Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

QUICK NOTE: I’ll be on a plane to France this afternoon, but never fear — I’ve got blog posts queued up in my absence and DG is manning the Fringe Supply Co. shipping department as usual, so order all you want! Please forgive any delay in comment moderation (new commenters) though, and I expect to be sharing liberally on Instagram while I’m away, so follow me @karentempler. Now here’s Jess!
—Karen

Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

BY JESS SCHREIBSTEIN | Back in November, I wrote about my trip to Rhinebeck and the gorgeous Hudson Valley Fibers yarn I brought home with me. I also wrote about how I wanted to “get back to basics,” knit that cream-colored “throw-over-anything, cropped and boxy cardigan” that is somehow a deficit in my handmade (or store-bought) wardrobe.

And that got me thinking about the rest of my wardrobe, the things I desire most, the things that I feel are missing, the things that are hardest to find – pre-made or otherwise. I really want a few pairs of high-waisted pants, some classic trim trousers in a structured wool for winter, or wide-leg sailor pants for spring and summer. (Psst … Emily Wallace sewed up her own Kamm pant lookalike in a must-see sherbet pink, for a fraction of the store price. Adding that to my “someday” to-do list!) I’d also love to have a select few boxy, seamed, set-in-sleeve pullovers knit up in a DK or worsted weight, with a snug, foldover neckband. I could imagine those sweaters being just as dreamy and necessary in a tweedy toffee brown or a bright, speckled colorway. And of course, I long for that basic cream cardigan. You can check out my Pinterest “Spring” board to get a better picture of what I’m envisioning in my head.

I list all of this out because I’m seeing a discernable pattern here. I’m thirsty for well-constructed, timeless but modern basics. I love juicy cables and an Icelandic yoked sweater as much as the next knitter, but those sweaters ultimately aren’t the ones I usually reach for when I’m getting ready in the morning.

There’s something about “basics” that sounds dull and ho-hum to a knitter looking for a challenge, but I think there’s a way to bridge that gap between “I want this thing” and the perceived snoozefest factor. Knitting in straight stockinette or rib can be dull knitting, sure, but it can also zip up pretty fast and be meditative and gratifying in its own way, especially if the yarn is a dream and you’re designing or modifying your own pattern to make it really yours. I’m also finding that it pushes me to be more attentive to shaping and finishing details that set a handmade garment apart from my earlier work.

So, back to that cream dream cardigan – I put it on my 2017 to-do list, and here we are, five months later and at the start of spring. I’ve swatched and cast on my second top-down sweater using Karen’s tutorial, and quite frankly, I’m in love. I carry this project with me everywhere and the knitting has been addictive.

Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

MY PLAN

I’m knitting a slightly oversized, boxy, cropped cardigan. I want to keep the lines and visual interest minimal, having this sweater be a truly throw-over-anything kind of piece. I cast on a total 56 stitches for the neck to start, breaking up the stitches as follows: 2 | 1 | 9 | 1 | 30 | 1 | 9 | 1 | 2. That means 1 stitch for each side of the front of the sweater with 1 selvedge stitch each, 30 stitches for the back, and 9 stitches each for the sleeves. I’ll use a basting stitch to seam up that 1-stitch raglan across the yoke. I’m working the entire sweater in stockinette, with the exception of some ribbing for the sleeve cuffs, bottom hem and a neckband.

To work my increases, I increased on either side of the raglans every other row a total of 23 times for the sleeves, and 25 times for the body. I also increased a stitch on either side of the front of the cardigan every 8 rows to give a steep sloped “V” in the front. Since this is such a simple pattern, I wanted to be extra mindful of my choice of increases, so I opted for the following method that I picked up from Julie Hoover’s Cline pattern:

Inc-R (Increase – Right Leaning): Lift right leg of the stitch below the first stitch on the left needle onto left needle and knit it, then slip the first stitch on left needle purlwise

Inc-L (Increase – Left Leaning): Slip next stitch from left needle purlwise, then lift the left leg of the stitch below the slipped stitch onto left needle and knit it though the back loop

Once my increases were complete, I cast on 15 stitches for the underarm on each side, and will continue working the rest of the sweater flat, without shaping, to achieve that boxy look.

Sizing: With the increases I just laid out, the cardigan should be around 38″ at the bust with some generous sleeves, a 14″ diameter around the top of the sleeve with an 8″ armhole depth. After I made it through about 1″ of the body, I put my live body stitches on some waste yarn and blocked the whole thing, to really make sure that the fit was what I wanted. So far, so good!

Yarn: Oh, let me tell you about this yarn. I picked up a few skeins of Blue Sky Fibers’ new Woolstok in Highland Fleece (undyed) colorway over the winter, and it has a really unique balance of softness and tooth. It’s a worsted weight, 2-ply yarn produced out of Arequipa, Peru. You can read more about the origins of Woolstok (and see lots of stunning photos of Peru and the production process) on Blue Sky Fibers’ blog. It’s bouncy, bright and blocks beautifully.

Curious about those other swatches in my photos? I’ve been knitting up a lot of stockinette swatches lately with pullovers and baby sweaters in mind (for lots of friends and my new niece — don’t get any ideas). The speckled yarn is Madelinetosh’s Tosh DK in Filtered Light, and that gold swatch is Plymouth Yarn Company’s Merino Superwash in 0061 Gold colorway.

Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

THE SWATCH

This swatch is as simple as they come. It’s a basic stockinette stitch pattern (knit on the right side, purl the wrong side) with a garter stitch border.

Yarn: Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok in Highland Fleece (undyed)
Needles: US 6 / 4 mm metal needles
Gauge: 20 stitches / 32.5 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch

Swatch of the Month: Fun with stockinette

M E T H O D

Cast on 40 stitches. Work six rows in garter stitch (knit both sides of work). Begin stockinette pattern as follows:

Row 1: Knit

Row 2: Knit 3, purl until 3 stitches remain, knit 3.

Work until desired length, then repeat six rows of garter stitch to finish border. Bind off loosely.

Jess Schreibstein is a digital strategist, knitter and painter living in Baltimore, MD. Learn more about her work at jess-schreibstein.com or follow her on Instagram at @thekitchenwitch.

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PREVIOUSLY in Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

BY JESS SCHREIBSTEIN | The day after the 2017 presidential inauguration, as I joined many of you in the streets in protest, it struck me: I was maybe one of the few knitters at the Women’s March on Washington who hadn’t knitted a Pussyhat.

