Folks are already planning long weekend road trips with the sole purpose of viewing nature's splashy change of seasons. Autumn colors seem to warm our hearts as they delight our eyes. What better way to chase away fall's chilly gusts than a cuddly sweater knit in the warm colors of the season.
If you're in a hurry to wear a little snuggly warmth this early in the fall, a bulky sweater knit in well insulating animal fibers will be too warm for most regions, but a transitional weight cardigan or short sleeve pullover is perfect for this time of year. A sweater knit in plant fibers or blends (think bamboo, cotton, or linen) offers a bit of breathable warmth and is a cozy season spanning piece. Whether you choose colors that welcome autumn or favor a more neutral palette, lightweight sweaters are a most versatile wardrobe staple. Just today as I was craving to knit a sweater to greet the fall experience, Make It Modern, accompanied with bags of Soft Linen and Cotton Bamboo, the yarns used to knit these Classic Elite designs, arrived at our door. The pattern booklet, a collaborative work from several prominent American designers including Kate Gilbert and Pam Allen, is fabulous, the norm for Classic Elite pattern support.
Soft Linen, a scrumptious blend of baby alpaca (the softest!), wool, and linen, introduced in spring '08, is fashioned into several transitional weight projects. The Hoodie, a familiar and functional wardrobe piece, has interesting details - openwork diamonds and a deep slit at the bust with buttons attached, so you can choose your level of modesty. The Feather and Fan Cardigan is a lacy workhorse that will pull together a variety of looks. The easy lacework bodice is a show stopper with the remainder of the body knit downward, allowing an easy adjustment of overall length. The Button Up Shrug that doubles as a shoulder wrap, knit in an easy traditional lace stitch pattern, is quite versatile and eye catching as well. The final Soft Linen pattern is the Little Leaf Scarf, a cunning little adornment requiring a single skein, the perfect project to play with this new yarn on a small scale and a great gift idea as well.
The Cotton Bamboo offerings are true season spanners, warmer than a summer tank or tee, but with the same aptitude for layering. Girl Tank is knit in two versions of garter rib stitch and is simply beautiful. (I want one in several colors.) The Fluttery Sleeve Top has lacy detail on the sleeves, neckline, and around the bottom that will keep the knitting interesting. The satin ribbon tie at the neck is a sweet touch. Although the Smock Top is rated for experienced knitters, the instructions appear quite clear and the cable rib chart is easy to follow. The empire bodice is rich in stitch detail and knit in only two pieces, with little finishing. This design would be flattering to all figures and is written for sizes Extra Small to Extra Large. Cotton Bamboo is a wonderful example of a synergistic blend of fibers, an accomplishment always present in Classic Elite's blended yarns.
I don't have a problem deciding which of the designs in Make It Modern I want to knit; I truly want to knit them all!
Copyright 2008 Kay Mather
When someone comes up with a whole new way of seeing something ordinary, it catches my attention. If an honorary PhD could be given for knitwear design, I would nominate Cat Bordhi, a woman with true vision. She thinks outside the box, then shows us how to explore her new horizons. The woman is a knitwear design genius and is happy to share her insights. Although a very experienced knitter, I still look for designs that teach me something new. A couple of weeks ago, I happened to catch a rerun of Knitty Gritty, originally aired on the DIY network. In this episode, Ms. Bordhi explained a most cunning method of knitting a moebius scarf, based on the geometric shape described by the German mathematician Dr. A. F. Mobius.
For those unfamiliar, a moebius strip is a surface with only one side and only one boundary, a most unusual geometric shape. To make a model, take a strip of paper, twist it one half revolution, then tape the ends together. You now have a moebius strip. If you then trace along the length of the paper, you will go twice the length of your original paper strip. While most knitters create a moebius scarf by knitting a long strip then making a half twist and joining (such as in my example with paper and tape), Ms. Bordhi demonstrated a moebius cast on, setting the stitches up for a bit of magic. On a long circular needle, she effected a cast on where stitches are ready to knit in both directions, knitting both top and bottom simultaneously, on each row. A twist is purposely placed before the join, creating the moebius strip. A marker is placed and she proceeds with another new technique when knitting the first row. As a picture is worth a thousand words, go to www.diynetwork.com for photos and complete instructions for Ms. Bordhi's moebius scarf.
