Archive for the ‘projects’ Category

gray + red

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

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when i tell friends that is is very gray in our neck of the woods (NE ohio), i am often treated to stories about the grayness in places where THEY’ve lived. then they come here in november or december and suddenly, they get it—they know gray in a whole new way.

above is a photo taken from my kitchen window the other morning.
yes, that’s right, i said morning—as in 10 am or so. this is not unusual; it’s merely november. december, of course is even dimmer.

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which is why we have to create our own moments of cheery color. i’ve been allowing myself thirty to sixty minutes of cozy knitting over coffee before i start my day as incentive to get out of bed on these dark mornings.

snow has come early again this year and with it, the cold. this week, temperatures fell into the teens and then to the single digits, with wind chills in the minus numbers. brrr; it’s no wonder it’s so hard to get up in the morning after a late night of knitting.

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so yeah, i’ve been swatching my idea for the red scarf design and finalizing that. it’s not exactly as pictured above—i wanted it to be truly reversible and this combination of patterns just missed the mark. but the photo serves at least one purpose, to give you an idea of the “before” state of the yarn. a little stringy, the sts not so appealing, right?

well, get a load of this . . .

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nice transformation huh?? after a good long bath, this yarn fairly explodes. i’m so jealous for those of you who get to see its blocking magic for the first time. i’m knitting it all the way up on size 8 (5.0 mm) needles and i think i could go even a little higher. it seems like the looser you go, the better. the more spaced apart the sts are, the more room that fiber has to blow UP. the fabric is so light and soft.

i’m excited; this is exactly what i envisioned for our red scarf design—something simple and quick to knit, but with a bold, fun texture. i got this one on the needles right away after finishing my swatching and evaluation; i’m knitting the infinity version. if the light wasn’t so bad, i’d share a photo, but there’s plenty of time for that later on. it’s a scarf—we want to see it, but there won’t be many surprises at each progress point, haha; we can take our time.

what i’m really wondering about is when to release the pattern. it’s all set to go right now actually, except for final photos, final yardages, and final size. i’ve got educated guesstimates plugged in for all of those. the twins and david have the kits all lined up and ready to go as well. i’m trying to finish my scarf before the thanksgiving weekend so we can launch this thing, but i keep wondering  . . . do i have to? i mean, i’ve never done anything like this before but for the sake of fundraising, should i release it so we can all knit along together?

let me know your thoughts on that.

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last weekend, i put in some longish hours on the pedal pusher pattern and have the cardigan all written up now, charts and schematic included. but then i remembered i promised my friend anne C that i’d work out a pullover placket neck version, so it’s waiting patiently while i clear a few more jobs from my desk.

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i’m almost there and once i’m done, i can send this one off to the tech editor. yay. i just love writing patterns; i wish my time wasn’t committed in so many directions right now.

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but committed i am—just look at all these notes for our company meeting on thursday, where the main topic will be getting the word out about our thanksgiving weekend promotions. we have a LOT planned, starting with general signups for our blanket statement club. there is more in store, too . . . don’t miss it!

you know, we are always looking for great designs to knit up our bare naked wools in and while we were at rhinebeck, anne marie found  wonderful pattern which she immediately cast on for in confection sport.

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this is bogolan by elizabeth davis. it’s a stunning cowl, with bold patterning; we love it. we love it even more because we can play with it.

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turn it inside out and you have another cowl! you can chose from five different stitch patterns to make various combinations, which elizabeth says are inspired by West African bogolanfini (“mud cloth”) textiles. i think she’s brilliant for coming up with this one.

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because the confection sport is so lofty, anne marie knit her bogolan using a size 8 (5.0 mm) needle to reduce the density of the fabric (a change from the original pattern). with the larger needle, she also reduced the depth of the cowl. she used one four ounce skein each of white chocolate and dark chocolate and though we are awaiting our shipment of white chocolate, the nougat (a VERY pale gray) would be a good substitute.

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meanwhile, back at the ranch, in addition to starting the red scare design and working on a schlep of secret projects for upcoming club installments, i’ve begun working on mister knitspot’s new hat, based on my boilermaker cowl design. it’s time—the winds have been fierce already and sadly, where he used to have a stupendous mop of locks, he has little in the way of protection up top any more.

his consolation however, is a terrific wardrobe of capos and hats, we’ve been building over the last few years. nothing pleases me more than knitting my man a new lid.

