Lace3—oh, the possibilities!

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, lace/shawls, spinning and fiber

as spring finally commences with sprouting, blooming, and unfurling a fresh array of colors and fascinating forms, i’ve been busy putting together ideas for my lace³ pattern subscription.

there couldn’t be a more exciting or inspiring time of year to be thinking about new lace projects—if you’ve been following my work for even a short time, you know that translating natural forms into stitches is an important aspect of my designer voice. at this time of year, i am literally surrounded by ideas for motifs and line work with which to fill our rectangular shapes.

now to think about the yarns we might use to bring those ideas to life! one aspect of this project that’s very important to me is flexibility. because it can be resized with ease, the rectangular form is universally friendly to a wide range of yarn types and weights—the same design can be worked in finer or heavier yarns to achieve different effects.

fine yarns produce sheer fabrics suffused with light, showing off delicate line work and semi-transparent shapes; heavier yarns amp up the scale, making for bold, deeply embossed lines and voluptuous forms, along with a gutsier overall fabric. some knitters have a love for one or the other and some of us like to mix it up so that we always have a project going that suits our knitting mood.

as my series of “little nothings” scarf patterns has proven over the years, knitters love this flexibility—these simple rectangular designs have been translated into all manner of larger and smaller projects, from scarves to stoles to baby blankets—and in all types of yarns. and so i hope it will be with the lace³ subscription projects, that knitters will use my basic designs as written, or fiddle with them if they please, to create end results that are just right.

i know that some of you have been dreaming on what you will purchase with your discount coupon—thank you for all of the fun comments you’ve been adding to the discussion in our lace³ ravelry thread!

as promised, i’ve prepared a list to share of the yarns i will most likely work with. for this list, i’ve taken choices from our bare naked wools yarn shop, to offer suggestions for those who’d like to use the $10 coupon included with early signups (click here and purchase now if you’d like to get one too!). i may in the future toss my stash to come up with hand-dyed suggestions and i may even knit a few samples with treasures retrieved through stash diving.

full disclosure though—being that this is a design project that extends a year into the future, it’s possible i may change my mind about knitting with one or two of these yarns myself. if that happens, my intention is that someone in our sample circle will knit with the the yarn from the original list, so that we have an example to show off. note that the list contains more than a half dozen yarns for just six design installments—i like to keep my options open and i feel that any combination of these yarns will work. we’d like to show you several sample options for each installment and i hope to knit more than one for at least some of the installments, while other knitters may help with the rest.

the good news is that even if my choices change or vary, these designs will work with many different yarns; they are excellent stashbuster projects! if a yarn you love is not on the list or drops from my list in the future, you can rest assured that it will still be lovely in almost any of the designs and you will enjoy that project even more for personalizing it with an alternate yarn choice.

the colors shown here are not necessarily the ones i will knit with; i chose photos from our archives that best represent each yarn type.

you may decide that a range of soft silver and blue-gray is right up your alley . . .

or that a soft warm palette suits you and your wardrobe better.

maybe a series of darks are your thing or you like to work with toothy, textured  yarns as opposed to kitteny soft ones.

i find enjoyment and inspiration in a mix of everything; i like to follow one yarn with another that is a different shade and has completely different qualities. i do not make rules for myself about colors or fibers i supposed should and should not wear. and anyway, i like to give away a lot of the accessories i knit, so i allow myself the freedom of exploration. one-skein scarf projects are a great way to try out a yarn that is new to me, especially if i’m considering it for a garment design.

several people have asked about yardages and here i’m going to be a bit vague because it really depends on so many factors—we find that knitterly variations (such as personal gauge and knitting style) can alter yardage by a surprising amount, as can substituting yarn or working at a different gauge than stated. and i want everyone to feel they can take advantage of the flexibility offered here!

while each design will have a stated gauge and yardage for the sample shown, your mileage may vary for a variety of reasons. to prevent knitters from getting bogged down on this point, for the most part these will be the type of projects where you can simply knit til your yarn (or your patience) runs out. you may achieve more or less repeats than i do, but if you start with a skein of equal weight to what i’m using, you should end up with a similar size. scarves and cowls can be knit with single, 4-ounce skeins of fingering or lace yarn, while stoles or blankets will take two or more. if you choose to size up, DK yarns require about fifty percent more yardage. at this point, i really can’t commit to more yardage information than that. to arm yourself with helpful knowledge, i recommend reading through some project notes for my established scarf designs to see how far a single skein of any yarn will go. my lace lessons book also includes helpful information about yarn substitutions and fiber in general.

there is one last last thing—i will almost certainly not be using these yarns in the order they appear below; i’ve got to keep some surprises in my pocket!

are you ready? then here we go!

