want to play nicely with each other.

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My search for a suitable pattern came to fruition when a knitter on Ravelry named kerryknits gave me Pogona in a Random Act of Pattern. Such a generous gift demanded that I cast on immediately. It didn’t take long for me to be reassured that yarn and pattern were indeed a good fit.

The finished product is lovely to wear. It’s soft, drapy, and polished.

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A second project that just came off the needles is a pair of socks knit from Opal, an iconic sock yarn brand that was one of the first to be dyed in a way that results in color patterns as long as your gauge is close to specifications. This yarn, like Pogona, was a gift from a fellow knitter who doesn’t like knitting fine yarns on fine needles. I chose a very simple sock pattern, just knitting around and around and around, letting the yarn do all the heavy lifting. The result is a very comfortable and colorful pair of socks.

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The pattern I used is KnitPicks’ Two at a Time Toe Up Socks. I love the fully reinforced heel at the back and bottom of the foot.

Here I am in Montreal, just about to finish the socks with the assistance of Samwise the labradoodle. He likes to play with yarn balls as much as cats do.

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