There was some debate during our planning phase about what the term modular really means. The word modular itself means that the object (in this case, the project) has pieces that can be combined or connected in different ways. Couldn’t this speak true of so many knitting projects?

For our Stitch Lab today, there won’t be any technique tutorials — instead, we’ll be exploring the flexibility of the term modular as it applies to knits, and how there are many designers that are constantly stretching the boundaries of it’s applications.

While researching the subject, we came across this very interesting blog post, which discusses a technique for knitting originally patented by Virginia Woods Bellamy in 1948. According to the writer, Bellamy called her invention ‘numbers knitting,’ and used a collection of six elementary shapes that built up into a variety of garments. All of Bellamy’s pieces were designed and explained using the knitter’s workhorse, garter stitch, and her six shapes, to form mostly variations on knitted blankets. (She also wrote a book on the subject, but it’s exorbitantly expensive and hard to find!)

The idea of piecework or patchwork knitting, as modular knitting is sometimes called, is hardly a new idea — and has been explored by many knitters outside of Bellamy (though she is one of the only ones to patent it.) You might have encountered modular knits from Elizabeth Zimmermann, like the Tomten Jacket, which was re-visited by Jared Flood for adults on his blog, Brooklyn Tweed, in 2007. Or perhaps you’ve come to the technique by trying out a pattern like Wingspan. In these pieces, modular knitting takes on the definition of being built in small sections at a time — each wedge builds on the next, each square turns and miters and forms the next piece.


a detail from Olga’s beautiful Aranami photoset

Other patterns expand on the idea of modular knitting in a more literal way — making ‘modules’ that will be knit together into a greater whole. Olgajazzy’s Aranami Shawl is one of our favorite examples of this, but there are others, like Svalbard, which uses pieces knit flat to form a dimensional garment built off of itself. You can see how the construction has no seams, as viewed in the Wool People 6 LookBook screenshot, below:

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 2.08.17 PM

When you look at modular knitting as individual smaller parts forming the whole, it’s easy to see how a technique like entrelac could be considered modular. Since each piece is knit separately and builds into the diamond-patterned fabric, but these pieces aren’t individually responsible for the garment’s shape (they are only used within it,) entrelac is a bit of a stretch of the definition. Couldn’t you imagine Motley in our exclusive Spincycle colorway?


Be sure to check out this week’s newsletter to see some of the other ways we decided to stretch the definition of modular knitting, or come to our Stitch Lab, Modules, to learn how to create some of these techniques yourself!

Stitch Lab Continued from here: Holes Part 1

In addition to the functional holes covered in Part 1, which are often used for necklines and construction details, there are a number of decorative methods for creating holes in your knitting.

In lace work, perhaps the most common method for creating holes is a yarn over. A yarn over is both a type of hole and a type of increase, and is commonly found in lace patterns to either increase an area, or, when accompanied by a corresponding decrease, to create a hole that does not alter the width of the finished piece. Yarn overs often require some blocking at the end of the project (which we’ll cover in an upcoming Stitch Lab.)

Depending on the surrounding stitches, you will approach a yarn over in a different way. To keep things as simple as possible, here are both the purl and knit yarn overs, laid side by side so that you can compare them on basic stockinette stitch.


You start by being on the correct side of the fabric, having worked up to the point where you will insert your yarn over.



For the knit yarn over, you will bring the yarn through the needles from the back to the front (as if you were getting ready to purl.) Then, move your right needle into the next stitch as if you were getting ready to knit it — wrap the yarn over the needle and around as if to knit, and slide the newly formed stitch and yarn over to the right needle.

For the purl yarn over, the yarn will start in the front — bring it all the way around the right needle to form a loop, then purl the next stitch.



It will be easy to identify your yarn over in the line of stitches. If you have ever increased on accident in a project, it’s possible this will look like a mistake to you — accidental yarn overs are a common mistake. This time, though, this hole is on purpose. Work back across your row, knitting or purling the yarn over as a new stitch when you come to it.


As you can see, both yarn overs form the same type of hole when done correctly. Always allow the stitch after the yarn over to dictate which approach you need.

Another method for creating holes in your knitting is called Dropped Stitch. While it might sound a lot like the mistake of having a running dropped stitch — the pesky traveling loop-and-ladder that results when you miss a stitch on your needle — these dropped stitches form vertical bars and do not unravel.

