I love summer knitting! Every spring, I look forward to the bumper crop of plant fiber yarns and the new colors and patterns that go with them. Although I include cotton, bamboo, and rayon in my knitting year 'round, there is one plant fiber that shouts summer to me - linen.
A summer cardigan knit in Classic Elite's Bella Lino
There is science behind the comfort of linen. Where linen fabric absorbs 20 times its weight in moisture before feeling damp, it keeps us comfortable on hot summer days. Of all the natural fibers, linen has the most absorbency. Linen garments feel cool to our skin and as the fibers wick away moisture, the subsequent evaporative cooling further boosts our comfort level.
Self fringing scarf in Firefly, a linen/rayon blend
Linen yarn is spun from the fiber of the flax plant, the first fiber man used to create fabric all the way back in the Stone Age. The royal mummies in Egyptian tombs are wrapped in linen. Our colonists brought flax seeds on their voyages from Europe, to ensure themselves a supply of this most durable fiber in the New World. That we still turn to linen for quality clothing and home décor items is a testament to its timeless beauty, comfort, and usefulness.
Bias scarf by Susan Mills in Bella Lino
Where my mother reserved linen clothing for Memorial Day to Labor Day, we are no longer tied to such restrictions in etiquette. We choose outfits that are fashionable and comfortable for the climate and occasion. Linen garments are full of character and interest, that only improves with time. It is naturally non-allergenic, antistatic, and antibacterial. Known for durability, linen fibers actually soften with wear and laundering. Add to that, linen takes dye beautifully. Yes, linen reigns as queen of the plant fibers for many reasons.
Talulah, back view
Recently, I knit a snazzy flared tunic in Classic Elite Bella Lino, a lovely linen/cotton blend yarn. The pattern is Talulah, a charming design by Susan Mills, from Classic Elite's Oceanside collection. This garment has an interesting construction and great details. The cotton content gives this yarn a softer hand than 100% linen yarns right out of the skein, while the linen adds textural interest. The subtle thick/thin texture of Bella Lino adds whimsy to simple stitches and it knits up into beautifully blended stripes. The gals at my knitting group loved it!
Me staying cool in linen
Copyright August 2015
The Color Block Bias Wrap from Classic Elite Yarns is a perfect example of simple elegance in a hand knit. The chic design combines bold blocks of soft neutrals with minimalist shaping, to create a wrap that exudes luxury, whether huddling 'round the fireplace apres ski or charming donors at a charity gala. But the great looks are only part of the story. Knit in undyed baby alpaca and bamboo, this wrap is amazingly soft and cushy. The simple, bias stockinette stitch pattern pairs with the sumptious, natural fiber yarn, to create a gratifying, quick knit accessory. What's not to love?!
This cuddly topper by Suzanne Shaw is knit in MountainTop Chalet by Classic Elite Yarns. The yummy yarn is spun from an exquisitely soft blend of natural, undyed, baby alpaca and bamboo. The luxuriously soft fibers are milled in a chainette construction, resulting in a lofty yarn with impressive yardage. Chalet knits up at a bulky or super bulky gauge, depending on the needle size used. The chainette construction strengthens the yarn, while lowering both cost per yard and garment weight.
Where the fine fibers in Chalet have no itch, this garment can be worn comfortably next to the skin. The lovely drape of this bulky yarn renders a wrap that wears like a gentle hug. As alpaca is considerably warmer than wool, this cuddly wrap is a definite chill chaser. Toss it over your bare shoulders with a little black dress and you are ready for a fashionable evening on the town or wear it scrunched as a scarf with a pullover for a casual look. However you decide to sport this wrap, the striking color blocks are sure to prompt admiring glances.
The Color Block Bias Wrap pattern calls for six 50 gram hanks of Classic Elite Chalet, two each in Steel, Slate, and Charcoal. The colorwork is easy, only shifting to the next block of color, when there is not enough yarn remaining in a hank to complete another row. If you prefer a different combination, Chalet is available in a palette of eight lovely neutrals that are as soft as the yarn is inviting. For a more colorful combo, check out Chalet's cousin Chateau, basically the same yarn, but dyed in 15 beautifully vibrant, saturated colors.
Considering its generous 72" X 18" dimensions, this wrap knit up quickly and the simple shaping was easy peasy! To get the gauge of 10 stitches/16 rows per 4 inch square, I needed a size US 15 needle, rather than the suggested US 13. The large needles and bulky yarn had the bias stockinette simply flying off my needles. This fabulous project was virtually knit and wear, with only a dozen ends to weave in at finishing.
The Color Block Bias Wrap is an eye catching accessory you will be reaching for again and again. Your friends will want to know where you got it and your knitting friends will want the pattern. This project is truly happy knitting!
The pattern for Color Block Bias Wrap is from the popular five pattern collection, Classic Elite Handmade in Los Angeles I. The single pattern is available as a download on Ravelry for $6 or $15.95 for the 5 pattern, e-book download.
