Monday, May 31, 2010

Cool yarns for hot days: 1

(ETA: faulty links in the post have been fixed...sorry about that!)

Only the first of June, and much of North America has already had its first heat wave (although our West Coast spring has been cool and damp). Knitting with wool or alpaca isn’t very appealing when the mercury’s over 90, so how about some linen, hemp, or bamboo?

Yarns in these fibers aren’t hard to find these days, but many of us haven’t tried them. I find them cool and pleasant to handle – just the thing for hot-weather knitting.

hemp-and-linen Elann Canapone (hemp), Euroflax Paris (laceweight linen)

Hemp and linen garments are soft, drapey and cool to the touch – wonderful to wear in hot weather, especially if they have a bit of ease so they don’t cling too tightly. An added bonus is that they may be machine washed and dried – the more you do it, the softer they get. This Lacy Little Top I made for my daughter several years ago took a lot of punishment and always looked and felt great.


P1400095 Good yarns for projects like this are Louet Euroflax Sport Weight (at left, 100% linen) and Hemp for Knitting Allhemp 3 and Allhemp 6 (100% hemp, fingering or DK weight). Elann has a pure linen sportweight coming on June 8 (Lino Pura). There are also some great blends – Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy (cotton/hemp/modal, DK weight); Knit Picks CotLin (cotton/linen); and several DK cotton/linen blends by Elann (Cotone Lin, Sula, Camila). When you touch these yarns in the skein, they feel a bit crisp and stiff – but the process of winding the yarn, and handling it as you knit, softens it. Keeping your tension on the loose side will make knitting with them a pleasant experience.

image Simple shapes and stitches look good in linen and hemp; so do unusual “architectural” details. A few pattern suggestions: Julie Weisenberger of Cocoknits has a talent for sheer, summery designs in linen and cotton yarns – how about the sleeveless Liesl tank top/dress in Euroflax linen? Very chic design – sheer stockinette stitch with an asymmetrical handkerchief hem and pockets. Then there’s the pretty button-back Kathy’s Knot Garden Tank (right) in Allhemp 3 and last summer’s hit Buttercup (free pattern), a top in Hempathy with short puffed sleeves and feather-and-fan lace yoke. Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Petal Halter is a tank top in a DK cotton/linen blend with curving tiers of stockinette, but it could be knit in any blend containing linen, hemp or bamboo. Here’s a beautiful version by soknitpicky in three colors.

If you’re up for a larger project, skirts and dresses are a possibility. Gudrun Johnston’s Little Black Dress  and Hip in Hemp elastic-waist skirt are two good options, both in Hempathy, both free. Hip in Hemp uses rippling stripes in several colors – very exuberant and summery. Sized for girls or women.

Both Knitty and Interweave Knits have published patterns for bamboo, hemp and linen yarns over the years – to find them, check the Knitfinder pattern indexes and type “bamboo” “linen” or “hemp” into the yarn column search box. Hemp for Knitting has great pattern support for their yarns, and you can buy any pattern online over at Patternfish and download it immediately – find all the patterns here.

Linen in particular is great for lace garments or accents, especially in finer weights.  Need inspiration? How about wakana’s Butterfly camisole, Khakigirl’s Fancy summer tank, Aniko’s Counterpane Blouse from the current (Summer 2010) issue of Interweave Knits (Ravelry pattern link) and knittwopurltwo’s Wakame Lace tunic?

Designs featuring texture and color techniques work too – just take a look at Aniko’s Linen Eastlake and the Roped Shells by u22grumpy and titianknitter.

I don’t want to sign off without mentioning an unusual cotton yarn I love: cotton gima from Habu Textiles.  It’s a narrow, light cotton ribbon that almost looks like paper. Knitted up, it looks crisp, but feels soft. This is color 53, called "oak.”


There are several elegant top and cardigan patterns for this yarn. The Leah Tunic (free over at Purl Bee) is a long tank top with a draped neckline knitted at 7 stitches to the inch. Julie Weisenberger’s Gretel is the same idea, but knitted at a sheer open gauge of 19 stitches/4 inches:

The Gisela cardigan, also from Cocoknits, uses the same yarn at an even more open gauge (17 stitches/4”). Photos do not do this design justice; I tried it on once at a Habu trunk show (along with several other people) – it looked great on everyone. Cotton gima is inexpensive, and at these gauges it goes a long way – the yarn for these designs in average sizes may be had for under $30.