Other projects from Cat Bordhi can be found in her many books. Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles
teaches a technique which frees knitters from double point needles for sock making. In New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book one, she teaches more innovative techniques for knitting socks. A Treasury of Magical Knitting and A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting explore unusual projects that all start with a moebius cast on.
On Kay's Needles
The past several months, we have received reports of the website being down. Luke has been working to remedy this situation and we are moving forward with uploading retail yarn listings. Please check back from time to time as new yarns are being added weekly. Our goal is to become your first on line stop for knitting needs.
Mum and I gave a baby shower for my niece Jessica this past Saturday, so last week I was busy working on a gift that I hoped would not only be practical, but also fun. I designed a pattern of bright stripes of color in eyelash against a background of pure white, all knit on the diagonal in easy and reversible garter stitch. I chose royal blue, lavender, baby yellow, turquoise, and red, colors suitable for either gender, and used washable synthetic yarns, FunFur from Lion Brand for the eyelash and Cascade 220 Superwash, one of my all time favorite yarns for children's items, for the white background. The finished project was both festive and useful, a cute addition to Blake's nursery.
Copyright 2008 Kay Mather
For those familiar with the popular show "What Not to Wear", you know that an unsuspecting woman is surprised by the shows hosts, joined with many of her family and friends, and she is told what a poor sense of style she has. Ouch! Well, I am not going to hand out $5,000 for a new wardrobe, but I do hope to help you make a better choice when deciding on a knitwear pattern.
When knitting for yourself, it is a good idea to pull out your best fitting sweater and take some measurements. Check the bust, waist and hip dimensions, as well as the length from the neckline to the waist. Use these measurements as a guide when choosing what size to make, comparing them to the finished measurements in the pattern. If the pattern doesn't give finished measurements or have a schematic, check the sizing chart on the yarn standards website to see what size best matches your sweater's dimensions.
Now I know at least a few of you are going to skip measuring and use the size marked on the sweater's label. Although there are industry standards for sizing women's and men's clothes, all size 12's are not the same. Where some designers like a tailored fit, others go for something more loose fitting and forgiving. Generally, more expensive lines tend to be more generously cut. Sizing also varies by world geography. When I was flipping through an On Line pattern book not long ago, I noticed that the sizing was not the same as in most American patterns. This prompted me to contact On Line's representative and sure enough, their standard bust sizes were smaller than U.S. Standards for comparable sizes, in most cases.
As you may have noticed, both commercial garment producers and pattern designers have, for the most part, dropped sizing sweaters by the numeric system (i.e. size10, size 36) and have opted to use size ranges (small, medium, large, extra large.) Although these ranges are adequate to obtain a reasonable fit in a bulky pullover, if you choose a pattern with a snug silhouette, it is worth your time to take measurements and check the sizing chart for the closest matching size. You see, where one designer may choose a finished bust measurement of 41 inches for a size large, another may use a 44 inch finished bust. Also, be sure to accommodate your largest measurement. For example, if your bust is in the size small range, but your waist measures comparable to a size medium, you will need to knit the medium. Of course, you may then tweak the pattern for a better fit, if desired.
We go to the effort and expense of knitting a garment not only because we enjoy the craft, but also to make clothing that will be enjoyable to wear. But no matter how great the model looks in that racer back halter, consider your own body before casting on. A few years ago, I knit a gorgeous cropped sweater with expensive French yarn and it has stayed in a cedar chest ever since. As I am self conscious about my tummy, the sweater is simply not flattering on me. In the photo, the sweater was on a dress form and did not appear cropped. Not realizing that the sleeves were only ¾ length, I misjudged the overall length of the garment. Had I taken a closer look at the finished measurements, I could have avoided the costly mistake of knitting a beautiful sweater that I never wear.
For more information on sizing patterns to fit, there are many references available. Most basic knitting books have advice on the subject, as well as many articles on the internet. Of course, your local yarn shop is always there to help you and is your most valuable resource.
On Kay's Needles - This week, I've continued to work on my Fan and Feather stole. By the way, this lace stitch pattern is also known as Old Shale. It's already a pretty piece and I know that once it is properly finished and blocked, it will be a lovely wrap.
