Briar Rose Vintage KAL: Yarn and supplies

It’s Monday and I’m going to talk a little bit about yarn and supplies for our knit-along!

Yarn

We know that our pattern, Briar Rose, is knit in fingering weight yarn. In the yarn world, this is pretty thin stuff. I like the below picture from KNITFreedom which really gives you a good idea just how much thinner fingering weight is than heavier yarns. What we’re looking to use is towards the top of this chart.

Image from KNITFreedom – How to read a knitting pattern

She has a great brief crash course on selecting yarn and fiber. Well worth the read.

When you’re knitting from a vintage pattern, depending upon the source of the pattern, sometimes you’ll be told the type of yarn to use and sometimes you’ll just be told something as generic as “4 ounces of fingering weight wool”. And really, that’s okay. I’ve almost never knit a modern pattern with the yarn recommended, anyway. Just know that for this pattern, we need fingering weight yarn.

You’ll need to make some decisions on types of fiber, and that’s based on personal preference. One thing you should keep in mind when you’re thinking about yarn and fiber: we’re knitting a short-sleeved sweater. So the questions you have to ask yourself: When am I going to wear this? How am I going to wear this?

When are you going to wear your sweater?

If you plan to wear it as a Spring sweater, something that’s not as heavy as a winter woolen, you might want to go with wool or a wool blend. If you plan to wear it in Summer, you more than likely will want to avoid wool. Yes, we all know wool wicks and actually is a main component of things like hiking socks and such that people do wear in the Summer but seriously… I love wool, I can wear all kinds of wooly things against my skin, but if you put me in a wool sweater in July I’d be pealing it off my skin faster than you could say ‘sheep’.

Personally, I want something I can at least attempt to wear into part of Summer before it gets so hot and muggy here that I’m barely walking around in anything more than a tank top and a pair of underwear. I’m thinking of cotton. One thing to know about knitting with cotton is that it’s not elastic like most animal-based fibers, so it’s not always the most pleasant yarn to knit with since there’s not a lot of give in your hands. It can be kind of a trade-off… cooler, lighter finished product that can be somewhat of a pain to knit. That being said, I’d like some warmer weather knits, so I’m probably going with a cotton blend. I always make the mistake of just knitting from my stash when I knit short-sleeved sweaters, which usually means 100% wool, and that inevitably means I’m knitting things with a very short window of opportunity to actually wear in my climate. One word of caution though is cotton yarn can sometimes stretch out of shape, so it’s worth doing some research if you select a cotton yarn. Check Ravelry or blogs… have a lot of people knit garments with it? Does it seem to hold its shape? Does it wear well? These are good questions to ask about any new-to-you yarn.

How are you going to wear your sweater?

Think about how you want to wear your sweater. This is something I sometimes forget to do. I get so caught up in a project I just launch right in! Do you want something a little fancier with a pencil skirt? More casual with jeans? Do you need a good neutral to go with a lot of things? Something kicky in stripes? Maybe a little spangly novelty yarn for evening wear? Think about your current wardrobe, or if you’re feeling exceedinly crafty, what you might want to knit/sew to go along with your sweater. Think about that now before you lovingly knit something you’re never going to wear!

Personally, I don’t wear a lot of skirts in part because I am such a prints and patterns person, so I’m always drawn to printed blouses or printed skirts…and never the twain shall meet. Up until now I’ve mostly focused my wardrobe attention on blouses. But I could use a good basic knitted top to get me into skirts more often, couldn’t I? That’s what I’m thinking about right now. Maybe a cotton blend, in a lighter shade of yellow. Could work with jeans (that I do have) or skirts (that I don’t have). I’m thinking yellow because to me it feels like a neutral that I could wear with several different colors, versus picking something more limiting like red (my favorite color), and is less dead boring than knitting a white, beige or black sweater. Perhaps. I’m not sure yet, but I’m certainly thinking about it. How about you?

Supplies

The other main supplies you’ll need for our sweater:

  • Knitting needles
  • 3 small buttons at the neckline
  • wide-eye needle for seaming

The only thing we really need to go over here is knitting needles. Types of knitting needles are a matter of preference. I hate knitting with straight needles so I never do it. I find them clunky and heavy in my hands, making knitting for long sessions uncomfortable. So I knit sweaters using one circular needle with a 24″ cable. What you use is up to you. I usually buy my knitting needles from KnitPicks, who have circular needles in small sizes for a very reasonable price (they have straight and double-pointed needles, too).

