Getting to know you, getting to love you, Soja

Last winter I had a meeting with a very nice rep named Matt.  I was planning on looking at Trendsetter yarns, but when Matt arrived, he had Vincent, owner of Bergère de France along for the appointment.  I had met Vincent several times before.  He’s genuinely friendly, kinda cute, and very French.

I had considered Bergère for a while because they have such great patterns – very French and very chic.  I was especially impressed with their Origin line of luxury fibers.  One of my favorite customers, Deborah, had fallen hard for this cute vest in Soja, so I decided to order Soja for the spring. 

With the exception of yarn that comes in half pound skeins, I  order yarn in bags of 10 or 20 skeins.  Vincent said that we could order any amount because each skein is packaged individually.  What?  It took me a minute to process this concept.  Then he produced this little packet with a skein of Soja tucked safely inside and the ends securely sealed.  This is yarn ready for a voyage on the Titanic. 

Vincent said that the packaging was meant to emulate high end cosmetics.  Um, okay. It made Lynne and me think of Cheetos…or sanitary products. Yeah, I know…sorry. 

I told Vincent that customers like to touch the yarn.  Ah, yes, well there is a handy little display case where interested parties can see and touch a sample skein of the yarn.  Well, maybe that works en France, but here in the good old US of A, we like to see all the colors piled up on the shelf.  We want to touch it – every color.  I want you to touch it.  So I spent a couple of hours opening up every single plastic pouch, moving the price tag from the pouch to the ball band, and shelving the yarn. 

You know, I’m really glad I did, because outside the sanitary wrapper, Soja is a gorgeous yarn.

I asked Jenny to knit a swatch using several different needle sizes.  The ball band says 5 stitches to the inch, but I think it’s a little firm at that gauge – much better at 4.5 stitches.  It’s a nice crisp fabric, and I wondered how it would fare in the washing machine.  Here it is after a trip through the washer and dryer.  On the sturdy cycle.  With Johnny’s jeans.  It’s perfect.  This swatch didn’t change one spec.  It looks exactly like it did before the machine.  That’s super good news.

I still thought it was a little stiff at 4.5 stitches to the inch, and I wondered if it would work at the 4 stitch/inch gauge of the Krista Tee.  Lynne kindly offered to swatch it in the Krista lace patterns.  Looks fabulous.  I think this yarn was made for this design!  I am so jazzed.  There’s a Krista Tee in Soja in my immediate knitting future.  I cannot wait for First Friday!

Kelmscott progress

As I told you, I decided to work the sleeves of my Kelmscott first because I seem to have sleeve issues.  I finished them earlier this week and blocked them last night.

I LOVE this yarn.  Rowan Softknit Cotton.  Exactly what it says – soft.  But not soft and droopy or soft and pilly.  This yarn is soft and bouncy.  Smooth, soft, and bouncy, it’s a pleasure to knit and makes a beautiful fabric.  We’re featuring it this week at 20% off – because I really want you to try it!

 

Mila and the Bamboo Shell

Everyone knows I love sparkly things – and anything pink – just check out my Pinterest board on the topic!  So you can imagine how I feel about our new yarn, Mila. 

It’s a beautiful cotton with the finest sparkly filament running through it.  I’ve had it scoped out for a special project for weeks now but with the late spring, the weather has been too cold to get excited about its bright, juicy colors. 

Today’s high of 82 changed all that.  When the sun shines hot, bright colors feel right.  What I have in mind for Mila is this smart little design Lynne found last month, Bamboo Shell by Cheryl Andrews.  It’s a great new pattern with lots of reasons to love it.  It’s the kind of design that will fit nicely into your wardrobe, perking it up without being fiddly or hard to wear.  I like that it’s ribbed which will give it a nice smooth fit and keep the edges straight without a fussy border. The ribs are uneven and broken by garter rows which gives the fabric rhythm and interest. 

 

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Andrews via Ravelry

I also like the way the armholes are cut in just enough for a sleek, flattering line.  It feels fresh and modern but still modest and age appropriate. 

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Andrews via Ravelry

 Finally, I like this little side gusset that gives you some waist shaping.  Actual waist shaping in the design allows the garment to skim, rather than stretch, over the body. 

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Andrews via Ravelry

I can see myself wearing this all summer, but it is a sleeveless shell, and I totally get that not everyone is comfortable in sleeveless.  But this is a perfect layering piece too.  It would look great under a jacket at the office or paired with with a gauzy long sleeved blouse.  I think this is a beautiful look.

Photo courtesy of SoftSurroundings.com

You could even do a matching bolero and make it a twin set.  I’ll be swatching the Mila tonight, but if you want to see more progress, check with Anne Boone, who started hers last week.  She probably has the entire back already done!  

