Hydrangea Story

Hello!

Why do we knit? Or rather, why do I knit? (I can only ever speak for myself.) Sometimes it is because I want something to wear that I can’t find in the shops. Other times it is because I want to give someone else a knitted embrace, toasty feet or warm hands. Often it is because I need something to occupy my hands and soothe my mind. Or I see a pattern and think: That is so beautiful – I’d love to make something like that!

This time it was the yarn that did it. The yarn in the photo above. It is a new Rowan yarn called ‘Felted Tweed Colour’ – a sibling to their all-time favourite ‘Felted Tweed’, but now in a slow gradient of colours. The palette was developed by the famous designer Kaffe Fassett. As soon as I saw it, I thought: Wow, those colours!

I chose the colourway called ‘Frost’. It doesn’t remind me of frost, snow or ice at all, however. It reminds me of hydrangeas. Maybe you remember my blog post about cycling to Giethoorn this summer, when I took this picture:

A few days ago, I popped over to Giethoorn again. This is the same spot at this time of the year:

Here the hydrangeas have lost all their colour. In other places there are only lacy skeletons left:

But some hydrangeas have retained their colour and just become more muted than in summer:

It’s these that the ‘Frost’ yarn reminded me of.

And what did I do with the hydrangea yarn? I combined it with some Kidsilk Haze to knit another Story Lines shawl. At first I thought of using some pale pink from my stash:

But then I decided that the contrast was too strong and chose a purple shade called Dewberry instead.

I took the finished shawl along to Giethoorn and asked Albert Mol if he was okay with being my model. Listening carefully I thought I could hear him say: ‘Of course darling. Fabulous idea!’ (Albert was a very gay person in every sense of the word.)

In hindsight I think a little more contrast would have been a good thing. In some places the Felted Tweed is exactly the same shade as the Kidsilk Haze. The stripes are visible, but don’t stand out very much.

The back view below shows how the Felted Tweed Colour yarn moves gradually from one colour to the next, forming wide stripes.

I’ve given this shawl a wider garter stitch band at the end. Neither the Romantic Ruffle nor the Dainty Droplets I used for the other two Story Lines shawls (shown in this blog post) seemed right for this yarn. I used the Basic Bind-off also described in the pattern instead.

Some of you may remember Albert Mol. For those of you who have never heard of him, he was a Dutch dancer, writer, actor and comedian. Giethoorn has honoured him with a statue because of his role in the 1958 comedy film Fanfare that was shot in the village. As there are many people in Giethoorn going by the name of Mol, I suppose he must have family roots here as well.

Part of the action takes place in Café Fanfare, which hasn’t changed much since then:

Fanfare is about two rivalling local brass bands that both want to win a competition and are prepared to do anything to prevent the other band from winning. It is in black and white and obviously rather old-fashioned, but still great fun.

Just like Café Fanfare, the rest of Giethoorn (called Lagerwiede in the film) is still very much like it was back in 1958, too.

If you feel like watching some fun slow tv on a dreary December day, Fanfare can be viewed here on YouTube, with English subtitles. (Albert Mol plays the role of one of the conductors, much younger than his bronze statue and without beard.)

And in case you’d like to make a similar Story Lines shawl, it takes 2 skeins of Felted Tweed Colour and 2 skeins of Kidsilk Haze. The Story Lines pattern can be found here on Ravelry, and my notes about the hydrangea version here.

I wish you an enjoyable weekend, with something fun to do, watch and/or knit!

Making a Twisted Fringe

Hello!

We’ve had a lot of rather gloomy days here lately. I don’t mean gloomy because of the current coronavirus situation, although there is that too, but literally so gloomy that we need to keep the lights on all day.

We haven’t actually had a lot of rain. It’s just that on many days it’s been cloudy and grey.

I don’t really mind, and even enjoy the quiet atmosphere of some of these days. For me, the problem is that there often isn’t enough light to take pictures indoors, while the table on the patio is too wet to spread my knitting out on.

But last Sunday suddenly the sun came out.

I quickly set to work, because I wanted to show you how to make a twisted fringe. I’d finished knitting my Striped Linen Stitch Wrap. In this project, every row starts and ends with a yarn tail. In the basic pattern these are knotted into a fringe, but a later adaptation has a twisted fringe and that was what I wanted to try.

The yarn I used was Rowan’s Felted Tweed, a blend of lightly felted wool, viscose and alpaca. Because I wasn’t sure if the technique would work for this combination of fibres, I tried it out on a swatch first, and yes, it worked! This is how it’s done step by step.

1) Pin the end of the wrap to blocking mats.

The yarn ends were tied into bundles during the knitting. These are now undone one by one.

While twisting the ends, they need to be kept in place. The pattern uses a binder clip for this, but as I didn’t have any of those, I used a hair clip and a T-pin.

2) Undo a fringe bundle. Find the next 4 tails (they should be twisted in the order they were knitted).

