Please forgive me for falling behind, I’m still catching up on my blogging (and knitting, and other things) … why does December have to consume such a large part of January? Anyway, I wanted to show you another success story, the Barbara cowl.
It’s a simple knit, and a free pattern, and makes for a nice splash of colour mid-way through winter. We used 2 skeins of Malabrigo Rios in colour 96 Sunset (I thought it would nice and sunny looking forward to spring, like Pantone colour Saffron), but any worsted weight yarn will do.
Barbara is knit lengthwise like a scarf and then seamed, so it isn’t particularly technically advanced. You can seam it into a regular loop or a mobius loop, whatever tickles your fancy. If you wanted to turn it into a scarf I’d work about 1.5″ in K1P1 rib at each end to give it a nice finish.
Barbara would of course look great in other yarns … I can see a nice fluffy version made with Drops Air (3 skeins). Something classic in a heathered colour would be great made with Cascade 220 Superwash (2 skeins/5mm-US8 needles) – a great knit for anyone who likes things simple. Personally, I’m really into Fibre Co. Road to China Light right now, I can see it making a super sexy accessory I’d never want to take off (3 skeins/4mm-US6 needles) … oh god, please help me, I think I just fell down a rabbit hole …. I’ll tell you about my progress with Road to China Light in my next post!
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get this project out to you (it’s been in the store window for a couple of weeks already) – you know how it goes … Life! Anyway, I thought it would make a great little neck accessory as the temperature drops. I love little shoulderettes, they’re so cosy and are great for changing seasons.
This one is Getting Warmer, a FREE pattern, and we made it with a yarn that’s new for us, Illimani Llama II. Illimani is a little company located in Quebec that imports gorgeous yarns from South America, especially alpaca and other camelids, like llama.
The pattern is pretty straight forward and is fairly accessible for beginners (depending on your level of beginnerness, of course). The ‘special’ skills include knit & purl in the same row, working in the round on circular needles, decreasing, and reading a pattern. Basically, if you can make a hat, you can make a Getting Warmer. The project works up on 6mm/US10 needles, so I think it qualifies as a “small, achievable goal”.
BTW, many thanks to Adrienne for doing the heavy lifting on this project!
The yarn we used, Illimani Llama II, was a delight! It is super soft and is made from 100% de-haired llama, so it basically feels like baby alpaca (de-haired means that when the fibre is being processed the coarser parts of the coat are removed, leaving only the soft undercoat).
Berroco Vintage Chunky: three skeins of Berroco Vintage Chunky will get the job done with style and grace for people who are sensitive to wool or are really good at wrecking things by putting them in the washing machine.
Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk: if you want mega texture, go for a super soft mohair effect with Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk. For a loose, airy texture knit with a single strand (3 skeins), and for a denser, warmer fabric work with 2 strands held together (6 skeins). Both options are super affordable, from $18 to $36.
If you don’t already have these needles in your kit, you might be interested in some Knitter’s Pride Interchangeable needles: you just buy one set of 3.5″ tips and two cords, and it saves having to purchase two separate circular needles. But note, you MUST get shorter tips that are 3.5″ to 4″ long! Any longer and they won’t work with the 16″ cord:
These shorter needles are ideal for making hats, neck things, baby things, and will always work with the longer cords from their respective brand. If you’re feeling like why not dive in and buy a whole set with a bunch of sizes (its usually more affordable than buying them one size at a time), here are a few brands who make them in the right size:
ShortInterchangeable Needle Sets (with 3.5″ to 4″ tips)
The first thing people say when they see Studioloo Handspun Art Yarn is “What do you make with it?” The quantities are generous and the yarn generally does all the work, but there is still room to play around. I like the idea of using an art yarn as a launch-pad and expanding on the aesthetic with a different texture, colour, or both. This is also a great way to make the most of handspun yarn if you only have a small amount, or you definitely don’t have enough for a full scarf or cowl.
With this pattern I’ve started with a skein of Studioloo Handspun Art Yarn, knitted it in a simple garter stitch, which really makes the different colours and textures in the yarn pop. Then I finished the project with a contrasting commercial yarn (Cascade Spuntaneous) with a slightly different tension and stitch pattern (K2P2 rib). I decided to keep the colour between the two yarns consistent (beige) for the sake of simplicity, but I normally like a little contrast (I was thinking or cream or even navy blue as alternate choices). Both yarns are a single ply, but the Cascade Spuntaneous is thicker and loftier, and knits on larger needles.
