Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Qualities of Fabric - Weight and Texture

The weight of knitted fabric has an impact on both the knitting and the wearing of our hand knits. You notice the weight when you pick up a completed garment. When you are wearing it gravity will pull the garment down if it's heavy. Usually weight will be related to the thickness of the fabric. However very lofty fibres may be lighter than expected. In some cases we create extra thickness with stitch patterning and texture. It can be a good thing for hiding bumps and curves if that is something you wish to do. Fabrics with drape may feel heavier even when the difference is minor because the garment collapses against the body. Often weight is related to the warmth of a garment. 

I learned about weight early on when I decided to knit a pattern with a cotton yarn instead of the wool suggested by the pattern. There's a reason I'm always telling knitters we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. It was a heavily cabled sweater and ended up being really heavy as well as stretching out to a tunic length. It was however a great lesson in understanding the impact of yarn substitutions.

Texture can come from the yarn itself as well as our stitch patterns. Mohair, boucle as well as thick and thin yarns will add texture even in simple stocking stitch. Texture will add visual weight to the body. In those cases we may be surprised by the lightness of the actual garment. I think garments which look heavy work best when we pair them with other garments made from smoother fabrics or items which fit closer to the body.

Here's an interesting comparison between two of my designs in a similar silhouette and knit/purl stitch combination.

Different yarns, stitch patterns and gauges, same silhouette for on the left Prudence Crowley and on the right Deborah Beresford. 

Prudence is an aran weight single. Deborah Beresford is double stranded fingering weight. I got very different gauges. Deborah weights 127 grams more. When I hold each vest I can tell which is heavier yet Deborah but feels much heavier than that when it's worn. The yarn is a super wash and has more drape to the finished fabric. However when looking at the two garments I don't see any visual weight difference.

The wrap in the photo above is a stash busting pattern. The wool (far left) and alpaca (third from the left) versions feel very light. The sizes vary slightly. Weights from left to right are; 238 grams, 290 grams, 81 grams, 323 grams. Again the holding compared to the wearing weight feels less consistent than the real weight measurement due to the natural drape of the wraps which include silk and rayon fibres. They will slither off of my shoulders making the experience of wearing them quite different. The deep folds of the two heaviest wraps give you a visual hint as to their greater weights and drape.

Compare these two sweaters knit from the same yarn. Can you see how the one on the left falls against the body at the waist. It's because all those little cables make it heavier than the knit/purl stitch of the sweater on the right.

How do you learn about these qualities? You have to pay attention to the fabric you are creating when you knit and compare each one against another. And the bad news you will learn the most when you screw up, at least I did. 

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