1. deco lace

deco lace is a tencel/cotton/merino blend with gorgeous sheen that is perfect for summer knitting, as it remains dry to the touch through all weather. never warm or prickly against the neck, its firm twist offers excellent stitch definition and a pearly accent for wool and denim alike, but also drapes into silky, sexy folds. generous yardage allows for a large scarf or stole project.

2. ginny sport (or DK)

ginny is an alpaca/cotton/merino/nylon blend that feels like cashmere. a next-to-the-skin soft yarn with an even softer, fuzzy halo, it makes a remarkably desirable scarf or cowl fabric that drapes into generous, round folds. if you’ve sworn off cotton yarns, this one will make you think again! in the lighter sport weight, it knits up most similarly to our better breakfast fingering yarn; in DK weight it is lush and plump for a warm scarf without the wooliness.

3. better breakfast fingering


better breakfast fingering is an alpaca/merino/nylon blend with all-around appeal. soft, yes—but also sturdy. dehaired alpaca is the magic ingredient, adding ultimate softness without a prickle, for those who may have found other alpaca yarns unwearable. available in eleven natural shades, this signature yarn is a perennial favorite for all types of knits, but is especially lovely for openwork projects with plump stitches—the kind you want for working cable and lace patterns. a smooth profile for easy handling, it blooms with a wonderfully fuzzy halo with a nice bath and some handling.

4. ghillie sock

ghillie sock is spun from 100 percent cheviot wool; if you haven’t heard of it, you can read more about it in this blog post or visit some project pages. this heritage wool fiber has many characteristics that add to its durability, hence its place as the traditional choice for kilt hose, sturdy scottish tweeds, and upholstery. but rarely—and quite unfairly—is a tribute sung to its more delicate characteristics. the lustre and unusual structure of the fiber (helical) makes for a bouncy, airy yarn that simply glows with light when introduced into yarnover patterns. its slightly stiffer hand translates into highly embossed linework and a beautiful blocked finish that keeps its shape for ages. our skeins hold a generous put-up of 600 yards—plenty for a large, lacy piece or one with lots of cables or twist stitches.

5. cabécou lace

cabécou lace, our finest lace offering is the ultimate choice for romantic, heirloom lace pieces. you might think that this kid mohair/silk/coopworth lamb blend, with a whopping 1000 yards per 4-ounce skein will require knitting on toothpicks—but no! in fact, i highly recommend a much larger needle to achieve a gossamer fabric that catches the light on each and every blooming filament. here too, a slightly stiffer fiber blend yields distinct stitch definition and a lasting blocked shape. not to mention a fabric that is virtually weightless and devastatingly sheer.

6. hempshaugh lace

hempshaugh lace, a merino/silk/hemp blend, offers a more rustic, quirky texture than many of our other yarns and is a personal favorite for lots of reasons. it is my summer yarn of choice for tops that i practically live in and for certain kinds of shawls and scarves. its fluid, drape is wonderfully forgiving in garments, but could prove challenging for rectangles that keep their shape. i’m choosing this yarn as a wild card with a special project in mind, with a plan to counter its naturally too-soft tendencies with a clever construction strategy. hoping some of you will play along with me, but if the prospect sounds daunting, be assured that alternate yarns will prove equally compelling.

7. fresh lace

fresh lace is a combination of silk and linen—if you’ve heard that linen is too hard on the hands, then this yarn will rescue its reputation. unimaginably soft to knit with, the fiber also plumps up nicely with lots of body when washed; it makes for gorgeous garter stitch fabric. its brilliant whiteness inspire its name—fresh. while i’m tempted to kick off the subscription in july with this selection, a design that will be absolutely perfect for early spring is whispering to be knit instead and i’ve got it slotted in closer to the end of the lineup.

8. chebris lace

chebris lace is a mohair lover’s dream yarn—soft and glimmering, it knits up quickly on bigger needles and blooms with lush, fluffy softness after a wash and some handling. fabric that flutters in the slightest breeze is the prize for those who choose to knit with this confection of a yarn. spun a bit heavier than our cabécou blend, it’s a great introduction to mohair fiber and laceweight yarn—totally manageable for newbies and a complete pleasure for the more experienced knitter.

