This whole “caring what yarn I use” paradigm is new to me.
I have been knitting for about 7 years now (wow, that’s actually crazy to realize!). My first real project was the Springtime Bandit scarf in a hunter green acrylic, found at the corner shop in my Turkish neighborhood. A baby knitter, new to Ravelry, with no idea how to actually read knitting patterns, I just thought “well, it looks complicated but everyone learns somehow, right?” I bought a skein of yarn based solely on the color I wanted (didn’t know a thing about yarn weight, needle size, yardage…). So I knit that scarf in a dk-ish weight (it calls for aran), on whatever straight needles I had (no idea what size they were), knit until I ran out of the first skein (oh– you mean I needed more than one?), and then bound off. Of course I never would have thought to block it. But you know what? I wore it. A lot, actually. And I was proud.
I am thankful for that attitude of confidence all those years ago. Though it yielded a rather small kerchief of a thing, the actual lace pattern is correct (if not on gauge) and it served as a springboard for me. Sure, knitting might look complex, but there is no one out there who can do it that did not have to learn at some point…why couldn’t I do the same? It’s an outlook that’s served me well. I have yet to find a garment or accessory that could not be learned with a simple google search or youtube sifting. Add to that the bounty of hands-on resources in a local yarn shop, and truly… anyone can do this.
But while the skills and technique have not been hard to find, there’s a bit of knowhow that has taken me several years to latch onto: comprehending not just the construction of the fabrics I create, but the fiber composition as well. I mentioned I’ve been knitting for seven years, and I’d wager the first six and a half were spent knitting based solely on color and yarn weight (hey, at least I learned that piece of the puzzle!). I was indoctrinated into the “swatch and block” world by participating in the We Wear Knitbot KAL last April, but even then I was still only seeing the tip of the iceberg as it comes to learning how fiber content can affect everything. Not just the softness or feel on my skin, but drape, stitch definition, pilling, heat retention, and more. Socioeconomic and environmental footprint aside, the kind of yarn you knit with can change just about everything in your FO.
What’s my point here? Well, I guess in part, it’s to say that this is a journey and it takes concerted effort to learn. And the process of that education gives us a new way of thinking; a paradigm through which to see raw materials and know their true potential. Sometimes it can feel frustrating to find just the right yarn when you have an end goal in mind. But is it not better to filter all those factors and ensure that the time and resources we invest will result in a beautiful, functional, long-lasting piece? I think it is.
But here’s where I am going to break my own rules. I blocked a gauge swatch today for a cardigan that I’ve had queued for over a year. It’s been one of those garments I’ve carried a torch for all this time… I want to own that sweater. It’s a bulky weight, oversized thing that needs a signifiant fiber memory to help it keep its shape… and I’m using cotton. [If you’re still new to the properties of different fibers, the reason that’s just plain not-smart is that cotton is like the least elastic fiber available. It’s known for stretching out and losing shape over time.. just like that baggy t-shirt you sleep in that used to be a shapely crewneck].
Yet this choice is calculated and intentional because I am breaking this fiber rule in favor of a different one… one I am trying to be intentional to incorporate into more and more areas of my life: to waste less, to repurpose more, to save (money, planet, people). I am using this yarn because I already have it, back from my days of purchasing just because I liked the pretty color, and if I don’t use it now it will continue to sit in my home and take up space. And if I don’t use it now, I might never own this sweater. So I’m going to make the tradeoff, try it anyway, and see where it leads me.
And hey– if it means I end up with a baggy, floppy excuse for a cardigan, I will take pride in the effort, rip it out without remorse, and save it for a day (and project) where it will be just right.
PSSST! Got any favorite resources for learning about the behaviors and characteristics of different fibers? I’d love to read and learn more, especially about the nuances in different kinds of wool. Comment below and share the wealth!