28 Dec 2013

The Lamberhurst Scarf

I love this time of year. The almost-chaotic build up to the holiday season has passed and a quiet contentment has set in. Good food, good company and lots of plans for the year ahead.

Many people feel a bit gloomy at the thought of the long, dark winter evenings ahead, but for us knitters this is not an issue. If it's cold outside, you can curl up in front of a warming fire and either complete work on some items that have been languishing for a while in the "To Do" basket or start a brand new project.

Well, here's a new scarf pattern that might be a good choice for that fire-side knitting session — the Lamberhurst Scarf. I designed this as a man's scarf, but with a different choice of yarn or colour it could just as easily work for ladies too. 

The pattern is easy to memorise and only takes 4 balls of yarn, so is quick to work. I started knitting this on my birthday earlier this month. It wasn't a "special" birthday, nothing with a '0' or a '5' at the end, but each one counts doesn't it?

However, I got to musing on previous birthdays and I recalled one unusually warm December day walking in Lamberhurst in Kent. We had togged ourselves up with mittens and scarves, but on that day they weren't needed. I expect had we been walking there today it might have been a different story, as it's very chilly right now.

The scarf worked up quickly and I had a lot of yarn left over so I made a second one, and I have included instructions for both scarves in the pattern.

The first is for a draped scarf which will fall to jacket length and have enough width to cross over at the chest for extra warmth when required. The second is a little slimmer and longer for some artistic wrapping. See this earlier blogpost for lots of ideas on that subject.

As I worked on knitting the scarf, I began to notice similarities between the dynamic zig-zag patterns in the scarf and twill weaving designs. I love twill patterns — they always seem magical in the way they move from side to side as the woven fabric starts to form.

It also reminded me of some wonderful rock formations you can see when you are driving. The photo above shows a mountain range in the Canadian rockies where layers of rock have been squeezed and tilted into fan-like shapes. I love examples like this, of a design which feels so dynamic and modern yet which has echoes of something timeless.

The stitch pattern was taken from our new book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, and is one of those rare examples when an easy stitch looks complicated. Isn't is great when it works that way around!

For more details about the Lamberhurst Scarf knitting pattern, please click here. The pattern is available for instant download from the site so you can kick-back and start your fireside knitting tonight.

Happy Knitting!


Last blogpost: At the end of a row

. 25/7/18 W

4 Dec 2013

At the end of a row.

A lady walked into the knitting group I was in a few years ago and sat down at the same table as another knitter, Margaret, and myself. She hadn't been to the meeting before and seemed a bit quiet. Then she asked us, "Where do you join in a new ball of yarn?"

Almost speaking together, we both said "Usually at the end of a row...", which when you come to think about it is not especially helpful. 

When is it usual to make the join at the end of a row? When is it not?

She proceeded to pull out a baby blanket she had been working on and showed us the large holes that had developed all the way through it. She looked close to tears. She had been told by someone to "just drop and take" — ie to work to the end of your yarn, drop it, join in a new ball and continue on.

And that was what she had done, quite literally. She had worked right to the very last cm and then neatly pulled the next end to line up with it so as not to waste a single scrap of yarn. Of course, as the blanket came out of the knitting bag and went away again these ends had gradually unravelled to give the sorry-looking item we saw before us.

Margaret and I sat and honed our Kitchener stitch skills, bringing in extra lengths of yarn to reattach everything and finishing all the ends off, and by the end of the evening there was quite a reasonable baby blanket and a happy knitter.

I was thinking about this the other day while finishing off the Sawston Infinity Scarf, and thought it might make a good blogpost as a bit of a "Finishing Primer." So here are four scenarios for where to join in your yarn ends.

#1 - Always at the end of a row

When I am working a piece of flat knitting, then I will almost always add a new ball of yarn at the end of a row. The yarn tails can then be worked into the spare material at the seam after the work is completed, and sometimes can even be used to help with the joining together of the pieces.

Then there are some stitch patterns such as Stocking Stitch/Stockinette St which can be really spoilt if there is a join in the middle of the row. It is hard to disguise the bulk of any yarn ends behind Stocking Stitch no matter how neatly they are worked in, so I always want these to be at the side where they will be less noticeable.  

The same goes for Garter Stitch, as the joins can often disrupt the regular surface of the patterning. So I will position these joins at the side as well, as in the Derwent Cove Cushions above. 

Colour work usually requires yarns to be brought in at the sides, except for specific techniques such as Intarsia. If there are many colour changes in a small area then I might choose to stagger these a bit, if possible, but usually it is best if these are right at the end.

For circular knitting, a new ball can be joined in at the end of a round or at the half-way point, which equates to the other side "seam". 

