The endless joys of yarn pairing

I think most of you know how truly and thoroughly a yarn nerd I am already, so the title of the post should come as no surprise? ūüėČ

Last Monday I showed a few examples of possible yarn pairs for blindingly simple but stunning subtle-y striped shawls like Camomille¬†and Merlot.¬†I got a bit carried away with the process and decided at the last minute that I’d better split the post as my yarn-nerd-ness was getting out of hand!

I’d paired up 2 more, classic grey combos to show you – ‘Colebrooke/¬†BFL/Alpaca‘ and then ‘Colebrooke/Dusty Miller‘ – and then realised how different these two shawls would be due to the properties of the yarns being paired and got really excited!

While the two above look incredibly similar in the skein, the two pairings would create substantially different moods in a shawl!

The BFL/Alpaca combo is more lofty on the right will knit up significantly warmer and ‘fuller’ than the Bloomsbury¬†BFL/Silk, with a sumptuous Alpaca¬†bloom and sponge. It is so warm – even knit as an open lace – that I often find myself overheated with this blend in the mild autumn chill!

In the pairing with Bloomsbury (right) the 80% BFL makes stitches hold a bit more crisply¬†open and the extra silk adds to Westminter’s already substantial drape giving a slightly more dressy (formal/evening wear) feel to the shawl.¬†Both could be worn to dress up last winter’s coat OR over a party dress for a holiday event, but the subtle difference lets you tailor for personality.

You would never think it just looking at the skeins, which look quite similar at first glance, would you?

I first discovered the joys of yarn pairing when knitting Helga Isager’s¬†Nightingale Vest.

It was amazing how even adding a single thin strand of lace to otherwise rather unpleasant feeling sock yarn transformed the fabric into something much greater than its parts (knitting gestalt)!

Yarn pairing is amazing and opens up a world of possibility in stash busting. Add a strand of another yarn and you can create amazing colour effects like heathering and ombre – like in Antonia Shankland’s¬†Kinetic cowl below which starts with 2 strands of the same colour, moves to two strands of 2 different colours for a gradient, then back to 2 strands of the new colour:

Or even change the drape and handle of a yarn and counteract a less desirable trait by blending to better suit your pattern – create more drape, LESS drape and more structure, or add a fuzzy soft halo for an feminine ‘sweater-girl’ twist.

Fun AND useful!


Best knit vest EVER!

I finally got my wish on Sunday as light levels were at long last high enough for me to document my Silver Bells, otherwise known as Helga Isager’s Nightingale Vest.
Now I might have been a little exuberant with the title as it is the only one I have knit up to this point, but it was so satisfying to knit with all those sculptural bells, and is so satisfying to wear as well, that I am standing by the claim (until proven otherwise)! The bell texture on the front of the vest is thick and squishy, but also very flattering as it acts a bit like ribbing so is rather figure hugging in all the right ways!

I was told at a recent knit night that it has to be seen on to be believed, so here we go:
You can see how the vest snugs in even though it was knit without any waist shaping.

It also keeps its shaping when open, due to the fab twisted stitch on the back of the vest. Love how boldly defined this stitch is.

Here it is unbuttoned.
It is very feminine and¬†flattering¬†without being too frilly, and is perfect to wear over this season’s smock-y dresses or toughened up with some jeans and boots.

My mods were to shorten it a bell, start the arms one bell lower and the neck shaping a bell after that (this will make sense if you are looking at the pattern!). I also finished the buttonband with i-cord buttonholes instead of knitting them in. This was my first try at these and they are a keeper for future projects, as the cord creates a nice clean edge around the whole band and the buttonholes are nearly invisible when not in use. A very nice detail to add on this one.


All in all I feel this little vest is going to be a wardrobe staple for a good many years! Success. 

Soggy recap

I have been wearing the hell out of my Dragonflies jumper since finishing it in March. This thing really has been worth its weight in gold as the weather has been freezing in the UK and it has been keeping me warm nearly daily.

