For the last month or so I've been working on a super hush-hush, top-secret test knit for Sarah Wilson (a.k.a. The Sexy Knitter). I can't tell you much, but I can say that the pattern is a really nice and handy Market Tote. I've been sworn to secrecy about the project-- which turned out really great-- so for now all I can do is talk about the yarn I used and hope it satisfies my dire need to share this fun knit with everyone!
I knew I wanted to create an easy to wash and care for material since (duh!) I plan to use this bag for trips to the store-- groceries and general goods both. The pattern calls for a sock weight yarn, but I was a bit worried about the durability under repeated strain. So I snatched up my list of requirements, jumped in the car, and headed to Mont Tricot to scout the shelves for the perfect substitute.
As always, Lucinda was an amazing help and spent at least an hour with me squishing and stretching and comparing yarns. After much torn contemplation I chose a wonderful rosey-tan color #210 Hempton yarn from Hemp for Knitting. (You can see all the specific details about this yarn on Ravelry by clicking this link.) This yarn is a cotton/hemp/modal blend with no stretch and incredible strength! So I made my purchase and skipped happily out the door, anxious to start swatching for my big test-knit adventure.
First thing I did when I got home was break out the knitting needles to cast on. I worked my over sized square (just for good measure... Hey! Is knitting swatches where that saying comes from?), quickly soaked it in warm water, and pinned it out to measure my surely perfect gauge. *cough, cough*. Well, first time didn't quite do it. In fact, second time didn't either-- I ended up changing needle size and diving into the pattern... I know, I know, BAD test-knitter! But it turned out great and gauge in the project is spot on. (Besides, we all know that gauge swatches lie.)
Knitting with this yarn has been a very different experience for me. So here you go... Crash Course in Hemp for Knitting's #210 Hempton:
- Seems like it should be splitty but isn't-- like two strands of lace weight plied together
- Hemp, like cotton, does not forgive uneven stitches-- though this is not as noticeable in a lace pattern
- Very soft with great drape and feel! (That's the modal/rayon talkin')
- Incredibly more elastic than anticipated with larger needles-- I knit this project with US 6 (4mm) needles, and the holes in the fabric allow for great stretch though I doubt it would have much elasticity when knit tightly on smallish needles.
- Requires different handling, it doesn't glide easily like acrylic, silk, merino, or other smooth yarns-- reminds me of harsh cotton in that way
- End of ball gets sloppy, good idea to wind it first-- no fault of the manufacturer, just the drape of this yarn combined with its weight and small ball size makes it very susceptible to start unwinding from the inside also towards the end. I found the end tangling with the working yarn when I was still many yards from finishing the ball.
- Not many join options-- could not wet splice (not wool), could not Russian join (each of the 2 loose plys is incredibly tightly wound), so I had to settle for knotting. We won't even talk about weaving in ends-- not my strongest skill to begin with, but I was in absolute fits with this yarn. I ended up glueing the knots with Fabric glue and snipping the ends. (Fingers crossed...)
Overall, used for the right project, I absolutely love this yarn! There are some fiddley things about it, but if you are aware of these they are easy enough to accommodate. I love this fabric for a durable tote bag, a nice cozy autumn morning wrap, or even a loose fitting drapey sweater. I don't think it would be a good choice for very structured clothing because of the smooth drape, or for outerwear (hats, mittens, scarves, etc.) since it's relatively heavy and not very warm. But I absolutely love the stitch definition it gives and the subtle sheen! I'm happy to say that I have almost one full ball of Hempton left over... Now to find the perfect pattern for it!