And to figure out if you have enough yarn to get to this point, plan for this as soon as you see the yarn ball looking a bit 'thin'. Unwind the remaining length of yarn and double it over to find the half-way point. Make a loose overhand knot at this point. Now knit to the other side or to the next position where a join could work. Did you get to the knot and have to undo it already? 

If so, there is insufficient yarn to work another row and you should join in a new ball. If not, then undo the previous knot, fold the yarn end in half again and put a new loose knot into position to repeat.

#2 - Almost at the end of a row

I don't like having joins at the very edges of scarves, shawls and blankets. So I will always position these at the inner edge of a border, or somewhere inconspicuous about 2-3 cm / 1 inch in from the Selvedge/Selvage. 

In the Elizabeth Scarf above, this is where the Garter Stitch border meets the central pattern.

I'm a little unconventional as to my method of joining in a new yarn end at this point. What I do is to leave the old yarn tail on the Wrong Side (WS), then I bring in the new ball on the Right Side (RS). I dangle the new tail there, take the yarn to the back and loop it underneath the old tail to lock them together. Then I continue on. 

This means that I have the two yarn tails at opposite sides of the work and can give them a gentle tug to hold that join snugly without having to knot the ends together. Then later I use a tapestry needle to take the new yarn tail through the work to the back and finish it off. The photo shows a new yarn tail in the Lamberhurst Scarf knitting pattern which you can read more about here.

#3 - To suit the pattern

There are some patterns that really lend themselves to using every last piece of yarn. Cables are one of those. I will work to the centre of a cable crossing point knowing that I can later bury the yarn end deep into the textural folds on the WS of the cable design. 

Ribbing is another case in point, as it is really easy to lose a yarn end down in the depths of the purl stitches in the rib, as in the Sawston Infinity Scarf pictured here. This is the scarf I was talking about in my last blogpost.

Some lace designs work well this way too. Just make the transition between the old and new yarns at a point where there is enough space to weave the yarn tails into the back of the work. This often gives a better result than having multiple yarn ends being finished at the same location down the side, especially since the leading edges are such a real feature of a lace shawl.

This type of joining is especially useful for reversible designs where both sides are the "Right Side".

#4 - Almost anywhere

Spinners will often meld a new ball of yarn with the old, by splicing the ends together and gently working the twist across the join so that it holds securely. That way you can join in a new ball almost anywhere. This is especially useful for all-wool yarns, but I wouldn't normally advocate that for slippery yarns or machine-washable fibres which have been coated or treated to resist felting.

Then for any of these joins, you use a tapestry needle to work the yarn tails in opposite directions, either working at a bit of an angle or "Swiss Darning" the yarn end into the back of the stitch so that it is as neat as possible. 

I like to double back and just work the final end in the opposite direction to make sure everything is really secure, possibly even drawing the yarn through a strand to hold that end firmly in place.

Hopefully, if you carefully plan these ahead of time, then you will always have wonderful inconspicuous joins - and no holes in your next project.

Happy Knitting!


. 25/7/18 W

28 Nov 2013

To Infinity and Beyond...

You have to admire Mathematicians. They figure out how to do remarkable things like calculate the distance from here to some distant planet, and how to make a three-dimensional object which only has a single side! 

We have all done this experiment at school, haven't we — you take a strip of paper, give it a half-twist and fasten it together. Then you start tracing a line with your pencil and before you know it you are back at the beginning and, what's more, you're still on the same side!

Wikipedia informs me that this was discovered by two German Mathematicians, one called August Ferdinand Möbius in 1858, and he gave his name to what we now know as the Mœbius strip.

A piece of paper ready to be joined into a Mœbius strip.
In the 1930's some Mœbius designs were seen in the work of the fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet. Then in the 1980's, Elizabeth Zimmermann realised that you could work this idea into knitting and that the twist made the item sit beautifully around your neck. The Mœbius Scarf was born.

These have become high fashion items over the last few years and wonderfully oversized versions can be seen in all the leading magazines. Referred to by their other name "Infinity Scarves", they have been featured on catwalks, runway shows and television programmes.

The scarf I am featuring in this blogpost is called the Sawston Infinity Scarf and is especially comfortable to wear as it is made from one of the softest wool fibres around, the Bluefaced Leicester, or BFL for short.

The BFL sheep breed was developed in the North of England over the 18th and 19th centuries and became acknowledged as a separate breed in the early 20th century. Now it is one of the most highly prized breeds in England and is also well represented in a number of other countries.

