Archive for the ‘lace/shawls’ Category

summer peas make me feel fine

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

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hello summer! with all of its plenty, the season of warm sun and fresh abundance is here. let’s parade it in with another pattern released from the 2014 BNK club—this time, two light-as-air shawl or scarf designs from the chapter celebrating luxurious cashmere.

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pea trellis is a pretty crescent in three sizes that is knit from the hem up, beginning with a fetching cable and lace pattern that forms natural scallops along its bottom edge.

soft as a cloud in a luxury fingering yarn, it is shown here in cashmere (mini size), but is equally gorgeous in blends containing mink, musk ox (quiviut), yak, bison, mohair, silk, and well, the list goes on.

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petit pois is the rectangular version of the same design, also presented in three sizes from scarf to large stole; the version shown here is a hybrid of the tall stole width and the petite stole length.

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as you can see, this duo makes the perfect mother/daughter or BFF set—not too matchy-matchy, but close enough that they identify you as connected forever. what a beautiful gift for a bride and her mom.

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both pieces are as versatile as they are beautiful—while shown as summer accessories here, do not let their airy weight deceive you into thinking they won’t work hard for you all winter as well—lace can be warmer than solid fabrics in fact—and luxury fibers even more so. part of their luxury is the fact that they are so very functional.

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i think these were quite a favorite with club members last summer and no wonder; the motif is easy to learn and knit, making either project a good traveler for summer vacation, days at the cottage, or quiet afternoon knitting time at home when the kids are away at camp.

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to freshen things up, erica has created a kit for the pea trellis design, subbing in yarn from another BNK chapter—soft, silky chambery mink. the shade is nearly identical and the fabric is slightly different but equally luxurious, with a heavenly halo. a nice change of pace if you’ve already knit up one in the cashmere option and if you haven’t tried a mink yarn yet, you will experience it at its best working with the natural fiber.

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if you’d like the standalone pattern for the pea trellis crescent, please click here to purchase or to view information in our online shop and click here to find the pea trellis pattern in my ravelry pattern shop.

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you can also find the pattern for the petit pois lace stole in our online shop as well as my ravelry pattern shop.

these patterns along with seventeen additional designs for luxury yarns in natural  shades are included in the BNK 2014 eBook—a great value. shop our entire selection of eBooks and club yarns in our online store

you can see various yarn ideas and size options by spending some time browsing our club project pages here for petit pois and here for pea trellis as well!

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it’s the perfect summer project, both to knit and to wear—why not start one now?

the friendly skies

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

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it took several days after TNNA to sort out and process all the many conversations and developments of the weekend. i had just barely begun organizing all that information when i realized it was time to repack my suitcase and get out the door to my next destination.

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i had hoped to be a bit relaxed to start this trip but with a lot of knitting projects to organize, i was as usual, packing my actual clothing at the last minute and late into the night. and for the first time ever, i overslept a little in the morning and was almost late getting to the airport. it was actually a relief to get on the plane and up above the heavy clouds where the sun shone.

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during the flight, i worked some on the little hat project i started last week. this luscious yarn is a sample of a new fiber blend for summer that we are crazy about.

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this little fartlek cap for baby eli will be the perfect test knit. the yarn is soft, soft, soft and since he’s still quite bald, that will be a plus. do you want to guess what the yarn is made of? first person to be 90 percent correct gets a free fartlek pattern (hint: it’s a blend).

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by total accident, during the descent i happened to get a shot at almost the exact same angle as i had during takeoff. can you guess where i am?

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obviously someplace more populated that canton, OH.

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can you guess now? i bet some of you will . . . that’s right, i’m back in brooklyn. two months ago when i was here, i got SO MUCH accomplished that our staff encouraged me to do it again (or maybe they just like it better when i’m not underfoot, haha).

whatever the reason, i had the opportunity, thanks to my sweet, dear friend nancy, to come back on another self-imposed work retreat. i arrived friday to spend some time with nancy before she took off on her travels.

we both worked on friday and on then on saturday, i got up early and knit a bit on my sweater sleeve, while having coffee.