9. stone soup fingering

stone soup fingering c’mon now—you know i wouldn’t leave this selection off of any personal yarn list! after all, a day without SSF is like a day without sunshine. i am totally psyched about showing you yet another desirable lace pattern to knit with this tweedy, rustic, lovable stuff. lest you think i’m talking nonsense just to move this yarn off the shelf, i swear, i’m not—just ask my friend katharine; she sleeps in her fringetree shawl, knit with stone soup fingering, she likes it that much (true story!). and if you feel too shy to ask her, you can peruse a variety of stone soup lace projects by clicking here. who knows, this might be your wildcard yarn!

so that’s my list from the shelves of our bare naked wools yarn shop—please feel free to write us with questions or leave a comment and we’ll do our best to answer. to recap, those who sign up for lace³ before 7/10/2018 will receive a $10 credit toward the purchase of three skeins or more, while supplies last. david has mailed out coupon codes to everyone who signed up already; you should be good to go! for those joining up as we speak, yours will be sent along shortly after your purchase.

we plan to present a couple more posts about project yarn before the patterns begin release in july; stay tuned for ideas and inspiration!

elbows swinging

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, projects, spinning and fiber

once i got home from dayton last week, i soaked my elbow patches in soapy water (my sea fret sweater had already been washed and blocked) before preparing to stitch them on. this is important so that they don’t change size and pucker after fixing them to the sleeves. i left long tails at both the beginning and end of my work for sewing; i wound these into butterflies befor soaking and blocking.

in the rinse stage, i fulled the fabric just a little to toughen it up, plunging the pieces alternately into icy cold water and then hot, repeating a few times and rubbing lightly. it wasn’t an all-out felting; that may have distorted the shape. just a bit of fulling to make the fabric dense and more resistant to wear. i then rolled them in a towel to remove excess moisture and laid them flat to dry, pinning them into a nice oval shape.

next i tried on the garment and placed the patches where i wanted them. in my case, this was about seven inches from the edge of the cuff. i wanted them to cover the elbow but also to extend down the lower arm enough to withstand the constant pressure on my forearm when i work at my desk. this is where i typically see some pilling in my sweaters.  for some people this might be too low, so i will probably state a slightly higher placement in the actual pattern and schematic and suggest a custom placement.

by the way, the elbow patches could be any shade that suits you or even another color entirely for a surprise pop of color, the way some designers are using bright pompoms on neutral hats. i chose a slightly darker shade than the color of my sleeves, with enough contrast to stand out a bit, but not too much. the patches are knit in a scaled-down version of the body pattern which provides textural contrast.

once i figure out the placement, i laid the sleeves flat and measured evenly from the cuff, then aligned the patches in the same direction the stitch columns were running on the sleeves. i’m not positive this is important, but  my instinct tells me that if i tilted them on the fabric, the two layers would fight each other and eventually torque somehow. whether you place them a little closer to the underarm seam as i did, or cheat them a little more toward the center of the sleeve is completely between you and your elbows.

once they are placed, slide a piece of cardboard into the sleeve to isolate the top layer, then baste the patches down with large stitches, using sewing thread and a needle. basting is a great technique for securing things temporarily, especially when you’ll be manipulating or moving the fabric a lot. basting is MUCH better than pinning, which distorts the fabric and allows pieces to shift around quite a bit. it only takes a few minutes to do, but once completed, gives you lots more freedom to work; the basting stitches are easily removed later on.

next, i used a backstitch to sew all around the edges, just inside the stockinette edge stitch. to backstitch, take a tiny stitch to the right and slide the needle underneath the fabric to the left, overshooting your next stitch a little; repeat around. i used the column of garter stitch at the edge as a guide for each stitch and that worked a treat for making them equal in length.

i wanted a bit of rough edge to show all around, but you could also use a blanket stitch or whipstitch if you prefer the look of covered edges. either technique will result in an equally neat, secure attachment. once it was sewn all around, i wove in my ends on the wrong side and removed the basting stitches.

now, how to deal with all that unattached fabric in the center of the patch? while two layers of merino wool will almost certainly tack themselves to each other a bit when washed and worn, i definitely didn’t want to leave the result to chance—it would be just my luck that they would shift a bit and glue themselves together in some distorted way, never to be separated.

i thought about running a few lines of invisible stitching right next to the garter ridges and certainly, this would do the trick. but i wondered if it might be heavy or stiffen the fabric more than i wanted. then i had another thought . . .

maybe needle felting would be a good solution? believe it or not, i had never needle felted, haha, and i don’t own the tools, but i really wanted to try it here. over the years i have thought of many instances where this technique might be useful, but never bought the supplies to do it. and i still didn’t—instead i asked everyone i know if they have them, but no one did. finally, i thought of my friend paula and sure enough, she had what i needed. she brought them to our saturday class and on sunday, i gave it a try.

