Gauge play

One of the things I enjoy about sample knitting is the opportunity to get to know new yarns and how they like to be treated without a personal investment in the yarn or in the project.  I don’t have to love it when I’m done, or feel at all guilty about not loving it.  What makes knitting for Spirit Trail Fiberworks unique is that Jennifer rarely uses the same bases as other independent dyers.  She has her own yarns spun ~ and that means F-U-N.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Holda, Fortune's Red

Holda is unique.  It pairs lambswool with cashmere and dehaired angora.  You wouldn’t really know that on the skein ~ it’s somewhat limp and there’s little to indicate the presence of bunny.

“Project marriage” matters tremendously

Dripstones Cowl

when you’re producing finished samples to show knitters how a new yarn performs.  I enjoy working with Jen to pick out the right patterns to show off a yarn’s qualities.

That’s what attracted me to Dripstones Cowl.  I’ve previously written about my preference for cowls to have some shape ~ to be wider at the bottom and narrower at the top ~ and how I achieve this using different needles sizes.  Here is a designer who produced a pattern incorporating this concept.  But Justyna Lorkowska took it one

Each section knitted with a smaller needle

step farther for my sample purposes: this project is knitted on four progressively smaller needle sizes, so it allows a knitter to see a yarn at four distinct densities.  It also allowed me to see how Holda liked cable gymnastics and whether it would split.

But first, there was some math involved.

Holda is labeled worsted, but my swatching tells me it is lighter ~ I would definitely call it DK.

The pattern is written for a stockinette gauge of 3.75 st/inch with an aran or worsted yarn. For the Small cowl, the cast-on is 108 stitches.  Divide 108 by 3.75 and you get a bottom cowl circumference of 28.8 inches.

Holda had a nice density at 5 st/inch.  Divide the same 108 stitch cast-on by 5 and the bottom circumference would be 21.6 inches.  Each pattern repeat at this gauge is 3.6 inches wide.  So in order to have a finished cowl at the same size as the Small, I used the Medium cast-on ~ 144 stitches.

Needle sizes:  With lighter yarn, I adjusted the needle size accordingly and used US 8, 7, 6 and 5.  I used a mix of Signature stiletto tips and Addi Lace.

Stalactites and stalagmites

Yarn performance:  Judging Holda on the skein, I was afraid it was going to split a lot, especially doing a lot of cable work without a cable needle.  I was delighted to find that it did not.  Instances of a ply not joining with its mates were few and far between, making this a most pleasant knitting experience.   Holda did soften somewhat while knitting, but not tremendously.  The more significant transformation came after its bath.

Unblocked dimensions (flat):  top – 7.75 inches; bottom – 10″; height – 11 inches

Blocking:  A soak in Eucalan relaxed the fibers slightly but really turned the plies into a cohesive fabric with a slight halo from the angora.  Even with color saturation this deep (Colorway: Fortune’s Red, a very orange-red), the water was the color of weak tea after soaking.

As is my habit, I blocked this around an inverted vase to avoid creasing.

Blocked dimensions (flat):  top – 9 inches; bottom – 12.5 inches; height – 11 inches (unchanged)

Size Small using Medium instructions

Modifications:  I knitted the entire cowl as written for the Medium instructions.  If I were making this for myself, I would have followed the directions for the Small and omitted eight rows at the bottom and top of the chart to achieve a shorter cowl for my (and my model’s) less-than-swanlike neck.

Project marriage score:  9   Even with the extra math, this pattern worked nicely for this yarn.  I will make one for myself, or something like it.

Holda’s been a bit tricky to get aHolda’ since Anne Hanson of Knitspot featured it in two recent patterns, Tabata and Fartlek.  It has generous 295-yard hanks, allowing for a full one-skein project from a single skein.  For those who appreciate angora but find fluff up the nose and in the eyes too much to bear, this yarn’s for you.

If anything, Holda looks deceptively ordinary on the skein.  If you have been able to obtain one, do yourself a favor and put it on the needles.  Once you see what Holda can do, you will likely be charmed.  A Holda cowl is a lightweight portable hug.   A pair of fingerless mitts would be a toasty treat.   Maybe that’s what’s next for me ~ after all the sample knitting’s done, of course.

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One Response to “Gauge play”

  1. Nancy Says:

    super great work and documentation!

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