Lace knitting, much like all knitting, is incredibly dependent upon yarn choice. Choose the wrong yarn and your finished piece is all but ruined. Nobody has time for that!
This is where swatching comes into play. Swatching, for any garment or accessory, is an integral part of the knitting process. To swatch is to save yourself time and money.
This post isn’t about swatching (well…not ALL about swatching) it is about choosing yarns for out Roseroot Mystery Shawl-along. While the finished design is a mystery I’ve not been secret about my yarn choice and wanted to share some tips on choosing yarns for the MKAL today!
Many lace knitters (me included) often feel that swatching isn’t needed because you’re not worried about fit. Right?
Swatching can help you decide if you have the right color, the right fiber combo, and even make sure you have enough yarn to do what you want to do!
Now, this usually isn’t a problem if you’re using the yarn specified in the pattern. But, let’s face it, we’re knitters. We like options and we all have a stash we enjoy shopping from. That’s what a stash is after all…a collection of yarns we LOVE. Knitting from stash is a joy of mine and often that means substituting yarns.
If you’re using a different yarn, you need to swatch and see if the needle size needs adjusting. If you are working from a gauge that is a bit different than that recommended, keep in mind an important point:
1. If you get fewer stitches to the inch than specified in the pattern, you’ll need more yarn.
2. If you get more stitches to the inch, you’ll need less.
Trust…running out of yarn before you’re finished stinks. And if you are using a OOAK skein…that can suck…big time.
Choosing the right fiber can be a bit of a hassle. There are a bunch of factors that go into choosing fiber and some are out of our control. However, choosing a yarn with a great stitch definition and something that blocks beautifully is best. Not sure if your yarn will do that? Swatch and block that swatch! You’ll know all you need to know!
Note: I try to stay away from ‘squishy’ yarns that are too soft. Those tend to have a lot of bounce back and the shawl can shrink back after blocking…defeating the purpose of lace.
I knitted a few swatches to demonstrate how yarn choice can affect lace patterns. All of the swatches were knit on the same needles. Links to the yarns are available in each section.
Want to make a swatch similar to mine and see if your yarn works well with lace? Follow this pattern:
Cast on a multiple of 9 stitches.
Row 1: k3, yo, k3togtbl, yo, k3
Row 2 and all alternate rows: p
Row 3: k1, (yo, k3togtbl, yo, k1) twice
Row 5: as row 1
Row 6: p
Repeat these 6 rows a few times. Block the swatch and then look at your knitting from up close and from farther away. How does it look? Is the lace the stand out or are you focused on the color? Go with your gut!
Swatch 1: Variegated Yarn
Mystery Yarn (which turned out to be a sport weight!)
Heavily variegated yarn is not a favorite of mine and I rarely use it for anything more than a simple hat…and even then I don’t like it. It doesn’t work for lace. The wide ranges in color value distract from the lace pattern and truly make the lace pattern difficult to see.
Swatch 2: Semisolid Yarn
Semisolid yarn is perfect for lace, if you’re looking for a bit of color variation but nothing too busy. The subtle color variation doesn’t distract too much from the lacework and it keeps the lace knitting interesting.
Swatch 3: Long Repeating Colorway Yarn
Yarn: Noro Taiyo Sock in S2
A long repeating colorway really looks nice when working from the center out, top down, or even bottom up. If working from a small number of stitches to a larger number, keep in mind the repeats of color will decrease in size and can distract. Also, if the colors vary in color too much it can become distracting rather than a beautiful gradient.
Swatch 4: Solid or Tone on Tone Yarn
Solid or tone-on-tone is a perfect match to lace. I used a lighter tone-on-tone yarn in this swatch, and there are subtle variations in the yarn that I didn’t see in the skein or when it was caked up. However, the variation is close enough to the original color that it doesn’t distract.
There you have it! Some tips for choosing the right yarn for your lace knitting!