May 27, 2015

19 Fringe Benefits -- Arica Cowl in Rowan Fazed Tweed

Fringe is in and here to stay, it seems!  I'll jump on that bandwagon, I love the stuff.  Being magnetically attracted to anything with fringe these days, I snatched up an opportunity to test Jane Richmond's new pattern, Arica Cowl.  (and now I am thinking of magnetic fringe, hmm!)

This pattern has a stellar WOW:WORK factor. It's a very simple ribbed strip knit with bulky yarn and big needles, so it only takes a day or two to make.  The front fans out by a clever use of lace rib attached to a firmer section of regular rib to go around the neck.  Blocking makes all the difference, don't omit this step!

The summer has started, so I blocked this beauty in the sun, shortening the whole process.  I pinned out and sprayed with Eucalan-spiked water, which is my classic way of blocking.

I decided to use Rowan Fazed Tweed for the cowl, even though I was on the low side with yardage (152 yards for 2 skeins).  This is a fascinating yarn, and I was happy to finally try it out.  It was released for the 2014 A/W season, and is a mix of 72% Wool, 22% Alpaca, 6% Nylon.  The interesting part is that the thick, almost felted portion of speckled wool/alpaca is encased in a fishnet of nylon!

This shade is Holly, and I found the net was a little dark for my taste.  The other shades do have different color netting, but it does tend to be high-contrast with the white backgrounds that are in each shade.  I like this netting idea though, I am going to go out on a limb and say that it 1) reduces scratchiness and 2) reduces pilling.  Only time will tell, but this stuff feels great against my neck!  It really is a showpiece yarn that is perfect for a cowl like this.

But I did run out of yarn for the fringe.  You need 72 pieces over a foot long, you see!  If you'd like to make the Arica Cowl out of 2 balls of Fazed Tweed, you have two options.  Shorten the fringe, or dive into your stash and find a complementary color!

That's what I did, and I think it was a blessing in disguise.  Beware fringe in purely Fazed Tweed -- it sticks to itself very easily, almost like velcro!  I avoided potential dreading by choosing stash that has a viscose/nylon feel, so it all ends up very silky.  I also like the idea of having thinner pieces of fringe with the thick.  Makes it feel less weighty.

The other thing I love about this cowl is the fit.  I do NOT like long ring cowls that let the wind in, I like my cowls firm and close.  This is usually hard to achieve because you have to pull it over your head -- but I think the construction of this cowl lends itself well to being able to go over the head and protect you excellently.  BE CAREFUL though, to not sew your hole to small, you can get to a point where it doesn't go over your head!  <=== GUILTY.  :)

See my Fringe Benefits on Ravelry


The house is at a standstill, but the garden certainly is not!  Very exciting.  A lot of you were right about the shoots coming up in previous posts.  If you know more, please leave a comment!  I've numbered the pictures for you.

Here are the current "knowns" and "guesses":  ETA: Now with updates from all your great input, thanks!

1. ME: Azalea YOU: small-leaf rhododendron

2) Lily of the Valley

3) Iris?  YOU: Yes, silly, it is an iris.  ETA:  It opened, it's a beautiful white one!

4) Peonies, complete with ants!

5) A black cherry tree

6) Hosta

7) I want to say Johnny Jump Ups but I'm pretty sure I'm wrong.  YOU: Violets

8) ME: Lavender?  There is a eucalyptus smell to the branches and leaves.  YOU: Number one answer was Russian Sage, but I also got mugwort, achillea (yarrow).

9) Day lily. YOU: Spiderwort (this looks spot on in Google, can't wait to see the color of flowers)

10) Tiger Lily?  YOU: Sisyrinchium.

11) Many think this is hydrangea.  There is zero activity going on in the sticks, but something down below.  YOU: overwhelmingly hydrangea, but 50% think I should cut the stalks.  Now a master gardener friends says cut stalks to first leaf bud!  Will do.

AND from here I am clueless:

12) Smells minty.  YOU: cat mint, apple mint, spearmint

13) Looks similar but does not smell minty.  YOU: oregano.  yeah, it smells herby, but doesn't have the same coloring or Mega Oregano smell as the oregano plant I got from the store.

14)  This stuff is everywhere - I mean weed-like everywhere... There are sticks pointing out of this one, but not all (because I think they spread).  YOU: black-eyed susan (i.e. rudbeckia), echinacea, aster, purple cornflower, Centaurea (cornflower).

15) This stuff, too... is it a weed?  YOU: Wild geranium, fine-leafed geranium, potentilla, anemones, wormwood, sweet woodruff.

