Yuko Shimizu is one of many great designers I’ve learned of this past week as a result of the powerful discussion going on about diversity and the knitting community. If you’ve missed it somehow, there’s a good synopsis-with-links on Ravelry. In addition to hopefully opening eyes and minds to ways we can all do better to make the knitting community (and the world) a more inclusive place, it’s bringing a lot of wonderful and talented people into broader view.
I’m super smitten with these sweaters:
TOP: Sunburst is a fantastic little cropped colorwork sweater with full sleeves and some mohair content giving it an unusual surface texture for such a sweater
Holy moly, you guys, the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed is a sight to behold! It is, as Mary Berry would say, “cram jam full” of stunning Sólbein cardigans in progress along with a handful of other steekables, and surprisingly few people taking many liberties with patterns. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I think on this one so many of us are just concentrating on getting the color choices right, gathering steam for our first steek — and there are actually quite a lot of people knitting their first sweater ever! All of which I applaud applaud applaud! I couldn’t be more thrilled. And cannot believe how fast some of you can knit! There are already sweaters at or nearing completion, while I haven’t even cast on yet. If you’re still on the fence, please understand you can jump in anytime!
Meanwhile, here’s the first of the standout projects that I want to feature here on the blog, so this is our first addition to the on-the-fly panel for the KAL, and it happens to be the endlessly inspiring Kristine Vejar from Verb. She’s taking quite a few liberties, and wow I cannot wait to watch this unfold!
Yarn: A Verb for Keeping Warm Dawn. I chose this yarn because I love the fabric it makes, and also because I live in a more mild climate, which means I will get to use this sweater more than if it were knit out of Lopi.
Palette: Indigo Blue! I am inspired by this coat by Kapital. In the AVFKW dye studio, we indigo-dyed a range of shades. I will try to incorporate as many of them as possible into the sweater. I have drawn a few ideas for how to incorporate the different skeins of indigo-dyed yarn into Solbein. All of this said, I am prepared to knit and rip, knit and rip, until I get the color combination just right.
Master plan: Taking some large leaps here as I dive into the Fringe and Friends Solbein Steekalong! When interviewing yarns for this project, at the top of my list were Lettlopi and Stone Wool Corriedale. However, when I came across Dawn, I thought Ooooo, this could be really interesting. I have a zip-up hoodie I purchased in Iceland a couple years back, and I wear it on our coldest Bay Area days from about November to January. But, due to Dawn’s cotton content, I could wear Dawn year-round. That being said, there are a couple concerns at hand using Dawn. It is lighter-weight, which means a smaller gauge. And, how would it steek?
Now to tackle gauge. I went to my swatch library and pulled the swatch for Dawn. (I use YO to record my needle size into the swatch). The fabric I like best is 17 stitches and 23 rows over 4”. It has substance not too tight and not too loose. And I believe I can make the pattern work at this gauge.
The pattern calls for 14 sts over 4″. The size I would knit if I were getting gauge would be 39 1/2” (though that is a touch too big). So to compensate for my tighter gauge, I am knitting size 46 1/2″.
By my calculations, the resulting finished size will be approx: 38″ chest circumference 12″ sleeve circumference
I am planning to leave off the buttons / buttonholes, cuff and hem treatment. I would like to knit my “buttonband” running parallel to the sweater, rather than horizontal (which I need to research because I am not sure how to do this).
. . .
I feel like I might need to hire one of you to distract her when she’s finished, if you know what I mean! But I also feel that way about sooooo many of the other sweaters on the feed. I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist casting one on in my own size …
If you haven’t heard, there’s a shiny new Fringe Supply Co. site that went live as the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, and among its many lovely traits is that you can sign up to be notified when an out-of-stock item returns. So if you’re waiting for the next Town Bag update, for example, the new process is to simply click on the big blue “Notify me” button, plug in your email address and wait to be notified! (If we receive X of an item, the first X people on the list will get notified first, and so on. So the sooner you get onto a list, the better.) If it’s the army-green Porter Bin you’ve been waiting for, that’s now back in stock!
And if you haven’t seen the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed yet, you must — but good luck resisting a cast-on if you haven’t already made the leap! Those are some insanely tempting WIPs over there. Happily my yarn is here, so I’ll be casting on this weekend!
When I was putting together my 2018 Favorite New Favorites and looking back through the year’s best (in my opinion!) knitting patterns, there were several things I regretted not having gotten onto the blog yet. Chief among them, these two enticing cable hat patterns by Sari Nordlund:
TOP: Marlon Hat is gorgeous and worsted weight, which means I have countless yarn options in my stash
BOTTOM: Utu Hat is gorgeous and written for Woolfolk’s weirdly compelling bouclé yarn, Flette, which I happen to have two skeins of (because they sent them to me) and so much curiosity about that I’m seriously sitting here thinking “would I knit a hat on 2s …?”
