Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

Bedford: The beginning


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.

The gauge

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.

The ‘look’

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.

The yarn

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.


Author: kiwiyarns

Welcome to my blog where I talk about knitting in New Zealand and the beautiful yarns you can find here.

16 thoughts on “Bedford: The beginning

  1. They are both lovely, and since you seem so happy with the Little Wool Co. one, why don’t you pop the Southlander in the mail down to me? 😉

  2. I love this post! It’s fascinating seeing how the different yarns behave. The shelter is actually quite scratchy in the flesh, the colours are glorious but i wasn’t sure how it would feel as a garment. Have you heard how it washes up? as for your project, I love everything, the pattern is fab, the darker yarn is delicious, but I can see why you went for the oatmeal in the end – looking forward to seeing this one progress!

    • I must get me some Shelter just to see what it’s really like one of these days. I understand it gets an almost felted appearance once washed, from what I’ve read of notes. The yarn I have chosen isn’t exactly soft either, but I don’t mind. I like the feel of wool.

  3. Oh – that’s a nice sweater! Queued 🙂

  4. That looks like such a great sweater; I think just about either yarn would do! I naturally lean towards the darker color, but I think the oatmeal might look better for this particular sweater. I’m curious to see what you decide!

  5. Lovely reading – love the way you manage to describe the yarns, too !

  6. Definitely the oatmeal. I like how you describe wearing the sweater to shuffle out to collect the paper.

  7. Like the pattern and both wools. Hard to choose I think I’d pick the one that won’t have me itching in the sun.I think you swatching ideas great. Never tried the stitch swatch before but will certainly do that next time.

    • Thanks. 🙂 One does have to have a certain tolerance for wool to wear it even in warmer weather, but I do love it so much!

  8. So evocative Kiwiyarns, your words induce us into sharing with you this heightened sensory awareness of these yarns. Plus visually as we look at those wonderful little swatches, there is no doubt I agree ……it has to be the oatmea 🙂 – so another wonderful journey begins

  9. OH…..I’ve been wanting to make “Bedford” for a long time and have tons of yarn choices. So many patterns/yarn – so little time. Yours will be gorgeous, I’m sure. Can’t wait to see it.

  10. I’m a bit ‘behind’ in reading your wonderful posts. This is the second post I’ve read this morning – you talk about pattern selection and now yarn selection . . . .
    we knitters enjoy, and perhaps crave, these phases of ‘knitting’.
    It’s so much than the wondrous hours of putting our needles together with our yarn to create the garment.
    It’s all the hours of dreaming, selecting, hoping – – – this is knitting.

  11. Ooh, you’ve had a blog redesign since I was last here! It looks lovely! I miss so much from going AWOL, I should learn not to do it so often 🙂

    This is a great post, it’s such a wonderful exploration of the initial stages of a project. I love how you drill down and explore the reasoning behind the choices you make. It’s something that’s often glossed over, at least by me. It’s a wonderful idea to look further and understand why we prefer one yarn over another, and to take a look into the properties and the character of yarns.

    Bedford is such a beautiful jumper, I think I faved it as soon as I saw it! Would love to knit it some day, so I’m looking forward to seeing how yours progresses 🙂

    • I think it’s great you allow yourself a break down and then. Although I do miss your posts!

      Glad you enjoyed this post. 🙂 Bedford is already feeling like one of those ‘old friend’ sweaters – cosy and comfortable. All I have to do is finish it!!!