The fibre is soft and fine, measuring about 22-25 microns (close to the range of merino, which is usually about 18-24 microns). The wool is lustrous and items made from this yarn drape beautifully. The fibres have very smooth scales on the surface so the wool does not felt easily and is comfortable to wear. It also takes dye very well so good strong colours can be obtained.

The Sawston Infinity Scarf pattern also includes a smaller version, the Sawston Cowl and either can either be worked in hand-spun yarn or West Yorkshire Spinner's "WYS Bluefaced Leicester DK", which is a wonderful yarn to work with. 

I love hand-spinning BFL fleece. It is an easy fibre to work with as it has a good staple-length and both woollen and worsted spinning give good results. 

The Sawston Infinity Scarf scarf is warm and cozy and can be worn open with a nice "pocket" for your hands like a muffler, or it can be doubled up to give a wonderful sense of warmth around your neck on a cold day. 

* * * * *

And now for Wovember, here are some facts about the Bluefaced Leicester breed:

The Bluefaced Leicester is one of three Leicester breeds, which also includes Border Leicesters and Leicester Longwool sheep.

The BFL sheep is so named because the skin on the face has a blue tinge. The wool is white!

They are large sheep, with adult ewes weighing about 80Kg (175 lbs) and rams about 115Kg (250 lbs). However, their average fleece weighs only 2-3 Kg (4-6 lbs).

* * * * *

Enjoy spinning and using some BFL wool this month! If you haven't tried it before, you're in for a treat.

For more details of the Sawston Cowl and Infinity Scarf knitting pattern, please click here

Happy Spinning and BFL knitting!


10 Nov 2013

Two strands held together...

They say that no learning is ever wasted, and that really proved to be the case for me with machine knitting. I had two knitting machines some years ago, one for standard-gauge and one for chunky. The chunky one would work up every yarn that I was using for hand knitting — ever a Lopi sweater that had stalled in my hand-knitting basket was completed on this machine.

However, it was the standard-gauge knitting machine that was really an eye opener, with its punch-card patterning, the ease of shaping a garment from a hand-drawn outline and the wonderful range of additional yarn options using coned yarn.

I had never really appreciated coned yarns before, thinking that they were purely for machine use or weaving. However, when you use them doubled or even trebled then they can easily be used for hand knitting too.

For example, one of the versions of the Elizabeth Scarf pattern is worked using two strands of a wonderfully soft 100% wool coned yarn, Jaggerspun "Maine Line". This is available in a wide range of yarn sizes and colours (see the colour chart at the top of this blog), and there is also a heathered version available.

I pre-washed the yarn in my usual way (and please see the earlier blogpost for info on that), and then wound the yarn into two balls. Holding the two yarn ends together gave a super-toasty result. The separate strands trap air between them, making a light-weight but cozy combination. And that is not the only benefit of using coned yarns: they are often spun a little tighter too, which reduces pilling and makes the final fabric stronger.

Jaggerspun also make a few other varieties of yarn, including a "Superfine Merino" that would be fabulous for this scarf, and they have a list of distributors on their website. In the UK, Uppingham Yarn have whole rooms of coned yarns, including a wonderfully soft lambswool yarn spun by Z Hinchliffe in Denby Dale, West Yorkshire.

Lambswool is the short and springy fibre that comes from the first shearing season, and the material for the coned yarn from Z Hinchliffe is sourced from Geelong in Australia. Merino sheep have been bred here for generations and some of the finest and softest yarns have come from this part of the world. They are so prized that they have even made their way onto some Australian stamps!

* * * * *

And here are some sheepy facts relating to the Merino sheep:

Dwayne Black from Australia went into the record books in 2007 by shearing a merino lamb in 53.88 seconds!

Merino wool generally measures less than 24 microns in diameter, but Ultrafine merino can be as fine as just 10 microns.

Spanish breeders developed the Merino breed in the 13th and 14th centuries, and even up to the 18th century exporting any animals from this breed was punishable by death.

* * * * *

Try using two strands of yarn held together the next time you fancy knitting something special, and enjoy the extra yarn options that that opens up!

If you would like more details of the Elizabeth Scarf pattern, then please click here

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: It's Wovember!

. 25/7/18 W

1 Nov 2013

It's Wovember!

No — that's not a spelling mistake! November 1st sees the start of a month-long Celebration of Wool. This began in 2011 as a campaign to encourage everyone to wear, use and appreciate this most basic, fundamental and remarkable fibre. 

The Wovember website is fairly buzzing right now with ideas on how you can make more of wool this month. There are links to current activities and photographs from shepherds raising sheep, shops selling wool yarn and crafters using 100% wool. 

