Quickies: Beach Tank Duo

And now for something completely different.

 

Me IRL

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You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m an all-wool-everything kind of knitter. As much as I love cashmere, my desert-island fiber would probably be Bluefaced Leicester. I love wool and not even particularly soft wool. Mohair is pretty neat, too.

When it’s hot, I’ll knit a little something in cotton or, preferably, linen. While I like the way the projects turn out, the process of knitting plant fibers is just not nearly as satisfying to me as working with wool. Obviously I’m not alone in this; wool is king for a pretty big swath of the knitting population.

The first time I was in Spain was in Seville, in April of 2015. It was already 80F in Seville, and the hot streets emptied every afternoon until dinner at 10pm. I, however, tracked down the only yarn boutique in Seville, found the lone basket of 100% Portuguese merino, and bought five skeins.

little bit of yarn haul: Portuguese merino

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On my most recent trip to the Iberian Peninsula, I wanted to “integrate” a little more, and I had to admit that wool just doesn’t cut it in a Spanish summer.

I’ve had my eye on Jess Schreiberstein‘s Beach Tank pattern since the thermostat climbed above seventy degrees. It’s the perfect summer knit: fast, simple, and somehow universally flattering (seriously, check out the project photos, everyone looks cute as hell).

These tanks are made with yarn I found at a huge department store in Madrid. The orange one is a prudent 100% cotton, but it’s held together with some novelty abomination that includes polymide. And I love it! The gray one has a little linen, but also viscose, polyester, and (gasp!) sequins. I also love it!

#beachtank in the flesh! Plus #nomakeup and #sweatyponytail because summer

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Wool is my first love, but I’m so happy I tried something I don’t usually go for. It’s nice to know that my tastes and experiences can still evolve after all these years of knitting.

The pattern calls for two light DK yarns held together, so the possibilities are pretty endless. I see at least a couple more of these in my future.

Do you have certain fibers you usually shun? Ever change your mind about a yarn or fiber that you previously didn’t like? Do you have a yarn “comfort zone?” Tell me about it in the comments!

 

 

Free Pattern: Bruntsfield Cowl! Plus Edinburgh Yarn Fest Highlights

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new Bruntsfield cowl in Daughter of a Shepherd Hebridean wool

One of the many perks of living in Europe: I was within reasonable proximity of the Edinburgh Yarn Fest! What an amazing treat to be surrounded by such talented crafters, and such beautiful wool, for a whole weekend.
Highlights: I took a class with Karie Westermann on pattern writing. Karie loaded us up with a ton of great information; she didn’t hold anything back. She also has a great teaching style: she’s organized, she’s encouraging of students, and she had prepared some handouts which I’ve found myself referring to a few times since the class. If you get a chance, definitely take one of her classes.
I saw some great people I already knew, including Sonya Phillips, Ysolda Teague, and Stephen West. I also met some people who I’ve been admiring from afar for awhile now: Bristol Ivy, Thea Colman, Kirsten Kapur, Anna Maltz, Tom van Deijnen, and (OMG sooo exciting) Cecilia Campochiaro. My husband and I both got to chat in-depth with Ellen Mason. What a rad lady. I love her laid-back style and I’m obsessed with her new smock pattern (I got to see her smocks in person and they are so frigging cute).
I was too chicken to introduce myself to Kate Davies. She just looked so unbelievably intimidatingly gorgeous at her booth, and she was undoubtedly quite busy the whole time.

My funds were limited, so I shopped very carefully. I spent a lot of time at the Black Bat Rare Breed Wool booth, and my big splurge was 3 skeins of Whistlebare 4ply (it was just so shiny and pretty!). The surprise sleeper hit of the fest was Rachel Atkinson’s Daughter of a Shepherd, made from her dad’s Hebridean sheep. The breed and the story are captivating enough on their own, and the yarn bewitched me (and a lot of other festival-goers) with its deep natural black color, fuzzy halo, and intoxicatingly sheepy aroma (there were a lot of yarn-huffers wandering around).

From one daughter of a shepherd to another: thanks, Rachel, for sharing your beautiful yarn with us, and I’m so glad I could meet you and chat with you.