Since this stitch pattern creates an elongated stitch that lengthens an area of the fabric, it works best if the entire row is done the same way. If you have flanking stitches (such as a slipped stitch selvedge or garter-stitch border,) you might have to cease using them for the row that you are dropping. You begin a dropped stitch by working the first stitch of the row as normal, then wrapping your working yarn around the needle. We chose to wrap ours three times to create a long dropped stitch.


Then, you’ll continue to work this way across the row. It will look like you have increased a bunch of stitches.


After you have worked all the way across your dropped stitch row, you work back the other way. Allow the loose loops to drop as you come to them, and only work the original stitch. It will look like this. You should be able to see a discernible difference between the worked and looped sections — the looped stitches will not be connected to the fabric body in any way and will make a gap across your work.


As you work the row, you will see the longer stitches begin to form:


When you turn your work over, you will see the dropped stitch row, topped by a standard stockinette row. You can work as many dropped stitch rows as you like, but you’ll always need to anchor them with at least one row of regularly-worked stitches in between.


If you’ve got more questions about these types of intentional holes in knitted work, be sure to leave them in the comments, or come by our Stitch Lab at the store on April 16, where we’ll cover these types and probably a few more.


This week in our Stitch Lab, we’ll be focusing on holes — intentional ones, that is.  Holes are used for many different things in knitting. They can show up as design details (like eyelets), or serve a function (like a buttonhole.) There are various ways to make them — we’ll be covering some of the most commonly seen and needed.


When you’re knitting a garment that calls for buttonholes, you always want to pick a hole that will match the size of your button. Generally, it’s easiest if you bind off a few stitches into the button band, then cast on the same number of stitches mid-knit on the next row. Depending on how many you bind off (you’ll cast the same amount back on) you change the size of the buttonhole. With all of the button holes in this tutorial, we bound off four stitches and cast back on the same amount. Then, you’ll finish that row and knit all the stitches leading up to the gap.


For the Cable Cast On, you’ll insert your needle in between the last two stitches on your needle, and wrap the yarn the same way around it as if you were making a standard knit stitch.


Pull this loop through, in between the two stitches.


Bring this loop up and over the left-hand needle — you have added one stitch.


You’ll add back the four stitches you bound off. The working tail is now on the right side of the cable-cast on — so you’ll need to turn your work to finish the row on the WS of the fabric (as if you had been knitting across the WS row the whole time.)



Treat the next row as completely normal, and work across the whole row to finish off and give a clean edge to your buttonhole. The Cable Cast On is also a popular method to cast on stitches for necklines or, as indicated by the name, in the middle of the row for a cable.

The next mid-row cast on we’ll explore is fairly new. Originally taught to Cap Sease, the author of Cast On, Bind Off, this cast on goes by a few different names. Our favorite — and probably the most descriptive, is the Stretchy Short Tail Cast On. To start, you’ll bind off four stitches in the middle of the ‘button band’, then prep by working across the WS row to the gap. At this point, turn your work and line up the right-hand needle (your working needle) in an X formation against the left-hand needle, with your working yarn in front.


Then, you’ll wrap the yarn over the front needle and around the back needle:


And around the back needle counter-clockwise and towards the right, in a sort of figure-8 formation.


Then, you’ll bring the yarn in between your stitches, kind of like you did in the Cable Cast On, by slanting to the left and then pulling through the loop you have created:



As you can see, it makes two stitches out of one, so it’s a bit faster. Double the stitches for half the work! It’s great to use as a neckline cast on too.


If you have trouble catching this one, we really recommend this video from Youtuber Mimi Kezer. This cast on is pretty stretchy and is a great choice for a lot of projects.

The final cast on in our trio of mid-row cast ons is the Backwards Loop Cast On. This one creates a tight, inflexible edge that is clean and perhaps the best-suited to buttonholes that are larger and more likely to stretch out of shape. It also provides a matching edge to your bind off.  Begin the same way as for the other two methods, knitting back to your gap. Then, wrap the yarn around your fingers:



Insert the needle up and through the loop from the back of your hand towards your fingertips. Pull your fingers out and you’ll have a loop like this:


Pull it tight and make a three more to complete your button hole.



As you can see, all three methods produced very similar buttonholes.


Go here for Part Two of this  Stitch Lab – or join us at our store during our next Knit Night on April 16th for more guidance on holes.