The other project I've been working on is a crocheted tote bag for the market. As in the knitted version of this project, I am using Antuco, a bulky weight, hand dyed, 100% cotton yarn from Esther Bitran, allowing this project to be machine washable. After exploring several stitch patterns in different combinations, I decided on a single crochet base with a woven stitch body. I left a stripe of open work (treble crochet chain) to accommodate a wide ribbon trim that can be removed for laundering. I have crocheted the handles separately, to be joined during finishing. The center of the handles are made with single crochets joined into a tube, a technique I developed that is working out very well. Although I considered adding a stitch pattern with a bit of flair around the top of the bag, when I finished with a brick stitch pattern, it added more flare than flair! I went back to the drawing board and finished the bag in the woven stitch pattern, with a lovely result.
Copyright 2008 Karen Mather
Whether you have come across yarn that you just cannot leave behind you in the shop or a pattern simply perfect for your style, pairing yarn to pattern cannot be left to chance. In a perfect world, we would love the yarn recommended by the designer and it would be found only steps away in our favorite color. Not only would it be readily available, but it would cost no more than we would want to spend. But realistically, all too often, that's just not the case. If the pattern is several years old, your chances begin to drop that the yarn is still available and colors are discontinued at even a faster clip than yarns. Also not all shops carry all yarns lines and even if they carry the line, they may not carry all yarns within the line. For example, at Rare Purls, we stock nearly every yarn in the Elsebeth Lavold line and in many colors, yet there are a few yarns we have yet to stock. Of course, most shops are happy to special order yarns in lines they regularly stock, but then there is a wait. In the U.S., most Noro yarns stay back ordered and it can take months to get in a specific color of yarn.
So, as I have discussed in earlier articles, we often find ourselves looking for a suitable substitute yarn. I am not going to rehash how to determine a good substitute yarn by weight. For that, check the Rare Purls archives January 22, 2008 and February 14, 2008. Even when you find a yarn that knits up to the recommended gauge on the suggested size needle, there are other issues to consider. For example, a summer shell is more comfortable in cotton, silk, ramie, or my personal favorites, linen or hemp. Plant fibers are known for being breathably cool. Although linen tends to be a bit pricey, I think it reigns supreme for a skirt with lovely drape, well worth the small investment. A fellow Noble Knitter from my Wednesday evening group completed a tiered skirt knit in Louet's Euroflax that was stunning. It had so much movement and the colors were exceptionally elegant, a real show stopper. Another plus, after multiple washings and even the heat from an iron, the fabric continued to soften and the colors remained true.
For cooler weather, most of us who appreciate fine yarns turn to wool. Wool yarns are available in every weight, a mind boggling array of colors, and in a a variety of styles and blends. Mohair, cashmere, angora and alpaca are also very popular for keeping warm. Alpaca is actually four times warmer than wool, due to its natural hollow core fiber. A sweater knit in sport weight alpaca will be warm without added bulk, something that as a pleasingly plump woman, I adore. These animal fibers can be smooth, thick and thin, boucle, brushed, plied, or woolen. It will not be difficult to find a substitute yarn when working within this most popular group.
But there are many considerations other than matching yarn to a season. I love the look of brushed mohair, but the halo of this fiber adds pounds to my appearance. My friend Kathie knit a sweater in mohair and her dear hubby commented that it looked like "mo' hair" than she needed! When knitting a super bulky pullover, cashmere yarn would be prohibitively expensive, for me at least, and far too warm for my Georgia winters. People who can wear wool without an itch or sneeze, may be miserable with a cloud of angora near their face and nose. There are also practical considerations. A baby blanket for every day use needs to be machine washable and preferably able to weather a dryer, where a woman's scarf is the perfect opportunity to use a luxury fiber, for example a silk or cashmere yarn. Large projects such as afghans need more affordable yarns, if your budget is anything like mine.
Durability is yet another factor to consider. Wool socks will last much longer if 10-25% nylon is blended into the fiber. Where acrylic yarns pill with wear, a plied worsted wool will look great for years to come. Even within the wide range of wool yarns, some, like merino, are better suited for next to the skin, where more coarse fleeces make excellent outerwear.
So, we find a yarn that suits our purpose and will work with our pattern. A final consideration is to pair the yarn with the stitch pattern. If you are working with cables or any stitch pattern that you want to be crisp and textural, a smooth, round yarn will work best. A fuzzy yarn such as chenille would waste the effort required for a fisherman knit sweater. Even a softly textured cotton yarn will change the impressive look of a double moss pattern stitch, where a smooth plied wool will make it pop. Silk is always a good choice to enhance stitch detail.