I really love how this project came out! It’s soft, airy, light, cozy, and with the pattern being free and the yarn only costing $20, it’s a pretty cost effective knit too! If you’re starting to think about holiday gift to knit, this is a great go-to project.
The pattern is called a scarf, but I don’t know why because it’s actually a cowl. We made the smaller size and in the yarn we used (Drops Air) it can be worn either once or twice around the neck. I also found that the “twice around” brings the ‘full goldilocks’ – it isn’t too big or too small, it’s just right (in my mind, that means it doesn’t gape, letting cold air in). If your finished project looks small just wet-block it, mine stretched from 20″ x 10″ to 24″ x 9″.
The pattern, Infinitude Scarf, is a simple little thing that combines knits and purls in the easiest way. The skills are pretty simple: casting on, working in the round, using a knit & purl stitch in the same row, and binding off. We made the smaller size, but had extra yarn so just kept going in the welt pattern by adding an extra 3 pattern repeats (so we did “Knit 4 rnds, purl 4 rnds” a total of 6 times).
We used two skeins of Drops Air, a new yarn for us this year. It’s a super light and airy alpaca that knits easily and looks great! It’s a ‘blown’ yarn, which means it consists of a loosely knit chain core made of polyamide and then the Alpaca is literally blown into and through this core, coating it in a delightful halo of the softest alpaca. The result is an extra depth of colour because you can see a bit of the core through the translucent outer layer. Drops Air comes in both heathered and solid colours, but I think the heathers are extra pretty, with that extra dimension of colour added. Did I mention that it’s also super soft? Yeah, it’s crazy soft, it totally passes the neck test. Drops Air comes in a bunch of colours, made in Peru and the European Union, and it only costs $9.97 a skein.
Way back at the start of August I wrote about a neat fall-ish project, The Shift, and I finally finished mine! I asked you if you thought I should try out someone else’s colours or go my own path, and I think everyone (including me) was in agreement that I should trust my intuition, so I did. I chose 3 colours that I thought would work, crossed my fingers, knocked on some wood, and set to work. At first I was thinking “I don’t know about this …”, but as the project progressed I saw what was taking place and it was AMAZING!
How I Chose Colours
The pattern is always alternating 2 colours: one works as a background and the other is the dots in the foreground. The background colour will stand out more than the foreground colour. I found that colours A & B ended up being the dominant colours, and C was used mostly for the foreground/dots.
I picked three colourways that looked like the colours could work together. One had reds, one was neutrals, and the third was dark things and a bit of greens.
One colourway was darkish (colour A, one was medium in its brightness (the red, colour B), and the last was lighter (the neutrals, colour C).
An interesting thing … as I was working I realized that colours A 2328 & C 2349. could also work really well with a cool colour for B, like the blue of 2362 or the green 2298.
The Yarn’s Performance
Schoppel Edition 3 was beautiful to work with and the finished piece looks and feels gorgeous. The designer, Andrea Mowry, has a sweater pattern named Shifty that can be made with the same yarn, and I would totally, unequivocally do it! Mowry suggests going down a size in the sweater pattern if you are between sizes, and I think that is perfectly feasible with Schoppel Edition 3 because it stretched easily when I blocked it.
Addenda: to test the tension in the round I think I would try making a Shiftalong Hat first, as a swatch for the sweater. Measure the tension before and after blocking to get a good idea of how much change you can expect. Reviewing the comments of finished projects, you might end up going down a size (or more).
The yarn was very, very soft, and will be absolutely no problem wearing against your skin. It comes in balls, and I found that rewinding them into cakes on a ball-winder made them easier to work with. I also used my old Pantyhose Hack, which kept things more orderly. Since you’ll have 3 colourways going, I suggest using 3 different colours of pantyhose or Yarn Sleeves.
The pattern wasn’t hard, but I did have to pay attention to where I was and keep track of my rows. To do this I used a row counter and made notations in pencil on my pattern. If you find that confusing you may want to put the info into a spreadsheet program to keep track row-by-row.
The stitch pattern is a slip stitch, and on a few occasions I had to tink my work a row or two when I wasn’t on the ball. It is not a project to do while distracted (ie. drinking).
