Today, I fell in love all over again. It wasn’t love at first sight, because I vaguely remember glancing at it a few months ago during our rep meeting, and we’ve had it in the shop for an entire month. But sometimes the best loves are the ones where you discover that in fact, they’ve been there all along. That is the case for me with the new pattern book from Berroco, their beautiful Portfolio Vol. 2. This latest offering from the Berroco Design Team is so, so beautiful, and it uses yarns from the Vintage and Ultra Alpaca families.
Have you heard of the Rule of Three when it comes to patterns? If you like three or more patterns in a pattern booklet, it’s a worthwhile investment. Three is the magic number, but this book has nine patterns — nine! — that make me want to cast on immediately. The thing that really sealed the deal was that one of these patterns was already on my to-knit list, I just hadn’t realized that Portfolio Vol. 2 was the source. Obviously, it was meant to be. Let me show you some of my favorites:
The Teeter Totter Shawl by Julia Farwell-Clay is a fun riot of color. Knit in Ultra Alpaca Fine, it will keep me warm despite arctic air conditioning, but it won’t ever be too heavy. I’ve been wanting to dabble in intarsia, and the color options are endless (though I do love the contrast between warm and cool color families).
This simple, elegant item by Elizabeth Smith is called the Brooklin Vest, and would be a quick knit in Vintage Chunky (and machine washable, too!). Knit seamlessly from side-to-side, it features a checkerboard texture on the back for a little visual interest. The Brooklin Vest is the perfect item to dress up my jeans-and-long-sleeve-tee wardrobe for fall.
Speaking of cooler weather, this sweet accessory is called the Marguerite Hat. Designed by Beatrice Perron Dahlen, you already know it’s going to be soft, because it’s knit in Ultra Alpaca. I don’t know if I would do mine with a white background — maybe I would choose a fun magenta with eggplant colorwork, or perhaps a bright blue-green with deep teal colorwork… It would be so warm and cozy!
I’ve saved the best for last. This is my absolute favorite, the Addilyn Capelet by Elizabeth Smith. It’s designed for Ultra Alpaca Chunky Tonal, which has soft variations in color that add a beautiful depth to the fabric. And I just adore those statement buttons, and the way you can fold down the collar if you want to wear it unbuttoned. This is the item that was already on my to-knit list, thanks to our Berroco rep, Andra. She’s always a few steps ahead of us, fashion-wise, and she called the poncho trend before it was even a glimmer on our horizon. (You were right, Andra!) In fact, Andra was so far ahead that she had already put her own twist on the pattern: she switched the yarn to North Star on size 11 needles. Look how wonderful it is:
I don’t think I can choose between the two yarns. I think I’ll have to knit both. Berroco really knocked it out of the park with their Portfolio Vol. 2. Stop by the store to check it out — it’s really stunning.
Or something like that, anyway.
It has been a long time goal of mine to knit or crochet a swatch (at the very least) of every feltable yarn we carry in the store and see how well I can felt it by hand. So far I’ve gotten ahold of Cascade 220, Cascade 220 Fingering, Bartlett, Homestead Tweed, and Moonshine. So far all of them — with the exception of the fingering weight –had to be aggressively put through my washing machine and didn’t take too well to hand felting. In fact, as a note to any of you who might be interested in felting with the Homestead Tweed, it does tend to lose some of the dye in the process (or at least, the burgundy color that I used did). Cascade 220 Fingering did hand felt, but it took a long time and wore out my hands pretty quickly.
I’ve also felted with Malabrigo Worsted and Rasta, but only for needle felting. Now, before you faint or shout “blasphemy!” , remember the mini paintings we felted at the store for the Christmas tree auction?
There was one other yarn that I’ve been wet felting by hand that surprised me, and that’s the one I wanted to focus on today: Quince&Co. In particular, Chickadee.
Oh my goodness. Ooooh, my goodness. When knit on a US #2 instead of the #3-#5 that it recommends, this stuff felts like a dream! With very little time, effort, and a lot of soap I was able to get these results.
I’m sure if I had put in some more time, I’d be able to get it completely felted so the impressions of the stitches no longer remained, but this was a satisfying first attempt. Now, does it needle felt well (using a large gauged needle because this is already a densely felted object)?
Yes, it does! Do I needle felt letters with roving well? No, no not at all. I think I’ll be sticking to the Malabrigo for that.
A ball of yarn is one very long piece of string with two ends. One inside, buried down deep in the middle, and one wrapped around the outside. You can start using the yarn from either end, pulling from either the inside or the outside. I know it’s going to come as a shock to you, but I have opinions about this.
You may have heard me say it, or you may have learned it elsewhere, but for those of you who don’t know, yarn is only held together by the twist. If it were not twisted, it would be just roving and would fall apart with even gentle tugging. The way a quantity of yarn is lumped together is called the put up. Go here for a great graphic that explains more about put up. Every time you change the put up, depending on which way you wind it, you either add or subtract twist. Going from the reeling machines into cones at the factory, going from cones to hanks in the warehouse, or going from hank to ball in the shop or at home, adds or subtracts twist. And so does knitting or crocheting.
I have a really hard time working with single ply yarn because wrapping the yarn around my needle or hook in a counter clockwise motion, as is customary here in the western world, takes away the twist and makes my yarn begin to fall apart. Working from the outside end of a ball of yarn will add twist if the yarn comes off in a counter clockwise motion, and add twist if the yarn comes off the ball in a clockwise motion. Either way, adding or subtracting twist can affect your gauge.
Working from the end in the middle of the ball will preserve the twist. It also allows your yarn to sit still and not roll around. It may be becoming clear what my opinion is. I like the center pull put up. To address the pros and cons, though, there are a number of accessories you can use to make which ever end you want to work with, work for you.
If want to use the inside pull out up, but you’re worried about the center of the ball collapsing, a yarn bra will be your best friend. You can read more about yarn bras here in Kate’s review guest blog. The gentle pressure of the yarn bra holds everything together and you can knot or crochet along in the confidence that nothing is going to fall apart on either end.
If you want to use the outside pull put up, you have two challenges. First, you have to let the ball roll around to compensate for the twisting motion the yarn makes as you pull it. This keep your yarn from getting over or under twisted as you work. Second, you have to keep your ball from rolling away out of reach, or around in the cat hair on the floor (not that I think you have cat hair on your floor!) or under the couch where you can’t reach it. The perfect solution is a yarn bowl. You can see some great yarn bowl ideas here. And, of course we have Francis Farley’s beautiful bowls here in the shop. A yarn bowl will contain the yarn where you can keep it tidy while still allowing the ball to twist freely.
So, opinions aside, which ever put up you like, inside pull or outside pull, a simple accessory can make or break your experience.