Copyright March 2015, Kay Mather
This season's trending accessory is a sassy, colorful scarf and the bigger, the better. Everywhere I go, I see bright, bold scarves and both the guys and dolls are wearing them. Oversized cowls, infinity scarves, and the super long, striped scarves with wide swaths of color are all real head turners. Of course, the fabulous hand knit varieties, with creativity oozing out of every stitch, are what catch my eye most. Triangular, shawlette style scarves are on many a knitter's needles and they, too, are going oversized. By blending not only colors, but also yarns and fibers, clever knitters are producing some very fashionable results!
Feza Yarns Alp Premiere blends various fibers in a hank for a quick and easy knit
The pastels in this oversized cowl truly flatters this model's fair complexion
Whatever style of scarf you choose, accessories should draw attention to our best features, not simply coordinate with an outfit. As scarves are worn so close to our faces, their colors have the ability to complement our eye, skin, and hair color. Where people of color look striking in bright chartreuse and saturated golds, fair skinned lasses glow in nearly all pinks and soft blues. Natural redheads can look stunning in warm browns and soft greens. A woman with silvery gray hair will look striking wearing the same gray near her face, especially with a blue red lip color and a brush of blush. Brunettes easily carry off saturated reds and navy, even after their hair has grayed, and a royal blue cowl is sure to make blue eyes dazzle.
The blue colorway of this moebius scarf always fetches compliments on my eyes
Teal has a way of looking great on most everyone!
If you are not sure which scarves look best on you, the mirror is your go to tool! Get in front of a large, well lighted mirror and hold up your various scarves near your face. You can then see how they rate, without a coordinating outfit to support them. You will surely find that some, while lovely, do not present you to your best advantage, where others will work synergistic magic with your coloring. We all have colors we love, but there are also colors that love us back. I have my customers use the same mirror trick, when buying yarn for scarves.
Once you find which of your accessories flatter most, be sure to utilize them. All too often, scarves get stuck in drawers and are overlooked, even forgotten. I love my sister's organizational idea of hanging her scarves on the inside of her coat closet door. When she is headed out for the day, Cathy can easily choose which scarf works with her outfit. By simply adding a few hooks or rods to keep your scarf assortment at eye level, you can add the perfect accent to your outfit in a flash.
My brunette friend Andrea really pulls off this bright colorway!
But even the most pulled together outfit can be upstaged, when a fashion faux pas steals the show. A sagging hem, overlooked stain, or flawed hosiery can neutralize the appeal of the snazziest accessory. A tip I learned from my Mum is to hang a long mirror, where you can easily take a final head to toe look before heading out for the day or an evening out. When you leave the house confident in your look, that confidence will surely be your most fetching accessory!
For some of my favorite, easy scarf patterns, go to
A trio of quick and easy scarves
Copyright January 2015
Kay's Korner - A Knitter's Notes - In Mourning Dr. William H. Mather, Sr. - January 5, 1949 - August 28, 2014November 3rd, 2014
In the months since my last post, I lost my beloved husband, Bill. He became much more ill this past summer and succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis on August 28, 2014. This issue is devoted to the love story of how a simple wool sweater helped to bind two people together, two people who went on to be married for 34 incredible years. Next month, Kay's Korner will be back to my usual knitterly wisdom.
When the paramedics whisked Bill to the E.R. last August, on the way out the door I grabbed my purse, as well as my knitting bag. Knitting is soothing to me and I hoped it would make the wait go easier. But during those last weeks with my husband, I found no solace in knitting. I had been working on a pair of socks for Bill and when I realized that he would never get to wear them, I put my knitting aside. From the moment of that realization, I spent our remaining days together, being fully attentive to my beloved and his needs.
Now, some months later, I am still trying to make sense of all that has happened, how life can change dramatically in such a short time. But Bill knew me so very well and in those last weeks, he assured me that my knitting and knitting friends would help see me through this unwanted transition. He told me that with support, eventually I would come to terms with a life without him and get back to the people and things I love. I am not there yet, but work towards it each day, knowing it was what he wanted for me.
Though he often helped out at the shop, Bill was quick to say he knew little about yarn or knitting, but he did have a fondness for knitters and hand knits, especially the hand knit socks that filled his drawer. He often would hike up his pants leg, to show off a pair of snazzy socks I had made him. Knitting had been a part of our relationship from our first year together, why we kept an old, but still handsome, wool sweater hung on one of the walls at Rare Purls. It was a boyfriend sweater, to be sure, knitted as a statement of my love for and commitment to the wonderful man I would soon follow halfway around the world to marry. (Bill was an active duty physician for the U.S. Navy at the time and we were married in Tokyo, Japan.) Not an elegant sweater, this garment was knit in a light brown, wool worsted, including a bit of itch if worn without a tee. Knit in my early 20's, this sweater had stretched my skills as a knitter, yet happily, it had turned out so well.
Yes, Bill truly loved that sweater! He loved that I had made something special just for him and wore it with great pride for years, until middle age and the good life added a size to his build. But the sweater always remained a part of our story and he enjoyed telling people, especially knitters, how this sweater had helped convince him that I was the woman he wanted to marry. This modest, cabled pullover had showed him the practical and devoted sides of the young divorcee' he was dating.
