Jerry knitalong part 1: choosing your yarn


Jerry on Stephen.jpg

For those just joining us, this is the third of six knitalongs I'm hosting -- one for each of the designs in Handsome: Man Sweaters for Every Body. I'm making a version of each sweater in the collection for myself, using Jill Draper Makes Stuff yarns. Folks can share their projects, questions, and knowledge in the Handsome Ravelry group.

The Jerry KAL will take place over the months of December 2017 and January 2018, and I'll be posting here about all the steps it takes to make your own sweater, from choosing a yarn to finishing techniques. Knit along with us and post your stuff!
#HandsomeKnitting #JerryKAL #ManSweaters

The first step is to choose the yarn we'll use for our Jerry sweaters. I'm going to talk a bit here about the different yarns I've used for Jerry, and the different qualities those yarns give the finished sweater. Then I'll share some tips for yarn substitutions, in case you want to use something else from your stash or LYS.

The original Jerry sweater (seen below on, yes, Jerry) was made with Quince & Co. Osprey yarn.


Osprey is a fluffy 3ply yarn made of 100% American wool. It's soft enough to wear next to the skin, and v pleasant to knit with because of its smooth texture and bounce. At 4 stitches per inch, it's a true Aran weight -- not fine, but not too chunky.

Stephen and Kevin's versions of the Jerry sweater were made with two strands of Elsawool Cormo woolen-spun sport-weight yarn.

Worked at the same gauge, a fluffy sport weight yarn held double makes a fabric that's more cohesive than an Aran weight, with stitches that are less clearly defined.

Jerry on Stephen - collar.jpg
Jerry on Kevin.jpg

Elsa's woolen-spun Cormo yarn might be my favorite yarn on Planet Earth. It's incredible. It's light, lofty, soft, and an utter pleasure to knit with. The fabric it creates is heavenly, and it only gets softer with age and wear.

Woolen-spun yarns have fabulous loft and lightness, but aren't as strong as worsted yarns. In this case, holding two strands double lends additional strength. (The Shetland wool geniuses at Jamieson & Smith have an excellent explanation of the two structures -- woolen/woollen and worsted.)

As you can see, the smooth Aran-weight yarn is a good choice for the vintage varsity style of Jerry's Jerry sweater. And the cohesive fabric of the fluffier doubled sport-weight gives Stephen and Kevin's sweaters a proper gramps vibe.

Finally, I'm making my own version of Jerry with Jill Draper Makes Stuff Empire yarn.

empire punkin.jpg

Empire may be best known for the ginormous 1280-yard hanks Jill puts it up in, but it's so much more than just massive yarn balls the size of a human infant. Empire is an Aran-weight yarn made from soft, springy 100% Rambouillet wool that's grown in New York State. It's strong and elastic and, as always, Jill's colors are magnificent. And if you need more than 1 Empire yarnbaby for your Jerry, but less than two, Jill also has a mini-Empire line, put up in regular ol' 213-yard hanks.

My plan is that the Empire will strike a balance between the smooth Aran-weight Osprey and the fluffy doubled Elsawool, creating a fabric that's chunky like the Osprey, but with less clearly defined stitches and thus a vibe more 1970s grandpa than 1950s grand slam.

And if you want to learn more from someone much more skilled than I am at assessing and writing about yarn, please read Clara Parkes's reviews of Empire, and of Elsawool Cormo.

I also swatched for this sweater in Cestari's Mt. Vernon 2-ply Worsted, which works up beautifully at this gauge. I haven't made a full Jerry with it yet, but it would be a lovely choice, similar to Osprey, so I'm including it in the comparison table below.

yarn content qualities cost
Quince & Co. Osprey 100% U.S. wool smooth, strong, 3ply, good stitch definition
$.08 per yard
Elsawool woolen-spun sport 100% Colorado/Montana Cormo wool light, lofty, 2ply $.13 per yard*
Jill Draper Empire 100% NYS Rambouillet wool elastic, strong, 4ply $.13 per yard
Cestari Mt. Vernon 2-ply Worsted 100% Virginia fine Merino soft, smooth, 2ply, good stitch definition $.06 per yard natural colors; $.08 per yard kettle-dyed

*Remember that doubled sport weight yarns will require twice as much yardage as Aran weight!


Some things to keep in mind if you're planning to make your Jerry sweater with a yarn not described here:

  • YARN WEIGHT: As we've seen, the Aran and doubled sport-weight yarns create different fabrics and looks. This design includes some fine and fiddly details that are made slightly more fiddly with a yarn held double, so do bear that in mind. (In other words, if you don't tend to have much patience for finishing work, Aran might be your best bet.)
  • GAUGE, GAUGE, GAUGE: Make a few swatches with different sized needles, wet block them, pin them neatly into shape without stretching until dry, and then measure the stitch and row gauge. You're looking for 16 stitches and 24 rows over 4 inches of stockinette stitch, after blocking.
  • FABRIC and FEEL: You should also verify that you actually like the fabric your yarn creates at pattern gauge. After you block and measure your swatches, spend some intimate time with the swatch that got pattern gauge -- squish it around in your hand, rub it on your face and neck. Imagine a whole Jerry sweater made from that fabric, and be sure it's what you want.
  • YARN & FIBER QUALITIES: Make sure the characteristics of your yarn work with the design in a way you're going to like. If you want a sweater that feels a little sportier, choose a smooth Aran-weight yarn like Osprey with strong stitch definition. If you want something that makes a more cohesive fabric, choose something heathered, lofty, and/or sport weight. (And for more information about choosing the right yarn for a project, check out one of my #1 knitting bibles, Clara Parkes's The Knitter's Book of Yarn.)

So go read the Introduction to Handsome and use it to take measurements, choose a size, and select your custom options!

Next up, we'll talk about the general shapes of the Jerry pieces, how it's constructed, and the weirdo cast-on I unvented for you.