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Knitting swatches in keeping with an open and airy look

by Cindy O'Malley

This week, I’m knitting with Universal Yarn Penna which is a feathery light blend of baby suri alpaca, fine merino wool, and nylon that exudes a lovely halo.

Today, I’m knitting some swatches, not based on the recommended gauge as discussed yesterday, but using larger needles to maintain an open and airy look to the fabric. One of the projects I selected for this week is a cowl designed for this yarn using a needle size of US 8 [5mm]. So that’s where I’ll begin.

This yarn is extremely light and feathery. Make sure you use some hand lotion before knitting with Penna. I discovered that it would get caught on my dry, rough hands when knitting. I didn’t realize they were that dry, but after a little hand lotion, everything went smoothly, both literally, and figuratively speaking.

Because my first project is a cowl, gauge isn’t really that important. I just wanted to see what the fabric would look like before I started knitting the finished item. The recommended gauge for the cowl is 16 sts x 26 rows in seed stitch using a US 8 [5mm] needle. My swatch measured in at the same. The halo of the yarn fills in the loose stitches very nicely creating a lovely texture and muted stitch definition.

The halo of the yarn fills in the loose stitches creating a soft textured fabric with muted stitch definition.

Loosely knit swatch in seed stitch yielded 16 sts x 26 rows on a US 8 [5mm] needle.

I had plans to make a shawl with a lacy motif, but after seeing how the halo muted the stitch definition of the first swatch, I had some concerns that it may not do the yarn, nor the pattern justice. The pattern I had originally selected called for a US 6 [4mm] needle with a recommended gauge of 16 sts x 20 rows over 4” [10cm] in a lace pattern using a lace weight yarn. I decided to use the same needle size to see what I’d get and how it looked.

The halo of Universal Yarn Penna mutes the stitch detail of the lace pattern.

Sample swatch before blocking of a lace stitch using US 6 [4mm] needles. The stitch detail is quite muted by the Penna halo.

The resulting fabric was pretty, but the lace pattern was not that desirable because of the muted stitch definition. I also found it hard to read my knitting to know what to do on each row. The gauge I achieved is very difficult to ascertain. It’s approximately 28 sts x 26 rows in the pattern I used, but because the fabric is so open, I can make it whatever gauge I want. As I mentioned previously, gauge isn’t that important for a shawl, but good to know for future reference. The yarn is lovely, and the pattern is lovely, but they just don’t work together. I need to rethink my shawl plans, but that’s for another day.

As mentioned yesterday, when Penna is held together with another yarn, the possibilities are endless. For one of my projects this week, I intend to make a beret that combines Wool Pop with Penna! In a previous post for Wool Pop, I discovered that using a US 6 [4mm] needle created a lovely fabric with a gauge of 22 sts x 30 rows. For my beret, I’d like the fabric to be denser than that for a sweater, so I’ll use the US 6 [4mm] needle combined with Penna to see what gauge I achieve.

 When Universal Yarn Penna is combined with Wool Pop yarn, you get a lovely soft fabric with a subtle halo and a gauge of 19 sts x 26 rows over 4” [10cm] using a US 6 [4mm] needle.

Wool Pop combined with Penna on a US 6 [4mm] needle resulted in a gauge of 19 sts x 26 rows

There are so many other options when working with a lace weight yarn such as this. I could keep making swatches of different combinations just to see what turns out. But I’ll stop here as I’m all set and ready to start my projects for the week. I hope you join me tomorrow when I make a cowl in colors Rose Kiss, Raspberry Tart, and Mulberry.  The balance of the week will be spent making a beret and shawl that will highlight the versatility and beauty of Penna.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go to part 1: Feathery soft knitting with Penna

Go to part 3: Consistency in pattern when working in the round


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