dock and cabin

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, patterns

i’m excited—today is the day that we’re releasing my very favorite design of this winter’s ensemble collection: dock and cabin cardigan, knit in stone soup fingering yarn.

this replica of one of my oldest and dearest sweaters, which i designed and knit back in the 1990s, has been several years in the making.

originally knit in morehouse merino 2 ply sport yarn, i had planned to reknit it many times, and even bought the yarn once, but always put it off in favor of more urgent projects.

i think i sort of doubted my ability to recreate it exactly, or that reknitting it might not reproduce the magic of a sweater i loved so much.

it’s not that i didn’t have a pattern—i did—meticulously handwritten notes for every step of the process (being that it was designed and knit before computers were a fact of life). i just knew there were some challenging parts that i wasn’t sure would translate to a range of sizes or that i could even reknit successfully again in one size.

then my dear friend stone soup fingering came into my life and after knitting one favorite sweater with it, i knew i had to reknit my old favorite in it too (and of course, it would be luscious in better breakfast fingering or ginny sport as well!). i pulled five skeins in color pumice and set to work.

once i got started, my confidence in my dog-eared, handwritten pattern solidified and i was off to the races. the details i worried over actually came together very well—i remembered a lot more than i thought i would.

i won’t lie, an oversized cardigan like this entails a lot of knitting, but with little fit or shaping involved, it’s easy to settle into a rhythm with a fun stitch pattern to watch unfurl, some cabling to keep it goal oriented, and the knowledge that a wearable beauty would be mine at the end.

and the fabric was just what i had hoped—very much like the original, but now in our own yarn. this size weighs just 17 ounces—not bad at all for a good sized slouchy sweater. i love it so much i am already contemplating another; just have to decide which yarn to use . . . or maybe the same yarn in a different shade—i love it that much.

let’s talk a bit about the sizing and fit, because you might be surprised to see that there are just three sizes, with a wide spread of measurements for each. this garment is intended to be oversized—i wear mine with approximately twelve inches of ease. that said, each size will accommodate more than one size person, so my small/medium sample looks equally great on turner, alex, barb, cherie, and cynthia, though we all wear different sizes in a sweater with a more traditional fit.

the fabric of this sweater is very light and airy, so it drapes against the body beautifully—i.e., all that extra ease does not add poundage the way a stiffer fabric with more body would do. also, while this is a drop-shoulder style, i still added some armhole shaping and a sloping sleeve cap, so as not to end up with a lot of extra fabric under the arms, the way a straight, boxy drop-shoulder sweater would have.

it’s still plenty roomy so that you can wear a heavy shirt or use it as a jacket over layers, but the shaping makes the fabric fall around our curves and not bunch up in bulky folds.

and it looks great on guys as well—a totally sharable knit, should you be so inclined. for everyone who told me they were awaiting this pattern, i hope you’ll start one soon and share with us in our ravelry group! this is wonderful knit for long winter evenings and snow days . . .

tweel

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, patterns

this weekend’s ensemble release is a new wool skirt—tweel—which is the scots gaelic word for twill. knit in airy kent dK, with its gorgeous sheen and drape, this skirt is a classic. from its eye-catching herringbone twill fabric that’s a dead-ringer for a woven version, to its beautifully wrought cables along the princess lines, this is one skirt you’ll pull on over and over again.

the skirt is designed to be a companion piece and extension of my herringweave sweater design. the two could be worn as separates, coordinates, or a suit—except this suit would be cozy and comfy to wear all day on the go, at work, or in meetings.

the way we knitters like our clothes to be . . . plus, nothing is as snuggly in cold weather as a hand knit skirt; like wearing your favorite little throw out of the house—only stylish.

i’m a big fan of separates and coordinates over dresses; for one thing, i can usually find a better fit with separates . . .

this skirt has an elastic waist with the flexibility to accommodate a waist-to-hip differential of up to twelve inches. even if you pull the elastic to fit a small waist like our mannequin has, it won’t look make lot of deep gathers or look “dirndl-y”. you can pull in up to about one-third of the waist circumference without experiencing bulk.

and i like the option of swapping bottoms and tops around so that, with a fewer pieces i can produce a wardrobe of outfits.

here we pair the skirt with a lightweight textured pullover in a dark shade that has a smooth fit, giving the whole outfit a neat, tucked-in appearance.

and here, we switched out the trim pullover for an oversized casual cardigan in a lighter color—more of a saturday look and super-comfy at that. the tone on tone oatmeal shades look fab and modern, like shades of sand—you can get away with it in neutrals, but maybe not with a  bunch of colors.

working with a group of separates also gives me the chance to mix textures in different ways—one of the outfits above plays around with allover field textures and the other juxtaposes cables of different types and scale. (and yes, this roomy cardigan is coming up for release soon, too!)

