Thursday, 22 January 2015

Manteau: A Knitter's Poncho

As I have been playing catch up on my projects, it's quite nice to be able to say what I really like or dislike about a project once it's been finished and used. Sometimes the projects you enjoy knitting the most, aren't necessarily the ones that you use the most and vice versa. I suppose this is where being a product vs a process knitter comes into play. I have decided over the last few years that I am both a product and process knitter. I love having all sorts of projects on the needles at any one time. I have mindless easy projects and complex and challenging ones. Some projects have that magical balance of product and process that make them fly off the needles and into your wardrobe. This project is one of those.

In October, Tangled Yarn had a great discount on their stock of Malabrigo Worsted yarn. I love Malabrigo, and saw my opportunity to get hold of a reasonable amount of this yarn and actually use it for something other than a hat or cowl. Normally a garment's worth of this yarn is well outside my yarn budget. This discount was so good I was able to buy 5 skeins of the SFO Sky colourway. A wonderfully interesting variegated colourway, that my other half calls Winter Camo!

This was one of those incredibly rare occasions where I planned the project before I hit the Pay Now button. I found the colourway I liked in a reasonable quantity and spent a few hours researching Ravelry for the right pattern. When I saw the Manteau: A Knitter's Poncho by Shannon Squire, I knew I had found the right match. Once I knew the yarn requirements I took a gulp and paid for my skeins. They were worth every penny!

This colourway works brilliantly in a simple stocking stitch pattern, which most of this project is made up of. I loved the little props of dark and light as I knit each row and the yarn, is of course, a dream to knit with. I loved every mindless stitch of this garment. It was comfort knitting on a grand scale. I did alternate the skeins though to make sure there was little pooling of colours and I think it worked well.

In addition to the miles of stocking stitch there was some nice slipped stitch work on the collar and the hem, which livened the project up and added a fun detail to the poncho. It also added a little bit of extra firmness to the fabric where it was done. I happen to like the reverse of this slipped stitch pattern, which is just as well, as the collar is often left open and it folds over to show the wrong side of the fabric.

The collar sits so nicely when it is left open. It breaks up the smooth expanse that covers my ample bosom. I normally don't like high rounded neck garments because it makes my bust look bigger than it is. This pattern breaks up the depth of the bust when the collar is worn open and it is much more flattering than when it is closed, in the same way that a v-neck garment would. However, if I'm cold enough to wear the neck closed, I really don't care very much about how flattering it is!

When the collar is closed, it shows off these lovely buttons I bought. I bought them online from Textile Garden. They are hammered aluminium and they are quite heavy. I might not have bought them if I'd seen them in person but they have actually worked out really well, and I love how they look. If I'm wearing the collar closed, the buttons tinkle when I move. It's like wearing small bells!

The shaping of the poncho is clever. The the way the increases on the raglans are performed means that the poncho does not flare out massively once it is past the shoulders. I means that the sides of the poncho pull in a bit where the arms are and keeps the heat trapped inside even when you raise your arms.

The poncho ends at the hips, which I thought would annoy me, and leave me with a cold back, if I wore the poncho as a jacket, and I wanted to extend the length a bit, but didn't really have enough yarn to do so. After wearing the poncho for a while, however, I really like the length. I did wear the garment as a jacket in the Autumn, but I usually wore a fleece underneath, that fit snugly and gave me an extra layer around my lower back and that meant I was fine outside. Inside, I wear it a lot on cold mornings as the house warms up. It's great for sitting on the couch with as I don't sit on the hem when I sit down, because of it's length. It also doesn't scrunch up on my lap when I sit down, which is good.

Essentially I love this poncho and wear it all the time. It is warm and cosy and I like that it looks different from all the ponchos and capes you see available on the high street. I was worth taking the time before buying the yarn to find a great pattern. It's not surprising that from when I ordered the yarn to wearing the finished garment, took less than 4 weeks. That has to be a record for me! Normally yarn has to marinate for months in my stash before it reveals what it wants to be.

I really do recommend both the yarn and the pattern, especially when put together. I do hope that there are more skeins of Malabrigo Worsted yarn on sale in the future, it really is lovely stuff. Maybe next time I can save up enough to buy a enough for a sweater!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Sierra Sunset Cowl in Silk

In November 2010 I bought a bargain of a skein of yarn at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show. It was a delicious skein of 200m of DK weight silk singles yarn in an antique rose colour. It was from (the then new) Artisan Yarns. There doesn't seem to be any products on their ETSY shop and I don't know if that is a permanent situation but they do have stock in at Loop Knitting, so their yarn is still available somewhere.