I came home with a single treasured skein of DoaS, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I wanted a project I could wear where everyone could see it, in a relaxed gauge that would allow the the fibers to lay flat and bloom a bit. For the Bruntsfield Cowl, I used a stitch pattern called Portcullis Stitch from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury…, which doesn’t curl at the edges, and has an open-textured, almost crocheted look to it. Plus, it’s easy to memorize.

Bruntsfield Cowl

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Materials
1 skein Daughter of a Shepherd July 2015 Clip
1 pair 4.5mm (US #7) needles (or size needed to obtain gauge)
Waste yarn
1 4mm crochet hook (size isn’t super important, just something reasonably close to your needle size)
Extra needle one size bigger than knitting needles for 3-needle bind-off
Tapestry needle

Gauge: Approximately 25 stitches x 21 rows= 4” in Portcullis Stitch
Cowl measurements: 28” circumference and 10.5” wide
Notes: Cowl is knit flat, starting with a provisional cast-on. The cowl is finished by knitting the open stitches together with the cast-on edge, using the 3-needle bind off technique.

Abbreviations:
K: knit
P: purl
K2tog: knit 2 stitches together (1 stitch decreased)
SSK: Slip next 2 stitches as if to knit, slip them back to the left needle and knit these 2 stitches together (1 stitch decreased)
KYOK: knit 1, yarn over, knit 1 into same stitch (2 stitches increased)
SK2p: Slip 1 stitch as if to knit, knit next 2 stitches together, pass slipped stitch over (2 stitches decreased)
RS: Right Side
WS: Wrong Side

Cowl:
Using one-step provisional cast-on, waste yarn, crochet hook and main needles, cast on 65 stitches. Break waste yarn. Using working yarn, begin stitch pattern:
Row 1: [WS] P all stitches
Row 2: [RS] K2tog, KYOK, *SK2p, KYOK,* repeat **’s to last 2 stitches, SSK.

Repeat these 2 rows until work measures 28” from beginning edge. Repeat Row 2 once more.
Very carefully, remove waste yarn from beginning edge to expose open stitches. Place open stitches on size 7 needle. You should have 65 stitches on each needle. Turn work so that WS is facing out, with both edges of open stitches lined up side-by-side. Using extra needle and 3-needle bind-off method, knit both edges together.

Weave in ends and definitely wet-block! This yarn blooms and softens very nicely after being soaked in warm water. I added a splash of apple cider vinegar to the water.

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Emi says, “Thanks for the new bed”

New Pattern: Aitos

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I’m so excited to show you my latest design: Aitos. I designed this exclusively for Verb’s Pro-Verbial Club. The yarn is called Floating, a blend of alpaca, silk, and cashmere that’s been indigo-dyed by Kristine Vejar.

This is the fourth of my designs that I’ve done with Verb yarn. Since working there two years ago, I’ve been a fan of Kristine’s naturally-dyed yarns. Designing for Pro-Verbial is especially exciting right now, because it coincides with the release of Kristine’s book, which I can’t wait to add to my library.

Modern Natural Dyer Kristine Vejar
The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar

Lately, I’ve been tending towards rugged yarns, and stalwart, textural patterns. Aitos is a bit of a departure for me. It’s feminine, soft, lacy, maybe even frilly. I had originally planned a design that’s more “me,” something geometric and unisex. But seeing, touching, and feeling the yarn, I knew it needed to be something special. I’m super happy with how it turned out, and I’ve been throwing it over my jacket non-stop since I finished it.

huelo_first frost3huelo_first frost4

For now, the pattern is only available to Pro-Verbial members. If you’d like to know when Aitos will be available to everyone, just leave me a comment and I’ll send you an email when the time comes!

Svalbard Chapter 1: Listening to My Yarn

Aviary from Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, Washington
Aviary from Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, Washington

In the last weeks of 2014, just before I took my solemn yarn budget vow, I was bewitched by this yarn from Tolt, and had to have it in a sweater quantity.

Even though I hadn’t totally devised my yarn resolutions yet, Aviary fit a lot of my new, picky, criteria for a good purchase. It’s a limited-run farm yarn, which meant whatever I made out of it would be totally unique, something no one else had. It was undyed, a captivating off-white with little slubs of natural black (the blackest natural black I’ve ever seen). So, it’s a neutral, which will be versatile in my wardrobe, it’s 100% undyed wool, and even better, it’s yarn that tells a story.