Stitch Lab is a series on new techniques and stitches for knitters of all skill levels. Each week, we’ll cover a new topic and introduce helpful tips, tutorials, and information on how to create effects with knitted stitches! Each time, our Stitch Lab will occur both on the blog and in person (on the Knit Night following the Stitch Lab Blog post!) Keep an eye out for our newsletter to see pattern suggestions featuring these techniques, too!

We wanted to cover the basics of simple, single-color brioche here on the blog, so that those of you planning on attending the Stitch Lab on April 9th can get a head start (in case you have questions or run into an issue), and those of you reading and participating long-distance don’t miss out on this fun and interesting technique for creating squishy knits!

For basic brioche stitch, the first step is to cast on an even number of stitches. Many brioche patterns include selvedge stitches that will flank the actual brioche pattern (and provide an easy place to seam if you’re making a garment) — in the case of this swatch, we are not including selvedge stitches. Make sure you take note of what your pattern says on the matter!

IMG_0183The next step is to do the first row, which is incidentally a set up row — it gets all of your stitches ready and in the right places. You’ll start by slipping the first stitch purlwise, with the yarn in front. In brioche, your yarn placement is very important — in a moment, you’ll see why.


Remember, the yarn is coming around the front of your needle. The next step is a knit — basically, you’ll be forming a yarn over that will cross the knitted stitch, creating what is referred to as a ‘bark’ stitch (abbreviated brk in many brioche patterns).


As you can see, the working yarn is coming from the front, around the needle and around the back to form the knitted stitch. This forms a yarn over/cross and knits the stitch in one single step. Don’t worry about how jumbled it looks! We promise it’s right!


See how you’ve created a stitch that is essentially crossed over? This is that ‘bark’ we talked about. The next step is to slip another stitch as if purling, with the yarn in back. Then, you’ll bring the yarn back around the front to create the next bark (crossed) stitch. You’ll continue this pattern across this set up row until you reach the end. If the last stitch is a knit, you will still bring the yarn over to place it in front — this is essential if you do not have selvedge stitches (more details on this in a moment.)

Now it’s time to begin the next row — the first real row of brioche. If your first stitch is a crossed stitch (a bark in the set up row) you will need to k2tog. If it was a slipped stitch, you will slip it with the yarn in front.

The first stitch you come to that is crossed (you will be able to tell because it looks like two stitches close together), you k2tog :

IMG_0189 IMG_0190

Suddenly, this stitch is alone, and the next one is a slipped stitch. You’re going to partner this stitch up with the other type of crossed stitch — what is referred to as a burp, or brp, stitch in brioche. It is formed in much the same way as the knitted crossed stitch, the bark (brk).


Just slip the purl stitch with the yarn in front and move the yarn over the needle and to the back for the next k2tog. As you can see, this ‘partners’ the purl stitch with a cross over, and changes the doubled stitch from the previous round into a single stitch.


On the next round, you’ll be doing bark stitches instead of burps — as you come to the partnered/crossed stitches, you’ll k2tog, and you’ll bring the yarn to the front, slip a stitch, cross the yarn over the needle to the back, and k2tog again. You’ll repeat this across the row.

Now, remember that we mentioned earlier about selvedge stitches? In a pattern that doesn’t have selvedge edges, you will run into a crossed stitch at the end (and the beginning) of your next row. Here’s how to work that stitch correctly in pattern. You have just ended on a k2tog, and the last stitch would be a slip. Your yarn is positioned in the front, you slip the stitch, and turn the work. Keep the yarn in the back! Do not bring it around the side.


On this row, that stitch is considered a crossed or partnered stitch — treat it as such by inserting your needle, wrapping the yarn around and knitting it! As you can see — having a selvedge stitch here would be much easier.


But once you’ve passed the edge stitch, it’s all the same the rest of the way down — k2tog the partnered stitches, bring the yarn to the front, slip the next stitch, cross the yarn over the needle and k2tog! You’ll start to see the pattern form after a few rows:


If you try this on your own and are having issues, here are some videos that we found helpful. These videos also cover two-color brioche rib, when you’re ready.

