Friday, August 24, 2007

The Proof is in the Swatching

Today I visited the yarn shop in Bethel, A Stitch In Time, where I teach crochet.  The owner, Eva, and I had a great time going around the store selecting fibers for me to work class projects up in.  One of the fibers selected as Crystal Palace Yarns' "Merino 5" -- a superwash merino wool I'll be using to create a Baby Sweater for a class I'll be offering this fall.  (I hope to post the class schedule tomorrow afternoon.)

Upon returning home I decided that the class participants NEED to see, more like FEEL, the difference between pulling the fiber from the middle of the skein, vs. pulling from the outside.  So I decided to work up two swatches -- and to include in the swatches the difference between the traditional chain start, and the technique known as the "double base chain." (That's a lesson for another day; we're going to focus on the twist issue for now.)

After working up at least nine rows in each swatch, with the same half-double crochet stitch, and with the same crochet hook, I called over my personal softness consultant, Dee Jr.  If there is a softness factor to be determined, he's the one to call in for that second opinion.  Having no prior knowledge of which swatch was what, I asked him to feel with both hands both swatches.  Then switch the swatches (whew! say that three times fast!) and feel again.  He came to the same conclusion as I did...

Quite some time ago, in 2005 in fact, I mentioned about how the twisting factor that occurs in crochet effects our work.  You, too, will see this difference if you create two identical swatches as I did -- one swatch WILL be softer than the other!  The reason?  Depending upon how the skein/ball was wound, and depending upon how the fiber itself was created, we are either twisting the fiber more, making it tighter -- thus creating a "harder" fabric, or we're going against the twist, making the fiber softer -- thus translating to creating a 'softer' fabric.  Yes, it is a preference thing, but as I tell my students, if I'm going to be spending the time to create something from my hands, then I'm going to want to invest a little extra time to ensure I get the best possible results! 

So for this project, since it will ultimately be a garment for a baby, I'm going to want the softest possible results.  This means that for this fiber, I'll be pulling from the inside of the skein/ball.  If it were a purse, or hat, I might reconsider and pull from the outside to make a tighter fabric.

So the next time you hear someone  state that it doesn't make a difference which end you pull your yarn from, feel free to correct them.  Yes, it certainly does make a difference -- in knitting too! (although knitting doesn't have as much of a twisting factor as crochet does.)  The proof is in your swatching!


Anonymous said...

Hi DEE,   I have to share with you that I am actually checking out HOW TO video's on knitting and crocheting from the local public library and I am thoroughly enjoying it.   Plus learning a few new techniques is helping me to brush up before the FALL  yarn season is here...    Thanks for being a great role model on arts and crafts.  Fiber arts are a very relaxing way to find inner peace.
Kindest Regards,

Anonymous said...

Your local library is a GREAT source for crochet (& knit) how to's -- videos, books, and in some cases, lessons too!  I'm glad you've discovered what a great gem your local library is!  ... don't forget, most libraries (at least here in CT) can do intra-library loans.  So if they don't have a book you want, they can usually borrow it from another branch for you!
Happy stitching,