This is a question that I consider on almost a daily basis, albeit in an unconscious way. I think about matching yarn and pattern based on a variety of different criteria: weight, color, composition, and twist are some especially important factors. With all the lace going on lately, I haven't been knitting socks - and, as my sad, empty sock drawer will attest, I'm wearing through them faster than I've been knitting them. So, what's a girl to do? Cast on for project number eleventy-billion, of course.
First, I tried to cast on for Nancy Bush's Traveler's Stockings using some yarn from my stash - Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in the colorway Dove, on size 2.25 mm needles. Nancy Bush has looser tension than me, so my rule of thumb is to go up a needle size. She recommended a size 0 US, so I chose a size 1 for mine.
Sadly, as I quickly found out, the new CTH base yarn - different in twist and softness from the same brand I used in a pair two years ago - does not play well with size 1s. The fabric was stiff, k2togs were nearly impossible, and every stitch manipulation that I attempted resulted in fluffy split stitches.
In knitting as in so many other things, the materials make the difference. I like my sock needles dangerously sharp and my twist tight. My favorite sock yarns are Colinette Jitterbug, Ella Rae Lace Merino, and Shibui Sock, all of which have twists that make stitches pop and socks long-wearing. And although I loved the old base of CTH, the new stuff just doesn't quite make it up to snuff for highly patterned socks.
Oh yeah. The yarn on the left is Ella Rae Lace Merino, which I would characterize as a light fingering merino of intoxicating, addictive softness and color. The right is the new CTH - a heavy fingering, fluffy merino that, sadly, just hasn't been that fun to work with - at least, not on my chosen needles. I suspect that it will play nicely with size 2 US needles and a less complex pattern than the one I want to make right now, but since this is a right now situation in my sockmaking career, this one's being tossed back into the stash.
So, instead, I cast on with said Lace Merino in a gorgeous, shapeshifting shade of lavender. It twists! It pops! It navigates size 1s breezily, almost irritatingly well!
Oh, Ella Rae... why can't I quit you?