Posts Tagged ‘shawl’

French Cancan

April 6, 2015

This poor little blog only seems to have been abandoned.  I knit feverishly … I just don’t give myself much time to post anything here.  There’s a veritable avalanche of things to log, to block, to photograph and write about.  There’s just the time continuum that gets in the way.

So I happily break my longtime silence today to talk about a pattern that comes with its own soundtrack.

As a sample knitter, more often than not, I knit patterns quickly and move on to the next.  Once in a while, I will encounter one so enjoyable that it’s worth knitting again to make a FO of my own.  Such is the case with French Cancan by L’Atelier de Mademoiselle C.

Edging detail

Edging detail

The pattern starts with a garter-stitch crescent and afterward, a cable suspended in lace mesh is applied around the edge.  I used 2 skeins of Spirit Trail Fiberworks Birte in the colorway Crete.  Although the pattern will take you to a crescent that has 201 stitches, you are only limited in size by the amount of yarn you have on hand, working with the ratio that you’ll need 40% of your yarn for the border.  With two skeins of

Fully laid out

Fully laid out

the same weight, there was precious little math involved: I knitted garter until I ran out of yarn – a garter section with 217 stitches.  I started the border with a new skein.  When finished, I had 32g of Birte remaining.

I did follow the designer’s note to slip the first stitch of every row knitwise to produce a stretchier border edge.

A note about blocking: I ran a crochet cotton lifeline through the last row of garter stitch before blocking.  Pinning this area  allowed me to limit the stretching of the piece to the mesh/border area without losing too much of the bounce in the body.  My final finished size was a 59″ wingspan and 16.5″ depth at the center point.

On display at Spirit Trail Fiberworks

On display at Spirit Trail Fiberworks

Now, about that soundtrack … the only downside to this wonderful pattern is that it comes with an ear worm.  You will catch yourself incessantly humming the cancan and picturing Toulouse Lautrec images.  A small price to pay for such a lovely final product.

This is a simple piece that delivers big bang for easy knitting.  I look forward to making up my own, and I’ll do it in Birte myself, because the yarn and project make for a terrific project marriage.



February 22, 2013

The blocking backlog chez Owl is rapidly reaching epic proportions.  So while away (we somehow managed to narrowly escape in the wake of the blizzard for a week in a much warmer clime), I figured it was at least time to try to photograph a project that refuses to be photographed easily.  Or well.

Windward, all points and angles

Windward, all points and angles

However, Heidi Kirrmaier’s Windward is an incredibly easy ~ and fun ~ little knit.  Is it a scarf or a shawl?  Either.  Both.  Whichever you want.  It starts with a garter triangle at one

Cast-on corner

Cast-on corner

end and using increases, decreases, cast-ons and bind-offs (but no picking up stitches or breaking your yarn), produces modular triangles and rectangles in garter, stockinette and reverse stockinette.  Really, it’s hard to know which is the right side.

Pure simplicity

Pure simplicity

The knit is so simple that it deserves a really yummy yarn ~ and one without distracting color changes that would detract from the shaping of the piece.  I used one of my all-time go-tos, Spirit Trail Fiberworks Sunna, a fingering-weight blend of merino, cashmere and bombyx silk that is positively delicious and wearable year-round.  The unnamed blue-violet colorway was the 2010 Holiday Yarn Club selection.  Because of the unique construction of the piece, and because my skeins were extremely well-matched, I did not alternate skeins.

Wrap it and go

Wrap it and go

Windward is extremely wearable.  Its unusual points give it a ton of visual interest no matter how you wear it.  Initially, I thought I might want to whip a quick I-cord edge across the top to keep it from rolling, but that would create a front and back side, and it really isn’t necessary.  Why complicate something that works?

So here are the deets:

Pattern:  Windward from the “Come Sail Away” ebook by Heidi Kirrmaier, aka PiPiBird.  I would recommend this to a new knitter who has mastered the basic stitches and is ready for a little challenge.  For an experienced knitter, this is pure amusement.

