Indie Design Gift-Along: Baby and Children “coups de coeur”

(Following up on Janice’s post… here is a post with lots of pretty pictures. And a little bit of the Castle Fraser mystery unveiled…)

Knit and win prizes!

The Indie Design Gift-along is going strong. The opening sale has ended, but most of the festivities are still ahead! There are still hundreds and hundreds of prizes to be won. To participate, just hop over in the Gift-along threads, play in one of the many games, knit along, or just chat and have fun.

All our paid-for patterns are eligible for prizes in the knit-along. As long as you cast on after Nov 13th, and bind off before Dec 31st, you’re good! Post pictures of your finished object, and you get an entry in the big prizes draw. Post pictures of your WIPs, chat along, and it gives you as many chances to be picked at random for even more prizes.

While I participate as a designer and am also a moderator in two of the KALs (all Hats and Head things, all Mitts and Hand things), I am also participating as a knitter. Mostly, I have decided to use my “free time” to knit for my little ones, using some lovely patterns from the participating designers. While browsing designers catalogs of self-published patterns, I kept adding lovely patterns to my knitting queue (and to my library!). Some of the patterns were already on my bookshelves or my digital shelves, and browsing through them reminded me how much I would like to cast on and knit all the things now-now-now.

Pre-blocking, just off the needles, my "Biscuit Milo"

Pre-blocking, just off the needles, my “Biscuit Milo”

One pattern has already made it to my needles, and is finished and blocking right now! And it even enabled me to win a prize (a coupon code for a free pattern) as I posted a progress picture a couple days ago. Isn’t it great?

Because there is no reason why I should suffer from this cast-on-itis alone, I will share with you some of my favourites. And today, I will focus on Baby and Children pretties, since it’s what is on (and off!) my needles at the moment, and at the top of my knitting queue!

 

My Baby and Children “coups de coeur”:

There are a few patterns on Ravelry that seem to have been knitted by virtually every knitter but me. Milo was one of them… Designed by Georgie Hallam, it is a little vest sized from newborn to 6yo, with a simple garter raglan yoke, and a boxy body with a cable on one side. A very very quick knit, versatile and unisex. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t knitted one already… so I started a Milo 4 days ago, and finished it yesterday. It’s now blocking and it should be just the right size for the Little Miss over the winter months.

Milo – © Georgie Hallam

Next on my needles for the Little Miss is the cutest little dress ever: Summer into Fall. The only reason it has not jumped the queue and is not yet on my needles is that I need to make a swatch… This cute dress is the latest child design from Lisa Chemery, and I can’t wait to knit it!

Summer into Fall – © Lisa Chemery

When I finish Summer into Fall, it will be hard to resist casting on another of Lisa’s designs: Entrechat. This is the cutest bolero, available in many sizes, from baby to child. I would love to have the time to knit a child version for a little girl I know. And Little Miss is likely to have an Entrechat in her wardrobe very soon too!

Entrechat – © Lisa Chemery

As for the Little Man, don’t worry: he will also have an expanded wardrobe thanks to the Gift along! Next on my needles for him is an Abate by Alicia Plummer: a modern looking jumper, very roomy with deep ribbing, which will hopefully grow with him. The collar is very fun too!

Abate – © AliciaPlum

When I need a break from all these little garments, I plan to cast on for an Howlcat (or three), by Alex Tinsley. In my knitting dreams, I would have time to knit one for the Little Man, one for my brother, one for me, and perhaps another couple more… Howlcat is the simplest knit ever, perfect mindless knitting, with a striking result thanks to a little twist of creativity: it transforms from a cowl to a hat, and back to a cowl… It looks like a great knit too for the non-knitty people.

Howlcat – © Vivian Aubrey

Not too sure yet whether I would like to knit the garment I’m listing below for the Little Man or for Little Miss, or for both of them… Inspired by the lovely drawings from William Morris, the very talented Ann Kingstone recently published the most adorable bunny jumper: Sweet William. Perhaps I should just knit it for me, as it also comes in adult sizes!

