One of my favorite yarn reps. is Rosalie Bourke of Classic Elite Yarns. She always brings me great project ideas for our customers and her latest is just perfect for last minute gifts. All it takes is a single hank of Classic Elite Toboggan, a big, fat, squishy, two ply yarn, spun in heavenly soft merino and superfine alpaca. The colors of this super bulky yarn are simply scrumptious and when I say it is a quick project, I mean I started it today and finished it today - that quick!
Start the scarf by cutting (20) 72 inch lengths of Toboggan and putting them aside. Then with a size 10.5 US needle, cast on 11 stitches and work in seed stitch. For those of you more comfortable with formal instructions:
Row 1 and all rows that follow - (Knit 1, purl 1) across, ending with a knit 1 in the last stitch.
Although I had plenty of yarn and continued in seed stitch until I had just enough yarn to bind off, Rosalie says that 12 inches of seed stitch is sufficient for the scarf. Whatever length you choose for the seed stitch scarf center, you will then bind off and attach the long fringes, 10 on each end. Easy peasy!
There you have it - a soft, snazzy scarf in luxury yarn for less than $15 and you can finish it in a day. Ho, ho, ho!
Happy holidays and happy knitting!
With Christmas right around the corner, I am getting loads of requests for quick and easy project ideas, that can be completed in time for the holidays. I rely on two go to stitch patterns for last minute gifts, that never fail to please and impress - double moss stitch and feather and fan lace. They are both simple four row repeats - a snap to memorize and extremely versatile. Their edges do not curl and the knit fabric looks great on both sides! The pattern repeats can easily be adjusted to make projects large and small. I think these MVP's (most valuable patterns) will find a place in your knitting tool box, as well!
A Trio of Quick, Easy Scarves
For unisex scarves, double moss stitch can't be beat! Half the work of seed stitch, double moss serves up great textural interest. It looks fabulous in smooth or thick and thin yarns, in solid colors and multis. Sometimes called double seed stitch, this stitch pattern can also be used for throws, wraps, baby blankets, sweaters, and any number of other projects. I used it as a border pattern in Blake's Baby Blanket, a popular layette item I designed. Double moss stitch takes on a slightly different look, depending on the firmness of the gauge and the yarn with which it is knit. In a looser gauge with a worsted, it resembles a checkerboard pattern, where a fat single ply merino in a firm gauge reminds me of sculpted pile carpet.
Double moss stitch in Queensland Collection Rustic Tweed
The knitting is easy - simply cast on stitches in a multiple of 4 and knit to the length you prefer. For a ladies' holiday scarf with just a hint of eye catching glint, knit Berroco Flicker in double moss stitch on a size 9 US needle to 60 - 70 inches and add some fabulous flowing fringes! For an elegant men's scarf, try Cascade Venezia, a merino silk yarn, in double moss. Cast on 32 stitches and knit in double moss to 55 - 60 inches. Although most men are not crazy about long fringe on their scarves, a short fringe of about 2 inches adds a neat trim to this savvy accessory.
For a super quick scarf, pull out a super bulky yarn and cast on 16 stitches and work in double moss, as is seen in the Limari and Big Wave examples.
Double moss stitch in Araucania Limari and Queensland Collection Big Wave
Double Moss Stitch Pattern
Cast on any multiple of 4 stitches.
Row 1 - *(Knit 2, purl 2) Repeat from * across.
Row 2 - *(Knit 2, purl 2) Repeat from * across.
Row 3 - *(Purl 2, knit 2) Repeat from * across.
Row 4 - *(Purl 2, Knit 2) Repeat from * across.
Feather and Fan in a multi by Ella Rae
Where double moss can be used for both guy's and doll's scarves, feather and fan is usually reserved just for the gals, with the exception of its use in lovely throws for the home. Feather and fan, also known as "old shale", is one of the easiest of all lace patterns. This basic stitch pattern is seen in everything from lace shawls to sweaters and accessories. The single row of yarn overs and knit 2 togethers in the repeat renders eyelets and adds scalloped shaping to your hand knits. As with any stitch pattern with openwork, your yarn will go further, especially if you use a larger needle size than recommended for the yarn.