I am going to join in the celebrations this month by highlighting projects using my patterns that can be worked in 100% wool. I'll also be talking about different sheep breeds that have been used for those projects and throwing in some interesting woolly facts along the way. 

Today, I am going to feature the Rare Earth Rug and Rare Earth Cushions knitting patterns. These were inspired by the trees outside my studio window in New England the first winter we were living there. I had never experienced a winter in these northerly climes before and was amazed at how early in the season the first snowflakes started to fall. 

Indeed the trees still had a wealth of colour in their branches when the first snows arrived, coating every limb with a dusting of white. It was truly magical. 

I decided to see if I could capture those impressions in a handspun rug. Earlier that year I had purchased a wonderful "bicolour" fleece with shades of black and grey which seemed to echo the colours I was seeing outside. I separated out the colours and carded them separately, then blended them together with some bright white wool to give 5 different shades. 

I then sat with my spinning wheel, cozily ensconced indoors while the snow continued to drift down outside. I wrapped a card with the patterning I had in my mind and compared it with the new vision from the window. Unfortunately, everything was now blanketed with snow! However, I still had the mental image of how it had been earlier.

I love the fact that you can get such a wonderful range of colours in wool without having to step near a dye-pot! Not only does this make the whole spinning process simpler, but the yarn is soft and cozy without the addition of any chemicals or harsh treatment.

It was still snowy when I completed the rug several weeks later. I had spun a generous amount of yarn to make sure I had enough and still had quite a bit left over. So I set to and made some cushions to match. I even managed to find some great sheepy buttons to finish them off!

Now, of course, you don't have to do what I did and start with a fleece and a spinning wheel to make these items, as there are great resources available right in your local yarn store. Cascade 220 or Knit Picks Wool of the Andes would both be excellent alternatives. 

The fleeces I used came from Corriedale sheep raised in Wisconsin. Corriedale is a breed that came to the USA in the early 20th century derived from a Merino-Lincoln cross in New Zealand and Australia. The wool still shows the softness of its merino ancestry, but has the extra length from its Lincoln parent too.

And to finish, I promised some fun facts on sheep and wool: 

* * * * * 

. Sheep were domesticated between 9,000 and 11,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, roughly where Iraq, Syria and Turkey are now. 

. Wool can absorb nearly 30% of its weight in water, yet gives off heat when it dries – so hill walkers always prefer wearing woollen trousers to denim. 

. Wool is also fire resistant, tending to smoulder or even go out in a fire in comparison to some synthetic materials which can melt onto the skin. Oooch! 

* * * * * 

If you would like more details of my these two patterns or the other rug and cushion patterns available, please see my website. 

Until next time — enjoy working with wool! 


Last Blogpost: How long shall I make this scarf?
Next Up: Two strands held together...

Thanks to my husband Tim for the picture at the top of this blogpost, which shows sheep grazing in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Please visit his Flickr page to see more of his pictures.

. 23/12/18 W

29 Oct 2013

How long shall I make this scarf?

One question I was asked last week is how long a scarf should be, especially when the person is knitting it as a gift. Unfortunately, my answer was: "Well, it depends!" Not very satisfactory, I agree.

So I am going to look at two of my scarf patterns, the Elizabeth Scarf shown above, and my newly-published pattern, the Beckenham Scarf, pictured below. 

I tend to think of the Elizabeth Scarf as a ladies' scarf, and the Beckenham Scarf as one for the men-folk, but of course this is rather a sweeping generalisation and both could be suitable for anyone on your gift-list with the right yarn and colour choices.

Both of the scarves feature reversible stitches which means that they will suit any style of wearing. If a scarf is made from a regular knit stitch, then it is harder for it to look good when casually draped around the neck or thrown over the shoulder.

But a reversible scarf can be tucked in a dressy fashion inside an overcoat or allowed to wrap or drape at will, so will suit a variety of uses.

Both these patterns use reversible stitches taken from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. The Elizabeth Scarf uses one of my favourite reversible stitches, Hatfield Check, while the Beckenham Scarf features the dynamic Seeded Chevron pattern.

So, how do you choose what length to make your next scarf? 

The best rule of thumb is that you should make a scarf approximately equal to the height of the person who will be wearing it. This will give a nicely proportioned scarf without being too short for a tall person or swamping a more diminutive figure.

However, you can modify this "rule" by thinking of how the person usually wears their scarves.

The first category I think of as Senatorial or Executive. You see this style often at places such as Washington's Dulles airport on a Friday afternoon.

The scarf is neatly draped around the neckline and allowed to hang open with the scarf ends exactly aligned, then the blazer or overcoat is shrugged on over the top. If the temperatures start to drop, then one end of the scarf can be folded neatly over the other and the coat buttoned up.

