One of my favorite things to do is watch the number of Baby Surprise Jackets crawl higher and higher into the thousands over on Ravelry. It stands as a testament to the timelessness and genius of this pattern. Whenever I’m finishing one, that annoying Lays Potato Chip slogan always comes into my mind, you know it – betcha can’t eat just one? Yeah. Now that I’ve defiled the glory of EZ by comparing her to greasy snack food, I think we should move onto the knitting.

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Today is a two for one – two handspunBSJ’s – and represents a few things: my new found knitting time with the official end of my semester (glory!), spring cleaning and the finishing of way too many WIPS (I’m taking them down all around me), and what may serve as a good segue back to knitting from all that spinning talk.

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There’s not much to say about the pattern that hasn’t already been said hundreds of times. If you’ve knit one, you know. If you haven’t, you should. The pattern can be found in Knitting Workshop and The Opinionated Knitter, and is also available as a stand-alone pattern from Schoolhouse Press as well as a DVD walkthrough with Meg Swansen.

BSJ II (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

These are BSJ #2 and #3 for me (Fall Version and Spring Version seem more appropriate titles). The first was made last year in early summer, and happened to be the first time I ever officially knit with handspun. Domino effect?

BSJ III (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I think this pattern is a great match for handspun yarn – the self-striping nature of handspun accentuates the shaping of the garment and the slightly irregular texture suits garter stitch wonderfully. Not to mention you can knit a whole one using between 4-5 oz of yarn, and spinners usually have a lot of small batches of handspun lying around. They’re also great at classing up all your scraps. Very versatile.

BSJ II (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The Autumn (Red/Orange) Version was knit with merino fibers dyed at Spunky Eclectic. The colorway is Burning Bush and came out fantastic – it was a pleasure to both spin and knit. [Solo yarn shot here.] I actually knit this about 9 months ago. I remember because it was my portable knitting during that hellish move in September. I also remember channeling all my desperation for the onset of Fall into it. But alas, it sat completed and without buttons all of these months, until the other one came along and prompted me to get over to the button shop.

BSJ III (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The spring version is fine shetland dyed by Krista atPigeonroof Studios. I actually ran out of yarn right at the buttonband and subbed in some leftover merino from a previous spin, which also turned out to be Pigeonroof. [Both yarns here and here].

BSJ II (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Buttons were purchased at B.E. Yarn in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Everything was sewn up and photographed a couple of weeks ago. And I think that about exhausts these two for things that I can blather on about. Are you still with me?

BSJ III (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

As I said before, my schedule has taken a dramatic change this week, in favor of my knitting. I should have a normal life for a while, which means I can actually check e-mail (crazy, right?), read blogs, and best of all knit. I have a lot of catch-up to do, but things are looking up. Thanks to all of you for sticking with me through this sadly sparse year. Onward and upward.
 

Welcome back to the second half of our anatomy lesson. Today all the fun stuff happens – we’ll be turning fiber into yarn through a few simple steps. To answer a couple of questions from last time, I spin with a Kromski Minstrel, (you’ll see it in today’s pictures) and yes, I love my wheel. It’s an upright double treadle that is compact enough to fit into small apartments without being cumbersome and is an aesthetically pleasing piece aside from its upstanding functionality. Both big priorities in my book.

Now, lets do some spinning, shall we?

Spinning I (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Spinning is essentially putting twist into loose fibers to hold them together into a strong, continuous string or thread. Twist is, in fact, the very essence of spinning and mastering control over the amount of twist you choose to use will dramatically change your resulting yarn. Hard, durable yarns have lots of twist and are favored by weavers and rug makers for their ability to take hard knocks and stay intact. For handknitters, lighter, lofty yarns are often preferable and are less tightly spun. Of course this is an over-simplification, but you get the idea.

Spinning 2 (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
 

I’ll be spinning a 2-ply yarn today, and the first step in the process is to spin singles (single plies of fiber). These spun fibers will then be plied together for the finished product. An important rule when plying: the direction of your twist in the singles must always be reversed when plying – thus equalizing the tension put on the fibers and forming a balanced yarn.