3) Twist the first 2 tails together in the same direction as the twist of the yarn (i.e. to the right). Continue until they are slightly overtwisted.

4) Secure with a clip and pin onto the blocking mat with a T-pin.

5) Twist the next 2 tails in the same way and hold. Unclip the first 2 twisted tails. Tie both sets of tails together with an overhand knot as close to the ends as possible and let go. They will now twist together. Smooth this twist by passing it between thumb and forefinger several times.

Continue like this until all yarn tails have been twisted. Then repeat steps 1-5 for the other end of the wrap. Remove the wrap from the blocking mats and place it on an ironing board. Comb out the ends so that they are straight and not crossing each other.

6) Spray the fringe with a plant mister.

7) Cover it with a clean, moist tea towel. (Make sure it’s an old one that won’t give off any colour.)

8) Then, with the iron on the wool and steam setting, press the fringe with lots of STEAM.

Repeat for the other end of the wrap and leave to dry thoroughly. The tails should now be slightly felted, preventing them from untwisting.

9) Place the wrap with one fringe on the end of a table top. Make sure that the wrap is placed straight and straighten out the tails. Then cut off the knots at the length of the shortest tail.

I used a quilting ruler to make sure I cut the tails off straight.

There, all done! This is a great finish for a scarf or wrap. It’s really lovely to see the colours combined differently in each tiny barber-pole tail.

I’m really happy with this wrap and at the same time slightly sad that it’s finished. Many of the things I knit are for others, but I’m keeping this one. I’ve loved working on it and will miss the soothing rhythm of slipping and knitting, slipping and knitting many, many stitches.

Now I’m hoping for colder weather so that I can wear it. It’s a strange autumn. The pelargoniums and lobelias in our outdoor pots are still flowering and it’s the end of November! Still, we’ve had some night frost…

… and more wintry weather is expected for this weekend.

In case you’d like to knit a wrap like this, the pattern is called Striped Linen Stitch Wrap & Scarf (there is also a smaller scarf version) and can be found here on the designer’s website and here on Ravelry. The free adaptation for the twisted fringe can be found here.

Well, I hope that just looking at this warm wrap with its colourful fringe has warmed and lifted your heart a little. Take care! xxx

Story Lines

Hello!

It won’t come as a surprise that I love knitting. To me (and I know to some of you, too), seeing a knitting project grow stitch by stitch and row by row is immensely satisfying. Although I haven’t written much about books until last week, I love reading a good story just as much.

Now I’ve combined the two and knit a story in the shape of a shawl! Or rather two shawls, knit along the same lines but telling different stories.

The watery blue version of Story Lines, as I’ve named the design, tells the saga of a drowned village.

It is a slightly asymmetrical triangle that starts off on a light and airy note – transparent stocking stitch stripes with widely spaced out garter stitch lines. Later on, the plot thickens and the lines are knit closer together.

A village really did drown in the lake where these pictures were taken.

It was the village of Beulake. Extensive peat extraction had already made the area vulnerable. And when the dykes broke during a storm in 1776, Beulake disappeared beneath the waves. Only the church, where the villagers had fled to, was spared.

Fortunately no lives were lost, but the people who lost their homes must have shed a few tears. A row of Dainty Droplets seemed a fitting ending for this shawl.

Although the basic pattern is the same, the other shawl I knit has a different tale to tell. In fiery reds, it tells a love story from a time long gone by.

This story is set against the backdrop of a castle ruin, not far from the lake of the drowned village.

It is Toutenburg, the remains of a medieval castle in the town of Vollenhove. An utterly romantic spot. There is a moat around it, with a lovely fountain.

This version of Story Lines needed a different ending – a Romantic Ruffle. I’m not really a ruffle-y type, so I’ve kept it modest.

Story Lines is a very easy knit. The only reason I wouldn’t recommend it to an absolute beginner is that the thinner of the yarns used takes a little experience to handle.

The design combines two types of yarn: a lace-weight mohair/silk blend and a fingering-weight single-ply merino yarn – 1 skein (50 g) of the former and 1 skein (100 g) of the latter.

The yarns I used for both shawls come from an indie dyer in my little corner of the world. She creates many gorgeous colours. Below you can see the mohair/silk blend I used on the left, the 1-ply merino on the right:

‘My’ indie dyer is happy to ship world-wide,  but those of you not living in the Netherlands could also look for yarn closer to home. Here is a list of very similar yarns from indie dyers all over the world:

  • Canada: Lichen and Lace (Marsh Mohair/1-Ply Superwash Merino Fingering-Weight)
  • France: La Bien Aimée (Mohair Silk/Merino Singles)
  • Germany: Walk Collection (Kid Mohair Lace/Cottage Merino)
  • Ireland: Hedgehog Fibres (Kidsilk Lace/Skinny Singles)
  • Norway: Norne (Kid Silk/Singles)
  • Sweden: Fru Valborg (Fuzzy Mohair/Merino Singles)
  • UK: Qing (Kid Mohair Silk/Merino Singles)
  • US, New York: The Wandering Flock (Laceweight Mohair Silk/Fingering Weight Singles)
  • US, Oregon: Ritual Dyes (Fae/Crone)

Some people find a triangle a difficult shape to wear and I understand. Worn in a traditional way it can look old-fashioned. But it can be worn in so many ways, as already shown in some of the pictures above. Here are some more ideas.

