kiwib

We’re always excited about a new yarn launch with one of our favorite dyers, and Alpha B’s new yarn, Kiwi B, is no exception! I chatted with Anne Morrow about this new addition to her lineup, what projects will be perfect, and what sets it apart from the other yarns on our shelves.

Tell us about your newest yarn, Kiwi B. How does it fit into your existing line?

Kiwi B is 100% New Zealand Polwarth in a DK weight. I was looking for an additional DK weight yarn but wanted to offer something a little different than the standard merino but still a yarn with the soft hand. I added the BFL DK last year and the people I work with in the UK sent me a sample of Polwarth when it became available. After dyeing it, knitting with it and having friends knit with it I knew I had found a winner. The yarn dyes beautifully producing a deep and rich color I like. It’s a smooth yarn as it is spun worsted and has a bit of luster due to the Lincoln sheep used in the development of the breed.

How did you source the Polwarth for this yarn?

I receive the yarn from the supplier I work with in the UK. They source the fiber and send Polwarth top sliver to be spun in Italy to their specifications. The Kiwi B is spun worsted, offering a denser yarn than a woolen spun one. It’s necessary that I offer a consistent, quality yarn, and I’m pleased with what I’ve been able to get from this supplier.

Polwarth is a great wool, but one that our readers might not be familiar with. What do you love about this breed and what makes it different from other wools you’ve used?

Polwarth sheep were developed in Australia as a dual-purpose sheep, able to thrive in diverse climates, such as high rainfall areas (not always suitable for Merinos). Originally, Saxon Merino rams would breed to Lincoln ewes. Through selective breeding the Polwarth was born. Saxon Merinos are a small sheep known for producing what many consider the finest wool of the four strains found in Australia. The introduction of the long wool Lincoln to the Saxon gave Polwarth a slight luster and durability. Polwarth is now considered 75% Saxon Merino and 25% Lincoln. It’s a large sheep and the micron count is around 22–25. The Polwarth was introduced to NZ during the 1930s and these sheep are now found in North America, Australia and South America too. In South America the breed is named “Ideal.”

What are some projects you think this yarn would be perfect for?

Kiwi B is suitable for accessories, sweaters and any project where you would use a merino yarn.

Our suggestions? Hit up some of our favorite patterns designed for DK-weight yarns, like Shibui’s Shift or the Ardyth Cardigan from CocoKnits.

 

 

I look forward to it every year—the launch of new patterns and yarns from Shibui! While fall and winter are eternally a knitter’s favorite seasons, I love seeing what interesting garments the team at Shibui Knits comes up with for the warmer weather ahead. Especially since the weather is finally showing signs of spring outside, too.

This season marks a new era from Shibui, featuring patterns designed in-house rather than by independent designers. While we’re sure that many designers will continue to collaborate with Shibui on patterns, it’s exciting to see a collection so originally Shibui without any outside influences. I interviewed Shellie Anderson, the Product Development Manager at Shibui Knits, about the work that the design team put in to make this season’s knits special.

This is the first collection that the design team has done entirely in-house! How was the process different this time around?

It is a collaborative effort of our design team to generate design ideas and give input in the final design concept. I then take those ideas and create the piece and write the pattern. It’s a very creative and exciting process.

Technically this season marks the end of the Mix titled collections. What changes and what can we expect from this season’s patterns?

The Mix concept will never go away—it’s the foundation of our brand. While we’re no longer labeling our collections as Mix, we’ll continue mixing the yarns to create beautiful fabrics. We are also offering more multiple fabric/yarn choices within a single pattern, enabling the knitter to customize the garment to her tastes.

Tell us more about what we will see in the SS15 collection. What yarns have been featured, what influenced this collection?

Inspiration comes from everywhere, but a lot of this collection is based on shapes that we wanted to wear and design. Spring and summer can be a bit more challenging to design for. However, I’m really fortunate to have such great yarns to work with that support these seasons. Our Linen, Kavo, and now Twig, are very well suited for lighter weight garments. Of course, we featured all three in this collection. We also mixed these yarns with Cima and Pebble—a great new combination is Pebble + Kavo. We featured that fabric in our Axis design in this collection.

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Tell us about Twig! It’s the newest yarn in the Shibui lineup.

Our team put a lot of time and effort into getting all aspects of Twig just right. I think we were able to come up with the perfect blend: 46% linen, 42% recycled silk, 12% wool. I believe our fulfillment team nicknamed it Twig before the decision was made, but the description says it all:

“It bends and bows with grace, like new branches in the Spring. It knits up into a beautiful fabric—soft and cool, with the kind of drape that is simply effortless. This yarn is impeccable as a standalone and entirely mixable.”

