Saturday, June 9, 2007

Swatching For the Princess Shawl: Part II

Yesterday, I made two more swatches from Jane's gift package and I am happy to report that we have a winner for the Princess shawl!

But first, let's do the comparison thingie. The reigning champion from the first round, Heirloom Knitting's Gossamer merino, returns for a match against two new contenders: Yarn Place's Angel and the Colourmart cashmere/silk that Jane sent me last week.

I should add here, because I forgot to do so in the first swatching tournament, that I always test-drop a stitch. If I can't pick it up with a reasonable amount of diligence, I just won't use the yarn. Knitting is supposed to be fun!

Anyway, here, for comparison, is the information on the Heirloom Knitting gossamer merino:

Swatch #1

Heirloom Knitting's Gossamer Merino
10,800 meters/lb

Pros: Lovely to knit, smooth, soft, and wonderful to touch. Blocks beautifully.
Cons: Comes in white, white, and white.

And the winner is....

Swatch #2
Yarn Place Angel
100% Merino
8423 yards/pound

Pros: Comes in a 15 rich colors, knits like a dream, a dropped stitch hung around while I fished for it, blocks perfectly, and feels softer than cashmere. A perfect 10.
Cons: Needs a wider color range so I can buy lots more.

Swatch #3
Jane's Cashmere Silk (Colourmart)
65% Cashmere, 35% Silk
13,620 meters/pound (60/2)

Pros: Comes in a huge range of colors, but you have to check their eBay store and website frequently if you are looking for a particular shade. Smooth, soft, blocks well.
Cons: We had several small spats while casting off. Picking up a dropped stitch was a lost cause.

Angel is the perfect extra-fine lace yarn. It's luxuriously soft, comes in an assortment of lovely colors, and is so easy to knit that I did it blindfolded. Yes, I knit the 12 rows of garter stitch in the swatch with my eyes closed and didn't make a single mistake. And it blocks to perfection.

While I was working with Angel, I starting thinking about why Angel and Gentle were so appealing to me. The best answer I could come up with is that both yarns have a liveliness on the needle that makes them a pleasure to knit. They seem to be happy to work with me during complex maneuvers, such as P3tog tbl, and if a stitch drops, it doesn't take a swan dive down to the first row. Most of the time, the stitch clings (a bit precariously, it's true) to its current position long enough for me to pick it back up.

Without this spirited, bouncy quality, knitting is a chore. For example, KnitPicks's Alpaca Cloud drove me crazy. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but it just didn't want to cooperate. It plodded along the needles and made no effort to work with me when the pattern became complicated. The finished swatch was lifeless.

I have used several alpaca lace yarns that were exceptionally pleasant (Fino comes to mind), so the problem with Cloud isn't the content, but the way the yarn was spun.

I think each knitter has had the same experiences, but the Yarn Knitability Index varies for each of us. Miss Alice Faye adores cobweb-weight pure silk yarn and LaceFreak Jane loves cobweb cashmere/silk. I am sure someone out there thinks worsted-weight cotton is the best thing to fling onto the needles (No need to tell me about it!)

Me, I like yarns with a bit of wool for that indefinable spark of knitability.

PS: I tried swatching Yarn Place's Heaven (45% Tencel / 55% Merino cobweb weight, 14,000 yards/lb) and it shredded on the needle. I probably don't want to use this for a Really Big Project. Too bad--the colors are mouthwatering--there's a pink that would be perfect for Princess, sigh.

Harry was so thrilled with the samples that he took me out to lunch at a fast-food joint. He ordered a double BugBurger with extra silkworms and declined when asked "Do you want flies with that?"

"Fattening," he explained.

Um. Sorry. This question was actually posed to me at a Tokyo MosBurger a few days ago. I also declined.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the excellent notes on yarn comparison. Did you by any chance try Lorna's Laces laceweight merino/silk (Helen Lace) as well? If so, how did it compare to the other yarns?
I am knitting with it right now and like it a lot. It's much easier to knit with than the Habu 2-ply cashmere. I am curious to see how the finished and washed shawl will compare to the Habu one. That really came into its own only after washing.

fleegle said...

Dear Francesca--

Helen's Lace is comparable to Zephyr, which is to say it has 3750 yards per pound. While it is a lovely yarn, it is much too heavy for Princess.

Opal said...

I love the idea of dropping a stitch to see how it behaves in the swatch. I just never thought of that. D'oh!

Batty said...

I loved the swatches, can't wait to see what the finished product looks like!

missalicefaye said...

Perfect 10, eh? Well, I'm certainly tempted to go buy some immediately (especially since the Yarn Place site appears to be functional now).

I like me some wool, too. :)

Colette said...

Thanks for the info, Fleegle. You’ve got me starting to think about swatching for this project. You wouldn’t be interested in my candidates though, since most have some silk content. Plus you eliminated the only all wool one in your last swatching post. I’m curious about the Angel. It seems to be the heaviest of all the yarns you’ve swatched. Wouldn’t it give you a much larger finished shawl?

Lacefreak said...

Dear fleegle,

Dropping a stitch on purpose. I would never have thought of that one. It has a sort of S & M quality to it :-). Wonderful comparison of yarns and I'm glad you have selected a "winner". Now the only question is, what color will you and Harry make the shawl in? Great fun!