We had an unusually bright day on Monday so I managed to get it photographed after giving it a good shave to make it look fresh again.
dragonflies_jumper_Kettle_Yarn_ Co
Unfortunately the weather turned back to cold and wet the next day so I haven’t been able to get some decent photos of my Silver Bells, which now is completely finished with shell buttons. The best I could do was this low light blurred mess below!

Let’s all pretend it is a ‘romantic shot’, k? ¬†ūüėČ

Silver Bells – part V…buttons, buttons, buttons

I managed to sort out the shoulders the other night on my Nightingale which, in the end, was really quite painless since I could clearly see where I had gone wrong.
Some of you might notice I didn’t bother with the kitchener seam on the back neck, as I really couldn’t bear the idea of having to do it again, so just did a simple 3 needle bind off.

Here are two funny things –
1. I only realised a couple night ago (from looking up other examples of the arm edgings) that my buttonband is actually narrower than it is supposed to be by about half and I hadn’t noticed until now! Oops.

2. Oh, and remember the first row of bells that I had screwed up and was bemoaning ages ago?

I completely forgot all about it after that post and no longer see it anymore. The only thing that jogged my memory was seeing the post on the tag list. How funny is that?? Hah!

It just goes to show that all the (k)nitpicking is for nowt (as my darling Scots would say. I spent a weekend with the in-laws recently and my speech is still peppered with lovely little brogue-ish things!).

I had to take advantage of the relatively warm day today and blocked the vest first thing and laid it in the sun so it would dry quickly. I am really pleased that the lace alpaca strand bloomed beautifully! How pretty are the fuzzy bells?
It is amazing how much one tiny strand of alpaca can add so much to a project!

The Phildar wool/nylon on it’s own was frankly somewhat unpleasant as it contains 30% nylon and feels rather lifeless (it is STRONG though). Adding the 2ply baby alpaca completely transformed the fabric. It is now silky and has a bit of drape along with all that lovely bloom.

(I love this alpaca and am definitely adding it to my dyeing bases. It dyes up with the most beautiful shimmer and will make gorgeous shawls! And now that I know what adding it to other yarns can do I will be using it for everything!)

Only buttonband/buttons left to sort out on my little Silver Bells so nearly,¬†nearly there…

Silver bells – part IV…otherwise known as oooph.

Oooph is the sound I made when after 3+ hours of trying to kitchener stich a mere inch of 1×1 rib I discovered after a steam block that the back of my vest is too wide/ugly! Like a kick in the guts. ¬†;-?

Lets backtrack a little and highlight the positive. I am nearly there and the neck didn’t cause me too much grief – though I did re-do the top of one side 3 times to get it down to a 3 bell finish. Overall the front neckline passes muster.

Now the negative. The back of the neck is too wide or something, likely as my back  seams to be narrower than my front. I believe the problem stems from my absolutely brilliant idea to try and add a bit of shaping on to the back. What a mistake. (what a knob)

Look at the top of the vest below. See anything funny?
vest v1
May I present exhibit one, oh jury of the court?

exhibit 1


Note the way the bastard seam curls over to the front? Oh, and if you look closely above, note how the back neck looks a little wavy, like it might be a titch too wide? Yeah. Great. Let the oophing commence.

And below is the horrific kitchener seam at the back of the neck which took so much pain and suffering.kitchener
You may be saying ‘it doesn’t look too bad, what is she going on about?’. This is because I also went over bits and duplicate stitched to fake it so that it would look better. All of which I now have to laboriously unpick. Grr. Hisss.

I am tempted to throw in the towel on today as I just don’t feel I can stand any more disappointment, though feel that maybe I should switch to sewing and tackle the bias tape I have been avoiding. (It appears that though I love the look of bias binding, I hate the process!)
Above is its current state.

I think it best to leave it for the day though.


Silver bells part III

Things are going slowly and somewhat painfully on both the sewing and knit fronts. I am still working on the fitting for my Sorbetto.