Brioche Stitch from Knitting Help

Brioche Stitch from Stitch-A-Day

Did you make a mistake? Here’s how to fix it:

Fixing in Single Color Rib

Fixing in Two-Color Rib

And, last but not least, if you’re feeling ambitious, here are some other brioche stitches to try:

Two-color Brioche with Cables

Waffle Brioche from The Weekly Stitch

Honeycomb Brioche Stitch

We hope you love learning Brioche and stay tuned for each of our weekly Stitch Labs for April! We’ll be covering the material both on the blog and in person at the store — the session on Brioche will happen during our weekly Knit Night time on April 9!


For centuries, humans have been adapting fibers to their needs. Many animal fibers have become staples for those who knit, weave, crochet and work with textiles — wool, alpaca, yak, cashmere, mink, even possum. Plant fibers have been used as well, turning them into wearable, durable cottons, linens, and even bamboo yarns. It may seem like we’ve reached capacity in creative fiber development, especially when it comes to knitting — but there are still companies pushing the boundaries of what yarns make good fabrics, and what fabrics make beautiful garments. Habu Textiles, a Japanese yarn manufacturer, continues to sit on the cutting edge of unusual, delicate, and interesting fiber application.

A wide selection of materials is what sets Habu apart as a company. We adore their futuristic approach to knitting, but the yarns are also wonderful for a range of applications — jewelry makers, weavers, dyers, and other artisans have all produced beautiful creations with Habu’s unique fibers. We thought it might be fun to explore some of the Habu yarns featured on Knit Purl’s shelves, since the number one question when someone picks up a cone or skein in the store is “what can I make with this?”

Before we start listing the yarns and their qualities, it’s important to note that Habu truly embraces the endless versatility not only of individual yarns, but also the combination of yarns to create new textures. (This type of customization reminds us of Shibui’s Mix concept.) Don’t be afraid to play around, mixing and matching the yarns until you find something that suits you!

Aresco Cotton

This yarn is a bit stiff on the cone — 100% cotton and multi-plied, Aresco’s true beauty can’t be revealed until the final fabric is washed and blocked. Garter stitch and other simple textured stitches shine. Interweave Knits featured this yarn not long ago for their Boteh Scarf, a winding neck piece by Kathy Merrick. Habu recommends this yarn as an ideal warp for weaving, as well.

Cotton Gima

One of the most-stashed Habu yarns on Ravelry, this yarn’s texture is supposed to mimic the drape and structure of linen. In a collection of bright colors, this 100% cotton yarn drapes beautifully in garments, making it a favorite for summer-weight tops and tunics.

Fine Linen Paper

This yarn is technically a single strip of paper. Linen is stronger when wet, and since this paper is specifically designed for garment and textile use, it won’t dissolve when washed. Finished pieces have a fantastic lightness — this quality has made this yarn a favorite for Julie Weisenberger’s Liesl tunic.

Linen Wool Roving

Made of 80% wool with just a touch of linen to add texture, this yarn has a refreshing singles structure with sheen and strength. The Fringe Association, a beautiful blog that focuses on the simple pleasures of knitting, created their Wabi Mitts pattern out of this blend.

Linen Stainless Steel

Similar to other stainless-steel blends by Habu Textiles, this yarn creates garments that are slightly moldable, making it a fun and interesting new fiber for all types of fiber artists. Choose a pattern with simple stockinette and scrunch the fabric, bending and folding to produce new shapes.

Silk Stainless Steel

It’s not surprising that the original application of this blend was industrial. We particularly love this modification to Shibui Knits’ Gradient cowl, featuring both Habu’s Silk Stainless Steel and Shibui’s Silk Cloud used in conjunction.

Ultra Fine Stainless Steel

100% stainless steel, spun at the finest gauge possible — smaller than cobweb! Although it seems natural to consider its use double-stranded, don’t forget that this yarn is also often used for knitting fine, lightweight jewelry pieces.

Wool Stainless Steel

A softer version of Silk Stainless steel, featuring 75% wool and 25% stainless steel. To fully highlight all of the potential, knit on large needles or work a pattern featuring open panels of lace. Sit back and be amazed as your stitches, delicate and thin, become surprisingly sculptable.

Super Fine Copper

100% copper, ideal for carrying along or knitting jewelry with a rosy glow. We recently featured this yarn in use for Olgajazzy’s Tabi Mittens — the conductive properties of the metal made it ideal for duplicate-stitching onto the tips of gloves that would be used on touch screens!