This particular skein has been burning a hole in my stash for a while. I love the yarn and the colour is so pretty, but when I had bright red hair it didn't suit me. I decided that I would offer the resulting item to my Mum as she loves this particular shade. After making that decision I found a pattern fairly quickly, Sierra Sunset Cowl by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich.

Over the last few years I have become a big fan of cowls. They stay where they are put, around your neck, and the ends don't dangle in your drink. This pattern seemed a perfect use of this gorgeous yarn. The pattern sample was knit in a wool/silk blend which meant that a drapey yarn would work well.

This cowl is a clever construction. As the cowl sits reasonably snugly around the throat the designer has created a knit flat pattern that features a button fastening at the narrow part that sits at the back of the neck. This means if you don't want to pull the snug cowl over your head you can undo and refasten the buttons.

I am fairly sure that I bought these buttons at either the same Harrogate Show or at another similar event. I got them from The Button Lady who has a stall at most big crafting events, in the UK, and there is always a crowd at her booth, because she sells such amazing buttons. These abalone shell buttons are very versatile, which is why I bought them for my button jar, as the iridescent qualities allow them to match several different colours. In this case the buttons pick up the pink from the shawl. The buttons could not have been chosen better as they fit the button holes perfectly. The buttons also help make the cowl almost like jewellery.

This simple project, involves a small amount of short row shaping and a very simple lace pattern, so it would be a good project for people wanting to practice those techniques. If you are a confident knitter, the project takes no time at all, I think I finished it in 2 days. The only downside to the pattern was the large quantities of pins I had to use to block it as the curved edges did not suit a wire blocking.

Of course once I finished my project and tried it on for photography purposes, I realised that this colour now really suits me and I would love wearing it. However, I was a good daughter and handed it over to my Mum, because I had already offered it to her. So, if this project has taught me one thing, it is to never promise away a project until you know whether you are going to fall in love with it or not! I may have to knit another one, this time for me!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Rikke Hat - Take 2

I have loved the Rikke Hat pattern by Sarah Young since I first saw it, probably on The Fat Squirrel Speaks podcast. I even knit it in July 2014, but sadly it wasn't the right yarn match for the project, so I ripped it out and waited for the right yarn to come along.

Then at the end of August I ordered a skein of Semi-Precious in Granite from Babylonglegs, one of my favourite dyers (she's currently on hiatus but will be coming back). Sarah got in touch a day later and said she couldn't find the skein and was it ok if she dyed up a new batch and sent that when it was done. I agreed quite happily, as I had no deadline project in mind for the yarn (in fact, it's still not knit up). Then a few minutes later, I had a brainwave. I thought if Sarah was preparing a grey dye bath this would be a great opportunity to try out her lovely MesMerino base (Superwash Merino DK), which I knew would be perfect for the Rikke pattern. I got back to her and she was more than happy to throw a skein of MesMerino in with the Semi-Precious.

I wanted to do a grey Rikke hat because I have a dark grey, full length woollen Winter coat. I knew the hat would go with any of my scarves/shawls and mittens/gloves, as grey is my favourite neutral. Within a month, I'd cast on the hat.

I struggled to get gauge on the first version of this hat. I decided to push down the needle size for the brim even further and use a 3.25mm needle, but leave the main body of the hat knit on 4mm. The resulting hat is very, very slouchy.

However, because the knit fabric is more robust than the first version, it sits much better.

It hugs the nape of my neck so nicely and it feels soft and squishy around my head.

The back of the hat has very quick decreases and is then pulled tight with yarn threaded through the final stitches. I like the shape it makes at the back of hat.

The yarn really is perfect for this project and I know I want to knit in this lovely yarn again.

It's got great stitch definition and I know it would great used for cables, or just plain stocking stitch or the garter stitch I used in the hat. I really want to knit a garment in this. I also want to knit another Rikke hat, but this time in a variegated yarn. I have seen lots of versions knit in variegated yarn and it looks wonderful. The only skein I have that may work is Unwind Yarn Company Touring DK in Gracie Pearl.

Though this yarn is gorgeous, part of me wants to use some handspun yarn instead, as I think a handspun rikke hat with be wonderful too. Funnily enough, the most suitable handspun is in merino/silk in a one of a kind colourway from Unwind Yarn Company.

I think this may probably be an ideal match, it certainly has enough bounce. What would you use?


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