The Cornish Garden yarn Part Three: the choice of yarn specification

Sue Blacker's picture
3 September, 2019 - 16:26 | Sue Blacker

We do like to experiment with our Birthday yarns and Cornish Garden is no exception – like the previous limited editions, it has challenged all of the blending, carding, spinning and finishing teams!

After going for DK in Cornish Tin and DK and 4-ply in Tin II, we selected Sport for Brushwork and then Aran for Tor.  So it seemed appropriate to choose 3-ply and Sport this time around – not least because the rare fine English Merino in this blend was calling for a finer yarn. 

We also know that our discontinued Samite yarn, which contained nubbles due to the ahimsa silk in the blend was popular as a 3-ply yarn so we are pleased to have Cornish Garden in 3-ply weight, which will also link to some of the lovely patterns made for Samite yarn, like the Trym Vest shown above.  The swatch on the left is Samite Aspens Shiver and the swatch on the right is our Cornish Garden 3-ply base shade.

Given that not everyone likes to work with fine yarns, we also doubled the 3-ply to make a Sport/Double Knitting weight, which are the most popular yarn specifications according to our customer surveys, with 4-ply coming close behind.  This is similar to our 2017 birthday yarn, Brushwork, shown in Wash on the left below, with the Bowmont pullover in this yarn and then the Cornish Garden Sport base shade on the right.

This fine woollen spun yarn is close to the limit of the range of specifications on our carding and woollen spinning machines, but with an added challenge: to maintain the nubbly texture, we have to lift the rollers on the carding machine.  This means the fibre is less evenly processed, which means that the resulting yarn is also less even.  We can reduce the effect at bit at plying, by mixing heavier and lighter single yarns, to get a more consistent result, but even so it has been an added challenge to make 100g weighed hanks due to this unevenness.

There is a further consequence of lifting the rollers – you will find a little more vegetation than usual in the yarn, which does in fact pull out quite easily if gently teased, without damaging the yarn.

The yarn structure for the 3-ply is actually a double ply of two single yarns, so the Sport is structurally a 4-ply yarn.  This means that the 3-ply is inherently more uneven than the Sport as there are fewer strands.  However, we have been swatching and find that not only does the yarn feel wonderful in the handle, but it also knits up very evenly and will work on a range of different needles.

The standard needles would be 2.75mm for the 3-ply and 4mm for the Sport weights and these are shown on the paper bands for Cornish Garden.

We then worked some additional swatches:

  • In 3-ply with 2.75 mm and also with 3.25 mm needles
  • In sport with 4 mm and also 5 mm needles.

Here are the approximate counts for stitches and rows on a 10 cm/ 4 inch square, as knitted by Sue:

3-ply fine

3-ply heavier

Sport fine

Sport heavier

2.75 mm

3.25 mm

4 mm

5 mm

US 2, UK 12

US 3, UK 10

US 6, UK 8

US 8, UK 6

33 stitches

28 stitches

22 stitches

20 stitches

40 rows

37 rows

30 rows

26 rows

The yarn is very able to move a whole millimetre of needle at Sport weight without much difference in the fabric - in fact the texture is looser and more drapey, and of course the larger needle size improves things for colour work in the 3-ply and certainly the speed of work for both!

This means that the 3-ply will also work for 4-ply and Guernsey designs and the Sport for Double Knitting and even Light Aran designs – what fun!

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