I like to think of twist as dormant energy – if you put too much into your singles and don’t compensate for it while plying, one throws the other off balance.

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Above we have two bobbins of singles in more or less equal amounts. Before spinning I made sure to divide the fiber evenly into two parts in hopes of maximizing the yardage of the finished, plied yarn. You can see clearly on the bobbins how cleanly separated the color fields have spun out. If we were to knit this yarn up as-is, we would see clean, dramatic color stripes in our finished fabric. Plying them together, however, will essentially have the effect of mixing paint – the colors will come together somewhat randomly to diffuse or enhance one another, depending on their individual combinations. This is to me one of the best things about spinning plied yarns from hand-dyed fibers.

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Before plying, I like to load my bobbins on a tensioned Lazy Kate, for ease and consistency of flow while plying. A Kate isn’t absolutely necessary for plying yarns but I find it makes the job a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.

Plying is enjoyable and seems almost too easy in comparison to spinning singles – in a way the plies actually want to come together and relax as the tension of their twist is balanced. The amount of twist added while plying should more or less correspond to that in your singles, as I mentioned before, to achieve a no-fuss yarn.

Plying (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

With one hand pinching the yarn, I use another to separate and guide the plies as they flow off of the Kate. Plying can be rather hypnotic, not only as you watch colors combine and flow but also from the constant whirring of the wheel and mindless peddling of your feet. Very relaxing. Just don’t do it while your cooking something on the stove. Seriously.

Before you know it, you’ll have a nice, full bobbin of 2-ply yarn waiting patiently to come off the bobbin.

Celebration (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Now the spinning is done, but don’t forget that “finishing” your yarn is an equally important (and enjoyable) part of the process that I shant forget to mention. Using a niddy-noddy, the back of a chair, or any other surface you can think to string yarn around, gently skein your yarn off of the bobbin in preparation for its inaugural bath.

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Washing handspun yarn is essential because it sets the twist, allowing the fiber to relax and adapt to its new configuration. Washing is also wonderful because, much like blocking your knitting, it will often erase or at least de-emphasizes mistakes, snags or tension issues. When taking it out of the bath, it’s also a good idea to give it a few good *whacks* against the tub to even things out. Especially for beginners, skeins straight off the wheel may be far from balanced, but giving the yarn a bath will work wonders as a self-esteem booster. I’ve had particularly ugly yarns come out of the sink looking well-behaved and beautiful. Another of wool’s many wonders.

Wash your yarn like you wash your sweaters – gentle soap, luke warm water, no agitation – squeeze out excess water and hang up to air dry. Weighting the bottom of the skein as it dries also works great for helping to balance your yarn.

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When everything is dry, you can go nuts. Petting, smelling and general merry-making are all now acceptable activities for which to engage with your yarn. Whether or not knitting happens, no worry, handspun is beautiful as a stand-alone, boasting enough aesthetic prowess to hold it’s own just about anywhere in the house.

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And that, my friends, about sums up this fast and loose version of handspinning a 2-ply yarn. This is just one of the many ways you can use a spinning wheel to make yarn, though. The possibilities are truly endless and if you really love having your hands on fiber, you probably won’t ever tire of spinning.

I intend on covering a third portion of this series talking briefly about knitting with handspun and planning projects, but probably not immediately. My knitting time has been fruitful and inspiring lately (I have much to show you), and I don’t have anything immediately in mind for my most recent batch of handspun. When I do, though, we’ll talk more about knitting with handspun yarn.

I do hope everyone is enjoying the sun, it’s been gorgeous around here – my spinning wheel loves all the open windows. Happy spinning!
 

I recently heard someone say that spinning is a natural progression for any knitter. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can say that when I think about how much I’ve learned about yarn since becoming a spinner, this statement definitely holds true for me. When you begin constructing and knitting with your own yarns, you’re bound to reach a new understanding of what this fiber thing is all about, and that’s a good day for everyone.

