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What Should I Knit With It?

Sorbonne on BFL Aran

I am very, exceptionally, head-over-heels in love with this yarn.  It would take a lot of adjectives to tell you just how much.  This is “Sorbonne,” one of the new Elliebelly colorways, and it pretty much takes my breath away on aran weight Blue Faced Leicester.  The only question I have about it is, what does it want to become?

Elliebelly Sorbonne on BFL Aran

I think I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities, both cowls.  One is Present, a simple free pattern on Ravelry.  It has been in my queue for a very long time, and I think the simple stitch pattern would work nicely with these skeins.

© Koanizee

The other is a pattern that was released in December 2016, Point of Origin.  It involves Brioche, which I’ve not tried, but want to.  Julie Hart is a pattern designer I had not known about before seeing this pattern, but I’m newly in love with all of her designs.  And, she includes fabulous directions for trying out Brioche.

Brioche

© Julie Hart

The bottom line is, I may need to knit one of each because I’m having difficulty deciding between the patterns.  I think I’ll warm up on Present to double check my gauge — BFL Aran is an old friend of mine, so I don’t usually swatch with it — and then try to conquer Brioche at long last.  What would you knit with this yarn?  You may get the chance, as I’m planning on adding a few skeins to my store tomorrow.

On the store front, and I’ll try to avoid TMI, the website is still a work in progress.  There was a bug — a bad one that locked us out of the control panel for several days.  It’s been resolved, but there are still a lot of design issues to work through.  I plan on dealing with that challenge head on and as quickly as possible.  While that work continues, you can find Elliebelly yarn for sale in my Etsy Shop.  I hope you’ll drop by for a look.  There is some yarn and roving in the shop, and I’m adding to it a few times a day.  I appreciate all of the early support and your kind words!  It’s great to be dipping my toes in the water again, but I’m really looking forward to the real opening when the new website is ready.

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Four Elliebelly Projects

Are you looking for something to knit?  Something pretty for yourself or a quick last minute gift?  I've got you covered today, sharing four projects that have been knit with Elliebelly Yarn recently.

Four Projects

The project on the top left is knit from handspun yarn — I dyed the fleece and my incredibly talented Cousin Ann spun the yarn.  But then, it sat around in stash for a long time because it was too pretty, too valuable and I wasn't sure what project would be sufficient to honor it.  The Demiluna shawl turned out to be the perfect answer to that conundrum.  The pattern is versatile — you can adapt it, even late in the game if necessary, to use your yardage.  And its shape makes it very wearable.  Use your handspun!

Pictured on the top right, the I Want You shawl is knit in Elliebelly Rainey Fingering. This is one of my newest yarns, a Silk/Linen/Alpaca blend.  It's wonderful and the perfect weight for wear all through the year.  I adore the sweet edging on this scarf/shawl, and because it's a one-skein wonder, you can knit one fairly quickly as a gift, or spoil someone (yourself?) by knitting it using a sinfully luxurious skein that you would hesitate to buy a sweater quantity of.

In the lower left corner, Trieste Mitts, knit in Elliebelly Big Blue Bulky BFL.  Quick because they are bulky and really warm, squishy, and pretty.  I'm sure I'll be knitting a pair of these on Christmas Eve for one last gift.

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com© Pizza-Ghost

Last, but not least, Anticlastic was written for a worsted weight silk blend, but this project used Elliebelly Seasilk DK and came out perfectly.  If you aren't sure what to do with variegated yarns, this pattern definitely has an answer for you.  It's like a fisherman's net made of silk, which, when wrapped around your neck, is stunningly pretty whether you're wearing jeans or off to something formal.  I'm a huge fan of Seasilk at any weight and I think Anticlastic is the perfect pattern for showing off its many virtues.

I hope you find something fun here to help with your holiday knitting.  Elliebelly will be back in January, but until then, please sign up for announcements about that (and perhaps a giveaway or two) in the box in the upper right hand corner.  Happy Knitting!

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Knitting Quick Christmas Gifts

Over the past few weeks, Amy Miller, one of my favorite knitting pattern designers, has released four patterns for low socks.  They're adorable, and they're quick.

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com

© amymiller

I love all of them, and intend to knit them, but was particularly take with the pattern for It's a Gansey.  Ganseys are hand knit woolen sweaters, worn by fisherman in Britain.  They were knit on tiny needles for warmth and to be waterproof, with shifting patterns that identified their village and family, so their bodies could be returned home for burial in the event of an accident at sea.  These cute little socks change in patterning across the foot, mimicking the traditional approach to knitting a Gansey.  I'm going to follow Ravelry knitter MStephanie2's very clever idea, and knit each patterned band in a different color.

