I’ve decided to embark on a little investigation and comparison of yarns as I learn more about the art of knitting a gansey. For some reason, I’ve become infatuated with the idea of knitting a Gansey with the traditional drop shoulder shaping. I know that drop shoulders are somewhat dated and reminiscent of the 80’s probably due to the popularity of these sweaters and the proliferation of Bennetton stores. Still, I want to knit the gansey in it’s traditional form. I guess I’m a purist.
Also, I’ve noticed that some folks swear that knitting with a more expensive, reputable yarn is better than knitting with a more inexpensive and affordable brand. Their argument is that the quality of the yarn is of the most importance. I’ve also seen a few heated conversations about yarn brands online, noting that some hold fast by the idea that you should stick with the more expensive brands.
My feeling is that, not everyone can afford to use these expensive yarns. Is it wrong to exclude people’s desire to knit a gansey just because they cannot afford yarn at $7-8 dollars a skein? If you’re knitting a sweater that takes 18 plus skeins it adds up. Also, I wanted to figure out, for myself, because I’m stubborn and often rely on my own experience to make my judgments, whether one yarn was indeed superior over the other.
I wanted to run a comparison once and for all between a ‘bargain’ yarn vs. a more expensive (within reason) yarn. At first, I thought I’d knit the same sweater pattern twice, but I realized that this could be akin to a form of mental torture, so I settled for knitting two similar sweaters.
I will judge the yarns on the following criteria (as a start):
- Average number of knots or nubbs found per 50 grams of yarn.
- Knitting experience (rough fiber, vs. soft)
- Amount of piling (little, average, excessive) before and after seaming
- Dye resistance
- Stitch definition
- Texture/softness after first washing
I’ve decided to compare the two yarns:
- Knit PIcks Telemark
I started on the Lochinver gansey by Alice Starmore. I know there are probably some who are gasping in shock, but I’ve cast on and finished the bottom flaps in Telemark. Overall my experience with knitting this yarn has been fine. It’s rough, but that’s to be expected from a yarn that’s made for creating an ‘outdoor’ sweater. My experience with really ‘soft’ yarns has often been disappointing because they pill so much and require regular care with a sweater stone or fuzz eater.
I haven’t been able to order Frangipani yet, but I think I’ve seen a local store that carries it. Perhaps they can place an order for a certain color. I have discovered that finding good quality Gansey and Fair Isle yarn is a bit of a challenge in the U.S. It makes me really want to help popularize the art of knitting these wonderful garments in the hopes of increasing distribution and decreasing the prices of this yarn.
It did occur to me that it’s a little strange and perhaps uncomfortable to knit such a heavy sweater during summer time, but I decided that waiting the weather to cool down would be more than my patience could bear. Also, I would knit it only at night.