I received a lot of e-mail responses to my last post regarding the process of converting fiber to yarn. Lots of you want pictures! Do I detect many knitters on the brink of making a crossover? (Just remember, spindles are a cheap way to test the waters)(without causing marital problems) The art of spinning is something I am unqualified to present to you on any formal level, but I thought I’d do what I could and give you a visual journey through my own spinning process. This topic will span 2 to 3 posts, not only because I am wary of overwhelming non-spinners with too much foreign information, but because currently my personal spinning time is a rarity, and this current spinning project is literally in progress. I think it works best this way for all of us. Now, shall we begin?

Wool comes to handspinners in many different forms. In our case we’ll be looking at hand-dyed roving, which seems to me one of the more popular ways urban spinners (with no space for cleaning or carding fleeces) like to roll.

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A roving is a continuous strip of combed or carded fibers to which a slight twist has been added (to keep everything everything together for dying, shipping, etc). Basically, a long, doughy strip of compressed wool. Rovings often come in braids after they’ve been dyed, like the one shown above. This particular beauty comes to us from the good folks at Interlacements in Colorado.

Unfurl the braid to see the roving in its entirety. The photo below shows the roving unbraided and reveals the dying scheme – spacial color fields of oranges, blues, and greens. Purdy, ain’t it?

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Roving is too dense to spin as-is and must be drafted first. Some spinners draft as they spin, others, like me, prefer pre-drafting. Drafting is essentially drawing the fibers out gently from one another to allow air into the spaces between individual fibers. When wool is drafted well it flows easily and consistently while spinning, which is desirable if you like your yarn nice and even. Notice below the difference in the fiber between my fingers and those that have yet to be drawn out. Wispy!

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In the wrong mindset, drafting can be an annoying precursor to the good stuff, although I tend to enjoy it – preparing the fiber and getting to know the tactile qualities of your specific batch of wool adds a special layer to the process. Kind of like giving your fiber a massage.

Depending on what color-effects you’re after, you may choose to tear the roving into strips and draft them individually. By doing this you essentially reduce the length of color repeats in your yarn – a quality you can manipulate in order to conjure up self-striping color patterns or other color tricks in your final yarn. With a well-dyed roving, you have a whole lot of possibilities – no two yarns will ever be exactly the same.

Below is a strip of roving (this time around, I split mine into 4) balled up on the window before being drafted.

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Drafting magically makes your fiber amount seem to multiply exponentially – what used to slink easily into the bottom of your basket as a tidy little roving now gently floats up over the edges – a sumptuous cloud of colorful wool bursting with potential, just waiting for a romp with your wheel. A rather delicate thing of beauty in itself (Note: not pet friendly, nor wind friendly for that matter).

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A nice big basket of pre-drafted fiber is a great thing to have around (see above if you own pets) – beautiful on its own, but always ready for a quick spin. And with this full basket, we conclude this evening’s portion of our tour – fiber prep.

Up next we get down-n-dirty making yarn, followed by some form of knitting-with-handspun, although I’m not promising any projects… if I did, I may never get around to that third post! Stay tuned for more spinning fun!

The vacation euphoria is wearing thin and things are getting back to normal – the AM routine has resumed in it’s habitual glory and I’m back to my most exciting decision of the morning being which scarf I’ll wear as I leave the house . My life is so exciting.

This morning I realized that one of the most popular scarves in my arsenal has yet to get any blog play, and she’s been going strong out there in the streets of New York for a couple months already. Allow me to introduce you.

Espresso Scarf (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
 

Pattern: Generic Garter Stitch Scarf
Materials: My Handspun (see below for details)
Needles: US6/4.0mm bamboo
Dimensions: 6″ width, 71″ length

Started: November 2007
Finished: January 2008

 

Espresso Scarf (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

One of the greatest things about handspun, aside from the fact that it’s so incredibly rewarding to work with, is that the yarn carries everything. There’s really no need for fancy stitchwork or impressive knitting acrobatics. In fact, I would venture to say that handspun is at its most impressive while standing alone in garter. This may be one of the reasons I have multiple of these scarves started – the same pattern can have multiple personalities with various handspun yarns. And they’re really fun to knit (something so beautiful shouldn’t be so easy. It’s dangerous).

