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Is this thing on? tap tap tap

Sorry about the blogging silence, folks! But never fear, I’ve got fun knitting to show from the past few weeks to make up for it! In the meantime, I hope that everyone has been enjoying these early summer days and that there is plenty of sunshine and warmth in your forecast to make up for what seemed like a never-ending winter. Keep your fingers crossed for my first foray into vegetable gardening: a cherry-tomato-plant-for-idiots growing on my patio.

So, anyway..…the fun knitting! It was inspired by wonderful recent events: I’ve got two brand new nieces! (They are each gorgeous and adorable and perfect and unique. I’m not biased.)

When I found out that my nieces would be born around the same time, give or take, I thought it would be fun to create a sweater design for each of them with a unifying theme, but then with very different design details. My first thought was: make them both sweaters with circular yokes! I don’t know why this was my first idea, but it was and that’s what I went with.

One of the sweaters came together in my mind more quickly, as I envisioned a classically sweet little cardigan, so I started with that idea. I swatched a bunch of different yarns, and I’m so glad I did. As you’ll see, this early fiddling stage made a big difference.

Knowing that I wanted to make roughly a 6-9 month size in each sweater (which would put them into fall-winter wear/usage), I initially thought that an all-wool DK- or worsted-weight yarn would be great. Below, my first attempt in Madelinetosh Tosh DK (100% merino) in the “Molly Ringwald” colorway on size US 7 needles. I find that the roundness of this yarn definitely makes it knit up more like a worsted:

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As you’ll see, I was experimenting with a traditional daisy stitch, whose texture I knew would pop in an all-wool yarn. And while the texture did indeed pop (and I liked the color), I ended up feeling as though the texture wasn’t delicate/small enough for what I had envisioned. Perhaps this gauge would work better on a larger child’s sweater, but not here.

So I changed course, and dove into my stash again, this time coming up with my favorite Madelinetosh Pashmina, the sport-weight blend of merino, cashmere, and silk in the Rose colorway on size US 5 needles:

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Almost immediately, I knew this was a better choice. The daisy stitch still pops from the background, thanks to the wool content, but the cashmere and silk lend the overall fabric more drape and softness. The smaller gauge also means that the texture is a bit more delicate. I just love this dusty purply-pink shade, too. Here’s a side-by-side comparison between the two yarns to give you a better idea of their different effects:

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Interesting, right? I’m convinced that you can actually see the difference in drape just from this picture (although maybe I’ve been staring at it too long). Not to mention the impact of the gauge. This is why swatching is critical! It can really take you by surprise.

Just to be sure that I was satisfied with the pashmina choice, I decided to try one last yarn in approximately the same gauge, but with a different fiber content. Enter stage left: my third swatch in Madelinetosh Tosh Sport in the colorway “Porcelain,” a barely-there pink. (Yes, there’s a theme to the yarns. It’s all Madelinetosh. This is barely the tip of the stash iceberg…) I don’t remember the needle size, but it was comparable to my pashmina swatch. Again, it was a worthwhile exercise:

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While I achieved the delicacy that I wanted in the pattern, the texture was stiffened again thanks to the 100% merino in the Tosh Sport. So even with a smaller gauge, the all-wool yarn really wasn’t giving me the fabric/feel I had envisioned. Not to mention, the Porcelain colorway, while beautiful, was not at all the right choice for this project: too neutral.

Here are all three swatches side by side:

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Not the best picture, admittedly, but hopefully it still communicates the message: no matter how many years you’ve been knitting or how many projects you’ve made, be sure to swatch out your ideas to make sure they’re the right fit with the yarn!

Next time: the sweater design that came out of all of this experimenting, in all of its wee cuteness.
xoxo Danielle

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