So many years later, Bill continued to appreciate my knitting skills. He was very proud of Rare Purls, our family specialty yarn business that our son, Luke, and I started in 2006. My husband was always happy to help out, doing whatever he could to help make Rare Purls a success.
Dad winding yarn at Rare Purls
Sadly, in 2013, Bill was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, an awful disease with no cure. He pushed on as long as he could, carrying an oxygen concentrator on a shoulder strap, so he could come spend time with me at the shop. In our last months together, the suite in our basement, previously my workshop, became our living quarters, as stairs had become too taxing for Bill's lungs. The bins of brightly painted yarns and containers filled with every size and type of needle were replaced with medical equipment. The spinning wheel went into storage to make room for a bed. Though not ideal, we made do and cozied into the space, so happy just to be together. That time ended all too soon.
Over the past weeks, I have been converting that room back into a workshop. When sorting through the yarns, I keep coming across hanks put aside to make something for Bill, feeling more than a little regret that I didn't make those projects for him more a priority. There is a beautiful, alpaca tweed yarn set aside for another cardigan vest and several great skeins for even more socks for his drawer, but I never even started those projects. Often, I would put knitting samples for the shop before my personal knitting, figuring that in 10 years, I would retire and there would be plenty enough time then.
If there is any wisdom to share, gleaned from my recent experiences, it is not to put things off, figuring there will be time later. People we love should always be a priority.
Rest in peace, dear husband. If there is yarn in heaven, I promise to knit you that vest when I join you there. For 36 years, you gave me an exciting, wonderful life, filled with so much love and adventure. I never expected our time together to end so soon. I will love you and miss you, my sweet, brilliant, truly better half, for the rest of my days.
Copyright Sept. 2014
Living in the Deep South, I like to wear clothes in layers, keeping me comfortably prepared for when the mercury climbs. I also like to wear the projects I knit, so I look for lovely yarns in natural fibers that breathe, as they are perfect for knitting garments and accessories to layer. There are several yarns and patterns that have won their way into my spring/summer queue and after hearing about them, perhaps you, too, will enjoy knitting some of these cool and comfy summer projects!
Talulah - front view
My first pick for the season is Talulah, a new pattern from Classic Elite Yarns Oceanside collection. Talulah is knit in Bella Lino, a beautiful, sport weight, linen/cotton blend yarn that knits up into a lovely, subtly striping pattern. The colorways are simply gorgeous! Although this yarn is not so soft right from the ball, the blend of sustainable fibers will soften more and more with wear and machine laundering. Talulah is a top down design with raglan shaping, with a section of short rows at the back neck, lowering the neck in the front a bit, cleverly improving both the look and the fit. After the front and back sections are knit, godets are picked up at the sides, adding a terrific striping detail and a flattering flare to the body of the garment.
Talulah - back view
In my home state of Georgia, we are very proud of Tallulah Falls, a splendid, natural wonder in the far northeast corner of the state. Just below the falls is Tallulah Gorge, which inspired me to name my rendition of Susan Mill's design Talulah Gorgeous. Although the stitch patterns used in this design are easy, the godet detail and short row shaping make this a project for the intermediate knitter. Using US 5 needles and sport weight yarn, Talulah is not a quick knit, but I think you will find the finished project well worth the effort. The durable good looks of the linen/cotton Bella Lino will keep you reaching for Talulah for many years to come!
At one of our knit nights, the Weekend Wrap pattern by Julie Weisenberger caught my eye. My friend Lori showed me her copy of the pattern and immediately, I knew this easy, unstructured garment was right up my alley! The lightweight, stylish topper offers a modern take on vests. It is named Weekend Wrap as it is the perfect project for a weekend of knitting. It can be completed just that quickly, even in the suggested fingering weight yarn. The openwork is created by using much larger than usual needles for fine yarns - US 17 needles - rather than lace stitches, making this a very easy knit. After viewing the impressive number of Weekend Wrap projects on Ravelry, I tucked away 4 balls of Sublime Tussah Silk in black and added it to my Ravelry knitting queue.
Another project in my summer queue is the Gyre Cardigan, a design from the esteemed designer, Norah Gaughan. Gyre Cardigan is a fabulous design from Interweave Knits Spring 2014 issue, knit in Berroco Linus, an interesting tape yarn with surprising yardage. I often experiment by substituting yarns in patterns and initially considered using some stashed Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool for this project, but after further consideration, I knew Ms. Gaughan had surely picked this unusual new yarn with very good reasons. The blend of linen, rayon, and synthetic fibers has a nice drape and knits up into a savvy, season spanning topper that is sure to turn heads.
Gyre Cardigan - back view
Around the top section are decorative eyelets where the stitch count increases. Dropped stitches form the openwork bodice in this stunning, near circular, garment. Though Linus comes in a lovely palette of colors, I chose the color Blackbird for my project, the same as in Interweave Knits. An off black accessory will go with most everything and is, of course, quite slimming! I will be sure to share photos and my experience of knitting Gyre Cardigan, when it is completed.
Berroco Linus color card
Copyright July 5, 2014