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Exploring gauge with thick and thin yarn

by Charles Voth

Basically you can knit with thick and thin yarn at any gauge, but you’ll need to experiment a little to see how the yarn behaves for you on different needle sizes and on the tension you usually apply to yarn. Each knitter’s feeding tension (how much yarn is fed to the needle and the strain being put on the yarn by the knitter’s hands) is unique, so even though a yarn label recommends a certain needle size to achieve a specific gauge, it doesn’t always work out.

Thick and thin yarn

Thick and thin yarn

Bamboo Bloom has a recommended needle size of US9 [5.5mm] and states that 15 sts and 22 rows per 4″ [10cm] will be achieved. A US9 [5.5mm] needle size is what is usually given for a chunky yarn, but what is interesting to me is that the thinnest sections of Bamboo Bloom are more like DK weight and the thickest parts are like extra-chunky. Universal Yarns must have come up with an average gauge based on what most of the accompanying patterns look like.

So, it would be good for us knitters to take several needle sizes and swatch to see which size works best with the yarn, or the way I prefer to think of it, which effect is created by the different needle sizes and which effect is the one I want. Let’s look at a comparison of some swatches.

Bamboo Bloom in stockinette stitch on US7 [4.5mm] needles

Bamboo Bloom in stockinette stitch on US7 [4.5mm] needles

In the above swatch, I knit across 30 stitches with size US7 [4.5mm] needles. On the knit side of this stockinette stitch swatch you can see how the puffy segments of yarn fill up the space they have and really compete with neighboring stitches beside them, and a little with those they’re worked into. The right leg of each stitch is slightly receding to the back of the fabric. The push and pull play of these stitches also creates a waviness in the fabric that is interesting. This swatch has little drape and is quite stiff, so it wouldn’t work for a loose-fitting garment needing a lot of softness and movement. But I really liked how it looked on the purl side.

Purl side of Bamboo Bloom in stockinette stitch on US7 [4.5mm] needles

Purl side of Bamboo Bloom in stockinette stitch on US7 [4.5mm] needles

I was REALLY excited by how the purl side of this swatch looked, however. The ridges of puffy stitches were really evenly distributed across and up and down this 30-stitch swatch. I really liked the valleys and ridges that were formed. As a design element, I would probably use this yarn at this gauge in a sweater that was worked side to side so that the ridges would be vertical and slimming.

The reflection of the ‘shininess’ of the bamboo sections really create an interesting play on movement with the sheen coming from valleys as well as the crests of the ridges. A quick one-skein project would be side to side wrist warmers, fingerless mitts, or boot cuffs.

In the next post, we’ll look at this yarn knit on larger needles.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1:  The thick and thin of Bamboo Bloom yarn
Go to part 3:  3 reasons to use larger needles with thick and thin yarn



craftyone February 23, 2016 - 6:20 pm

I have seen some thick/thin yarn and decided against purchase because I was unsure of distribution. This post is making me rethink.

Carla A. Canonico February 26, 2016 - 11:51 am

You never know if you don’t try!

Stefani Brown February 23, 2016 - 12:30 pm

I love bumpy yarn and am currently making a crochet shawl using Love Knot and boy is it working up quickly, thanks for the article


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