Sweet William – © Ann Kingstone

A simple (but effective) looking design is Vikki Bird’s Fluffy White Clouds. I like the candid look of the blanket, perfect for a young child, and like an invitation to dream and sleep happily. For the intarsia lovers among you, have a look at Vikki’s work, for lots of cute designs for little ones.

Fluffy White Clouds – © Practical Publishing

Perhaps it’s because I am in a blue phase. Perhaps it’s the cute braid. Perhaps it’s the big pompom… but I love the look of Watkins, by Aimee Alexander. Should I knit one for the Little Man, for one of his friends, or… for me?

Watkins – © getknitty

Finally, there is a collection of hat which brings me a smile every time I look at it. The idea behind the collection and the creativity of the designer are fantastic. Have a look at Paper Hats, by Amy van de Laar. Paper Crown is probably my favourite of the 5 hats, but they all are cute!

Paper Hats – © Amy van de Laar

Aren’t they cute designs? Do you understand now why I want to knit ALL THE THINGS???

But…

There is something else I am working on. Do you remember the Castle Fraser throughout the Year collection?

I have spent a large part of my knitting and designing time recently on the third design in the collection, which I teased you not long ago with a photo of the finished item inside-out.

I am now confident that this design, of which I am quite proud, will be released really soon. I have yet to have decent pictures taken, which can be a challenge this season in our little corner of the world, but I am confident. Just need to wait another week or two.

For those of you who would like to see more of it, look below… If you don’t, close your eyes now :)

Ready?

© Aurelie Colas

© Aurelie Colas

Yes, it’s a mitten. Fully stranded. And lined. With braids. And many colours. I love it.


 

PS: Yesterday, I made my grand debuts on Twitter. Don’t laugh. I’m too old for these things! If you want to say hi, or see what I’m up to (for when I figure out how it works, you know…), I’m @spinnygonzalez there.

 

Posted in Design, Gift, Knit-Along, Knitting | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deck your pins with skeins of yarn…..

….And join us in the 2014 Indie Designers Gift-a-Long!

GAL14_728x90_Joinusf

Deck your pins with skeins of yarn….And join us in the 2014 Indie Designers Gift-a-Long!

Disclaimer: some of the links in this blog post will bring you to the right page only if you’re already logged in to your Ravelry account. 


Regular readers may remember Aurelie’s post from 2013 which described the dawning of an idea. Aurelie wrote:

“Just over a week ago, a bunch of independent (knitting) designers started “talking” (that’s “keyboard-talk”) about joining forces to make our little voices heard a little louder from our wee corners of Ravelry and through the Interwebs. The idea was to organise a little “knitting event” all together, each of us advertising for it and supporting it.” 

GAL14_logo-800Now, to cut a long story short, this little ‘knitting event’ turned out to be a little bit bigger, and a little bit more successful than any of us could anticipate. Not only did it result in thousands of knitted gifts being exchanged all over the globe but also brought new followers, friends, opportunities and recognition to many, many independent designers who are often swallowed up by the mass of talent out there, and who struggle to be seen and heard.

Not long after Gift-a-Long 2013 ended, participants and designers alike, began to ask…..Will there be a Gift-a-Long in 2014?

And, the answer…YES, AND IT STARTS TODAY!! (If you are with us here in the UK, it is actually the early hours of tomorrow morning)

Some of you may now be asking, okay, okay, we get all that…..but I don’t really use Ravelry or know anything about it? What is an Indie Designer Gift-a-Long?

Firstly, what is Ravelry?  In the words of my friend:

Ravelry is the social network for knitters / crocheters / fibre artists from all over the world. It is a fantastic tool to browse for patterns or yarn, organise your projects, drool over other people’s projects, dream about what you’re going to knit / crochet / create next, share knowledge (or just chat) with thousands of other crafters who have the same interest in knitting, crocheting or crafting. Joining Ravelry is free, and it’s a wonderful place.” – Aurelie Colas

So now you have a better understanding of our wonderful world of Ravelry, let’s explain the rest….

“What is the Indie Design Gift-A-Long?

