Needle natter and peer pressure

My friend Sarah and I visited WEBS recently to take advantage of their anniversary sale.  She was hunting up yarn for gifts and I was restocking my supply of weaving yarns (and succumbing to a few colors I haven’t tried yet.) I think we hit every corner of the store, some more than once, and I was doing pretty well with only restocking for the business.

Then Sarah showed me the 100% Baby Alpaca yarn that she was buying to knit a Color Affection shawl. As she described the shawl to me, I’d heard about it but hadn’t seen the pattern, I decided that I needed to make one too. The yarn was on sale and very reasonably priced so I chose three colors different from hers and we planned a knit-along.

Sarah and I both had personal projects in progress so we decided to knit our swatches to see what needle size to use, but maybe not start in on the shawl that very evening.  Sarah’s swatching adventure  is a bit different than mine.

We’ve purchased lace weight yarn for our Color Affection shawls and for that the pattern calls for a size 2 1/2 or 3mm needle.  I knit loosely and generally go down two needle sizes from what a pattern calls for in most things, but not necessarily so with lace knitting or very fine yarns. I don’t own a needle sized 2 1/2  so I decided to start with a size 1 and see how it goes.


The swatch on the bottom is with the size 1 needle. It is supposed to measure 4″ and comes in at about 3″. I like the stitch definition but the shawl will be much too small.

Here I should mention that the pattern calls for a long circular needle (32″ or so) but I chose to use short double pointed needles to knit the 22 stitches for my swatch.

I went back to needle storage and found my size 2 double points and did the second swatch, the one on top. It’s slightly larger than it should be and the stitch definition is, shall we say, messy.  What I really needed was a needle somewhere in-between and closer to the size 2 than the size 1.

Sarah was having her own swatching adventure and had decided to use the yarn doubled. Meanwhile I took another look at my needles.  The long size one that I thought I’d be using is a 2.5mm. The size one that I swatched with is a 2.25mm. The size 2 that I swatched with is a 3mm.

Lesson #1: check the needle sizes carefully. The swatch only gives you a good answer if give it the right inputs.  I had pretty much decided to go ahead with the long size one (2.5mm is close to 3mm) but I have, like Sarah, ordered more yarn in case I want to use it doubled as she is going to do.

While all of this was going on I was getting frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to start immediately on my new shawl. My inner child was having a bit of a “I want it now!” tirade. So when I should have been working I took a few “breaks” to paw through my stash and see if I had any fingering weight yarn that I could use instead. [The pattern is written for both weights.] At one point I had a pile on the floor, a pile on a table and a pile on a chair and I was rushing back and forth with the pattern trying to make any of them look like a good idea.

After a bit too much of this insanity I stepped back. My boss (me) gave her employee (also me) a little lecture about work time vs leisure time. Also an important reminder that I don’t get paid if I don’t finish the work. And finally, that we like money (if nothing else it supports the yarn habit) so getting on with the working is really the priority right now.

I put away two of the piles. The one that has the best chance of working has been moved where I can’t see it easily. I made great progress on a project for a client, and decided that the next bit of knitting should be done on the porch where I can’t look at all the yarn I have that I want to knit into things “right now!”

Author: Jennifer Kortfelt

Owner, Heron Pond Designs, a fiber and textile exploration.

2 thoughts on “Needle natter and peer pressure”

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