As a long-time knitter, it was both a little startling and thrilling to see nearly everyone rocking a handknit hat. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing handknits worn on that scale was at Rhinebeck, which really says something. The now-iconic pink hat with pointy ears, a project started by Kat Coyle, became a powerful visual sign of solidarity at the marches – splashed across all of the day’s news coverage and even making its way to the covers of both Time and The New Yorker.

I have my own reasons for not knitting a pussyhat (some good critiques of the project can be found here, here and here, but regardless of your politics, it feels safe to say that we may be at the cusp of a new wave of knitting activism.

KNITTING AND POLITICS

Knitting as political commentary or protest is nothing new. Like all art, knitting can serve as a platform for political and social critique. But unlike painting, music, writing or other male-dominated mediums, knitting serves, at its core, a functional purpose: making clothes that keep us warm.

For years, knitting was unpaid labor produced in the private home, not something that would be sold in a public market or valued beyond its functional purpose. Its historic ties to domestic labor and women’s work serve to undervalue its role as a creative art form, to a degree where we don’t even refer to it as art – we call it “craft.” Because of this, any use of knitting outside of its primary role could be perceived as inherently subversive and political.

Of course, all of us knitters know that art and functionality are not mutually exclusive. Like all artists, knitters are creative problem-solvers. We negotiate space, color, organic material, texture and tension in our work. We also know that clothing is a powerful symbol of both status and identity, a fact that many knitters have leveraged to create subtle, but impactful, statements through their designs. Consider the political origins of the Icelandic lopapeysa, or how the Aran Islands have seized upon the fishermen’s sweater as a marker of their local identity and heritage.

One of my favorite recent books about clothing and identity is the hefty compilation, Women in Clothes, which came out in 2014. Through a series of surveys, essays, interviews and photographs, over 600 women discuss why and how they present themselves through their clothes. In its early pages, Heidi Julavits writes:

“I don’t check out men on the street. I check out women. I am always checking out women because I love stories, and women in clothes tell stories. For years I watched other women to learn how I might someday be a woman with a story.”

I love that statement, and I love the idea that everything I wear has a story. But beyond that, I think about how my choice of clothing has its own narrative and can make its own statement in the world, particularly regarding my own commitment to slow fashion. For me, that means increasingly making my own clothes, either through knitting or sewing (I’m slowly learning), and supporting small, women-owned labels with ethical and safe labor and animal welfare practices. It means trying to know more about the origins of my clothing and the fibers I knit with, and the willingness to pay a pretty penny for fewer garments that will last.

There’s a lot to unpack here because “slow fashion” means a lot of things to a lot of different people, and thankfully Slow Fashion October and Slow Fashion Citizen dig into a lot of those conversations. But from my vantage point, the personal is political and our actions – however small – are a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

“CRAFTIVISM”

The word “craftivism” – an amalgamation of the words “craft” and “activism” – was coined by Betsy Greer in her book, Knitting for Good!: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch. The term has been thrown around a lot lately, especially regarding the ubiquitous pussyhat. Greer defines it this way:

“Craftivism to me is way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper and your quest for justice more infinite.”

Her definition is pretty broad (perhaps intentionally so), but because of that remains squishy and, in some cases, problematic. Is this a term that can only be used to define politically liberal or progressive actions, and does that exclude other voices that fall outside that spectrum? How do we define “craft,” or “activism” for that matter?

Beyond questions of semantics, the creation of a word to talk about something that has been happening for generations – leveraging a traditionally domestic art form towards an overt political purpose – seems redundant and a little cute. Regardless of your feelings about the term, we can likely expect to see it a lot more craftivism in the future as more and more knitters explore using the medium to make their own political statements.

One of my favorite artists working in this way is Lisa Anne Auerbach, an L.A.-based knitter, photographer and cycling advocate. I first heard about Lisa from a friend who took her photography course at my alma mater, USC, although I’ve never met Lisa myself. She creates bold, irreverent sweaters (they’re machine-knit, not handknit) with political statements splashed across an otherwise traditional motif. During the final days of the 2016 presidential election, she also participated in the I-71 project, a billboard exhibition curated by the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. As part of that project, details of her sweaters that she created in 2008 were featured on billboards across Cincinnati.

I’ve always been especially taken by Lisa’s work, and not necessarily because of her political statements. (To be clear, my sharing of her work is not an endorsement of her politics.) I appreciate her work because she does what all effective artists do – she makes us think. We’re free to agree or disagree with her, but her work forces us to ask tough questions and start a conversation, and I think that’s a good thing. The bigger questions – Does art make a difference? Does it change anything? – are open for debate, but taking a hard look at the challenges we face as a society is a place to start.

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

THE SWATCH

With Lisa’s work in mind, I wanted to create something with a clear and simple statement that could be adopted and worn by many. Enter, the RESIST hat. I’m not really a fan of swatching in the round or swatching for a hat, so I skipped over the swatching part of this Swatch of the Month post (oops) and just went straight for the full design.

After sketching out the chart and playing with the math, I picked out a couple colors from my stash of Quince and Co Finch and started knitting. I’m a big fan of Finch (I wrote about it previously here), and it provided a crisp read of the lettering (important) and a light, smooth halo when blocked. And while I chose the colors Clay (main color) and Canvas (contrasting color) as a nod to the pussyhat (and also because I’m a sucker for that earthy pink color), one of my favorite things about Finch is that it comes in dozens of colors that let the knitter choose the mood and tone of his or her own RESIST hat.

Swatch of the Month: The politics of knitting

Yarn: Quince and Co. Finch in Clay and Canvas colorways
Needles: US2 / 2.75mm metal needles
Gauge: 33 stitches and 38 rows = 4″ in stranded colorwork pattern

M E T H O D

The pattern is my own and is currently in testing! Keep an eye on my Instagram for a release date this April.

Jess Schreibstein is a digital strategist, knitter and painter living in Baltimore, MD. Learn more about her work at jess-schreibstein.com or follow her on Instagram at @thekitchenwitch.

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PREVIOUSLY in Swatch of the Month: Norah’s cables

Swatch of the Month: Norah’s cables

EDITOR’S NOTE: For her column this month, Jess got to dig into the book I’ve been dying to spend more time with …
—Karen

Swatch of the Month: Norah's cables

The first knitting book I ever bought was Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson, around a dozen years ago. (Years later, still a reliably solid and inspirational compilation of designs.) But the second knitting book I bought was Norah Gaughan’s Knitting Nature, a striking collection of over 35 knitwear designs and patterns inspired by geometry found in nature. More than any other knitting book I own, this is the one I come back to again and again.

