July 17, 2023 4 min read

When my daughter Elizabeth was in her first year of college she learned an eye-opening, mind-blowing concept in theoretical math. 

She had always known about infinity - how you can’t ever reach the end of counting because there’s always one more.  In thisclass she learned that there is an infinite number of numbers between zero and one or between one and two, or between any two numbers because you can always divide them one more time.  

She was so excited to share this with the whole family.  Some of us are more math geeks than others of us, so her discovery was met with varied measures of enthusiasm. 

This article may feel like that to you, but trust me, there’s knitting content ahead so keep reading even if the concept of small and large infinity does not appeal to you.

This week on my YouTube channel, I’m interviewing Irina Shaar, Host of the popular YouTube channel, Fiberchats.  

Irina loves fine yarn and complicated lace.  You probably saw me gush over her lace shawl in the video we did together at the h+h show.  

The yarn in that shawl was so fine that the finished shawl can slip easily through a wedding ring.  

That’s fine.  Really fine. But how fine exactly?

It’s 2/80 nm fine, to be precise.

Wait… 2/80…What does that mean? Where is it on the yarn weight system? Is it cobweb? So many questions. 

I started looking into it and all the different yarn weights started to seam kind of like all those infinities between zero and one.  Suddenly I was kind of grateful for CYCA’s simplification.  

The first number in that 2/80 designation refers to the number of plies in the yarn.  So Irina’s yarn is a 2-ply yarn. (not to be confused with the weight/ply relationship we’ll discuss another time). It simply means that there are two separate strands in this yarn.

The second number refers to the number of meters in one gram of the yarn.  

In Irina’s yarn, for example, there are 80 meters (about 88 yards) in one gram, or 8800 yards in 100g.

In a standard sock yarn, there are between 400 and 460 yards in 100g.

Rowan Fine Lace has 800 yards per 100g

The yarn she was using is 1 tenth as thick as a single strand of Rowan Fine Lace.  In other words, it would take 10 strands of this yarn to make a single strand of Rowan Fine Lace. 

Let that sink in a minute.  

The wordInfinitesimalcomes to mind. 

I’m not sure exactly why she chose that particular yarn. I will certainly be asking her Wednesday, but she did choose it specially.  There’s really only one store in the world that carries it, so you know she didn’t just pick up any old skein of yarn and think, “Oh, this will do.”  

She had to seek it out for her project because she was looking for a particular set of characteristics that were important to her for this project.  

This is how it is. We all do this, consciously, or unconsciously, when we choose yarn for a project. Most of the time it doesn’t matter quite this much.  There’s a lot of play in yarn and you can knit yarns more loosely or more tightly than recommended without a problem. We do it all the time.  

But how much play is there?  

Well, you can certainly knit a dk weight yarn at a worsted gauge. That is to say, a yarn intended to be knit at 22 stitches over 4 inches can easily be knit at 20.  It just makes a fabric with a little more drape.  You might like that for a particular project.  

Cocoknits Emma is a perfect example.  

Worked at a gauge of three stitches per inch, we immediately think of a bulky weight yarn.  In the book, however, designer Julie Weisenberger shows the same garment knit in a much finer yarn.  The gauge stays the same, but the fabric is very different. 

I have worked several Emmas in both bulky and worsted weight yarns, and I have seen them in much finer yarns. They are all very different, and they are all lovely.

Going the other direction is not as easy.  You can certainly knit yarns more tightly than recommended and make a nice firm fabric for a jacket or something, but you can only knit yarns so tightly. The physical size of the yarn limits how small the stitches can be, regardless of how tiny the needle you’re using.  

Plus, it’s not that much fun to knit things really tightly.  Try it and see. 

And come to the Cocoknits Trunk show next weekend.  I have a beautiful collection of Cocoknits sweaters for you to see and try on.  The are all so lovely, and the way Julie plays with gauge is inspiring.  

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here

Warmly,

Ellen

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