Espresso 2-Ply (first 3 oz) (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I knit this scarf with two skeins of dk-weight 2-ply merino, just over 6 oz of wool. The fiber is Hello Yarn (I don’t have a problem.. really I don’t) and entitled “Espresso”. The pre-spun fiber looked like this.

[Sidenote: I've received a lot of comments/e-mails from people who love seeing handspun yarn alongside their pre-spun fiber predecessors for comparisons sake. Would you all be interested in a very informal post about the anatomy of a handspun, with pictures from start to finish?]

And while I had my camera at the ready, I thought I’d take some pictures of an oldie that I knit back in 2005. Up for it’s 2 year review – the So-Called Scarf:

So-Called (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

This was knit with Manos Del Uruguay. Pattern is here. A quick review – this scarf doesn’t get much wear unfortunately, despite the fact that I like to look at it. I knit this in the days before Malabrigo, and now that I have scarves in both Manos and Malabrigo, the scratchier of the two (Manos) definitely gets neglected. They both pill, so that’s not really an issue either. And Malabrigo is butter… so what am I to do?

So-Called (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I realize scarf weather is slowly disappearing – spring is coming and everyone is excited, so I’m getting as much wool-wearing in as possible. I love spring as much as the next guy, but the thing is, I think I love winter waaaay more than the next guy, so I’m always slightly sad to see it disappear. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy all this extra sunlight…

Well, I’m officially on Spring Break and feel like I can actually take a nice deep breath, knit profusely, and talk about it. So today I get to share with you some of the knitting fun that has been sporadically plodding along behind the scenes.

The most exciting undertaking to have begun in the last couple of weeks is the second project in the ongoing process of project provocation that Adrian and I seem to continually dish out, or as we officially call it, our 2-Person-Knit-a-long.

I think we’ve probably been waxing poetic about Alice Starmore’s Na Craga [via Ravelry] pattern for well over a year. Armed with lots of wool (this thing is a beast) it’s a wonder that we’ve finally taken the plunge and started the knitting. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have tweedy cables back in my life.

Gimme The Good Stuff

We’re both heavily modifying it from its sack-like origins. Since the fabric is thick like a jacket, and I’m pre-disposed to being warm, this is undergoing a full cardiganization. I also have hopes of making it hooded, the thought of which makes me positively giddy, but this of course all depends on how much yarn I have. Yarn which, as naturally happens, is discontinued.

Twisted Ribbing

I’m dipping into my last sweaters-worth of the lovely Skye Tweed from Classic Elite (may she rest in peace). This will be my third sweater with this yarn… wow, maybe it’s good that I’m being forced to move on?

I’ll be doing the standard seamless treatment on this one too, meaning lovely knitting done all in one piece, just the way I like it. Rather than steeking this time around, I’m knitting back and forth (all the cabling happens on even rows, so it’s nice and clean) with a buttonband worked in as I go.

Cables Everywhere

The cables in this thing are spectacular – those cheese-grater-like honeycombs not only run up the body, but also right up the center of the sleeves and flow into one of the best saddle-shoulders I think I’ve ever seen. The braided plait cables, while being the biggest hand-haters of any motif in the pattern, look so good I can’t complain (that much). And how about that twisted ribbing?! It really makes it.

Knitting a sweater like this is always an up and down saga, but so far we haven’t had any major snags, aside from sometimes being so brain dead at the end of the day that the thought of even looking at the thing sometimes seems outside of my human capacity. In these cases, it’s good to have a back up. To that end, I’m still plugging away on my ginormous garter stitch afghan which I can now safely use to keep me warm whilst I work on it – a huge bonus in my book.

Workhorse

I’m getting out of the city for the week and couldn’t be happier. For those of you who are lucky enough to get a break this week – I hope you enjoy! Tomorrow my knitting and I will be spending some quality time on a train speeding along the Hudson and away from Gotham. Have a great week!

Last week while riding the train early in the morning with my bare hands stuffed deep in the pockets of my winter jacket I decided I was sick of having cold hands in the morning. Last weekend I resolved to put my current knitting on hold and tend to my cold-hand problem post-haste.

