Yarnsperiments & A Hack

On our Last Date I promised to update you on my yarnsperiments, and I have lots to share! I originally played around with holding 2 strands of Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk together, and since then I moved on to see how it acted when I held it with a heavier yarn. The concept is to hold a light, airy yarn like a brushed alpaca or mohair with a heavier, more conventional yarn. The heavier yarn stabilizes the fabric, giving it body, and density. The airy yarn gives it a soft, all-over halo (please note: the fabric can only be as soft as the fibre. A downy alpaca will continue to be soft, and itchy mohair will still be scratchy).

And so, I offer up my experiments …. I’ve used the same 2 yarns throughout: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport and Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk. The Cascade is a sport-weight machine washable merino wool, it is super soft and comes in 50g/125m skeins (perfect for experimenting). The Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk is a worsted weight brushed alpaca that looks kind of like mohair but feels like happiness. It comes in 25g/140m skeins. Both yarns are 100% natural fibres.

On the C Train

My first foray into this combo was On the C Train, a pattern that was designed to be made with 2 strands of yarn held together. It’s made in a K1P1 rib (which I like to call ‘stupid stitch’, which while tedious to knit, makes for an elastic fabric that fits well. I ran short on my base yarn, the Cascade, so the size is a bit on the small side (slouchy on a 21″ head) – all of my modifications are in Our Ravelry Notes. 

The finished fabric almost looks felted, I think because of the colours:

  • The yarns were a dead-on colour match, there’s just about no distinction between the two when they were knitted up. Of course, dye lots can shift colours around, but this combo on this day for this project were twins.
  • Both yarns are solid colours. They are not heathered, so there isn’t any differentiation in the colour, it’s flat.
  • The colour is dark and doesn’t reflect much light. (Yes, yarn can reflect light, and it affects how you perceive the colour. The darker the colour is, the less depth and the flatter it’ll look). The halo of the alpaca also prevents light from being reflected off the merino.

Anyway, it looks really cool! It doesn’t feel remotely felted, it’s soft, extremely comfortable, and has an all-over lightly fuzzy texture. This hat could look really cool in a black on black combo.

Materials

Chunkeanie

Chunkeanie is a pattern we’ve made before, and I’ve always really liked the aesthetic. When I’m knitting it I feel really meh about it, but once it’s done it just looks amazing! It especially looks good on, which is important, since it’s a hat, not a tea cozy. One caveat, I feel like the pattern runs small, their size medium fits my 21″ head. The texture is still soft, and very comfortable. I like this particular yarn combo knitted on the 5mm/US8 needles, it blooms nicely, although I think the brim could be knitted on 4.5mm/US7 needles.

This colour combo with the light greys looks amazeballs! The light grey of the Cascade merino is a bit more of a cool colour, and the alpaca is warmer. They ended up working well together, with the fuzzy alpaca becoming the dominant colour. This is an interesting phenomenon that I hadn’t actually noticed until now. I’m glad I photographed the hats next to their constituent yarns, you can kind of see which colour is more dominant when they are neighbours. Cool! I just learned something new!

The fabric of this hat looks a lot less flat and more fuzzy than felted, probably for a few reasons:

  • Both of the yarns’ colours are heathered, which give it a bit more depth of colour.
  • In the purple alpaca yarn the silk and alpaca content are almost indistinguishable, the entire strand looks the same. In the light grey the silk (the carrier yarn or core) took the dye in a different way (silk does this, it’s fickle) and it is lighter than the alpaca (you can see the silk shining through in the picture below). This little hit of colour runs through the stitches, randomly creating little highlights. (One of the advantages of knitting holding 2 strands together is that the colour distribution is completely random. When the yarns are already pre-spun together you lose that added depth of colour.)
  • The value (the lightness or darkness of a colour) of the colours is much lighter than the purple hat. The dark value of the purple hat added to the flatness of the colour. With this hat, the lightness of the colour creates a greater depth of colour. I can still see details in the yarn, like the stitches and the plies. Even though our mind doesn’t tend to register those little lines, they create micro shadows which in turn creates contrast and adds more depth to the overall colour.

