Let's talk about... Gauge.
I've never really looked into gauge before this year. And in fact, it took the purchase of the infamous (in my house) 10 ply pure wool yarn for me to think about gauge.
(I should have thought about it a bit more before this, because of the blanket I'm making. The gauge is a bit off for for my green blanket, and that's because I'm using a finer 2ply yarn that's good for light jumpers or socks instead of a thicker 4 or 8 ply. This has made the blanket exactly how I wanted it: light and airy, with virtually no weight in it, but the hexagons themselves are smaller than intended, which isn't really what I wanted.)
I bought some beautiful 10 ply deluxe woollen yarn earlier in the year and I thought I'd make a hat, or a scarf. I put the yarn aside after undoing my project approximately 13 times. It defeated me. I'd never worked a 10 ply pure wool yarn before, and I just couldn't get it to work how I wanted it. It was took thick: any pattern I tried looked wrong and there was no drape about any of them. (not good for a scarf in my opinion!)
Last week, I went back up to the store and bought the exact same yarn, but in 8 ply. I was damned it was going to defeat me completely. See? Isn't it beautiful? The above picture is about as good as I can make it look like it does when I work with it. It's a bit lighter, but in this picture you can see that beautiful dark shade of red.
Let's see this side by side.
Here's the two balls side by side. Now, to be far, the 10 ply ball was a 'second', so it only came with about 167mtrs of yarn in it, instead of the posted 200m that each of Bendigo's yarns come with standard. The 8 ply on the left is the ball I bought straight off the shelf, so it's 200m. And, I hadn't rewound yarn back onto the ball approximately a bazillion times yet. The ball on the left is the infamous 10 ply, and it shows the wind-back.
Here's the yarn side by side unwound. You can see that the 10 ply is denser generally, and a little thicker. The denseness is the problem I think I was having.
When you can't find the yarn that a pattern specifies, or decide to change it, this is when the gauge becomes important. I must admit, I usually don't bother. I find a yarn I want to work the pattern up in, and use that. I haven't come across a piece before where this has been a big issue. (I spoke earlier of the hexagon rug, and I guess that's the first piece that it's been an issue, albeit a small one.)
In order to check the gauge differences of two yarns, the yardstick is to make up a swatch that measures 10cms. Most 8ply yarns use 22 stitches for 10cms. (This is almost-always printed on the band that surrounds your yarn when you buy it in a ball.)
The two different plys I worked up into not a 10cm swatch, but a 10 stitch swatch. The 10ply worked up slightly bigger, using a 4mm hook, than the 8ply.
The 10ply's 10 stitches measured 7cm across.
The 8ply's 10 stitches measured only 6cm.
Here they are with the 8ply swatch directly on top of the 10ply swatch. There isn't that much difference, but already in just 10 stitches, that difference is a full 1cm. Over a garment that's 100 stitches wide, this is going to come out in a difference of 10 cms. That's a big difference.
The bigger different to me was how the 10ply felt worked up against the 8ply. It was MUCH stiffer. The 8ply has more give in it, and that's the issue I had when I was working the 10 ply: it didn't have enough give.
I've already worked something up in the 8ply. I'm VERY happy with it, and I'll show you tomorrow!