Using up a cotton/linen blend yarn
Still on a stash-busting mission, I dug out two-and-a-bit balls of a cotton/linen DK yarn that I’ve had since the mid 80s when I knitted a sleeveless top to go on holiday to Yugoslavia with. As was the fashion at the time, I made it cropped and consequently had yarn left over. It’s a Robin yarn called Linette that has long since been discontinued, and the cropped top was long since consigned to the rag bag, but I’ve always liked the yarn. Time I used it up, I reckon. Especially now that Spring is in the air.
First problem – what is the meterage? The yarn is so old that the length isn’t printed on the ball bands, nor is it stated in Ravelry‘s database. That reminds me how annoying it was before spinners started to declare the meterage (or yardage, in those days). It was so difficult to judge how much to buy when substituting yarns, particularly when changing from one fibre or blend to a different one. I used to keep patterns from magazines even if I didn’t like the design, just in case I wanted to use that yarn for something else and needed to estimate how far it would go. Many’s the time I bought excess wool to be on the safe side for a pattern that was written for acrylic (which goes further, per gramme) and ended up with a ball or two left over. Maybe that’s what happened with this cropped top, I can’t remember for sure whether the pattern was for a normal length one or not, nor whether it was meant for this yarn.
I know from talking to other knitters that some people have tremendous trouble trying to work out what length of yarn they have in a given weight, so I’ll explain how I calculated the meterage of this Linette. I took the yarn left on the partial third ball and wrapped it end-to-end around my metre stick, finding that I had 34.5m in total, but in four pieces three of which are quite short. I’ll set the three short lengths to one side and just use them if I’m desperate. If you use a metre/yard stick, don’t forget that one full wrap is two metres or yards, not one. The stick method is fine for shortish lengths, say up to about 40m (20 wraps) in a fine yarn. If I need to measure more than that then I wait for good weather and wrap the yarn around my washing line posts, which are 9m apart.
Next I wound the yarn off the stick into a ball and weighed it: 15g. I have the old-fashioned balance type of scales and they only weigh in increments of 5g because I don’t have smaller weights, but I can guess to the nearest couple of grammes when necessary. In this case it seemed pretty much bang on 15g.
So, if 34.5m weighs 15g, how much length is there on a 50g ball?
The answer is: measured length x ball weight / measured weight
= 34.5 x 50/15 = 115m.
And as I have two full balls plus 34.5m left of a third, the total length is (2 x 115) + 34.5 = 264.5m, or say 260m (284 yd) to err on the side of caution (especially in view of those 3 short lengths).
Selecting a pattern
Armed with this information, I can start choosing possible patterns. There’s clearly not enough for a top, a cotton and linen blend isn’t warm enough for a knitted hat or gloves and I no longer have the figure for a string bikini (if I ever did), so the obvious choice is a shawlette to wear over a T-shirt on cool summer days. Thanks to Ravelry’s marvellous search function I can flick through photos of 151 knitted shawlette patterns that require 230-284 yd of DK yarn. (I applied a lower limit of 230 yd because I don’t want to have much yarn left over.)
Nothing in that trawl appealed greatly, so I took off the DK filter, on the basis that the size of a shawl isn’t critical as long as it’s big enough. A large shawl that’s intended to be knitted in a thicker yarn might well turn out shawlette-sized in DK, as might a shawlette that’s meant for finer yarn if it’s designed to be open and lacy on relatively large needles. This widened the search to over 900 designs, too many to look through, so I focused on those I’d favourited previously. While I was at it, I extended the yardage range at the upper end, reasoning that in many cases a shawl can be made smaller just by knitting fewer repeats.
I kept coming back to Ishbel, an Isolda Teague design from her “Whimsical Little Knits” book that I’ve had for some time and never knitted. I was concerned that the slubby, multi-coloured nature of the Linette yarn would obscure the lace pattern. There was nothing for it but to knit a swatch. I just knitted one half (the right hand side) of the pattern to save time, and only two of the pattern sections (A and B, for anyone who has the pattern). As I feared, the pattern/yarn combination isn’t a good one. Back to the drawing board.
A knitting acquaintance who has made several Ishbels confirmed my view and suggested instead Damson (also by Isolda Teague) or Ginkgo Shoulderette Shawl by Maggie Magali. I was about to reject the Ginkgo pattern as I don’t feel a triangular shawl is right for this summery yarn, but then I noticed that there is a crescent-shaped alternative that uses the same lace pattern, Ginkgo Crescent. I ripped out the Ishbel swatch and knitted a Gingko one instead.
I think this is more successful, somehow the lace doesn’t get lost in the busy-ness of the yarn to the same extent. But I’m going to have to do some work on the pattern because the smallest size needs 315 yd of yarn. It’s designed for 4-ply so a DK version using 284 yd and larger needles should be big enough, I’ll just have to make the plain part of the shawl shorter and get stuck into the lace more quickly than the pattern calls for.