Monday, August 13, 2018

A History in Needles

Have you ever questioned your possession of certain needles?

Tonight, I've been busy working on a new design. Yes, I know... What about the six other unfinished projects you promised to work on Jesse? Hush! Strike while the iron is hot or the muse runs away. Beside all that, my mum wanted a pattern designed for her with certain specifications, and I aim to please. (HI Mom!)

For this particular project, I'm reworking an already familiar shape and structure with a significant shift in gauge, moving from a fingering to a worsted weight. This took swatching. Gauge swatches are important, and if you question this, check out the epic hat from my last podcast.

I started out on a US 8, but found myself disappointed in how poorly the texture was showing in the fabric I created. My natural response to poor stitch definition is to move to a smaller needle. I don't really understand this tendency. My thinking was that smaller = tighter = finer = more emphasis on texture. I guess I thought I could torture the look I wanted out of this yarn by pressuring it into submission on small needles. Sadly, a smaller needle was also going to cause a denser, less draping fabric, which was not going to work for this design, so I opted to go up a needle size before scraping the whole design.

An interesting thing happened. When I went up to a US 9, the stitch definition improved. The drape still wasn't quite what I wanted, but the result was encouraging. I soldiered on and moved even further up the chain to a US 10. We have a winner! The textured stitch was even more defined and the fabric had drape. This little experiment, of course, had me studying the stitch structure to understand why the definition improved. The answer is simple: with the larger stitches, there is more yarn with more room to move, and thusly, the purls can pop further in relief from the stockinette background.  But, I digress. This wasn't the most interesting feature of this exercise for me.

What interested me most about this little swatch exercise was my collection of needles. I was working with circular needles. I'm proud to admit to a significant and broad collection of tools. I love my needles; they make knitting a joy. However... When exactly, and for what project, did I obtain a 60 inch US 10 needle?!? I cannot think of ANY project in my past that required such a needle. I even took a minute to troop through my Ravelry project pages to try and identify what triggered that acquisition, and although I was unable to exact a history, tonight I'm thrilled to have it among my tools as it's the right tool for this job.

Clearly, it's past my bedtime when my curiosity is peaked by the history of an acquisition over the science behind an accomplishment.