Knitting Nature is one of those books that grows with you as a knitter and, amazingly, years after its publication doesn’t feel stale or outdated. I bought the book when I was knitting nothing more than accessories – the idea of, or even the desire to knit an intricately cabled sweater had never occurred to me. I enjoyed the book in a way that you might enjoy a stroll through an art gallery, with awe and admiration of creative work that feels simultaneously accessible and completely above your abilities as a maker.

But now, I look at some of the patterns that I glossed over when I was younger – like the Pentagon Aran Pullover or the Asymmetrical Cardigan — which both now seem so fresh and contemporary. I could easily imagine the hexagonal cable in the Asymmetrical cardigan being adapted to a top-down symmetrical cardigan (using Karen’s top-down recipe) with a cozy shawl collar in a neutral, worsted weight yarn. Maybe Blue Sky Fibers’ new Woolstok in Grey Harbor colorway? (I got a few skeins recently at my LYS and I’m obsessed.)

Swatch of the Month: Norah's cables

Norah has certainly been busy in the past ten or so years since Knitting Nature’s publication. She served as design director for Berroco Yarns and is now a member of the Brooklyn Tweed design team. All of this to say – when I found out (via Squam’s Morning on the Dock podcast interview with Norah) that she would be releasing a new book dedicated entirely to cables, I knew I needed to nab a copy.

KNITTED CABLE SOURCEBOOK

Norah’s latest book, Knitted Cable Sourcebook, is a collection of 152 stitch patterns and over a dozen garment and accessory patterns. A cable dictionary it is not – nor is it intended to be. The patterns and techniques are decidedly Norah’s, many appearing in print for the first time. As Norah writes in the Introduction:

“To my mind there can be no such thing as an all-encompassing encyclopedia of cables (as much as my publisher would have loved for this book to have been called an encyclopedia) because one volume can’t begin to contain all the cables in use already and all of the cables yet to be revealed by our imaginations. This book is intended to be both a resource for existing cable patterns and a jumping-off point for making new cable discoveries.”

The book is simultaneously accessible to newbies and challenging to advanced knitters – quintessential Norah. It starts off with the basics, including an overview of cable terminology, instructions on how to read and follow a cable chart, and troubleshooting tips (one of which Karen described here). This upfront section is worth the price of the book alone, as it so succinctly describes, in less than 20 pages, everything you really need to know to knit cables well.

The rest of the book is broken up into sections defined by complexity and motifs, starting with basic ropes, braids and horseshoes and eventually working towards the final chapter on “drawing” abstract or representational shapes with cables. At the end of each chapter are two or more garment patterns that incorporate cables and techniques covered in the preceding chapter.

But the most exciting part? Each garment pattern is accompanied with recommendations for cable substitutions using Norah’s SSE (Stockinette Stitch Equivalent) method. Each stitch pattern throughout the book is assigned an SSE number – basically, how many stockinette stitches are needed to achieve the same width as the cable. This system allows you to substitute any cable you like for other cables shown in Norah’s patterns – or heck, any pattern with cables in it. This is where this resource book really shines, as it enables any knitter to customize and design her own garment based on her own personal preferences.

Swatch of the Month: Norah's cables

THE SWATCH

While there are many, many stitch patterns in this book that pluck at my heartstrings, the one I was most eager to cast on was Fave, introduced in Chapter 5. The pattern is a distinctive grouping of four 2/2 crosses, which Norah writes is her go-to motif. And it’s easy to see why. It feels both classic and modern, basic and also totally unexpected. A panel of Fave could be easily extended into a scarf and be striking on its own, but any of these variations could be incorporated into a chunky cardigan with a shawl collar (like this one) and be the show-stopper winter cardigan of my dreams.

Since this was my first time playing with the motif, I started off with the first stitch pattern in the the chapter, “To & Fro Fave” (no. 110 on page 169). In this motif, alternating left and right crosses grow out of 2 x 2 ribbing and the column of cables is repeated four times to complete the panel. Every stitch pattern in Norah’s book includes both a cable chart and written description of the pattern. Even though I’m pretty comfortable reading a chart, having the written description was helpful as I knit the first couple of inches and became familiar with the pattern.

For the yarn, I chose Madelinetosh’s DK Twist in “Never” colorway. Amy sent me a couple skeins to try out (thanks, Amy!) and I’m really digging the yarn’s bounce and stitch definition, as well as this soft gray/green color. Reminds me of faded moss or lichen in the middle of winter.
Jess Schreibstein

Swatch of the Month: Norah's cables

Yarn: Madelinetosh DK Twist in Never colorway
Needles: US 6 / 4mm metal needles
Gauge: 22.5 stitches / 31 rows = 4 inches in Fave cable chart

M E T H O D

For the Fave “To & Fro” cable chart, see page 169 in Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook

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PREVIOUSLY in Swatch of the Month: Beginning a design

Swatch of the Month: Beginning a design

EDITOR’S NOTE: This month Jess highlights one of the most fundamental reasons a knitter might knit a swatch — as the basis for a coming design!
—Karen

Swatch of the Month: Beginning a design

I’ve been working on a design for awhile. As I figure out the specifics, it’s kinda secret – okay, it’s totally secret. But while I can’t tell you what exactly it will become, I do want to share a big part of that development process with you, which begins with (you guessed it) a swatch. Actually, a lot of swatches.

THE PROCESS

When I come up with a knitted garment idea, it’s usually a conflation of several sources – inspiration I see on Pinterest and Instagram, as well as objects I see in the world. Sometimes, these might be actual garments or fabrics that spark an idea of how those elements could be executed differently. Other times, I find architectural elements, pattern and nature to be just as informative. I’ll collect a bunch of photos on my phone, in Pinterest, in my head – a vision board would be ideal for this – and then start sketching.

In designing this piece, I have a vision of the kind of fabric I want to create and work with. Imagine a woven fabric, smooth but a little nubbly. The fabric is stiff enough to provide some structure, but still retains a soft drape that will relax against the body. The yarn will be cream-colored (I’m clearly on a neutrals kick) and crisp to show some stitch definition. The right yarn also won’t have too much sheen, instead veering to a matte finish. To achieve that kind of look and weight, I imagined I would need a fingering or sport-weight yarn executed in some kind of slip-stitch pattern. I took a look in my stash to find some likely yarn contenders.