Worn nonchalantly with the two long ends on one side:

Rolled up with the point at the back of the neck inside, worn much like a rectangular scarf:

With the ends knotted loosely:

Or scrunched up cosily:

The shawl has a versatile shape and can tell many different stories, depending on the colours chosen. Choose icy shades for an arctic adventure, greys for a ghost story, greens for a jungle book, or………………… The possibilities are endless.

If you’d like to knit your own Story Lines,

you can find the pattern HERE ON RAVELRY

In addition to the Dainty Droplets and Romantic Ruffle shown here, the pattern also includes instructions for a Basic Bind-off that ties everything up neatly. And there is a Dutch as well as an English-language version.

Well, that brings us to the end of today’s story. Thank you so much, dear photographer, for your patience and for capturing everything so well. And thank you, dear friends near and far, for reading and for your always kind support!

Thinking about Flow

Hello!

(Because I think it would interrupt the flow of this blog post too much to insert links into the actual text, I’ve added a list at the bottom.)

It was yarn that first made me think about flow. Two skeins of a beautiful blue-green yarn hand dyed by Catharina at Wolverhalen. I chose this colour first of all because it caught my eye. The name – Flow – was of secondary importance, but it did catch my attention.

I asked Catharina about it, and she told me that she dyes a whole series of colours named for states of mind. Flow is one of them. Others are Positivity, Wisdom, Joy, Passion, Faith, and Stillness.

Flow… What exactly is it? It makes me think of water.

It also makes me think of  somebody with the unpronounceable name Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In my previous life as a translator, I’ve translated many psychology books and articles. During my background reading, I repeatedly came across his research.

In his famous book Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (that I haven’t read), he defines flow as: ‘…the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter…’ It is a particular kind of focus that seems to lead to intense feelings of happiness.

Am I ever in a state of flow? I don’t really know.

I used the flow yarn to knit another Thús 2 – a design I published in November last year.

Am I in flow when I’m knitting? Or when I’m designing a pattern?

Or when I’m faffing about with photography?

Or when I’m writing? Or when I’m doing other things entirely? Yes, no, well, maybe, sometimes…

Flow as a yarn colour is something that makes me happy. Flow as a state of mind is something I’d like to know more about. Are people generally aware of being in this flow state? What does it take to get there?

Flow is also a Dutch magazine that I sometimes buy. In the editors’ words, it is about ‘Celebrating creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures’. This is the first issue of 2021.

There used to be and English edition as well, but they’ve recently stopped publishing that. They do still have an interesting English-language website, and back issues and specials are still available.

My favourite articles in the latest issue are about navigating life in uncertain times and about tools for people working from home. And the item about Aheneah, a Portuguese artist who does cross stitch on a large scale, made me smile.

The message Aheneah gives off with her installations is to think outside the box and look at one’s roots and traditional techniques as things that can be transformed in unexpected ways and so given a new lease of life.

I’m ending today’s post with a poem by Wilder Poetry that really spoke to me. It comes from the Flow ‘Calm Down’ special.

Thank you for reading!

If you’d like to read more (or knit your own Thús 2), here is a list of links:

Saturday Knitting

Hello! This week I’m writing from a white and frosty village. We’re not entirely snowed in, but last Sunday we were treated to a beautiful thick blanket of snow, blown up into dunes here and there by strong gusts of icy wind. And because it’s stayed (far) below freezing even during the daytime, the snow is still here. A rarity nowadays and utterly lovely!

Before anything else, I need to show you this. The snow-shovel guy reversed and drove up several times specially so that I would be able to take a good picture for my blog.

Thank you Mister Snow Shoveler! Enjoy your moment of fame 😊!

It’s tempting to natter on about the snow, but I have made quite a bit of progress on the knitting front, and I’d like to talk about that, too. So let’s do that first, and have a few more snow pictures afterwards.

Recently, I wrote a very long post about my possible need for a little more focus. I don’t know if you’ve been able to plough through it all, but one of the insights I gained from a book I read on the topic was: ‘Different (knitting) tasks use different parts of the brain’. I realized that for certain aspects of my knitting projects, I needed to find moments during the week when the active thinking part of my brain would be fresh.

Saturday seemed like a good time, especially Saturday mornings. So I thought about what I would like to accomplish and noted it in my planner. The first thing I wanted to focus on was the sleeve cap of my Panel Debate cardigan. A puzzle because I’d enlarged the armhole and could no longer follow the pattern – how could I make a sleeve cap that would fit into the armhole and around my shoulder?

