Yarn Along: How to choose the perfect yarn

There are now four draft posts in my folder, all on slightly different topics. When I go on holiday, I always have great ideas for what I’m going to write about when I get back, and when I actually sit down to write, I get overexcited and try to put everything in one post. That way lies madness, a high word count and incomprehensibility.

So as it’s Wednesday, I’m going to take a deep breath, step back and use the link-up of the day guide me instead. As it’s Wednesday, it’s time for Ginny’s Yarn Along. As there’s a pretty new button, I thought it would be worth reminding myself what the Yarn Along is about.

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog, on Instagram (#yarnalong), or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

I love Ginny’s blog – her pictures are lovely, and her writing style always makes me smile. It’s become a fixed point even in rough weeks to stop for half an hour, look at what I’ve been doing and smile.

After trying to work my way through A Night At The Majestic (which I only recommend if you’re really, really interested in a biography of Proust, which is not what I thought I was getting), I’ve fallen back on my old friends, knitting podcasts. That in turn has lead me to think about A Playful Day’s blog challenge, which I’m going to take part in, and for which the first theme is ‘Community’. There are already some interesting posts on that, and I have my own thoughts on the matter, so more of that later in the week.

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But what I really wanted to talk about today is this piece of loveliness. It’s the start of my Freyja shawl, a beautiful Tunisian Lace pattern by Aoibhe Ni. As I mentioned in my last post, Sol from A Crochet Journey and I are going to be making Freyja over the next few weeks, and anyone who’d like to join us is very welcome. There’s more below on choosing a yarn, and we’ll be posting about the making process over the next few weeks, so watch this space!

It’s not a beginner pattern* – you really need to know how to crochet to make this – but by the end of the first row, you’ll definitely have got the hang of Tunisian lace stitches!

*I don’t always think you should stick to beginner patterns as a beginner – my first couple of knitting projects were way above beginner level, because I knew I’d get bored and abandon anything else. So once you’ve got the hang of how to make stitches (which I do think it helps to learn first) if you want to try it, give it a go! Just be prepared to go slowly, check everything twice, and rip out when it goes wrong. We all have to do that, beginner or not, and I think it’s really down to individuals to decide what they’ve got the patience for!

One thing I did find tricky for this one was picking the right yarn. The pattern calls for a laceweight with 1000m to the 100g, but looking through project pages, I guessed I might want more yardage than that. As it happened, I have a lovely skein of Knitting Goddess alpaca/silk/cashmere that has 1200m in, so I wound it up (by hand!) and set to swatching. And it looked horrible. The slight halo of the yarn didn’t suit the gauge at all, and the fineness of the core yarn meant that the fabric was looking stringy. It also lacked drape, which I think is essential in this sort of Tunisian pattern, where the fabric can be quite dense.

So back to the drawing board, and another rummage through the stash. This time I came up on a heavier laceweight in one of my favourite bases, merino/tencel, also by The Knitting Goddess. For me, this has all the advantages of silk – the strength and sheen – but without the price tag. I’ve got a hat from the fingering version of this that is just lovely, and I made my Replacement Patricia from it, so I knew it worked up well. There’s about 260m left over from that project, and I had another skein in a complimentary colour.ย The idea is to hopefully squeak the first row out of the violets, and switch to the white/purple for the rest. If I find I’m running short of yarn by the end, I’ll skip the Cnupps, which hopefully should save the few metres that I’ll need.

If you’re choosing a yarn for this shawl, I think it’s really essential to swatch. The whole thing curls and swoops, and you want something that will give you beautiful drape. Looking through the yarn choices on Ravelry, silk is definitely a favourite, although I wouldn’t recommend something 100% silk unless you’re really dedicated – the lack of stretch will make the long Tunisian stitches really hard work! For a more economical choice than mine, I think Drops Alpaca/silk lace would work beautifully, but really anything where, when you hold it up, it flops all the way down will work.

Sol and I will be starting ‘officially’ next Monday (6th April), so next week’s posts will be about the epicness of the starting chain, and how not to lose count or your sanity while making it! The CAL is going to be fairly laid back – we both have busy jobs and lives, so the idea is to start next week and finish when we finish – and I’m going to put a post in the Aoibhe Ni Ravelry group, so come join us there if you’d like.

The more the merrier! Also coming later this week, notes from a small island (not this one), progress on 15 in 2015 (or lack thereof), and thinky thoughts on blogging, community and craft.

Hope everyone’s had a great week, and I thought I’d leave you with some pictures of Oxford in the sunshine we had this morning, and which has now been replaced with grey cloud. At least I got some photos!

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