i like having these options and not being married to just one way of wearing a garment.

a lot of knitters are suspicious of the hand knit skirt from a behavior standpoint—probably the most frequent question i’m asked about them is, don’t they stretch and bag out after a little while?

it is for exactly this purpose that i wear my skirt designs myself. i find that careful design and choice of yarn are the keys to skirt success. i mentioned the elastic waist earlier for an easy solution to a customized fit at the waist. these skirts are sized to fit smoothly over the upper hips to accentuate the right stuff and then just at the hip apex, a little flare allows ease for movement, sitting, and bending without producing a saggy seat.

and lastly, fabric. choosing a yarn that blooms and produces a self-supporting fabric that is light and stable will keep the skirt from dragging down; fibers that lock themselves together after washing will recover better when stressed (as in sitting). overly soft yarns that lack body could let you down in a garment like this.

i design skirts because i like them; it’s as simple as that. i write up the patterns for my favorites because i think you might like them too. besides, a skirt is a pretty quick and easy knit; definitely worth taking a chance on.

herringweave cardigan

Posted on 14 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing

it’s finally time for our 2017 ensemble look book rollout; do you love it??

from the response we’ve gotten so far, it seems that you do and that makes me glad. rolling out a new collection (plus club packages and more) means that i don’t get to spend as much time here on the blog as i’d like; i’ve been looking forward to a chance to chat.

yesterday we got to present the beautiful volta shawl design, knit in our cabécou sport by the incredibly talented and popular susanna IC, who i have just loved working with (and there are more BNWs designs from her to come; SO exciting!). and we have so many other designers to present whose work i admire.

but back to me, haha.

today, i get to tell you that one of my own designs is now available for purchase—the herrigweave cardigan, knit in our kent DK yarn in the driftwood shade (kits available here).

while i’m not privy to the processes that our other designers use, one thing i enjoy about my own process is having all of you to talk to when i get hung up on decisions. you are the best sounding board i know. even when i think i know the answer, i can ask what you think and you’ll tell me your honest opinion right away. most often it confirms the direction i already thought i’d be taking, but sometimes it surprises me. sometimes a surprise changes my viewpoint and other times, it doesn’t. but the interchange is so interesting and i love you for engaging with me while i bring designs to fruition.

i remember getting to the end of the first front shoulder and wondering if all that cable detail was just too much. but you loved it, so that helped me step back and realize i was just spending too much time close up to it. also, the proportion will change across the size range so it’s important that it still has impact as it does.

and i always like to bring you in on the button decisions because that’s what we do! choosing buttons is important and we have so many beautiful options in natural bone, horn, and shell available in our online store. we can even help you find a good match for your yarn if you drop us a note.

this view makes me appreciate the drama of the whole neckline and shoulder; it was a very popular shot on instagram when i ran it there, letting me know i had done the right thing to keep all those cables.

they are rich and eyecatching AND they serve to stabilize the sweater in all the right places so it keeps its shape beautifully—important if you wear your sweaters a LOT, like i do. i always marvel too at how much mileage i get from my skeins of bare naked wools—they go on and on; a sweater like this with generous length takes only about four skeins. click here to check out our kits.

after our big photo shoot weekend in early december, styled by our awesome new media and program director, hannah, i was finally free to wear this cardigan. just in time for the cold weather, too!

while i have knit many times with our kent DK yarn, most of those knits are shop samples and i still did not have a sweater of my own in it to wear—so this was it.

the verdict?

O.M.G. i had no idea. this yarn, spun from long, lustrous romney wool and soft, springy merino, is one that i characterize in my mind as “sturdy”, but i can’t say enough how it is also soft and airy—so much so, that what appears here to be a thick sweater is actually light and flexible. all that air of course translates to a cozy feel when i’m inside it; i love getting that warmth without the weight.

i’ve been wearing this cardigan several times a week since december; it’s become a workhorse garment in just a short time. in fact, i would love another one, maybe a size bigger and longer to wrap up in and layer over other things. ask anyone who works here and they might even say they get a little tired of seeing it. hmm, better get that second one on the needles soon . . .

if i do another i might go with the confection sport yarn for my second version; that’s another yarn that’s not represented in my sweater drawer. now to decide which shade; what do you think?

in a few days we’ll be looking at this design again, this time in the pullover version that i knit for david, which is included in the cardigan pattern (and a vest!). i’m hoping that just maybe, i can sweet-talk him into pulling it on and modeling it for us. we’ll see how that goes, haha.

fresh start

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, food and garden

sheepcard01_01

look at the lustrous coat on this beautiful greyaface dartmoor ewe. one of the pleasures of being a knitter in our time is having access to a wider range of fiber quality than ever before. once you’ve knit with a unique yarn that’s fulfilling to hold in your hands and make stitches with, you know the feeling of wanting to take extra special care of it over the life of your garment or accessory.

