Learning a Lesson in Yarn Selection

I recently blogged about my wonderful “Sheep to Shawl” experience where I spun wool from one of my sheep and then knitted it into an amazing and cozy sweater! After publishing the article and wearing the sweater a bit, I started thinking something was amiss. The sweater, while soft and warm and full of love, felt……wrong. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I noticed that the shoulders of the sweater would slip down my back and I felt myself constantly tugging on and adjusting the sweater to get it to stay in place. It wasn’t long before I realized that the yarn was just wrong for this particular sweater.

But I did everything right!! I knitted and blocked several swatches to make sure I got the gauge perfect because my yarn was chunkier than the recommended yarn. I counted my stitches as I went along to make sure I didn’t get off track. I blocked carefully to size. But still it occurred to me that I had made a sweater that looked beautiful, but that I didn’t enjoy wearing.

Well this just wouldn’t do.

I talked to all my knitting friends about what I should do and they each offered a recommendation about how I might reinforce the shoulders or otherwise strengthen the sweater to stand up to the weight of the yarn. I considered them carefully and realized that sometimes, you can’t make the sweater work for the yarn. Sometimes, you have to just use the right yarn for the sweater. The “My Everything” cardigan was meant to be warm, but light and swingy and drapey. My bulky handspun had taken that whimsy from the pattern. So what now?

I had two choices:

  1. Leave the sweater as is and have a sweater that I would look at lovingly and never wear, or
  2. Rip it out and start again

This time I didn’t ask for input from anyone. I mulled it over, researched different patterns that might be better suited to my yarn, and made a decision.

I ripped it all out.




When I was done unraveling the sweater, I thought that I would look over my wound balls of yarn with woe, but I actually felt good that I could be so objective about something that I had spent so much time on. In the end, I loved the yarn that I had spun from a sheep that I had raised and I wanted it to be made into something that I would USE. I have no doubt that I will go back and make the “My Everything” cardigan again with a more appropriate yarn (I will admit that it’s due in no small part to the fact that I have a major design crush on Joji Locatelli), but this yarn was meant for something else.

I landed on the “Coat for Roxane” by Katrin Schneider. This is a sweater that was designed for heavier yarn. And that hood! And those pockets! And those cabled sleeves!!!! Swoon! It was a match made in heaven! As I cast on and started to work this new project, my feeling was confirmed. The yarn looks great with this pattern! I used a bigger needle so the sweater is not so heavy; it doesn’t weigh itself down. And the saddle shoulders were more structured and supportive. The pattern was fancy enough to satisfy my cable craving, but simple enough to really highlight the natural beauty of the yarn! It’s still a work in progress, but I will definitely get a lot of miles out of this cardigan!

In short, some patterns can adapt to be used with any yarn, some can’t. I know that understanding what yarn will work in substitution and what won’t comes with practice and I’m still a knitting newb, but I did learned that I must always keep in mind how a heavier or lighter yarn will affect the construction features, the drape, and the flow or structure of the piece. I am glad that it’s something I am learning early. Otherwise I might have a beautiful sweater collecting dust in the closet. Instead, I will have a versatile and wearable sweater that is mine, all mine! <3

Follow along with my progress on my Ravelry project page here. 🙂

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