I love the texture of this yarn! It’s just enough to give the fabric interest without being overpowering. It’s awesome by itself, although my current favorite combination is Twig + Cima.

What else can we expect from Shibui this year?

Of course, I can’t give away any big secrets, but I can say that we’re very focused on showing the versatility of patterns and fabrics this year. We’ll be showcasing different combinations inside of single patterns. Apex, a new SS15 pattern I mentioned earlier, features three fabric options: Linen, Kavo, or the Cima + Twig combination.

With a new yarn to play with and a full collection of beautiful patterns, we’ve no doubt that Shellie and the rest of the design team will continue to surprise us with the clean, modern, and creative products and patterns that Shibui does so well!

shelter

Last week, we talked about the Targhee sheep—how the breed was developed, the characteristics of this wool and some of the projects it’s ideal for. This week, we’ve been discussing one of the branches of the Targhee family: the Targhee-Columbia cross.

A crossbreed is exactly what it sounds like! Two lines of pure sheep breeding match up and pair together to compliment each other. With Targhee-Columbia, the goal was to take all of the great qualities of spongy, dense, soft Targhee wool, and combine it with Columbia, a wool known for having a great sheen, but not so much for being next-to-skin soft. Perhaps the most well-known occurrence of this wool in popular yarns is it’s use for the Brooklyn Tweed brand. Here’s some info from their website about where they source the wool, and why they love this breed:

“Brooklyn Tweed yarns are born in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains of north central Wyoming, where ranchers have raised sheep for 150 years. Our wool comes from three Johnson County ranches that husband Targhee-Columbia sheep, a distinctly American cross of two breeds with their origins in the wide-open spaces of the West. Both are large, sturdy animals able to withstand the harsh winters and terrain of their rangeland homes. The Targhee produces a fine wool with Merino-like softness; Columbia wool is stouter and lends durability and character. The combination is ideal for the lofty, warm, woolen-spun yarns Brooklyn Tweed set out to create, yarns that are soft enough to wear against the skin but also long wearing an imbued with distinctive personality on the needles.”

www.brooklyntweed.com, Our Story

 

Having knit with Shelter fairly recently while making a sweater for my father for Christmas, I can personally attest to the yarn being a perfect blend of both sheep. While Targhee in my experience is lofty and soft, the Columbia adds a grist to the yarn that keeps it weighty and allows finished projects to have more drape.

During the knitting process, this blend is the quintessentially woolly yarn. Being woolen-spun, it’s lightweight, while the Targhee adds some density to each stitch. The real magic happens when this blend is blocked, though, and the Columbia’s beauty comes to the forefront, adding a slight sheen and the visual warmth that only the best wools have.

Try out your very own Targhee-Columbia projects with one of Brooklyn Tweed’s yarns here.

 

FireCrackerMitts_closeup

Just in time for the Lunar New Year, we’ve released our latest pattern, the Firecracker Mitts. The stitch pattern adorning these mitts is open to interpretation—you might think of it as representing sparks to ward off evil or as lucky five-petaled plum blossoms welcoming spring. Either way, you’ll want to know how to knit it! Videos exist demonstrating how to work this evocative and highly textured stitch—commonly referred to as a daisy stitch—in a flat swatch. The Firecracker Mitts feature two slight adjustments: the stitch pattern is worked in the round for much of each mitt and a reversed version appears in the right mitt, giving you a sweetly symmetrical pair. To make everything clearer, the mitts’ designer, Bekah Stuart, walked us through how she works the daisy stitch.

Each daisy requires working into five stitches at once. Fortunately, bouncy Bannock is well-suited to the task. To make things even easier, the pattern has you prepare for each daisy by creating a group of five extra-roomy stitches. Here Bekah works on this step by wrapping her needle with yarn not just once but twice as she knits a stitch.

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On the following round, when she reaches a group of double-wrapped stitches, she slips each one knitwise to her right-hand needle, releasing the extra loops in the process. That knitwise slipping closes up holes in the fabric, so she keeps the left leg of each stitch in front as she transfers all five elongated stitches back to the left-hand needle.

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The next step is to work into all five stitches as if they were a single stitch, through the back loop, as shown above, for the left mitt, or through the usual front loop, as shown below, for the right mitt.