A single repeat of Feather and Fan in super bulky Limari
Of all the feather and fan projects at Rare Purls, my wrap knit in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool is the perennial favorite. Simply cast on 108 stitches and work in feather and fan on a US 5 or 6 to desired length. I used four hanks for a generously sized wrap, but for a smaller gal, three hanks would suffice.
Feather and Fan Wrap in Silky Wool
Rare Purls Originals Old Shale Project, in the free pattern section at www.rarepurls.net, uses feather and fan as the stitch pattern and three different yarns in single row stripes. There are no ends to weave in from the stripes, as the yarns are carried neatly up the sides. This project gets additional interest from varying the weights of the yarns used. Working up as either a scarf, wide scarf, or wrap size, it is quite a versatile pattern and a great stash buster!
Old Shale Project by Randie Cowan
Feather and Fan Stitch Pattern
Cast on must be in multiplies of 18 stitches.
Row 1 - Knit
Row 2 - Purl
Row 3 - *(Knit 2 together) 3 times, (yarn over, knit 1) 6 times, (knit 2 together) 3 times. Repeat from * across.
Row 4 - Knit
Repeat Rows 1 - 4 for stitch pattern.
Feather and Fan on front and back sides - they both look great!
Copyright November 2012
Recently, I had the privilege of teaching at the first annual Georgia Alpaca Fiber Fest at Callaway Gardens resort in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It was an amazing weekend with so many interesting people, all there to promote Georgia's growing alpaca fiber industry. In recent years, breeding stock have been imported to the U.S., in an effort to establish a domestic alpaca fiber supply and some of these herds have landed right here in Georgia. Although I have often enjoyed knitting with alpaca yarns over the years, the fiber fest gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn more about these interesting animals and their luxurious fiber.
Frolicking young alpaca
Alpaca fiber has been used to make fabric for thousands of years, with over 80% of the world's supply coming from Peru. Whether spun solo or blended with other natural fibers, alpaca brings incredible softness and beauty to hand knits. Although alpaca fiber comes in an array of 28 natural shades, including white, creams, browns, grays, and black, it takes up dye beautifully, making it a favorite of both commercial and hand dyers. At Rare Purls, we have many gorgeous alpaca and alpaca blend yarns in a variety of weights and styles, from lace yarns spun in baby alpaca and silk, to chunky hand painted hanks of baby alpaca boucle'. When a customer gives a squeeze to any one of these skeins, a common reaction is a soft sigh, an eye roll towards heaven, followed up with a grin - it is just that yummy!
Typical alpaca love expression
Yes, alpaca in yarns is equated with luxury and softness, but what you may not know is that it is also durable. Alpaca will knit up into an exquisitely soft and comfortable sock that will stand the test of time. Another characteristic of alpaca is the delightful, subtle halo it lends to knit fabrics. It looks as soft as it feels!
HPKY Boucle', a hand painted baby alpaca yarn
As with any animal fiber, the grade of the alpaca fiber is a consideration. The quality of the fiber can vary greatly depending on the animal and/or herd from which it is shorn. Nutrition and genetics both play an important role in the quality of the fiber. Alpaca are camelids, the same family as camels and llamas, and have a double coat. These timid and good natured mammals are generally sheared once or twice a year during their 15 - 20 year lifespan. The long, bristly, guard hairs are removed from the alpaca fleece during processing, leaving the shorter, finer, more desirable undercoat. This downy fiber can range in fineness from 19 - 20 microns for "royal" alpaca (once reserved for royalty with a fineness similar to cashmere's 16 microns), "baby" alpaca which is 22 -23 microns, to 25 - 26.5 microns for the fibers graded "superfine." (Note - these micron counts are averages.) The alpaca fibers used in hand knitting yarns are usually at least of the superfine grade. It is a fallacy that "baby" alpaca comes only from a cria or yearling alpaca, the terms used to describe an alpaca from birth to the first year. "Baby alpaca" is a term defining the fineness of the fiber, the micron count, and while the fiber does become more coarse as the animal ages, some alpaca produce "baby" grade fiber during their entire lifespan.
Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky
Although there are only two varieties of alpaca, suri and huacaya, 95% of the alpaca population are huacaya (pronounced wuh-Kai-ya) The downy fleece from an huacaya alpaca has a lovely sheen, some crimp, and is incredibly soft. Suri alpaca fleece has long, lustrous locks and due to its rarity is prized, fetching a higher price at market. Neither suri nor huacaya fiber contain lanolin and the fibers are smooth, rather than the scaled structure of sheep wool, making it softer to the touch and without itch, perfect for scarves and other garments worn next to the skin. As the lovely drape of alpaca is not as elastic as sheep wool, it is often knit to a firmer gauge to counter its propensity to stretch when used for garments. Alpaca is frequently blended with other fibers, such as wool, silk, and cotton, to produce soft, lustrous yarns that also include the desirable characteristics of the other fibers.
Suri alpaca fleece
Huacaya alpaca fleece
The hollow core structure of alpaca fiber works as a remarkable insulator. It is exceptionally warm, 2 -3 times warmer than wool fiber of the same weight. A light weight alpaca sweater will be as warm as a bulkier wool sweater and is a good choice for individuals, such as myself, who are carrying around some extra pounds and do not want the visual bulk of a heavy garment. A lace or fingering weight alpaca yarn is perfect for whisper thin lace shawls, that despite their light weight, will still ward off chills.
Les Miserables knit in Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace
As with all natural fibers, the way it is milled can make a huge difference in how the yarn performs. Where fat single plies may tend to pill or shed, a plied yarn with proper twist will help resolve this problem. My friend Heidi knit a hat for her hubby in a chunky black, loosely plied baby alpaca and she reports that it left a fuzzy residue on his shaved bald head after each wear. On the other hand, my teal tunic in Summer Set, a nicely spun and plied, cotton/alpaca blend by Classic Elite, is one of my season spanning favorites. The cotton/alpaca blend is soft and comfortable, with a slight luster and beautiful stitch definition. After dozens of wears, there is no hint of pilling or fuzz.
Classic Elite Summer Set Tunic
Where alpaca are kind to pasture and have sweet dispositions, it takes less land and muscle to farm them than many other large animals. Small herds are popping up across America. With dedicated individuals working to procure a domestic source of alpaca fiber, we are sure to see more and more locally grown alpaca fleeces, rovings, and yarns at regional fiber events. I leave you with this photo of my friend's mother alpaca with her cute little cria, out in their Georgia pasture on a warm day - sigh, eye roll towards heaven, grin
Mother alpaca and cria in summer coats
For more information on Georgia alpaca growers and their annual fiber fest, go to www.gafiberfest.com. I hope to see y'all at next years event, September 13 - 15, 2013. It promises to be packed with even more vendors, classes, and other fibery fun, so save the dates!
Copyright - October 2012
Several years ago, I designed a baby blanket to honor the birth of my grand-nephew, Blake. I was working on it at Noble Knitters, a local knitting group in Metro Atlanta, when several knitters came over from a couple tables down to ooo and ahh over the project. Right then, I had the hint that my design was a winner!
Blake's Baby Blanket
Once complete, Blake's Baby Blanket became a sample knit at Rare Purls, with the pattern link published on the Cascade Yarns website. Since then, over 500 Ravelers have marked the design a "favorite" and many knitters have had great success with the project. It continues to be a favorite project for Rare Purls' customers, as well. Worked up in worsted weight, superwash wool, the baby blanket is cuddly soft. There is really no wrong side, as in some stitch patterns, as both sides look lovely whether used as a cover in the crib or tucked in a car seat or stroller for a cozy ride. Knit in white, it makes a christening blanket worthy of passing down through generations or choose the nursery color or a complementary self striping colorway - they all look great!
Close up of stitch pattern
The best part of this pattern is that it is an easy, peasy knit, yet looks elegant and detailed. Once markers are in place for the pretty double moss stitch border, the knitting is a simple 4 row repeat. Honestly, this project is TV knitting and can be accomplished by even the beginner knitter.
