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.

 

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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.

FO: Imperator Curiosa

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.

FO: Glenallen

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.

 

FO: Ella Funt

There’s another outbreak of babies in the office.  And I have a rule, as you, know, that anyone who works for me gets a baby cardigan knitted for their new arrival.

This is Ella Funt.  Because colourwork elephants are awesome.  The pattern is by Pamela Wynne, and I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino from stash.  Apart from the teal and the grey for the elephants, the remaining colours came from bits of leftovers from other projects.  The buttons were in stash, and probably from Textile Garden.

What’s interesting about this year’s crop of new fathers is that both of them have chosen to take Shared Parental Leave, as it’s the right thing for their families.  And I cannot be more excited to have two such trailblazing men working for me.

They’ve both been really thoughtful about their reasons for taking Shared Parental Leave, and the impact it has had on them personally.  The recipient of this cardigan has been open about how hard he has found it to do in the face of gendered social expectations and anxieties about the impact on his future career.  He hasn’t even felt able to tell his parents yet that he’s taking 5 months off to look after his son.  He explicitly mentioned that it isn’t lost on him that these are the choices and consequences that have historically faced women in the workplace.  The other expectant father in my team has said that one of the reasons he is taking Shared Parental Leave is to challenge assumptions about fatherhood, for the sake of his daughters.  He is frustrated by the teasing he gets for the time he already spends looking after his daughters, which devalues his role, and that of his wife.

I firmly believe one of the best ways we can smash the patriarchy is by changing these assumptions that damage people of all genders.  It brought a tear to my angry feminist eye talking to them both, but I feel more optimistic about the future.

FO: Budleigh

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.

FO: Ficus

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.