Yarn: Spirit Trail Sunna.  Sunna has wonderful drape that fits this pattern wonderfully.  Total yarn used: 490 yards ~ 65 g remain from second skein.

Needles: US 4

Mods: none

Project marriage score: 9.5.  This was a no-brainer.  I’ve given up trying to get a good image of it and will just wear it instead.


October 19, 2012

No, we don’t have icicles here yet.  A killing frost and appropriately chilly mornings, but no icicles.   Whether it was the change of season or the vacation (yes, Mr. Owl and I checked out for a bit), the reset button has done its job.

The knitting mojo is back, and not a nanosecond too soon.  Count on a few skeins of Birte to cure whatever ails you.

In the meantime, I am attacking the runway full of projects waiting for blocking.  Which brings us to the icicles:  the Oslo Walk Shawl

Oslo Walk Shawl by Susanna IC

from Susanna IC.  The yarn is special.  It is my friend Nancy Zeller of Long Ridge Farm‘s first attempt at semi-solid dyeing.  Her results on this 100% silk were spectacular.  All she needed was a nice piece to show it off.

The shawl was

Miyuki 8/0 beads

originally featured in a spread in Interweave Knits about contrasts in knitting.  I went a different direction, using this finer cobweb silk and 8/0 taupe lined crystal AB Miyuki beads from Twisted Sistah Beads.  The breeze and sun co-opted my efforts to capture them

A shallow beaded crescent

winking on the edging.  Use your imagination:  Ice crystals on pewter.

Project marriage score: 9

Modifications: none

Needles:US 7 for CO and BO, US 5 for knitting, .5mm crochet

Use a .5mm crochet hook for these

hook for beading

You’ll find the shawl and the yarn at the Long Ridge Farm booth in Building A at Rhinebeck this weekend.  Scads more of my knitting will be at the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth, also in Building A.  Maybe you’ll find me there, too.

Keep your eyes peeled for owls  😉


June 18, 2012

Yes, dear friends, I am still here.  It’s just that I am so very far behind at everything that I can see my own backside!  That includes correspondence, mailing prizes (for wont of packaging), laundry, organizations I purportedly lead, gardening and anything but the care of one Darling Bebe.  On the other hand, there is some packing, straightening and staging accomplished, so the ledger isn’t completely unbalanced.  It’s just that priorities are restacked and jumbled at the moment.  And somehow my employers have failed to notice that it is summer, when things are supposed to slow down.  Not so.

Polaris, a mystery KAL

I can’t claim any significant knitting is happening.  Nope.  By the time I pick up needles, I pretty much doze off sitting up straight in mid-stitch.  But some long-completed FOs are finally getting the attention they deserve since there is an invitingly pristine guest bed available for blocking.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Nona

This is my first attempt at a KAL, or knitalong, as part of the Susanna IC group on Ravelry.  Today, you know the pattern as Polaris.  But at the time, participants were rationed portions of the pattern  every couple of weeks, and dutifully kept each other company knitting in our respective places around the world.

Beads? Can you see beads?

I liked the concept a lot.  The problem with the “mystery” KAL for someone who lives and dies by the success of project marriage is the great difficulty in choosing the right yarn – and more difficult – beads – for the pattern when you don’t know what the finished project looks like.   In this instance, the yarn was easy – Spirit Trail Fiberworks Nona.  I used it to make an enormous and dramatic Phoenix Rising for STF, but had nothing of my own made with Sunna’s skinnier laceweight sister.  Time to use the skein from the 2011 Holiday Club in a colorway very similar to STF’s Aquitaine.  (Most accurate in top photo)

Modification: I-cord bind-off

I know that Nona is marked “heavy laceweight” but as someone who’s knit several football fields’ worth of it, I would quibble with that.  Nona takes an 8/0 bead via crochet hook just fine.  Because of her fiber composition (50% merino, 25% silk, 25% cashmere), she has a bit of “grab” that laceweight yarns without cashmere don’t have.  Once soaked, Nona blocks out hard and gets thinner.  I would not hesitate to use Nona for just about anything calling for “laceweight” unless the project specifically called for 100% silk.   And if you are new to knitting with laceweight yarns, I would recommend Nona specifically because of that bit of grabbiness you might like.