Spending several hours tinkering with it with a well-rested brain really worked.

I finished the sleeve cap. And using the parts of my brain that do the more automatic tasks, I was able to almost finish the rest of the sleeve in the evenings. Yes, progress!

The next task I wanted to tackle was finishing one of my UFOs (UnFinished knitting Objects that have been lying around for a long time). I chose a scarf and wrote that down in my planner for the next Saturday.

All I needed to do was weave in the ends and give it a Spa Treatment. Here it is, doing a stretching exercise after its bubble bath.

As always, the transformation was magical – the lacey holes opened up nicely, and the rest of the knitted fabric did too.

Before blocking
After blocking

This is what the scarf looks like when ‘worn’.

It is the Polka Dot Scarf by the Churchmouse design team. The pattern describes two sizes and I made the larger one. The yarn I used is Debbie Bliss ‘Rialto lace’, a very soft merino.

For a long time I disliked polka dots. I think it was because of that horrible sixties song about the Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Do you know it? But these subtle ‘dots’ made me overcome that.

Looking around for matching things for pictures of the scarf, I discovered that I actually have several other items with polka and other dots.

All in all this has become a generous airy shawl that will make a lovely gift for someone. Happy with it.

I’m also happy with my new Saturday knitting plan. Being able to make considerable progress with such a small adjustment to my life, has really given me a positive boost. In addition to these two projects, I have even made some progress on a new design of my own.

Until now, this winter I have felt sort of lost on Saturdays, with nowhere to go and no one to visit. This focused Saturday knitting has also solved that. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up once we get back to a more ‘normal’ life and the gardening season starts again. But I won’t look too far ahead.

For the time being the garden doesn’t need anything doing to it. All I need to do at the moment is admire the hyacinths I planted in pots in November…

… enjoy looking at snow-covered shapes, like the dead flower heads of the Marjoram…

… and feed and talk to the birds.

I hope you’re all snug and safe, wherever you are. Bye for now, and ‘see’ you again soon!

Thús 2

Hello!

How are things going in your part of the world? I really hope that you are safe and well, and have enough to do to keep your hands occupied and your mind free from too many worries.

Here, in the Netherlands, we are still spending an inordinate amount of time at home, or thús, as the Frisians say. And what better thing to do at home than knit? It’s utterly comforting and relaxing. Plus you end up with something nice for yourself or someone else.

So, high time for a new version of Thús, a pattern I published earlier this year. Here it is – Thús 2!

The original version of Thús was a one-skein project, with an all-over stitch pattern of rows of interconnected houses.

Thús 2 is covered in the same tiny houses, but is wider and longer. And it is a scarf instead of a loop – a bigger symbolic hug for yourself, a friend or a relative.

I hate having my pictures taken, but my beloved photographer was patient, I called upon my inner Doutzen Kroes (who also grew up in Friesland, by the way), and we actually ended up with a few in which my eyes aren’t closed.

Thús 2 is long enough to be worn wrapped around the neck.

Or folded in half with the ends pulled through the loop.

Thús 2 may look like a lot of knitting, but it isn’t really. It takes four 50-gram balls of fingering-weight yarn. That is the same quantity as two pairs of socks. I won’t say it is done in a jiffy, but on 3.5 mm (US 4) needles it is a fairly quick knit. And an enjoyable one, too, I think/hope.

The yarn I used is Pascuali ‘Balayage’, a blend of 20% organic merino wool and 80% baby alpaca. The wool is certified organic. The alpaca isn’t certified, but is produced sustainably. Both fibres are produced in Peru, where the yarn is also spun and dyed.

This was a delicious yarn to knit with! (I’m not sponsored to say this – it is my own honest opinion.) It is very, very soft and smooth. To my mind, the yarn has the best of both worlds. It has the drape and smoothness of alpaca, but thanks to the wool content it isn’t as ‘limp’ as 100% alpaca can be. I think it is ideal for lace and will also show up other stitch patterns very well. I don’t agree with the yarn producer that it is suitable for Fair Isle knitting, though. Imho it is too slippery and not stretchy enough for that.

Something that doesn’t show in my dark plummy shade, is that part of the alpaca is grey, which gives the lighter shades a lovely heathered look.

Although I have a shade card (I love shade cards!) it works best for me to choose colours in real life, in the skein or ball. From the rainbow of gorgeous colours at the not-so-tiny-anymore yarn shop I recently wrote about, I chose a shade called ‘Lima’ after the capital of Peru.

What always helps me choose, is seeing colours in relation to each other. Take the gradient of pinks and purples below. Lima is on the darker end of the spectrum. Compared to the burgundy to the right of it and the eggplant to the left, it isn’t really purple or red, but something in between.

I made this Thús 2 for a friend, in lieu of a real hug. She has a cardi in the same kind of red-purple that looks very good on her, and I am fairly confident that she’ll like it.

