After the lovely, but interminable browns of my Imperator Curiosa socks, I wanted something much more cheerful – and a bit faster to knit.
This is Decca. As per the rules of this A-Z challenge, it’s my D pattern, designed by Rachel Coopey. The pattern is very simple, with a repeated lace panel on the front and back of the foot/leg, and plain panels of stocking stitch in between. Very quick to knit, and very easy to memorise.
The yarn is Hedgehog Fibres Sock, a 90% merino and 10% nylon blend. This is a brand that is highly sought after for colourful saturated dyeing, often with lots of speckles. This is one of the Potluck colourways – with some lovely spring pinks and greens, with flashes of orange along the way. It was the perfect antidote to all that brown. My one gripe is that it was quite a splitty yarn – and untwisted significantly during a long-tail cast on.
The plainer pattern for these socks means that it isn’t drowned out too much by the colour, or vice versa. It’s certainly making me feel much bolder about using colour in projects.
For H in my A to Z of shawls I’ve opted for Holyrood by Justyna Lorkowska. It’s a great casual shawl to throw on at the weekend for a bit of warmth and a pop of colour.
The pattern is a lovely mix of lace and texture, with multiple techniques on the go. It includes mosaic knitting, stripes, garter stitch, chevrons, lace and a wonderful textured rib. That gives it a lot of interest when you’re knitting, engaging you as you work and making you keen to get to the next section.
The yarn I used was Companion 4 ply from Third Vault Yarns. The purple is called Inara, and is one of the first skeins I ever bought from Lola. It’s a much more variegated finish than later skeins of Inara. The grey is Dragon Scales, which has subtle shadings of green and purple within it. The two work really well together.
I’m trying to get bolder with my colour pairings. Both of the two-colour shawls I’ve made as part of this project have included a neutral (grey) as one of the colours. The next step will be to use non-neutrals, and maybe more variegated skeins.
I admit it. I picked this pattern for my A-Z of Rachel Coopey socks, just so I could make a Mad Max: Fury Road pun.
But it also gave me the chance to use this brilliant steampunk-coloured yarn called Mazikeen, which perfectly matches the Mad Max colour palate of sandy desert browns. The shade was inspired by the character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books, but principally from that character’s appearance in the Lucifer tv show. In amongst the browns are little flashes of olive green, grey and even the odd purple hint too.
As you may be able to guess, this colourway is from Third Vault Yarns. It was originally done by Lola for a partnership with Rhapsodye yarns around Lucifer, but Lola has dyed a few more skeins for sale since. The base is her Librarian sock – my favourite BFL/nylon mix. I love it for socks for the way it takes the dye, gives crisp stitch definition and wears like iron.
The Curiosa pattern reminds me quite a bit of Alonzo. It features some of Rachel Coopey’s trademark twisted stitch designs over long pattern repeats. There are lots of angular lines weaving in ways that you don’t see in traditional cable patterns. There were a lot of charts to follow, and remembering which chart to do in which order was a bit of a feat. The pattern was originally released as an MKAL, so there are no pictures with the instructions to help either – you are knitting blind.
I have to confess, I was glad to finish knitting this pair of socks. Although Lola’s dyeing is beautiful, the unremitting brown combined with the complicated pattern made these a bit of a chore to knit.
The next in the A-Z of shawls is Glenallen.
Because I’m a glutton for punishment, this is another monster of a laceweight shawl. It took well over 900m of yarn, and has made a massive triangular shawl.
I loved the angular geometry of this design. It’s all diamonds and triangles, in a triangle shaped shawl. But it was not an easy one to knit. The charts were not at all intuitive to follow, and it needed quite a bit of care to make sure that the design flowed and followed. There is plenty of variation as the pattern develops, with each motif flowing into the next in a very pleasing way.
The yarn is some laceweight I’ve had in my stash for a while – Schoppel-Wolle 6 Karat in a shade called Rot Gewinnt. It works out in a heavy laceweight, and is a lovely variegated heavy laceweight yarn with a red base but flashes of green and purple throughout. If I have one quibble, it’s that this is a very splitty yarn that was at times a pain to knit with. I’m very glad there were no nupps in this pattern – I could see this yarn being a real pain for things like that. But it’s blocked beautifully, and really opened up to show the lace design.
The pattern is by Dee O’Keefe. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for more of her patterns.
Second in my Rachel Coopey A-Z of socks is Budleigh.
I love the mix here of the double cables with the snaking twisted stitches. The double cables are offset, giving a lovely slanted effect. And in one of the designer’s signature features, the socks are perfect mirrors of each other. They were very quick to knit too, with the first one taking just a week from start to finish.
The yarn is a skein I’ve had in stash for a while. It’s Artists Palette Smoothie Sock in a bright semi-solid pink. The yarn is a blend of 75% merino and 25% nylon. It’s incredibly soft and quite fine. I’ve been worried that the high merino content might make them prone to wear and felting, but they’ve been holding up very well so far, and the cheerful colour is just the thing on a dull day.
After the epic project that was Evenstar, I needed to follow up with something quick and simple to cleanse my knitting palette.
Ficus was one of those brilliant one-skein projects, perfect for that special skein of 4-ply yarn and super-quick to knit. It’s a triangular top-down shawl that begins with a garter tab cast on, has a panel of stocking stitch and a simple leaf lace border.
I’m trying to be a bit more adventurous with yarn, using variegated skeins more in my work. Here I used a merino/silk/yak blend from Nimu yarns. This was from her summer yarn club in 2016, and it has a lovely mix of autumnal shades. I’ve not yak or a yak blend before, but it has a lovely drape and softness.
I’m always really nervous of variegated yarns pooling, and a top down triangle is a good way of breaking up regular pooling patterns because of the stitch count changing each row. You get the joy of the colours blending and contrasting, but without the anxiety of strange pooling effects.
The downside to single-skein triangular shawls is that I often find them a bit on the small side, with not quite enough length to enable them to be wrapped effectively round the neck. So with Ficus I chose to extend the leaf lace pattern with extra repeats until I had used up as much of the yarn as possible. I was left with around half a metre after I’d cast off, so I’m confident I’ve squeezed every last bit out of this beautiful skein.
I’ve been enjoying my A-Z of shawls so much, I’ve decided to start one for socks as well. But just to make things a little more challenging, I’m going to try to stick to patterns by one designer: Rachel Coopey. Her sock patterns are beautifully written, a joy to knit and always very clever designs. Looking at Ravelry, I’m good right up to until I get to Q, with a choice of patterns to make. At the rate I knit socks, who knows – maybe she will have designed a pattern beginning with Q by the time I get there.
First up, is Alonzo, a beautifully textured pattern with Bavarian twisted stitches. It’s just complex enough to keep you interested while you’re knitting, but without being so complex tht you can’t concentrate on anything else. This is exactly the kind of knitting you can take out and about, or do while watching the television.
I love how the faux cables and twisted stitches build up the pattern, and how it grows and evolves.
It’s just such a shame that the dark winter days make it so difficult to properly photograph the colour of this yarn as well as I’d like. It’s a rich, mallard green, called Apollo, with a beautiful intensity of colour. It’s from a dyer called A Little Bit Sheepish, and is one of those skeins where the colour just called me from across the aisle at a yarn festival. It’s a mix of 75% Bluefaced Leicester and 25% nylon. The stitch definition is amazing, it takes dye beautifully, it has a generous 425 metres per 100g and it should make some hard-wearing socks.