It’s prepping for the holidays as only fiber folks can, with special deals from tons of indie designers!

The Indie Design Gift-A-Long is a 2 month-long KAL/CAL of holiday gifts made from patterns designed by 293 independent designers. From November 13 at 8:00 pm (US EST)/ November 14th 1:00 am (GMT) through – November 21, 2014 at 11:59pm (US EST)/ November 22nd at 4:59 am (GMT) these 293 indie designers will be discounting between 4 – 20 of their patterns 25% for this event. There are eight KAL/CALs to participate in, prizes of all sorts given out, games, and generally a lot of fun! The Gift-A-Long KAL/CALs will run from November 13 at 8pm (US EST)/ November 14th at 1:00 am (GMT) through – December 31, 2014 at 11:59pm (US EST)/ January 1st at 4:59 am (GMT)

How do I get the discount?

It’s easy peasy! Just purchase the patterns you want directly from the designers’ Ravelry shops between 8 pm US EST on Thursday, November 13th and 11:59 pm on Friday, November 21st (between 1:00 am GMT on Friday, November 14th and 4:59 am on Saturday,  November 22nd), and enter the coupon code giftalong2014 at checkout and 25% will be automatically taken off the total price.” - excerpt taken from Indie Design Gift-a-Long Announcement thread, which can be found in full here.


Once again, Aurelie and I are both taking part as independent designers in the event, with selected patterns from both our stores receiving the 25% discount for the stated sale period.

  • Aurelie’s patterns which qualify for 25% discount during sale period are here.
  • Janice’s patterns which qualify for 25% discount during sale period can be found there.

(23 Nov 2014: update to remove links now that the sale is over)

Throughout the event any self published pattern from participating designers can be purchased and will qualify for the Gift-a-Long and therefore the prizes too!

  • Aurelie’s self-published patterns which qualify for the Gift-a-Long are here.
  • Janice’s self-published patterns which qualify for the Gift-a-Long can be found there.

Special Information:

1. For those who have bought any of our participating designs in the past, you are more than welcome to participate in the knit-alongs and enter your new projects to win fabulous prizes!

2. In addition to the games and prizes on offer in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long Ravelry group why not ‘double dip’ your chances of becoming a winner by posting your GAL/KAL projects in our Quarterly Finish-a-Long @ The (Auld) Woolly Alliance Ravelry group too!

Finally we just want to say……enjoy viewing the many, many  designs on offer, take inspiration for your Christmas gifts from this wealth of talent. Have fun, make friends and join in the wonderful world of Ravelry, and the Indie Designers Gift-a-Long 2014!

Who knows we may even bump into you along the way…….

Posted in Christmas, Community, Crochet, Design, Festive, Gift, Knit-Along, Knitting, Ravelry, Sale, The Auld Woolly Alliance Group, Toy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Great British Sock Yarn, Inventors and Scientists

In my previous post, I teased you gently about a few exciting things coming up shortly… Well, one of them has just gone public, so I can unveil it!

 

But first, I would like to tell you about someone special. I met this person once, at a little yarn festival in Chester in 2012. I doubt she would recognise me if we had the chance to meet again in real life, because I was quite shy and I’m not even sure I introduced myself. And if I did, it was probably along the lines of “hi, I’m Aurelie and I’m addicted to your yarn. May I look at your stall and buy more, pretty please?”

Her name? Joy. But you may know her as The Knitting Goddess. If I had to present Joy, I would probably say that she is the independent dyer responsible for my addiction to sock knitting, and to sock yarn in general. At least 90-95% of the socks in rotation in my sock drawer are knitted with her yarn, and most of my (rather large) sock yarn stash comes from her dye pots. And because she doesn’t dye only sock yarn, I also own quite a few skeins in some of her other yarn weights too…

Recently things got even more exciting on the sock yarn front, and fingering weight in general. Joy and her partner have sourced some 100% British yarn bases, with wool grown and spun in the UK. This is very exciting and appeals to my desire to reduce carbon footprint and help sustain the British industry. It is also a great way to ensure that yarn is produced with high standards, and with fair wages to those involved in the production of the yarn, as well as reducing the impact on the environment (especially if you compare with mass produced yarn, with wool travelling from around the world, spun in an emerging country at best, and made superwash with some questionable chemical process). Would I prefer to buy British yarn? Yes, please!

