No, not that word!
The c word I'm talking about is cashmere. Mmmmm casssshhhhhhhmere.
The reason I mention cashmere is a very exciting one (as if you need a reason). Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned the giveaway organised by Serendipity in support of the Victorian bushfire fundraising? She organise a huge range of prize donations, which resulted in over $20,000 donated to the Red Cross appeal - a fantastic result!
I was most excited when she contacted me after the prize drawings to advise I was one of the lucky prize winners - I won the Colourmart cashmere prize! Woo hoo, I thought, as I headed over to the Colourmart site (go on, you know you want to as well ... just finish reading this first, m'kay!). Then I thought, oh, maybe I'd better see exactly what I've won, as they've got such a huge range. So I checked back on Serendipity and read that it was a kilo of cashmere. Let me just say that again, so you can be sure: A KILO OF CASHMERE. I thought, no, it must be a mistake, it must be just a cone (their cones are 150g - so when I say "just" a cone, I mean, OMG a cone would be so great!).
So I thought I'd wait until Colourmart got in touch with me before I got carried away with choosing. And when the email came from Richard, confirming it was A KILO and that he'd be happy to send me some samples to help me choose whatever colours and weights of yarn I wanted from their stock, I still could hardly believe it. Thank you SO MUCH Colourmart!
After much reading on their site and on the Ravelry Colourmart group, I received my requested samples last week - enough to knit a small swatch of each. From top to bottom, you can see 2/14 (light fingering or 4ply), 6/28 (fingering or 4ply, but with 6 plies of yarn), heavy laceweight 3/28(3ply), laceweight 2/28 (2ply). I wanted to try the fingering weights as I thought a lightweight cassssshhhhhhhhmere cardigan would be lovely, and the laceweights because, um hello, do I even have to explain why??!
So I set to knitting my swatches - both of the laceweights in the twig pattern from Nancy Bush's Lace Knitting in Estonia, using 3.25mm sticks, and the fingering weights in a basketweavey pattern using 2.75mm sticks (I'll explain why in a minute).
Here's the laceweights, pre-blocking:
I found the blue heavy laceweight slightly easier to knit with, but I think the yellow finer laceweight looks better when blocked. But I think the heavy LW could be knit with bigger sticks too. Both are lovely I think! A cone of each, check!
And here's the fingering weights, pre-blocking:
The red (which is the 2/14) has a lovely drape, at this gauge I think the brown (6/28) is a bit too stiff. And here's the reason why I knit these swatches using 2.75mm sticks:
I LOVE this cardigan (Fontaine from Rowan 44). And only partly because I would so love to swan around in it with a feathered turban style hat, a tweedy cravat and suede gloves, and of course my flared skirt and voluminous petticoats. But of course, here's the downside - this cardi is knit using 2.75mm sticks at a gauge of 35 st and 44 rows over 10cm (4"). Neither of which I could get with either of the cashmere yarns (red swatch - 32 st x 46 rows, brown 30 st x 44 rows). So my dilemma is whether to get enough of the 2/14 (which had lovely drape) to make this cardigan, and worry about the gauge/maths later, or do I go for something else entirely? Should I get a range of weights and make lovely lacy shawls and scarves and other smaller items? Oh the agony of choice! How lucky am I!
The other relevant factor in all this is that the yarns are primarily designed to be used for machine knit garments - and so in addition to coming on cones with incredible yardage, they are also oiled. It is recommended that if you are knitting a garment or anything where size is important, that you wash the yarn before knitting with it (most people use Dawn detergent - I don't know what the equivalent is to this in Australia - or shampoo). It also means skeining it off the cone in order to wash it as well. For shawls etc, this is not so important, and many people don't do it. I didn't wash my mini-skeins before swatching, and the yarn was fine (it doesn't feel or smell oily) and it bloomed wonderfully on washing. But if I'm going to do a cardigan, that is a bit of extra work - not that I'm complaining - but it's good to know I have to be prepared!!
What do you think? Should I get enough for this (or another) cardi? What would you do? Oh, and don't forget to go and have a look, and maybe buy some of their yarn (they also sell silk, merino, alpaca and blends) if you are so tempted - such a generous prize deserves lots of rewards!