Now, to be clear, I’m not a professional knitwear designer. I don’t make a living from designing knitting patterns, and to date, I’ve only published one, the Beach Tank. So my creative process and approach are completely my own and informed by my knitting experience, conversations with established knitwear designers, and some math and common sense. They don’t reflect any “right” or “wrong” way to design a knitting pattern. I’m relatively new to this, so if you design your own knitting patterns (professionally or otherwise) I’d love to hear what your own process looks like in the comments!

THE CONTENDERS

Swatch of the Month: Beginning a design

TN Textile Mill: OUR yarn
I began swatching with the truly gorgeous OUR yarn, a mulberry silk noil yarn from Allison of TN Textile Mill (formerly Shutters & Shuttles). I fell in love with the texture and palette of this sport-weight yarn when I first spotted it on Instagram, and couldn’t get it out of my head. Over the summer, I ordered a few skeins to have on hand, and once this design began to come together, I reached for it immediately.

This might sound overly poetic, but this yarn feels organic and alive in your hands when you’re knitting with it. I feel that way sometimes about some wool yarns I’ve come across (the Hudson Valley Fibers yarn from my Rhinebeck post checks the box), but other cotton, silk or plant-based yarns I’ve worked with don’t always have that quality. I think it’s a combination of color, texture and some unpredictability in knitting that reminds you that you’re working with a product of a living, breathing organism. And those silky nubs!

When developing a stitch pattern that mimicked the look and feel of a woven fabric, I turned to the woven transverse herringbone stitch pattern of my previous Churro post, as well as the chevron pattern of Michele Wang’s Abbott (which I finished knitting earlier last year) for inspiration. I wanted to try a slip-stitch that I hoped, in scale, would look unrecognizable as a knitted fabric. On size US2 needles, I cast on an even number of stitches and worked the following:

Row 1 (RS): *Knit 1, Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in front; repeat to end
Row 2 (WS): Purl
Row 3: *Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in front, Knit 1; repeat to end
Row 4: Repeat Row 2

The result, unfortunately, was a no-go. The yarn didn’t have the density and structure I’m after, and the stitch pattern looks like a bunch of dash marks across a field of stockinette. With my next attempt, I would try a yarn with a little more elasticity, so it would form a tighter fabric more easily. I would also try slipping stitches on every row, not just on the right side.

. . .

Swatch of the Month: Beginning a design

Shibui: Staccato
Next up was another yarn I had in my stash, Shibui’s fingering-weight merino-silk blend, Staccato. Unlike the subtle sheen of the silk noil in OUR yarn, the silk in Staccato shimmers a little more brightly, likely a result of its tight, worsted-spun quality. When I held it together with Wool and the Gang’s Shiny Happy Cotton for my all-white beach tank, that shimmer was a perfect complement to the matte look of the cotton. Time to try it on its own.

On size US2 needles, I cast on an even number of stitches and worked the following:

Row 1 (RS): *Knit 1, Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in front; repeat to end
Row 2 (WS): *Purl 1, Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in back; repeat to end

I was pretty thrilled with the result, which got much closer to the woven look I wanted. But then I had this idea – what if I were to create a knit fabric on the bias? I think that concept bubbled up from some of my adventures in sewing earlier last year, specifically A Verb for Keeping Warm’s Tendril Dress, which is sewn on the bias. I haven’t sewn this dress yet, but I remember conversations with my grandmother about this pattern and the ripple effect that a bias drape could lend a garment. Sounded intriguing. Here’s what I did:

Swatch of the Month: Beginning a design

Cast on 2 stitches on size US2 needles.

Row 1 (RS): Increase 1 stitch by knitting front and back (KFB), Knit 1 (3 stitches on needle)
Row 2 (WS): Purl 1, Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in back, Purl 1
Row 3: K1, KFB, K1, KFB, K1 (5 stitches on needle)
Row 4: *Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in back, Purl 1; repeat from * once; P1
Row 5: K1, KFB, Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in front, K1, Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in front, KFB, K1 (7 sts on needle)
Row 6: *P1, Slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn held in back; repeat from * until 1 stitch remains; P1

It looks pretty messy, but here’s the gist – I increased 1 stitch at the beginning and end of each row on the right side, and alternated slipped stitches on the right and wrong sides to create a hatched, or woven look. Once the swatch became as large as I wanted, I began decreasing at the start and end of each right side row with K2tog or SSK, instead of increasing with KFB. Ta-da! A square swatch, knit on the bias.

There is still some tweaking to do, particularly on the edging. (Do I try a garter stitch edge? Or maybe finish the edges with rolled stockinette? Jury is still out.) But I feel like I’m really close to what I originally envisioned. The other plus was that the wrong side (lower photo) is just as beautiful as the right side (upper photo) – looks like a pebbly seed stitch knit on the diagonal. But I still wasn’t sold on the yarn. The Staccato has the fullness and stitch definition I was dreaming of, but the fabric didn’t look as matte as I hoped. I did some research and bought a skein of one more yarn to try.

. . .

Swatch of the Month: Beginning a design

Purl Soho: Linen Quill
Karen has gushed about Purl Soho’s Linen Quill before (here, here, oh, and also here), and I’m proudly adding my name to the Linen Quill Fan ClubTM. This fingering-weight blend of highland wool, alpaca and linen is remarkable. It has the elasticity of wool, the softness and halo of the alpaca, and the structure and subtle wiry quality of the additional linen. I loved knitting with it, and love the final swatch even more.

For this swatch, I followed the general slipped-stitch bias pattern above, but played around with the edging throughout, so you’ll see some irregularity on the edges in the photo. I also opted for Oatmeal Gray colorway, which on Purl Soho’s website looks like a scuffed-up cream (in the best sense), but actually is more of a true, light heather gray than a cream. For my final swatch, I’ll likely pick up a skein of Linen Quill in Heirloom White and give it a try. The only downside of this yarn is that it doesn’t have the same linear definition that the Staccato has, so I’m still undecided between the two. Do you all have a favorite?