Although recognized pattern designers will have taken purpose into consideration when recommending a yarn, remember, we do not live in a perfect world. Although I haven't nearly covered every option for when pairing yarn with purpose, I do think you now have some good guidelines. Knit on my friend!!
Next week, I will explore the big wide world of novelty yarns. Don't want to miss it? Subscribe to Kay's Korner - A Knitter's Notes and never miss a featured article. As always, we love hearing from you. If you have a question regarding knitting or crochet or would like to suggest a topic, contact me at email@example.com.
On Kay's Needles - The lace bug has bitten me and even though I have created lovely lace with crochet, my lace knitting has been limited to mostly accents and trims. This week I became inspired and more ambitious and cast on a feather and fan lace stitch stole using Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool in color #14, a muted, soft green. Feather and fan is an easy lace stitch pattern using knit and purl stitches yarn over , and knit two together in only one row of the four row repeats, the other three being either all knit or purl. So easy I can knit it at my Wednesday evening knitting circle, where I talk, listen, and sip, without missing a stitch. I find the Silky Wool a very good choice for beautiful stitch definition. On size 4 US Addi turbos, I'm making excellent progress and enjoying every minute!
Copyright 2008 Karen Mather
Let's face it, new things create some excitement for most of us, whether it's a new baby, a new job, a slim new cell phone, or a new model car. As knitters, new yarns grab our attention season after season. With summer in the air, I look to cotton as my warm weather fiber staple, with soy, hemp, bamboo, and linen close behind.
There are many varieties of cotton yarns from which to choose. Of course they are available in every weight, from tablecloth cotton to bulky, but they are also grouped by where and how the fiber was grown and how it was processed. For example, On Line's Linie 12, familiarly known as Clip, is 100% Mako Egyptian cotton, an extra long staple cotton favored for high end goods, especially bed linens. The long staple length of the fibers makes a superior yarn, as well.
Although the term Egyptian cotton is commonly used in advertising and marketing, the plant which bears this fiber originated in America. In fact, pima cotton, which includes Egyptian, Extra Long Staple, Creole, Sea Island, and other varieties of cotton, is a species of plant that originated in Peru and has been widely cultivated for many years. Along with its value as a fabric fiber, its antifungal and medicinal features cemented its place in American agriculture.
But as cotton is a pesticide intensive crop, it is susceptible to some very aggressive natural enemies. A large percentage of all pesticides used worldwide go to protecting cotton crops. The overwhelming popularity of cotton fiber for clothing and linens, as well as a multitude of other uses, prompted agriculturalists interested in protecting our environment to come up with ways to grow this sustainable fiber organically. Simple crop rotation, the use of natural enemies of the harmful insects, and organic fertilizers have made organic cotton a popular and lucrative crop. From 2003 to 2008, the production of organic cotton grew 22.7% and is expected to grow 15.5% in 2008 alone. To be deemed organic, no pesticides, nonorganic fertilizers, synthetic hormones, irradiation, antibiotics, or genetic engineering can be used in producing the crop. To insure that consumers are truly receiving an eco-friendly product, large producers must be inspected by a third party, USDA accredited agency to be certified organic.
On Kay's Needles
My sister's only son and his wife are expecting a baby boy this fall. Babies are a great reason to get knitting needles clicking! Most baby blanket patterns knit up a little too small for my liking. Even though I was itching to try the new Bebe Cotsoy or Pima Fresca we got in, I opted for Cascade 220 Superwash in a baby blue. Anything for a baby that is washable is doing the new mom a favor. My first attempt, I began knitting my design double stranded on US #13 needles, but about 1/3 way to being finished, I decided the knit fabric was too bulky. I was also using a lot of yarn, as I had already used two 100 gram balls. I unraveled my work and began again using a #8 US Addi Turbo circular and a single strand of the Cascade Superwash. The blanket has a 3 inch double moss stitch border all around with the main stitch pattern being a broken rib. I am so pleased at the delicacy of the smaller stitches - so much more baby like! The blanket will be warm from both the wool fiber and the all over texture, which will insulate. One more stitch pattern repeat and I will add the final border, using only 3 balls for a 29" x 32" blanket. In a few hours, Blake's Blanket will be ready to wrap for a baby shower.
Copyright 2008 Karen Mather