For this style you will want a reasonably narrow scarf, say 15-20cm/6-8 ins wide, preferably worked in a soft and fine yarn such as a luxurious merino. 

For the ladies, continue until it measures about 112-120cm / 44-48 ins long. For a man's scarf, 120-135cm / 48-54 ins would make a good draping length. 

The next style of scarf is for the Active Set. It is a bit longer than the previous version, so can either be flipped back over the shoulder or wrapped tightly around the neckline. 

This is a popular style for walkers and cyclists. The wrapping gives extra warmth at the point where the wind usually finds a gap at the top of your coat, yet is not trailing to risk getting caught in the spokes of your wheel. 

Knit these scarves with a width of 18-22 cm / 7-9 ins using a cozy medium-weight wool, and with a length of about 135cm / 54 ins for a lady and 150cm / 60 ins for a chap.

That brings us to the Regular Scarf. We all have some of these — a good average length and perfect for most uses. If you can't decide what length of scarf to make, then go for this one. It will find a happy home somewhere! 

Keep the width as for the last scarf but make the scarf about 165cm / 66 ins long for the ladies on your gift list, and 185cm / 72 ins for the men.

The next style is for the Artistic people you know. Adding an extra 15cm / 6 ins to the length of the scarf gives extra scope for more innovative wrapping methods, including the ever-popular centre-pull wrap.

So for the ladies, aim for 185cm / 72 ins and for the men make the scarf 200cm / 78 ins long.

The maroon Elizabeth Scarf pictured here, for example, is 16.5cm / 6.5 ins wide and 183cm / 72 ins long. This scarf can be wrapped several times around the neck or folded in more elaborate styles, giving it great versatility.

And in case you're wondering: that's our daughter Anna in the photo, trying to look as though she's warm despite the bitter winds that were blowing that day!

Or you can go wider. Knitting a 22-25cm / 9-10 ins scarf will give a good wide result, but going further to 28-35cm / 11-14 ins will give a cozy extra width for scrunching and folding into shape.

The chunky Beckenham Scarf shown here is 28cm / 11 ins wide x 185cm / 72 ins long.

Then there are the Fashionistas among us! And the trend this year is for super-long wrapping styles and volume for both ladies and men.

Go for the same width as above but just keep knitting until it looks right for the seriously fashion-conscious recipient. Just stop before Dr Who might consider wearing it!

For this type of volume-wrapping continue knitting until the scarf measures about 200-215cm / 78-84 ins in length.

I hope that gives you lots of ideas for tailoring your scarf patterns to just the right length for the person you have in mind. Please click here to see further details for all the scarf patterns available on my website.

(Oh, and in case you want to know, there were several Dr Who scarves, and the longest measured a cool 26ft! That's some serious knitting there...) 

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Beckenham Scarf

Next Up: It's Wovember!

Many thanks to Pinterest and Tumblr for the additional photos for this blogpost.

. 25/7/18 W

24 Oct 2013

Beckenham Scarf

One of the coldest apartments that I ever lived in was in an otherwise delightful town called Beckenham in Kent, down in the South-East corner of England. The flat seemed pleasantly cool in the summer when I moved in, but when winter arrived in full force then it was seriously cold.

I rapidly learnt that good quality knitwear was essential to keep the winter chills at bay.  

So, what better name for this new knitting pattern than the Beckenham Scarf ...

The pattern features a strongly graphical design which is just perfect for a man's scarf. 

There are two versions: the grey scarf is worked in a soft worsted-weight merino wool, while the green version uses a super-warm chunky yarn. 

The worsted weight scarf can be worked in three widths ranging from 18.5-21.5 cm / 7½-8½ ins wide, while the chunky one measures 24-28 cm / 9½-11 ins.

There are also three lengths included in the pattern. The Slim scarf measures 150cm/60 ins in length, the Medium is 165cm/66 ins and the Wide size is 185cm/72 ins long — perfect for draping or wrapping several times around the neck.

Please see my blogpost dated 31 Mar 2014 for more details on these sizes and for additional photographs.

The stitch pattern is reversible and shows a dynamic pattern of interlocking zig-zags. This is based upon the Seeded Chevron stitch pattern from our book, Reversible Knitting StitchesReversible stitches are perfect for scarves as they can be draped casually around your neck without worrying which side is on show.

For more details about the Beckenham Scarf knitting pattern, please click here.

Also, please visit my website for lots of other scarf ideas to keep you cozy this winter.

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Derwent Cove Cushions
Next Up: How long shall I make this scarf?

. 25/7/18 W


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