Chicken swatches

I bought “saffron” superwash top (a Brown Sheep product, I think) for the chicken Viking hat. I was originally thinking I’d go for peach, but I couldn’t find any superwash fiber in that shade. This color is not too far off from raw chicken – it could conceivably come from a bird who eats marigolds (if you click the link, scroll to #11). I didn’t know what the original yarn recommended in the pattern looked like, and I decided to “do the right thing” (that is, sample, sample, sample).


Superwash wool is kind of slick and slips if it’s spun with the fibers completely parallel. I also didn’t want to make the hat out of dense, worsted-style yarn. I decided to spin from the fold to incorporate some air and introduce a little friction to help keep the drafting triangle even. It’s a pretty easy spin, almost boring.

The first sample (A) was a 2-ply yarn. The recommended gauge was 18 1/2 st in 4″ on a US6 (4.0 mm) needle, and I had 20 st in 4″ with the same needle. I knew the fabric would have felt “sleazy” if I had increased needle size without changing the yarn grist, and I thought I’d try a thicker yarn and larger needle. (I’m not worrying about row gauge because I’m planning to knit the hat top down.)

The second sample (B) was another 2-ply yarn, I aimed for heavy worsted weight. The swatch was knit on a US7 (4.5 mm) needle and gave me 17 st per 4″ – too big for the pattern, and the yarn was a little too thick for the needle. In the photo above, this swatch looks like it has the best texture, but as a fabric, it is too dense.

I wondered if the yarn was too soft to clearly show the goosebump pattern. The best yarns for patterned stitches are firmly spun, round yarns (think 5-ply gansey yarns), and I was not feeling the love from these 2-ply samples.

The third sample (C) was a 3-ply yarn, the overall grist was slightly thinner than the yarn in sample B. I wish there was some way you could feel the difference in the yarns, it is striking. This one finally made gauge (18 1/2 spi, baby) with the original US6 (4.0 mm) needle, showed the bumps well, and I knew what kind of yarn I needed to spin.


Honestly now, how many spinners reverse engineer yarn? I’m so much happier when I get a fiber, design the yarn best suited for the fiber characteristics, and then design a project from the yarn. I have sweater design software, “generic design” books where you measure a swatch and plug-and-chug into a predetermined gauge, size, and style.

We’re going to meet Baby Daniel next week (SO excited!), and I hope to have all of the yarn finished by then.

11 thoughts on “Chicken swatches

  1. I like the yellow, although I never thought about the marigold connection (in fact, I don’t like to think that my chicken was every running around somewhere – isn’t Matt in my world of denial?)

  2. That’s what I’m doing now (reverse engineering the yarn, I mean, I’m not knitting the chicken hat 🙂 and I can’t say I’m enjoying it all that much. OTOH, it’s better than spinning up 1lb or so of yarn and then realizing it’s wrong for the project.

  3. I much prefer letting the fibre decide what it wants to be and then finding a project. Reverse engineering generally gets tossed out in favour of just buying an appropriate yarn.

  4. That is such a great hat! Thanks for sharing the pattern. I never would have seen it on my own. …but really June, there is commercial yarn out there! Sometimes it’s just easier!

  5. Alden Amos’ class, Spinning to a Standard, makes reverse engineering infinitely easier. There are diet-related variations in the colors of chicken eggs, too. Fresh greens (grass, green or milk oats, weeds, etc.) will make the yolks more orange. Hadn’t known that about marigolds, though — interesting!

  6. Gads, what gorgious spinning and samples! What kind-of wheel do you use? Besides that, your samples set a good example – this is why you sample, sample, sample!!! I need to learn to be more patient and do just what you did!

    Congrats on your end product and all your hard work and dedication!

    Shannon in NE WA

  7. Cassie just pointed me here. My first question: any thoughts on WoolieWinders? I’m in the queue for my first wheel.

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