Recently, I have enjoyed using Joy’s new 4ply High Twist 100% Bluefaced Leicester in the first two designs of the Castle Fraser collection (Windows and Balustrades, and Balustrades and Slates). I was also very lucky to knit with one of the first batches of the new British sock yarn (45% British Bluefaced Leicester and 30% mixed British wool, 25% nylon), for the semi-solid turquoise sock in the pair of Grillage socks. Finally, the Britsock yarn is Joy’s “oldest” British yarn among the fingering weight bases. And although I have not used it yet in a design, I have knitted a couple pairs of plain vanilla socks using the self-striping Britsock… and these are the warmest socks I own! The alpaca content is like magic.

As you can tell, I am quite addicted to Joy’s yarn, and have been a faithful customer ever since I started knitting socks. Of course, when I started designing socks, it was only natural that I used Joy’s yarn too (remember that my sock yarn stash is mostly from the Knitting Goddess…).

 

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Joy, asking whether I would be interested to be one of the designers for her upcoming sock club in 2015. To say that her request made me fall from my chair is an understatement, and I am extremely grateful that someone as talented as her would trust my little brain and my clicking needles.

drum roll please…

Today, Joy revealed her yarn clubs for 2015, with subscriptions soon to be made available in her shop. I will design 6 sock patterns, alongside the very talented and world-famous Rachel Coopey (eeek, this is slightly scary for me!). After a little brainstorming session around the theme of “Great British Sock Club”, I suggested a theme for my 6 designs: “Great British Scientist and Inventors“. Joy liked the idea, and my little grey cells came up with 6 “subjects” within this larger theme, which will use 6 semi-solid colours from the cooler end of the colour spectrum.

This is all I’m allowed to tell you for now… But all this is very exciting, isn’t it?

 

Sock-ly yours,
Aurelie / spinnygonzalez

 

PS: Should you want to join one of Joy’s clubs (and perhaps the sock club featuring my designs?), please note that sign-ups will open on November 16th in the Knitting Goddess’ shop.

Posted in British Yarn, Design, Knitting, Socks | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Back from Ballater

It has been such a long time since my last post that I feel my head drooping in shame, life has been very busy lately but thankfully Aurelie has been kept the blog interesting and up to date in my absence while at the same time juggling her wee ones, her designing, her knitting and her home. Thank you so much Aurelie, you are an inspiration x.

Loch Muick

Loch Muick

On 18th October our family set off on holiday. This year to Ballater on Royal Deeside, about an hour and a half drive from our home. We had a wonderful, relaxing and peaceful week and spent some precious time with our family. When packing I made the difficult decision to take with me only ‘personal’ knitting (no work allowed). As a result I completed one Fair Isle sock which I have been working on sporadically for almost 2 years! (I even  turned the heel of its pair!)  Our evenings were spend playing board games and watching films. We were so remote we had no internet connection…. for 7 days it was blissful!

Glen Callater

I wanted to share some of the lovely scenery with you, as we did quite a bit of walking and cycling during our stay. And, we spotted some rare wildlife while on a ‘Safari’ too!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Most of all however, I wanted to share with you something quite unexpected which we stumbled upon quite by chance.

While driving through Braemar one wet and windy day I noticed something going on…….

What's going on here?

What’s going on here?

Later that evening I was reading the local newspaper and spotted an article advertising the Braemar Creative Arts Festival and the work of a Fringe group – The Deeside Knitwits. Through this article I was to learn of almost 200 knitted birds nestling in the village of Braemar, each and every one knitted by a member (or friend) of the group…..I had to go!!!!