Look – see there are beads, really!

Choosing the beads was another story altogether.  I had some 8/0 dark amethyst AB seed beads, but in swatching, they seemed kind of lost on the dark yarn.  So following some advice from Bead Queen Sivia Harding, I went with a lighter, clear bead I found at a local shop.  They do pop a bit in plain natural light.  Admittedly, they are rather subtle.  I’m not one for too much bling.  But next time, I will try to go with a triangle or hexagonal bead ~ one with facets that flash a bit more when picking up the light.

I know you can see the beads here.

As for the pattern, it was the usual clear Susanna IC crescent.  I thought it was fun to knit with other folks and to get the pattern in installments.  Until the lights went out.  And stayed out in the aftermath of the October Snowpocalypse.  (Which tells you how long ago all this started.)  It’s one thing to knit lace by candlelight.  Beading by candlelight?  Nope.  Unh-unh.  No way.  Sorry.

Eventually, the poor little shawl was finished and relegated to the blocking pile.  It has waited and waited and waited.  But now you get to see her.

Yarn:  Approx. 410 yards Spirit Trail Fiberworks Nona

Pattern:  Polaris – “Susanna IC Mystery Crescent KAL”

Modifications:  Because of the tendency for the top edge of these crescents to roll in stockinette, I chose to use a two-stitch I-cord bind-off using a US 7 needle.  If I had it to do again, I would have bumped that up to an 8.  It gave a very nice edge to the top that I think it needs for stability.

Needles:  US 8 (C/O) and US 5 Addi Turbo circulars

Project marriage:  Yarn – 9.5  / Beads – 6

Somehow, I’m afraid that if I resurrect the KAL thread on Ravelry, I’ll be in for a lot of hazing.  I guess that’s what happens when you are the de facto caboose.


May 16, 2012

I felt it coming on.

A full-blown case of yarntoxication, brought about by Brigantia.  Brigantia is the newest Spirit Trail Fiberworks yarn, a blend of 85% Polwarth and 15% silk.  Polwarth is a breed of sheep, but there’s not much of it that gets spun up for knitters.  Those spinners tend to hoard it all for themselves.  Now I know why.

Mountain Ash – almost as big as the bed

My test project was Kate Gagnon Osborn’s Mountain Ash shawl.  It starts with hundreds of yards of garter stitch, which allowed me to really get a feel for Brigantia.  This DK blend does not split and you can knit for hours without looking at your hands.  For its apparent lightness, the silk also gives it warmth ~ something to keep in mind if your personal thermostat runs hot.  (Mine does not.)  I appreciated the lap blanket it became during the damp wet weeks before MDSW.  The hefty 600-yard put-up seemed like the skein-that-would-not-end.  But it did, about six rows before the knitted-on lace border for the large shawl.

I assure you, this lace border eats yardage and you won’t have as much left as you think you will.  I used Addi Turbo US 6 needles for the entire project to see how Brigantia would perform lace tricks without extra-sharp tips.  Beautifully.  Nary a split anywhere.

Brigantia likes lace lots

The Persian Nights colorway, a ringer for Crayola blue-violet, did not bleed at all in a nice sudsy bath.  For blocking, I wanted to maintain the squishy integrity of the garter stitch and still be able to open up the lace edge, so I ran a lifeline through the stitches where the border joined the shawl and pinned that in place before pinning out the lace points.

Colorway: Persian Nights

Brigantia was happy to oblige: it took the blocking wonderfully and held it well, likely because of its silk content.  Unfortunately, my overtaxed brain failed to remind me to photograph the full shawl on display in the STF booth or anywhere else off the pins.  Sigh.  I hate it when that happens.  Suffice it to say that the finished piece has wonderful drape and leaves me thinking that a whole shawl in Brigantia ~ like Juneberry Triangle or Terra or any one of about a zillion others ~ would be just ducky.

