A yarnery in Bordeaux

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A three-day stay in Bordeaux for work provided the opportunity to visit a beautiful and inviting yarn store just off rue Sainte-Catherine, called La Lainerie. It displayed one of the most exhaustive offerings of Rowan yarns I’ve come across in France, and the owner Marie-Line was very nice and friendly, providing great conversation. I bought a few balls of Rowan fine tweed (for a little something I have in mind), as well as a skein of Austrian superfine merino, in a gorgeous understated variety of blues.
On the train to Bordeaux and back, I worked on a new project: yet another scarf, in 2-color linen stitch pattern (I’m smitten with this stitch right now!), made with Noro Taiyo 4 ply yarn and some undyed Bluefaced Leicester.

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In pattern

Processed with VSCOcam with e5 presetThe (free) pattern for my Gothika lace shawl has been test knitted, edited, translated and is now available on Ravelry! The thrill! The pride! The gratefulness for all the help and encouragement that has made this possible!
Now I can focus on something else. Like work these fun little square modules that someday will be pieced into a blanket. Or sorting out this huge bin of vintage (plastic mostly) buttons bought last weekend at a jumble sale.

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Proto Gothika (research notes for a shawl)

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetI’ve been wanting to write a pattern for a simple triangular lace shawl for quite some time now. Having knit a Holden shawlette, and an Ashton, I was aware of the wonders simple yarn overs and paired decreases could work, and of the magic a vigorous blocking would impart to what was heretofore a crumpled mass of string and holes. I longed to make something of my own design, using the same simple, time-tested principles.
When I started, I only had in mind (and scribbled in my notebook) two stitch patterns I thought would look great together, since they were both reminiscent of Gothic architecture and carried promises of the kind of romanticism I was aiming for. So without further ado, I started knitting the shawl in Malabrigo sock yarn, thinking I’d write the pattern out once my work was off the needles, as a kind of recipe summarising what I had done.
Of course, as I now know, this is not really the best way of going at this. There are such things as stitch and row pattern cyclicity, that affect for instance the way your border pattern connects to the body of your shawl, that really should be planned beforehand. So while I was knitting a shawl I knew would be flawed in its design, I also started writing down a revised, more methodical version of the pattern I had started improvising months ago.

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I am now left with a beautiful, unique triangular lace shawl which I am very fond of, precisely because of its design flaws, and a more rationally charted pattern I still need to test out before I publish it. Fortunately, my dear friend Vinciane has agreed to help me out. If you too want to test knit the up-and-coming Gothika shawl, just send me a message on Ravelry.

On the fringe

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetIn keeping with my new year’s knitting resolutions, I worked resolutely on my gansey scarf, and boy am I glad this thing is finished. This beauty has been more than two years in the making, not because it was particularly difficult to knit (just purls and knits) but rather because of all the attention the pattern demands. (That, and the fact that I kept cheating on it with other projects…)

worsted140424cThis scarf (more of a wrap in this case) is my interpretation of a scarf found in Toshiyuki Shimada’s Ideas for Double-sided Knitted Scarves, a book that’s chock-full of wonderful projects, exuding that inimitable Japanese knitting aesthetics.
My version is knitted in Blue Sky Alpacas worsted hand dyes, a luxurious blend of royal alpaca and merino, which cost a small fortune, making it one of the most expensive handmade items I own. I remember seeing those skeins at my LYS (Lil Weasel), falling in love with them at first touch, and bringing them home with much anticipation (and guilt). Little did I know I would have to wait two whole years (and two days after that – just for adding the fringe!) before feeling the thing’s hefty drape around my neck and shoulders.
Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetLooking back at the making of this wrap, I remember the endeavor of painstakingly writing out the pattern’s instructions from the chart, row after row after row (I could not read charts at the time). This contrasts with the ease with which I read the pattern’s last rows directly off the chart, and makes me realise how much we learn without even paying attention.

Now I can happily fold my garment, put in the drawer, and wait for colder times to come, when it might actually make sense to wear this.
Because that bugger sure is one big warm mass of wool.