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haha, the other night i asked him to put the cowl around his head so i could get an idea of the stitch count i’d need and when he did, the cowl size was actually perfect as is. that’s my david.

where the cowl was worked up from confection sport, i decided that a variation in soft, flannelly stone soup dk would be deliciously warm and cozy for him. i scrounged up a small ball of each shade from my knitting basket

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mostly leftovers from recent color work projects. the only full skein i procured was in my main color—a two-ounce skein of marble in this case (we are restocking this shade as you read this).

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i knit the ribbed brim and have started the progression of shades to the center of the deep brim and back—i can’t wait to see more. as soon as my next set of patterns are turned in to anne marie, i will let myself have a half day or so of knitting so i can indulge in this project.

i still haven’t decided what the top part will be yet, but i’m leaning toward the grampa’s wool socks look. i think.

tomorrow i’ve got the bocce hat pattern to release; something to keep our ears warm and not a minute too soon, right?

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over the weekend i plan to cook a couple of pots of soup, one of them to be from this treasure trove of butternut squash i acquired from bret and connie. connie’s dad had such a successful garden this year that connie was using the squash to decorate for halloween. i figured she probably had extras, haha so i asked for some. a pot of squash soup and a pot of vegetable soup will work wonders for improving work days in our chilly house.

alright then, time to go relax and knit—see you tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

just barely monday

Monday, November 17th, 2014

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thank you so much for all of your nice comments about the kingston cowl. i am finding my forays in color work very satisfying, so i’m really glad that you are supportive.

because so many of you asked about the other knit pieces sheyanne styled the cowl with, i’ll fill you in on the details of those. the hat is an oldie but goodie, a pattern i designed back in 2008, called high peaks. you might remember it this way, modeled by erica B.

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and knit up in our soft and lofty confection worsted (color nougat). this is a really quick, fun project that looks great on anyone—that’s code for “these are a good choice for the gift box”.

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the pattern includes three sizes to fit men, women, and older children as well as instructions for matching mittens (you can also find the pattern in my ravelry shop).

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the awesome cabled vest was knit in our kent DK (color driftwood) by our friend christine at skeinny dipping (luuuv her yarns!). she used a discontinued (at least, i can’t find it on their site) pattern from bergere de france called debardeur. but don’t despair; looks like they discontinued that pattern so you could knit this for him instead.

ETA: our friend elizabeth was persistent and found the book has been relisted on the bergere website! click here to order

seriously though, you can often find discontinued patterns in swap threads or on ebay pretty easily.

all this talk about hats, mittens, and vests is for a good reason . . .

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honey, it got cold all of a sudden!

and we had our first dusting of snow on wednesday, after a really fine couple of days to begin the week.

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hard to believe this was last sunday, chilly at the start line but absolutely gorgeous later on.

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a perfect day for running my last big race of the year.

monday was just lovely and over 60 degrees, but after that the gray moved in, with ever-lowering temperatures and now it’s truly that time of year.

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as bad as it looks outside, it’s more important than ever to make sure i get out to run or i might start talking myself out of it. it’s SO much easier to stay inside with a cup of hot coffee and some knitting, eh? but also so much easier to STAY in shape rather than have to get back into it later.

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this week i finally finished the slip stitch cowl i started during the after party retreat and it turned out lovely soft in stone soup DK (travertine and river rock).

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i’m calling it glasstower because it reminds me of floating staircases in a glass office building. i ran a lifeline at the top of the hem ribbing in case i decided later to add a cashmere lining, but i decided to forego the lining on this one.

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so into the bath it went immediately after i bound off.

now that the heat is on in the house, everything dries so easily and well, haha. i brought this over the the office at the end of that day, totally forgetting that i needed and FO shot for the blog. oh well—you’ll see the more polished version when the pattern is released.

i spent much of the last few days finalizing my designer notes and page layouts for the november passion club shipment (which we are all eagerly awaiting as i write this).

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with the completion of several recent FOs, it’s time to move some projects up in my queue to active duty. the first thing i want to tackle is a hat for david, based on the boilermaker cowl design.

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about a month ago, he kinda fell in love with the one i knit in neutral tones with a cashmere lining. i asked if he’d like a hat like that and he said yes, so i said, you’re on!

and, he said, with the cashmere lining please.
but of course, said i.