Anyway, this hat-speriment was definitely a win. It looks really good on me, and I think I’m going to have to make myself a second – otherwise I’ll swipe the store sample.

Materials

Chunkeanie

The grey hat worked out so well that I decided to try a different colour and make one for my mom. My mother has a little mini head, so I opted to try a smaller needle size and went down to a 4mm/US6 for the ribbing and 4.5mm/US7 for the crown. The tension was fine, but I definitely feel like the 5mm/US8 was a prettier tension.

The first hat (purple) was a dark colour, the second (grey) was a light colour, and this one was in between. It looks like the fuzzy yarn (the alpaca) is still coming out as the dominant colour in the fabric. The alpaca also seems to look patchier in this hat, which is an optical illusion because it is exactly the same as the other two hats. This is because of the special things going on with this particular colour combo:

  • The Cascade merino is a heathered colour, so it isn’t as flat as the purple. But the heathering is only one colour, white, and it isn’t as complex or have the depth of colour that is in the light grey, which has black and white in it. (You’ll have to take my word on this, my camera skills haven’t made it this far.)
  • The Cascade merino is a bit lighter than the alpaca, while in the other combos this was reversed. The base is showing through a lot more than the other hats, which look more uniform. Light colours project and pop out to the eye, while dark colours recede.
  • Like with the grey hat, the silk hasn’t taken the dye exactly the same as the alpaca and is peeking through, creating some small highlights.

Materials

Knit Hack: Alternate Cable Cast-On

The Chunkeanie pattern calls for an Alternate Cable Cast On, which you do not have to do to make this hat, but I like trying new things, seeing how they work, why the designer chose to use it, etc. The Alternate Cable Cast On is a great way to cast on for a ribbed edge of K1P1 or K2P2 and is a much, much, much easier alternative to a Tubular Cast On. Like, SO MUCH.

So if it’s so much easier, why does it need a hack? Good question. When you do this cast on you’re basically alternating making a knit stitch, then a purl stitch, a simple enough concept – in theory. In theory, my brain should be able to pay attention to knits and purls and knits and purls. In THEORY. In reality, I found myself having a nice little rendez-vous with my learning disabilities. I was constantly screwing up the sequence of the knits and purls and having to rip it out.

How I Mastered this Cast On

Stitch Markers. Get them, use them, they’re your little plastic friends! I placed a stitch marker after every 10 stitches, and before proceeding more than a few stitches past that I went back and checked to make sure the last 10 stitches were correct. Once I confirmed that I was on track, I moved on to the next 10.

Read the Stitches. The other thing I had to do was learn to read what the knit and purl stitches looked like. You can’t check to see if your stitches are correct if you don’t know what they are. The best way is to just practice casting them on and looking closely to see how the knit looks compared to the purl. To my eye, the knit is a long bar that sticks out and the purl is bead or a bump that recedes. I tried taing a picture and labelling it for you, but I don’t know if it’s super helpful – people all conceptualize things in different ways, so it’s best just to study your stitches closely and get familiar with them in your own terms.

Pay Attention to Your Join. This is where reading your stitches again comes in handy. Because the sequence of the stitches is what this cast-on is all about, I joined my stitches by threading the yarn tail on a darning needle and pulling it through the other side. I don’t know why, but I found that once joined my stitches had gotten turned around to the other side, and my round was starting with a purl. At this point I didn’t really care why or how this was happening, I just wanted to get on with it and make a hat, so I adapted and started my ribbing on a purl.

Conclusion

OMG, that was SO. MANY. WORDS. I’m sorry if it’s too many words, too much explanation. Please feel free to take it or leave it, or take some and leave the rest. My conclusions are thus:

  • The hats look really good!
  • I like the yarn combination, it worked out well.
  • The grey hat made me the happiest, but the purple was cool.
  • I now know more than I did before, and this exploration was definitely a worthwhile use of time and resources.

I’ve already moved on to my next project, I’m knitting a Nuvem with the Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk as a straight-up single stand. I think it’ll make for a super cosy wrap for spring, and so far it looks great – but more to follow!

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