Some people got me scared. One person commented on my blog recently that she's been swatching this same yarn for a long time. She's been carrying it around in her purse, and fondling it for its lovely softness. She also said, however, "It grows. A lot," and linked me to her Flickr photo. Gulp.
But then I looked at the photo, and to me it appears that the swatch on the right has been pinned rather severely. I assumed that if the yarn was just simply left to dry naturally, rather than pinned into the size it stretches into when wet, it would dry true to size.
Still, it worried me. I'm knitting a nice sweater (I hope) from this yarn, and I'm investing a lot of time in a piece that I want to turn out well.
Then I was knitting on my sweater at Gale's gathering the other day, and someone asked me what the yarn was. I told her (it's Jo Sharp Silkroad DK tweed in the color Boheme.), and I said, "It's just gorgeous! I love it!" She said, "You're the first person I've heard who likes it."
Gulp. Double gulp.
I ask her why.
She tells me she knew a woman who knit a sweater from it, the sweater came out gorgeous, she stopped by the shop for her to take a photo of it, then went to the movies. Two hours later, according to the story, she comes back and says, "I want you to see this sweater." It had grown several inches, she tells me. She says it was misty at the time, and the sweater had gotten damp, and that that person had tried everything, even putting it in the dryer, and never could get that sweater back to its original size. It kept on growing so it was the size of Texas by the end of the story. The person cut the sleeves off and reknit it, and it still kept growing. It was The Story of the Incredible Growing Sweater, with a foreword by Stephen King. What a nightmare.
Well, I tell you. I've been having issues with my blood pressure, and if that wouldn't drive it up, I don't know what would.
I wanted to just plain chuck that sweater and that yarn out the window. All my effort and planning and careful knitting for naught?!
But my friend Terry is a master knitter, and she recently knit a sweater from this yarn. I saw this sweater, admired it, and touched its gorgeousness. I said to myself, "If there was something wrong with this yarn, Terry would have never knit anything in it." I felt confident of that. I know she DID write that the fibers had relaxed a teeny bit after two solid days of wear. But look how incredibly gorgeous that sweater was, after two days' wear at a fiber festival, no less.
But that was only a little bit of comfort. Why? Because unlike me, I know Terry is an obsessive swatcher. I know it was possible that Terry had swatched and reswatched that yarn, and washed that swatch and put it through its paces so she could do the math to make sure her finished garment, after being washed and worn, if it were going to stretch, would not stretch all OUT of shape, but INto shape.
I looked online for reviews of this yarn and came up with nothing. I found a glowing review of its sister yarn, Jo Sharp Aran Tweed, but not the DK weight. And I certainly did not come up with any negative blog posts -- or really anything else, for that matter -- about this yarn.
So I worried. And I looked at my sweater on the needles. And I worried some more. And I knitted a bit more, and then I worried again. And I said, "This is stupid. There's only one way to find out."
So I took it off the needles and put the live stitches onto a piece of kitchen cotton yarn.
I measured it fresh off the needles, dry and smoothed out on my blocking tiles, but not stretched. I love my blocking tiles, by the way. They have flocking on the surface that has just the right amount of grab, and they are a nice solid off-white. I got them here.
It's a bit of a challenge to get a straight measurement of a piece knitted in the round and unblocked, so it appears to be on a bit of an angle, but I came up with 23.5 inches. This is just slightly less than I'd like this sweater to be. So far so good, then, because there is some stretching room, but not excessive bagginess.
I measured the length, smoothed out by my hands, but unblocked and unstretched:
I checked the knitting gauge.
30 rows per 4 inches.
Exactly as per the ball band.
Then I took the piece and, following the washing instructions on the ball band, I put it in warm water with a nice squirt of Eucalan lavender, as I use for all my wool and silk knits. I let it soak for half an hour. Then, again as per the washing instructions, I rinsed it in cooler water. I handled it gently, as I do all my knits. I spun it dry(ish) in my washing machine, and I took it back to the blocking tiles. I laid it out and smoothed it gently, without stretching anything, as I would with any of my el primo knitwear (It's all el primo. I have great reverence for the knits -- especially the handknits.).
The fabric looked gorgeous even wet, and I sensed that there was little, if any change, and that there would be minimal change in the measurements, but I measured it anyway.
I let it dry without pinning or stretching it, and I measured it when dry. Absolutely perfect. So soft, so lovely, and just the right gauge. I think it will be a wonderfully wearable sweater, assuming I ever finish it. It's now back on the needles and I am happily knitting away again.