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  • February 14, 2022 3 min read

    Back in 1985 with my freshly minted English degree, I landed a job as a tech editor. In Melpar’s grimy basement, I hunched over tech manuals unscrambling the hieroglyphics of a team of crusty tech “writers”.  One of them was Hal, a good-hearted man who kept on his desk a framed photo of his son, a handsome young ensign in dress blues and the golden wings of an aviator.  I used to make excuses to walk by Hal’s desk just to look at that picture.  There was something so appealing about this guy.  I never asked Hal about him, but I fell in love with that image and built a future for the two of us in my mind.  After months of this ridiculously childish behavior, I managed to ask casually about “the guy in the picture”. To make a long story short, he lived across the country in California, and we began a long-distance romance, a whirlwind engagement, and a fancy wedding that I knew to be a mistake even as I walked down the aisle.

    It’s like that with our knitting sometimes.  We fall in love with a yarn and build a future for it. We love the look and feel of this yarn, and we just know it will be stunning in the sweater we want to make. Maybe we admire it on the shelf weeks.  Maybe we buy it and keep it in a basket on our table and just look at it, thinking about that sweater pattern.  Doesn’t matter that it’s not really the right gauge.  Doesn’t matter that we haven’t swatched it. Doesn’t matter that the pattern needs something quite different than this beautiful yarn.  We love it, and, well, we’re sure we can make it work. We just need to get the right needles.  Or knit at a different gauge and make different size, or…or…or…

    And so we leap in with the naivete of a 22-year old girl in love with a picture and the idea of a big white wedding.  Casting on, we can tell that it’s not quite right, but we figure it’ll be okay. The cast-on is always hard, right?  And so we knit. 

    Yeah, it feels a little stiff, and my goodness, it’s already pretty heavy, and this is just the back.  But we soldier on.  Even so, we find that this yarn is behaving very badly.  It’s not at all like we thought it would be.  It was so great on the shelf, and in our mind.  We just loved all those little flecks, but we’re really having to work hard to stay on gauge.  Nothing is like we imagined it would be.  

    I’m not a couples therapist or a marriage counselor, and I can’t tell you what to do in your relationships, but I am a knitting expert, and I can tell you what to do with your project. 

    My advice is break it off, girlfriend. Do it now. The sooner the better. You don’t have to use that yarn for that project.  Maybe it would be a better cabled jacket, or a coat.  Whatever. Doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that it’s time to break up.  If you don’t, you’ll have a miserable experience knitting something you hate that you’ll never wear.  Some things are just not meant to be.   

    It’s not a bad yarn.  It’s a perfectly nice yarn, beautiful, even. But not every yarn is right for every project, and as hard as you may try, you just can’t make some things work. So one more word of advice is, you can fall in love with a yarn, but don’t marry it to your project until you’ve swatched it..  Get a whole skein of it and knit a giant swatch. Tell the yarn what you expect from it, and see if it can deliver.  See if it’s happy at that gauge . See if you’re happy knitting it at that gauge.    I promise you, it’s better to know ahead of time, and you can usually tell with a pretty big swatch.  But if you get half way in, and the fabric just doesn’t have the spring/drape/texture/behavior you need, take note.   Pay attention to your instincts. Even if you’re halfway in, it’s better to rip it out than finish something that you hate making and you know you’ll never wear.  It’s your project, and you’re the only one who needs to be happy with it.  Listen to your inner voice, trust yourself, and move on if you need to.  The right yarn for your project will come along ,and the right project for the other yarn will come along too.  Then everyone will be happy. 

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