Yarn Review: Shelley's Quince & Co Kestrel

November 13, 2014

I had to laugh when Shelley sent her review, below, through. We had a fairly quick conversation about needle size when we started with the Kestrel, and several comments followed about Shelley's....shall we say, regret, about choosing 4.5mm needles. We had rather different experiences with knitting this yarn, although it seems to have won Shelley over in the end. Which just goes to show how important needle size is in relation to your yarn choices.


Now, Shelley:

Quince & Co Kestrel 

Swatch knitted on 4.5mm needles (recommended needle size is 5 – 6.5mm)

Tension: 4” square = 17 stitches x 28 rows

(washed and vigorously blocked several times before a wash and relaxed block).


I love knitting with linen. I adore the drape and sheen and that it get softer with every wear. So I was mildly excited about swatching the Kestrel. My issue with it turned out to be the tape ply construction. Granted, the recommended needle size is on the larger side, the tape should sit flat and create a lovely, drape and smooth stitch definition in the fabric.


I’m always fascinated to see how the heavier yarns knit up on smaller needles. I want to see how dense the fabric is, and how its definition changes (if at all). So for this sample, I decided to knit it up on 4.5mm needles. Not too much smaller than the recommended 5, but with the patterns on Ravelry recommending closer to a 6 or 6.5mm needle, I thought I could get honesty out of this one. And I did.

You need to be careful if your needles are a little on the sharp end, because you will snag the tape ply. It was a little crunchy to knit with, but linen always is, and there wasn’t much in the way of drape (being knitted on smaller needles, I didn’t expect there to be). The fabric on the smaller needle is substantial. Tape, however, not being plied, did twist quite a bit and created unevenness in the stitch definition.


So I decided on some washing and brutal blocking. I washed the swatch several times – both on a normal cycle and wool wash. Every time I put a load on, the swatch went in. Follow by a severe blocking and a steam-set. This settled the stitched into something more uniform, and softened it up. I washed it again, let it dry, and gave it a gentle set with the iron, for the measurements above. Putting it through the wash several times has done wonders for the drape and the feel of the fabric. I don’t have a drier at home, but I suspect that it would really come into its own after a tumble through the machine.

Having grumbled through knitting the Kestrel on smaller needles [and she really did grumble – tash], I started to really appreciate it after the washing and blocking.

I would consider it for cardigans or heavy t-shirt sort of patterns, such as:

Jane Richmond’s Gemini out of the Knitty Spring + Summer 2012 (watch the tension, but this could totally work);

or Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Francis (written for 10ply silk, but again, would be elegant in linen);

Beautia Dew’s Petrie out of the Knitty Spring + Summer 2010 for an retro boat neck top,

or Louisa Harding’s Miss Kitty (although there are sizing limitations).



My outside favourite, and something I would consider knitting in Kestrel, is actually Jennifer Miller’s Pixie Vest (above) – the pattern is simple and flattering, and the linen would suit the stitch definition without growth being a problem.

My swatch has taken a beating, and it still looks good. I’m quite impressed with it.

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