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Choosing a yarn for CloudChaser

July 21st, 2010

I’ve been getting a fair amount of questions about Cloud Chaser, specifically for advice in choosing an appropriate yarn. Back in May, I wrote some general advice on How To Substitute Yarn, advice which is completely relevant for Cloud Chaser as well.

When finding the right yarn for a pattern, there are really four main steps.

STEP ONE: Understand What The Pattern Recommends

In this case, Cloud Chaser was designed with Honor by Lorna’s Laces. The yarn is 70% Alpaca and 30% silk, 275 yds to 100g. The ball band recommends a gauge of 5.5 sts / inch using a US 5 / 3.75mm needle.

I really designed Cloud Chaser around the yarn. This is how I tend to work, with designs that are inspired by the qualities I find in my earliest swatches. In this case, I liked Honor at a slightly looser, and more drapey, gauge for the stockinette portions. I found that I needed a 3.5mm needle to get the gauge of 5 sts per inch in stockinette, while still ensuring my cables were nicely defined.

A knitter emailed me a question earlier this week… I’ll paraphrase:

You used smaller needles and got a looser gauge than the ballband… what gives????

It’s a good, and fair, question. Just as different knitters need different needles to obtain the same gauge, the same is true for designers. articularly with slippery and fluffy yarns, like this combo of alpaca and silk, I find myself needing a slightly smaller needle than with something bouncy like merino. This is why I make sure to measure my gauge in the swatch, before and after blocking, and also on the finished piece, before and after blocking. In patterns, I’ll give you the needle size that worked for me. This is exactly why you, as knitters, need to swatch before casting on for most garments, and figure out which needle works best for you, and with your chosen yarn.

Anyhow…

In this case, yes, I was going for a looser fabric than the lovely folks at Lorna’s had in mind. The bias direction of the fronts necessitated fabric that moves with the body, and drapes loosely. Additionally, I really liked the contrast at this gauge. The cables look firm and solid, and the stockinette portions are slightly softer.

For the best results with Cloud Chaser, you’ll want to look for a yarn that:

  • Has a lot of drape. Look for something with a little less elasticity or bounce.
  • Can be knit at worsted and be slightly looser than intended on the ballband. In this case, a DK-weight yarn knit at worsted. You wouldn’t want to pick an aran weight yarn, like Malabrigo, that could be knit more densely and still obtain gauge.
  • Enough plies to maintain the definition of the cables. Single ply yarns are great, but can get fuzzy over time. A 3 or 4 ply yarn is best, in my opinion, for cables like these. The individual strands of yarn help the twists really ‘pop’ and stay defined with wear.

Don’t think that I’m talking you out of the original yarn, Honor. It is completely perfect for this pattern, and you won’t be disappointed. Many of you have written to see where it’s being stocked, so I checked with Lorna’s directly. Honor is a brand-new yarn, and is just making its way to the shops beginning at the end of July and into early fall. You’ll want to check Lorna’s retailers list. The neat thing about Lorna’s is that they don’t require a minimum purchase from shops for special orders. If you have your heart set on the colour Fjord, as shown, be sure to ask your local shop if they can add your order to their next shop order.

basket of yarn

STEP TWO: Picking a Yarn

So, let’s say you can’t wait, or need to pick a different yarn. Remember to think about the three qualities you need to match:

  1. Gauge: You have to be able to knit to 20 sts per inch in stockinette, slightly loosely as explained.
  2. Texture and Color Pattern: An overly textured or multi-colored yarn may not be great choices here, as the beautiful and delicate cables would be obscured.
  3. Fabric: Drape is extremely important. Be sure your yarn will not feel stiff or sturdy at the necessary gauge.

Unless you’ve worked with the yarn before, you may not know all of these things ahead of time. Make your best guess based on how the yarn feels in the shop, and any store samples or swatches. Or, look on Ravelry or on the knitblogs and see if you can find other projects worked with it. What can you tell from the photos? What sort of projects did others choose for the yarn? Were they happy with how it turned out?

STEP THREE: How Much Do You Need?

This part should be the easiest… after all, it’s just math. Take the yardage required in the pattern and divide by the yardage per ball or skein of your new yarn.

If you do use Honor, it’s got great yardage, so you may have some leftover, depending on your selected size. What luck! Why not knit up a hat or pair of gloves to match?

STEP FOUR: Confirming Your Choice

I can’t stress enough the importance of swatching.

Few knitters enjoy it, but it’s an essential part of the process. You can probably tell, within a few rows, if the fabric is going to work for you. A few more inches, and you’ll know if the gauge is right.

For Cloud Chaser, it’s pretty important to also block your swatch prior to finalizing your needle choice. Funny things happen to yarns when they’re knit a bit loosely. A gauge that looks right-on before washing can quickly become too loose after the garment is washed and dried.

Hopefully this helps answer some questions. Are you knitting Cloud Chaser? If so, what yarn did you choose?

For more help picking a yarn, please read my original post – How to Substitute Yarn.

For more details about the pattern – Cloud Chaser.

See finished and in-progress Cloud Chaser projects on Ravelry.

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2 Responses to “Choosing a yarn for Cloud Chaser”

  1. marilyn watson Says:

    do you think the dark color, like the brown in Honor would not show the pattern as well as the the lighter shades or even the varigated would that look too busy Thanks

  2. Pat Wiese Says:

    I have the pattern for Cloud Chaser and am anxiously waitin for the yarn to come in. I have a question – I normally make a size 40 for sweaters, vests etc. What size do you suggest I make 38 or 42? Any Help yu can give me would be greatly appreciated. Love the pattern – thanks for creating it – Pat

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