Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns

They were the best of yarns, they were the worst of yarns, they were the patterns of wisdom, they were the patterns of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the knitting was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

And so I butcher Charles Dickens, in order to tell you about two yarns I've used, what I love about them, and what I loathe about them.

Yarn the First: Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Worsted. It's a lovely wool/alpaca blend, in a lovely grey that I scored at my LYS's Super Bowl Sunday sale more than a year ago. It must have been at least 10% off (I can't remember anymore and I didn't note it on my stash page for it), so I bought what I thought was enough to make a sweater for myself: 2200 yards. Anyone with more garment knitting experience than I did at the time would realize that I bought way more than I needed. I didn't have a particular project in mind for it, but I bought every ball in the shop just to be sure.

It sat around in my stash for 7 months, waiting for a project. Then, in Twist Collective, I saw a pattern I had to knit for myself: Carol Sunday's Acorn cardigan. It was going to be great: it was knit top-down, it had an interesting stitch pattern, it called for worsted-weight yarn. I couldn't wait to get started. And that's when it all went to hell.

I recall an inordinate number of stitches in a provisional cast on, which required me to watch and re-watch a Lucy Neatby video to learn how to do it so it would actually unzip when I was ready to work those provisional stitches. Then I started with the acorns, which were so lovely on the sample, but which were just inscrutable (is this a good use of the word?) in this yarn. The problem, I think, had to do with the fact that this yarn was not plied and, therefore, offered no stitch definition. Although it wasn't going well, I thought I should knit the whole ball in the pattern before I gave up. So I kept on with it. Then disaster struck: I spilled turkey chili on it. That was the final straw. I cut the yarn and threw the project into the trash. It was liberating.

The yarn did eventually get its happy ending: it became a vest for my husband. Shortly after abandoning the Acorns cardigan, I discovered David Castillo's Schmidt vest. It looked like a simple, straightforward knit, just right for this yarn. It had an "argyle" insert in the center front which I thought would be just enough relief for the mostly stockinette vest. My Ravelry project page says it took two months to complete, and I remember it as a quick & easy project. The finished vest was wonderfully soft and looked great on the husbeast.

Yarn the Second: Cascade Yarns Venezia Worsted. This is the yarn I chose as more appropriate for knitting the Acorns cardigan. It's also a very lovely yarn, in a merino/silk blend and an unnamed color that is a kind of rusty-orangey-brown. It was, sadly, not on sale and the project required nearly 1400 yards. But the great thing about this yarn was that it was going to provide great stitch definition and the silk content gave it a beautiful sheen that looked great in the autumn light.

This time, the project went along swimmingly, with only a minor hiccup while the kind folks on the Twist Collective message board gave me some advice. There was a modification at the end, in order to get the neckline sized so that I didn't look like I was working on a Flashdance throwback cardigan. In the end, the sweater turned out nicely and was well received by my friends at the yarn shop. My only quibble with this yarn is that it has pilled substantially after less than a dozen wearings. I'm going to give it a good wash & going over with the sweater stone before I put it away for the summer.

Epilogue (instead of Book the Third): And so ends this first post of Knit & Crochet Blog Week 2011. Whew. These are both very good yarns, but they definitely require appropriate projects to look their best. I'm sure I'll have opportunities in the future to knit them both again.

Until tomorrow, I hope.

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