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How to Become an "Expert Knitter"   *Buy this book on CD for offline reading!

table of contents Ľ chapter 1 (of 29)

1: Choosing Patterns, Yarns & Size (cont.)

What size needles do I need?

Stitch gauge and needle size are interlocked. They are shown on the ball band, and indicate the tension, which is the size of stitch and the number of rows that should result from using the yarn with needles of a particular size. It is normally measured over a ten centimetre or four inch square of stocking stitch.

If you are a tight knitter, or knit loosely, you will have to change the needle size to get the stated tension (see here). This alone is a good reason to knit a tension square. The tension information is crucial if you are knitting a garment using many different yarns. The same stitch size and tension will mean that the yarns will work well together, and the resulting fabric will sit flat as the yarns are roughly equal.




The tension information looks different on every ball band. Search for it!

The size of the ply is sometimes stated, but I have found tension information to be of more use than yarn ply, as this seems to be different from one brand to another. If you are not following a pattern, you can use the yarn for a different tension other than stated on the ball band, but if you do, work a tension square first so that you can check that the knitting is not too floppy or stiff.

What use is the ball length info?

The length of the yarn in the ball is not much use for new knitters. If you are following a pattern, it doesnít matter at all because the amount of yarn to be purchased is stated in the instructions. To substitute one yarn for another however, buy extra yarn if the length of the ball you want to use is shorter than that of the original yarn suggested.

I find the ball length information helpful because I can work out whether I need to buy more balls of yarn for a garment. I donít use a pattern, but I know from experience roughly how much yarn I will need. A less frequent knitter may not be able to calculate how much yarn to buy unless there is a pattern to follow. A good relationship with the wool shop is very important here. Ask for some extra balls to be reserved for a short time, but donít be unreasonable and expect the yarn to still be there months later.

Another use of the ball length information is to calculate if the yarn for a project will be expensive, as short ball length means you will need to buy a large amount of yarn.

Avoid surprise stripes

When buying yarn, check the dye lot number on each ball to make sure that the balls are from the same batch. An enormous weight of yarn is dyed at one time, and the most minute amount of dye can mean the difference between red and pink. Even with computers setting the amount, the dye lots are similar, but rarely identical.

Donít listen to anyone who tries to tell you that if the dye lot numbers are close, the colour match will be close. Thatís rubbish Iíve overheard in wool shops. Batches of yarn dyed weeks apart, and so having dye lot numbers far apart, can often be more alike than consecutive dye lots.

Difference in colour is very difficult to see even when the balls of yarn are held together. It is also often hard to see when the knitting is in progress. If the problem is not obvious when the garment is being joined or ironed, it will usually show up if you look at the piece of knitting in a mirror. A mirror and a good light can be a great help. Not only is it easier to see colour differences, but often a mistake in a pattern stitch, or even a dropped stitch will show up when you see the fabric in reverse and from a distance. If all else fails, then a kind friend will be sure to point out a stripe across the back of your new creation.

Sometimes, you might really want a particular colour, but there is not enough in one dye lot to make an entire garment. If you are short by only a ball or two, use the odd dye lot for all the bands. Maybe you will have enough to do the sleeves in the different dye lot. If you have an even amount of yarn in two different dye lots, work the whole garment in stripes of two rows in each dye lot.

However you juggle the different dye lots, use them for matching areas to make the difference less obvious.


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