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A summer knitalong begins with swatching

A summer knitalong begins with swatching

By Meg Dedolph

My friend Rachel is visiting from Scotland, and we are heading to dance and music camp together. It’s a long drive to get there, so you know what that means - trip knitalong! We’ve done these before on long visits, and they’re always a lot of fun, plus a great souvenir.

We decided we wanted to make summery tops, so either tank tops or short-sleeved tees, and after a fun night looking through our favorite projects and patterns on Ravelry, we picked Dunedrifter by Wool and Pine.

Neither of us have knit a sideways top before and we liked the interesting lace pattern at the bottom. Also, we liked the designer’s extended size range.
(Here were our other top choices. The Twofer Tank by Heidi Kirrmaier and Urchin, by Libby Jonson.)

Next stop, String Theory. 

We needed a fingering weight yarn that gave us the right gauge, so we picked three yarns, took them home and started swatching. We were trying for six stitches and eight rows to the inch on US4 needles.

Because this sweater is knit sideways and an accurate bust measurement depends on row gauge, we had to get this number right. That was a change for us - usually we concentrate on stitch gauge and figure we can adjust the number of rows we knit if we have to. 

The Laneras Beartooth (upper left) gave us the right stitch gauge, but the wrong row gauge. I think we could have blocked it to get the right row gauge, as the pattern suggested, but we had other reasons for deciding against this yarn.

Though Rachel loved the color and the feel of the fabric, we want to wear this top in warmer weather and wool isn’t our favorite fiber for hot summers, even though Rachel lives in Edinburgh, and Scotland’s idea of a warm summer day is about 20 degrees cooler than Chicago’s. Even so, this is definitely a yarn to think about when I want to make a fingering-weight sweater next.

I was curious about the Dungarees Rainbow Tweed, (cotton and polyester) so I started to knit a swatch and quickly realized it was the wrong yarn for this project - so wrong that I didn't even finish the swatch. At the gauge called for in the pattern, the fabric would be very loose, and I would have to wear a tank or camisole under the top, which I didn’t want to do. I like the yarn, though, so I’m going to have to find something else to make with it at a tighter gauge.

The Universal Yarn Magnolia, (lower right) which is mostly modal, a type of rayon, with a little cashmere, gave us the right stitch gauge, but the wrong row gauge with the US4 needles. The modal, which is a plant-based fiber, made the swatch very supple and drapey, which I liked and thought would look good with the pattern we chose. Rachel is a little more skeptical about the fabric and is concerned about whether the lace will have enough structure with this yarn. We’ll have to see - or knit a lace swatch.

But we decided to swatch it again on US3s and block it aggressively, as the pattern suggested - and we got gauge in both directions!

Next step? Casting on! Stay tuned…..

Next article What to Do with Leftover Yarn

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