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Here Bekah has worked a k1 and a yo into the group of five stitches. She’ll go on to knit one, yarn over, and knit one again, and then to drop the five elongated stitches off her left needle—one daisy done!

As you work daisies, don’t worry if you find yourself needing to redistribute your stitches so that all five stitches worked together are grouped on a single needle—it’s simply the nature of the pattern. In addition, keep in mind that while stitch markers would get in the way of making daisies, in a sense, they’re built right into your fabric. Once the pattern is established, the plain knit stitch that separates groups of elongated stitches (the “k1″ in “[CDP, k1],” for example) is worked into the central “petal” of the daisy below, as Bekah demonstrates here.

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Similarly, the middle elongated stitch in a group of five will be worked into the plain knit stitch below.

The daisy stitch is a satisfying little stitch that works up quickly into a cheery set of mitts. Start yours today and begin celebrating the Year of the Sheep with Knit Purl!

I think a lot of knitters, crocheters, and even spinners have exploring to do in the fiber world. It seems like so many stores stock the same wools over and over—the ambiguous “100% wool,” followed closely by Merino and Superwash Merino. But the world is full of interesting fibers to encounter, and the wool breeds available to us seem more varied every year.

Targhee

Some Hello Yarn Targhee fiber from my stash

 

This year, in the Year of the Sheep, I’m happy to be able to share some really exciting sheep breeds with you, starting with one of my favorites—Targhee. As a spinner, I’ve become quite familiar with this lofty, pillowy fiber. Targhee has a softness similar to merino, but adds body and personality to knits due to the crimp.

Here are what some of my favorite fiber texts have to say about this breed’s history:

“One of the more recently established breeds, the Targhee was developed by the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, in 1926. The goal was to develop the ideal sheep based on ¾ fine wool and ¼ longwool blood.

“The resulting large animal grows a fine, dense, and uniform fleece whose magnificent high crimp gives any knitted fabric a plush, elastic quality reminiscent of well-yeasted bread dough.”  The Knitter’s Book of Wool, page 49

The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook (an excellent resource for wool information), goes more in-depth about Targhee’s history and qualities:

“In 1926, researchers at the USDA Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, bred Rambouillet rams to Corriedale and Lincoln/Rambouillet ewes, then quickly backcrossed the offspring…. Their new, large-framed Targhee breed, named after the national forest where the station’s sheep grazed in summer, superbly produces both meat and fleece.

“Targhee wool has loft and good elasticity, of the sort that makes it lively and supple rather than springy. It produces fabrics you’ll want to wrap yourself in for both softness and a bit of elegance.” The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, page 307

It seems like Targhee has been getting a lot of attention lately as a great knitting wool. This could be in part to it’s versatility—Targhee does well as both a worsted or woolen-spun yarn.

A Targhee-Columbia wool blend is the base for Brooklyn Tweed’s woolen-spun yarns, Shelter and Loft. Targhee lends considerable body to each and every stitch in heavily cabled patterns (which we expect to see more of, now that Norah Gaughan has joined the BT design team). In contrast, Bannock, one of our favorite yarns from Sincere Sheep, is a worsted-spun Targhee wool. This three-ply does a great job of showing off Targhee’s durability and softness in a smoother yarn.

An additional bonus to Targhee is that most Targhee herds are located here in the US—meaning that the brands that feature them often have the yarn milled and dyed here too. It’s nice to know that a yarn can support your national economy from start to finish. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s incredibly fun to knit with, too! You can learn more about this interesting sheep on our Targhee Sheep Page.


cedarwood
If you know one thing about Knit Purl, it’s probably that we love Shibui Knits, and if you know one thing about Shibui, it’s probably that they love combining yarns to create exciting new fabrics. From the opulent medley of silks in Mix No. 9 to the intriguingly plush yet crisp Mix No. 28, their blends inspire us to be creative when selecting materials for a project. In our latest newsletter, we took advantage of Shibui’s highly mixable yarns to develop two new takes on Alicia Plummer’s Cedarwood cardigan.

cedarwood_swatch

When combining Shibui yarns, it’s common to choose two different yarns in matching colors. After several years of observing swatches, projects, and trunk shows, I’ve realized my favorite mixes feature yarns that are close in color but distinct enough to give the finished piece visual texture and depth. Sometimes, as with our Baby Alpaca + Pebble Cedarwood suggestion, this can be accomplished simply through choice of yarn. While Baby Alpaca is solid in color, Pebble’s trio of fibers lend tiny, playful flecks, echoing the tweedy look of the original Shelter in a soft and swingy fabric.