Copper Bamboo

Shiny and sleek. This yarn is different from Habu’s stainless steel blends — the bamboo surrounds a copper core, making this yarn soft to the touch but still sculptural. Choose a pattern that would normally have drape but choose where the curves fall! A plain stockinette scarf takes on a new identity when pinched every six inches.

Silky Ramie

Ramie, a fiber produced from nettles, is not often seen in yarn stores. We love this yarn in airy garments, and the textural quality also makes for lovely functionality. Habu recommends trying this yarn for knotted bags, crochet, or even macrame as well.

Silk Wrapped Paper

An unusual fiber, this paper yarn is wrapped but not covered in shiny silk threads. The contrast color wrapping creates visually beautiful fabrics, while the crisp and papery texture helps finished garments stand out in a crowd. We’ve toyed with pairing this yarn alongside Shibui Knits’ newest addition, Kavo.

Tsumugi Silk

(We say it ‘ts-moo-gee.’) This yarn adds weight and pairs nicely with lace knits — substantial, tweedy, and unusual. With a fantastic color range, double-stranding alongside a solid also yeilds lovely results. This yarn is a favorite for garments, especially those with some drape and relaxed structures. Aptly named, we loved this adaptation of Relax, an Amirisu magazine pattern by Ririko.

Wool Crepe

This 100% wool, cobweb-weight yarn is slightly overplied and then starched. Upon finishing your knitted or woven piece (weavers, Habu suggestes a sectional cross-beam for stability), blocking will reveal an unusual effect, shrinking the yarn 20% – 40% from the original size. What fun experiments could you think up in this unusual yarn?

Wrapped Merino

Merino wrapped with the finest threads of silk, adding just a bit of visual texture to this lace-weight yarn. While the inner merino will bloom after washing, the finished fabric will retain all the shine of the silk, creating dimensional fabrics out of your finished knits.

Fine Merino

The closest Habu Textiles gets to a ‘workhorse’ yarn. This lightweight wool fulfills any desire for multiple-stranded knits, with a color palette that allows for endless possibility. This is our number one choice for pairing with any of the more unusual Habu yarns — add a little familiarity while you think outside the box! This yarn also knits up beautifully solo, creating fine-gauge garments that will look fresh off the runway.


Luxurious cashmere in lighter-than-air strands. Perfect for weaving or fine knits that will stay stunning and soft for years to come.


Modern, streamlined styles covered runways for Spring fashion this year, so we wouldn’t expect any less from Shibui’s most recent collection, S/S 14. This addition to Mix features a variety of versatile garments, laden with clean lines. While many of the patterns are showcased in comfortable neutrals with occasional touches of denim blue, we couldn’t help but think about making them with some alternate colors (and yarns) too.


We love designer Lori Versaci, and so does the team at Shibui. Her clean lines and innovative construction once again lend something new and surprising to this collection in the form of Mix Nos. 28 & 27. In No. 28, a simple vest shape is enhanced with a beautiful wrap-around and buttoned collar. Worked in Shibui Linen and Pebble held together, Ivory is a simple and clean-lined solution to showing off all the details in this piece. To further enhance this knit’s striking shape, consider using the rich blue-greys of Linen in Graphite, and Pebble in Tar, one of the new colorways for this line.


Mix No. 27 is a shell that uses the nature of garter stitch to play up color changes in an unusual way. The front panel is worked in two strands of Linen held together, while the back uses just one strand to create a slightly sheer fabric. Originally, the design pairs Fjord & Caffeine, but if you’d like to play with some of this season’s pastels, think about switching them out for Linen in Ivory, and on the front panel using Manos del Uruguay’s elegant colorway Watered Silk on their Fino base. The color changes could add some extra visual interest!


Lydia Tsymbal yet again adds her expertise to this collection with Mix Nos. 30 & 25. A relaxed tee, Mix No. 30 uses Silk Cloud & Heichi to maximum effect, highlighting each of the accented ridges with the glow of mohair on silk. While it’s stunning and versatile in Caffeine, we can’t help but think about making this in the pale spring greens of Lumen, too.


Mix No. 25 is a staple wardrobe option in Pebble‘s Canal colorway. Since the yarn is double-stranded throughout, Pebble gains some structure while still remaining weightless and soft at a light fingering gauge. If you’re thinking about making more than one of this must-have sweater, what about working up your second version in Isager’s Tvinni Tweed? In a pale, heathered gray, it’s sure to be one of your favorite pieces.


