Though knitting is a relatively new craft compared to other textile arts, knitting has been used to make garments since the late medieval ages and early Renaissance. There are several aspects of hand-knitting-- such as fibre type and weight, needle size, type of cable-- which can determine the feel, use and look of knitted sweaters.
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One can hand-knit sweaters in a variety of yarn types, which may be made of animal fibres such as wool, angora, silk, alpaca or camel fur; plant fibres, such as cotton, bamboo, linen or soy; or synthetic materials, such as acrylic, nylon or viscose. These fibres all have different qualities that make them ideal for specific applications, and in many cases yarns are made with specific percentages of more than one fibre type. Animal fibres are often employed for sweaters to be used in cold weather, while plant or synthetic fibres are often used to make lightweight summer sweaters.
In the U.S., yarn is usually identified as being one of several weights (or thickness), which have more to do with the width of the plies than the actual weight of the yarn. Of these, the most common from smallest to largest are lace, fingering, sock, sport, DK, worsted, heavy worsted, bulky and super-bulky. Generally, the bulkier the yarn, the less length of yarn needed to complete a project, and the quicker the project may be completed. For this reason, sweaters made in small sizes of yarn are often tedious to hand-knit and may take hundreds of hours t complete. Sweaters are usually made of DK, worsted, heavy worsted or bulky yarn weights.
The size of the needles used to fashion a hand-knit sweater will determine the drape and looseness of the loops and rows of the yarn. Typically, larger needle sizes are used for heavier yarn weights, and vice versa, but some sweater patterns may call for varying sizes of needles to achieve different effects with the yarn.
Types of Cables
Cable knitting is simply crossing stitches (or a group of stitches), over each other to form upraised patterns. Hundreds of variations of cable stitches can be knit into a sweater. Free cable patterns are available online at websites such as knitty.com and ravelry.com, and many books and magazines offer collections of cable pattern variations. Cable patterns may be either the traditional twisted design, or may incorporate various cable stitches to form objects such as trees, letters, hearts, bows or (depending on the skill of the knitter), almost any object or pattern imaginable.
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