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this time, i’m knitting it in shades of stone soup DK. it will have a nice deep, patterned brim and after that i’m kind of open—i may knit the top really plain or i might just do some additional color work, maybe a fair isle thing, pattern on pattern—as in, more is more.

who knows? well, i know one thing; if i leave it up to david, it will be plain. but i might play around with adding a few snowflakes in a gray-on-gray pattern, just to rock his boat. or maybe i’ll decide it really needs a grandpa’s wool socks feel. i just don’t know for sure yet . . .

while i ruminate on that, i’ve got still other projects i need to get going on. because holy cow, it’s red scarf time again! the drive is already underway to collect scarves for the annual valentine care packages. click here for details about what to knit and where to send it.

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as in past years, i will once again be releasing a new scarf design to raise funds for our knitspot red scarf scholarship. my plan is to have the pattern ready by thanksgiving weekend so we can all knit along during december. it will be a fun, reversible pattern based on the waffle creams design (following a great suggestion from a reader).

and you don’t HAVE to knit it in red; you can make one in any color you like. the point of our participation is to raise scholarship money through pattern and kit sales (details will be outlined on the release date, identical to other years). if in addition, you choose to knit a red scarf to send away to the drive, you get a bonus hug from all of us here.

of course we have plenty of other terrific scarf patterns that would be appropriate for knitting up red scarves if you want to get started right away—some hits from previous years fundraisers include baci, crazy quilt, fall line, cabled keyhole scarf, and matterhorn.

to make this years’s fundraiser and KAL even more fun, we’ve got a special batch of red yarn we’ve been hanging onto since last december, when we had our holiday red, worsted weight festivus yarn spun up for the 2013 FIFC club.

it turned out beautiful, but in the preliminary stages, our test batch was spun in the right color, on the wrong weight, leaving us the proud owners of fifty-three skeins of 2-ply fingering wool in the custom color we named santa suit.

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all the things we love about festivus, but smaller, haha.

since the colorway was exclusive to the club, we decided to save it for a year to release as a fundraiser kit with the 2014 red scarf pattern. are you excited??

we jump-started our 2014 fundraiser with a little silent auction during the rhinebeck after party and our awesome retreat goers ponied up a terrific start to the season’s fun. we are looking ahead to a strong finish at the new year, when we’ll announce the results.

as soon as i finish writing this post, i’m hitting the drafting table to make myself a chart to get started.

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last but not least, we are getting the house ready for christmas and the shop ready for a special holiday event—an open house and yarn tasting (click here or here make your reservation). we found this adorable lemon cypress tree as well as a rosemary tree to bring a little limey green and some wonderful scents to our home and office.

hehe, it reminds me of the bay leaf and lime shawl kits, which i always thought was a wonderfully offbeat holiday green (kinda like the grinch, you know?)! i’ve been wearing mine a lot to bring a little cheer to these gray days.

and speaking of gray, i think it’s time to go knit now.

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(i din’t forget about making the chart; i’m on it!

Contests and KALs

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

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Rhinebeck was yet again a magical experience. It made it even more fun with the Knitspot Rhinebeck contest. It was fun to pack up all my Knitspot knits,

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not knowing what I wanted to wear, and swapping out accessories all week long. I decided to brave the 11-hour trek with LOVe and a humongous coffee.

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But the trip, as I found with any great travel partners, flies by. I rode with Sue and Harriet from my knitting guild and we had the best time catching up and knitting away. We were at the hotel before we knew it!

The next day the girls were off in their Knitspot knits to explore the town,

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while I set up a Bare Naked Wools popup for Indie Untangled.

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Just after Sarah and I snapped this pic,

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the doors flew open and we were mobbed with knitters.

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It was TOO MUCH FUN! I saw so many people I haven’t seen in a long time, plus I got to meet fellow ravelers – even Susan-from-Athens!

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She was so pleased to see everything in person. And every person that stopped by to see the new Better Breakfast had a unanimous response – Oh my! It was such a treat to wear the Pyro cowl during the event. It felt like buttah.

The next day was gorgeous and crisp. Perfect weather to browse the barns at NYS Sheep and Wool.

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And the rain held out for the annual Knitspot picnic!

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I know you’ve seen pictures of these already, but seriously, how cute are these!?

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It brings me such joy to see everyone meet up and this year was especially nice. Josée’s mystery swap added a whole extra layer of fun. She was so delighted to gather everyone’s beautifully wrapped packages

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and then play knitting fairy, handing everyone a package filled with stitches of love.

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I was the recipient of a Danger in two colors of organic cotton (found here).

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This infinity was lovingly knit by Barb (she sure knows me, doesn’t she!?) and I have worn it almost daily since. It is so soft and the colors match everything!