More ideas for these hot-weather yarns in the next couple of posts – non-clothing projects, lace, and more. Stay tuned—and keep cool!


Almost forgot: in case you missed the news flash elsewhere, I did finish my handspun shawl. Ugly duckling that it was, blocking turned it into a swan. Here’s the Ravelry link.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Perennial Question

Can she do it?


49 rows to go on Miralda’s Triangular Shawl. It doesn’t look promising, even though they get shorter and shorter. If I run out, here’s my option:


I’m knitting with my handspun for the first time, and that there is the remains (appropriate word) left on the second bobbin after plying all of the first one. I wound it off into a ball thinking I’d ply the rest of it from the two ball ends, but that didn’t go well – you can see why! “Energized” would be a kind word here.

(Furthermore, when I went over to the Ravelry pattern page to get the link for this post, I saw the errata for the first time. I wondered about that bit of asymmetry in the nupp diamond chart, but didn’t wonder hard enough to go looking for corrections.)

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday pattern roundup

The roundup was AWOL last week, but we’re back! First, Julie Nandorfy’s pretty Bell Flower Boogie socks (free Ravelry download).  A lacy Japanese stitch pattern that stands out beautifully against a garter-stitch ground. Knitted toe-up with a gusset and heel flap; written in two sizes.

Next, incredibly cute overalls for toddlers from Whit’s Knits (Whitney Van Nes) at the Purl Bee – knitted in 2 skeins of sportweight Euroflax linen. Surprisingly stylish, and think how comfy and cool they would be! Tough enough to stand up to toddler play, too. Simple stockinette stitch with hemmed edges and buttoned straps; legs are knitted in the round. Free pattern on the website has great tutorial photos. They’d be cute with short legs, too, like an old-fashioned sunsuit (remember those?)

Here’s a new shawl from Sivia HardingOphidian, a refined triangle that combines undulating textural lace with beads and garter stitch. Knitted neck down; uses 380 yards of either fingering or DK-weight yarn. $7.50 download. Here’s a closeup of the stitch pattern:

photo: Alex Tinsely

Now, a floaty cap-sleeved or 3/4-sleeved cardigan that looks like it came straight from the pages of an Anthropologie catalog – Carol Feller’s Adrift. Knitted in Malabrigo lace – wouldn’t that feel wonderful? - from the neck down in stockinette stitch with raglan shoulders, a bit of waist shaping, and long front panels that hang in graceful points or may be pinned closed. I have a similar long-sleeved cardigan that really did come from Anthropologie that’s one of my favorite things to wear. Irresistible in rich orange. $5.95 download; there’s a knitalong just starting, too. Here’s the Ravelry page.

Closing with another sock pattern. Did you see these knee socks with contrast cables from the Prada fall runway show? Jen Molloy has reverse-engineered a free pattern. Ribbed sock with contrast cuff, toe, heel, and front-center cable. Knitted from the cuff down; the cable is knit at the same time, but with no intarsia-style twisting of yarns. When you get to the cable stitches, the yarn is at the wrong side, but she simply carried it across the back to the right – brilliant. Here are Jen’s socks, in elegant black an gray Regia silk, but how about black with a red cable, or charcoal with mustard, like the others in the show?

