It was a year or two ago that I started thinking about designing a cabled pullover, often called a fisherman or Aran sweater (or jumper if you're British). There's no mystery about where this idea came from-- they were all over the fashion pages from Fall 2014 ("run out RIGHT NOW and buy a fisherman sweater," from Glamour online) through Fall 2015 ("Fishing for Sweaters for Fall 2015," from T magazine).
Although I love the oversized slouchy look of a big fisherman sweater on a model (or a man), I personally don't wear a lot of oversized clothing, and I don't usually wear wool; although I like to knit with it, I find it itchy to wear, and overly warm for most situations. So I didn't relish investing the time designing and knitting a cabled sweater if it wasn't something I was likely to wear.
But then I got the idea of streamlining the fisherman sweater by using set-in instead of dropped sleeves, and using a yarn that was more warm-weather friendly, in a bulky weight so it would knit up more quickly; I pictured a cool summer or fall evening, outdoors on the beach or on a boat, and throwing a fisherman sweater on over a summer dress, or cropped pants (above photo from knitgrandeur.blogspot.com). In a worsted weight or thicker yarn, cotton by itself can be heavy and saggy when used in something as dense as a cabled sweater, but what about a cotton blend?
I looked at many, many yarns: two of my favorites were Spud & Chloe Sweater (organic cotton and superwash wool) and Rowan All Seasons Cotton (cotton and acrylic). But these were both a little thinner than I wanted. And then I found Katia Bulky Cotton.
The construction of this yarn is unusual: unlike most yarns, which are made of several thinner fibers twisted together, it is a mesh nylon tube with a cotton core (above photo: Spud & Chloe Sweater on the left, Katia Bulky Cotton on the right). It definitely has some pros and cons:
- It has a pleasant soft, squishy feel and very good stitch definition.
- It's relatively light for a yarn of this thickness.
- It doesn't split easily.
- It feels a bit like knitting with stockings, which takes getting used to.
- It's very stretchy, which means that it can easily be knit too tightly; tensioning the yarn lightly is important.
- The mesh tube snags fairly easily; although snags are almost impossible to fix (think fixing a snagged stocking), I found them easy to hide by making sure they are incorporated into the stitches, and they don't compromise the integrity of the yarn.
- Any unevenness of stitches appears to be amplified. In the photo below, the stockinette stitch section shows "rowing out," which I usually don't notice in my knitting: up to the bottom of the armhole, the fabric is pretty uniform, because it was worked in the round (every row knitted), but after the start of the armhole, the fabric looks uneven because the wrong side rows were purled.
In addition, my gauge was very different than the ball band gauge: when I used US #9 (5.5 mm) needles as recommended, I got a worsted weight gauge of 4 1/2 stitches to the inch, instead of the 3 1/2 stitches stated on the ball band. After going up two needle sizes to US # 10 1/2 (6.5 mm), I ended up with a gauge of 3 3/4 stitches to the inch.
The conclusion? I still liked this yarn because of its feel and stitch definition, but I'll have to see how it wears (and whether snagging is a big problem) before making a final recommendation.