New intel! The other morning, after my post about the Love, Actually cardigan went live, I got an email from Brooke alerting me that Churchmouse had coincidentally featured a scarf in their newsletter that morning with the same sort of “stockinette cable,” as I called it — although this one is a braid. I love it when stuff like that happens. So if you want to know more about that type of cable, or try it out in scarf form, check out their Reversible Cable Scarf. (photo above, top) And then I also got an email from hawkeyed reader Cindy who happened to know that the cardigan was originally designed by Nicole Farhi for her F/W 2002 collection. The closure is different and no pockets, so I’m guessing they made those changes for the RTW version, but that is definitely The Sweater! (And there were some outstanding cowls in that show as well.)
There was also a lot of meat in the comments on Wednesday’s Hot Tip: Resist the twist post, so go check that out if you haven’t seen it!
“Artforms using textiles have existed for millennia but have not always been held in such high esteem in the art world. The artificial divide that exists between fine art and textiles (or applied/decorative arts, or craft) is a gendered issue. …” (via)
IN SHOP NEWS: We’ve got Bury Me and Knitting Necessities totes back in stock. The Holiday “Hank” Field Bagmiiiight last the weekend, but I wouldn’t wait if that’s on your wish list. And this morning at 9am CT is the next Town Bag update. Each week we still have more people vying for them than there are bags available, but this is our biggest batch yet and we’re getting closer to equilibrium as all the people who’ve bought in previous updates are no longer competing. So my fingers are crossed for everyone, but they will go in a heartbeat. We’re managing to squeeze in one more update before it’s officially too late for Christmas, which will be next Weds, so make sure you note the update details on the product listing! And we’ll also have more solid canvas Field Bags ready next week — y’all keep wiping us out!
If you missed the gift guide, now would also be a good time to peek at that.
Happy Friday everybody — I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
I’m thrilled at all of the enthusiasm over the upcoming Fringe and Friends Steekalong featuring Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Sólbein cardigan — kicking off January 1st. Several questions have been raised about color and yarn choices, which obviously need to be decided before casting on, so I’m doing a couple of advance Q&A’s with Mary Jane this month, starting today with those concerns. (We’ll talk about steek method alternatives next.)
To recap, Sólbein is designed for Léttlopi Icelandic wool yarn which is both unique and affordable — I’ve written about the yarn before here. In this case, it’s also knitted at a larger gauge (which works due to magic discussed below), the result being a sweater that knits up quickly, is somewhat less warm than if you knitted the same yarn at a more typical gauge, and is even less expensive, using less of an already affordable yarn. If you’re unsure about the lopi fabric, I highly recommend buying a few balls to swatch with, especially given the price point — knit a swatch, soak your swatch and get to know what the fabric is really like. If then it is not for you, we talk about the challenges and options for substituting yarns below. And you can use your leftover Léttlopi to make some Giving Mitts.
So with that, here’s Mary Jane — and if you have other yarn questions not answered here, please ask them below!
. . .
First, let’s talk about picking colors for Sólbein. I did the big roundup of palette suggestions that were mostly based on your model of using light/medium/dark shades of a single color. Can you talk about the effect that has, and why you chose it over a more contrasty or colorful approach?
When I designed the sweater it was based on the prompt “lines.” I love a simple prompt. I started thinking about radiating lines and eventually about light streaming through my windows on a winter’s day, and sunbeams. I wanted an ethereal kind of shimmer. I design on the needle and knitted the light one first. To get the effect I saw in my mind’s eye, I chose a group of three colors that were fairly close in value, with the white acting as a bold color … if that makes sense.
When thinking about a second colorway, charcoal seemed a great choice for the main body color, so different from the first version. Choosing such a dark dark allowed different spacing between the values, but still in the same sequence: darkest for the body, middle for the ribbing and lightest for sunbeams. The medium color also become beams, when they progress into the darkest color.
So that was just my personal thinking about a knitted way to describe lines and my interpretation of lines being light. I’ve seen some really cute bright versions of Sólbein though — some even in candy colors, still arranged in a value sequence — and they are super cute!
Léttlopi is not like any other yarn I’ve ever used, and I find it impossible to describe to anyone — it’s so incredibly light and has such a halo that the fabric is more like a puff of wool-infused air or something. You’ve compounded that by knitting on a larger-than-usual needle: It’s aran-gauge yarn (or heavy worsted) knitted here on chunky needles, but the resulting fabric is not loose stockinette because of the way the lopi fleece blooms to fill the would-be gaps. I’d never seen that done before your Stopover pattern (and I wound up trying it with my little black raglan sweater). Is that a trick you’d seen before with Léttlopi?
I love Léttlopi. I love the fuzz and the loft and the lightness of it. And the shine — it glimmers. We traveled to Iceland in the ’70s and my mom got a lopapeysa which I’ve always always loved. It was so thick, but still so light in weight, and that’s the thing for me — lopi produces a warm but lightweight garment. So the memory of the utility of that sweater has never left me.
I came to knit Léttlopi at a loose gauge because I was in a hurry. I always wore my favorite storebought lopapeysa I got a few years ago, and a friend pointed out that I had it on in every picture and I needed to be wearing my own designs. Realizing that I had a week before my next trip, I consulted my stash and thought … why not? I didn’t have regular lopi, only had Léttlopi, and I figured I could use a bigger needle for a faster knit. I also wanted a warm sweater that wouldn’t weigh a lot because of airline weight restrictions, and that could take a beating being squished and compacted in a suitcase. I did a little swatching and I kept pushing the needle size, seeing how big I could get away with. Léttlopi is magical; once washed, the loft of it fills in the gaps of the loose gauge.
