Swatching: Get to know Lucky Tweed

It is a new year, and high time for a new swatching series! Over the next few months, we'll individually go over each Kelbourne Woolens yarn, discuss the characteristics, gauges, and go over a few different swatches and stitch patterns. Enjoy! I thought it would be fun to start with Lucky Tweed, our cosy, wooly, tweedy authentic Donegal yarn.
Yarn Label
Yarn labels tell you a lot about the yarn, and ours are no exception. When designing the labels for our yarns, we wanted to create something that contained all of the relevant information, and was clean, modern, and aesthetically pleasing. We designed the labels with the team who helped us with our new branding in 2017, and absolutely love the final result! A few notes: Recommended needle and hook sizes: We've said it before, and we'll say it again: needle size doesn't matter, gauge matters. That said, our labels provide a recommended range to help you determine where to begin. The needle size recommended on the label is based on 1) an average of the sizes used when creating the swatches that produced the best fabric and 2) the yarn weight. In the case of Lucky, the yarn is an aran weight, and the needle sizes we recommend are US 7-8/4.5-5 mm. Yards/meters per skein: Skeins are labeled by yards/meters, which is what is typically used when identifying yarn requirements. It is worth emphasizing here that yardage is really important, but it isn't what you should use to tell you the exact weight of the yarn. Fibers all weigh different amounts; a pound of wool will have a greater volume (more fiber) than a pound of cotton. The way a yarn is spun - worsted vs. woolen - also determines how much fiber is used per yard. Typically worsted spun yarns will have fewer yards per pound verses woolen. As an example, aran weight worsted spun wool is going to be heavier than aran weight woolen spun wool, so there will be fewer yards per 100 grams of the worsted spun wool, and more yards per 100 grams of the woolen. Both yarns are 100 grams, aran weight, and wool, but they will have different yardages due to the way they're spun. This partially explains why Lucky is a hefty 210 yards 100 gram skein and is still labeled aran weight.
Yarn Characteristics
There are a few things about Lucky that sets it apart from other yarns in the Kelbourne Woolens line. As mentioned, Lucky is a woolen spun, which means that the fiber is pre-dyed, colors are selected and blended, carded into a batt, and then spun. Lucky Tweed is a 2-ply, so two singles are plied together to finish the yarn. As a woolen spun, it has quite a bit of texture and is lofty and airy. Because the yarn is not finished after plying, it blooms and softens even further in the blocking process. It is also an authentic Donegal Tweed, meaning it was produced in Donegal, Ireland following their standards of manufacture.
The Swatches!
Stockinette Stitch: I swatched the stockinette with two patterns in mind, Toni by Julie Weisenberger and Colvin by Julie Hoover. I'm incredibly intrigued by the Cocoknits sweater method, and really need more cardigans in my wardrobe, so Toni is very appealing. Both Julie and my friend Kate knit versions of Colvin for themselves in Lucky and they're lovely, and the fit, turtleneck, and style are classic "Kate", so I know I'll get a ton of use out of it. Toni a gauge of 18 stitches and 24 rows to 4" and Colvin has a gauge of 16 stitches and 23 rows to 4". I opted to swatch Lucky in stockinette stitch on US 6, US 7, and US 8 needles. Again - needle size doesn't matter, gauge does - so you may find that you match gauge using a different needle size, and that is okay. That said, if you consistently need to go down or up more than 3 sizes to achieve gauge, you may want to look at your knitting technique. If you are a very loose knitter and always need to use a much smaller needle size, you may find that your stitches are very skinny but very tall. Conversely, if you are very tight, your stitches will be short and squat. The length of yarn that is required to knit a stitch is called the "loop length", and a too tall or too short stitch will have a loop length that is out of proportion and your fabric will not have proper structural integrity, and stitch patterns such as color work might not be very clear. US 8 / After blocking: 16 sts and 22 rows = 4" US 7 / After blocking: 17 sts and 23 rows = 4" US 6 / After blocking: 18 sts and 25 rows = 4" As you can see, the US 8 needle gives me stitch gauge and almost gets me row gauge for Colvin. Since the sweater is worked in pieces from the bottom up, I can easily adjust for this slight change in row gauge, especially by counting rows, not inches. The US 6 also gets me stitch gauge, but not row gauge for Toni. As Toni is knit from the top down, I'll have to check out the pattern to see how much row gauge affects the construction, and make any changes accordingly. With such a slight difference, though, I don't think it will be too difficult to make any necessary tweaks. Kalina: While Lucky looks great in stockinette, I also wanted to swatch in a really elaborate texture pattern. After looking at a few options on Ravelry, I chose Kalina by Veta Romanenkova. Kalina calls for a gauge of 18.5 stitches and 26 rows = 4" over the charted pattern. I started with US 7 for the swatch. After getting the hang of the 7 stitch bobbles (I ended up ditching the crochet hook, and found just using the needles to be much faster and the bobbles looked nicer), the pattern worked up quickly. US 7 / After blocking: 18.25 sts and 26 rows = 4" Gah! So close! For a pattern such as this, I think going down a needle size will both make the fabric too dense and also get me a gauge that is too tight. I like the fabric as is, and I can easily to a small bit of math to determine how this slight gauge change will affect my garment: For the size I would knit, the back cast on is 103 stitches. At a gauge of 18.5 stitches / 4", or 4.625 stitches / 1", the back width after seaming would be: = 21.83". At a gauge of 18.25 stitches / 4", or 4.5625 stitches / 1", the back width after seaming would be: = 22.13", or .30" larger - not enough of a difference to really have a large effect on the outcome, in my opinion. With swatching complete, all I need to do is finish up a few languishing projects, pick which pattern to start first, and cast on!