I tend to pick out yarn before I pick out a pattern. If I love a yarn but not enough to make a sweater out of it, I’ll buy one skein for a hat or cowl, or to keep in my stash in case I need to make a gift. I spend tons of time browsing patterns, but I rarely decide that I’m definitely going to make a particular pattern and then start shopping for yarn.

In her book Sweater Design in Plain English (which is sadly not in my library), Maggie Righetti talks about the process of letting yarn tell you what it wants to be. She suggests spending time with the yarn before you start knitting, kind of like how you should spend a long time playing with a litter of kittens before you decide which one to take home. Working in yarn stores, I practiced the art of “spending time with yarn.” And I’ve found Righetti’s advice to be true. Give yarn the time and space, and it will tell you what it wants to be.

This idea came back to me recently as I was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, a new book with the power to make cleaning house exciting even to me. Like Righetti does with yarn, Kondo attributes a sort of sentience to material things. She advises the reader to handle each and every one of their possessions, in order to “bring the item to life.” She also thanks her handbag when she gets home from work at night, and she prays to her clients’ dwellings when she goes on her private tidying consultations.

seriously, find a copy of this book
seriously, find a copy of this book

Before my Aviary arrived in the mail, I had a pattern 90% picked out. With a yarn like this one, the pressure of picking the perfect pattern can be intimidating. This was a beautiful yarn, that might never be available to me again, so I had to get it exactly right. Tolt described the yarn as between DK and worsted, and I wanted a garment that would show off the yarn’s natural irregularities in color and texture. Most of all, I wanted something I would wear all the time, something that made a statement, but was simple enough to wear every day. I’d had my eye on Dusk, and from this description, this yarn seemed like a perfect match for the pattern.

When Aviary finally arrived, though, something about my pattern choice just wasn’t working with the yarn in my hand. It was heavier than I’d anticipated; the 200yd skeins weighed 120 grams, not 100. The wool itself reminded me of Bluefaced Leicester: long, silky fibers with a little sheen. A pullover in this yarn would be oppressively warm, and something in plain stockinette stitch, with lots of ease, might end up hanging forlornly, losing the yarn’s specialness. Instead of casting on my project right away, I put my six new skeins in a little heap next to the couch, for easy reach, and periodically would pick one up, pet it, and listen to see if it was ready to tell me what it wanted to be.

By chance, I was admiring a design I’ve loved for awhile, when the yarn called to me from its little camp by the couch. Svalbard is a cardigan, in an allover ribbed pattern that would help the garment hold its shape while playing up the slubs and subtle stripes. The sweater looked classic, but the pattern was deliciously complicated, according to many project notes on Ravelry. This was it. The yarn told me what it wanted to be.

aviary2

I’m about 80% finished with my Svalbard, which I’ll talk more about in another entry. So far, it’s one of my more successful pairings of a yarn with a pattern. How do you pick your projects? Do you choose a pattern first, or a yarn? Have you ever mismatched a yarn with a pattern (I know I have!), and what did it teach you?

New Pattern: Chervena

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So, after that last post from ages ago, all my dreams came true and I got to knit with Verb’s lovely new yarn, Clover (shout out to Big Sky, as well!). I also got married, but more on that later.

Clover was everything I hope for/expect from a Verb yarn. Soft, but not a pushover. Warm, but not stuffy. And it’s fascinating to see how wool/silk gives off a very slight sheen, and brings out new facets to Kristine’s natural dyes. Since blocking my new hooded cowl, Chervena, I’ve been wearing it pretty much constantly. In the lovely Bandana color, the cowl has the added advantage of making me more visible to Bulgarian taxi drivers when I cross the street.

R1011579If you want to see more photos of Chervena, my latest design, check out the guest post I wrote for Verb’s blog.

Verb and I are also giving away (like, for free) 20 copies of Chervena, to whoever buys Clover fast enough. But if you’re thinking about grabbing two skeins of Clover, you really should, because it’s absolutely lovely to knit with and wear.