(That I wrote about the yarn I used in so much detail, is just because I’m a little obsessed with yarn. Please don’t feel that you have to use the exact same yarn if you’d like to make a scarf like mine – 200 grams of another, similar fingering-weight yarn will be fine, too.)

Here is a tip for starting a new ball and weaving in the ends invisibly. (This also applies to the original version, and any other shawl or scarf with garter stitch edgings.) In my experience the best place to do this is on the inside of the narrow bands of garter stitch along the long sides. This is what I mean on the wrong side:

And if that picture isn’t clear enough, this is the place indicated on the right side (the actual weaving-in is done on the wrong side).

Well, I think that is all I can tell you about it for now. After the original Thús, I hope you like Thús 2, too.

Oh, and like the original version, Thús 2 is a free pattern – a small positive gesture in this challenging time. If you’d like to take some positive action in return, please consider making a donation to an organisation supporting refugees, other homeless people, or children/adults in unsafe home situations.

Thús 2 can be downloaded here from Ravelry
(available in English AND Dutch, also to non-Ravelry members)

Thank you and happy knitting!

In-Between-Projects Project

Pale, medium and dark grey, with a some clear blue thrown in now and then – that’s February skies. For people in the Southern hemisphere, like some of my relatives and friends, it’s a different story, of course. But if you’re in the North and tired of dreary days, I hope this blogpost will work as a spot of colour therapy.

A long time ago, I bought a big bag full of alpaca yarn. Single balls in many different colours and some neutrals to offset all that brightness. I was going to crochet a granny square blanket, something like this:

After crocheting just a few squares I realized that the yarn wasn’t suitable. At least not to my taste. It had zero elasticity, which meant that it lacked the squishiness and coziness factor that a blanket needs. It was also very smooth and slippery, and I was afraid that all those woven in ends would soon unravel.

I put the yarn away until I had a better idea for it.

Many years later, I thought of starting an ‘in-between-projects project’ – something simple to knit while I was finishing another project, to prevent that from becoming a UFO. Something that I could easily put aside when I was ready to start something new, and pick up again when that was at the finishing stage. It needed to be rather boring, or I would still be in danger of creating more UFOs.

I chose this pattern:

It is simply called ‘Stole’ (Ravelry link) and was designed by Theresa Gaffey. Basically it is no more than a huge expanse of ribbing. My alpaca yarn would be ideal for it – nice and drapey. There wouldn’t be too many ends to weave in that could come undone. And I had many colours to choose from.

I thought it would be nice to do one half in neutrals (black and greys) and one half in cheerful colours. This was my original colour choice:

But when I was on to the last colour but one, I wasn’t happy. The medium pink looked ‘dirty’ beside the bright fuchsia, and the whole thing seemed out of balance. So I tried out all kinds of alternative colour combinations, always keeping the neutral half intact.

I tried some very bright colours next to the original red and fuchsia. Cheerful, and a lovely contrast with the neutral half…

… but not really ‘me’.

Some purples next to the red and fuchsia then?

Not bad, but not great either.

Okay, what if I ripped out the red, fuchsia and pink entirely? That would mean many, many hours of knitting down the drain (there were 400+ stitches on my needles), but I didn’t mind. This wasn’t about finishing something quickly.

So, what if I chose a gradient of pinks and purples, mirroring the gradient of neutrals?

Nice. Well- balanced. But I wasn’t in love with it.

How about a gradient of blues instead?

Ahhh, yes, that felt good. But, really, blues again? Very predictable and not very exciting.

In the end I went with the blues anyway. I ripped the stole back almost entirely to the neutrals, but decided to make it a little more exciting by leaving in a very narrow band of red.

Here is Theresa Gaffey’s Stole finished:
(I wasn’t feeling very photogenic and cut my head off. Don’t worry – just in the photo.)

Well, it is no longer Theresa Gaffey’s stole, but very much mine. I used her pattern as a starting point, but cast on more stitches, made the ‘ribs’ several stitches wider, added I-cord edges, chose a very different colour combination, and used 11 colours instead of her 9.

That’s one of the nice things about knitting. You don’t need to be hugely creative to make a project your own. Just choose different colours, tweak a few details if you like, and you end up with something unique.

With its 0.70 by 2.20 m / 27’’ by 87’’ it is a huge stole – almost a blanket.

I didn’t use blocking wires to stretch the knitting out. I just soaked the stole in a no-rinse detergent for 30 minutes and put it in the spin-dryer. Then I stretched it out on the floor, using my hands to smooth and stretch the knitting as much as possible. As an alternative it could be stretched out on a bed, or perhaps even folded double and stretched out over a drying rack. Warning: Some colours may bleed!

Now I still have more of the alpaca left.

Would I like to make another stole like this? Hmmm, maybe later. I loved the meditative nature of this project. And my idea behind it seemed to work – I haven’t created any new UFOs for quite a while. (I haven’t finished any old ones either, but I’m working on that.) But I think I’ll first choose something else as my next in-between-projects project.