don’t you just love how i’m willing to experiment on a brand new, never been worn, took forty or so hours to knit garment?? yeah, that’s because i didn’t even think of it that way until just now. scary, huh? i guess i just figured it would work.

so basically, we are needle felting an appliqué here and the instructions that come with the kit are very clear about how to do it.

i didn’t realize until i read these instructions that you can do needle felting without water! here i had envisioned making something of a mess and working with wet fabric, when actually, the whole process was quick and neat. i just stuck the felting pad—which is actually a big square brush—into my sleeve face up, underneath the patch. it then occurred to me that it might have been good idea to leave the basting in until after the felting was done, but i needed that shot for the blog so i didn’t think of it. you, however, could take advantage of my hindsight.

i had to work in sections because my patch was bigger than the felting pad, so i just moved it around to do one quarter of the patch at a time. all i had to do was punch lightly with the felting tool through both fabric layers for a minute or two and wa-LAH!—it was attached. then i did a final section at the center.

you know you’ve done it correctly when you turn the sleeve inside out and you see a haze of fiber on the reverse in the shape of your patch. since the patch is also sewn down, there’s no need to go crazy and make it stick too firmly—a light touch is fine and will likely be reinforced by future washing. you don’t want a stiff fabric or one that will felt into cardboard if you cough on it.

like i said in my earlier post, we’re going to take lots of lovely photos with real models some day soon, but for now, here’s a sneak peek. now i have one more to go and this garment will be complete; time to get my pattern writing sweatshirt on.

three haps

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, lace/shawls, patterns, spinning and fiber

in april, just as the first bright greens of spring were emerging, we released three hap designs in our bare naked knitspot club to be knit in elemental affects shetland wool.

and it is with great pleasure that i’m now able to offer these pattern for general release—they were very popular with our clubbies and many people outside the club have been asking when they could start knitting them too.

from top to bottom above, we have the bold and sassy jack tar triangle, followed by the muirburn triangle, and then by the eshaness scarf/stole. each pattern includes instructions for two sizes and four colors, but both are easily adjusted to suit your taste for more or less color changes and bigger or smaller final size.

our friend kathy recently knit this pretty sample in four shades of our tweedy stone soup fingering yarn; it’s so light and airy, but also rustic and cozy to wear; i love it.

the yarn is light and soft, the fabric will flutter prettily in the breeze. it also handles the light just beautifully, filling up with a glow at the merest hint of sun.

muirburn and eshaness are designed using the same stitch patterns and colors, but make use of the shetland shades in different ways. the effect in each design is soft and subtle, with the yarn reflecting the landscape of the scottish heather moors.

jack tar is designed to show off the intensity of the natural shetland colors, which range from deepest black to white—twenty-one natural shades in all to accent the bold sailor’s stripes along the hem.

which one of these designs reflects your personality?

i think the intense discussion over the answers to this question made this installment the most fun for our clubbies.

shown here are the petite size shawls and the scarf version of the rectangular piece. this small size can be made with about five ounces of wool, using something light and airy.

the stiffness and luminosity of this natural shetland or our stone soup fingering yarn is just perfect; the yarn helps the light openwork keep its blocked shape and luminous appearance where something more springy would weigh the fabric down. i imagine they would be stunning in our chebris lace mohair blend as well for the same reasons.

the simple stitches just fly off the needles in these easy to work yarns—the perfect fast knit to consider for a special holiday gift. take a look at our clubbies’ project pages for expanded color ideas and notes.

to view and purchase pattern only, please click here, here, or here for ravelry purchase and click here, here, or here for knitspot pattern shop purchase.

wool seekers

Posted on 89 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, spinning and fiber

a few weeks ago, i received a copy of this beautiful book—in search of the world’s finest wools, written and photographed by dominic dormeuil, current chairman of house of dormeuil  and jean-baptiste rabouan, whose photojournalistic work has focused on the cultures of nomadic people.

sensing  the profound impact of social, economic, and environmental change on the global wool industry and wishing to acknowledge the “growers and artisans of wool”, the authors set out to meet and photograph the animals, people, and places around the globe that produce our most precious fibers.

for the reader, the journey begins on the tundra in greenland to study the ancient musk ox, producer of rare, fine qiviut wool.

what i love about this book is the knowledge that is shared throughout its pages—it’s not only a stunning photographic encyclopedia, but also the well researched product of a passionate wool advocate.

dormeuil, whose family textile firm has operated for five generations within the global fiber market, writes with great sensitivity, depth, and concern for the relationship between man, animal, and environment.

from greenland, we travel across the book’s pages to mongolia, where the best cashmere fiber is grown and harvested.

one fact that is driven home time and again throughout this story is that much of the world’s most precious fibers are produced in the harshest climates. and while maybe not places where the majority of the world wishes—or has the temerity—to live, these environments hang in a delicate balance on which we all have an impact.

directly related to that fact is the realization that we would know nothing of these fiber rarities if it weren’t for the fierce preservation of ancestral traditions by highly skilled farmers and herdsman.

from the ability to understand climate, terrain, and husbandry, to the assessment and marketing of product, deep cultural traditions play an enormous role in whether or not we will knit or weave or sew with cashmere, qiviut, mohair, yak, vicuña, or taewit wools.

on kyrgyztan’s vast grazing lands, the authors teach us about that last one—taewit—gleaned from a unique cashmere-cross goat originating in the region during the period when the soviets used kyrgyzstan as an agricultural breeding laboratory and showcase for communism.

from there we move on to ladakh and the high western plateau of tibet, known as changtang, where pashmina goats are raised.

as with so many other rare fibers, these goats can only be raised by herdsmen willing to practice their husbandry in a wild, inhospitable place. not only is the climate in this area harsh and resources limited due to the extreme altitude, but predators are many. the lifestyle of the herdsmen is seen as almost anachronistic when compared to that of villages in nearby settlements, but for the time being the pursuit of the fine pashmina fiber helps it persist.

from ladakh, we are taken to the shetland islands, where sheep are the focus for the first time in the book.

thanks to its rather isolated location, shetland is home to breeds preserved and maintained from ancient stock of scandinavian sheep, brought to the islands from nearby norway by the vikings. the scandinavians established a sustainable rural society on shetland, which included the processing of wool and manufacture of wool yarn, textiles, and garments—first by hand at home for family use and eventually, for trade.

today, shetland’s wool industry continues to thrive and grow, with investment in eco-friendly milling and processing. while reintroducing us to a perhaps more familiar culture, the author still provides some thoughtful reminders that wool is a product of place, history, and environment toward which humans have a responsibility.

next we leap from nearly the top of the globe to the bottom, landing in new zealand and australia where the world’s largest percentage of merino wool is raised. thanks to the a scottish immigrant named eliza forlonge who gathered the first flock of saxon merino sheep and sent them to australia, almost every knitter is familiar with the squishy, springy, soft merino fiber.

a few of those first imported sheep were purchased by the ranch we visit in this chapter as we get a glimpse of what it takes to run a herd of 12,000 merinos while adhering to the strict oversight of the australian trade organizations. again, so fascinating to absorb and understand exactly what it takes to provide wool for our pleasure.

after australia, we hop over to south africa to look at the herds of  one of my favorite fiber animals—the angora goat, from which mohair fiber is obtained. unlike the double coated cashmere goat, angoras are single coated, producing only long locks of lustre fiber.

the angora goat has thrived in south africa since the mid-1800s, raised mainly in an interior mountain chain. here, a superior mohair product is produced on a third generation family farm. here, the goats can wander in a semi-wild state on the rocky terrain and are brought in twice each year for shearing.

the fleeces are sorted by hand and graded for fineness and color, then milled locally or exported, depending on demand. the author points out here, that while the entire discussion of the book is focused on fibers aimed for a luxury market, economics at the farm level are always precarious. market prices for raw wool remain low; retail prices on finished goods often reflect the high cost of transportation and factory labor, rather than compensation to the farmers and herdsmen.

our world travels with author and photographer wind up with an examination of the almost mythical vicuña, in the high andes mountains of peru. this once plentiful creature was driven almost to extinction by the 1960s, but under extremely close supervision by the peruvian government, a program of protection and breeding is giving new life to its future.

vicuña live and graze on a huge reserve, well-protected from human interference. in addition to preserving and multiplying the breed, the program provides for community based fiber harvesting, so that animal population may be monitored and fiber procured without hunting. while still considered and endangered species, today the vicuña is no longer close to extinction.

i’ve run on and on, just to give you a small chunk of what’s inside this amazing book! if you love the world of fiber, you will want to get yourself a copy. the subject matter is of such interest to me and i know from the popularity of our bare naked knitspot club that i’m not alone—just check out the discussion threads in our club ravelry group and you’ll see we have community that is quite excited about natural fiber).

now if you’ve had the patience and/or interest to read this far, you are in for a treat. firefly books, publishers of this delicious volume, have provided a giveaway copy for one lucky reader.

to be eligible, leave a comment at the end of this post before 9 pm EDST on tuesday, march 14th, telling me which of the above fibers was new and different to you. we will choose a winner at random and announce it in the blog post to follow.