KW Swatch Experiment

KW Swatch Experiment Data: Road to China Light

It’s time for our next data post in the #kwswatchexperiment: Road to China Light!

For the Road to China Light swatch, we asked knitters to cast on 30 stitches using US 3 (3.25 mm) needles and work in stockinette stitch with a 2 stitch garter edge on either side. The needle size given in the swatch instructions was pulled from Courtney Kelley’s design from one of our very first collections almost ten years ago, Hawthorn.  

NOTE: 
For every yarn, measurements were taken pre-and post blocking. Please see previous posts for my measuring and blocking process for these swatches.

ROAD TO CHINA LIGHT STITCH GAUGES

ROAD TO CHINA LIGHT ROW GAUGES

OBSERVATIONS

LOOSEST VS. TIGHTEST UNBLOCKED
• Swatch 1 had the loosest gauge at 22 sts and 31 rows / 4″.
• Swatch 6 had the tightest gauge at 26.66 sts and 36 rows / 4″.

LOOSEST VS. TIGHTEST BLOCKED
• Swatch 1 continued to have the loosest stitch gauge at 24 sts / 4″, but Swatch 4 overall had the loosest gauge at 24 sts and 30 rows / 4”.
• Swatch 6 continued to have the tightest gauge at 28.5 sts and 34.5 rows / 4″.

MOST DRAMATIC CHANGE BETWEEN BLOCKED AND UNBLOCKED
Stitch Gauge:
•  Swatch 1 had the greatest change in stitch gauge: unblocked, the gauge was 22 / 4”, but after blocking it tightened up to 24 / 4”.
Row Gauge:
• Swatch 6 had the greatest change in row gauge: unblocked, the gauge was 36 / 4”, but after blocking it loosened up to 34.5 / 4”. It is worth to note that the stitch gauge on Swatch 6 tightened up almost 2 sts / 4” as well, so it makes sense the row gauge would loosen up to accommodate this shift.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

As mentioned, the needle size given in the swatch instructions was pulled from Courtney Kelley’s design, Hawthorn.

HAWTHORN
SPECIFICATIONS
GAUGE:
 26 sts and 34 rows = 4” (10 cm) in St st on larger needles, after blocking. / NEEDLE: US 3 (3.25 mm).

GAUGE MATCHING POST BLOCKING
• Swatch 3 matched stitch gauge post blocking, but the row gauge was off by a mere .66 rows / 4” (33.33 rows as compared to 34).
• Swatches 2 and 5 matched Row gauge post blocking, but the stitch gauges were off by a small amount. (25 and 25.66 sts as compared to 26.
Note: Swatch 5 had a gauge that was so close, as it was only off by .33 sts / 4”, and matched row gauge, I would argue that any change in needle size would not get a better result.

WORKING WITH ROAD TO CHINA LIGHT
The Fibre Co. Road to China Light has some unique qualities (I really truly think there is no other yarn out there like it on the market), so for this Practical Application, I thought it would be good to give some tips on working with this lovely yarn.

ONE / FIBER CONTENT
Road to China Light is comprised of 4 protein fibers: baby alpaca, silk, baby camel*, and cashmere. On the surface, this means one thing: this yarn is soft. Like crazy soft. But it also means that it is important to take the qualities of the fibers into consideration when knitting or crocheting with it:

Baby Alpaca: As far as protein fibers go, alpaca has more drape and is heavier and warmer than wool. 
Silk: Silk provides shine, additional drape, smooth softness, and weight and is not very elastic.
Baby Camel: Soft, light, and rare, the soft down of baby camel fiber provides lovely warmth without additional bulk.
Cashmere: The micron count (diameter of the fiber) of cashmere is much, much lower than typical wools, which makes it incredibly soft and fine. 

The end result is a yarn that has quite a bit of drape and bloom, is a little heavy, and does not have a ton of “bounce”, meaning the fibers do not immediately return back into shape if stretched or manipulated. It also means that it is amazingly variable in gauge options – colorwork at 28 stitches / 4″, or open lace at 16 stitches / 4″ both work beautifully.

TWO / GAUGE and END USE APPLICATION
Working with Road to China Light does require some additional consideration.

It is important to understand how you want the end resultant fabric to behave – are you making a large, lacey, open shawl that will be worn wrapped and draped, or do you want a fitted garment that maintains its shape throughout the day?

If you’re looking for structure in the yarn, consider knitting it at a denser gauge and adding structure in the way of side seams and armhole seams, as demonstrated in Hawthorn. This will help the fabric maintain its proper shape throughout the day. If all you want is to take the softness and warmth and play up on those two qualities as much as possible, structure might not be as important to you – regardless of what you are making, consider the fabric that your knitting creates and if it has the qualities you’re looking for. 

THREE / COLOR
Like many of the yarns in the original Fibre Co. lineup, the majority of the colors of Road to China Light are kettle dyed. This means that it is possible to get incredible depth of color and duotone, but it also means that the skeins, despite looking the “same” and being dyed in a large kettle all together (hence the dye lots), are, at their core, all individually hand dyed.

There are two ways to handle kettle dyed yarns: let each skein speak for itself and embrace the hand dyed qualities, or blend  the skeins as much as possible for a more unified, cohesive look.

By treating the skeins each as individuals – even if dyed in the same kettle or lot – you may find there is a noticeable difference in your piece once you change to a new skein. This is totally normal. The yarn is hand dyed, and one of the qualities of hand dyed yarns is that there may be variation among skeins of the same color due to the dye process. Color can be affected by how each skein accepts the dye, or even its location in the dyepot. This variation is beneficial, though, as the kettle dye process and unique dye application is what created the unique duotone many of the yarns, especially Road to China Light, are known for. 

If you have totally fallen in love with a color, but do not want to risk any sort of color blocking or incohesive appearance, you will need to blend the skeins. All of the kettle dyed yarns have this wording on the label:

This yarn has been intentionally crafted with subtle texture and color variances. Alternating skeins as you work will give an overall blended appearance.

By working with multiple skeins at a time, the skeins mix together and there won’t be an abrupt change in color. I tend to blend skeins when working with large stockinette stitch portions of a garment, but when working heavily textured patterning or colorwork, I find it isn’t as necessary as the dimension of the fabric helps “blend” any potential issues on its own.

*If you’re interested in hearing more about the sourcing and manufacturing of the yarn, you can check out Courtney’s post on baby camels here

We haven’t heard of anyone who has worked with Road to China Light and hasn’t loved it – do you have a favorite pattern that you have used for this lovely, unique yarn?

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