Though I think I may have finally cracked the right shaping for the centre back this morning. Fingers crossed this is the last tweak! The sewing is exhausting!

On the knit front, I have finally gotten one side of my Nightingale Vest front finished this weekend.
neck back

I have pretty well had to fudge the neckline and now have to immediately do the other side before I forget what I have done for the simultaneous arm and neck decreases! This is only my second time doing a v-neck, so feeling pretty nervous about it.

Think it looks about right, though I worry that I am missing something and won’t realise until I go to join front and back. I also noticed that the pattern doesn’t do any shaping for the back of the neck, which makes me a little paranoid. Shouldn’t there be short rows to shape the round at the back?

Hmmm. What do you guys think? Have you done any vests that were straight across the back neck?

I am champing at the bit to start a few more projects and have been planning and dyeing new yarn for the day I can cast on.

Oh. And frogging. This is what is left of my Schnabu.
habu n_80

I am stubbornly determined to find the perfect pattern for this yarn and think (hope) Organic by Ankestrick will be the one. Maybe next weekend I will get to find out…

Silver bells part II

After nearly 4 hours spent on a train Saturday merely travelling to and from Leytonstone in East London to Croydon in South London my little vest has grown and is now halfway to the armhole!
I have decided¬†to make my¬†Nightingale Vest¬†one bell shorter¬†and start the neckline V a bell later as per Strikkemus’¬†suggestions¬†in her project notes (I agree that the proportions will be a bit cuter that way and that the neck looks a bit long as is).

This is the plan:
Starting the neck and arm decreases at the same time on row 8. I’d considered adding a bit of light waist shaping, but then realised I had already reached the waist at that point and it was too late. Hey ho.

Three glitches thus far, though live-able. Firstly, I got so engrossed in getting everything set up that I missed the first buttonhole, so have decided snaps it is! Second, I misread the set up instructions and added a crossed stitch right next to the last bell in the front panel so have this now:
Luckily it just makes the bell on that side roll a bit more prominently which then hides the extra crossed row, so it is ok. Phew.

The other glitch is a little less ok. I somehow threw in a K2tog instead of an SSK in the row leading to the next bell…in the very first row!! And didn’t realise until I was a few bells up. ūüė¶
Peh. I am hoping to do a bit of duplicate stitch magic at the end and hope it works!

Silver bells

I have been a bit manic with projects and planning lately but couldn’t resist casting on for my Nightingale Vest¬†(by Helga Isager)¬†as it is the perfect weather for it right now – getting warmer but still pretty chill in the shade. A warm little vest would be perfect for throwing over a little dress! This is another pattern from The Bird Collection book.

I decided to start working through my stash which has been growing in leaps and bound as I test yarn bases for dyeing (it is a little frightening. But in a good way!). I decided to use the warm beige Phildar Preface (70 Wool/30 Nylon) I picked up on clearance in France last summer and am pairing it with some Alpaca 2ply lace that I dyed a lovely light cool silver (right);
By itself the Preface isn’t the nicest feeling yarn with all that nylon (very strong for socks, though!), but amazingly, when you add a strand of alpaca to it the resulting fabric is a beautiful silky/spongy ¬†one with good body. As you can see below, the stitch definition is divine!
twisted stitch
It is really interesting how the two different coloured yarns work together for the bell stitch in the pattern. The way I have done the cast on for the bell stitches creates a silver stripe along the base of the bells.
I did end up charting the stitch pattern, just to see it visually, but it is very simple and common sense when you have run through it once.Very clever, this stitch. I love how sculptural the fabric is. So amazing and fun to knit.

Be forewarned, though, the pattern itself has a number of glitches – stitch miscounts and some omissions in the instructions, so you do have to keep your wits about you. I have read from the other projects that the arm hole decreases are funny as well, so am hoping it isn’t too bad!
But did I mention, pretty? Look at those little nubbies! So cute.