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it’s coming along nicely at a relaxed pace; i’ve been juggling several knitting projects and lots of design work, so i’m not pushing myself too hard on this one yet. i’m sure i’ll pick up speed when i can devote myself to it fully, but in the meantime, i’m adding to it here and there.

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the fabric is such a close replica to my original that it’s almost scary; the only difference really is the shade. i can’t wait to wash the fabric; the surface will be wonderfully softened after a hot bath.

anyway, once i was fully awake and the day had warmed slightly, i went for a run which ended with a trip through the farmers market in grand army plaza. the day was overcast and drizzly, but not rainy enough to stay in. i picked out stuff for salads and a big bag of apples (which are fantastic, wow).

oh, i just realized that i need to back up a bit—i’m forgetting all about why you haven’t seen much knitting from me for a week or so. i had a secret project on the needles that i didn’t want to show you til i got to NYC

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a few weeks ago nancy posted a photo of her recently completed wing o’ the moth shawl, knit in a teal lace yarn for her granddaughter.

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she was working on this project during my last visit and mentioned how much she loved the color and then when it was done, she jokingly said that she didn’t want to give it up.

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well, it is such a pretty shawl and dear to me because it was the first pattern i published on my blog, back in 2006.

so, i decided what the heck? i’ll knit her one as a thank you for having me stay at her place this week. but can you believe that the ONE color of lace yarn i didn’t have is teal??  . . . seriously.

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i wrote my friend jen at spirit trail fiberworks, because i thought her amazing nona lace yarn would be perfectly elegant for this gift knit. and i was right—just look at that soft, rich sheen; it totally makes the piece!

and even though she had JUST gotten back from maryland sheep and wool and had not unpacked her trailer, she found the perfect pair of skeins for me to knit the shawl in the mallard colorway.

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because nona is silky and on the heavier side of lace weight, rather than fingering weight as the pattern calls for, i used needles one size smaller than recommended. that worked out perfectly—the texture is richly embossed though the fabric is light and drapey—the soft lustre of the yarn highlights every line and curve; it’s an exquisite choice for this project!

doesn’t that motif work out so pretty at the point? i love that bit . . .

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but i love nancy’s smile even better.

the shawl still blocked out to its intended generous size. most likely that is because the lighter, silkier fiber stretches more.

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nancy wore it all weekend and took it along to spain as well—what an honor!

those first few days of my stay were a bit overcast and chilly, so it felt fine to stay in most of the time and get some work done. i have some specific projects i’d like to complete—most of them secret ENVY club designs, but also a few new items that i can fill you in on as the week progresses. i have a few people to meet with while i’m here as well.

and because it isn’t good to work the entire weekend, that afternoon we took a walk to the brooklyn museum to see the basquiat show together. the weather slowly, slowly improved and when we came out into the late afternoon, the sun had warmed a little and the sky was blue.

sunday was comparatively balmy, in fact and after my run i immersed myself in some design work for a few hours. after a bit i took a break out on the balcony to investigate an issue with nancy’s pine and ivy shawl, which she is knitting in our cabécou lace yarn (sel gris shade); a gift i brought her on my last trip.

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unfortunately, the problem was systemic, so i had to rip back a bunch. we laughed at how closely the pile of ripped yarn resembles a goat. but it’s spectacular in the light, isn’t it?

the trick to ripping back lace is to not do it right away—wait a period of time (like overnight or longer) and the stitches will take a set; they won’t run away from you in a slithery mess when you rip. better yet, mist them lightly with water and let the fabric dry well; they will hold their shape really well.

the whole operation took about an hour—a few minutes to rip and then a bit of time getting the 400-plus tiny stitches back on the needles, then counting to make sure they were all there, and then making sure each was wasn’t twisted. now she is all set to start the section over.

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later that afternoon we were off to the city—nancy wanted to show me the new whitney museum in the meat packing district, which just opened a few weeks ago.