I knit a Caravan Scarf in Fibre Co Terra

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and Carie was sweet enough to pose with me.

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All through these days, all of you (at Rhinebeck and at home) were having a blast posing pics on twitter, Instagram, ravelry and Facebook.

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We saw so many great Knitspot knits floating around the hotel at the After Party too!

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I know lots of you inspired a lot more Knitspot knits being cast on when you returned home!

And what you’ve been waiting for…congrats to marthab for posting a pic wearing Pea Trellis (yarn here) in Grand Central!

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It earned her a $25 Knitspot gift certificate! And if you loved playing along, or missed the chance last month…how about another contest! I started the Countdown to Christmas thread (on ravelry here ) and I’ll be posting lots of ideas through Dec 24.

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Post a pic in the ravelry thread or on any of our social sites tagged with #KnitspotHoliday to get an entry into the drawing for a knitspot gift certificate. More details here.

Speaking of holiday fun, the BNWs Boutique yarn tasting is just around the corner! With just 6 spots per seating on December 11 and 13, be our guest as you explore new yarns while one of the staff explains the history of the yarn and its unique properties. Plus you’ll get to snack and see the ever-expanding trunk show on display!

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Seats are VERY limited. Be sure to grab one here.

Before I run…there’s a great KAL in the BNWs group! If you’re itching to cast on something new and you happen to have a Bare Naked Wools DK in your stash, join us for the Glentrekker KAL on ravelry.

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Designer Jen Hagan is guiding us all through as we knit hats and sweaters and watch our cables grow. Even though some of us have cast on, you can join anytime here as we’re keeping this KAL open until at least February. Need yarn? Kits for this can be purchased here.

silver cashmere linings

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

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when cold winter winds howl, what could be more cozy than a pipeline of soft, warm wool for tucking in one’s neck, face, and ears?

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hmm—maybe a cushy quilted cashmere or mink lining to sink into? silk will also add a nice layer of warmth and softness without weight, if that’s even easier to tolerate.

and likewise for hats—if you really want to ensure a warm shield from the bitter cold, doubling up the fabric with a lining is the way to go. a double fabric traps air between its layers, creating the perfect insulation—warm, but breathable, so that humidity can’t build up.

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a lining also gives some body to a garment to provide backing and support for the outer shell; that enables a gaiter or cowl like this one to stand up around the face and ears in the wind, if desired. at the same time, that loose inner layer is able to mold itself around the contours of the body inside to shut out stray drafts.

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and last but not least, a lining puts a neat finish on the back side of the fabric—especially nice on stranded color work pieces, where floats might be vulnerable to snags and pulls.

adding a lining to a simple cowl or hat structure is fairly easy and straightforward—with a little planning you can turn any such project into a coveted accessory of luxury level quality. the following is offered as a folksy, very casual recipe for knitting one—this is not a formal pattern and i am not selling it as gospel; your results may vary, so it’s a good idea to run a test drive with your materials, or to agree to sacrifice a small project (such as a baby hat) to experimentation.

when i started my kingston cowl (pattern to become available as soon as we can get some modeling shots), i knew i wanted to add a lining. the confection sport yarn i used for the outer shell is plenty soft enough on its own, but i was worried about snagging those floats on my earrings and wanted to protect them.

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so just before my last row of hem ribbing was complete, i threw in a lifeline (in blue yarn, above) so that later, the stitches i’d need to pick up could be easily located. you could also use a double knitting technique of increasing on every stitch, then placing all those extra sts on a piece of yarn to be held aside til it was time to use them for the separate inner layer.

i then proceeded to knit the cowl to the top, ending just before the start of top ribbing. leaving those sts on the needle (or on a scrap yarn holder), i then went back to my lifeline and, with the back of the work facing me, placed each of the lifeline sts on the needles (i used the same needles i’d used for the ribbing—size 6US/4.0 mm).

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once the sts were picked up, i took up some of our pura bella undyed mongolian cashmere fingering yarn and began to knit around (note: one skein of this yarn will produce three to five linings for smaller cowls and a couple of linings for longer cowls).

on this needle size, the cashmere fingering made a pretty loose fabric, but that’s what you want here—not so loose you could put a finger through it, but loose enough to allow the fiber to bloom and still have a very soft, drapy fabric (the better to trap air with, my dear).

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when my lining had climbed to approximately the 25 percent  point, i added a “quilting row”. this is something i kind of made up on the fly with an earlier piece, but i really like the result; it helps keep the lining in place while still allowing it to float and act as a separate structure, an inner gaiter, if you will.