At this rate, the pattern will be available in 2020… stay tuned!
Jess Schreibstein

Swatch of the Month: Beginning a design

PREVIOUSLY in Swatch of the Month: Latvian cheer

Swatch of the Month: Latvian cheer

EDITOR’S NOTE: My first exposure to Latvian mittens was when I won this amazing little boxed kit a few years ago. I don’t know much about Latvian mittens other than that I’d love to know more! So I’m especially happy about Jess digging in on the subject for her column this month—
—Karen

Swatch of the Month: Latvian cheer

For this month’s swatch, I wanted to do something festive. December is an intersection of many cultural and religious celebrations of light and color in the darkest month of the year (for the northern hemisphere, at least), and I thought this would be a perfect moment to look at knitting’s role in ceremony and celebration.

Back in college, I worked at a coffee shop owned by a Latvian woman. I didn’t really know much about the country, its people, or even where exactly Latvia was (in Eastern Europe somewhere, right? My international relations degree really strutting its stuff, guys). It wasn’t until I stumbled across Latvian and Estonian mittens for the first time as a knitter that I made the connection and picked up a copy of Lizbeth Upitis’ book Latvian Mittens to learn more about the region and its knitting traditions.

THE BALTIC REGION

The Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania sit east of the Baltic Sea, to the immediate west of Russia, and quite close to Sweden and Finland. People of the region share common history and similar traditions, although regional dialects and tribal histories distinguish them. Latvians and Lithuanians are known as Baltic people, and their respective, archaic Indo-European languages are the only surviving Baltic languages. Despite these close ties, Lithuania generally identifies itself more strongly with its neighbors to the south in Central Europe, like Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. Estonia, on the other hand, due to its linguistic and historical connections, strongly identifies with its Finnish neighbors to the north.

Although these linguistic and political differences have set them apart, the region shares a common history of being occupied and ruled by its neighbors for hundreds of years, most recently by the USSR. In 1989, more than two million people formed a human chain through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, called “The Baltic Way,” to peacefully demand independence from the Soviet Union. All three countries achieved independence in 1991 and later became members of NATO and the European Union. Today, the three countries are part of the Nordic-Baltic 8, or NB8, which includes Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden. While these countries have been closely connected for centuries, their closest cooperation began with the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and continues today.

This brief historical overview serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of this region, which of course affects its knitting and textile traditions. As I began riffling through images of Baltic knitting, embroidery, lacework and more, I couldn’t help but see the similarities in motifs and design from Latvian mittens to Fair Isle sweaters to Nordic stockings. And even though I’m a bit of a minimalist myself when it comes to knitting and my own wardrobe, I can’t help but want to cast on some brightly colored mittens or a complex colorwork cardigan when I look at these designs. I mean, c’mon.

Swatch of the Month: Latvian cheer

KNITTING AS CELEBRATION

Prior to the introduction of knitting, people in the region created fabric through a technique called nålebinding, also known as “knotless netting” or “needle looping.” This technique is estimated to predate knitting by 1,000 years! Instead of using two needles, the method required only one. Unlike crochet, it involved pulling through the full length of the working thread through each loop, which would make it difficult to unravel and adjust one’s work during the process. The finished work could be felted to make a more durable and cold-resistant fabric. If you’re interested in trying out the nålebinding process for yourself, there’s a tutorial in English here, or you can watch the process in action here.

Knitting likely migrated to the Baltic region during the Crusades, when knights brought the knowledge of knitting with them from the Middle East (Source: Nordic Knitting website). The oldest-known knitted object found in Estonia is the cuff of a mitten discovered in 1950 by archeologist Jüri Peets, which probably dates to the end of the thirteenth century. Other knitted textiles that have been discovered in the region include pattern knitting, indicating that more complex, two-color knitting has been practiced for a long time.

So, where do mittens come in? Aside from being highly functional and useful knitted objects, mittens in the Baltics also served as small capsules of information. The pattern, technique and colors in a pair of mittens could indicate where its wearer was from, and the patterns themselves could be full of symbols from archaic pagan mythology. A zig-zag, for example, represented the goddess Mara, whereas a sideway “S” represented an adder, a popular animal of the goddess Laima. Both motifs were and continue to remain popular in mitten design.

Latvian folk songs, or dainas, provide further clues about mittens’ role in ceremony. In 1880, Krisjanis Barons began to collect and document the folk songs of the Latvian people, a project he continued for the following 35 years of his life. Because of his work and dedication, nearly 36,000 dainas were preserved and provide a glimpse into the daily and ceremonial life of Latvians during that time. As seen in these folk songs, knit mittens were a critical part of weddings and were an opportunity for a young woman to display her skill and readiness for marriage. See this daina, written in the voice of a young woman eligible to be married:

Many mittens am I knitting
Putting in my dowry chest
When the rich girls have been taken,
Then will I come in their mind.

Young girls were taught to knit as young as four or five years old, and were knitting daily during or between their other tasks. By the time a girl had reached marrying age, she was expected to have accumulated a dowry chest full of over one hundred mittens and socks that were knit by herself and other women in the family. See this daina that’s written in the voice of a young suitor:

Good evening, maiden’s mother
As you see my hands are freezing;
All the while my mitten knitter
Snugly in your room is sitting.

During the wedding celebrations, which lasted three to four days, the bride gifted pairs of mittens to just about everyone. This included the minister, the groom’s parents, the driver of the wedding carriage, all brothers, sisters and remaining relatives, and the kitchen helpers. Even the barn animals received symbolic offerings of mittens, which were later retrieved by a member of the family. The married couple ate their wedding meal with mittened hands. Before entering the threshold of her new home, the bride laid down a pair of mittens, hung mittens above the hearth, tied them to doors. When I first read this in my copy of Upitis’ book, I couldn’t help but think of these mittens as magical totems, blessing the newly married couple and their community.

There is so much more I could write here about Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian mittens, but instead, I’ll leave you with some resources to explore further. I’ve heard only good things about the book Mittens of Latvia by Maruta Grasmane, which I haven’t read myself but would likely be a good companion for Upitis’ book. Mary Neal Meador’s quest for an authentic Estonian mitten at the Mason-Dixon Knitting blog is definitely worth a read, as is Donna Druchunas’ guest post about knitting in Lithuania on Hélène Magnússon’s The Icelandic Knitter blog. And be sure to check out the eye candy that is the incredible knitting from the Estonian island of Muhu, as shared through the eyes of Kate Davies on her blog here and here. Adding this to my Christmas wish list, please and thank you.

