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Summer sweaters and curling stockinette

I love summer time -- it's so relaxed.  Dinner is usually something on the grill, tossed salad, and sliced tomatoes.  Everything is light and casual.  The cooking is easy, the clean-up is easier, and everyone is happy - especially me! 

Summer sweaters are much the same - light fibers, relaxed fit, and easy construction with minimal finishing.  Lots of summer tops are designed with an un-finished edge that curls slightly. Look at the Nauset Tee above by Hannah Fettig for Quince & Co.   It's a very J-Crew look, and it works with summer sweaters.  Not just because summer looks are relaxed, but because summer yarns allow it.

Here's why.  Stockinette fabric curls.  It's a fact of life knitters learn early on.  All stockinette curls, but not to the same degree.  Lots of factors govern how much your fabric will curl, but two of the main factors are the bounciness of the yarn and the knitted gauge. 

Wool yarns are very bouncy - it's why wool is so nice to knit and so nice to wear.  But it will roll up into a tight little tube without substantial borders of ribbing or seed stitch.  Summer yarns, on the other hand, have very little inherent stretch.  Cotton, linen, hemp, and rayon are notoriously inelastic, so there is not such a strong tendency to curl.  Don't get me wrong, these fabrics do curl a bit, but nothing like fabric knit with wool.  They don't need heavy elaborate borders to keep them flat, so they can be lighter and less constructed.

The other factor influencing  curl is knitted gauge.  The tighter the fabric, the more it will curl.  Winter garments are knitted tightly to be warm, but summer garments can be knitted a little more loosely, and they will curl less.  They will also be lighter and more comfortable.  Bottom line is that you can get away with minimal edging on summer tops.  A single row of garter stitch is often enough.  To me, it feels like it It all works out, the way nature intended.  Like summer food cooked outside.  

Come let us help you choose a relaxed summer top to knit.  I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table.  You are always welcome here.

 Back to 26 May newsletter

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Play to your Strengths

One of the most valuable things I ever learned came from a workshop on group dynamics. This was an intensive class lasting many weekends over a two-year period. We looked at personality types and behaviors - and how different people handle conflict stress, how they show love, etc. But here is one thing that really stuck with me. "The thing you like most about someone, taken to its extreme, is the thing that drives you insane about that person." Think about that for a moment. Consider your spouse or your best friend - someone you've chosen to have in your life. What is it that drew you to this person? When you argue or become frustrated with that person, what is it typically about? Funny how that works, isn't it! In successful relationships, the partners understand each other's personalities and play to their strengths.

The same is true for yarn. Yarns have strong intrinsic tendencies - personalities, if you will. It's essential that you understand a fiber's personality when choosing a project - especially if the yarn has a strong personality. You need to know its strengths so you can choose a pattern that highlights what that yarn does best - making the yarn's personality an asset rather than a fault.

One yarn with a very strong personality is the gorgeous, silky, sparkly hand-dyed hank of wonderfulness, Rayon Metallic from Blue Heron. This yarn works up into a glorious drapey fabric that is deliciously silky and smooth - like a glimmering liquid against your skin. That drape and silkiness are this yarn's strengths. Its appeal is irresistible, and once you touch it, you're gone. Your only thought is, "Ohmygod, I LOVE this - what can I make with it?" This is where you need to be careful.

Trying to knit Rayon Metallic into a crisp, structured jacket would make you insane. No matter how you tried, you would never be able to create a structured fabric. You would forever be fighting with gauge, trying increasingly smaller needles and a variety of stitch patterns to force it into stability, and neither of you would be happy. But knit it into a silky shawl or wrap that calls for fluidity and drape, and you have a match made in heaven. Play to the yarn's strengths, and it will reward you with a fabric that looks amazing, feels absolutely luscious against your skin, and is a delight to knit and to wear.

So, get to know your yarn's strengths - swatch, ask your friendly yarn store staff, and look at projects worked up in the yarn. Careful selection of the right pattern for a beautiful yarn makes the knitting a joy and gives you a finished product that showcases both your workmanship and your fibers.

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