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© elliebelly

From left to right, that's Muslin, Lost Coast, Dear Theodosia, and Lady Mary, all on Elliebelly BFL Constant.

All four of Amy's little sock patterns, found together here, are just right for some quick gift knitting.  I'm envisioning Jimmies in a variegated Paintbrush Yarns and perhaps a quick pair of Netties because the cables (or are they faux cables?) are so sweet. I'm so glad I found these sweet little patterns and can't wait to cast on!

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The Blocked Swatch: My Best Skill As A Knitter

After years of knitting projects that came out different sizes than I expected, I converted to swatching and most importantly, to blocking my swatches.  You always need to swatch. Always. Different needles, changes in your personal gauge over time; it all impacts your knitting.  Unless it's a shawl, and you truly don't care about the finished sized, the couple of hours you invest in proper swatching always pay off.

Unblocked swatch

I'm getting ready to knit the new Two Track sweater pattern in The Plucky Knitter's Lodge Worsted, a yarn spun from 60% Merino, 20% Cotton, 10% Silk, 10% Linen/Flax.  It's my first outing with this new yarn, so a swatch was essential.  A local knitting friend loves this blend and I had purchased some on her recommendation.  This meant I was lucky enough to have it on hand when this pattern came out.  The body of the sweater is written for size 8 needles.  I'm a loose knitter, so I swatched with 7's in the shorter area and 6's in the longer portion of the swatch you see above.

This is how I swatch: Cast on the number of stitches the pattern suggests should equal four inches, plus four additional stitches.  Knit for two rows.  On the next row, knit the first two stitches, purl across and then knit the last two stitches.  Next row, knit all stitches.  Repeat these two rows until you have at least the minimum number of rows the gauge swatch suggests will equal four inches in length, ending with a knit row.  Knit all stitches for two more rows.  You're done!  You've created a two-stitch garter stitch border all the way around the edge of your swatch.  This will keep it from rolling in and make it easier to measure.  Now, measure across the stockinette portion of the swatch and see if you've got four inches.

Measuredswatch

And, predictably, I don't.  I've got something between 3.25 and 3.5 inches, on the size 6 portion of the swatch.  The part knit on size 7 needles is closer to 3.5 inches.  So, you might think I should knit on the size 8 needles the pattern calls for.  But, everything changes radically when the swatch is blocked.

Blocked swatch

This swatch was soaked in sudsy water, rolled in a towel to remove excess moisture, and then pinned.  I treated it just how I'll treat the finished garment.  And look at the stitches open up!  With the silk, linen and cotton content in this yarn, it was fairly predictable that it would grow, and it did.  The swatch is still wet, and I need to let it dry and unpin it before taking its final measurements, but I'm guessing the size 6 needles will be just right.

Note: This process works just as well when you need to swatch a lace pattern or a cable.  If you want to swatch with different sized needles in the same swatch like I did, create a garter row (knit two rows back to back) to demarcate the area in between them.  

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New Yarn & A Bad Old Toe

I came home from a rather interesting week away to some really great yarn mail.  My week was spent in the phenom beautiful landscape of New Mexico, which was dotted with beautiful cacti and pretty little desert flowers.

Cactus

The yarn I came home to, in total contrast, was full of rich colors from The Plucky Knitter's most recent update.

Newplucky

I'm planning on knitting some striped, speckled & solid hats for Christmas presents and think this yarn will be perfect!  Two of the sets are worsted and one is fingering.  I can't wait to start looking for patterns.

There's another project I need to take on.  I had some unplanned, minor, but very annoying toe surgery done last week.  I spent the whole week wearing Birkenstocks with my business suits, probably not the greatest look of all time.  I'm hoping to graduate back to grown up shoes this week, and am wondering about knitting a "big toe sock" for a little bit of extra padding until it stops hurting every time my toe comes into contact with anything firmer than a hand knit sock.

Toe

I'm continuing to alternate knitting (I actually knit through the whole toe mess much to the doctor's amusement) between Grannie Annie, one of my favorite knits of all time, the Paint by Numbers Hat, which I'm trying to avoid knitting too quickly as it's a very fun knit, and my Sjølingstadkofta Sweater (no worries about knitting this one too quickly — it's going to be at least a year).  You can tell I'm on a bit of a Plucky binge — all three of these projects are knit in the Plucky knitter's yarn; Cachet, Scholar, and Oxford, respectively.