Swatch of the Month: Latvian cheer

THE SWATCH

When it comes to picking a yarn for a project, I’ve gotten accustomed to searching for that elusive, perfectly woolly and perfectly crisp je ne sais quoi yarn – and I often overlook some of the most readily available and solidly good yarn on the market. Quince amd Co., case in point. Of all the projects I’ve knitted to date, the ones knit in Quince were a delight to knit and have reliably held up to time and wear. Plus, for an American-sourced and produced wool yarn, Quince’s broad selection is so well priced and comes in a generous (and ever-expanding) palette of colors.

For this swatch, I originally picked a pattern that called for three colors. I chose Quince & Co.’s fingering-weight Finch in Canvas, Poppy and Barolo colorways, but after ripping and redoing the swatch twice with dismal puckering and pulling, I admitted that my colorwork needed some practice. I switched to a two-color chart instead, using the Canvas and Poppy. I really love how the warm cream of the new Canvas color and the bright, orange-red of the Poppy play off of each other.

I also knitted this swatch in the round, and with a little more time probably could have finished a mitten. Since the swatch is so small and my colorwork skills still a little rough, I figured it would be easier in the long run to just knit it in the round rather than knit an “in-the-round” swatch, as I did for my Icelandic lopi swatch. While working the chart, I trapped long floats using a technique I learned from Andrea Rangel during the Cowichan vest knitalong last year, which is a method I’ve come to rely on to prevent uneven tension in my colorwork.
Jess Schreibstein

Yarn: Quince & Co. Finch in Canvas and Poppy colorways
Needles: US 1 / 2.25mm double-pointed needles
Gauge: 18 stitches / 20 rows = 2 inches in colorwork chart

Swatch of the Month: Latvian cheer

M E T H O D

For the colorwork chart, see Chart 29 in Lizbeth Upitis’ book, Latvian Mittens.

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Swatch of the Month: Rhinebeck treasure hunt

EDITOR’S NOTE: I missed Rhinebeck this year so am happy Jess’s column this month takes us along vicariously. I also love how much her experience echoes mine! Cheers to both of us eventually getting great sweaters from the trip—
—Karen

Swatch of the Month: Rhinebeck treasure hunt

This post marks 6 months (?!) of Swatch of the Month. First off, thanks to Karen for welcoming me here on Fringe Association, and a big thanks to this supportive community of knitters for reading along.

Back when I pitched this idea to Karen, I felt like my knitting practice was on the cusp of transforming from a hobby to something much more – a greater expression of my own creativity and a deepened commitment to a slow wardrobe. By setting aside time on a monthly basis to explore new yarns, stitch patterns and knitting history through the mere act of knitting a swatch, I feel like I’ve been able to stay true to that path. It’s a simple but powerful check-in each month, an opportunity to step outside the relentless “queue check” and dig in on things that have been inspiring me lately. I hope this practice has and continues to encourage you to do some of the same.

For this month’s swatch, I wanted to take a step back and get back to basics. When I take a look at my wardrobe, there are a lot of neutrals – blacks, grays, creams, some indigo and rust. But in my handmade wardrobe? I’ve never knit one thing that is white or black, and subsequently have no completely neutral, throw-over-anything, cropped and boxy cardigan or other layering piece. It’s kind of crazy to think about, and it’s one of my 2017 goals to knit up two or three sweaters that fill that gap.

Swatch of the Month: Rhinebeck treasure hunt

RHINEBECK

With that vision in mind, my best friend Claire and I drove upstate to our first-ever New York State Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck last month. The Friday drive from Baltimore was easy and once we passed New York City, the trees began to really turn and the temperature dropped into respectable sweater weather territory. Rhinebeck is as cute as they come – Market Street is lined with trees, restaurants, a wine shop and bakery, and even an art supply store. Heaven on earth, basically. After picking up some hot apple cider, we checked into our Airbnb just out of the center of town, and settled in with more tea and cookies before heading back out for dinner. We tucked in early, knowing the next day would be a busy one.

Even though many people had told me that Rhinebeck would be packed, I still wasn’t prepared for it to be this insane. If you’re hoping to arrive early to beat the crowds, you’re in good company – it seems that’s what everyone else is thinking. Tents were filled shoulder-to-shoulder with eager knitters giving hugs, petting skeins and elbowing their way into booths. Lines are long, whether it be to pay for a knitting book or a bag of apple cider donuts, but the sun was out and everyone was in such a good mood that it doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

After picking up Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook, giving high-fives to the ladies at the Pom Pom Quarterly magazine stand, and happily running into Brandi (i.e., she ambushed me with a giant hug by the pierogi stand) I continued my hunt for the perfect cream or black yarn to add to my stash. In a festival this massive, I figured that yarn would be easy to find, but by late afternoon I was becoming increasingly discouraged and thought I may very well walk away from the whole thing empty-handed.

It’s not that there weren’t white, black, gray and brown yarns – there were plenty – but once you’re surrounded by seemingly infinite choice, you become a lot more discerning about the exact qualities you want in a yarn. For me, I wanted a 100% wool or wool blend, and preferably not Merino. (There was a lot of Merino and 100% alpaca yarn at the festival, go figure.) A 2-ply or 3-ply were preferable, but for these basic sweaters I had in mind, I envisioned a yarn that felt round, crisp and springy. I wanted the yarn to feel sufficiently sheepy and minimally processed, but many yarns on offer felt loosely spun and almost too sheepy, if that can even be a thing. Bonus points if the yarn was in some way local to New York state and the Hudson Valley.

Enter, Cornwall Yarn Shop’s booth and their selection of Hudson Valley Fibers yarn. In perfect dark charcoal, cream, gray and sandy brown colors, their Hudson yarn had the palette I was after and a dreamy fiber blend – 50% alpaca and 50% Corriedale. Corriedale is the oldest of all crossbred breeds, a cross between Merino and Lincoln sheep bred in Australia and New Zealand in the late 19th century and brought to the U.S. in 1914. The feel is incredibly soft but still a little toothy. The yarn is a 3-ply with a crisp, round shape and great spring, and I could tell that it would have excellent stitch definition. And finally, it’s sourced and milled in New York. Bingo. I picked up six skeins in their “Black Rock” colorway, which is more of a dark, cool gray with a subtle, light gray halo, and started swatching as soon as I got home.

