Monday, September 19, 2016

It's Back!

It's that time of the year to take stock of my supply of woollens, in preparation for the inevitable cool freezing weather ahead. As part of last year's inventory, I noticed that I really hadn't worn my "Wheatsheaves" cardigan as much as I thought I would. Why? It came down to fit, specifically the fit in the neck and shoulder area. The design is essentially a kimono shape. It has some back neck shaping in the body to help the shoulders sit where they're supposed to (as opposed to sliding backwards, a common problem with this silhouette), but the collar was never quite right. Last winter I withdrew it from my Ravelry shop for editing, but it's only recently that I've got around to dealing with it. Surprisingly, the solution was simple. It involved only the re-working of the collar, with some carefully placed decreasing. I'm so pleased with the result.
The pattern is back up on Ravelry, and I'm working on a glitch in getting the updated version (along with notifications) out to prior purchasers. If you've already made one of these and would like to make it better, all you will need to do (once you receive the update) is to frog the old collar back to the pick-up row, wash the frogged wool to get out the kinks, and re-knit the collar following the new instructions. The new version actually takes slightly less wool than the old, so you shouldn't have to worry about running out. Of course, if you have a leftover skein you could also use that. I really love this design and can't wait for some cool weather so I can enjoy wearing it.
P.S. Reporting back same evening: the brilliant Ravelry folks have solved the glitch and updates have already been sent out.
P.P.S. Frostfern is next up for the same treatment. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Favourite Yarns Part 1: Cascade Ecological Wool, and Eco+

Time for a new series of posts all about my favourite yarns. First off, let me reassure readers that this blog is NOT monetized, and I have received nothing of any sort to endorse particular yarns. These are the yarns I use over and over again. They're dependable, beautiful, and worth your time, effort, and money.
I'm starting off the series with a couple of non-superwash wools that are incredibly versatile. They're warm, soft, and not at all expensive. They are Cascade's Ecological Wool and Eco+. The former is sold in a wide range of undyed colours, while the latter is available in a huge range of rich dyed shades. The skeins are huge, at 250g, so for a small woman's sweater you can get away with only two. Even for a man's sweater, three will usually do the trick. So, what is it I love about these wools?

1. They can be knitted at two distinct gauges. For a chunky gauge, at 4 stitches per inch, I use a 5.5mm(US#9) needle, and for a bulky gauge at 3 1/2 stitches per inch, I use a 6.5mm (US#10.5) needle.
Examples of my own designs at 4 sts to the inch that can be knitted with Ecological Wool or Eco+:

Harriet's Jacket (shown here in Peace Fleece, but it can easily be knitted in Ecological Wool or Eco+).
Wheatsheaves--soon to be re-released.
 Modern Gansey for him.
Modern Gansey for her (shown in Quince's Osprey, but also knittable in Ecological Wool or Eco+).
And here are some of my designs knitted at 3 1/2 stitches per inch:

Glenora's cousin, Petrova (shown in a discontinued yarn, but I've since knitted a version in Ecological Wool).
 2. Both Ecological Wool and Eco+ are soft enough to be worn comfortably next to one's neck. Notice that both the Modern Gansey (hers) and Petrova demand soft, neck-friendly yarns.

3. Ecological Wool and Eco+ are widely available, at least in North America. They're very easy to find.

4. Both wools are relatively affordable. You can knit a high quality sweater for well under C$100.

5. Both wools come in a wide range of undyed and dyed colours, some of them marled or heathered.

Now for the bad news (not VERY bad, though). With softness comes pilling. I take it for granted that this is a normal feature of wool. Arm yourself with a good lint shaver (I like this one best) and give your garment frequent cleanups, especially in the first few months of wear. Over time, the pilling will lessen. Don't be put off. Pilling isn't caused by cheapness (Quince's Osprey pills even more), but by soft, short fibres and loose spinning, both of which factors make yarns comfy. Just deal with it and enjoy wearing your beautiful garments.

P.S. I almost forgot...these Cascade wools are perfect for spit splicing -- perfect for when you hate weaving in ends.