coiled: Knit So Fine

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Knit So Fine

Today is day 4 of the Knit So Fine blog tour and I’m chatting with one of the authors, Laura Grutzeck. Her coauthors are Carol Sulcoski of Black Bunny Fibers and Lisa R. Meyers of Rosie’s Yarn Cellar.

Knit So Fine Designs with Skinny Yarn is a collection of twenty-one designs all worked in fine yarns. The designs are grouped into chapters titled: Simplicity, Speed, Style and Shine. The collection includes a wide selection of long sleeve sweaters, and also a stunning wrap dress, a skirt worked sideways, a ruffle scarf, a lace stole, and a beret; it’s a great collection of classic, wearable designs.

Kat: Laura, have you always been primarily a fine yarn knitter?

Laura: No, when I first started knitting I rarely used yarn finer than worsted weight. It was actually kind of hard to find thin yarns in the stores back then. I remember going into a yarn store a long time ago (BK: Before Koigu) with a vintage knitting pattern from the 40s. I think it called for fingering weight yarn knit on 3mm needles. The store owner told me that they didn’t carry such fine yarn, and besides, “no one knits like THAT anymore.” She made it sound impossible!

Kat: Was there a bulky knit disaster in your knitting past that sent you over the edge?

Laura: Ha, no, I don’t think I ever had a disaster. I was infatuated with the bulky yarns just like everyone else, but I eventually realized that I never used the bulky yarn in my stash. Every time I swatched with it, I wasn’t happy with the way it looked, so back it went to the stash. I guess we just grew apart. J

Kat: Having worked in a yarn store did you get frustrated when people would shy away from the skinny yarns?

Laura: Yes. It can be very frustrating when people wont even consider using a yarn just because it is thin. Even when customers loved a pattern that called for fine yarn, some of them would either refuse to knit it, or ask us to re-write the entire pattern for a thicker yarn! Luckily most of our current customers have seen the light, and have no fear of thin yarns. I think Koigu convinced a lot of people to try fingering weight yarn, and after that, there was no turning back.

Kat: Do you have a favorite design in the book?

Laura: I don’t have a favorite, but I really want to knit Lisa’s legwarmers, Carol’s Bohus sweater and either my asymmetrical cardigan or the lace stole.

Kat: Was there a particular yarn that really spoke to you?

Laura: We got to use a lot of nice yarns for the book; I really enjoyed working with the Blackberry Ridge Cotton Blend, the Regia Silk and the RYC Cashcotton 4-ply.

I noticed that you do a lot of fine gauge knitting yourself, like the beautiful Gossamer Stars scarf in the Summer 08 Interweave Knits. What are some of your favorite thin yarns to work with?

Kat: The other day, I started knitting a lace triangle shawl with
Black Bunny Fiber Laceweight and have to say, that the night I cast on, I stayed up past three in the morning. I couldn’t put it down. Is there magic mixed into those skeins? The colors really made me happy! I did that obsessed knitter thing, talking to myself, and saying, “oh I have to go to sleep, I’ll knit just one more row, just one more row…” Good times! It brought me back to those fun days when I was just catching on to knitting lace and that great feeling of being so excited by the rhythm of the stitch work.

Laura: I’m so glad you liked it!! Carol’s colors really are amazing. I am lucky to know her, because otherwise I don’t think I would be able to get my hands on any of her yarn; she always sells out so quickly. The Lace Stole was knit with the Black Bunny Laceweight, and I think it turned out really well. The yarn has some toothiness to it that I really like. The lace pattern in the stole has a lot of garter stitch in it, and in a drapier, more slippery yarn I don’t think the garter would have worked as well.

Kat: True, the yarn does have a little grip but not at the expense of softness.
I like a lot of the designs but I especially favor the Asymmetric Cardigan. I admit I’m a little obsessed with it. How does it look unbuttoned? I’m imagining that the right front falls dramatically open.

Laura: You are correct; the right front falls forward when you unbutton it. It also looks good with just a few of the buttons buttoned. It is very wearable, I think!

Kat: Moss stitch is a great choice for this sweater. It's hard to not cast on for this immediately. Hmmm I wonder if I have enough yarn in the stash for this one? And, at a gauge of 22 sts and 32 rows to 4” it’s entirely doable.

Laura: Yes, I think this sweater has the largest stitch gauge in the book. I am thinking of knitting one for myself, is one of the projects that I was sad to send off to Interweave.

Kat: Another favorite are those amazing over the knee leg warmers by Lisa. Wow, what a beautiful display of traveling stitches!

Laura: I know, aren’t they beautiful? They are on my Must Knit list.

Kat: Can you briefly describe your design process? Do you start with the yarn, a sketch, an idea of what you want to knit, or a stitch pattern?

Laura: I almost always start with an idea. I get ideas at random times, like when I am walking the dog. Then I start sketching, because sometimes my idea is only for one part of a garment, say a sleeve or a stitch pattern, and I have to figure out what the rest of it should look like. Once I manage to get a nice clear sketch that I am happy with, I start writing the pattern. How about you?