Swatch of the Month: Rhinebeck treasure hunt

THE SWATCH

Remember how I said I wanted to get back to basics? Well, I haven’t been able to get this out of my head. It’s a seed stitch kimono-style cardigan knit up by Simone of Temple of Knit, a knitwear designer and blogger based in Sweden. I love everything about Simone’s blog, knitting patterns and aesthetic. [Editor’s note: Me too.] She has such a defined and considered approach to minimalism with a specific focus on Scandinavian design, which, if you’ve read my post on Icelandic yoked sweaters, know I have a particular soft spot for.

Inspired by Simone’s project, I decided to knit up a swatch exploring a few different basic knit-and-purl stitch patterns that could create a similar nubbly textured fabric. The swatch is broken into three sections of seed stitch, moss stitch, and sand stitch, all achieved through different combinations of knit and purl. For those who are still new to knitting, and even those who are seasoned in the craft, it’s exciting to be reminded how much can be achieved with variations on the simplest of stitches.
Jess Schreibstein

Yarn: Hudson yarn by Hudson Valley Fibers in Black Rock colorway (available here)
Needles: US 6 / 4mm metal needles
Gauge: 19 stitches / 36 rows = 4 inches in seed stitch, moss stitch and sand stitch (below)

Swatch of the Month: Rhinebeck treasure hunt

M E T H O D

CO 40 stitches or any even number of stitches using a long-tail cast on.

Seed Stitch

Row 1: *Knit 1, purl 1; repeat from * to finish
Row 2: *Purl 1, knit 1; repeat from * to finish

Repeat two rows to desired length.

Moss Stitch

Rows 1 and 2: *Knit 1, purl 1; repeat from * to finish
Rows 3 and 4: *Purl 1, knit 1; repeat from * to finish

Repeat four rows to desired length.

Sand Stitch

Rows 1 and 3: Knit
Row 2: *Knit 1, purl 1; repeat from * to finish
Row 4: *Purl 1, knit 1; repeat from * to finish

Repeat four rows to desired length.

*If you’re curious, I photographed the skeins piled on top of Minna’s Agnes Rug in Peach, a hand-woven, natural-dyed, 100% wool rug designed by my friend Sara Berks. Sara and I completed the same weaving residency in Oaxaca, and she went on to build her own inspiring home textile business just over a year ago working with weavers in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and beyond. Her studio is in Red Hook, NY so Claire and I paid her a visit (and I snagged this rug!) on the last day of our Rhinebeck trip.

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Swatch of the Month: Life at Hinterland

It’s interview week here on Fringe! This one is by Jess with Hanahlie of Hinterland, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year — remember this? — along with another exquisite swatch by Jess. But I also want to mention Hinterland’s first pattern collection just came out, with the colorwork cardigan I’ve been waiting for a better look at! So, so good.
—Karen

Swatch of the Month: Life at Hinterland

I’m not sure how I first heard of Hinterland – maybe it was through Instagram, or maybe it was an interview with Hinterland’s founder, Hanahlie Beise, on the Woolful podcast. Regardless, I’d heard only good things about their yarn and was stoked when Hanahlie reached out and offered to send me a couple skeins of their Canadian Rambouillet-alpaca blend, Range. Hinterland is a hyper-local labor of love based in Vancouver Island in Canada, and has only been around for about two years. But once I had the yarn in my hands, I knew it was something unique and quite special.

It sparked an idea to do something a little different for this edition of Swatch of the Month (or “swatchbuckling,” as Karen and I half-jokingly refer to it). I wanted to learn more about this yarn and how it came to life. I pitched the idea of doing an interview with Hanahlie, and she graciously accepted! So with this post, we’re getting a behind-the-scenes look at Hanahlie’s life on an alpaca farm and her vision for Hinterland and their line of yarns.

Swatch of the Month: Life at Hinterland

JS: Hey Hanahlie! As the owner of Hinterland Yarns, you now run an alpaca farm and produce an entire line of yarns. But that wasn’t always the case. Can you tell us about what you were doing before Hinterland, and what led you to wanting to build your work more around fiber?

HB: Before I started Hinterland I was working as a photographer and a graphic designer at Caste Projects, a design studio owned by my husband and me. It felt like I was in front of a computer every day, and that was the case most of the time. My heart wasn’t in it anymore, and I needed a change. I longed to be outside, working with animals, doing things with my hands.

I have always loved material, texture, pattern … textiles in general, so was trying to come up with ways on how I could incorporate those things into my new business. I was big into needle felting, and made this massive bear mostly for an experiment, but also for a design show that was happening in Vancouver at the time. I learned how to knit, and discovered this amazing fibre community. We moved from Vancouver to Victoria (on Vancouver Island), and my search for wooly beasts began.

Originally I was hand-spinning yarn and experimenting with blending alpaca with other fibres. But as my herd grew, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the hand spinning. I started buying more fibre from neighbouring farms who have animals but don’t use the fibre. I’d blend it with mine so I was able to meet the minimum requirements of the mill and away I went! I first experimented with blending with Corriedale wool, and other wools, but once I found Rambouillet merino, I knew I had it! I finally settled on 50/50% ratio, and I think it’s just perfect for garments now.

It sounds like your alpaca flock came together almost by accident or chance. How did you decide that you wanted to focus on alpacas, rather than sheep?

Alpacas were sort of a surprise. I was on the hunt for sheep — I still love sheep and hope to have some one day. There was an ad online for a farm retirement sale, and with that were about 20 yearling alpaca boys. So I thought, why not go out and look at them? I hadn’t really been around alpacas or llamas before, and when the owner took me into the field, all these yearlings came running, jumping, pronging toward me – it was the cutest thing ever. They were beautiful and somehow mystical … and totally stole my heart. After that day I went home and started doing as much research on alpacas as I could, and basically about four days later I bought my original six.

As a farmer and business owner, what does a day-in-the-life of Hanahlie look like?

Typically I get up and take my dogs for a hike or a run. I love that part of the day, being outside first thing with those two. Once they’re tuckered out, I usually head to the barn to do my regular alpaca clean up and feed. I try to get all of my chores done by around 11 or 12 so I can have the rest of the day for computer work. If I don’t have a lot of online orders or emails to respond to I get down to packaging finished yarn, or sorting raw fibre into my next yarn order. It seems like I always have plenty of packaging or sorting to do. Those jobs are never done.

Tell us more about your alpacas.

Over the years my husband and I have been taking on rescue alpacas, shearing for the animal shelters here. When we can, we’ll take them home — and for the ones we don’t have room for, we try to find them homes. I wish I could take them all. We are still pretty small, just 16 alpacas and one llama.