Mix No. 29 injects print into a simple shape. This mitered chevron cowl by designer Jenny Faifel would make a wonderful addition to any early Spring wardrobe. Pebble & Cima are held together for an ultimately luxurious fabric. While the original features a selection of camel, ivory, and denim tones, we can’t help but think about how lovely this would be knit in some of Pebble‘s other new colorways. Keep the Ivory background and accent with Clay, Ash, Sidewalk (in Cima, use Nude) & Mineral instead for a blush-toned palette. (Pebble will be available soon in Mineral and Clay!)


Shellie Anderson’s piece for the collection is sure to be a favorite year-round. While we adore the two-toned Pebble combination of Caffeine and Trail (the yarn is held double-stranded throughout), what about swapping them out for the soft mint sorbet of Isager Alpaca 2, paired with Pebble double-stranded in Sidewalk?

Would you keep these patterns as-is in their original color palettes, or would you change it up a little, and how? Tell us in the comments!


We’re ready to wave goodbye to cold, dreary days, and say hello to the first flight out to a warmer, more agreeable climate. Even if you aren’t traveling anytime soon, it helps to make travel as effortless as possible. We’ve got a few tips and travel tricks that will help you speed your projects through security, knit through the flight (where allowed), and keep everything organized and easy to access.

Safety Guidelines — Permitted Items

As of March 2014, the TSA (US only) permits all knitting needles and crochet hooks through security, and will theoretically allow scissors that have blunt tips, are sheathed, and have a length under 4″. (While the guidelines state that you can have short-tipped, pointy scissors, it might be smart to err on the side of caution!)

We appreciate the portability of interchangeable needle sets for flights. Wooden or bamboo tips, like those on the Addi Clicks Natura set, are our favorites for flights. If you’re looking to travel lighter, get an Addi Clicks starter set—just make sure the needle sizes are what you need for your selected project.addinatura

Note: When traveling abroad, security measures could be different. In a recent Ravelry thread, members discussed whether or not the European ban on sharp objects also included knitting needles. As an extra caution, we recommend separating your yarn and current project from your needles by placing your project on a lifeline. Run the lifeline through your stitches to keep them safe, or simply pack the whole thing in your luggage and read on the flight. Some knitters have suggested preparing a pre-paid envelope with your address, in case it’s necessary to mail your project back home or ahead of you, should it be rejected.

Perfecting your in-flight Knitting Bag

Before you pack, read through your pattern thoroughly and make a list of items you might need. The materials needed list often seems like the best place to check, but many patterns don’t mention waste yarn, stitch markers, or tapestry needles until they’re needed.


Keep things at a glance by packing your notions in a sheer pouch, like the 5 x 7 double-zip version of our Walker cases. With two separate pockets, it’s easy to isolate notions like stitch markers that could otherwise become entangled. For your yarn and project, we recommend the uncluttered approach of Lulu Wraps’ furoshiki. Simple sheets of organic cotton fabric easily transform into a portable carrying pouch, and fold flat if you finish your project on your trip!

Pattern Perfect

The back-seat pocket of the chair in front of you, when not stuffed with safety cards and magazines, makes an excellent place to prop up your pattern. Since the pocket is tight and often has a hard edge to it, use this to your advantage, folding your pattern in half and letting it flop over for easy, angled reading.

If you prefer to use the tray table, consider moving your patterns over to your tablet as PDF files, or use the app JKnit HD Lite, which allows you to highlight portions of charts to keep track of your row. This is especially handy with colorwork or lace patterns.

Big things, small packages

The natural choice for an in-flight project may be something small, like hats or mittens, but consider all of the extras you need for such projects. Perhaps they require circular and double-pointed needles (a set of 4 or 5), waste yarn, tapestry needles, and stitch markers.

Our Hoyt cowl would certainly be a great travel project!

Our Hoyt cowl would certainly be a great travel project!

Don’t rule out the versatility of simple stockinette for travel. Start a sweater at the sleeves, or knit simple socks two at a time in the round using the magic loop technique. An infinity cowl that has hundreds of stitches might seem less daunting when confined to one large circular needle, making it easy to fold up and out of the way during takeoff and landing.