16) Purple flowers here, but striped like candy in another part of the property. YOU: creeping phlox.

17) Huge leaves, under another planting, big thick trunks.  The snail loves it, not sure if I do!  YOU: hollyhock, burdock.

18) Quite a few of these, they have flower buds. YOU: Aquilegia/columbine/grannie's bonnets.  One is opening very soon!

19) Unknown bush/tree!

20) Ornamental stuff.  YOU: top is Artemisia silver mound, bottom is artemisia, lamium, dusty miller

That will do for now.  :)  I'd love for you to leave your thoughts in a comment.  I do realize that people have trouble doing that on my blog though, so you can always scroll to the bottom left of the page and send me a direct message.  Coming up next, a sweater in a linen/silk mix, a treatise on CALs and a funky cardigan!

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May 6, 2015

25 There Was A Whole Pullover In There?? Using Scraps For Ombré Magic

I have an Always Overflowing Scraps Basket (AOSB). It's like it came out of a scary fairy tale, a veritable horn of plenty refilling itself endlessly no matter what I desperately try to stashbust! Sadly, I can't blame elves for this... it's entirely and completely my fault. First, a knitting obsession inevitably fills the AOSB with "one-ball-wonder" leftovers. Second, I am THAT person who is always taking anything up for grabs in your knitting group, ostriching my head into a Goodwill bin or raiding a library swap basket (and <<oops>> forgetting to swap). Unknown? Scratchy? Fluorescently acrylic?! Gimme! I can do something with it, I swear!

I think.

I took a lot out of this basket as you'll see below.

It came upon me that my AOSB was going to need a twin sister if I didn't make a marathon effort on my scraps. Like, a whole pullover effort. Flipping through the Winter 2014/2015 Vogue Knitting, I discovered this simple drop sleeve pullover by Marie Wallin:

Two things caught my eye: 1) It was a 4-row slip stitch pattern with enough texture to hide weird color changes, and 2) it used two strands of aran weight yarn held together (in this case, Rowan Felted Tweed Aran). These two things would help solve the TWO MAJOR PROBLEMS with trying to make a pullover from bits and pieces of yarn:

PROBLEM #1: Make all the excuses you want, none of those colors actually go together. Yep, the likelihood of pulling out some amazing pullover-sized color combo out of a scraps basket is pretty much ZERO.

SOLUTION #1: Ombré, or, the blending of colors using shading. By having two strands of yarn in a slip stitch pattern, we suddenly have greatly increased our possible acceptable color combinations. With a single strand, you starkly go from blue to red -- with two, you go from blue to blue-purple to purple to purple-red to red.

PROBLEM #2: None of your scraps are the same weight and you are in for one lumpy dumpy pullover. Yep, we can't all have a scraps basket filled with every beautiful shade of Rowan Felted Tweed only.

SOLUTION #2: By having a 2X aran weight gauge, we can double, triple or even quadruple yarns to get better colorways and still come close to our gauge.

So one afternoon during a pre-Spring thaw in Maine, I poured my AOSB out onto the deck and tried to find me some colorful ombré!

At first I thought "rainbow". But then I don't really like to follow rules, and I didn't quite have the right shades anyway. Also, I had a ton of black, white and gray.


I started knitting and was totally addicted. I seriously whipped this thing out.  I was just so pleased watching serious Stashbusting In Situ, À La Carte, IN REAL TIME.

There was more to the excitement: each row reminded me of a project long past or an old friend who had gifted me yarn at swaps/parties/giveaways. It really was lovely to knit all this history together, some of this stuff was over 10 years old. I like to think of it as a sedimentary map, geology style:

The stitch is a really simple 4-row repeat pattern. Here is a .jpg so you can save or Pin on Pinterest:

I was able to accomplish the ombré look I wanted by always carrying one yarn through 2 repeats (8 rows). Basically, only one of two yarns changed for each repeat.

The pullover is still crazy, and obviously scrappy, but I'm really pleased that I managed to make this whole thing out of nothing!! I really think the ombré approach is the only way to go, and it's a concept that will work equally well in knit and crochet.

And so after all this I ask you, very honestly and with wide dewy eyes... do I have yarn elves? Is it actually possible that I do??? Because I kid you not, despite creating this new bulky Scraptastic Sweater out of my scraps basket... IT STILL LOOKS COMPLETELY FULL! We just might have to play the 'how many jellybeans in a jar' game for this one, folks....

See my Scraptastic pullover on Ravelry

This post is my submission to the Deramores Craft Blog Competition 2015.  Deramores is the UK's number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.  Visit for more details.

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