A Swift Wind Up

It’s a pun! Hahaha! I amuse myself. A yarn swift is holds a skein of yarn that is in a hank (looks all twisted up). It keeps the skein from getting tangled and you spin it around to wind the yarn into a ball- Knitting directly from a skein is a disaster waiting to happen. Historically, I’ve held the yarn loops with my knees and wound the ball by hand. An actual yarn swift paired with a ball winder makes this process so much easier, faster, and more consistent. It’s my first REAL step on getting started on my wedding dress project.

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The ball winder/ swift combo took a little getting used to before it was smooth sailing. I tested it out on less important yarn first to practice my technique. Even with that, I found the silk to be slippery enough to not want to stay on the edge of the ball. It tried to slip underneath, which would have caused a big mess as soon as I took it off the winder.

I was thankful for my little table (found for free at the end of a driveway).  There is a tiny little clamp under the device to secure it. At the widest it is only about an inch and a half. Every other surface I tried to put the winder on was too thick! But my side table worked perfectly and is easy to move around out of the way. As a bonus, it was already scratched, so I wasn’t worried about clamping my tools down!

Swatches for fit!

The pattern calls for fingering weight, but one size 3 needles 26 stitches and 40 rows = 4 inches in the diamond chart. Today I’m testing the needles, pattern, and beads. Many times when I do swatches to check my gauge, I measure, unwind it and start the actual object with the same yarn. This time, I’m super paranoid about blocking and how the beading will work, so I’ve actually going to cast off and block the swatch.

I really want to see how much play I’ll have in the blocking process to know if it is possible to adjust the fit with blocking.

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I’ve  already learned a few things. First, I will need new needles for this project. My interchangeable set only goes down to a size 4. I’m started testing at a 3, but I now know I will have to go smaller than that. I know when I make that decision that I will need ones with really sharp points. Trying to maneuver two tiny loops together in some of the stitches is already a pain with the rounded points of my double-pointed set. I’ll make it through the testing phase, but the added degree of difficulty would drive me nuts long-term.

I’m also questioning my bead placement. I can’t be 100% certain I don’t like it until I block it out, but I’m not impressed with my first plan to interweave the beads with the lace diamond section. I think it will be better off a little more spaced out and in a stockinette area rather than an area with another pattern already planned.

And how to bead? This is my FIRST attempt EVER. So far, I’ve used a piece of thread and dental floss to get the beads onto the stitches. Possible, but not super efficient. The thread is not stiff enough and the floss, even waxed, frays on the edges. A single piece is only good for 1-2 beads before it is too frayed to manipulate into the hole. I think the next try will be with some thing jewelry wire. It has to be really thin to fit doubled-up through the beads.

From the first finished swatch, I tested blocking and answered the mystery of “After blocking, will this hold its shape?” (Yes)

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Other Things I learned

Remember how I said Crafting Communities are AWESOME? I posted the blocked swatch picture in an online forum to ask for some advice on the best way to get a tighter fabric. (There are a few methods; double the yarn so there are two working strands, go down in needle size, adjust blocking…) I got great advice and they also noticed I twist my purl stitches by wrapping the yarn the wrong way. I have been doing this wrong for 20 years! I always hated working stockinette flat because my purl-side row was always tighter on the needles and then harder to knit the knit side, but I was perplexed because my gauge of the finished work was always very even and consistent. Turns out it was the twisted stitches! A SUPER easy adjustment and even the process of knitting is so much more smooth. I’m STOKED!

+I discovered I was reading the pattern wrong and started off right away by decreasing stitches. That is why my finished swatch is wider at the bottom of the picture!

Next Steps

Now that I’m getting started, you might wonder; what’s next? There are a few other planning steps I have to take. One being to draft the dress structure. I’ll give you a hint about this one; this step will involve painter’s tape and LOTS of math!

I’m going to be doing a few swatches of different patterns. I need to swatch a smaller needle size and the correct pattern to get a true gauge. Plus cable testing.

I also stillllll really want to finish that sweater I’ve been working on. I jumped the gun a bit in my excitement to use my new tools and try out swatches. Casting on is always so much fun!

What about you?

What new tools are you salivating over for your trade or craft?

When you try something new do you do a test first or jump right in?

Where do you go for feedback?

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