Soft as, well, a bunny

I love angora.  It’s truly one of the most delightful and decadent fibers in the world.  I know, it gets a bad rap for shedding, leaving trails of fur on your clothes, and making you sneeze, but it is gorgeous.  We received a large shipment of 100% French Angora Friday for a few special projects, and I just sat gazing at it and petting it all weekend.  Doesn’t it look just like baby bunnies!

I needed to knit a swatch and figure out its best gauge and all that other stuff we do with new yarn.  Okay, that’s not completely true.  I just really wanted to play with it, and yesterday was the day.  I must admit, I was a little hesitant about knitting it in the shop while I was working and wearing black pants and a wool jacket.  But I cast on and figured that I had a Gleener handy…

There’s no gauge info on the ball band.  The yarn looks kind of fine, but angora blooms, so I decided to try it on an 8.  This yarn is absolutely luxurious – it’s like knitting whipped cream.  So soft and delicious!

But the thing that amazed me was the complete and total lack of shedding.  I was prepared to put up with the shedding because the fabric is so gorgeous, but there was not a single loose bunny hair or fuzzy bit on my pants, on the table, or on my jacket.  What was this?  How can this be?  The fuzz stands a good half inch off the surface of the fabric, but it’s all firmly attached.  I can’t even pull the fibers off. 

I decided, as Lynne always says, to consult “the great god Google” and see why this angora did not shed.  Turns out, all that stuff you hear about angora is really just the cheap stuff.  I hate to say it, and I know it sounds very snobbish, but it’s the truth. Angora fibers are graded on a number of factors, but one of them is length.  “Excellent” and “Prime” angora fibers are 1.5 to 3 inches in length.  Lower quality (less expensive) angora fibers are much shorter, and many are broken during the processing.  These shorter fibers fall out of the yarn leaving little bits of fine bunny fluff on your clothes, and in the air, and up your nose.

You owe it to yourself to knit at least a little something with this amazing yarn.  There are several patterns for fingerless gloves, hats, and cuter than cute baby booties and caps.  I plan to knit this baby bunny for each of my kids’ Easter basket.  It only takes one skein.  Yes, I know my kids are 20, 18, 18, and 11, but personally, I don’t think you’re ever too old for chocolate and soft fuzzy things.  Don’t you agree?

Softknit Cotton and Kelmscott

Last week I swatched the beautiful new Rowan Softknit Cotton for my Kelmscott.  The pattern gauge is 5 stitches to the inch, and that’s exactly what I got on my size 7s.  The yarn is smooth in the hand, and surprisingly bouncy.  Cotton doesn’t have any natural elasticity, but this yarn is spun with a chainette construction that give it very nice recovery.  On my Addi Turbos, which have the regular point, and there was no splitting or sticking – just smooth, pleasant knitting. The yarn looks great in both plain stockinette and seed stitch portions of my swatch.

Since I seem to have an issue with sleeves (as in knitting them for my otherwise complete sweater), I decided to start with the sleeves and cast them both on at the same time. 

The sleeves and back have a sweet little flourish at the center worked in lace stitch.  I’m working the remainder of the fabric in stockinette rather than in reverse stockinette indicated in the pattern.  The front is worked entirely in a stockinette-faced lace and it just seemed more in keeping with the sweater’s main feature to do it this way. 

I should have worked on this all weekend, but the amazing bunny yarn arrived Friday afternoon, and I had to play with it.  I’ll blog about it soon, but in the mean time, there are a couple of photos here on Facebook and here on my Pinterest board . 

We all make mistakes

I was planning on finishing up the knitting on my Lipstick and Change last night, but I was ready to do the flaps, and they needed a little more attention that I could give them.  We were watching the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, and I decided that brainless movie knitting would be a better plan. Skyfall is a typical Bond movie with all the requisite explosions and unlikely scenarios, but Judi Densch is terrific, and of course it’s so easy to look at Daniel. Albert Finney was looking spry–anyone remember him as the sexy star of Tom Jones nearly 50 years ago?

So this morning, I returned to my Lipstick and Change.  Dividing for the flaps and my numbers were not coming out right.  Each flap is supposed to be 48 stitches – half of the total number of stitches.  So I counted out 48 stitches and worked a couple of rows.  But the flaps look uneven.  Counting the stitches, I realized that I had 48 stitches on one side and only 36 stitches on the other.  Hmmm.  Going back to the pattern I calculated that I had started with 72 and added 12 stitches twice.  That’s 84 stitches, not 96.  Could there be an error in the pattern?  Nora is quite meticulous, but we all make mistakes, so I called her. 

Yes, in fact, we do all make mistakes, but this mistake was mine alone. 

I had missed the increase detail that was not simply kfb, but kfbf.  Instead of increasing just once, I was supposed to have increased twice.  No wonder my bag was not as poofy at the bottom as I thought it should be, and no wonder my stitch count was incorrect. 

Nothing to be done but pull out the entire bag down to that first increase round and simply begin again…and learn from my mistake.   ~sigh