Shove that swatch where the sun don't shine.
You heard me.
Just popping in to pass on a tip about testing out new yarn: stick it down your pants.
Specifically, knit a swatch and then tuck it in the waistband of your pants. Wear it around for a while. It is right against your sensitive tummy skin, and has to put up with a lot of movement and friction because the waistbands of pants are the worst parts of pants. This will tell you how sensitive your skin will be to the wool or whatever fibres are in your yarn, AND it will give you a hint as to how well the yarn will wear - does it stretch out, or start to pill or felt?
This tip was shared with me by Caroline and Stephanie from Ancient Arts who were my booth-neighbours at Knit City this year. I had bought a couple skeins of Skyhop from San Juan Woolworks, which is a Finn x BFL cross lambswool. I was debating what to make with it. It’s a delightful, minimally processed yarn and I was trying to decide if I could wear it as a scarf or whether it would be too much for my delicate, princess-and-the-pea skin.
The good folks at Ancient Arts passed along the pants tip, along with the clarification that this does *not* mean inside your underpants. And that tucking the swatch under a bra strap is also a good test. Then they assured me that what I had was the perfect yarn for a vest and before I knew it I was back at the San Juan Woolworks booth getting two more skeins so I had a Vest Quantity. (Vest Quantity = two arms short of a Sweater Quantity.)
I also went home with a gift of a Shawl Quantity of Ancient Arts’ Herlig DK which is another gorgeous, untreated yarn (Viking Wool from Norway!) I have already knit that up and it is sitting beside my desk at this very moment, just waiting for a good blocking.
Most of the yarns I dye are either superwash or wildly luxurious like ultra fine Merino or silk. I do love the softness of these yarns and the practical fact that I can buy them wholesale from mills and have reliable access to consistent yarn bases. But I’ve always wanted to try working with something that’s less heavily processed and, ideally, from local sheep.
Well, the time has (probably) come! I won’t talk details yet because sometimes things don’t go as planned and also because I haven’t checked with anyone about what we are saying publicly yet. But I think it’s fine to say that I got a couple skeins of a beautiful, rustic single ply yarn in the mail and have done some dyeing tests. It went surprisingly smoothly and now we are chatting about ways to showcase the yarn and the colours.
Despite owning a bunch of books by Clara Parkes, I am not an expert in breed-specific yarns. I do know, however, that different yarns have different characteristics and everyone wins if you can match the qualities of the yarn to the requirements of your project. Hardy, well-wearing yarns for the elbows of your work sweaters, and soft-as-a-pile-of-kittens yarns for newborn hats, etc.
I decided to do my research on this new-to-me breed-specific yarn and so those swatches you see in the photo? Day one I put the swatch on my feet and wore it around over my socks but inside my indoor shoes/slippers. Good news, it did not feel itchy through my socks which I was honestly worried about, and it didn’t immediately felt or develop a huge hole. All that action also seemed to soften the yarn and tame the prickliest of the hairs. Interesting!
Day two was the bra strap test. The yarn against my shoulder and upper chest gave me the heebie-jeebies for the first few minutes but I got used to it and would forget about it until I did some big arm motion. Or sneezed. Overall, two lessons learned that day. First is that I really put my shoulders into it when I sneeze. And second, this yarn is medium-ok against my skin. Not a candidate for that Ripple Bralette, but honestly much more comfortable than I had expected.
Today is day three and, you guessed it, the swatch is in my pants. I’ll report back.
Thanks for reading Gauge Case Studies! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.