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See, I’m a fidgety person who tends to keep busy at all times (a blessing and a curse), including in transit – so mittens aren’t great for me. I love knitting them but feel positively annoyed while wearing them in most situations. Too many times I’ve tried to answer the phone or scribble some notes in a notebook while mitten-clad, only to see my phone crash onto the sidewalk or my pen go flying under my neighbors subway seat. And lets not even talk about coffee spillage. Granted gloves also lend themselves to an obvious loss of dexterity but at this point in the winter, it’s all relative.

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Pattern: Ken (free from the Berroco design team) [*via Ravelry]

Materials: Noro Kureyon; #51

Amount: 160 grams (just over 1.5 skeins)

Needles: US8/5.0mm Double Pointed Needles

Started: 22 February 2008

Finished: 23 February 2008

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This was a total impulse knit. I didn’t even have a pattern in mind, just grabbed two balls of Kureyon from the stash and went pattern-huntin‘ on Ravelry. I found this free pattern, got gauge on the first try and went for it. There’s something really refreshing about spicing up your knitting with small, impulse-projects, especially when they work out – and I find that they often do. Maybe it’s the absence of obsessive planning and worrying that seems to surprise us time and again.

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I like this pattern – it’s fitted and detailed while remaining straightforward. Knitting ten fingers is always kind of a drag, but at this gauge they go mighty quick. I think that Kureyon is slightly heavier than the yarn called for in the pattern and makes for a semi-dense, very fitted glove. I really like it like this, but if you prefer a glove with a bit of ease on your hands, I’d recommend maybe using a different yarn or jumping up a needle size.

Green Fingers (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I guess I should also mention that my hands are large-ish and the pattern specifies a men’s medium, so if you have average size manhands, you can probably disregard my previous warning.

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I was putting off knitting myself a pair of gloves, mostly because I continue to entertain the idea that spring is just around the corner. I know that this is wishful thinking here in the city, and winter is, after all, one of my favorite times of year. Although I think most of us knitters are perpetually wistful for Fall, winter is pretty great too (Sometimes I forget. Usually early in the morning).

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To sum up – this is a great *free* pattern that is definitely worthy of being squeezed into a weekend. Why not go spelunking in your stash and surprise someone you love with warm hands for the rest of the winter? Until next time – happy knitting.

Don’t ask me when, but at some point this winter I found some time to do a whole bunch of spinning. This was a while ago, but nonetheless, I’ve amassed quite a little army of handspun and it’s so beautiful and well-behaved, sitting quietly on the shelf, knowing it will probably have to wait much too long to see the needles. So far they’ve all been happy to sit for portraits – and there lies our compromise.

Low Country Shetland (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The photo above is probably my favorite skein – it’s shetland wool dyed at HelloYarn in Boston, MA. I had never spun shetland and loved it way more than I anticipated. I was expecting scratchy and sticky, but it spun wonderfully and fluffed up to my ideal specifications. Note to self – spin more shetland. (Here’s a picture of how the fiber looked pre-spinning).

Charmer (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Corriedale 2-ply in “Charmer” – another of Adrian’s. I’ve been sampling small batches of various wools, which also means having fun with small batches of crazy colors.

Bulky Corriedale (Skein #2) (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I got a huge bag of white corriedale wool with my wheel and started spinning bulky singles (very instant-gratification) with hopes that I’ll have enough for another wooly blanket for next winter. Hey, it’s good to have (unrealistic) goals.

Mushroom Swatch (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
Forest Handspun (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Both of these beauties came from Pigeonroof Studios in California. Wonderfully subtle and tweedy yarns – I’m quite partial as you might expect. The yellow/green batch is fine shetland, spun from this (and already occupying half of a BSJ). The brown/pink batch is South African Fine wool, spun from this. That Krista is quite a dyer.

And if you haven’t gotten enough juicy spinning pictures, pop on over to my 2008 Spinning Gallery to get your fix.

