Saturday, 22 August 2015

Cast-on loosely and don't knit tight - knitting lace with fingering weight mohair yarn

Wisp: Pattern by Cheryl Niamath (published in Knitty, Summer 2007), Yarn: Patons UK Misty

The Wisp Shawl pattern by Cheryl Niamath has somewhat turned into a classic lace knitting pattern and due to its simplicity it tends to attract many beginner lace knitters, who may never have used cobweb or fingering weight yarn in any of their projects before.

Though not my first lace project, I, too, opted for the pattern as I wanted to gain experience knitting lace with fingering weight yarn, whilst completing a relatively simple pattern. Niamath's Wisp fulfils these requirements and due to its straightforward stitch sequence, it allows you to concentrate on your manual ability and, above all, to get a feel for working with extremely fine yarn. 

With my first Wisp (pictured below in dark green), I made all the mistakes in the book: Casting on too tightly, knitting too tightly and getting unnecessarily confused by the many stray strands of Mohair fibre. This resulted in dropped stitches and other disasters along the way. More on the first Wisp (including information on the yarn, Patons Misty, which I chose to substitute Rowan Kidsilk Haze) is available here.

Ignoring all this hardship, I continued and by the time I had reached the final pattern repeats, I felt that the appearance of the shawl had visibly improved when compared to the first lace sections. As a result, I decided to make another (with the same yarn). I had started to feel more comfortable with the material and was keen to see whether my stitch definition and the quality of the knitting in general would visibly improve in the second project.

Wisp No 1, knitted with Patons UK Misty

Having finally gotten round to wet-blocking and finishing off the second Wisp during the past week, I am pleased to report that the quality of the knitting in Wisp No 2 has undoubtedly improved when compared to Wisp No 1. However, this only really became apparent after blocking and by comparing the two pieces close-up.

Wisp No 2 in Patons UK Vintage

This brings me to another point: Mohair fingering weight yarn tends to be very forgiving and  minor mistakes such as dropped and picked up stitches only really become apparent when closely inspecting the finished object. As long as the overall structure of the piece remains intact, minor mistakes tend to get covered up by the fine mohair fibres, which take on an existence of their own. If nothing else, Mohair's propensity to obscure inaccuracies in the knitting, should therefore serve as an encouragement for beginner knitters to try projects calling for this type of material.

As long as you cast-on loosely and don't knit too tightly, fingering weight Mohair yarn can be a very forgiving yarn option for the beginner knitter.

Wisp No 2 in Patons UK Vintage

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