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situated at the end of the high line, the museum offers staggering city views from outdoor spaces on every one of its six levels. swank hotels and shops are popping up throughout the immediate neighborhood for better or for worse (hopefully mostly for better and it won’t become another shopping mall).

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the views from every floor put up pretty strong competition with the museum’s contents, especially on a stellar day such as this one—so welcome after the dark, chilly days preceding.

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some of the site lines and angles parallel works in the collection so strongly, it makes me think the building was constructed for that purpose alone. and why not? would it really be so farfetched?

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i know a couple of fans who would love such an inspiration for a building.

i adore going to museums and galleries with fellow appreciators; i SO enjoyed this weekend with nancy.

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we couldn’t have asked for a better day—between the balmy weather and incredible paintings, photography, and sculpture you wouldn’t think we could ask for more.

but wait, there IS more!

there’s cathy—and donna (we didn’t manage to get a photo of her, darn it)

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but the feeling is the same—good friends make for great happiness.

alright now, that’s enough of me running on—time to knit. i’ll be back in a few days with an update on what’s percolating here.

get my goat

Friday, June 5th, 2015

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when it comes to appearance and behavior, i think goats are my favorite fiber animal. i love their light, springy movements and delicate features; i’m amused by their funny faces, made all the more mischievous when topped by a glowing halo of curly fleece.

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last spring we were lucky to be able to explore mohair fiber in our bare naked knitspot club. and while mohair yarns are plentiful throughout the knitting universe, undyed mohair yarn is scarce—and nonexistent in the quantities we required for our club.

as you know, all we need to hear is that something doesn’t exist and we set off to make it happen. and so it was with our quest to provide a quality mohair yarn that any knitter could love.

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and so we began asking about mohair farms through friends and at shows; this research eventually led us to pinxterbloom farm in eastern pennsylvania, home to john and jeanne frett and their gorgeous flock of angora goats.

in addition to his angora goat enterprise, john  is a professor of landscape horticulture at the university of delaware and director of the university botanic garden.

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at the peak of the season, john’s herd numbers between seventy and  eighty goats, with as many colored goats as he can breed (breeding for color in goats is not very straightforward; for more in-depth information on this topic, please my BNK 2014 eBook).

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by diligent breeding, john has managed to develop a representation of about 25 to 30 percent colored fleeces; these range from reds (brown and fawn fleece) to black (gray and black fleece).

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interestingly, the reds are darkest close to birth and grow lighter as they mature, often ending up with pinkish, creamy white fleeces.

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during our visit to the farm in december 2013, we got to tour the barns and grounds to meet all the adorable residents. john talks about his goats as if they are people; it’s not always clear at first that the characters in his stories are animals.

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john names each new generation after a plant genus; the first born is given the name of the genus (this year it is redbuds, so the first is named redbud) and then each subsequent kid is named for a species in that genus. in march of this year, when i wrote to inquire about kidding season and the availability of fiber, john wrote:

Kidding is finished for the year. Five colored buck kids, 4 brown and one black, and five doe kids, one brown and 4 white. They are off to a great start. This year all of the kids are named after redbuds an early flowering small tree native in this area. Some of the names are, Cercis, Racemosa, Silaquestrum, etc. They are a great source of amusement and inspiration; watching them leap around and dart in and out of the barn is energizing and soul lifting.

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after a look around the place, we headed indoors to and down to john’s basement workshop, where fleeces are sorted and skirted to make them ready for sale. some will be sold to hand spinners at retail wool shows and the rest will be sold on the market for use in making textiles.

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john runs us through the process of sorting, skirting, and measuring the staple length while determining the grade and weight of each fleece. whatever isn’t discarded in placed in a bag and marked with this data, as well as the name of the animal that produced it.

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there was a good stock on hand the day we visited, with some fleeces left from the previous season and some still left to grade from the fall clip.

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as the work progressed downstairs anne marie and i wandered upstairs to talk to jeanne, who showed us the beautiful rolags of hand-carded mohair fiber (she gets pick of the fleeces each year!) as well as some of the beautiful items that she and john make from their handgun mohair yarns. jeanne teaches classes in natural dyeing and uses her soft hues in colorwork projects such as mittens and hats.