 Jock's Road

Jock’s Road

The next day we were walking along Jock’s Road in Glen Callater, it was quite cold, wet and muddy. (Due to an incident involving a ladylike slide down a banking!) I was feeling a bit chilled, as my right arm, leg and ‘bahookie’ were caked in mud. So, when we got back to the car we decided to return to Braemar for lunch.

The stag, sporting the festivals very own tartan and wee felted birdies.

The stag, sporting the festivals very own tartan and wee felted birdies.

We stopped at a lovely cafe called Taste, where we were greeted at the entrance not only by a Stag with felted birds hanging from his antlers, but also a giant haggis!

Giant free range haggis

Giant free range haggis

Once inside we met some parrots and knitted Stags head.  In an adjacent room sat and organiser of the Festival and ….a knitter from the Deeside Knitwits! (Fate is a funny thing, is it not?) We had a very interesting and informative chat together where we exchanged some knit and natter details and I was given the name of Rosy, the ‘heid yin’, of the knitting group.

After lunch we took a short walk around the village and spotted many feathered (woolly) friends.

Please join me in my journey…..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once again I am astounded by the creativity, humour and kindness of knitters. The Deeside Knitwits describe themselves as, ‘A community knitting group based in Royal Deeside, Scotland who create knitted installations to raise awareness and funds for local charities…’, this year they raised £700 pounds which will be split between Scottish Natural Heritage, Braemar Village Hall and a donation to their seniors Christmas lunch. What an achievement!

When we returned home Rosy and I contacted each other and had a lovely chat about past and present activities of the Deeside Knitwits. Rosy explained that getting organised for the festival is an enormous task. In order to have everything complete in plenty of time  members can begin knitting as early January and February! They have an impressive history with some astounding achievements…..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 2015 the Woolly Alliance are hoping to take part in the festival by designing a pattern or two. Can’t wait to find out the theme?!!  Maybe some of you would like to join in too??

You can find out more about The Deeside Knitwits and their adventures on their dedicated Facebook page. Meanwhile, I wish them luck for 2015 and look forward to working with them soon.

P.S. In my last post I promised to keep you up to date with my Christmas Stocking saga…..Festive Christmas Stockings was finally published last week….Hurrah!!

Festive Christmas Stocking in 4 ply

Festive Christmas Stocking in 4 ply

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Community, Design, Festival, General, Knitting, Scotland, The Auld Woolly Alliance Group, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Playing with colours

Today, I would like to share a little of my design process with you. I am currently finalizing the third pattern in the collection inspired by Castle Fraser, and I thought you might want a sneak peek…

Remember the gorgeous colours in my newly acquired stash of little balls of Shetland yarn (Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift), which I mentioned in a previous post?

Yummy colours...

Yummy colours…

I told you that within this box were the colours of two of my upcoming designs. Today, I’m unveiling the colours picked for the first design, which will be released in a few weeks… But before that, let me tell you a little about this design, and how it became what it is at the moment.

In one of the rooms of Castle Fraser, there is a little something that is very similar to another little something from France. I knew I had to use this silhouette in one of the patterns of the collection. After quite a while playing with charts, sampling, and a few calculations based on gauge, I came up with complete charts as far as shapes were concerned. Then, I played with colours, lining up colours in my plastic box so I could see them in pairs, in gradients. I tried to find a balanced set of colours, with a little pop too. And started knitting.

This is how the first sample was born. More precisely: the first half of the sample, because this “thing” comes in a pair (can you guess what it is?). I knitted, and knitted, and knitted. Staying up until silly hours at night (4am was my personal best last week!). I was delighted with how it was coming out. It was gorgeous. Bright, but not too bright. Traditional with a twist. I loved it.

This is what (part of) the sample looks like. Yes, I chose the blues (top left corner of the box in the picture above) and some of the browns/ocres (bottom row), with the yellow too. Isn’t it pretty?

See the pretty colours?? And, can you guess what it is?

See the pretty colours?? They look even better in real life. Also, can you guess what it is?