There's a reason for all of the Plucky knitting.  I'm looking forward to spending the end of the month at the Plucky Knitter's retreat.  This will be my second year and I'm looking forward to classes on fairisle and the mechanics of knitting, but most importantly to seeing some wonderful friends and making new ones.  I can't wait to get away and knit, while hanging out with people who understand the making dinner doesn't trump finishing those last few rows in a chart!  The retreat is going to be spectacular and a much-needed few days away!

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Knitting Slugs & New Hats

After my very sad swatching fail in linen earlier this week, I consoled myself with some silly knitting.

Slug

This little guy is a Pacific Northwest Banana Slug.  I'm heading out that direction for a knitting retreat later this month, and the group is planning to leave a rout of snails behind for the retreat facility to remember us by.  I used some leftover yarn from various projects, holding two different worsted weights together for the shell to match the gauge of the bulky yarn I used for the slug itself.  The Banana Slug-Snail pattern I used was a little bit confusing, possibly because I was knitting while watching TV in the middle of the night to see if Hurricane Hermine was coming near us, so instead of following the directions for the shell, I knit a 6 stitch I cord, rolled it up and stitched it in place.

Next up?  Swatching for a new striped hat pattern The Plucky Knitter has coming out early next week.  I have lots of great yarn to choose from.

Scholbasket

And then, I've got to search in my studio for some size 1 or 2 needles so I can make a second attempt at getting gauge for my linen hand towel.  I hope I have something in wood on hand, because I find it to be incredibly difficult to run in and out of my local yarn shop just to purchase needles without picking up some new yarn!

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What Comes Next?

Linen yarn, wound for hand towel

In 2006, I bought Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne's Mason Dixon Knitting book the week it came out.  I read it cover to cover, like a novel.  I had been back to knitting casually: a hat here, a scarf there, perhaps a baby sweater, since my third child turned five in 2003 and was given a knitting kit for her birthday.  And it was nothing like the knitting I had done as a child when my Grandmother taught me, or even as a teenager, or more rarely, in college.  It was easy to find great yarn and books of patterns I couldn't wait to knit.  I constantly had a project on the needles.  I had gone through the holding two or three different yarns together to knit a scarf phase, a felting phase, and  a regrettable exercise with some questionable yarn that resulted in a confetti textured baby sweater for a friend's daughter that I still have serious pangs of guilt about.  I was ready to move on, but not quite sure what to.

image from farm2.static.flickr.com

Ravelry, the knitter's Mecca, wasn't in existence when I purchased my copy of Mason Dixon Knitting.  It was that long ago!  And the book changed my entire approach to knitting.  The patterns were useful, lovely, even heirloom quality items.  I was instantly drawn to all of them.  I was particularly drawn to the afghans, but the projects seemed to large for a working mom with three young children.  The Bubbly Curtain called my name as well, but seemed similarly large and unmanageable, despite its practical appeal.  So I settled on a much smaller Moss Stitch Linen hand towel, and purchased the yarn for it, Louet's Euroflax Original sport weight 100% linen.

I moved on to new projects, but I never knit the hand towel.  Inspired by Kay and Ann and their adventurous approach to knitting, I made a cotton dress for my daughter and designed a simple skirt pattern in a riotous array of Be Sweet yarn that my daughter wore every day for a month after I finished it.  Seriously.  Every day.  I was made brave as I read and reread sections of the Mason Dixon knitting book.  The casual can-do approach to knitting inspired me to pick up projects that had previously seemed out of reach. I knit my first pair of socks, fell in love, and knit several more.  I knit a Clapotis, even though it took me months.  It was a wonderful time for me as a knitter!  But still, I never picked up the linen yarn, which was dazzlingly white and very pretty.

Earlier this month, I went searching for that yarn.  Suddenly, I had to knit the hand towel. I reorganized all of my yarn, which lives in cubbies in a walk in closet in my studio.  There it was, in the back of one of the cubbies with my Sanguine Gryphon, waiting for me.

Euroflax

It's wound now, and ready to be my September 1 project.  I know from experience that knitting with linen can be a bit slow for me, so I suspect I'll knit this on and off with other projects.  But I am so excited to be knitting it at long last.  And so grateful to the long ago discovery of a book that his given me so much and continues to give.