FO: June Bride Shawlette

J has probably been the hardest project in this A to Z of shawls.  For some reason I really didn’t connect with the pattern I chose.  On the face of it, the June Bride Shawlette was exactly the palate-cleanser I needed after Ishneich – a simple, single colour, lace shawlette from a single ball of laceweight yarn, and with a bit of challenge from nupps in laceweight.

But, oh, I struggled.

I just couldn’t get excited by this project, and I actively avoided picking it up.  Which is ridiculous for such a tiny project.

And tiny it is.  A little wisp of a scarflette, that I definitely wouldn’t call a shawlette.  Just enough to wrap round your neck, and that’s about it.  Compare it to some of my other FOs shown on the same chair, in the same position, and you can see how tiny it is.

But on the other hand – nupps!  In laceweight!  Yes, I cheated and used a crochet hook to form them on the RS row.  But that’s another new skill mastered, and I found them much easier in laceweight than I did in 4ply.  So that’s a thing!

The pattern is by Lidia Tsymba.  The yarn was a single skein of Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace (a solid, commercially dyed pure merino laceweight) that I picked up for about £3 in a John Lewis sale.

I was glad to finish this one.  If only because it meant I could move on and start something else. Ah well.

FOs: Wowligan, Wabbit and Whales

There was an outbreak of babies in the office late last year.  So true to form I pulled out my stash of Baby Cashmerino and got knitting some baby cardigans.  Because there were three babies on the way it gave me the chance to make a few things and give the parents a choice from multiple things for their new arrivals.

By accident or design, all three projects have ended up with a wildlife theme to them.

Wowligan is a baby sized version of Kate Davies’s iconic O w l s sweater.  Here I’ve made it in a cheerful toffee coloured yarn.  I left off buttons for the owl eyes on this version, to avoid choking hazards.

I fell in love with The Wabbit as soon as I saw the pattern, so I was really glad to have the excuse to make it.  Who wouldn’t love a parade of cute colourwork bunnies round the yoke of a cardigan?  This was a great project for using up scraps and leftovers from earlier projects.  (You may recognise some of the colours here from my previous baby projects – yes, that is the toffee from Wowligan for the bunnies.)

Finally, we have Save the Baby Whales.   This has a very cute set of colourwork whales running round the lower body.  They mirror, which makes it pleasingly symmetrical.

Much as I love knitting for babies, I’m hoping there won’t be another run of work pregnancies, as it’s been really great to be able to get back to knitting things for me.

FO: Ishneich

Time for another FO.

This is Ishneich.  Pattern by Lucy Hague, part of her Celtic Cable Shawls collection.

This is another project that continues to push my knitting boundaries.  I’ve tried once again to be a bit bolder with use of colour.  This is a two-colour shawl, but this time it mixes two colours – one semi-solid, one variegated – rather than a colour with a neutral.

This is also a project with a new technique for me – closed loop cables.  This is a technique perfect for creating Celtic-inspired knotwork like in this pattern.  It’s definitely the trickiest set of charts I’ve ever worked with.  Long chart repeats combined with cabling on both sides and a garter stitch background required a lot of concentration and faith in the pattern.  Particuarly as to deliver the elegant sweeps in the cabling there is little predictability in the charts.

But I’m really delighted with how it’s come out.  It’s a grown up shawl, big on texture rather than fussiness of lace.  And the 4 ply yarn means it will eb snuggly and relatively robust.

The yarn is Qing Fibre Merino Single in Okinami (the semi-solid teal) and Elderwood (the variegated).  Definitely a dyer worth looking at if you like super-saturated and sophisticated dyeing.

FO: Carry On Fingerless Mitts

I love fingerless mitts.  They keep your hands warm, particularly in those in-between days of spring and autumn.  You can still use your touchscreen phone, eat snacks, and root in your bag for keys/tissue/money etc but you still have toasty hands.  And you can curl the tips of your fingers up inside to keep them warm on the chillier days.

I love them, but I never seem to have enough pairs.  At minimum I want a pair in the pocket of every coat that co-ordinates.  But I’m not there yet.