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as i knit around this one row, i periodically picked up a small float from the shell to knit together with the cashmere stitch—every twenty stitches, in this case—making sure i stayed on the same row of floats all the way around

this does not show or make a mark on the outer shell fabric at all—you won’t see it on the right side

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it’s actually got a very loose connection that doesn’t pull at all on the fabric face.

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at the same time, that lining will definitely stay put and will not be slipping down below the hem.

i repeated the quilting row at the half and three-quarter marks (roughly), staggering my pickups as i would with a tied quilt.

it seemed to take forever but that’s only because i didn’t work on it very much to begin with—once i buckled down and focused, it all went really quickly (and so worth the work, i’m telling you).

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when i got to the top again. i dropped the cashmere and switching to the wool yarn, laid my smaller lining needle parallel with the needle holding the body sts.

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i then worked a three-needle join, knitting together one stitch from each needle all the way around.

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when i was done and all the sts joined on one needle, i commenced with working the top hem ribbing to finish off the cowl. now with this method, you do get a visible purl row on the back side of the join, which doesn’t bother me. but if you wanted a super neat finish, you could either graft the live sts all the way around or turn it inside out to knit the join underneath.

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i have to admit, i was just too impatient to explore any of those options this time; perhaps in the future i will try. for now, i am quite happy with a neat, homely finish, such as this, but if it was a gift (and definitely if it was going to the fair, haha), i would probably work harder to make the join invisible.

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what i was most anxious about was the fit—it’s so hard to tell while knitting it whether the lining will be the right circumference. after doing two of them on color work pieces, it seems that if i pick up from the ribbing and work with the smaller needle, the lining tube will turn out just the right size and once turned to the inside, it will produce little folds and puffs to fill in any excess space where cold air could get by.

and i’m equally sure that now i’ve said it, some reader or other will end up with a disastrously tight or loose lining. in other words, don’t just take my word for it and blindly knit away without checking your work as you go.

once all the ends are woven in, it’s time to wash and block. undyed yarns will often have a film of spinning oil remaining from the production line and cashmere may have quite a lot. this facilitates the knitting but detracts greatly from the final look and hand of the fabric, so a good wash in hot soapy water is called for.

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in fact, the first wash water may become so dirty SO quickly, that a second wash is in order. my first wash even smelled a bit goaty if i must say so . . .

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just keep changing til the wash water is clear—hot water, good wool soap (not detergent), and no agitation—just let it soak for a good hour or more. with no danger of running dye, you can leave it til the water cools on its own, then rinse with equally cool water.

squeeze as much moisture out of the piece as you can so that you can begin blocking.

i like to “encourage” the stitches to snap back into the shape the yarn is intended to be and to do this, i give my pieces several sharp tugs in every direction to begin bringing back the loft in the fabric.

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a few good whacks against a hard surface will bring out the halo in fuzzy fabrics such as cashmere, alpaca, mink, etc. (see my blocking knits DVD for more fun techniques that really work).

you can see that in the “before” cashmere fabric (above), the stitches are less even and separate, almost stringy, compared to the same fabric after soaking and slapping around a bit

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and this fabric isn’t even dry yet; when it is, it will be even fluffier.

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not that i actually have time for this, but i love watching fiber dry . . .

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cashmere is notoriously slow to dry and when doubled up in a fabric, it’s just excruciating. especially if you dry it flat—which also causes creasing and kind of deflates the loft you just “encouraged” into it. use oatmeal boxes or some other method to open up that fabric so air can circulate through and around it.

i found that if i hang cowls over my sleeve board that works a treat (i’m much too lazy to procure oatmeal boxes for this purpose, haha).

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better yet, if i hang that cowl off the end of the pressing bench that’s next to the hot air vent, it works even better—the piece is constantly enveloped in rising waves of warm air which dries the lining in a fraction of the time.

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i turn it inside out to let the shell dry as well.

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and later, wah-LA! a beautifully finished piece that has terrific body,

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a super-cush interior,

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and which maintains just the right amount of slouchy drape.

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this is so worth the trouble, especially for a classic piece that is unlikely to go out of style. it’s an especially nice addition to a special gift, one that shows your love and esteem by going the extra mile.

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once you work one for a simple project like this cowl or a hat, try something a little more challenging, such as a mitten. i know you can do it and if you need a bit of hand holding (no pun intended), visit our ravelry mothership, where someone is always ready to try a fun new technique.