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Finn and tension and negative ease

 

This week I’m knitting with Finn, a sport-weight yarn that has 50% affordable acrylic fiber and 25% each fine merino wool and alpaca fibers.

In my last post, I rolled out the plan for the week to end with a pair of gloves and perhaps a whole mitten, too. Along the way, I’ll explore some Fair Isle patterns, and today, I’ll begin swatching with this yummy yarn.

 

A ball of Finn in Jam, perched on the moss-coated intersection of split cedar rails.
A ball of Finn in Jam, perched on the moss-coated intersection of split cedar rails.

 

As always, when I find myself working with a new yarn, I make a gauge swatch. Ordinarily, when the ball band recommends 24 sts to 4” [10cm] with US 4 [3.5] mm needles, I would go up a size of needle to achieve gauge.

So, I chose the US 5 [3.75mm] needles and sure enough, I got the tension listed on the ball band – 24 sts to 4” [10cm]. At least I’m consistent!

 

My sample has 34 sts and a double seed stitch border. I achieved the ball band gauge using US 5 [3.75mm] needles
My sample has 34 sts and a double seed stitch border. I achieved the ball band gauge using US 5 [3.75mm] needles

 

I now have my base gauge, but there are several variables that will impact the gauge for the finished gloves.

The first thing is washing. When I looked at my sample, I could see that the “memory” of the wool was working its charms. So, I washed the sample – just ran it under the tap with room temperature-ish water. I laid it flat on the edge of the tub and gently pressed a dry facecloth on top of it to draw up a bit of the excess moisture. Blocking can be as easy as this!

Next, my gauge always changes when I change to color stranding work and, because I want my mitts and gloves to be tightly woven to keep out winter winds, I will likely also change my needle size downward a size or perhaps two. That will undoubtedly affect my gauge.

Finally, I’ll knit my gloves in the round, and there are times when gauge changes when switching from flat knitting to circular knitting.

So, while I have a base gauge, it will be worth the considerable investment in time to create a sample or two in circular knitting. I always look at having to do additional samples as opportunities to experiment, especially in Fair Isle knitting, where the possibilities are numerous. I’ll go through all that in my next post. Oh, the fun I’m having!

 

In this, the first of several samples, I'm trying out a motif for the back of the hand, a motif that I can use as a spacer, if I need it. I'm also trying out a pattern for the palm of the hand.
In this, the first of several samples, I’m trying out a motif for the back of the hand, a motif that I can use as a spacer, if I need it. I’m also trying out a pattern for the palm of the hand.

 

Gloves and mittens need to fit snugly, but not tightly. When we sew garments such as sweaters or slacks, we add extra fabric to keep the fabric from binding in places like elbows, knees, and hips. This extra fabric is called ease, as it allows for ease of movement.

Ease isn’t always desirable in a garment. We want hats, socks, mitts and camisoles to fit snugly. Although, I would be OK if bathing suits had a little more ease. Maybe it’s just me, but those Victorians could have been on to something!

Because knitted garments are stretchy, we can make them slightly smaller than the actual body measurement. This is called negative ease. Without negative ease, our socks would constantly be around our ankles. How annoying is that? If you lived through the 1970s, you’ll likely remember those double-layer knitted store-bought mittens that came flying off your hand as soon as you threw a snowball!

So, I want to make these gloves with at least neutral ease, and if they’re a little smaller than my hand circumference, that will be OK. The natural fiber in Finn will make them fit quite well.

For that, I need to do some more swatching, which I’ll tackle in tomorrow’s post.

 

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Knitting with Finn – affordable luxury

About Cynthia MacDougall

Cynthia MacDougall is a multi-discipline craft artist who teaches knitting. She has taught at venues from Kingston, Ontario to Olds, Alberta. A designer and technical writer since the mid-1990s, Cynthia is currently a contributor and knitting editor for A Needle Pulling Thread and KNITmuch magazines. She is also the owner of Canadian Guild of Knitters which she operates for the love of Knit!

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