There’s been a great amount of knitting and some new projects are brewing. I’ve slowly been wooing my knitting mojo back into my corner (he abandoned me for a bit there) and great things are happening. More to come very soon.

I guess it’s never too late to share Christmas knitting, is it? As I promised before (this long silence), I’d show a few quick little knits that were distributed under the tree this year and now live far far away. Today’s hats both reside in Portland, Oregon where wool’s water-resistant qualities are highly appreciated.

Jo's Hat (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The first is an adaptation of the Thorpe pattern [PDF]. I really liked this pattern (it’s knit from the top down, and you know I love that) but knew that handspun was in order so I decided to merge the two. The yarn I had on hand was DK weight so I just tweaked the numbers a bit to work – very easy to do when knitting hats from the top down. It turned out lightweight, fluffy and rather nice for a milder climate. Stripey too.

Jo's Hat (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The yarn is a 2-ply merino that I spun last fall with this particular recipient in mind. The fiber was handdyed in sunny California at Pigeonroof Studios and turned out to be a lovely little skein. I actually have enough of it leftover to knit another hat, so you may see this one pop up again in the future. Here’s the unknit yarn hanging in the window.

Lazy Daisy Drying


Hat number two was a little stashbusting creation. I had about half a skein of both Silk Garden and Cascade 220, both in neutral shades, both begging to be married. So I put them together and got this.

Ryan's Hat

The hat is just about as basic as can be, aside from maybe the crown. I really love how raglan-style decreases create a square-top on hats. I got to thinking of the stripes as circles and thought it might be interesting to throw some squares into the mix. I started thinking of this hat as squares-within-circles and really liked how it turned out.

Ryan's Hat (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The photos were taken on Puget Sound at Dash Point in Washington State. While we were walking the beach we saw a whole herd (school?) pod of Orcas (thanks everyone!) jumping off the coast – something I’ve never seen in all my life. And I grew up there. It was pretty great – and you can’t beat that Puget Sound light!

Ryan's Hat

Knitting has been regretfully slow around here lately, but a few projects can pull you through almost any stress-ridden period (thank heaven for Baby Surprise Jackets!)… and when did February sneak up on us?

Okay, here’s one more picture of canoodling handknits
for the road.

Ryan and Jo

Until next time – happy knitting!

Thank you so very much for all your comments on the Pi Shawl Blanket – it really is a special pattern and a very special knit to have around. I highly recommend giving it a shot with any yarn you have lying around – it’s very versatile. There were a number of questions that I received via e-mail about the shawl (mostly about the yarn and blocking) that I’ve done my best to answer at the conclusion of this post. I hope they are helpful!

And since we’re already in a lacey state of mind, I figure I’d exploit this opportunity to introduce a finished project that has been waiting for a little blog coverage for months. If you’ve followed my knitting for any length of time, you know I prefer knitting lace in thicker weight wools – I think the beautiful stitch work combined with something a little more heavy duty is a winning combination and I always seem to come back to it. My second swallowtail is no exception.

Swallowtail Shawl 2.0
 

Pattern: Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark [Ravelry]
Source: Interweave Knits Fall 2006
Materials: Queensland Collection Uruguay DK (70 ex.fine merino, 20 alpaca, 10 silk) [Ravelry]
Amount: about 4.5 skeins (approx. 225 grams/560 yards) in “Mint” (#10)
Needles: US7/4.5mm Addi Turbo 32″ Circulars

Started: April 2007
Finished: May 2007
Blocked: August 2007
Gifted: December 2007 (Phew!)

 

Blocked

The color in this photo is the least accurate – a touch too green. The other photos are more true to actual color


This is a wonderful pattern and quite a popular one. I knit my first one in October ’06 with lace weight and ever since wondered how those lacey bobbles would look in a dk weight. Of the two I think I prefer the thicker one, but they’re both beautiful and have their own unique charms.

Thicker yarns give a great stitch definition but don’t have as good a blocking memory as lace. I see this as an added advantage because it makes them that much more thick and snuggly. I’ll often add a couple repeats in the lace pattern if possible when working with thicker yarns to compensate for this.

