Today I have the pleasure of hosting Laura Grutzeck who, along with her co-authors Lisa Myers
and Carol Sulcoski
, have just released Knit So Fine
, a book that highlights the unique joys and pleasures of knitting with small gauge yarn. As a knitter that doesn't like going bigger than 5 1/2 stitches per inch, I think this book is a welcome addition to the knitting literature.
Since Laura and I both recently used Rowan Cashcotton 4 ply in our work, we decided to start with discussing that yarn and see where the conversation took us:Laura:
Hi Connie, thank you for letting me visit your blog!
So what did you think of the RYC Cashcotton 4-ply? I know you have worked with it before, you used it for your beautiful Apres Surf Hoodie that was in the Summer 08 issue of Interweave Knits. I love that pattern, by the way. I just looked it up on Ravelry, and 72 people are already knitting it, wow!
I decided to use the Cashcotton 4-ply for the eyelet halter in Knit so Fine because I was looking for a thin yarn that had some memory, but wouldn’t be too hot in the summer. Also, I love angora yarn. If a yarn has angora in it, I want to try it! The Cashcotton is 35% cotton, 25% nylon, 18% angora, 13% rayon and 9% cashmere, so there is just enough angora to give a little fluff to the yarn, but not enough that you could actually describe it as “fluffy”.
I enjoyed working with it, and I would definitely use it again. How about you? I know not everyone is crazy about angora blend yarns.Connie:
I really liked the Cashcotton 4-ply too. But it's funny that you cited angora as the one of the reasons you liked it so much. It's actually one of the things I liked least about it. As you knit with it, it sheds a little because of the angora. But it does feel very soft. I wouldn't hesitate to use it again. I love the feel of it, the drape, and the slightly heathered colors it comes in. Also, my hands usually suffer when I knit with cotton, but I didn't have that problem with the Cashcotton.Laura:
Can you think of anything that this yarn wouldn’t be good for? I wouldn’t use it for something that needed a lot of body, I think it has too much drape for that. Connie:
I agree. There are certain things that wool and other more elastic fibers are good for and certain things that drapier fibers like cotton, silk, etc are good for. Laura:
I am really interested in the fact that you are a knitter studying physics. Do you find that your knowledge of physics has an effect on what you design, or how you design? I would think that there would be an overlap between the two. Connie:
A facility with math definitely helps when it comes to grading sizes, but other than that, I don't think my physics background has really influenced my design work. The only instance where I was directly influenced by physics was in my design for the Hexagon Bag
for One Planet Yarn and Fibers
. An STM image of a carbon nanotube array inspired the pattern on the bag.Laura:
I noticed that you use a lot of fine yarns in your designs. Do you prefer to use fine yarns? Why? Did you ever go through a chunky yarn phase?Connie:
I definitely prefer fine yarns. I just think they're more versatile and hang on the body better. I've never personally gone through a chunky yarn phase, although I did entertain a brief flirtation with some chunky Colinette yarns. As a petite person, I'm afraid that chunky yarns would overwhelm me.Connie:
Laura, your book describes and justifies very well some of the great advantages of fine gauge knitting, but I was
wondering what do you think some of the challenges of designing with fine yarns are as opposed to designing with chunkier alternatives? Laura:
Hmm, well I guess there is the obvious challenge, that knitting with fine yarn means knitting with more stitches, so it is going to take longer than knitting the same thing in a bulky yarn. Personally, this only bothers me when I am working on a deadline; when you are knitting for a book or a magazine, sometimes they only give you a few weeks to knit a sweater! When I am knitting on my own time, I enjoy the process, so I don;t usually notice how long it takes.
The only other thing I can think of is that stitches worked in fine yarn are harder to see, so that might be a problem for someone with poor vision.Connie:
What's the chunkiest yarn you've ever knit with and what was the item? Was it a success for you?Laura:
The thickest yarn I have ever used is a Noro yarn called Oimochan. The label suggested using size 36 needles. I thought I would make a sweater out of it, but no matter what I tried, it kept looking like a bathmat. I eventually gave up and donated the yarn to the fiber department at the university where I work.Connie:
My design process is often very haphazard. Sometimes I get inspired by the yarn and the fabric it creates, sometimes I'm inspired by a stitch pattern and feel a compulsion to use it somehow and the garment grows around that, and sometimes I'm inspired by a general silhouette. What inspires you? What is your starting point?Laura:
I am usually inspired by things I see around me, architecture, billboards, art students. I often see something and get an idea, then build upon it. I like to try new things, so sometimes I wonder “hmm, could you knit a sweater this way?” Sometimes my ideas work, sometimes they don't.Connie:
Other than angora, what are some of your other favorite fibers and why?Laura:
I love wool, it is probably my favorite fiber because it is so nice to work with, and so versatile. I am also fond of alpaca; it is so warm and soft!Connie:
What would you suggest to a knitter who primarily knits with larger gauge yarn to start with if she wants to delve into finer gauge knitting? How do we get converts to our side? Or, do you think there's any single factor, designer, or company that's been really instrumental in popularizing finer gauge knitting? Laura:
I think Koigu was big in getting people to both stock and work with fine yarn. It is such a fabulous yarn, I think it convinced a lot of people to try knitting with a fingering weight. For knitters who mainly use heavy yarns, I would suggest trying a lace project. With lace, you use a fine yarn, but you can still use larger needles. I think this would be a good way to ease into working with thin yarn, before jumping in to knitting a fairisle sweater knit with fingering weight yarn on size 3mm needles.
Thanks for letting me visit your blog Connie!
, Laura, for stopping by!
I'll conclude with some parting photos of our projects in Cashcotton 4 ply. Laura used it with her Eyelet Halter
And I used it with my Apres Surf Hoodie