How to Audition a Yarn

June 29, 2020

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28 Comments
  • 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.