A Morbihan Shawl for Every Budget

‘Pssst! Hey! Take me home with you!’ the ball of yarn in a gradient of blues whispered. It happened at our regional annual crafts fair. ‘I don’t think so,’ I said, ‘You’re far too expensive, and what would I do with you?’ The yarn ball wasn’t impressed. It kept up its insistent whispering, and after walking around it for about a dozen times, I said, ‘Okay, I surrender. I can’t deny that you’re gorgeous, and you can come home with me.’

It would have been so nice to tell you a romantic and poetic story about the inspiration behind Morbihan, my new shawl design. About how I was inspired by the sea – by its myriad shades of blue and its waves lapping the shore. But you may already have gathered from my previous post that it didn’t work that way. It was the other way around. It was the yarn itself that made me make this shawl, and it was only later that I made the connection with the sea.

The yarn that seduced me was Lang Yarns ‘Puno’, a blend of wool, alpaca and silk. What I love about this yarn is, first of all, its gorgeous colours, and also its drape, its softness and its subtle sheen.

And after knitting and blocking, I noticed how beautifully the lighter bits of this semi-solid yarn undulate along with the waves of the lace pattern, especially in the simple stocking stitch sections of the shawl.

This yarn cost € 49.90 for a single ball (or rather ‘cake’). Gulp! Granted, it was a generous 200 grams and 800 metres, but still… Not exactly a bargain.

Because I didn’t have any spare yarn for swatches (I wanted to use up all of this precious yarn for my project), I first tried out my ideas with some yarn scraps. When I had a clearer picture of what I wanted to make, I still hesitated about using the Puno. I didn’t want to spoil the yarn by ripping out my efforts several times. So, I bought some inexpensive yarn for a trial version, and it looks like this:

This is Drops ‘Flora’, a blend of wool and alpaca, with a similar weight/metreage ratio as the blue yarn – four 50 gram balls of this yarn are the equivalent of one ball of Puno. This was a bargain. I bought 4 balls with 30% off for the grand total of € 7.44.

Although this was only meant as a trial version, it has become a lovely shawl in itself. What I like about this yarn is its woolly cosiness and how beautifully it shows the lace pattern.

And it didn’t end there. After I’d decided to publish the Morbihan pattern, I wanted to make absolutely sure that there weren’t any errors in it, so I decided to make another one to check it.

This time I used a cotton yarn. I wouldn’t normally choose cotton for a shawl, but during a very hot period this summer, I started looking for yarns that wouldn’t stick to my hands and found this. I don’t know if your screen is big enough to read it, but the card behind the yarn cake says ‘handmade’.

Huh, handmade? Yes, this yarn cake really is handmade! And it’s organic too!

Saskia, the owner of Wol zo Eerlijk, a yarn shop specializing in fair trade, organic and otherwise sustainable and animal friendly yarns, makes these yarn cakes herself. She combines several threads of a very thin cotton yarn and winds them into fabulous colour gradients. There are over 25 colourways to choose from.

The colourway I chose is called Planet Earth, and goes from a medium green through blue to almost (but not quite) black.

The thin threads that the yarn is made up of, are not twisted around each other, and I was a bit concerned that the yarn would be hard to knit with. I expected to stick my needle between the threads and miss one or two here and there, but personally, I didn’t have any problems.

Because this yarn is handmade, the cakes do not all have exactly the same weight. The ball band says ‘approx. 225 grams’, but mine was 235 grams. This meant that I could add quite a few extra rows to the border (the pattern explains how to do this) and it has become quite a big shawl.

At € 29.95 per cake, this yarn is rather more expensive than that of the grey Morbihan. But considering that it is handmade and organic, and has a generous metreage, I think it really is a bargain, too. It would be an ideal choice for warmer climates, vegans and people allergic to wool.

Well, those are my three versions of Morbihan. I think it will work in almost any yarn – cotton or cashmere, sheep’s wool or silk, viscose or vicuña, alpaca or acrylic… Wait, no, not acrylic! That’s about the only yarn type that I wouldn’t choose. I don’t think it’s very suitable for lace knitting, because it will bounce back after blocking.

Should you decide to make your own Morbihan, in whatever yarn takes your fancy, I wish you happy knitting!

 You can find the pattern here on Ravelry.

Note: This post isn’t sponsored in any way. The descriptions of the yarns are based on my own experiences with them, and represent my own honest opinions.

Morbihan – The Little Sea Shawl

Hello! Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, depending on where in the world you are and when you can find a moment to read this.

Today, I’d like to tell you about a shawl I’ve designed. I’ve called it Morbihan. As you can see, it’s an asymmetrical triangle, and it is knit in a combination of stocking stitch and a traditional, wavy lace pattern.

But before I tell you more about the shawl itself, I’d like to tell you how it came by its name.

I designed and knit the (then nameless) shawl in the early summer of 2018, months before I started this blog. I made it for myself, but at the back of my mind was the thought, ‘Who knows, maybe I’ll publish the pattern someday.’