Until next time…happy knitting (and queueing).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

TGI Sunday

I’m in the home stretch of what’s been a month of difficult, brain-busting book indexing projects – still another week to go, though, and today’s my only day off for the foreseeable future. I started the day with coffee on the porch, listening to the quails talking to each other, and did a little gardening – I can’t stand the idea of spending much time inside, let alone in front of a computer screen, today, so I’m just going to show you the bit of knitting and spinning finished up this week.
First the Brandywine shawl. Rosemary Hill’s design is simple , quick and elegant, and better yet, most of the pattern sales go to Doctors Without Borders for Haiti relief efforts. She’s already sent them $10,500, just from the sales of this one pattern! If you haven’t already done so, go buy it and knit one for yourself or to give away. Our local knit group has finished a dozen or so total – we’re hoping to enter them to be displayed en masse in our county fair.
Mine is knitted in Habu Tsumugi silk – a laceweight tweedy raw silk. I have no other shawls in this kind of texture – love the way it looks and feels. The shawl is knitted from the lower point up and out to the top edge. It’s finished with an interesting purled i-cord bindoff that perfectly matches the weight of the slanting decrease lines and the K2tog that forms the last stitch of the side edgings:
Last night I finished plying the Corriedale wool I’ve been spinning this last couple of weeks – after coffee this morning I wound it off and washed the skein. It’s by far the most evenly spun and plied yarn I’ve managed to produce – I’m thrilled. The colors are gorgeous (the fiber was bought from Royale Hare). And I’ve got about 300 yards/150grams of nice worsted weight for some small project. Because it’s 3 colors, one after the other, I’m thinking I’ll wind it into a center-pull ball and knit stripes, alternating ends as the whim takes me.
P1390138 P1390142
What should I knit with it – got a brilliant idea for me? ETA: Ilga Leja's Haiti Scarf might be just the thing. Or how about a BSJ? I haven't knit one yet - is 300 yards enough?
Signing off to head back outdoors – with tea and knitting.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday pattern roundup

We begin with a beautiful, original colorwork design - Robin Melanson’s Gothic Snowfall sweater, first published in last fall’s St.-Denis Yarns magazine, now available as a single-pattern  download from Patternfish. It’s a seamless modified raglan – worked in the round, but without steeks. It has waist shaping, stylish bracelet-length sleeves (which I love – I’m always pushing my sleeves up), and color patterning with a strong vertical panel effect. And the deep waistband, cuffs, and striking yoke/collar are done in two-color brioche rib (called Shaker rib in the pattern). Written for sportweight wool (St.-Denis Nordique), but I’m thinking about knitting it in fingering=weight yarn for a slightly lighter sweater. $7.00 download, only at Patternfish. (The magazine is still available as well; you can get it here and probably elsewhere too.)

Now, some socks – I’ve been remiss about including sock patterns in these roundups (I knit very few of them myself). I love stripes, and here’s a great striped sock pattern with a couple of twists from Susan LuniBurning Stripes. Done in two colorways of Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball, or any sock yarn with long color changes, it’s a cuff-down design with a cool boomerang heel (a short-row heel with some refinements, explained here) and a nifty back “seam” stitch that hides the color jog in a creative way. $2.50 Ravelry download until later this week, when a revised pattern with more sizes will be published at $3.99.

image image

OK, now I’m going out on a limb. This next design won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s lovely and original, even if not wearable by just anyone. It’s Bells by Maria Leigh, a graceful cropped, short-sleeved cardigan in ethereal mohair (Rowan Kidsilk Haze, Elann Silken Kydd or the like) patterned all over with bold, textural  - well, bells.
It’s worked from bottom to top, seamlessly, with a garter-stitch yoke and a single button to close it at the front neck. I think it would be great on a slim person like my 19-year-old daughter; a girls’ version would be cute too. $8.00 download; here’s the Ravelry link.
This week’s lace: more mohair, a lovely free pattern from, the Dancing Crane stole by Shui Kuen Kozinski and Benne Ferrell. Knitted sideways in Japanese Feather lace with 3 balls of Silken Kydd – you can buy a yarn pack for it for $15.00 here.

Another sweater – this one a versatile short-sleeved “layering piece,” as they say – the Lilas Cardigan by Hilary Smith Callis. It’s a top-down, seamless raglan cardigan with short sleeves, handsome texture details, and a big, flattering foldover collar. Knitted in worsted-weight cotton. I’d throw this on all the time. $5.00 download here.

Let’s finish up with a little whimsy – these Felted Flower Bowls from Meg Myers are irresistible and would be really handy around the house. Great way to use up leftover bits, too – they take about 65 yards of worsted-weight feltable wool. Knitted from outer edge to center in the round; free Ravelry download.