Knitting needle size (and gauge)

Fine gauge sweaters require small diameter needles. As written, our pattern calls for US size 3 needles (3.25mm) for the body and US size 2 needles (2.75mm) for the ribbing (ribbing is often knit on slightly smaller needles). For comparison, a worsted weight sweater is often knit more in the realm of between US 6 to 8 for the “average” knitter.

Let’s talk about that “average” knitter for a moment, shall we? Here’s the thing you may not know unless you’re an avid knitter who knits from patterns a lot: some knitters knit tighter than others, some knitters knit looser than others. When you see a pattern and it tells you what size needle to use, you will always—modern and vintage pattern alike—see some kind of statement like the below, from one of my vintage booklets, which sums it up nicely.

From Men’s and Women’s Hand Knit Winter Sport Fashions of Bear Brand and Fleisher Yarns (1957)

“Important—Knitted garments are planned on the basis of working to a specified number of stitches and rows to 1 inch; this is referred to as the GAUGE. Required gauge is given at the beginning of instructions. If this gauge is not obtained the finished garment will not be the correct size.

The size needles recommended will give the average knitter the correct gauge. However, if you do not obtain the gauge required, change the size needles to conform to the tension of your individual knitting; if your knitting is too loose use smaller size needles…if knitting is too tight, use larger size needles.”

So what this boils down to: you won’t necessarily get 6.5 spi with US size 3 needles. You’ll only know YOUR gauge once you start swatching with the yarn you will use for this project. You might need to go down or up one or two needle sizes. If you’re having to order knitting needles online at the same time as you order your yarn, you might want to consider ordering needles a little larger and a little smaller than the pattern recommends, just in case. It’s kind of a pain, but think of it this way… you’ll always use the needles for another project.

One last thing to keep in mind. If you plan on modifying the gauge of this pattern by knitting with a heavier yarn, make sure you do the same yardage estimating exercise I explained in the last KAL post. This may be trickier if you don’t know what your gauge will be, so for those of you intending to do this, you may need to sit tight a little longer until we seriously delve into resizing. Don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of time to obtain yarn and supplies before we start.

Anything else?

Since yarn and supplies are such a personal choice, I’m not sure if there’s anything else you’d like me to cover here. Is there something more you’d like to know on this topic? Let me know!

What yarn am I looking at, right now? Well, I was initially thinking of KnitPicks Comfy, which is 75% Pima cotton and 25% acrylic, but the only yellow is Semolina and I’m not sure about that. So right now I’m considering Brown Sheep Cotton Fine. It’s 80% cotton and 20% wool, but is still supposed to be cool to wear in Summer. Plus it comes in several shades of yellow. How great might that be with some buttons like these?

BecaliJewels at Etsy

But I may investigate some Rowan yarns and still may change my mind. Light yellow feels perilously close to white, and I worry that every meatball from a mile away is going to find its way to my sweater and give me a meaty marinara hug. Maybe that Semolina color in KnitPicks Comfy would be the ticket, after all. My first impression was too 70s mustard-y, but now I’m realizing it’s a little closer to butterscotch Bakelite. Hmmm…

I know that I was going to post about yarn and supplies last week, but I felt I should let the “math shakes” (as Andrea from The New Vintage Wardrobe so perfectly put it in the comments) subside a little bit longer. We’re still on track with our timeline, however, and I’ll give my initial thoughts on resizing and pattern modifications later in the week. I’ll start talking about swatching with our yarn next week, so start thinking about your yarn now. It probably won’t be until towards the end of the week, because I can’t start swatching until I have my own yarn picked out. ;) Just keep in mind we’ll want to have all swatching taken care of before our cast on date of March 1st. Feel free to chat in the Flickr group if you need some opinions on yarns or colors, too. What are YOU thinking of knitting with?

Resources

  • Ravelry’s Yarn Search. The search function is just so awesome. You can put in weight and fiber(s) and see every type of yarn that fits those criteria. Then you can click on each yarn to see examples of what people have knit with it and what the colors look like. It’s an almost inexhaustible resource. I don’t know how I ever found anything yarn-related before Ravelry!
  •  If you need inspiration for yarns that would work well with vintage patterns, there are two good books I’d recommend. A Stitch in Time, Volume 1 by Susan Crawford and Jane Waller, and Vintage Knits by Sarah Dallas. Both contain modern interpretations of actual vintage patterns. Take a look through the projects at the yarn recommended for each. I may be doing this myself since I’d like to try a yarn I’ve never knit with. (Hint: if you don’t have the books, you can still look up the books on Ravelry to see what yarn was used.)
  • KnitPicks is a good resource for inexpensive and quality knitting needles. They also have a nice fiber tutorial. Even though it’s geared for their yarns, it’s a good resource for the basic qualities of fiber in yarn.

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