October 16, 2007

Good things come to those who wait

My new reward yarn is Valley Yarns English Tweed. I'd been seriously loving this limited quantity WEBS yarn since I was there and Steve and Kathy showed me samples of it, and when it showed up on their website and I was still obsessed with it, I decided that it would be my reward for finishing the book. I marked the page and kept a link to it in my bookmarks, and when the going got rough, and I wanted to knit instead of work, I would click over and give it a little virtual pat.

This colour is spmBrown, and I watched the quantities available change every day or two. 80lbs, 70lbs, 60lbs....58,46,42,39...and then, suddenly, one day five days before the book was done, there was 3. Three pounds of this yarn left in the world? Three pounds of my reward yarn? I was on the phone in minutes, and, having discovered that Kathy and Steve weren't in the store, impressed upon the lovely man who answered the phone that I needed him to move like lightning. That I needed him to go into the warehouse, find that yarn - whatever of it was left and get it out of there. Quickly, before it was purchased by anyone else. (I may have suggested that he run.) He did go really fast, and when he got there there wasn't even three pounds left there was about 2. (I would love to know which one of you scooped me while I was on the phone.) Which is totally ok, that's enough to make what I want to make, but dudes.....talk about a close call. I almost ordered a couple pounds of all of the other colours too, just to take the edge off, but then I got a hold of myself and realized I was just responding to a scarcity market. The yarn arrived yesterday and I started to play around with it.


This is yarn that comes on a cone, and coned yarn is not like yarn that comes on skeins or in balls. Coned yarn is at the very least, quite compressed, and usually (I am only saying usually because I hate saying "always", somebody "usually" points out an exception to the rule) still contains the oil from spinning. Commercial mills move fibre a lot faster than we spinners do, and a little very light oil is sprayed on the fibre to reduce static and help things move along. The yarn is spun, then plied, then wound onto cones. Yarn that you and I would usually get then has another step, it's skeined off and washed. Coned yarn has a lot of advantages (like being one long length...no knots, and being generally less expensive) but one of the things you need to know is that what you see is not going to be what you get. The oil needs washing out, and when you do that, the yarn fluffs up. It's a pretty big change. The worlds "big" and "change" when applied to yarn should give you a chill and feel very significant to you, since we are speaking of something that can mess up gauge. Therefore, I've washed some to sort of get a feel for what this yarn is really like.


On the left, the unwashed yarn right off the cone, on the right, same stuff after a bath. I used nice hot water and dish soap, rinsed carefully (being careful not to agitate....I don't want to felt it.) Can you see the big difference? This yarn in it's unwashed state is sort of firm and rough, but after a quick bath it's very soft and pretty.


I think that there is even a very slight difference in the colour.

I'm planning to knit a sweater out of this (this one) and unfortunately, this is one of those times when gauge matters. Since this yarn experienced big change when I washed it (and having been burned by this game before) I decided to knit a swatch, measure my gauge, wash the swatch and remeasure gauge. (Close your mouth, you'll catch flies. I know it's surprising, but I'm anti swatch, not stupid. I want to wear this sweater, and I want it to fit.)

Here's the swatch before.


After it's bath:


Big difference. Huge, actually. Want to see them side by side?


Yeah, me too, but I can't figure out how to do it. I just seriously lost a debate with software. Whoa. Bon is seriously clever and just landed this bad boy in my inbox. In any case, the point is that washing it really changes it. The swatch was knit on 4.5mm needles and in the top picture, has a gauge of 19.5 stitches to 10 cm and looks open and gappy like it was knit on needles too big for it. After it's bath, it has expanded, gotten bigger and now has a gauge of 18 stitches to 10cm (which is exactly what I wanted) and all those holes are filled in and the whole thing really fluffed up. Can you imagine the consequences of basing your gauge decisions on that swatch without a wash? Ayup. Big problem.

Now that I've determined that this yarn on these needles gives me the gauge I want - eventually, if not right away, I can go ahead and knit the sweater, knowing that when I give the thing a good bath after knitting, I'll suddenly and miraculously have the thing I want.

I know some knitters wash up the yarn before knitting it, but the disadvantage would be that I would have to wait for yarn to dry before starting...and I don't know if I'm really capable of delaying gratification like that.
Does anyone know of an advantage either way?

Posted by Stephanie at October 16, 2007 3:04 PM