The official 411:

Pattern:  Mountain Ash

Yarn:  1.75 skeins Spirit Trail Fiberworks Brigantia

Needle: Addi Turbo US 6

Pattern mods:  None

Project marriage score:  9

It’s a good thing Brigantia is the STF Knitting Club selection this month.  That means there’s more en route to my house.  Because

Stowaways in Spice

there’s already a skein chez Owl earmarked for an Isla Wrap I know will chase off the fall chill nicely.  And there are these other skeins that vaulted into my carry-on before I left for the airport.

Keep an eye out for Brigantia on this page, where it should appear in late May/early June.  You won’t be disappointed.


April 9, 2012

As I took my skeins of the new Spirit Trail Fiberworks Verdande out to wind, I could hear Carly Simon warbling in my head, “Anticipation … anticipa-a-ation, it’s makin’ me wait.”  I had waited a good long while to put this new yarn through its paces.


Spirit Trail Fiberworks Verdande

Verdande did not disappoint.  The worsted-weight big sister of Birte, Sunna and Nona, Verdande is pleasantly plump.  The twist makes the yarn well-rounded and Verdande doesn’t think about splitting ~ not even for a nanosecond.  For my test, I used plain old slick-finish original Addi Turbo needles.   The pattern is Susanna IC’s Geada from Twist Collective.  I liked it for a test knit because it

Colorway - Tuareg Blue

incorporated cables into the lace, allowing me to do different things within the same project.  As is my habit, I do not use a cable needle, increasing the occasion for splits in the yarn, if a yarn is so inclined.

Verdande knitted up like the wind,

Geada blocked

wicked fast.  The entire project used two skeins plus 40 grams of a third skein, leaving plenty of yarn for a set of mitts or a hat or whatever other accessory you might like.  Like all of Susanna’s patterns, it was written without so much as a comma out of place.  The I-cord bind-off will prevent any rolling of the neckline in the finished piece, and it provides a tidy edge that makes my obsessive heart go pitty-pat.

Even in harsh noontime sun, it's BLUE

I confess that I do have a tendency to block lace a little ~ ahem ~ aggressively.  This is why I appreciated Susanna’s schematic of the finished dimensions, which allowed me to block this shawl to the precise desired measurements without over-blocking it into some enormous flapping pterodactyl thing.

Yarn:  520 yards Spirit Trail Fiberworks Verdande, colorway Tuareg Blue

Pattern:  Geada

Modifications:  Zilch

Blocked measurements:  11 in at side edges, 17 in at center point

Project marriage score:  9.5

Utterly gratuitous backlit shot

I loved knitting with Verdande.  I would next want to use it in a less lacy shawl – something like Terra, Ashby or Barbara W, perhaps, to take advantage of its lovely drape and warmth that come from its cashmere and silk.  On the other hands – plural – some nice mitts would be cozy, too.  Or a cowl.  Or … you get the idea.  Good thing I have my own skeins in the stash to play with soon.

Summer’s Dim

January 24, 2012

With six inches of snow over the weekend, summer seems but a distant memory.  Kind of how I feel about knitting Simmer Dim.  Last July.  It was a wicked fast knit.  Like, a week.  All except for the picot bind-off, which seemed to take a week in and of itself.  But such a pretty edge.  An edge that would have to be blocked into hundreds of little points.

One stitch at a time - while dry - saves work when wet!

But why slave over a wet shawl with a gazillion pins when you don’t have to?  Once again, it’s a lifeline to the rescue.  All I did here was run a long cotton lifeline through every single point in the exact same part of the point stitch.

When you’re

Connected and ready to go

finished, you have all of your edge stitches connected through one lifeline with very long tails.  (The long tails are key ~ remember, you’re going to be stretching the piece significantly.)  Off to the warm bath with you!

At blocking, I

Simmer Dim - the whole shebang

usually start by marking the center of every piece with a wire spine.  It helps me keep things even, whether it’s the depth of the piece on either side of the midline, or the length of the “wings” or any other measurement.