Alpacas and llamas are really interesting. They are very intelligent and have excellent memories. I have gotten to know all of their unique personalities over the years. We have one boy, Bronson, who’s a bit of a bully, but also just a goof. Nutmeg is always looking for treats, so will trot up close and give kisses. Then one of the new rescues, Arthur, who is a very sweet boy, likes to just follow me around wondering what I’m going to do next. They’re all different, so it’s just nice to be around them watching them interact and listen to them make their little hums and grunts.

Their fibre is really amazing too. It’s lightweight because the fibres themselves are hollow (similar to the structure of human hair), so they also retain heat very well. Because the fibres are fairly straight, it creates amazing drape in garments. I love that aspect of it too.

https://www.instagram.com/thekitchenwitch/

Hinterland yarns are blended with Canadian born and raised Rambouillet and Corriedale sheep, and you even carry a Washington-grown Navajo Churro lopi. Why did you choose to incorporate these specific breeds into your family of yarns?

The Navajo Churro came originally as a felting fibre, but because I had bought so much from that farm in Washington I ended up making some rug yarn and lopi with it. Navajo wool is somewhat similar to Icelandic wool in that it has a soft downy undercoat as well as a coarse guard layer so it is suitable for lopi. I’ve been learning how to weave, so have high hopes of making some hand-woven rugs with my Navajo yarn one day.

I was originally trying to blend my alpaca with Corriedale wool, before I got into the Rambouillet. I thought the alpaca could balance out a more rustic wool like Corriedale. It is a beautiful yarn on its own, still very soft, but didn’t quite have the loft I was looking for. The ladies at the mill convinced me to try out Rambouillet, so I did! The Rambouillet is a merino sheep, so it’s got a lot of lanolin (which I love), the wool is incredibly soft, with lots of bounce and loft. It ended up being the perfect blend with my alpaca.

Hinterland yarns are woollen spun and minimally processed. Can you tell us more about your vision for Hinterland and how that informed the development of your family of yarns?

I wanted a more rustic feeling yarn that was suitable for our climate up here on the coast. It’s generally pretty wet up here, so woollen-spun fabric is warmer and fluffier, so softer feeling against the skin. Canadian merino-type sheep (like the Rambouillet merino) have had to adjust to living in a harsher climate so the wool ends up being more dense and wild. It’s still amazing and soft wool, but not as consistent to something like New Zealand merino for instance. I also wanted to make a garment yarn, so needed something that would balance the alpaca out and create a yarn with memory and bounce.

The wool and fibre is washed just with organic and biodegradable soaps by hand, then picked, carded and spun with old machinery. It’s not perfect, but I kind of love that aspect of it. It’s a very old, mom- and daughter-owned mill, so I am happy to support them too.

Sounds like supporting Canadian wool farms and mills is very important to you. What are the biggest benefits and challenges of staying committed to a locally-sourced and produced yarn?

I am constantly learning about the wool industry here — what it was, and what it has become. Canada was once a big wool producing country with many mills and wool-producing farms. A lot of the machinery that is still here is very old, very few people know how to do repairs, so a lot of the time they are working with equipment that has been on its last leg for a while. Many wool-producing farms have also bred meat stock into their herd to create a more dual-purpose farm, but which often lowers the quality of the wool. That’s not always the case, for sure, but it is something I have come across.

Plus, it has been challenging to find consistent farms to work with, but I think that’s because so many farmers here are getting to a retirement age and are not as interested anymore. I am getting there, but I definitely have to work with many farms in order to make a viable production. I am sure that is the case for most yarn producers, but it is a learning curve for me!

Regardless of the ‘what it was’ though, I am very excited about the future of farming in Canada. I feel like I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to the yarn I am making, and it has allowed me to reach out to other wool- and fibre-producing farms to help support them by purchasing wool they have otherwise been unable to sell. That part feels really great too.

Another benefit to this for me is that as my yarn business grows, it will allow for us to take more rescue alpacas and llamas into our herd and grow in that way too. That part makes me feel really good, because there isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t get an email about some animals needing to be re-homed.

What’s next for Hinterland?

Along with continuing to make my yarn — eventually coming out with few new weights — I do have a few other plans for Hinterland and how to grow the business in another way. I’ve been conceptualizing a new project that is called Colour in the Cauldron, which is a natural dye research and residency programme that takes place in Oaxaca, Mexico. In Oaxaca we will be visiting the five main valleys around the centre of Oaxaca to visit and learn from various master weavers and dyers. Alongside these tours will be an intensive natural dye course where we learn about the natural plants and insects in the area traditionally used to create vibrant colours.

My long-term plan for Colour in the Cauldron is to open up the residency to various parts of the world that have an ingrained textile history. Places like Peru, Guatemala and Iceland are currently top of mind for various reasons, but there are just so many amazing places in the world where textiles are an enormous part of cultural identity and storytelling. This could be a lifelong journey of exploration and learning.

Swatch of the Month: Life at Hinterland

THE SWATCH

Once the yarn arrived in the mail, I couldn’t wait to swatch with it. The last time I knit with alpaca was years ago for an ill-fated hat with a 100% alpaca yarn that felt very dense and heavy. So I loved that Hinterland’s yarn was blended 50/50 with Rambouillet to give it some lightness and loft from the wool, while still retaining the softness from the alpaca.

Range has a rustic, nubby look and the strands oscillate between thick and thin. With the Maple colorway, you can even discern fine red fibers twisted around the center core of the yarn, with flecks of cream and tan. It’s incredibly soft, and I can easily see this yarn become a slouchy, simple ribbed hat or a stockinette cardigan that would allow the yarn to speak for itself.

However, I was itching to see how this yarn worked up in cables, and I couldn’t get the cables from Michele Wang’s newest design for Brooklyn Tweed, Auster, out of my mind. I’m happy to report that the cables look simply stunning in this yarn, and I’m already plotting to make a wide, cabled scarf in this stuff.
Jess Schreibstein

Swatch of the Month: Life at Hinterland

Yarn: Hinterland Range in Maple colorway (gift from Hinterland)
Needles: US7/4.5mm wood needles
Gauge: 21.5 stitches / 25 rows = 4 inches in cabled pattern, below

M E T H O D

For the cable chart, please see the Auster pattern by Michele Wang in Brooklyn Tweed’s Fall 2016 Collection

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Yarn and swatch photos by Jess Schreibstein; farm photos © Brian Van Wyk, courtesy of Hinterland