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Other combinations require slightly more experimentation. For our Cedarwood sample worked in Maai + Silk Cloud, we first tried using Caffeine in both yarns. While the resulting swatch was plush and bouncy—everything you’d want in a cozy cardigan—I didn’t feel the fabric was enhanced by the play of pale silk against darker mohair, alpaca, and wool. To my eye, one of the most beautiful ways you can use Shibui yarn is to match the silk of Silk Cloud to the color of a thicker yarn, allowing the darker mohair halo to accentuate your fabric’s shadows. You can test the effect by wrapping a strand of Maai in Tar, for example, around a strand of Silk Cloud in Abyss. In the end, we took this approach with Cedarwood, pairing Maai in Ash with the slightly darker, slightly greener Fog in Silk Cloud. The finished fabric has an almost metallic appeal, with the two subtly different grays shimmering across its surface. The textured band stands out as if it had been shaded with a graphite pencil. It’s a sweater that looks like a work of art and feels as comforting as a hug. I highly recommend you treat yourself to a kit!

Do you have a favorite way to combine Shibui yarns?

swatch

Swatching, it could be argued, is perhaps the most important task in the knitting process. A swatch tells you everything you need to know about whatever you’re hoping the yarn you’ve chosen will become: how it will wash, how it will wear, and what gauge measurements you have relative to your pattern. It allows you to experience your choice of yarn and needle, and make alterations before you’re elbow deep in thousands of stitches. Why then does it feel like such a chore to knit those squares?

Instead of approaching swatching as busy work that comes before the knitting, I’m trying to think of my swatches more as an entirely different project—just as important and relevant as what I’ll be making after they’re complete. To gain some insight into the mind of those who swatch, I chatted briefly with Sandy Barnes, Shibui Knits’ self-pronounced Lover of Swatches.

Sandy began her love affair with swatches when she started working with Habu.

“I actually bought little cones, little quantities, of Habu yarns. I would keep them in a box and just get them out to see all of the different fabrics I could make. They were a separate craft project in and of themselves—I never knit anything big with them, I never made anything. I was just swatching to play with the fabrics,” she explained.

Swatching, for Sandy, is all about playing with fabric. When she began to think about the finished swatches as potential fabrics for her garments, the act of swatching became about the excitement of the yarn, combined with the act of choosing fabric (instead of constantly worrying about matching gauge.) Through teaching MIX parties, Sandy began to extend her love of swatching while sharing all the possibilities of Shibui with shops and other knitters.

“I had a seamstress in one of the MIX parties come up to me afterwards, and tell me that I had revolutionized the way she thought about swatches,” she recalled. “She told me that as a seamstress, she fell in love with the fabrics first, and they told her what they wanted to become. Now, her knitting has become that way for her. She falls in love with the fabrics first, all of the textures that can be created in knitted stitches. Afterwards, she finds the right pattern, or has fun matching a pattern she loves to the yarn.”

It’s so important to remember that simple detail when applying yarn to pattern, of course. Swatching an inch in simple stockinette isn’t enough. Swatch in pattern. Swatch in the round. Swatch using your increases and decreases for the pattern and see if you’d rather use different ones. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but don’t get lazy and hurry towards your project blindly.

“Swatching is all about needle size, and yarn choice, and how it will affect everything in the end. Try different yarns, think about what you want the finished piece to be. Yes, it might be a cardigan, but what kind of cardigan? Choosing the right yarn at the right gauge can transform any piece into something new.”

KPLacetips

After our extensive section on cable knitting, I thought about what other projects knitters worry about tackling. Lace, of course, was first and foremost in my mind. Delicate shawls, scarves, and even sweaters can become a dizzying prospect when you open the pattern to discover that it’s full of charts, abbreviations, symbols, tables, and more!

Many knitters throw up their hands and search out what is familiar and comfortable—written instructions. But working your way through repeats that read like gibberish is hardly the path to easy lace knitting. While some of you are sure to groan when I say it, a chart is always the answer.

Charts are essentially maps for your knitting. There are some simple rules for reading charts, and none of them are going to make your head spin, I promise!