That summer, were going to spend our holiday on the south coast of Brittany, France, and while I was packing I decided to add the shawl to my suitcase for chilly evenings. We were to spend part of our holiday in the region of Finistère, and part of it in the region of Morbihan.

The coastline over there is so, so beautiful, especially that of Morbihan. There are rocky stretches…

… as well as wide, white sandy beaches.

In the Breton language the gulf of Morbihan, which gave the region its name, is called Ar Mor Bihan, meaning ‘the little sea’.

What I love most of all about the coast in this part of France, is the clear light and the vibrant colours. Very different from the generally more muted colours of my own country. The bright red of a fishing boat…

… but especially the many, many shades of blue. The translucent blue of the sky. A blue shutter on a white building. And the ever changing blues of the sea, of course. Sometimes pale and in stripes…

… and sometimes a much darker blue shading to turquoise.

We didn’t spend our entire holiday staring at the sea, though. While we were there, we just had to pay a visit to the famous standing stones of Carnac. The sheer number of upright stones, all neatly arranged in rows pointing in the same direction, is amazing.

There were some interesting museums and galleries, and we also visited a stately manoir, with a granary (below) that was even more beautiful than the house itself.

And then there were the delicious thin pancakes called crêpes, the tempting restaurants, and the lovely fishing villages. In one of these villages I took this picture of a shop window:

It’s an ‘upcycling’ shop, where they make and sell wonderful creations from second-hand clothes. Here, too, it was all about blue.

But, all in all, we spent most of our time on the coast, either walking along the coastal path

or strolling along the beach, camera in hand, taking pictures of the sea, rock pools and birds, and just soaking up the sun and gazing out over the sea.

On one of these beach days, I asked my beloved private photographer to take some pictures of my shawl. You’ve already seen it in its entirety at the top of this post, but here’s another picture of it fluttering in the sea breeze.

The triangle starts with just 3 stitches and gradually grows wider with increases along one side. The lace pattern I’ve chosen is an all-time favourite called Old Shale. The body of the shawl consists of stocking stitch sections alternating with sections in Old Shale, and it ends in a border knit entirely in the wavy lace pattern.

I used a yarn in a gradient of blues, from a deep sea blue at the narrow end to a pale turquoise at the wide border.

Here’s a close-up of the border.

To an inexperienced knitter, it may look complicated, but it isn’t. It’s a fairly simple shawl, in fact, with the ‘action’ taking place in only one in every four rows of the lace pattern. For the rest it is just a matter of knitting and purling.

By now, you’ll probably understand why I’ve called this shawl Morbihan. Although I hadn’t planned it beforehand, the shawl and ‘the little sea’ turned out to have much in common. The colours, the waves…

… and also a certain soothing rhythm.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally written out, tested and uploaded the pattern. If you’d like to knit a Morbihan shawl, too, you can find the pattern here on Ravelry.

The pattern has all the details about yarn, knitting needles etcetera, written instructions as well as a chart for the lace pattern, and a tip about making the shawl longer or shorter.

In addition to this one, I’ve made several more versions of Morbihan. I’ll tell you more about them and the yarns I’ve used soon.

The Hardest Part of Stay Soft

This post is looooong overdue. It’s the third instalment in a series of posts about ‘Stay Soft’, a shawl design by Veera Välimäki. I’d intended to write a step-by-step description of my knitting process way back in June, but… On the one hand, I got caught up in all kinds of new projects. And on the other, I felt unsure. Would people really be interested in reading about my knitting projects in so much detail?

But then two members of my knitting group asked: ‘How is your shawl coming along? You know, the one we helped you choose the pattern for?’ And I also started getting questions from readers, along the lines of: ‘Please explain how you knit the last part of Stay Soft, because I’m stuck.’ Apparently people do want to read about it, so here we go. (There’s a list of useful links at the bottom of this post).

The previous instalment ended after the third part, called ‘Coral Part’ in the pattern. This is what the shawl looked like at that point:

These first 3 parts are fairly straightforward. Now we get to the hardest part of Stay Soft, the part starting with the heading ‘Yellow Speckled Part’. Although there aren’t any mistakes in the pattern, and all the information is there, I still had some trouble figuring out exactly what to do.

First a note about the colours, though. To avoid confusion, these are the colours used by the designer and the ones I used:

  • Pattern: MC white speckled; CC1 coral-pink; CC2 yellow speckled
  • My version: MC yellow; CC1 orange; CC2 grey

After the first three sections (called ‘Main Color Part’, ‘Stripes’ and ‘Coral Part’ in the pattern), stitches need to be picked up in the second contrast colour (CC2). The pattern says: ‘Use the same needle and CC2’, but I used a different needle, as suggested later on in the pattern. To my mind, this makes it so much easier.

I used interchangeable circular needles. This means that I unscrewed the tips from the cables, screwed them onto another cable, and screwed end stoppers (the rectangular white things in the picture below) on the cable with my orange live stitches. At this point I cut CC1.