Think creatively when approaching your travel projects—of course, as the brilliant knitters you are, we could hardly expect you to do anything else!


original source unknown

image via Country Style Magazine, August 2012 ‘The Wool Issue’

There has been a resurgence in interest of rustic yarns lately. Knitters seem to fall into one of two camps: those who cling to the comfort of their soft, superwash skeins, and those eager to jump headfirst into projects with yarn of rougher character and charm (and sometimes a bit of vegetable matter). We believe that both types of yarn have their merits, as you can see from the variety on Knit Purl’s well-stocked shelves.

While many of our customers are eager to try the varieties of wool we have to offer, others are more inclined to fall for what Clara Parkes lovingly refers to as the “softness myth” in The Knitter’s Book of Wool, pages 16 & 17:

“The quality that matters to most knitters these days is touch. Specifically, soft touch. If we want to experience everything wool has to offer, we must begin by adjusting our expectations.

“Our hands have been trained to embrace soft and reject everything else. When you start experiencing different [wool] breeds on their own, you’ll immediately begin to feel a lot of the ‘everything else’—yarns with greater vibrancy, texture, visual appeal, and what I think of as ‘crunch.’

“Remember that every breed has its place and purpose among our projects. Not everything needs to be knit in the softest, most delicate wool. In fact, many projects prefer to be made out of something more durable.”

Through brands like Brooklyn Tweed, Geilsk, Sincere Sheep, Noro, and Isager, Knit Purl has long embraced the historical tradition of wools bred especially for durability and functionality—not solely softness. Many of these wools are, indeed, soft in their own way, but they also have characteristics that set them apart from the superwash merinos and standard merino wools available. While we could indeed wax poetic about dozens of projects that would be perfect for these wools (and we have, in past newsletters like these), sometimes it’s better to talk about the experience rather than the end result.

Wools that have a “farm” or “heritage” feel often connect us to the history of knitting, if only symbolically. There is something very tactile about winding a simple skein of textured wool, sliding it through your fingers and around the swift, the finished cakes crisp and pert, ready to be transformed into something wonderful. Enhance this appreciation of simple pleasures by pairing these wools with a set of wooden needles. Cast on the way you were taught. Go back to your roots with each stitch as it slides back and forth, forming something beautiful and timeless. Take solace in the knowledge that knitters designed these tools specifically for this purpose—to go with the farm wools they might have even spun themselves. It’s a cozy little picture, isn’t it?


In our present day, these more textured wools have reprised their role as favorite fibers, especially when featured in collections loaded with beautiful patterns. Jared Flood has long used patterns, now produced by his entire team at Brooklyn Tweed, to communicate a message comprised of contemporary design and historic craftsmanship. Shelter and Loft, both spun from Targhee-Columbia wools, have become two of our most popular offerings.


Bannock, by Sincere Sheep, also features Targhee. This breed has long been a favorite of handspinners. As described in The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook (page 307), this fiber combines relative softness with the handle, strength, and character of longwools. The yarn itself seems to radiate the life and excitement of its bearer: a bouncy, fluffy fiber to represent a bouncy, fluffy sheep.


Eisaku Noro founded his company over 40 years ago based on the idea that yarn was a wonderful way to celebrate color. It seems like a natural progression that this color would be best highlighted on yarn that had as much character as the end product. By choosing a variety of wools sourced from around the world, and putting them through minimal processing, Noro works to preserve the natural qualities and characteristics of the yarns:

“Friction, rubbing, and heat during processing weaken the fibers in direct proportion to the length of time they are processed. By dramatically shortening this process, we are preventing damage to the enzymes in the fibers and simultaneously profiting the environment,” explained Noro in a 2012 Noro Magazine interview with designer Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton.


Often, the choice to use a specific wool is a design choice, like in the ever-popular collections from Amimono featuring Isager Yarns. Marianne Isager, the Danish designer and textile aficionado behind Isager Yarns, often highlights the unique textures of various rustic wools. Moorit heathers, tweedy yarns with noils, and even longer fibers produce a variety of effects to finished fabrics that help set apart knitted garments from the wovens they might be paired with.

Life, like knitting, is always more interesting when we celebrate the abundance of textures, differences, and unique qualities of things in the world around us. By contrasting those oh-so-soft wools with the sturdy, interesting textures of these medium and longwools, we hope that you’ll find new ways to rediscover the beauty of stitching, no matter how simple or complex.

