Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mixing It Up.

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Shibui's yarns. According to Ravelry, I've completed ten projects with their yarns, including Heichi (worsted weight raw silk), Staccato (fingering weight super wash merino and silk blend), Silk Cloud (lace weight mohair and silk blend), Linen, Merino Alpaca (worsted weight merino and alpaca blend) and - most recently - Pebble (a lace weight silk, merino and cashmere blend).

Four of these projects feature "mixes" - holding together multiple strands of one or more yarns. Admittedly I've become slightly obsessed with the whole idea of blending the different fibers and textures to create the perfect "yarn" for a project. One of my favorite mix-ins is Silk Cloud. I added it to Heichi for Garance (project details here) and to Staccato and then Merino Alpaca for two Mix No. 9's (project details here and here). Something about that silky mohair, with its fine halo and shimmery core, takes a beautiful yarn and makes it truly stunning. It also plumps up…so instead of knitting with a fingering weight, it's DK, or instead of worsted, it's aran. And that means fewer stitches per inch, resulting in quicker projects.

my Mix No. 9 - Staccato and Silk Cloud
I knit Mix No. 9 for the first time last winter as part of our knit-along. I followed the pattern as written, holding together one strand each of Staccato and Silk Cloud (to make a DK gauge). I'm not gonna lie…it was a lot of knitting (nearly 900 yards on size 7 needles). But it was most definitely worth it. The finished piece is beautiful, wearable, warm (it's gotten lots of use this year!) and stylish. My daughter has borrowed it multiple times, but when I offered to knit one for her but she said "no". She wants to knit it for herself … someday (yes, it's a lot of knitting!)!!
can you see the halo and the shine from the Silk Cloud?
Ah…but she needs the cowl now! So I tweaked the pattern a bit and used a chunkier mix (Merino Alpaca and Silk Cloud, which knits up at an aran gauge), bigger needles (size 10), fewer stitches and a lot less knitting! I was delighted with the project (you can see all the details on my Ravelry page here); and she loves it, too!
her Mix No. 9 - Merino Alpaca and Silk Cloud

Heichi and Silk Cloud would be perfect for another chunky version. I'd suggest size 9 needles and a few more stitches. But if you don't mind all the knitting, I think Pebble and Silk Cloud would be stunning. That mix knits up to a DK weight (which is what the pattern suggests), but I'd still go up a needle size to an 8, and reduce the stitches just a bit.

In summary, here are suggested alternate mixes, skeins, needle and stitch counts. Follow the pattern as written except for these changes (and feel free to ask if you have questions!)

  • Merino Alpaca (4 skeins) and Silk Cloud (2 skeins) - size 10 needle; 52 stitches.
  • Heichi (5 skeins) and Silk Cloud (2 skeins) - size 9 needle; 56 stitches
  • Pebble (4 skeins) and Silk Cloud (3 skeins) - size 8 needle; 64 stitches
Have you tried mixing it up? Which mixes are your favorites? and which ones do you want to try?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beaubourg | Done.

Yep, it's done! finished. seamed. blocked. gifted. and (very poorly! so sorry, Katie!) photographed.

You can see the details on sizing, needles and yarn requirements on my Ravelry project page (here).

I followed the pattern exactly, except for the collar which I picked up and knitted directly onto the neck edge (instead of knitting it separately and then seaming). And it came together beautifully. I especially love the yarn over short rows to shape the shoulders and front neckline. I did think to take photos as I worked them and created a short pictorial to walk you through the technique.

A few other finishing notes:
  • I buried all my ends on the knit side (which is the wrong side of the finished piece) before I started seaming. Note that I joined all the new balls a few stitches in from the sides so my side seams would be smooth. Heichi separates into three strands; I buried each of those strands separately with a sharp needle. 
  • I used Silk & Ivory (from the needlepoint side of the shop) to sew the seams. That thread is sturdy and smooth and made seaming the Heichi almost easy.
  • I worked all the seams in mattress stitch, treating the knit side like the right side. That put my seams on the outside once I turned the garment purl side out. (and yes, that means I had to do a very careful job with them because it's like wearing a garment inside out!)
  • I first seamed both shoulders and then I knit the collar.
  • For the collar, I picked up a multiple of 4 stitches (so I could work the K2/P2 ribbing in the round) beginning at one shoulder. I knit the collar with the knit side facing - just like a regular collar on a stockinette sweater. I bound off in pattern, loosely. I didn't work any special bind off, just loose - but even - tension on the stitches. The collar used a full skein of yarn to be exactly the 6" the pattern suggested.
  • And then I seamed the sides, wove in the last few ends (this sounds quick but it took four hours!) and gave it good 30 minute soak (in the bathroom sink).
  • I smoothed it into place and let it dry. Note that I took this photo early in the drying process. I subsequently unfolded the collar so it wouldn't dry with any kind of crease. (note that Katie isn't wearing the collar folded in the photo above).

And now - the pictorial on working the short rows. We've added a new section to the sidebar to store tutorials like this…hopefully over time we'll have a real catalog. If there are ones you'd like to see added soon, please let us know.

I think that's all I have to say about Beaubourg - except - I wish it were mine! The finished piece feels great and you know silk is one of my favorite fibers. Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope you'll consider knitting this one for yourself!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sundry | Tips to Begin.

Three of us cast on our Sundry shawls at the shop last Friday and I know there are a few more out there! Please do share your progress in our Ravelry group; we'd love to cheer y'all on!

I've used about one-third of my main color yarn, so that means I'm half-way through the main color solid garter section. There are 69 stitches on the needles, but the rows are getting noticeably longer; I'm not sure how many stitches I'll be able to increase before I start the houndstooth section.

The only tip I have to share so far is to mark the right edge of the right side (RS) rows. I'm using a locking stitch marker and I move it up every few inches so I can see it easily. When I start a row at that edge, I know I'm knitting a right side row (with an increase at the beginning). Conversely, when I start a row at the other edge, I know I'll be decreasing at the beginning and increasing at the end.

I am nearly certain I've messed up those increases and decreases somewhere along the 100+ rows I've worked. But I'm completely positive it doesn't matter! I am just weighing my yarn and counting my stitches every few inches so I'll know when to start the houndstooth section.

Isn't that bias edge pretty? (it's the left edge of the RS rows.)

If you have any questions about your Sundry please post them here or on Ravelry. And please - share photos!!

…and now I'm off to start swatching the latest from Shibui.

yep, I do love my job!