Weighty talk 

What weight yarn do you prefer? Do you have a favorite? Do you have one that you keep buying and then not using?

IMG_2037I am a huge sucker for lace weight yarns. They check a whole bunch of boxes for me:

• warm-weather friendly: they’re very lightweight and tend to be used for airy, almost weightless fabrics.

• economical: they often come in cones (as at left) or hefty skeins of 800+ yards for not much more cost, or even less, than their weightier cousins who show up in lengths of 400-ish.

• good knitting return on your investment: it takes quite a long time to knit 800 yards of lace weight yarn!

(These last two are not original to me; Elizabeth Zimmerman points them out in Knitting Without Tears. But I wholly agree with her.)

• frequent non-wool content: lots of lace yarns blend wool with drapier kinds of fibers like silk or alpaca, which is good if (like me) you tend to find wool a bit itchy.

• elegant: this is obviously subjective, and depends on what patterns you use. But generally speaking, the small diameter and significant drape of laceweight yarns seems to me to offer a more refined, formal, dressy look than heavier, more rustic yarns do. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no need to aim for a more formal, dressy kind of look all the time, and a good rustic wool has its own kind of elegance. But it’s a different kind of look, and I like the elegance lace offers.

HOWEVER…

I am not actually the best at knitting lace weight yarns:

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• it takes quite a long time to knit 800 yards of laceweight – which is great, until you get tired of the pattern, and of feeling like you’ve been knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting, and your fabric has grown two millimeters.

• the yarn is so light that the resulting fabric can lack structure. That’s great for flowing shawls, but not always flattering in other kinds of projects.

• knitting lace can be discouraging because it often looks terrible until blocked. Obviously this is the case if you’re knitting proper lace stitches, but even if you’re just doing stockinette, lace seems to show every last uneven stitch (unless done on truly tiny needles and then you really do take forever). Pretty much every project benefits from blocking, and if you can make it through a lace project and block it properly a magic wonder awaits you, but sometimes it’s hard to have faith that the crumpled thing hanging from your needles is going to turn out properly.

• I’m not really a lace shawl kind of person, so am usually trying to use it for other things – but there’s a reason so many designs for lace yarns are shawls.

• did I mention knitting laceweight takes a long time?

So, I keep buying lace yarn, but my finished objects have all pretty much been fingering weight, sport, or DK. I have some worsted weight that has been through various attempts at projects, none of which are yet finished, but I think the only thing I’ve knit out of bulky yarn was a hat for charity. (I think this is due to wool-aversion – many bulky wools are too warm/itchy for my current climate, but bulky cotton can get really really heavy, and I’m not a big fan of acrylic. There are a few bulky cottons of interesting constructions – tape or chain – that I’d like to try, but I’ve been too cheap to take the chance so far.)

I do have a couple of laceweight projects on the needles right now: The first is Carol Feller‘s Adrift in the pinky-maroon Misti Alpaca on the right in the picture above. I cast on at some point last fall, but it’s been languishing since I hit the short rows for shaping the neck – I really wanted some uncomplicated in-front-of-the-TV knitting, and kept screwing up the short rows in in the tiny yarn, so put it aside in favor of other projects and…well. (Nothing against the pattern, which is lovely, or the yarn, which is ridiculously soft.)

IMG_2050The second is Kate DaviesFrost at Midnight out of her amazing book, Yokes. I cast on a couple of months ago when I had been playing with the yarn, swatching and trying other projects for which it turned out to be unsuitable. It’s a heavy laceweight from Posh Yarn, 55% superwash BFL and 45% silk, and the color is amazing. That’s it to the left. I just ordered a bunch of different pinky and purplely beads to see which would work for the beaded yoke; can’t wait to see which are best!

(And oh, hey, it’s yet more brightly-colored variegated yarn! And more purple! The more things change…)

I’m not very far into Frost at Midnight yet; I made it through the provisional cast on and a few rows, but got distracted by baby gifts, Dalyla, and Stratum. Stratum had been going well, but I came to the end of the first skein of the gray yarn and didn’t want to wind another, so picked up Frost at Midnight again.

For some reason, this time I’m finding knitting lace especially soothing and meditative, and I’m enjoying the process almost more than the prospect of the final project. Maybe this time I’ll actually finish it, and acquire the knack for knitting lace? Maybe I’ll start using up my lace stash? Or, maybe this time next year, I’ll be talking about getting back to this project, and totting up how many more skeins of lace I own now (I bought two more last week…).

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