All of those lopi traits and gauge trickery are what makes it difficult to suggest yarn substitutions. A typical aran-weight yarn would not do well being knitted at such a large gauge, and especially with colorwork involved. Substituting here would require using a chunky yarn, which would result in a heavier, denser sweater. It might be more or less warm than the lopi, depending, but it would not be the same light-as-air sweater. On top of which, not all yarns are suited to either colorwork or steeking. It needs to be a woolly wool with some grip. (Nothing super smooth, slippery or superwash.) Which doesn’t leave a lot of options! Do you think it would work with any of the lighter, more roving-y wools like Turbine and Puffin and Quarry? What’s your best suggestion?
Hmmm … yes. You can substitute, but I can’t think of any yarn that will produce a sweater that is as light in weight as Léttlopi. But not everyone needs a sweater to cram in a suitcase, or that weighs next to nothing. So swatch! Swatching is fun. It’s like an experiment — like you are a knitting scientist or a knitting explorer charting new territory! Test out a potential yarn and decide if you like the knitted result. Wash the swatch to see what happens. See how much larger you can make it with blocking. Léttlopi has a lot of leeway — when it’s wet you can make it grow if you want it to grow, or just pat it into place if you don’t want it to.
But you want answers! I’ve used Puffin when I’m swatching for design and I want a yarn where I can rip things out without much harm… so I know the gauge will work and it will be pretty. But it will be different, it will be more solid and weigh more. Quarry is kind of like roving, so it will probably work, and be fairly light. It won’t have the glossy sparkle that Lettlopi has, but it could be nice. So yeah. Everything will be a trade off, but that’s fine, and can be an adventure of discovery!
Among those not averse to using lopi wool, several people have also asked whether the unspun Plötulopi would work? And I’m wondering the opposite — any reason someone couldn’t use the bulky-gauge Alafoss Lopi? In which case you’d be knitting it at standard gauge, for a more typical Icelandic outerwear sort of garment, am I right?
I think Plötulopi stranded double will work, in fact I’ve seen it done on Instagram. I wouldn’t use a single strand because I don’t believe the edge will be strong enough to support a button band. Standard Lopi will be fine, and it will make a more traditional lopapeysa. It will be heavier and warmer and can function as a jacket. It could be fantastic now that I think about it. Not for my international flights maybe, but as outwear it would be great.
Obviously, whatever one is considering potentially substituting, as you’ve noted, it would be exceptionally important to knit a big swatch, make sure it’s suitable for the colorwork and gauge, and also potentially cut the swatch to confirm the steek will hold. How do you advise swatching for this sweater, in any case?
Well, ideally, you swatch the way your garment will be knit, so in the round, with the needles you’ll be using … so a hat-sized swatch. I’d practice both plain stockinette and do some of the colorwork lines. Really get a feel for the fabric you are making. I hear some groans … . If you really really don’t want to do that, you could also knit flat, utilizing a Shetland technique called “brak an eek”, or break and join. On a circular needle you knit flat, joining yarn on the right edge, and breaking it on the left edge, sliding the stitches back to the right, and repeating. You knot the broken yarns after a couple of rows. Keep in mind if you’re new to this, it might take a bit of practice, and you also won’t be able to reuse the yarn. In either case it’s a bonus if you want to try out your steeking method on the swatch, great preparation!
Interesting — I just leave a long loop across the back of the swatch for each row, and cut the loops at the end.
The other option for anyone wanting to substitute yarn but not wanting to go the bulky route would be to knit aran-weight yarn at aran gauge and to do their own gauge math. Any caveats for anyone thinking of going that route? (Other than “don’t ask Mary Jane to do your math!”)
I say go for it if you want to. Since it’s knitted top-down, you can easily knit it to the length you want. A friend of mine has had great success knitting Sólbein at a 4.5 stitch gauge. She’s had to fiddle with things and ripped a bunch out but her finished sweater is divine.
Hello, Friday! It’s an exciting day over at Fringe Supply Co. — we’ve got a new Stowe Bag Kit from our friends at Verb, a kit for bags so pretty that photos can’t even convey the hand-loomed khadi, naturally dyed, sashiko-stitched gorgeousness. The kit is available now in three different color/fabric combos, and we do have limited quantities of them — it would make a beautiful gift either in either kit or bag form. And it just so happens Jen at Grainline is hosting a Stowe sewalong on her blog in December!
BUT WAIT, there’s more! We’ll also have this week’s Town Bag update at 9am CT. That one’s a little tricky due to overwhelming demand, so take a second to read the notes on how it will work. And if you don’t get lucky this morning, we will have more next week! We’re doing all we can to catch up with demand, and are grateful for your patience and determination in the meantime.
We also passed the six-year mark this week, and I marked the occasion by updating our About page, if you’re new-ish here or would like to know more about the history and mission of Fringe. We’ve come a long way these past few years! And I’m so eternally grateful for your support.