Folded

The yarn is wonderful – I snatched it up from a WEBS sale last year and had a great time working with it. It’s not the wooliest of wools but it’s got a bouncy, soft feel and a light sheen because of the silk that provides both elegance and warmth.

This was gifted in December an I’m happy it’s getting some wear now that the daily temps here in New York are in the low 30′s.

Pi Shawl Queries: A few additional details about my Pi Shawl to answer e-mails I’ve received.

First, more specifics about the color of the wool. I received this yarn as a gift from a friend in Iceland. She purchased the yarn there in person. Schoolhouse Press does sell this yarn, but in a limited palette – which I should have mentioned earlier – and does not currently carry the color that I used.

The color of my wool is titled Sea Green Heather and listed as product #1422 on the Istex official color card – viewable here. You’ll notice they have a lot of wonderful colors! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In researching, we think that the best bet for possibly acquiring this yarn by mail order would be the Handknitting Association of Iceland, but can’t say for sure. All of their contact information is available behind the link. NOTE: it seems that the colorcard listed on their site is an older version and sites Sea Green Heather as #9736.

Blocking: Yes, blocking was quite a challenge in our hardwood-floored, tiny apartment. I was hoping to be able to block the shawl on the queen-sized bed but realized very soon that this would not be possible. After some creative brainstorming, we tried a rather unconventional but nonetheless effective way of blocking – involving the box spring. The picture says it all.

And finally – a few of you asked if I worked with the unspun Icelandic wool single stranded or held it double stranded. I worked single stranded.

I hope that helps – I’ll add this information as a post-script in the original post so everything is in one place. Happy knitting!

I know I said that I would be sharing small, Christmas knits with you first… but I finished this last week and have been too excited to keep it under wraps any longer. Of all my knitting projects, this one has got to be up there in my all-time favorites (despite it being my own personal Everest for the last three months). So good in fact, it’s keeping me warm while I write – it’s cold out there!

Pi Shawl Blanket (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
 

Pattern: The Pi Shawl by Elizabeth Zimmermann (on ravelry)
Source: Knitter’s Almanac (July)
Materials: Ístex Plötulopi Unspun Icelandic Wool; just uner 6 wheels (1800 yards)*
Needles: 36-Inch US 8/5.0 mm Addi Turbo Circulars
Dimensions: 78″ diameter after blocking; 64″ diameter unblocked
*See bottom of post for additional details on yarn and blocking

Start Date: 19 October 2007
Finish Date: 9 January 2008

 

Pi Shawl Blanket (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Notes on the pattern: Of all the many genius ideas of Elizabeth’s, to me, the Pi Shawl is one of the most mind-blowing. If you aren’t familiar with the pattern I urge you to read it, for the pure enjoyment of how clever it is in all its glorious simplicity. Worked from the center out, the entire piece has no more than 6 (or 7 in my case) increase rounds total – meaning 99% of this shawl is straight knitting (save whatever lacey embellishments you’d like to incorporate) which gets major points in my book.

The other beautiful thing about the Pi Shawl is its endless potential for individuality. Spend a little time trolling the web for completed Pi Shawls (there are hundreds) and you’ll see what I mean. The beauty of the pattern is it’s blank-canvas-like nature – consecutive rings of set stitch counts (144, 288, 576, etc.) which just beg you to plug in any old lace motif that’s giving you an itch.

Pi Shawl Blanket (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

If you aren’t feeling all that creative, or have your heart set on one of the versions EZ suggests (like I did) – that’s just fine too. There are two beauties already laid out for you in both Knitter’s Almanac and Knitting Workshop. I have always loved the straight forward and classic beauty of the ‘consecutive YO ring’ version and knew that I wanted to give it a go. This is basically a stockinette circular shawl with a *YO, k2tog* round thrown in every 6th row. I love how these “sham rows” completely camouflage the actual organic increase rounds. The shaping is invisible in the entourage of lace rings. So great!

