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Knitting with linen yarn, my story, my way

by Cindy O'Malley

This week, I’m knitting with Fibra Natura Flax Lace, which is a strong, light and airy, long lasting fiber that is perfect for summertime wear.

Today I’m knitting some swatches to determine the gauge that I’ll achieve using 2 strands held together, and a swatch using a single strand with the recommended needle size.

First, let’s test the recommended gauge for Flax Lace, which is 28 sts and 36 rows over 4” [10cm] using a US 2 [2.75 mm] needle. In this example, I’ll show you what happens when you try and knit to this gauge from the start; i.e., making it very hard on the hands.

 

Knitting tightly with a US 2 [2.75mm] needle uncomfortably produced 26 sts and 40 rows before laundering.

 

It was a very uncomfortable knit trying to achieve gauge. Notice how much air space is between the stitches in the Before Laundry picture. By the way, the pins are just to hold the swatch flat for the photo. They were not used to block it to size.

Thankfully, it’s only a 4” x 4” swatch, as knitting very tightly was tough and resulted in a gauge of 26 sts and 40 rows. Now for the real test …. I threw it in the washing machine on a warm casual setting inside a bra bag, and then into the dryer on medium.

 

After laundering the swatch, the gauge now measures 30 sts and 40 rows and is no longer 4” wide.

 

After the wash and dry cycles, my 4” stocking stitch section was no longer 4”, but rather 3¾”. That’s because my finished gauge came in at 30 sts and 40 rows. Notice how the air space between the stitches has been reduced. Some say that it will shrink. I think it’s more like the fiber relaxes and the air space is replaced with the soften stitch. By the way, I didn’t block this swatch. You can probably tell by the raggedness of it, but I wanted to see what it would naturally do, not what I forced it to do. Nor do I intend to block my beach wear. I did iron it with a tea towel over top, even though the care instructions say “do not iron”. That was to get the wrinkles out from being contained in a bra bag during the wash and dry phase.

All that hard work by knitting tightly at the beginning did not pay off. What I should have done is knit comfortably, measure it, launder it, and measure it again. Only then can you determine your true gauge. After all, knitting is supposed to be enjoyable and there was nothing enjoyable about knitting this swatch.

Now, on to swatching for my beach theme . . .

I intend to use two strands held together for both the t-shirt and the beach cover-up. The t-shirt is predominately stocking stitch, whereas the cover-up will be a combination of textures and lacy mesh. If you remember from yesterday, these are experimental projects, so it’s important to know what gauge I can expect from each of these stitch patterns.

This time, I made my 4” x 4” swatch in stocking stitch holding two strands of the yarn together using a US 4 [3.5mm] needle as that was the recommended needle size for the t-shirt. I knit comfortably as I was not trying to achieve gauge, but trying to determine what gauge I would get.

 

Stocking stitch swatch using 2 strands of Flax Lace yielded 22 sts and 28 ½ rows after laundering.

 

My stocking stitch count was 22 sts and 28½ rows over 4” after laundering. The pattern calls for 24 sts and 30 rows so I can either try it again using a smaller needle or adjust the pattern. I decided that I would adjust the pattern.

Again, no blocking, just a light iron with a tea towel over top to get the bra bag wrinkles out. It’s important to note that I threw all 3 swatches in the same bra bag, which is why they all came out wrinkled.

It’s amazing how much linen transforms after laundering. What started out as a “crisp” swatch changed into a lovely soft fabric. This will be so nice to wear as a t-shirt.

And now for the pattern swatch, which was a lot of fun to try out different patterning techniques. Again, I held two strands together but mixed them up to see how they would work together over the various patterns.

 

Multiple pattern techniques with 2 strands held together produced some interesting results and different gauges.

 

Again, I used a US 4 [3.5mm] needle and tried out different patterns. The solid blue section is mostly garter stitch, with a little bit of seed stitch mixed in. The blue and silver section is a ribbed lace, but the two different colors make it a little difficult to see the pattern. The solid silver section is an open mesh (yo, k2tog). The gauge measured a little bit differently over the three different designs, but the average seemed to be 19/20 sts. The row gauge definitely varied between the patterns so I’ll need to visually gauge it for scale when I’m actually knitting the beach cover-up.

Both swatches were made with 2 strands of Flax Lace held together using a US 4 [3.5mm] needle, yet the gauge was very different. It really shows the difference that patterning makes on a knitted fabric.

One important note about laundering your swatches; make sure you treat them the same way you intend to launder your finished items as this will impact the overall stitch and row count. Some people say that you should be an experienced knitter to take on linen. That is untrue, but you do need to be disciplined. And by that I mean, do your homework. It only takes a few minutes to knit a swatch, but hours upon hours to knit a garment.

I’m happy with my overall results and now I feel armed to take on my projects for the balance of the week. Join me tomorrow as I start the beach cover-up using various patterns and two colors of Fibra Natura Flax Lace.

 

Fibra Natura Flax Lace, perfect for summer in colors Poppy and White!

 

 

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Off to the beach with Fibra Natura Flax Lace

Go to part 3: Linen makes the perfect fabric for a light and airy beach cover-up

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