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Copyright 2007 by Clara Parkes

Photography copyright 2007 by Potter Craft

All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Potter Craft,
an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group,
a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
POTTER CRAFT and colophon, and POTTER
and colophon are registered trademarks of Random
House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Parkes, Clara.
The knitters book of yarn : the ultimate guide to
choosing, using, and enjoying yarn / by Clara
Parkes. 1st ed.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 978-0-307-35216-3
1. Knitting. 2. Yarn. I. Title.
TT820.P28 2007
Printed in China
Graphic design by Goodesign
Photography by Alexandra Grablewski
Illustrations by Kate McKeon
Thanks to the Craft Yarn Council of America
( for their Standard Yarn
Weight System Chart, which appears on page 236
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Edition

the knitters book of yarn


ll knitterly creation stems from one simple element: yarn. It

is the bakers flour, the jewelers gold, the gardeners soil.

Yarn is creation, consolation, and chaos all spun together into

one perfect ball. Its a simple concept, twisting fibers together into

a continuous thread of yarn. But the variety of fibers, blends, and

spins is truly infinite. So is our relationship with yarn. We love it, we
covet it, we are knocked senseless by it, yet sometimes we are baffled,
thwarted, and betrayed by it.
Few materials undergo so many transformations

In an ideal world, wed fall in love with a yarn,

during their lifetime. From the plant or animal

find the perfect pattern that calls for this yarn,

where it originates, it gets clipped and fluffed and

and knit our way into the sunset. Or wed fall in

dipped and blended and twisted and dyed, dis-

love with a pattern and the yarn it calls for, both

played as a skein in your local yarn shop (LYS),

of which would be easily available, and wed all

wound into a ball and worked into just the right

live happily ever after.

garment, washed and blocked, and finally worn.

Sadly, this is rarely how it works. We fall in love

With so many steps and choices along the way,

with a yarn and simply must have it, giving little

its inevitable that one or two things will go

thought to what it will become. We collect pat-

wrong. Im not talking about the dropped stitches

terns, books, and magazines for projects we may

and funky decreases. Im talking about the big-

never complete. And we struggle to bring the

ger mistakes we usually dont discover until its

two together.

too late: The socks that grow twice as long in the

first wash, the cardigan that droops and sways
like a church bell when you wear it, the gorgeous
scarf that feels like sandpaper against your deli-

Some yarns have little if any pattern support

from their manufacturerespecially the smallerscale farms and hand-dyers. But even when the

cate neck.

company does provide patterns for its yarns,

These are what I call yarn-related errors. Some-

like the aesthetics of a designer who works with

sometimes we just dont like them. Perhaps we

times theyre caused by eager yarn manufac

one yarn company but we love the yarns of

turers who need to sell more of a yarn, even if it

another. Maybe we need to find lower-cost yarn

isnt entirely right for the pattern. But more often

alternatives. Or were seeking patterns for a yarn

they stem from a deeper knitterly dilemma we

in our stash that has long since been discontin-

all face at one point or another: matching the

ued, or trying to find yarn for a pattern written

right yarn to the right project.

ages ago for a yarn long gone.

Discontinued yarns are one of the biggest head-

Because the best way to learn is by doing, within

aches for knitters. By the time this book reaches you,

each chapter in Section 3: Ply Me a River youll find

chances are that several of the yarns mentioned in

several patterns designed expressly for that yarns

these pages will no longer be available. No matter

specific spin, ply, and/or fiber type. Youre not only

how hard we try, well never be able to escape this

reading about yarn, but you get to pull out a skein,

reality. We must learn to work around it.

cast on, and feel its precise design potential for

And thats why this book exists. I believe each of us


has the potential to be a yarn whisperer, to hold a

The patterns come to us from some of the most

skein in our hands, look at it, touch it, listen to it,

inquisitive design minds in the knitting world

even smell it, and instinctively know what the yarn

people I admire not only for their work but for their

wants to become. With this innate understanding,

instinctive love and understanding of yarn. They

wed never need to rely on a specific pattern again.

also share insight about what, in those yarns, led

Some of us are relatively new to knitting and

them to design what they did.

approach impromptu pairings with anxiety and

By the time we reach the end of our journey, you

uncertainty. Others, having gone it alone for years,

will have a much better understanding of yarn,

have developed their own instinctyet they still

how its made, who makes it, how it gets to you, and

may have occasional doubts.

what it longs to become in your hands. The next

I want to give a formal vocabulary to that instinct

and help you refine it further.
While Ive assembled a vast selection of yarns in
these pages, it is by no means intended as a compendium of every yarn available. Considering the
frequency with which yarns enter and leave the
market today, such an effort would be futile.
Instead, the yarns in this book serve as examples
of the most common fiber types, preparations, spins,
and ply combinations that youll likely find in your
local yarn shop and unearth in your stash. They
come from large-scale manufacturers and importers, medium-sized companies, boutique dye shops,
community spinneries, and old-fashioned sheep
farms. Some are ironclad standards, while others
are smaller, magical blends from noteworthy people whose story I felt needed to be told.

time you pick up a skein and someone asks, What

are you going to do with it?, youll be able to
respond with inspired confidence.



