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Knitting large-scale samples: Why it’s an important time saver

by Cynthia MacDougall

This series of posts is dedicated to Bella Chenille Big Glimmer by Universal Yarn. In my last post, I talked about the features of this cozy yarn that picks up the light and adds a subtle glimmer to whatever you knit with it.

A ball of medium gray yarn on a white background. The ball band has one yellow, and one pink elephant sharing a heart with their trunks; Bella Chenille Big Glimmer

Bella Chenille Big Glimmer in Whispers, a soft gray

Here, I’m doing what I do – sampling. I’m not afraid to sample with a yarn, new or old. I use scraps of old yarns to experiment with new stitches I want to try from my stitch dictionaries, or from patterns I’d like to make (but only after I know I’ll enjoy working the design). I’ve learned that p3tbl is not my friend, especially on huge needles!

Bella Chenille Big Glimmer is a big yarn that uses big needles, and, since I don’t knit on this scale very often, I wanted to get better acquainted.

Knitting needles vary between sizes; with smaller size needles, the size increments are small. US sizes 3, 4, and 5, for example equate to 3.25mm, 3.5mm, and 3.75mm on the metric system, so the difference between each of the sizes is only ¼ of a millimeter. This allows a knitter to get very close to the recommended gauge.

When you go up to the larger sizes, there is a whole millimeter between sizes – US sizes 11, 13, and 15 measure 8mm, 9mm, and 10mm respectively. Beyond those sizes, the difference is even larger, which means there can be a sizable difference in samples, even when you change by only one needle size.

For my experiment, I picked 13 and 15 needles [9mm and 10mm], as recommended on the ball band, and added size 17 [12mm]. I cast on the same number of stitches for each sample. I made the gray samples with size 13 [9mm] needles, the purple ones with size 15 [10mm], and the pink samples with size 17 [12mm] needles.

In this photo, even though the pink sample is further away, the openness of its fabric compared with the gray one at the front is visible

Three samples worked in garter stitch are lined up vertically. The gray one at the front is quite tightly knit, the purple one in the middle is slightly wider, and the pink one at the back is quite a bit more open than the other two; Bella Chenille Big Glimmer

Garter stitch samples

As the photo shows, there’s a big difference between the size 13 and size 17 samples. If only you could feel them! I took them to my local guild meeting and we had a hearty discussion about them.

The samples worked on the smallest needles (gray) had a lot of integrity, and were almost stiff. The garter stitch would make a sturdy play mat, but would be too stiff to tuck in around a car seat, for example. More flexibility is desired for a garment.

In this photo, once again, the gray sample worked on the smaller size 13 [9mm] needles is quite a bit tighter than the pink sample at the back, which was done on size 17 [12mm] needles.

Three stocking stitch samples, lined up vertically on a white background, with gray at the front, purple in the middle and pale pink at the top of the photo; Bella Chenille Big Glimmer

Stocking stitch samples

The pink samples, worked on the largest needles (size 17 [12mm]) were a bit ‘squishy’. They have good drape and would make a decent lap robe, but might not hold up well enough for a large afghan. They’re also a bit loose to put around really small children – little fingers might get caught in the loosely knit fabric.

The purple squares, to quote Goldilocks, are ‘just right’ – not too tight and not too loose – so, for my knitting, size 15 [10mm] works nicely. The ball band gives a range of 5 to 7 sts to 4” [10cm], and my tension with 10mm was right in the middle, at 6 sts to 4”.

Some knitters find sampling to be a waste of precious knitting time. In my experience, sampling is often a time saver as it helps me decide if I like the fabric the yarn will produce, and I can keep the samples for future reference. (Yes, I have bins of knitted samples. I still come across an odd one where I look at it and instantly remember what I liked or disliked about the yarn or the stitch pattern I made with it!)

If you’ve never worked with Bella Chenille Big or Bella Chenille Big Glimmer, I encourage you to knit a sample or two before tucking into a large project. The samples work up quickly, and you’ll know soon enough what kind of project your yarn wants to be ‘when it grows up’.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: Stay on trend with Bella Chenille Big Glimmer: Why this yarn is a favorite!

Go to part 3: 4 ways for weaving in ends when using chenille yarn, big or small


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