How to Audition a Yarn

June 29, 2020

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  • Wow. Jillian. At my stage in life (diminishing lifespan and eyesight and general bodily squirminess when concentrating too long) I could never be this thorough, so thank you for creating all that awareness for me. Of course then there is the matter of the needles. Some needles make the yarn flow between my fingers, and others make me grit my teeth. Matching the right yarn with the right pattern And the right needles is knitter’s heaven to me. Chloe

  • Loved your yarn audition. It sang to me especially because I saw A Chorus Line 11 times.

    • I only saw it three times, but I played the cast album untold thousands of times, in vinyl and then in cd.

  • This is such a wonderfully motivating system to get me to swatch! And to stop that stash hugging which usually ends up in frustration. Now I will generate swatches of fabric from my lovely yarns and really be able to identify a project to use it! Thank you!

  • Thanks Jillian, this is fascinating. What do you do with all your auditions once you are finished choosing?

  • For Kay and Ann, this is a great article to save, but I’m unable to find the bookmark symbol on this page. Please help. Thanks.

    • Are you logged in to your account? You need to be for the bookmark to show.

      • Thank you. I bet that’s my problem.

  • One correction: the yarn is 215 yards per 50 grams.

  • This was so helpful and fun to read! And now – as an ex-NYC dancer who actually did audition for A Chorus Line – you know what I will be singing (and dancing) for at least the next week!

    • Your article made my day. I couldn’t stop laughing and singing when I got to the part “KISS the weekend goodbye”! Love that musical! This is a great way to go through my stash and take a fresh look at the yarn. I loved the yarn enough to buy it, look at it longingly, but no longer want to do the project I bought it for. Auditioning is the perfect way to get to know the yarn to figure out what to do with it. And it keeps me from buying more- perfect since I’m on a much tighter budget these days. It is a fun way to simply enjoy stress-free fun knitting with yarn I already love. Thank you so much!

  • This is a new idea to me and a love! I will be doing this from now on.

  • What a great project for summer, auditioning yarns!

  • “You might have bought yarns for projects you no longer want to knit…” Yes, that’s me! Thank you! The yarns in my stash are mostly ones I can no longer match to projects that excite me. Your audition process teaches how to know the yarns in my stash, or a new one, at a deep level… and this will make it possible to find a pattern much more effectively.

    I can tell that your real love is wool, but I would love to read your analysis of a linen or cotton yarn!

  • Hi Jillian. This is a really interesting process but you bought the sweater’s volume before you auditioned. What if you don’t end up picking that color?

  • There is yet one more way to audition a yarn — needle material. Once when working with a very simple fingering weight pure wool, I was quite disappointed with its performance. I was ready to write off the yarn as a mistake but decided to try just one more needle size which I only owned in bamboo. What had been limp and lifeless on good quality metal needles became lively and sumptuous from just that wee bit of extra drag on the bamboo. And although I had gone down a needle size, the swatch was significantly larger. The intended project morphed from utilitarian sock to show-stopper shawl.

  • Thanks for the advice, and the earworm!

  • I used to say “Swatching is for Sissies” I now swatch or “audition” for sweaters. I do have a question what do you do with all your auditions? Do you label or make an Afghan?

    • She mentioned that she rips out her audition swatches but takes photographs and notes first.

  • I love this! I think swatching gets presented too often as a chore you have to do before the fun stuff if you are a responsible person (snore). I prefer this idea of approaching it with a mindset of “how does this yarn want to shine?” Then it becomes an opportunity for discovery and learning rather than a tedious stretch of stockinette before you get to cast on the project.

  • Great article, but I would find the cost of auditioning each new yarn to this extent prohibitive. I’ll reserve it for times when I’m particularly uncertain about how a yarn will perform.

    • She does mention that she rips out the auditions after taking notes and photos. So she is able to use that yarn in the project she decides upon.

    • Yep, fun idea, but WAYtoo expensive, I frog swatches to reuse, but to truly swatch you have to block, and then that yarn will never match the rest.

  • I don’t see the icon to save the article. Help

  • Wait, I hope there’s a part II: Cloudesly calls for a fingering weight yarn and a (constrained) gauge of 6 stitches per inch?! –I know there are ways to address this. How are you doing it? LOVE reframing swatching as “auditioning”.

  • Jillian, you are soooooo brilliant. Thanks for this. I’m a newbie to knitting and this will be so helpful.

  • As always, Jillian, I gained a new perspective on the humble swatch. Thank you!

  • Great insight on swatching. I have a question when buying yarn for a pattern does the designer include yardage for swatching or should I purchase additional yarn for swatching? I understand this might be up to the individual designers. Any help would be appreciated.

  • I really love all that I learn from you. Everything I read is chock full of amazing information if only I had time to process it all. I’m still processing spinning information from a class at SAFF 2. years ago (maybe you remember the M&M’s).

    Anyway…I’m not commenting to tell you how much I appreciate your vast wisdom about yarn, though I absolutely do. I’m actually writing to complain that I have had “What I Did For Love” stuck in my head since Saturday. Over and over. And lately, it’s morphing to this weird, “what I did for looooooovve….is a many splendored thing.” Which makes no sense at all. My family thinks I’m batty. They are probably not wrong.

    Off to finish auditioning a mitten pattern/yarn combo for a little project for a friend…”won’t forget, can’t regret…

  • I have been a bit embarrassed when my knitting friends viewed my 2 foot long by 30 stitch wide swatch and asked if I was knitting a scarf. I reluctantly replied that I was auditioning a yarn (and I did say audition). I have loved to see how a pattern looks and how it knits before I start a garment. I thought of myself as fiddly, wanting to know what everything looked like. I would even try out different stitches from other patterns to see if they suited me better. I’ve never been able to get the requisite gauge with the suggested needle so I look for the needle that gives me a fabric that I like. With apps like Knittricks now available, changing gauge is a key stroke away and no math involvement for me. I consider that a win win.
    Thank you Jillian for letting me know that I am not the only one who plays with swatching for the fun of it. I will be sure my knitting friends read your article in MDK.
    P.S. I also love your idea of taking a picture of your swatch. I want to use the yarn I have swatched and I don’t have room to store swatches.

  • Love the term—“auditioning your yarn”. It takes away the stigma of the dreaded swatch. When I “audition” yarn I look at a few more factors:

    1. Washing. If it’s meant to be machine washed, I want to know how it will wash. I just toss it in with the regular laundry. I also check colorfastness, especially when doing color work.

    2. Stretch. If I suspect the knitting might stretch I wet block and then HANG the swatch—er, audition piece. I made a linen jacket for my daughter. I made a large swatch and hung it for a week. It stretched a whopping 30% in length!!! That was valuable info because my daughter is 4’11” and if I’d knit to her size it would hang down to her knees after washing.

    3. Price. Is this going to cost more than I can really justify? I love knitting but no sweater made by me is worth $200 of yarn. Just not in the budget. I can’t explain to my family that we can’t afford something because Mom spent too much on yarn. I save up, I shop around, but there are places I just can’t go. I can’t justify that much money.