Learning to love lighter weight yarn

When I was in my twenties, I learned to knit socks and sweaters.  It was the 1980s and most of what we had access to for yarn was limited to the local shops.  Worsted weight and chunky (bulky) were most commonly available, with a little DK thrown in from time to time.  The finest yarn I recall seeing from that time was Paton's Kroy (fingering weight).

My favorite sweater style to knit was the Icelandic Lopapeysa and there began a decades long obsession with Istex's Alafoss Lopi, the beautiful Icelandic bulky weight yarn.  Thee style of sweaters had circular yokes, colorwork, plenty of ease and worked up quickly on size 6 mm needles. If I wasn't using this, I was usually using a Patons Shetland Chunky, also amenable to size 6 mm needles.

When I knit socks, I used a worsted or aran weight homespun yarn on about a 2.75-3.25 mm needle. I could easily knit a sock in an evening and a pair within a couple of evenings.The speed and ease was convenient as I was working full-time and commuting, and I did a lot of knitting for Christmas gifts.

Fast forward 40 years to the present day and I now find bulky and super bulky yarn tiring and much harder on my hands. This year I've knit whole sweaters using laceweight weight yarn - single and double stranded, or mixed with fingering weight yarn on 3.25 - 4 mm needles. Worsted weight yarn now feels huge whereas over 900 yards of laceweight will fit in one hand (see picture).  Yes, it is a slower process as there are many more stitches and rounds required to make socks, sweaters and other things. But something changed as I started using lighter weight yarns.

First, I discovered that you get much more yardage in a 50 or 100g skein.  In fingering weight yarn, 400 yards is the average, with laceweight, 50g of merino can be 470 yards. Even luxury fibres such as mohair and silk that typically come in small 25g balls provide 200 - 225 yards. 

The fabric created with finer yarns has beautiful drape and incredible warmth while also being extremely light weight. Natural fibres breathe and can be worn year round, and more resistant to bacteria and odor as well, making them a great clothing choice.  You can also combine strands to create your own custom colors. I call this painting with yarn. This can also create fabrics of delightful texture as well. The three swatches shown in the picture show a mohair silk yarn (Smashknits) in the Sorcerer's Apprentice colorway and Cascade Yarns Llama Lace in Dusky Blue on three different needle sizes.

I will confess I like to shop sales and will pick up skeins whether or not I have a project in mind.  If the price, fibre and color are right, I will add them to my stash with full confidence. My budget goes further this way too. I get to knit with merino, silk, llama and alpaca without breaking the bank. The picture above shows a recent purchase from Artisanthropy (online). This is what 10,602 yards of laceweight looks like, mostly merino with a little llama lace thrown in.  Some were as low as $6.50 a skein! What a bargain for 470 yards of merino!

My growing love affair with the lighter yarns has been abetted by the acquisition of very good quality needle sets.  I received a set of interchangeable circular needles and a set of steel double pointed needles, each with its own storage case and related notions. I keep them close by my chair and have been so surprised at how much more pleasurable it is to begin a project without having to hunt for the correct needle size. I also invested in a roller cart that sits by my chair. It has room for my current WIPs, favorite needles, recent swatches, and other essentials. That way everything is close at hand.

Since 2023 began, I've knit a number of projects using laceweight alone (single or double strands) or blended with another yarn.  Here are some pictures of finished projects. I couldn't be happier with them.

On the left, fingerless gloves in two strands of mohair silk. On the right, improv sweater made with Sugarbush Drizzle in Berriwinkle, single strand of mohair silk. 

On the left, Eye of the Storm shawl in laceweight BFL in colorway Brooding by Smashknits combined with SugarBush Drizzle in Thunderstorm.  On the right, Sugarbush Drizzle in Berriwinkle combined with Cascade Yarns Heritage Sock Yarn in Passion Flower.

If you haven't tried laceweight yarn, I encourage you to do so! There are some free patterns here on my blog to help you get started, including one for a simple scarf , a cowl, wrist warmers and fingerless gloves.


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