Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

KAL Diary: Shepherd Hoodie Week 2


Sally and I have decided to do a weekly post about our progress on our respective Shepherd Hoodies. Look out for our KAL posts every Sunday afternoon NZ time for the next six weeks (or until the knitting is done!) This is week 2!

First, the obligatory progress pic:

Week 2 progress

I’m about to split the armhole and begin the separate fronts and back knitting.  I have knitted mine a couple of inches longer than suggested in the pattern as I want proper coverage over the derrière.  It’s going to be outerwear, so must be cosy with no draught points!

Let me echo Sally in saying that knitting this hoodie is extremely addictive!  I love knitting it, and shall be quite sad when it is finished.

Some interesting questions have come from both Ravelry and from my previous posts, and I’ll paraphrase the content here:

1. How do you manage the resulting gauge differences if you are using different yarn weights?  And wouldn’t the fabric density be different assuming one got the same gauge but with different needles?

It is all to do with the needles.  Also, the yarn does have to be reasonably close to what the pattern suggests (see next point below where I address this) to get a good result.

In my case, I’m knitting a size 41 on 5mm needles and getting the recommended gauge. Other knitters may find themselves knitting to a gauge using 4.5mm needles (pop over to Sally’s post today where she addresses this as this is what has happened with her).

The pattern recommendation is to knit to 4″ of positive ease (ie. choose a size 4″ larger than your bust size), but with the size I have chosen, mine will possibly only have about 2″ of ease.  I just didn’t want the next size up which would be very baggy.  I’m quite ok with that.

Note the difference in the swatch (the small piece sitting on top of the project) compared to the unblocked knitting.  See how the purl stitches in the blocked piece are exposed but the knitting in progress is still hidden by the gathered cables?

Swatch vs knitting

In this case, I measured the blocked piece to get my gauge.  If you were to knit the swatch and get gauge with the unblocked swatch (not recommended), you’ll find you get a much larger hoodie when you block it.

Anna Gratton’s pure wool yarn is definitely one where a blocking brings it out into its own.  Here’s more detail – see how blocking has even altered the tone of the yarn as it has bloomed and softened after washing?

Swatch vs knitting

In relation to the fabric density, getting the same gauge with different yarns will result in a different feeling fabric.  When the two hoodies are done, Sally and I plan to meet up, and then we can do an actual feel comparison of the two fabrics.

2.  Isn’t your yarn a bit light being DK?

Anna Gratton’s Little Wool Co. 100% pure wool naturals yarn weight is what I’d call a heavy DK or pushing into the tip of the worsted range.  My comfortable stocking stitch gauge with this yarn is about 19/20 stitches per 4″ on 4.5mm needles, which means that it also sits right on the edge of the worsted weight specifications.  With cables and textured stitches you can push it up a size again and the fabric texture is still fine, or you can knit it on a 4mm needle (which is what I have also done in a previous project) and get a denser fabric, but still totally wearable.  A lot of UK yarns defined as DK fit more comfortably into the 22 – 24 sts per 4″ range on 4mm needles, so I can understand why one would think of DK as being a bit light for this pattern.

In fact, this reminds me of a conversation I had with a visiting English lady one day who was dithering over a purchase of some Utiku Wool Corriedale yarn at the same time I happened to be there stocking up.  She said it was a bit ‘thick’ compared to what she was used to knitting with back home.

Craft Yarn Council lists a wide acceptable range for DK weight yarn – from 21 to 24 stitches per 4″ on 3.75mm to 4.5mm needles, so you can see how the makeup of a “DK” yarn (as well as all the other yarn weights) can differ quite a lot.

My own experience is that I take the gauge on a label as a basic guide, but in order to be confident that it is right for the pattern, I need to feel the yarn strand to ascertain its exact weight, and often swatch with it even before I know what I’m going to turn it into.  This helps me to understand what the yarn is capable of. Knowing the fibre makeup also helps as this also affects what you can do with a yarn… one could go on and on!

3.  Button holes, an observation.

Kate Davies recommends a tulip method from Tech Knitter … I looked up one row buttonholes in a book, but as usual, had to revert to You Tube before it made sense.  This tutorial from The Knitwitch is a good one.  I don’t know if it’s the tulip method or not.

Unfortunately, they are a horizontal button-hole, and as the project is knitted bottom up and the button bands knitted at the same time, you cannot mark the spot where they will be because it isn’t there yet.  Hence even more care needed for gauge accuracy (even though my gauge is right, I’m kind of hoping I won’t get to the last button-hole and find I’ve placed it in an odd position!)

I have resorted to attaching a removable stitch marker on the button band when I notice that I’m getting close to 3″ in length (button holes are placed every 3″).  This reminds me to pay attention to button-hole placement time.

4.  What needles are you using?  Do they make a difference?

Needles make a huge difference to comfort levels I think.  I like to knit fast.  Metal needles like Addi and Hiya Hiya are very good for speed, and comfortable for me. Addis have a longer stem, and are the best for my hand shape as my palm is quite long.  However, I lost them and could not find them for the life of me when I started this project.  I was so annoyed I pulled everything out from around my project chair and found them… buried in a project I thought I had ripped long ago… but it was too late as I had already started this project.  As I am not sure about how much the gauge differs between Addi and Hiya Hiya (I find needles are not always consistent in their size), I have decided not to swap them out.

I dislike knit picks metal needles because their points are so pointy and hard that I end up slicing my finger to bits when knitting anything but lace with them.  But maybe it’s just me, as I think Sally is using them?

5.  Finally, a tip from me…

I find that I have mangled a number of pretty stitch markers to the point where they just fall off the needles due to the way I’m holding the knitting on this project.  I’ve resorted to using these heavy duty split rings:

Split rings

Don’t forget to check out Sally’s blog!  Also, we’ve started to get some useful tips from other knitters on the All About NZ Yarns group, so if you are knitting the Shepherd Hoodie too, do check it out.  We’d love to hear from you and hear your tips and observations too!


Author: kiwiyarns

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

11 thoughts on “KAL Diary: Shepherd Hoodie Week 2

  1. It’s turning out so beautiful. I love how you’re shoeing the difference between blocked and unblocked. I can’t wait to see the end product.

  2. That looks fabulous and you must be thrilled with how it’s turning out. You’re way ahead of me but I’m aiming to catch up over the next week or two!!

  3. Thanks for the technical info in addition to everything else…
    i’m thinking about a Hoodie in a hard wearing yarn. Perhaps this is it.

  4. Its looking wonderful, and wow you are powering through it!

  5. So much good info as always. The point about DK is right, I still think “oh that can’t be DK” when I am choosing yarn here, it does feel thinner than I’m used to. I am now diligently doing gauge swatches. Love your pics of blocked vs unblocked. Your hoodie is looking fab.

  6. You are making great progress and all these notes are marvellous. Thanks for sharing in detail.

  7. I am with you on preferring addis. I know some people really like sharp needles, but my poor fingers end up needing to be patched up afterwards.

    Your sweater looks really great. I can’t believe what a fast knitter you are!

  8. Thanks so much for all the detail. It is fascinating to read about the approach you take and so useful when using a different yarn from what is recommended by the designer

  9. Oh boy this is lookin’ awesome!

  10. It is looking stunning! I do love the way the yarn blooms and softens when it is blocked. It looks like its going to be such a snuggly jersey 🙂

  11. Fab info on needles . I feel the same way about synthetic garments , that’s why I took up knitting .