One could forever explore the versatility of yarn. From toothy yarns that grasp at each other in colorwork motifs, to smooth, superwash skeins that slide effortlessly over our needles—there seem to be yarns for every project, with every quality. Cushy cashmeres, shiny silks, squishy merinos, and then delicate, haloed yarns.

These yarns seem to glow from within, color radiating from the core out into each fuzzy fiber that lifts away from the yarn. The haloed fibers, breaking away from the constraint of a single strand, seem almost pulled outward by static. These skeins intrigue and pull in knitters of all skill levels, prompting so many questions. What will I make with this? Will it be hard to knit with? It looks so fine; do you have to double-strand it? Yarns that have “haloes” easily add luminescence and airy grace to simple projects. With the right application and a few tricks and tips, you’ll be knitting glowy, wispy projects in no time!

Halo takes up extra space in knitting, so when used as the primary yarn in a pattern, haloed yarns are often knit on larger-than-expected needles. This gives the halo room to breathe, so to speak. Since larger needles often produce drapier fabrics, these yarns are usually built with a fuzzy yarn that becomes the outer halo, and a sturdier inner yarn that holds these drifting fibers together. Mohair, alpaca, yak, angora, and cashmere are all fibers commonly seen in yarns that have a halo, although some wools (like Wensleydale and Masham) have haloes as well.


Some of our favorite “wispy wonders” at Knit Purl are blended with mohair. Shibui Silk Cloud, which is 60% kid mohair and 40% silk, takes advantage of the strength of silk to hold the delicate mohair together. Both fibers take color vividly and have a bit of sheen, creating a heavenly yarn, and resulting fabric. Knit singly, like in the Mohair Bias Loop pattern from Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, you’ll get a fabric that seems lighter than air. In garment pieces like Veer, Silk Cloud is stranded with another yarn to give the fabric opacity and extra drape.


We also suggest trying one of these textured yarns as a substitution in simple stockinette patterns that typically call for smooth yarns. The Kozue Scarf by Kirsten Johnstone is originally designed for a lace-weight, cashmere Habu yarn. When paired with a yarn like mYak Lace, the stockinette stitches blend and become a swathe of elegant fabric in a minimalistic, classic shape.


These yarns can have a lot of character, too, as with Handmaiden’s Maiden Hair. 67% silk, 23% mohair, and 10% nylon, this yarn has a crimped structure that adds wild texture to the unknit skein. Reign in some of the energy and choose a pattern like Shibui Mix No. 9 to showcase the vibrancy of the colors.

Whatever you choose to make, it could be beneficial to test out the right combination of needles, stitches and yarn in a swatch. Since yarns that have halo can be difficult to rip out, complex stitch patterns can become difficult to correct if something goes awry. Cables, intricate lace, and details can become obscured by the brushed look of the resulting fabric—stockinette and wide-paneled lace motifs (on big needles) can produce lovely effects.


In addition, consider the opacity of your yarn when choosing a pattern! In Shibui Mix No. 2, Silk Cloud is used to excellent effect to produce a sheer fabric. Just think of all of the beautiful wraps, sweaters, and elegant flowy tops that can be executed in haloed yarns. The possibilities, much like the qualities of yarn themselves, are limitless.

While many of our local knitters are mapping out their route for the upcoming Rose City Yarn Crawl, we didn’t want those of you who can’t come to Portland (or perhaps would have a much longer route to travel), to miss out on seeing the store. So we thought we would share with you a little peek inside Knit Purl with this “virtual” store tour.


Our register, where Knit Purl staff package up your parcels

Our store is largely sorted by size, with signage indicating where you can find Bulky, DK, Sport and Fingering weight yarns in a wide range of fibers. Of course, many customers find themselves perusing each and every inch of the store, looking for the perfect ‘gem’ to take home.

Bulky FingeringSport&DKWe carry several lines in multiple bases, including Shibui, Habu, and Brooklyn Tweed. These are displayed together so that yarns (like in Shibui’s Mix patterns) can be easily combined for single projects. 


You can see many of the lines we feature worked up into samples throughout the store — we keep these in constant rotation so there’s always something new to see when you come in. Equally exciting are the many new lines we continually add — there’s almost always something new and special to see that you won’t find elsewhere!

You can stay tuned to what’s coming in and going on at Knit Purl by following us here on the blog, or signing up to receive our newsletter.  Of course, online shopping, while convenient, never replaces the experience of coming to visit in person — we hope to see you soon!