I’ve long wanted to start a series that captures the possibilities of an inspiring design in a Blue Moon yarn. After all, a truly successful project is the marriage of a great design with the proper yarn; and helping customers choose yarns for projects was one of my favorite parts of working in a yarn store. I picked up a lot over the years from customers’ experiences and around the teaching table; seeing customers come in a few weeks or months later wearing their gorgeous FO’s was one of the best perks of the job.
So let’s grab some inspiration from patterns that are out there on Ravelry and in the knitiverse and help each other make beautiful things!
Following the advice of “start where you are,” I’ll dive in with a piece that grabbed me just this morning (I’m particularly vulnerable during my first cup of coffee): “Sandbank,” by my fellow German Lea-Viktoria. Here’s a wide, deep, mildly-crescent-shaped swath of stockinette that’s just crying out for a great colorway. It’s an ingenious center-out construction which lets you knit it entirely in the round and make the most of the yardage you have in a laceweight to light-fingering weight yarn.
This piece has a supple rhythm to it which is so beguiling; at first glance, it could be a big rectangle, but it’s curved at the ends. It could be a Faroese-shawl shape, because it has shaping that helps it stay on the shoulders, but it’s not overly huge. Lea-Viktoria says you can wear it like a cardigan or like a big scarf, which would make it super-versatile for wear over a sleeveless summer dress. Or bundle it up around your neck under your winter coat and then let it cover you at your desk in the office before the heating kicks in.
So let’s talk yarn … what should we knit our Sandbanks out of?
The yarn she used for her sample is a laceweight, with 1722 yards in a 300g skein, and the project is knitted at a gauge of 26 sts = 4″/10cm in stockinette, after blocking. These two bits of information will be vital for us looking to substitute a different yarn.
One of the first impulses customers would have in the shop was to look at the knitted gauge (26=4″) and try to find a yarn with that gauge listed on the ball band. In this instance, that would send you off in search of heavy-fingering to light-sport-weight yarns – the problem being that the resulting piece wouldn’t have any of the lightweight airiness you can see in Lea-Viktoria’s sample photos. See how sheer and flowy it is? If you chose a yarn that was thicker, you’d get heavier, denser fabric – even if you got gauge, your fabric would be different, and the piece perhaps not as wearable.
So the trick is to look at the original yarn used and find a yarn that has similar vital statistics: in this case, laceweight is a good clue… but even among the laceweights, there’s so much variety. You’ve got cobweb-weight, which has a bazillion yards per gram, all the way up to heavier laceweights that could almost be substantial enough for socks. How do you choose?
I like to key in to the number of yards per gram when substituting yarns. Here, her original yarn was 1722 yards per 300g; divide 1722 by 300 and you get a yard/gram ratio of 5.74. Let’s keep that in mind as we prowl the Blue Moon site to consider which batch of yumminess to order for our Sandbank.
Silky Laci is 80% extra fine merino and 20% silk, with a slightly wooly surface texture that’s great at allowing the stitches to grab each other a bit and hold gauge very well when knitted a bit open. Fans of Shetland lace shawls would adore this stuff – it has a very regular spin, and the addition of silk makes it just that little bit special for your heirloom lace pieces. Here, we’re not focused on lace, but even in stockinette the fabric would have a hand that would make it both special but sturdy enough to wear every day. Silky Laci sports a hefty 900 yards per 90g skein, so its yard/g ratio is a whopping 10. Very different from the pattern gauge – if you knitted up a Sandbank in Silky Laci, it would weigh only half as much as the original (around 150g). For those of us knitting in warmer climes, this could make it a wearable piece for at least 2 seasons a year; but you’d want to swatch to make sure you liked the fabric knitted at that gauge. (I’m about to do just that.)
La Luna Lace is 85% 19.5 micron Merino (in other words, oooooooh) and 15% mulberry silk. Super-soft and silky, with little bitty pearls of twist, this is a dreamboat of a yarn. It has 480 yards per 99g skein, so its yard/g ratio is 4.84 – fewer yards per gram than the pattern’s sample, but still within range for a laceweight, and much closer to the pattern sample’s thickness. La Luna Lace will probably be my first choice for my own Sandbank, if only to showcase the gloriousness of this yarn in a piece so strikingly simple.
Which brings us to the question of color – once you’ve chosen a yarn, how do you choose a color(way), especially from the hundreds of eye-catching candidates at Blue Moon? I’m going to put my designer’s hat on let you in on a little lesson from design school: the relationship of complex to simple. In other words, if you’ve got a design where there are lots of things going on in terms of pattern or texture, you’re best served to keep the colorway(s) simple. Or vice-versa: in a relatively uncomplicated piece like Sandbank, you have more leeway to play with complexities of color. (Swaths of stockinette, especially where the stitch counts change as things increase, are a great platform for multicolors, and won’t muddy the design the way texture + tons of color can.)
That being said, this is a BIG piece, so bear in mind the visual impact it can make walking down the street! While you can play with some of the more active multicolor wave colorways (the ones that bring in four or five hues, or incorporate most of the color wheel), you might get more wear out of the more tonal or two- to three-color multis.
Both would play beautifully in my mostly-grey wardrobe, and the wash of grey-to-color around the stockinette body of the piece would be enchanting, dont’cha think?
What colors would you choose? I’m off to ponder over my next cup of coffee.
Feeling inspired by a design, but don’t know what yarn to use? Pop your ideas in the comments and hopefully I can chat about them in upcoming Inspiration Mondays!