Then the pattern says: ‘pick up and knit 5 stitches starting from the cast-on corner of the shawl.’ And here it gets tricky. Where and how do we pick up these stitches?

After taking a good look I found out where to start picking up stitches. It’s at the tip the knitting needle below is pointing at – the very first stitches knit in the first colour (MC). And the stitches should be picked up on the right-hand side.

So, with CC2 and another needle the same size, and with the right side (RS) of the shawl facing, I picked up and knit 5 stitches, starting from the point indicated above. After a few tries, I picked up a stitch EVERY row (not in every ridge, which would be every other row), because otherwise the corner pulled and curled up.

For the next row (WS), the pattern says. ‘Knit the first two stitches, and slide the remaining 3 stitches onto right-hand needle as if to purl’. This made me scratch my head again – should the yarn be held in front or in back? As it turns out, the yarn should be held in front. So: After picking up 5 stitches, turn your work, knit the first 2 stitches, bring yarn to the front, and slip the next 3 stitches purlwise (as if you were going to purl them, but without actually purling them) with the yarn held in front of your work. Then turn your work and knit rows 11 – 18.

Slipping the last 3 stitches with the yarn held in front gives a sort of I-cord edge. When you’re just starting this edge it doesn’t look very nice or neat, as you can see in the picture below. But it will get better as you continue.

After that, rows 13 – 18 are repeated until the corner is reached, where the live stitches of the ‘coral part’ are waiting.

In this section, 1 stitch is increased in all right side (RS) rows by knitting 1fb, but this is neutralized by knitting 2 sts together in the same row. Only in row 17 it says k1fbf (instead of k1fb), so only in this row 1 stitch is increased. It is important to keep track of this, but I found it impossible to see where I had increased a stitch. To keep track of the increases, I placed a locking stitch marker immediately after I’d knit a ‘row 17’. And as soon as I came to the next increase row, I moved the stitch marker there.

Knitting on like this, a knitted on I-cord edge is formed on the ‘outside’, and a row of holes along the body of the shawl. At first it doesn’t look very attractive, but after a while the edge becomes really neat, and it becomes visible how the part in CC2 brings everything nicely together.

The next picture shows where exactly I picked up the stitches in the RS rows – just below the ‘curve’ or ‘bridge’ of the last knit stitch.

After knitting everything described on page 4 of the pattern, the shawl looks like this:

The needle in the grey part meets the end stopper on the cable in the orange part:

Time to start the I-cord bind-off along the end of the grey section. After about 10 cm/4 inches I noticed that this I-cord was much tighter than the knitted-on I-cord along the side of the grey section. I unraveled it carefully and started again with a thicker needle tip (5.0 mm instead of the 4.0 mm needle I used so far). Yes! Now both I-cords were similar.

Upon arriving at the orange section, I changed the end stopper for a thicker needle tip (in my case 5.0 mm) and continued the I-cord bind-off.

The knitted-on I-cord is just a small detail, but just look at it. It changes Stay Soft from an OK shawl into a fabulous shawl, don’t you think?

After the knitting is completed, it’s time to block the shawl. I think blocking is essential – it makes all the difference. After soaking the shawl in a non-rinse wool detergent (I used Soak, but Eucalan or any other brand works just as well) I spread it out on blocking mats. I threaded blocking wires through the knitted fabric along the edges.

I threaded the blocking wires through the stitches inside the I-cord edges:

While I was knitting I was a bit worried about the row of holes between the body of the shawl and the knitted-on part. They looked terribly irregular. Fortunately that was solved by blocking, too.

What a difference!

Before blocking
After blocking

And that’s it – the shawl’s all done!

I used a thinner yarn than indicated in the pattern (fine fingering instead of ordinary fingering), which gives a nice and airy shawl. When the light falls through it, it looks slightly transparent.

But wrapped around the neck, it is really cosy. Below you can see how the I-cord in a contrasting colour gives a nice crisp edge.

Details of my shawl:

  • Yarn used: Isager Alpaca 2 (MC 23 grs; CC1 50 grs; CC2 28 grs)
  • Needles: 4 mm/US 6 and 5 mm/US 8 (the thicker needle only for last stretch of I-cord)
  • Finished size after blocking: Wingspan 213 cm/84 in; Middle to tip: 57 cm/22.5 in

I think it’s a very wearable, good size shawl from just over 100 grams of yarn. For me, Stay Soft was a really, really enjoyable pattern to knit, in spite of (or perhaps rather because of) all the frogging and puzzling out how to get it right.

Phew! This may very well be my longest blog post to date. At least it was the most complicated one to compile. Thank you dear knitting friends and readers for giving me the motivation to do it.

I hope everything makes sense. If there’s anything that isn’t clear, or if you have any other questions, please leave a comment. I’ll try to answer as best as I can.

High time for a break and a big mug of tea!

Links: