weather or not

Posted on 11 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden

i’m not a religious person, but i do enjoy the religious holidays; i like that my geographically widespread family gets text- and photo-stream happy for a day or two, sharing plans and photos of food preparation and places they are visiting. these are days to savor as the kids grow up and my generation gets older.

it was crazy though, as only an easter that lands on april fool’s day can be—while the day was cold and windy, it was also quite sunny and we got out for a very long evening walk to visit all of our doggy friends and places. for supper afterward, i made a yummy pasta dish with asparagus, mushrooms, and cured olives and then sat down for a long chat with my friend katharine.

at one point i turned around to look out the window and WHOA! it was a frosted winter wonderland, thick wet snow coating every branch. and as i write this, it’s snowing again now, though it was 60 degrees last night. spring in ohio, haha.

i had nice knitting weekend, too—without classes on saturday morning, i stayed up til nearly dawn on friday night making swatches and had a little extra time on saturday to knit, too. i completed this sleeve—the first finished piece of my second deep dive pullover in my very favorite stone soup fingering yarn. i don’t have a really dark brown sweater and thought this v-neck, with its rich, deep cabled details would be a good opportunity to use the river rock shade. you can’t say at all that the texture will disappear with this design—those cables are mighty, mightay.

i’m also preparing to begin the cardigan version of my sea fret design, which i envision in one of our soft cream shades of bare naked wools fingering yarn or perhaps a light sport weight. i love the idea of an airy, breathable spring/fall fabric that glows with light for this garment, which i imagine i would grab to throw on for just about any outing. where we live, the wind can pick up at any time or the sky can cloud over to bring on a chill.

to achieve the kind of fabric i want, i need a fiber that has some body—one that, when it blooms, will hold its fibers ends out to support the stitches around itself. that will make a lighter, airier fabric which is breathable, has good wicking properties, and maintains its shape nicely. a very soft fiber won’t perform in quite the same way; it will be dense and cozy, but that’s for another season. also, without garment seams to add support, a soft fiber may sag or torque.

to obtain my goal fabric, i felt like i had three choices among our array of fingering yarns—tweedy, stone soup fingering (a strong blend of heritage wools and merino, alpaca, and luxury fibers), cooper sport (100% springy coopworth lambswool), and ghillie sock (100% cheviot wool)

stone soup fingering is my go-to yarn for durable, everyday sweaters that i’ll wear often, but since we’d already decided to knit a sea fret pullover sample in that, i decided to focus on cooper sport and ghillie sock. these two single breed yarns are the perfect thing for knitting aran designs and ganseys—plus, i don’t yet have a garment knit in either one. a word about the word “sport” vs. “sock” or “fingering”; while our yarns are classified according to the diameter and yards per pound at which they are spun, their individual fiber characteristics often allow them to cross lines and perform in a neighboring class. the way they relax and drape or bloom and puff up, allow them to be knit in a wider range of gauges and needle sizes than most commercial yarns. so the fact that i’m trying out a sport yarn here has more to do with the characteristics of coopworth fiber than with the yards per pound.

i knit a pair of swatches in each yarn, one on size 6US (4.0 mm) needles and one on size 5US (3.75 mm) needles. i’d used 4.0 mm needles for the original samples but both of these yarns are so springy that the gauge on those needles was too loose (not enough sts per inch; fabric a bit loose). so i went to the smaller needles for another go. the photo above shows both prewashed and post washed swatches—what a difference, eh? there is such a change in the character of the fabric—the fabric relaxes and flattens (especially in row height) and the stitches become much more consistent. it’s a really important step in the swatching process and necessary for gathering a proper gauge measurement. oh and yes, i got much closer to gauge on the second swatches.

once my swatching was done, it was a real tossup for me about which fabric to knit with—they are different, but similar and each has a wonderful, unique character. they are equally soft and light and creamy. the cooper is a bit fuzzier and feels a little denser, probably due to its 2-ply construction. the ghillie is smooth, with slightly crisper stitch definition. i passed the swatches around at our team meeting last week; david liked the defined pattern in the ghillie but preferred the soft fabric in cooper and ellen went straight to the cooper sport. so cooper sport it is! i will save the ghillie sock for a cabled sweater design that i have planned for fall.

dang i just love the process of getting ready to knit. haha, i know that’s not the best part for most people, but i can’t help it—i could swatch all day; it could be my job and i’d be happy. oh wait—it IS my job. yay!

i’ve been working on the matching cap here and there; it’s just about ready for top decreases to begin, but i got sidetracked by some secret knitting. i can bring it to knit night this evening and maybe get it off the needles. now that i’ve taken it out of the project bag again (oops, i may not have looked at it all week), i’m kind of excited; it’s possible this hat will fit david and that he’ll like it.

we had thought about traveling to see my mom for the holiday, but david is working on the very last pieces for our new website and it just wasn’t a good time to take five days off. so we worked hard, but we also made time for some fun.

because cardigan has been doing so well with her socialization exercises, we needed to refresh everyone’s supply of dog biscuits. i had a couple of overripe bananas, so i decided to substitute them for the sweet potatoes in my regular recipe.

using banana seemed to increase the flour requirement a little, BTW. cardigan was on stand-by to taste the batter and make sure i measured everything correctly, with especially generous additions of peanut butter.

she was also a big helper in watching the oven; the smell was intoxicating, i must say. then she helped with the taste testing that followed.

i tasted one myself and i must say, these are spectacular—er, for a dog biscuit.

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.

fretfully cozy

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, home and family

i know this looks like a pile of clutter i should clean up, but i’m pretending it’s a terrarium. i’ve never been able to keep one alive but somehow, i’m managing this time . . .

thank you for your nice notes to cardigan over the last few days; she is so tickled that you enjoy her posts. she is busy making notes for the next one . . .

her adopt-i-versary is this week—one year since we first brought her home. and every day since, i’ve been  awed, charmed, and reminded of the power in positive reinforcement—even when progress is slow and frustrating, she is a patient, kind teacher who does not give up on me.

so, what has everyone been up to? i’ve been working on some secret stuff for the next installment of our pairings club, but also on some new designs for regular publication. i think i mentioned that we want to produce a small collection of spring and summer knits—a few garments, a couple shawls and some accessories—ideas i’ve been eager to work on for a while.

the red sweater i knit for david a while back is a prototype for a slightly lighter-weight version with a bit of detail he didn’t want.

i cast on for mine immediately after finishing his—i was excited to knit myself a casual pullover and to play with BNWs patchwork natural gradient yarn in fingering weight. we’ve had this yarn since late fall, but i’ve not had time to indulge myself with it.

i must excuse my lack of early project photography by saying that pullover this knit up fast as lightening—i’d knit two sleeves and started the body before i realized i did not have even one photo. the idea was to get the first sleeve on the needles in preparation for a road trip to see my mom for her birthday at the end of february.

(THERE are the sleeves!) but that trip got cancelled due to the first snowmagedden of march along the east coast and since i had finished up all my work on our 2018 ensemble collection in order to travel, i was suddenly in a position to give myself a four-day, all-expenses-paid weekend to stay home with david and cardigan, watch the snow fall, listen to audiobooks, and knit (well, that’s what i did with it anyway).

and by the way, i highly recommend this strategy for dealing with inclement weather. and also this yarn—it is the coziest, softest, most cuddly yarn; it’s the chubby, warm, roly-poly puppy of yarn. plus, it’s got awesomely interesting coloration; completely random, but so soft and gradual that it is easily nudged into a pleasing composition. i had chosen four skeins in a range of light print shades; one skein was lighter and more brown, two skeins had more gray and less white, and the fourth skein was a slightly darker mix of gray and brown (if you want some and need us to put a set together, just add a note to your order at checkout). my idea was that i’d be able to knit from the bottom hem in lighter shades up to the darker shades at the neck and shoulders, but you could also get skeins that “match” more closely for a more tonal, allover effect like the one i knit david.

i don’t like to manipulate these types of yarn a lot because i want to show a completely honest result—what you can expect when using it at home straight from the box, so to speak. but i do organize my skeins before i start and plan out a loose sequence. the one spot where i might wind off a bit to get an exact match is where the sleeves are joined to the body—i don’t want a visible line there to mar the overall effect (and that’s not cheating, just being practical). in this case, i had a naturally exact match at the top of one sleeve but at the other, a bit of a jog. but since i had left my yarn supply attached to each sleeve, i was able to alternate skeins for the first few rounds of the yoke to blend them and it worked out well.

in no time it was off the needles and blocking—i didn’t finish it completely that first weekend, but it was washed and drying by 3/15. with just the neckband and two short underarm seams in the way of finishing work, it really is a speedy knit.


i do like the added narrow cable, detailing the side seams and raglan lines—it’s small but adds a lot of definition. i think even some die-hard anti-cable stalwarts might agree . . .

(sorry for the smudged blocking photos—our third floor is seriously light challenged and well, the snowy skies don’t help).

here are  a few better photos; we will, of course, get some much better modeling shots later on with actual models.

this is a sweater i’ll wear ALL the time—in fact, i am already planning a third one, this time a round-neck cardigan, maybe in stone soup fingering, color slate (but i’m considering ghillie sock as well; it would be so soft and durable in light, springy cheviot wool and i haven’t knit with that yarn in a  while).

in keeping with the theme of my small collection i think i’m going to name it Sea Fret.

but before i get ahead of myself, i have one more finishing detail to complete on this sample—since i’m pretty sure i’m going to wear it a lot and that i’ll want o wear it for many years, i thought elbow patches would be a nice addition.

and with the plain stockinette sleeves, it’ll be such a cute detail if they’re knit in the body pattern. so while we were driving to dayton last weekend, i knit a couple, using leftovers.

yes, i like! i think these are just the thing; what do you think?

there’s a bit of interesting finishing work involved in getting them attached, so i’ve written up a post that i’ll publish tuesday with the details. don’t worry, it’s not difficult or even very time-consuming but i thought maybe a few of you might avoid trying these—even if you love them—because you don’t know how to get them attached nicely. and i’ve got some tips to share so meet me back here tuesday, okay?

dayton, by the way, was completely lovely—the dayton knitting guild is one of the most active and friendly that i’ve met, with  a large mebership of over 200 knitters. they have stuff going on ALL the time and everyone is welcome—if you live in the area, consider joining; it’s  great social and educational resource. ellen and i had a wonderful stay and enjoyed meeting about half the membership.

for this quick, overnight trip, i decided i would be disciplined and not bring the usual four or five different large-scale projects. i packed my supplies for knitting elbow patches and then a simple stockinette sweater that’s secret knitting (not secret from you, but from someone else).

after knitting my elbow patches (which took almost no time at all), i reached for the stockinette sleeves i packed, only to realize i had grabbed the wrong project bag and instead had the one with my nearly finished till cowl—just a few rounds to go.

oh for heaven’s sake. well, that took no time at all and soon i was without knitting.

seeee!! this is why i always overpack my knitting; mistakes are made in the rush of getting ready and i always end up unprepared for something—unless i’ve come prepared.

so i took the leftover bits and bobs of patchwork yarn from the elbow patch bag (which are really the last leftovers from my pullover) and i started a coordinating hat. i really didn’t have any intention to design a hat, but hey, it’ll be cute, it’ll fit someone, it’ll be a great way to swatch for the sweater, and it’ll use up the leftovers so they don’t become part of my terrarium. what’s not to love? and i think i’ll call it Haar.

ok, with that i’m going to tune out now so i can finish tuesday’s post and maybe even start on thursday’s. also time to take the dog out!

deep dive

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, patterns

if you’re on our mailing list, then you’ve been receiving many emails these last two weeks, each revealing a new pattern release from the Bare Naked Wools 2018 Ensemble collection.

and now it’s finally time to show you my contribution—deep dive, a refined, lightweight pullover in ten sizes to knit in better breakfast fingering or any of our bare naked wools fingering yarns. heck, you could even knit this in one of our heavier lace yarns, like chebris, for an airy, nearly-sheer, super-luxe version.

the oversized cables hugging each side and outlining the dramatic neckline are Sooo sexy—you just want to eat them up. the neckline cables diverge from a center front detail that gives the appearance of a deeply plunging neck, but the actual opening is quite modest and flattering even when worn without another layer underneath.

the cable love doesn’t stop there—those lovely serpentine ropes extend all the way around the shoulders and across the back to form a continuous chain along the back yoke. the texture is simply to die for—deeply sculpted, slinky, and beautifully defined.

the sweater body is constructed in round from hem to underarm, where it divides into front and back yokes. the sleeves are knit flat and have a fitted cap; they are seamed and stitched into the body after the yokes are sewn together.

i’ve knit my sample in the poppy seed shade of better breakfast fingering yarn—just three skeins needed for this small size and four skeins for the next three larger sizes; this yarn goes a loong way.

my friend barb has knit one for herself in the milk and honey shade, a beautifully soft, creamy color—check out her project page if you’re curious about knitting this in a summery shade!

i want to  get another one on the needles very soon in stone soup fingering yarn—i’m eager to see the effect in a tweedy version. i have swatches that are making me drool over it already, mmm.

want to know more about this utterly wearable, all-season pullover? or ready to purchase a pattern or kit?

click here to purchase the pattern in our online shop and click here to purchase the kit with choice of yarn and pattern. if you purchase a kit and prefer the pattern in your ravelry library, please mention that in the comments at checkout and david will make sure you receive it there. click here to view all of the 2018 ensemble yarn kits.

to purchase the deep dive pattern on ravelry, please click here.

and don’t forget to join in the ensemble KAL in our bare naked wools ravelry group—bring yourself and your deep dive project (or any ensemble project) for a fun, relaxing knit and chat.