No wrong side to this design
As it is a 4 stitch pattern repeat, the design can be easily modified to make a larger size, by adding stitches and rows in multiples of 4 to the center main section of the pattern. The 3 inch border looks nice on a throw size version, as well, and using the 18 stitches, 6 rows/4 inches gauge, you can change the counts to knit a throw for your sofa or even a topper for a queen size bed.
A lovely design, in any size
Although knitters have made up Blake's Baby Blanket in various yarns, from a soy/organic cotton blend to a budget synthetic, my all time favorite for this project is 220 Superwash by Cascade Yarns, a 4 ply worsted weight yarn in 100% superwash wool. The definition of the stitch pattern is enhanced by the elasticity of the wool and for any baby item, I always recommend an easy care yarn, as busy moms truly appreciate the convenience. And what mom isn't busy?! 220 Superwash retains its good looks after machine laundering (I zip it in a mesh bag) and comes in over 100 great solid colors, including soft heathers, plus a wide variety of multis in their Paints and Quatros (4 shades marled together.) As in all Cascade Yarns, you get a great value on a top quality yarn, for projects that will remain lovely for years to come.
Cascade 220 Superwash
So with no further ado, here is the link to my pattern for Blake's Baby Blanket. Feel free to copy it, share it, knit it, love it!
Copyright Kay Mather
Here in Metro Atlanta, as in hundreds of cities all over the U.S., we are coping with extreme summer heat. A lap full of wool is simply not an option, when the temperatures are in triple digits. I find myself with several days to hang around the house, as the Knox House, home to Rare Purls, is undergoing a mini facelift of sorts. What a wonderful opportunity for some family time and a pleasant little staycation project! The shop recently received a shipment of Sprout, Classic Elite's fabulous bulky yarn in 100% pure, organic cotton and I decided it would be the perfect yarn for my scorching hot 4th of July holiday project.
Classic Elite Sprout
As for the pattern, this past year so many of my friends have had babies or become grandmothers, so with babies on the brain, I looked through Ravelry for a project in Sprout. I came across Bulky Self Fringing Baby Blanket by Jill Bujold for Kaleidoscope Yarns and really liked how the yarn's nubby texture came through in the simple stripes. Luke and I chose 4 pastel colors of Sprout from the shelf and I headed home, happy to have something new to keep my needles clicking over the four day staycation.
Stripe pattern - close up
Soft as a baby's tush and knitting up at a bulky gauge, I love working with Sprout! The thin cotton ply, wrapped around a lofty cotton core serves up a super soft and fluffy, nubby yarn. Honestly, this yarn almost knits itself! Where in some cotton yarns, especially mercerized versions, there is a tendency to split, Sprout has no such issue. From gauge swatch to bind off, this yarn knits up like a dream.
Self fringing edge detail
I also love my choice of pattern. Of course these days, whenever I choose a design for a sample knit, I always consider our customer's preferences, as well. We often have knitters come into the shop looking for a baby blanket project and this one is well within even a beginner knitter's skill set. The six row repeat is easy peasy and the blanket works up surprisingly fast in the bulky cotton yarn. Knit in two row stripes, the yarn is cut at both ends every row, to form the self fringed edges - no finishing! - a big plus. Also, more and more often, we get requests for baby projects in organic yarns and Sprout, from the Classic Elite Verde Collection, is spun in organic Tanguis cotton. Finally, Sprout is easy care and can be machine washed and dried, though note, it is suggested to dry flat when partway through the drying process for best results.
Bulky Self Fringing Baby Blanket
Yes, this baby project is quick, easy, and easy care, but what new mom and baby will love about this blanket is how incredibly soft and lovely it is! The loose gauge makes the fabric extra cuddly, and the colors are delightful. I continued adding more repeats to my project until I ran out of yarn, rendering approximately a 32" X 36" blanket excluding fringe, large enough to take baby through toddler days. I am actually giving some thought to making a grande version of this pattern in a bolder colorway for our den. The guys always enjoy a bit of babying and I can think of no better way to snuggle down for a nap than under a soft, comfy throw knit up in Spout.
Copyright July 2012