Read the Legend

The legend, or key, of your chart behaves just like a map’s legend or key. Each symbol appearing on the chart represents a single action that may or may not include multiple stitches. Unlike cable charts (where the action shows how many stitches it occupies), a lace chart often combines several stitches into one square or symbol. A good example of this is the sk2p stitch: slip one, knit 2, pass the slipped stitch over. This combination uses three stitches, but is often represented by this single symbol on the chart. I like to make notes next to complicated stitches so I know what they mean without having to flip back and forth to the abbreviations in the notes (which are often on a different page of the pattern).

lace chart use courtesy of Through the Loops

lace chart courtesy of Through the Loops

Read as you Knit

In the US, we read our books left to right, but we knit right to left. Cable charts are read the way you knit—right to left—so don’t get confused by using them the other way around. Because they are a visual map of your stitches, this also makes it easier to see where mistakes are in your work (and move back to correct them).

Stuck on Repeats

Many charts feature a repeat inside of the chart, often designated by a colored outline, area, or box. Stitches that fall outside of this area aren’t repeated. It’s a good idea to always print your charts in color so that you can keep track of the differences, but if you have to print in black and white, use a highlighter to outline the repeated interval.

 

lace chart courtesy of Through the Loops

lace chart courtesy of Through the Loops

Counting Rows

Keeping track of which row you’re on is important for maintaining a great lace project. Use highlighter tape, magnetic row counters, or a Post-it underneath the row you are working on to keep track.

Of course, there are so many other tips for lace, too. Just like with cables, lifelines, yarn choices, and pattern nuances contribute to your outcome. With lace, there’s also another important element—blocking! Stay tuned for a blog post coming up later in the month talking about why swatching (and blocking those swatches) helps determine the outcome of your projects.

slowknitting2

If you’re like me, the new year is full of promise in the knitting department. If you chose to make gifts last year for friends and family, it can feel like a breath of fresh air after the holidays are over. This is the perfect time of year to begin your slow knitting—knitting that focuses on the meditative craftsmanship of simply making.

While it might be tempting to throw a few simple, small projects on your needles for instant gratification, think instead about tackling something larger. New techniques, detailed lace, cables or textures, applied to grand scale garments are the best medicine for recovering from a season that often feels hurried, rushed, and materialistic.

Consider your fibers carefully. While binge-shopping clearance sales and end-of-year specials may tempt you, think instead about saving for a purchase that will bring you joy with every moment of construction and wear. Do your research start to finish—know the source of your wool, the yarn’s traits, and match it to the perfect pattern to showcase your work and time. Choose colors that can be worn with everything in your wardrobe. Slowly knitted garments are celebrations of time and craftsmanship. Don’t compromise on sub-par materials.

Above all, swatch. Celebrate the swatching and the act of it. Enjoy the feel of testing the new yarn on your favorite needles. Does your pattern call for a stockinette swatch, but feature an intricate lace? Practice that lace motif once through before starting, blocking and all. If things aren’t coming together, don’t despair, but see it instead as an opportunity to perfect the project through a better pattern choice. This is a process not meant to be done hastily.

When everything is aligned, when the yarn and pattern and needles and swatch are all singing to you, take a deep breath, and begin.

 

This is the third piece in our three-part series on cables! Read parts one (choosing the right yarn for cables) and two (cabling with or without a cable needle.)

I am all about cheats, tips, and tricks. Why work harder when you can work smarter? Your knitting should be no exception, especially when tackling cables. Here are some of my favorite tips for mastering cables and working your way towards gorgeous (and impressive) cabled fabrics.

KPChart

Charts are your friend, so embrace them when working with cables. Read from right to left (in the direction that you knit), cable charts at first glance can look like a mess of dashes, dots and loops. Be sure to keep your cable chart key handy—most patterns provide their own—and use highlighter tape, a magnetic guide strip, or a post-it flag to keep track of which row you’ve completed. I often make tally marks in the margins of cable charts to track repeats of each row. Don’t be afraid to blow up a chart larger if you’re having trouble following it. Simply increase the scale in the dialog box on your printer’s pop-up window to a larger one you’re comfortable with, and re-print that page.

While lifelines are often considered a lace knitting trick, they can come in handy for cable knitting too. I keep a bobbin of smooth cotton thread or baker’s twine in my knitting tool kit at all times so that I can be ready to thread in a lifeline at a moment’s notice! If your cable chart has a motif that you repeat every so many rows, this is a great way to keep track of your repeats, too.

KPCableBlue

Last but not least, the biggest tip I could possibly give you is perhaps the simplest: take your time. Cable projects aren’t meant to be speedy—don’t be afraid to work on them a little bit for a long while. Don’t expect them to be your late-night television knitting or the project you take with you on the bus (especially if they’re complex). Knit cables for the sake of cables, and be sure to enjoy every stitch!