woolwashcleanfabrica05_13

fresh, clean handknit fabric should feel airy, fluffy, and have a fibery halo that sparkles as it catches the light. if your wool soap leave the fabric dull and heavy looking, you might be interested in making your own. DIY wool soap is easy to make, difficult to screw up, and has the added bonus of costing far less than commercial preparations. it also allows you control what goes into the mix, great for those with allergies or a preference for vegan products.

woolsoaprecipea01_01

i made my first batch of wool soap and blogged about it eighteen months ago, when i found myself low on soap and strapped for time to order the large quantity i needed. i used the recipe that i saw most frequently around the internet, one that has withstood the test of time and is still a classic. it appears on many websites and you can make it in full dilution or as a concentrate; the recipe is easily divided or multiplied. (one reason you might want to make a concentrate is to extend the shelf life if you don’t go through wool wash all that quickly).

woolsoapflakes05_13

this recipe combines grated soap or boxed soap flakes, water, and denatured alcohol (mentholated spirits) with some essential oil to scent and act as an insect deterrent.

woolwashblending05_13

my results were good and the soap worked well; i could not have been happier with the washed fabric! and it was seriously less expensive than any commercial wool soap i had considered—important because we wash a LOT of woolens around here, especially when it’s time to wash all the shop samples.

cleanfabrica05_15

one reason my wool soap was so kind to the fabrics is almost accidental—i used an old bar of homemade olive oil soap to make my wool wash and olive oil (castile) soap is extra conditioning—just what’s needed for wool.

woolwashbottled05_13

i did find i wanted to change a couple of things the next time i made mine, though. first, i did not care for the smell of the denatured alcohol. while almost all of it dissipated after 24 hours of standing, i just wasn’t a fan of that smell; it didn’t sit right with me.

woolwashtestdrive05_13

also, because castile soap is so rich, it doesn’t suds much at all. i could live with that part, but i was curious to see if i could change it any—like a kid with bubble bath, i love me some nice rich lather to squish through my fabrics. a wonderful reader who makes solid soaps gave me some tips and some leads about where to look next for ideas in creating the liquid soap recipe i wanted.

since then i’ve done more reading and research and have found lots of great information about liquid soap (here, i would like to recommend tracy’s blog, oh, the things we’ll make; she demystifies liquid soap making in a practical way that is really easy to understand and follow). making a wool soap without any alcohol is totally doable—not only that, it can be very, very simple and still save tons of money. and if you are willing to spend just a wee bit more time (not work!), you can make LOTS of rich, conditioning liquid soap at a very low cost that will serve multiple purposes around your home.

the last time i washed and blocked a few things, i noticed that our soap supply was getting very low, so this past week i prepared for the new year by making a fresh batch using my newest information; i thought it would be fun to update you on my latest recipe, which begins with liquid castile soap instead of the grated soap. one thing i learned while researching is that if you start with liquid soap, you will not need the alcohol to keep your dilution emulsified.

woolsoapcastilepaste01_01

you can buy pure castile soap already diluted the full amount needed, and also in concentrated dilutions. i found this concentrated, semi-solid soap paste on sale last year at bramble berry, where you can also purchase a variety of other supplies. this two-pound jar will eventually make eight to ten pounds of soap; when i saw it i thought that this form would be easiest to store. it didn’t sound like it was difficult to dilute so i decided to try it.

woolsoapcastilepastea01_01

straight out of the jar, it has the consistency of dried-out jello—leathery and kind of waxy. this paste does not dissolve instantly, so if you decide to go this route, be aware that it takes up to a couple of days to dissolve the paste. which is what i didn’t quite realize when i bought it. but once i read a little bit about using it, i was relieved that all it requires is a bit more time.

woolsoapcastiledilution01_01

a couple of days before soap-making day, i warmed up enough water in a pot to make a two-to-one solution. i dropped spoonfuls of my castile paste in the warm water, placed the lid on, and then let it sit. since i had never done this before i was curious, so i went back every hour or so to give it a stir, watching it turn from hard paste to soft, then more like a gel, the lumps getting smaller and more spread out over the afternoon. by evening it was nearly dissolved and by the next morning, i had soapy syrup of even solution (no lumps). i let it sit an additional day because i hadn’t planned to use it so soon.

woolsoapingredientsa01_01

another thing i learned in my research is that coconut oil soap has great cleaning power and is a good sudser. be sure to buy one that is made only with coconut oil, so that you know what you’re working with (water, KOH or lye, and citric acid are normal soap ingredients).

