I’ve had Bedford in my queue for a while now. When the lovely Evelyn suggested we knit it together, I decided that would be a good idea, and an excellent incentive to get it off my ever-expanding queue! I like Bedford because I was attracted to the relaxed, weekend’ish look to the sweater – it would be the perfect home or weekend knit. Very much my style these days.
We’ve both had other knits to get through before getting down to knitting this, and so there was plenty of time to think about what yarn I wanted to knit this pattern in, and to figure out if the pattern needed any adjustments to fit me.
Looking at the gauge suggested in the pattern, I knew right away from knowledge of my own gauge with knitting wool that I would struggle to get 19 sts to 4″ in a true worsted weight yarn using 5mm needles (I would get more, something like 17 or 18 to 4″). In this instance, I had several choices:
- Use a finer needle (4.5mm would probably do it, but the resulting fabric could be too dense);
- use a finer yarn (DK weight) with the same size needle to get the right gauge; or
- knit the sweater one or two sizes smaller using worsted weight and my looser gauge so that it worked out to be the right size.
Before I got too excited about the gauge issue, I decided to check out Brooklyn Tweed’s description of Shelter. I find that often the best way to figure out the true nature of the yarn is to look at what the manufacturer recommends. Sometimes a designer’s own tension might be tighter or looser than the average, which skews impressions of what a yarn is like. Judging from the description I read, I could see that it is a typical worsted weight. But I figured that the definition of worsted in this instance could translate very readily to a heavier New Zealand DK weight as the designer’s gauge for this pattern is tighter than what is recommended.
I decided to experiment with this option. Swatching.
Also, I often like to swatch the stitch pattern just to make sure I understand the instructions and get familiar with the pattern (this isn’t a gauge swatch – just a pattern swatch):
Oooooh!!! Using a DK weight with 5mm needles was producing the exact gauge and fabric texture I needed. Perfect! At this stage, having got the feel of how the sweater was going to look and feel from the swatches, I became extremely excited!!! You can see how squishy this pattern is from the swatch – it will be a very warm sweater when it’s done, with air trapped in between all those pockets created by the twisted stitch ribbing.
Next up, measure the schematic and make sure it fits my own body measurements. The width was great, but my arms and torso are longer than the average person of my height, so I marked an extra inch into the sleeves right away. The schematic also indicated that the length of the body would turn out much shorter than I would like, at 23″ for the size I chose to knit. Solution: add another 2″ to the union round before dividing for the sleeves.
However, there was one more thing. Initially, I had envisaged using some Anna Gratton Little Wool Co. pure wool (by the way, if you have a look at the link, you’ll see some amazing photos of the sheep being shorn this week). But when I went to the stash to find the yarn, I felt like Old Mother Hubbard who went to the cupboard… and when she got there, she found she had none!!! Well, not exactly none (hehe) but not in the colour or the quantity I needed.
So, I chose the yarn I pictured above which is a different New Zealand 100% wool (Southlander), but the shade of natural wool I wanted. However, a week of sitting and looking at it convinced me I really wasn’t sure about the yarn choice. It was too…. “smooth”, or “creamy” for want of a better word. It is a very lovely yarn, just not the look I desired for Bedford.
I went back to the stash and had a good rummage around, and found that I did indeed have enough Little Wool Co. pure wool, although in an oatmeal colour. Did I really mind not having the colour I wanted? Not really… because I immediately felt much better about it as my choice of yarn. Have a look at the difference in the appearance of the yarns:
Can you see what I mean? Little Wool Co. has the same properties (as far as I can tell from photographs and descriptions) as Shelter. Whereas, the other yarn is great for something else, something that needs a soft, smooth look.
It’s almost as if the oatmeal was a lively, slightly untidy little girl who has been out in the garden playing in the wind, whereas the dark grey is the good little prim thing who has been sitting indoors all day, keeping her dress clean.
Curious to find out more about why I preferred Little Wool Co. for this project, I decided to have a closer look at the spin and ply. Little Wool Co is a 2 ply, and most likely woolen spun, just like Shelter. Southlander is a 3 ply, and semi-worsted spun. The additional ply has created a loftier, more rounded yarn. Being semi-worsted, the fibres are also much smoother. The 2 ply is less squishy, but has more ‘bounce’ in the end fabric.
I did a swatch, just to make sure. These are the washed swatches, which has also given me a good idea of how the yarn will perform once washed.
Hmmmmm!!! The Oatmeal has bloomed slightly, giving the final fabric a lovely rustic, definitely woollen look to it, whereas the Dark Grey, a semi-worsted yarn, is very smooth, very classy and elegant. Which one do you think will look good for a weekend sweater that you can pull on first thing in the morning, shuffle out to the footpath to pick up the weekend paper, and then sit down to coffee and pancakes and a read in the sunshine!??
I think you know which one I’m going to choose.