Show and tell (Riddari pride)

Processed with VSCOcam with h1 presetI am here to tell you it is possible.
I am here to tell you you don’t need fancy ambidextrous knitting skills to work a stranded color Icelandic yoke sweater. You just need patience. You just need confidence. You can pick and drop yarns as needed, no one will notice, no one will bother. Just pay attention to being consistent in the way you position your yarns over or under each other (you know, for color dominance purposes). And above all, keep those floats loose.
I am here to tell you the Riddari pattern is a little marvel when it comes to lopapeysa designs, and that though Léttlopi yarn has quite a rough and scratchy feel between your fingers, it makes a wonderful fabric once washed and worn, and really feels like the right stuff for this kind of sweater. And if I can stand the touch of those sleeves on my bare arms then I assure you, so can you. Assuming, of course, you’re not allergic to wool. And not one of those extreme “Princess-and-the-pea” yarn snobs that recoil from the idea of wearing “rustic” wools (and even then, you should give it a try — ask me how I know.)
I am here to tell you that sometimes a pattern states you need 4mm needles and a size M to obtain a sweater that fits you, but the swatch says otherwise, suggesting you should try 5mm needles and knitting an XL version. Have faith in the swatch, have faith in the math. Have faith and knit.
They say you should graft those underarm stitches with Kitchener stitch in order to respect the seamlessness of the sweater. I am here to tell you a three-needle bind off does a very acceptable, sturdy and good-looking job.
I am here to tell you to wear your Riddari like the proud knight you are.

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Oh. I am here also to show off my recent knitting-related splurges…

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Knitpro’s “Box of Joy”, a limited edition set of interchangeable Karbonz circulars (which I love, love, love!!!)
And things I’ve bought at the “Aiguilles en Fête” craft fair in Paris last week:
– Noro silk garden (stashing for a future Pop blanket project), Madelinetosh DK (because the color was gorgeous) and Drops lace and worsted yarn (because I haven’t tried out yet what looks like cheap great quality yarn);
– HiyaHiya sock needles (nudge nudge, wink wink);
– a vintage Kaffe Fassett book (grabbed for a measly 3€!!!);
– and a charming little froggie that’s been fittingly made into a stitch marker.

Let them eat brioche

The brioche scarf has been washed, blocked and fringed, and I must say I’m quite happy with the results. I’m still left with some yarn on the magic ball, and I am taking this as an invitation to add in more scraps as they come, and keep the never ending ball rolling.

In other news, I’ve decided not to start any new knitting before I’ve made satisfactory progress on the following three unfinished objects (I’ve been dragging these along for far too long now). This means:
– finishing the two sleeves of my Lopi sweater (I’m hoping that when this tedious part is done, knitting the yoke in stranded colorwork will be a reward in itself, and the whole thing will get finished fast);
– finishing my gansey scarf (can’t believe that thing was started 2 years ago!);
– joining a new ball of yarn on my seed stitch wrap.

We’ll see how that goes.

Having a ball

worsted140111aWell, another year has gone past, and I’m still knitting strong, and having a ball at it. That’s something to celebrate, I guess.
Speaking of balls: on Tuesday night I made myself one of these magic balls, from worsted weight scrap yarn I had lying around. The living room was full of coloured lengths of string, as I cut and arranged and assembled. I didn’t use the Russian join for attaching the scraps together (which was what the tutorial I was following suggested), but tried instead the double knot technique. It worked really fine (I’d say it’s perfect for this kind of project, but would probably not recommend it for less “scrappy” endeavours). I ended up with a nice big ball of yarn, from which I’ve started knitting a simple brioche scarf for my cousin’s young daughter.

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Now, let me tell you a few things about brioche stitch I wish I’d known way earlier (you’re probably aware of this, but me? fresh experience!):
– although it looks deceivingly like plain 1×1 ribbing, brioche stitch is something entirely else, both structurally and texturally;
– although there are whole sites and books devoted to that sole stitch and its many variations (including the mesmerizing two-colour version), there is nothing overwhelming about brioche. On the contrary, it’s real easy to knit (I’ll say that again: it’s easy). I don’t know why I was so hesitant to give it a try (if you’re in the same case, you might find this tutorial helpful);
– brioche stitch is fast (and I’d even wager that it’s faster than 1×1 ribbing), because, you see, all you’re really doing is slipping and knitting stitches (no purling).

In other news, I spent the holidays with my family in Mauritius, and tried to find some yarn-related stuff. Alas! Though the island has a thriving knitwear industry, it seems to devote no special place to handknitting. I couldn’t find any yarn store, nor any yarn, apart from the usual acrylic and nylon(!) balls on sale in supermarkets.
I did nonetheless buy myself a beautiful, warm men’s woven wool shawl. It was made in India, and is called a lohi (I’m guessing from the name of a sheep breed). I just love it!

Processed with VSCOcam with m2 presetAnd, on a final note: I regularly post my yarn-related findings on Flipboard. Do have a look.