Kat: Sometimes I get an idea and sketch it first, and then swatch for stitch pattern and yarn. Or sometimes, like when I’m designing for a yarn company I will do random swatching, which will generate an idea.

A few years ago when knitting became a popular rediscovered craft it seemed that everyone was knitting chunky scarves. I think that the people that stuck with knitting have moved on and have discovered their knitting styles. The exciting thing is that this is the kind of craft with so many possibilities for exploration.
In the chapter, The Skinny on Fine Yarns, the authors offer arguments for knitting with thin yarn. Among them, the wide range of hand dyed yarns, better fit, more flattering, less bulk, thinner seams, more economical, and the feel.

For me, the feel, is really important and I would add that the knitting experience is more comfortable, since the yarn weighs less; there is less stress on the wrists.
I sometimes dabble with bulky yarns but I always pay the price with wrist pain. So, knitting with fine yarns is good for your health!
If you love knitting at a fine gauge, it won’t take as long as you think because the process will be more enjoyable.

Laura: I completely agree! Thanks again Kat for letting me visit your lovely blog, and asking me such interesting questions!

Kat: Thank you too. It was fun!
For the blog tour schedule click here.


Carol said...

I felt like I was in your living room having a chat!

Anonymous said...

So nice to "hear" another interview with Laura, and to find a new blog I must bookmark!

Gudrun Johnston said...

Great interview..thanks! Nice to see fine yarn knitting being promoted...will need to check out this book!

Poethead said...

Thanks for the interview! Is there a site to see all of the patterns in the book?

kat coyle said...

Hi Carol!

puffthemagicrabbit: Thanks for stopping by!

Gudrun: Check it out, it's a good one!

Poethead: There are a few preview shots of the book on the Interweave site:

Kathleen said...

Kat, thanks for the interview. It's so interesting to hear abut your and Laura's design process.

bjohn said...

Kat, I enjoyed your interview. What an interesting
feature for a blog! I bought this book the moment it came out - actually I called my bookstore a few times before they got it. As I said on Michele's blog, I think this is the new frontier for knitting -small needles and fine yarn. I've thought about and have seen knitters using sock yarn to knit other projects and not just the projects put out by sock yarn companies. One of the best things about sock yarn is no knots. And if sock yarn can be put up that way, why not other yarn? Does anyone know? By the way a good place to see what's in new knitting books is Knit Picks. They show from one to twelve projects. They show both already published and not yet leased titles.

Kara Gott Warner said...

Hi Kat,

I've been following the tour, and it's so exciting to read about the projects and various techniques used in the book.

I also want to compliment you on your blog, and "Boho Baby Knits" looks like lots of fun. I'm in desparate need of some new baby books in my library, not too mention that I'm 8 months pregnant, so the timing couldn't be better.

Thanks for some good reading! I'm going to link you to my blog, so I look forward to visiting often!

kat coyle said...

bjohn: There is a vest in Knit So Fine worked in sock yarn. It makes great use of the self striping of the yarn. I've seen a few baby sweaters knit with sock yarn and they always look so cute.
I've been thinking about knitting a shawl with the new Noro sock yarn. I love the colors.

I do think that sweaters knit in fine yarn are more flattering. Maybe, it's a rediscovered frontier since almost all the vintage patterns pre 1960's are worked in fine yarns.
Thanks for mentioning Knit Picks for previewing knitting books. They always have lots of photos to entice the buyer.

Michele said...

really nice interview. fun to read and i like that you talked about the design process you both use. and thanks for asking how the asymmetrical cardigan looks unbuttoned. that would have been my first question. it's so nice to hear about this book!

gay said...

great interview and now i'll be on the prowl for this book and skinny yarn to knit a sweater with...i may just wear one if i knit it with skinny yarn!

Julia (MindofWinter) said...

I'm finally getting back to reading blogs - yay! What a great interview. I'm totally excited about this book, and your interviewee is charming (as are you, of course!)

Love, J

bjohn said...

Kat. I looked in the book and found the vest made with sock yarn. Good use of striped sock yarn. I was knitting my dad some socks and I really liked the color, a milk chocolate brown. I was thinking about getting some more to knit, yes, another clapotis. But I was afraid that with the nylon in the yarn that it wouldn't drape well. That's what I love about the clapotis. So I didn't go ahead with it. The men in my life like handknit socks made on size 2 needles and in, unfortunately, solid colors! Yes, it's true and I oblige them for the love of socks and them.

raining sheep said...

Awesome interview. I love fine yarns more than any other kind of yarn and love knitting with them. I am always looking out for patterns that will work well in a fine yarn. I very much enjoyed reading this.

kat coyle said...

Julia: miss you!

bjohn: you are a good friend to the men in your life! I've never knit any of my men socks. OH, I take it back, I did knit a pair of socks once but they didn't last long so I decided it wasn't all the effort. I probably didn't knit them at a small enough gauge because a hole appeared after the first couple of wears.

I recently knit a scarf from sock yarn, but I don't think it had any nylon in it. It was alpaca and wool blend I believe.

raining sheep: fine yarns make for fine knitting!

michele: when I knit the cardigan I promise to show how it looks unbuttoned!