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jeanne does natural dyeing, handspring, and knitting; john is a weaver and has a big look on which he can produce blankets and other fabrics.

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we left that day with about 225 pounds of fiber ranging in grade from kid to young adult and in all shades—white, red, steel gray, and black. we drove it straight to sweitzer’s mill for drop off, planning that the largest portion—150 pounds of white and tan fiber—would go into our club yarn, a 60/40 merino/mohair blend in a heavy lace weight.

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the darker fiber—including 25 pounds of kid mohair—would be spun afterward into the first generation of our cabécou brillant sport yarn—in poivre (more about this lustrous blend later).

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the club yarn—chebris lace—turned out lovely and as soon as i had sample skeins in the house i began work on the design we’d be shipping with it.

the 2-ply heavy lace yarn had a bouncy hand and while a bit bumpy in texture, offered great stitch definition. with such a generous yardage (750 yards per skein), i had plenty to knit a shawl project that could be a triangle or square, sturdy enough to be worn every day, but with a wonderful bold edging to show off some knitterly skills.  i kept the main portion of the project in simple garter stitch, which showcases so well the rustic qualities of the yarn but also lends balance and drape to the final fabric.

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the mohair content helped the yarn block out to a beautifully consistent surface, with crisp points accented by a soft sheen. the result pieces were the deliciously soft and cuddly capricorn triangle and amalthea square.

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the triangle is simple, soft, and warm, but also dramatic when you want it to be. it makes a special gift for a new mom—something to toss for those walks between bed and nursery, or when sitting nighttime vigil with a fussy infant.

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and it works equally well for running errands out and about. the pattern includes several sizes so it can be tailored to any function or frame you like.

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on the other hand, the square shape of amalthea is generous enough to perform all sorts of roles—baby square, sofa throw, nap blanket.

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the garter fabric is sturdy and highly functional for these tasks while the grand edging gives it some fancy flare.

the patterns for capricorn and amalthea are now available for purchase in the knitspot pattern shop or in our ravelry pattern shop.

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last summer we started working with a small mill in ohio and eventually they took over the production of our mohair yarns. with the new mill came the opportunity to spin a finer laceweight yarn, so we ran some tests with our luxurious cabécou blend.

this yarn turned out SO beautifully—i just love the fabric it makes.

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hattie knit this stunning pine and ivy sample from just half a skein—isn’t it incredible?

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the way it catches the light; it takes my breath away. the yarn is fine, but has plenty of grip so it’s a pleasure to knit. it will work with such favorite designs as the alhambra scarf, campanula, and nightingale wing stole.

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and we also have it spun in the popular sport weight for more substantial wraps and sweaters

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like this morning glory wrap, the gnarled oakwood wrap, obstacles, or stonewall.

more experimentation resulted in the expansion of our chebris line as well, with variations in sport and worsted weight.

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the worsted weight is so light and poofy; perfect for featherweight blankets, oversized jackets, and soft, delicious caps.

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it’s a knockout in cables—wow.

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the sport weight makes excellent blankets, too. its lofty, bouncy hand—a direct result of using high quality fiber and handling it carefully—allows all of these yarns to be knit on larger needles than you’d expect. it almost seems as if the more room you give to each stitch, the more the yarn will bloom to fill that space. i love that!

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well, i could run on and on, but i’m sure you’re tired of hearing me talk, haha. how about a few more photos to dream on over the weekend?

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seams like a good time

Friday, May 29th, 2015

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(i just love the shadow of my funky little chair that appears in this photo!)

i finished knitting my triticum sweater pieces on tuesday night, but it was a little too late to get them blocked.

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so up early on wednesday to steam the pieces and put them together; i had the iron fired up by 6:30 am.

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it’s really important to block these sweater pieces before they go together so that the lace panels can be stretched and opened up fully. it’s ok if later, they pleat up again in the wash; they seem to hold their blocked shape pretty well (depending on the yarn choice).