Here’s where the lifeline magic

Let the lifeline do the work

comes in.  Because all of the points are connected by an inelastic thread, I don’t have to pin out every. single. one.  Sure, there’s some adjustment along the way.  (I’ve always maintained that blocking lace is a process of adjustment, not absolutes.)  But moving four pins around sure beats moving 40!  And the lifeline keeps all of the points within a section at pretty much the same depth.

A fine point

48 hours later, this is what you have.

So here is the official 411:

Yarn:  Knitting Notions Classic Merino Superwash Sock in the colorway Atlantic found in the KR Retreat Stash Lounge in 2010.  Thank you to the kind knitter who left it there.  The color was inspiring.

Pattern:  Simmer Dim by Gudrun Johnston (currently only available through Ravelry)

Gudrun is a terrific designer who writes clean patterns that practically knit

No socks out of this sock yarn

themselves.  I know when I choose anything of hers, I’m in for a thoroughly pleasant knit.

Pattern modifications:  None, other than blocking more aggressively than many others did.  I suppose I could have gone up a needle size since I used less than

Summer's gone, Simmer Dim is left

2/3 of the skein, but I’m happy with it as-is.  The depth at the center point started at 12 in, but post-blocking, grew to 18 in.

Project marriage score:  9  The yarn performed what it was asked to do nicely.

So back to where I started, yes, I finished knitting this in July.  It has waited patiently over the seasons while other projects have commanded my knitting attention or the guest room I needed to block it properly.   As I pinned it out the other day, I was reminded of a knitter Ann Budd told me about, who has a trunk full of unblocked shawls.  She loves knitting lace, but hates blocking.  So she knits them and tosses them into the trunk.  That struck me as terribly sad.

I greatly enjoy the blocking process.  It’s just my small house is making square inches challenging, more so since Santa’s last visit.  With a family trip coming up, nothing else will get blocked for awhile.  The guest bed is needed for suitcases.  But I’ll have a new shawl to pack.


September 15, 2011

Alas, the hollyhocks of summer are long gone and the skies are decidedly autumnal today.  Even as I welcome the cooler temps, there’s something a little sad about it.  Summer 2011 went too fast.  I seem to have missed a lot of it somehow.  But a lot of big serious ugly things are behind now, and if losing a summer was what it took, so be it.

Alcea by Susanna IC

Because I dare say that this will be a reminder of summer wherever I go.  This is Alcea, another flawlessly written pattern by SusannaIC.  Alcea, as in hollyhocks.  It’s fair to say the colorway, Flower Studies #45 in Sundara Fingering Merino Cashmere, is the most

You want a close-up?

relentlessly cheerful thing I’ve seen in a while.  No blues allowed while wearing this little number 😉 I didn’t even really like the colorway, but when I went stash-diving for this pattern, it said, “Pick me!  Pick me!”

And so I did.

Okay, not THAT close

I knocked this out in the space of ten days or so.  Somehow, it took less than half a skein.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.  Because it finished at the right size.  I was blocking for wingspan, not depth.

SO – here’s the knitty gritty …

Finished size:  58″ wide by 16 deep at deepest point.

Project marriage score:  9.5

Projects waiting to be blocked:  2

Next up: a high-pressure two-day out-of-town work meeting that eviscerates my weekend.  No fun whatsoever.

I haven’t left yet and I can’t wait to get home.


September 2, 2011

Ahhh, yes.  We have blocking space again.

Pattern:  Juneberry Triangle by Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

Juneberry Triangle in Birte

Yarn:  Spirit Trail Fiberworks Birte, 2 sk, Dancing the Orange.  Skeins were alternated on the main body of the shawl, but not on the wide border.

Needles:  Signature Circs, US 6

Pattern mods:  zilch

Dancing the Orange

Finished size:  63 inches wide by 29 inches deep

Birte is extremely bouncy to knit with.  I can easily understand why it is so appealing for cowls, mitts and other close-to-skin accessories.  I didn’t know quite how it would behave when asked to perform lace tricks.  Based on the fiber composition – 75% Merino, 15% Cashmere, 10% Silk – I knew it would block, but how well was the big unknown.