Pr i n c e s s M i t t s


stitch guide

To fit a womans hand, size Medium

Circumference: 8" (20.5cm)

Length: 712" (18.5cm)

One set of size 6 (4mm) dpns, or size to

obtain gauge
Two pairs of 16" (40cm) circular
needles size 6 (4mm), or size to obtain

Make a right-leaning increase by picking
up the bar between sts from back to
front and knitting into the front of the
picked-up st.



Finished Measurements

Cable needle, stitch markers, a darning

Classic Elite Yarns Princess (40%
Merino, 28% viscose, 15% nylon, 10%
cashmere, 7% angora; 150 yds [137m]/
50g) 1 skein Milords Madder #3485. If
substituting, use 150 yds (137m) of 4ply DK-weight yarn.

24 sts + 32 rows = 4" (10cm) in cable
22 sts + 30 rows = 4" (10cm) in St st

Make a left-leaning increase by picking
up the bar between sts from front to
back and knitting into the back of the
picked-up st.

When you find a luxurious four-ply yarn and want to take a small amount out for a test-knit, give these elegant fingerless mitts a
try. They require only one skein of Classic Elite Princess, and the yarns full-bodied, four-ply formation renders the cabled braid
and ribbing beautifully.
Notes: In the first cable in the Four-Rib Braid Cable

pattern on the second 24 sts. For the left-hand mitt,

Pattern (Row 1), decrease by p2tog in the center of this

you'll work the Four-Rib Braid cable pattern on the

stitch. In Row 33, M1 in the center purl stitch by purling

first 24 sts and the ribbing/gusset on the second set of

into the front and back of the stitch. This will add the p2

24 sts. Finish thumb on 3 dpns.

for the rib.

Begin Four-Rib Braid cable chart.

Always k2 before the patt and (k2, p2) after the


patt sts.

CO 48 sts and join in round, being careful not to twist.

At the same time, on Row 3 of Four-Rib Braid Cable

Work 14 rows in (k2, p2) ribbing for cuff. Place marker

chart, begin to shape the thumb gusset in the ribbing

at beginning of round and after st 24 to help distin-

sts. Follow the Thumb Gusset Charts to incorporate

guish cable section from ribbing section.

the increases into the (k2, p2) rib. The increase sts for
the gusset will be worked before and after the third st

Four-Rib Braid Cable

for the right-hand mitt, and before and after the third

For the right-hand mitt, you'll work the ribbing/thumb

to the last st for the left-hand mitt. To help you see

gusset on the first 24 sts and the Four-Rib Braid cable

where to make your increases, place a marker before

designed by Jennifer Hagan



the k n itte r s b o o k o f yar n Ply Me a River

instructions continued

and after the M1 in the thumb gusset chart. As you

increase, you will always slip the marker, M1, cont as
established, and M1 before next marker.
Note: Work the first increase st by M1R and the second
increase by M1L to create right- and left-slanting

On the cable section, cont Cable Pattern through Row

increases on either side of the gusset.

34. Then work (k2, p2) rib for 6 rows or until desired

Once you have 13 sts between markers for gusset, work

length. Try on the mitt periodically to ensure a good

3 more rows even and then place the gusset sts on a

fit. BO all sts evenly.

holder. Next row, CO 7 sts across the gap, and cont to

end of round. Next round, begin decreases across top of


thumb opening as follows.

Place the first 6 sts from the holder on 1 dpn, the next
7 sts on a second dpn and pick up 7 sts from across the

For the 7 CO sts:

thumb opening on the third dpn. Work these 20 sts in

Row 1: Ssk, k3, k2tog.

(k2, p2) rib. Work thumb for 8 rows, or desired length.

Row 2: Ssk, k1, k2tog.

Again, try on the mitt to make sure of the fit. Bind off

Row 3: No decreases.

all sts evenly, leaving the thumb tip free. Weave in all

Row 4: S1 k2tog psso.

ends, using the ends to close any remaining holes.

Cont the ribbing as established for rest of mitt.

Block to size.

singl e t w o - p ly t hr e e - p ly fo ur - p ly a n d mo re cabled yarn textu red ya rn f elt facto r

Four-Rib Braid Cable Chart

220 Princess Mitts Four-Rib Braid Cable


= K on RS


= P on RS


= Slip next st onto cn and hold in back, k2,

p1 from cn


= Slip next 2 sts onto cn and hold in front, p1,

k2 from cn


= Slip 2 sts onto cn and hold in back, k2,

k2 from cn


= Slip 2 sts onto cn and hold in front, k2,

k2 from cn


= Slip 3 sts onto cn and hold in front, k2,

slip purl stitch from cn back to left-hand
needle and p, k2 from cn


= Slip 3 sts onto cn and hold in back, k2,

slip purl stitch from cn back to left-hand
needle and p, k2 from cn



17 Stitches



knitte r s b ig bo o k o f yar n Ply Me A River

Thumb Charts

221 Princess Mitts Thumb Chart

= K on RS
= P on RS
= Make 1 stitch


13 Stitches


13 Stitches















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