So when I was in France on holiday earlier this year, sitting in 30+ degree heat, what I decided I wanted to do was make some fingerless mitts for the cooler autumn to come.  I finished the first of this pair while I was there, but in typical style didn’t get round to the second until quite a bit after getting home.

These are Carry On Fingerless Mitts, the pattern by a designer Cheryl Chow.  It’s an incredibly clever design, with the stranded colourwork flowing brilliantly from one round into the next.

The yarn is Navia Duo, a wonderful sportweight blend of Faroese and Shetland wool.  It’s gloriously sheepy, and its stickiness makes it perfect for colourwork.  Although it feels rough in the hand it knits up into a beautifully soft fabric. I love the contrast of the beautifully bright and sunny yellow with the marled charcoal grey.  Guaranteed to bright up a dull day.

The slightly heavier weight was also a good test bed for stranded colourwork in the round on small diameter projects.  In the past I’ve made my floats far too tight and ended up with some odd results.  In this case I made extra efforts to get them loose and it’s worked well.

And – seriously – if people see you knitting stranded colourwork in the round on DPNs, with a colour held in each hand, they will think you are working Actual Witchcraft.

 

FO: Decca

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.

FO: Holyrood

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.

 

Adventures in Dyeing

On Saturday I spent the day learning how to dye yarn from Lola of Third Vault Yarns.  When Lola took her new studio, she offered a small number of dyeing classes to help cover some of the fixed costs of expanding into a studio.

Of course I was going to snap one up.

This was a brilliant day playing with colour, learning a new skill and seeing how the magic of hand-dyed yarn comes together.  I’ve left with a new respect for Lola and every single yarnie out there.  This is one of those bits of craft that is the perfect mix of technical skill and creativity.

We started with a health and safety briefing (very important!) before Lola ran through the different kinds of dyes and how they work on different kinds of fibres.

The first exercise was applying the same dyes to three different fibre blends to see the differences in how they turn out.  The centre mini-skein here is a pure, superwash merino, where there is good colour definition and crispness.  On the right, a merino/cashmere/nylon blend gives a softer result, with more blending of the colours.  On the left, a 50/50 silk/merino blend has a lighter colour pick up, but the silk makes the colour glow.

We then explored three different dyeing techniqes, and I got to have a go at all of them.

First up was handpainting.

This was definitely the messiest of the three, with the need for clingfilm on the table surface to capture the excess dye and water.  But it has the scope for greater control about the overall result, even if as the dye sets you get to see the colours blend and play together.

Here I aimed for subtlety.  On the left is the test skein, with the final result on the right (with a lower concentration of dye than the test skein giving a paler result).  I was trying to see how subtle you could get, with this mix of sand, baby blue, shell pink, silver grey and brown.

If I’m honest, this was the most labour intensive of the three techniques, and probably my least favourite.  Though I do like this skein – even if it’s less bold than the other two that followed.

Next up was low-water immersion dyeing, where I went for the exact opposite – bold, bright contrasting colours.

Here you lay the skein of yarn out, apply dye powder to the surface, and then add water.  The effect you get depends on how you arrange the yarn and where you apply the dye.  There is much more scope for the colours to break, bleed into one another and generally play around.

This is definitely the way to go if you like bold, variegated yarns with lots of contrast.  It was insanely satisfying to do – from sprinkling the dye powder onto the yarn to poking and prodding it to get the dye into the right nooks and crannies of the skein.  But it takes a lot more dye than the other methods did.

Finally, we did kettle-dyeing, with resist techniques.

This was probably my favourite of the three skeins, both for the end result and for the technique.  This used some resist techniques (twisting the yarn with varying degress of tightness, and then immersing it in successive dye baths.  This colour was built up with a base of sand, followed by blue and then two shades of turquoise on top.  Each colour shows through to varying extents by itself, as well as blending with the other colours.

I had an amazing day, and learned loads.  I loved playing with the dyes and yarns, and it’s definitely something I’d like to do again in the future.  But Lola and fellow yarnies need not fear – I don’t think I will be setting up in competition any time soon.