Manos del Urugay Alegria Grande is a sumptuously soft superwash yarn that’s great for EVERYTHING (except felting). Made with 75% merino wool & 25% polyamide, it’s strong enough for house-socks and soft enough for baby hats and sweaters for the entire family. This is also the perfect yarn for learning how to make socks (we use it in our sock classes with 3.75mm/US5 needles).
75% merino wool, 25% polyamide
100g/180m (197 yds)
18 to 20 sts = 4″/10cm
4mm to 5mm (US 6 to 8) needles
Machine or hand wash in cold water, lay flat to dry
Manos Alegria Grande Semi-Solids are exactly the same as their muti-coloured siblings, but they are kettle dyed for a semi-solid aesthetic. They’re worsted weight, super soft merino, machine washable, and great for garments for people of all ages and sizes, from babies to grown-ups. Semi-solid colours are perfect for making a pair of Rye Socks (picture above), or other garments that involve lace, cables, or other textural details.
How Much Yarn Do I Need?
You should always check your pattern for yardage requirements, but here are some estimates:
Socks, hat, neckwarmer, mittens, wrist-warmers: 1 skein
Last time we chatted I was showing off my latest project, Paprika, but like all accomplishments, a bit of work went into it before it happened. Before starting, I swatched … I know, you hate swatching, you avoid swatching, swatching is gross, swatching is boring, blech. I think I understand how a dentist feels, telling their patients to floss – it’s a Sisyphean task. Instead of listing all the important (aka. boring, grown-up) reasons to swatch I think I’m just going to share ….
I once read that designer Veronique Avery learned how to knit, and design, by making swatches EXCLUSIVELY for a year. That’s right a YEAR of swatching. When I read that, I thought “Wow, this lady is single-minded.” But you know what, I bet by the end of that exercise she REALLY understood hand knitted fabric. She understood how different fibres, different tensions, and different stitch patterns behaved.
Designers understand that swatching is knowledge. But swatching is more than just the way to make sure your project is going to fit. Swatching is a way to experiment with yarn, explore it’s potential, see how it behaves. It’s a way to decide how you like it, how you don’t like it. Will it do what you want it to do, will it look like you want it to? Most people remind you that swatching is a way to avoid being disappointed, but it can also be a way to find new things you like!
Initially, I was thinking about making the sweater with some colour. I grabbed 3 warm colours and cast on a little cowl based on the Snap hat I made a little while ago. Yup, that’s right, it’s a swatch AND a project. Squares swatches are ok, but not so much fun. To start with I was playing with colour, so the tension didn’t matter, and I made something that made me happy – an actual garment (which is what the end product will be, anyway).
I initially thought I’d be into this colour combo, but once it was done it was full of NOPE (at least for this sweater)! Such is life. But I did find out how the yarn knitted at a new tension, what it looked like on both sides of the fabric, how some of the colours looked combined, and I have a great little cowl! (all of the project details are in my Ravelry Project Notes)
Following up on my colour-speriment, I thought maybe I’d rest my eyes and try a neutral ombre/colour gradient. So I made a cowl to swatch the tension and colours. The fabric is lovely, the colours blended well, and my swatch, a cowl, is lovely (an added bonus). But as I thought about the sweater, I decided simple was better, and that figuring out when to change the colours in the sweater felt like too much work for me. Sometimes the KISS (Keep It Simple Sister) principle is extremely effective!
Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk is a great yarn to play around with colour gradations and colour combining. The strands stick together and the texture blends nicely. As far as a swatch, it gave me my tension information, helped me narrow down my colour concept, and its a really nice, light, airy cowl! I haven’t written the cowl up as a formal pattern, but all the directions and details (needle sizes, yarn colours) are in my Ravelry Project Notes.
Following the second cowl (and a couple other swatches that I really did not enjoy, and I pitched the results) I learned a lot:
The yarn is really nice and soft, very cuddly and cloud-like
It’s quite versatile, it adapts to a whole bunch of different tensions
I like combining the colours in some projects but not in others
If I’m going to make an ombre sweater, it is best made from the top-down (so I don’t have to think too much about colour placement, matching the arms to the body, etc.)
I now have a reference for how some of the colours look combined
And of course, the most important thing I learned from the process, was that I really enjoyed working with this yarn, and I wanted to keep exploring it in different ways. At the risk of sounding like the final paragraph in a serial mystery novel … I did, and the results were unexpected! But You’ll have to wait for the next instalment to find out more.