Pi Shawl Blanket (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Elizabeth talks about how there is never a need to increase beyond the 576 stitch section, as the shawl will already be nice and big (she says something about not having a need to cover a football field?). I had a lot of yarn though, and really wanted to see how far I could push this, with the ultimate goal of having a big blanket for the couch. My calculations showed that I would have enough wool for about 22 rows into the 1152 stitch section (oh the horror), plus an attached (9-stitch) garter side-to-side edging.

Pi Shawl Blanket (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The most miraculous part of the whole process is probably that I was able to keep a treacherous number of stitches on a 36″ circular needle. It got a little rough on my hands towards the end, but when that frantic finishing fever comes over you just about nothing can stand in your way, right? Having a huge round of knitting on a circular needle also makes it impossible to predict just how big the piece will be. Before working the edging, you have nothing more than a big rumpled sack of holey wool sitting in your lap that looks more like an oversized rasta cap than a lace blanket. Some days it took all my control to keep from bucking my calculations and indulging in the bind-off, just to be able to free the lace from the needles.

Pi Shawl Blanket (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The edging of the shawl is the only section that got a little bit of fancy lace (not that fancy, but relatively). I think a little hint of laciness around the edge makes the simpler ring pattern really shine. After my final increase round I switched into a gull stitch pattern and worked 5 vertical repeats around before starting the attached garter stitch edging aaaaall the way around.

Pi Shawl Blanket (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Some notes on yarn: Unspun Icelandic is a wonderful, wonderful thing. If you’re a fan of wooly things, you must get your hands on some (I received mine as a gift from a friend in Iceland, but you can purchase it online through Schoolhouse Press). Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a yarn you’re gonna want around your neck – it’s a far cry from merino – but it has its own unique qualities that I could go on and on about. First of all, because it’s an unspun, long-stapled wool, it’s as light as air and very warm. Even in a thin piece of lace full of holes, it works surprisingly well at trapping warmth. The blanket is huge and light and toasty -exactly the combination I was looking for. The other benefit is the yardage. Each wheel seems to go on and on and on – I made a blanket that covers a queen sized bed with less than 6 wheels of the stuff (it’s about 300 yards to 3.5 oz) on a US 8.

And if you fear knitting with something so “delicate”, you can get rid of that idea straight away. The wool staple is longer than the distance between your needle and your fingers, so while knitting it feels just like any other yarn, and if it does break coming out of the skein (rarely happened, unaided by dogs or human feet) it’s no problem. The yarn sticks to itself like velcro – so to join a break just overlap about 2 inches on each end and knit right past it. That’s the other bonus – no ends to weave in, and no spit splicing necessary. It’s like knitting an 1800 yard cone – carefree and seamless. And to dispell any rumours, the knitted fabric is just as strong as any other yarn out there on the market.

Pi Shawl Blanket (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
I guess this counts as my first official finished knit of 2008. It’s already taken some serious self-control to keep myself from purchasing more of this wool (the natural colors are amazing) and cast on for another. It became an immediate crowd-pleaser in my home, so another one might not be such a bad idea.

Edited to Add: The following information has been added to the post in response to questions I’ve received via e-mail about this project. I hope they are helpful.

First, more specifics about the color of the wool. I received this yarn as a gift from a friend in Iceland. She purchased the yarn there in person. Schoolhouse Press does sell this yarn, but in a limited palette – which I should have mentioned earlier – and does not currently carry the color that I used.

The color of my wool is titled Sea Green Heather and listed as product #1422 on the Istex official color card – viewable here. You’ll notice they have a lot of wonderful colors! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In researching, we think that the best bet for possibly acquiring this yarn by mail order would be the Handknitting Association of Iceland, but can’t say for sure. All of their contact information is available behind the link. NOTE: it seems that the colorcard listed on their site is an older version and sites Sea Green Heather as #9736.

Blocking: Yes, blocking was quite a challenge in our hardwood-floored, tiny apartment. I was hoping to be able to block the shawl on the queen-sized bed but realized very soon that this would not be possible. After some creative brainstorming, we tried a rather unconventional but nonetheless effective way of blocking – involving the box spring. The picture says it all.

And finally – a few of you asked if I worked with the unspun Icelandic wool single stranded or held it double stranded. I worked single stranded.