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you want to block that lace fabric so that it will drape in a nice sweep down the front of the garment and not just sit there in a crumpled fashion, you know?

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this particular sample, knit in our stone soup fingering yarn (in the marble shade), is a good example of the fabric you are trying to get in this sweater. while it appears that i am stretching the pieces beyond a reasonable amount for a garment, it is by this method that i will achieve the light, airy, and open-grained fabric i want.

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it really should be semi sheer when you hold it to the light. part of that is how loosely it is knit and part of it is achieved in the blocking process.

the samples i knit with better breakfast fingering (porridge) and spirit trail tayet (midnight rendezvous) relaxed and opened up much more easily, due to the fiber content and relaxed twist of those yarns.

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stone soup fingering has a tighter twist and needs a little more coaxing to open up like that—one reason i like to knit it into a looser fabric on bigger needles than you would expect (in this case size 6).

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once it’s soaked, it blooms and softens a lot and the openness is supported by the expanding fiber network within.

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the final fabric has all the integrity of a heavier, firmer fabric with strong, even stitches and a smooth surface, but feels feels much lighter and more breathable—perfect for temperate weather, yet very durable.

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(the same goes for shawls and lace accessories by the way; SSF is a workhorse yarn that is, at the same time, soft and delicate).

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once my pieces were steam blocked to size, it was time to start assembling them into a garment.

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the first thing that needs to be joined are the two lapel extensions that form the back collar; this requires grafting. i always enjoy the special little pattern that a center back graft creates—it’s a unique feature that will occur only once in a garment and whether it’s the back of a shawl or the collar of a sweater, i love planning how it will turn out.

do not allow the prospect of grafting to cause you anxiety or allow you to avoid this project altogether—i will be there to help you. just log in to my free craftsy class on grafting and take it step by step. you will feel so great about mastering another knitting technique (and your fears about it).

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once the lapels are grafted together, the collar can be stitched to the back neck and the garment can be viewed on the dress form for the first time—so exciting!

from here, the sleeve caps are sewn into the armscyes and those seams are steamed and shaped (see this post for more detailed information and photos about seaming triticum or my craftsy finishing class for in-depth finishing instruction).

after that the underarm and side seams are stitched up and that’s it—triticum has no added button bands or neck finishes, so once the seams are sewn it’s done.

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by wednesday evening the work was complete; i finished up the last of the seams at knit night. but it still needed a good bath and after a quick dinner with david, into the wash it went.

i let it sink into a big tub of hot sudsy water, which lifted all the remaining spinning oil and dust from the fiber. once freed of this film, the scales on the wooly fiber open up and bloom, allowing water to penetrate. it is this process that transforms a dull looking yarn into a soft, clean, springy thing of beauty, alive with light.

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it really does look like carved and polished marble, doesn’t it?

after a good wash and rinse, i laid the clean garment out to dry. it’s been humid here this week so i was again very glad i had gotten it done by wednesday night—it would have a full two days to dry if needed.

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this yarn has wonderful wicking action however, and by noon the next day it was completely dry. it actually dried faster than i was prepared for—i meant to go back when it was halfway there to stretch the lace a bit more before it was totally done.

no worries, i can steam that out this morning. normally i wouldn’t even fiddle with it much, but this sample will be going into the fashion show at TNNA tonight, so we want it to look its best.

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my other incentive for getting all my work done before thursday is that my good friend and fellow designer, rosemary hill arrived yesterday for a pre-TNNA visit. we were able to have a really lovely day of knitting and talking about all things under the sun—from designer shop talk to yarn to trends in the industry to yarn to business and back to yarn (it is SO great to count one or two friends among colleagues that i can really talk to and share information with).

we will be traveling downstate in a few hours with erica B. to begin our weekend at the show; if you see me there, please stop and say hello.

laura and lauren will be storming the blog this weekend to bring you a couple of fun posts and i’ll be back next week to talk about new stuff.