woolsoapcoconuta01_01

if you combine liquid castile soap with liquid coconut soap, you have a great all-around soap for a variety of purposes. i decided i wanted to use them together for my wool soap and to try a hand soap as well.

woolsoaplanolina01_01

as a little “extra” for the wool soap, i dissolved about a tablespoon of lanolin in hot water, then diluted that with the water i planned to add.

woolsoaplanolin01_01

lanolin is very milky when it dissolves, but it will eventually clear. i left that to fully dissolve while i made the hand soap.

woolsoapprocess01_01

a fully diluted soap has four parts water to one part solid soap or soap paste. my 2:1 solution (three quarts) was much more than i was going to need for this batch, so i portioned off a quart to store away for future use (see—my next batch is halfway done!). i still had two quarts left that could dilute up to four; i planned to fully dilute the portion i would use for hand soap and only half dilute the portion for the wool soap, to make that a little more concentrated.

woolsoapingredients01_01

once your soap is liquid, the rest is easy. if you are starting with liquid soap, you can jump in here! i gathered all my ingredients (sorry i took out the alcohol and photographed it but didn’t use it).

woolsoapbottles01_01

i suddenly realized i was still going to end up with a LOT of liquid soap, so i ran around digging up bottles to use. luckily, david had the foresight to keep the last few bottles of wool soap he’d emptied and i found his stash on a basement shelf.

woolsoapbottlesclean01_01

haha, scrubbing off the old labels took more time than making the soap!

the dilution is really a matter of taste. you can read more about this on the blog i mentioned above, but the author makes a good point—most people are pretty habitual about the amount of soap they use, whether it is concentrated or not. i tend to use a full pump of hand soap to wash my hands, so it does not need to be very concentrated. when i wash woolens, however, i tend to go with a “capful”, no matter how many i’m washing; i have to remind myself that a bigger load requires more. so in that case, a concentrate works best.

a fully diluted soap is a pretty thin liquid, but don’t be fooled that it won’t have cleaning power. cleaning power is not related to viscosity—think of how thin commercial household cleaners are. but if you enjoy a thicker liquid hand soap, you can achieve that by adding certain essential oils or a salt solution; the soap queen blog has a great tutorial for this.

i just realized that i’m making this seem really complicated by telling you all kinds of information that i learned, but really, making a liquid cool  or hand soap is really REALLY easy, i swear!

woolsoapbottled01_01

after diluting one-third of my remaining castile fully, i added some coconut oil soap and i was done. a good proportion is 70/30 castile to coconut. since some essential oils fade over time and i like variety, i decided to add scent only to the amount i planned to use right away. the two bottles i was putting on the shelf remain unscented until further notice.

woolsoapfoam01_01

i also tested the hand soap in a foaming dispenser and it gave me a nice thick, rich foam, not that kind that’s all air.

woolsudsearly01_01

next i finished mixing the wool soap concentrate, then tested to see if my dilution was to my liking and if using the coconut soap gave me the lather i wanted. i dissolved a teaspoon or so in a couple of gallons of water (my “capful”). SCORE! it’s nice.

woolsudslater01_01

half an hour later, still pretty sudsy; i’m sold. i will test it on some fabric in the next couple of days, when my next project comes off the needles.

i went ahead and scented the wool soaps once i bottled them because we use those regularly and in winter, we use a good amount. also, we need to wash all those shop samples again, so we’re going to be going through a bottle or two pretty soon.

woolsoapcloudy01_01

the solution will be milky for a while until it settles—the more diluted or warm it is, the more clear it will become; concentrates can cloud up when stored in a cold area. i left the bottle sitting open for a couple of hours to cool and they all cleared nicely.

woolsoapclear01_01

a light layer of essential oil and suds was still floating on top, but a quick shake disperse that. and i bet if i look again it might even be gone by now.

to use your soap, just add a teaspoon or two to a basin of water for hand washing and maybe one-eighth of a cup (two tablespoons) to each machine load. it’s good to experiment with a few hand washables in a basin to start; if the water is sudsy and feels slightly slick, that’s enough soap. if it feels quite slimy, you’ve added too much. i also recommend using a splash of white vinegar in the rinse water to completely clean the fabric of residue (from soap, dirt, or minerals in hard water) and to balance the pH of your fabric.

all in all, for about $20, i ended up with five big 16-ounce bottles of wool soap and three 8-ounce bottles of hand soap PLUS enough castile dilution to make another batch of the same size. if i purchased a diluted castile soap, i’d get four bottles for about $30—still a big savings. the main thing for me is getting a conditioning formula that leaves my woolens soft, fluffy, and gleaming with life—plus, i can share it with friends. and don’t forget, i also still have half a container of castile paste left . . .

birchesfront01_01

i better get knitting to use up all that soap . . .