Birte's bobbles and blocking

Juneberry Triangle was a great demo to find out.  With double yarn-overs and even bobbles, there were plenty of different stitch patterns to block and see what Birte would do after ample drying time on wires.  I gave the shawl a good soak in warm water and Eucalan, then blocked pretty aggressively on wires and dried it for three days.

Well-charted territory

If you like knitting by chart, this pattern is for you.  Each chart comes with clear instructions at the outset as to the direction of even and odd rows.  Even though there is pattern on both the right and wrong sides of the work, the pattern is pretty intuitive.  Some knitters have worked the decorative bobbles larger than the 3-stitch version written.  I opted not to, as I was unsure how Birte would behave when blocked, and didn’t want them mondo big depending on that.

Digression on charts:  Knitters love ’em or hate ’em.  Give me a chart over words any day of the week.  I can see my stitches on a chart the way I can’t in words, and my brain and hands can be at work on a chart without my conscious mind paying much attention at all.  I can’t explain it any better than that.  Maybe I spend too much of my waking time with words to be able to digest them during my knitting time …

All in all, this was a most enjoyable project.  The pattern was clear, the yarn was well-behaved and most suitable.  I flew through it and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, this time trying it in the worsted-weight wool (Shelter) also suggested for a different look and feel altogether.

Project Marriage Score: 9

Now that the runway is clear, stay tuned.  Lots more FOs just waiting to hop onto the wires.


July 7, 2011

While obsessively planning my travel knitting for a recent trip, I took along a skein of Sundara Fingering Merino Cashmere in the colorway Turning Leaves and Rose Beck’s Sugared Violets pattern.  Plenty of stockinette in this one-skein pattern suitable for picking up and putting down on trains, buses and the like.

Unblocked and waiting for a bath - or 3

Like a few other pretties, it’s been stuck on the runway waiting for blocking – but not for space issues.  I was waiting for a delivery of Synthrapol.  I wanted to knit the larger version of the shawl, and since most Sundara skeins tend to run “heavy,” I put in a couple of lifelines in case I ran short, and kept going.  (I am happy to report, I did not run out of yarn.)  However, my snow-white crochet cotton quickly turned pink.  The yarn was bleeding all over the cotton, and in some instances, my fingers, too.  Ruh-roh.

The last thing I want to do while preparing my knits for blocking is waste 100 gallons of water removing excess dye.  So I consulted the Oracle of Fiber and Dye for advice.  A hot bath in Synthrapol was prescribed.  I duly gloved up and dunked the shawl into the hottest water I could stand.  The bath turned into cranberry-juice cocktail.  I let it sit a good while, then rinsed in the same temperature water.  And thought I’d give it a little rinse in Eucalan for sake of a lavender scent.  That turned cranberry, too.

Sigh.  Here we go again.  Groundhog Day.

Finally out of the bath and pinned out

It took three wicked hot Synthrapol baths before the water ran significantly clearer.  And the final Eucalan bath yielded something close to chamomile tea in color.  Good enough.

Because this shawl did not have “points,” I inserted lifelines

No points on this edge!

in both edges that I then used to pin out the edges as smoothly as possible.  I find the thread makes this easier than just pinning out the wet fiber by itself.

It dried beautifully.  I suppose it lost about 10% of its color saturation

One more newel

along the way.  Better to lose it in a wash tub than on my clothing and skin!  So in this case, the lifelines had nothing to do with the knitting and everything to do with the Excess Dye Warning System.

Project marriage score:  9

Mods: None

Yes, I have been on a bit of a newel photography kick lately.  My satellite office has plenty of staircases and I’ve walked up and down them for years without noticing that they would be a helpful place for FO photos.

See, my employer has decided

that it is preferable for me to lose precious time with DB /spend hours in the car daily /spend my own $$ on gas than for them to pay minimal rent for my space.  I will soon lose access to them, so I am taking advantage of my surroundings while I can.   Until I have new digs.  That go along with a new employer.

Apologies if photos seem out-of-sequence.  They are. WordPress is not playing nice today.

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