And then, I took one day/evening off knitting, and came back to it with fresh eyes. Tried it on… and noticed that, if only I had switched two little charts, it would have been perfect. Absolutely perfect. I thought I would love it more with those two charts swapped. However, starting over meant that my self-imposed deadline wouldn’t be achieved. But I’d rather be late and publish something I’m really proud of, rather than be on time, and know that it’s not perfect and could have been better.

So…. I put that sample aside, amended my charts and my notes, and cast on for the improved version. I’m now trying to knit faster… and I can foresee a few late nights in the upcoming days!

(stay tuned!)


 

Also…. I’m dying to tell you about a few exciting things coming up shortly, in the upcoming weeks, and months. And I can’t quite yet. But promise, very very soon, I’ll tell you more!

However, there is one thing I can tell you: Janice and I will be attending Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March 2015. Yeepee!!! We are really excited. If all goes as planned, we will be there for the two days, and will attend a class each! We’re very excited about that too!

Are any of you planning to go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival too? Perhaps we could meet there?

 

Right… I’d better get back to my stranded knitting!
Speak soon,

Aurelie / spinnygonzalez

 

PS: I couldn’t face ripping out the first sample though, so it will be a gift under the tree for someone knit-worthy, if I have time to knit its mate by then!

Posted in Design, Knitting | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Chicken Wire and (French?) Onion Soup

I had plans for an interesting post about spinning for sock yarn, or so I thought. But this past week has been rather busy, and my “me-time”, which is supposed to be just a few hours for (almost) myself on a Friday, has vanished today as I had a rather intense mummy-day, and the weekend promises to be along the same lines. Anyway, enough rambling: long story short, I have had virtually no time to write the post I planned.

Tonight, I needed a comfort food. The kind that makes you feel like you’re at your mum’s: warm to the stomach and kind to the soul. I had quite a few onions, some bread, grated cheese in the fridge… I decided to make an onion soup. Original, huh?

Now and again, in restaurants and shops, when I can see “onion soup” on the menu, or for sale, it is always sold as “French onion soup”. Why “French”? I have no idea, but it always makes me smile (if any of you know why onion soup is “French”, please let me know!).

So tonight, I made a (French?) onion soup. It may not be the way you find it in recipes, but it tastes good. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share this easy “recipe”, which doesn’t cost a lot, but brings quite a lot of comfort.

You will need: a large deep pan, 3-4 large onions (more if they are smaller), a good chunk of butter (forget any diet, be generous), a couple tablespoons of flour, salt, pepper, grated cheese, bread.

Slice the onions (don’t chop into tiny pieces). Melt the butter in the pan. Add the onions and let them cook until soft and transparent. Be careful not to let them burn. If they stick to the pan and become brown too quickly, add more butter. If it doesn’t work, add a glass of cold water and let them simmer. When the onions are cooked soft, add the flour, stir and let cook until golden. Add water and bring to boil. Let it cook slowly (no big bubbles!) and skim if necessary. Salt and pepper when the soup is almost ready to serve. Toast some bread (with grated cheese on top and in the oven if you’re patient enough). Serve the soup and toasts, grated cheese at the ready for those who want to add some to their soup. Enjoy.

Sorry, no picture. The soup was all gone before I thought of grabbing my camera.


On the knitting front…

Grillage – © Aurelie Colas

Grillage – © Aurelie Colas

For those of you, sock knitters, who may not have seen it yet, I released a new pattern, “Grillage”, at the beginning of the week, which is specifically designed to showcase variegated yarn (you know, the sort of skein we buy on impulse “ohhh pretty” with lovely colours).

Grillage – © Aurelie Colas

Grillage – © Aurelie Colas

This pattern is inspired by chicken wire (“grillage à poules” in French) and works equally well with a solid or semi-solid yarn. It also incorporates a roomy short-row heel featuring “shadow wraps”, for extra comfy socks.

Until Sunday 12th October, enjoy £1.00 off (no coupon needed) when checking out on Ravelry.

Posted in Cooking, Design, Knitting, Socks | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of “piggy tail” and splitty yarns

Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to detain the Truth, but rather would like to share my thoughts, and make room for discussion. This is a subject I have been thinking about for a good long while (ask Janice… she is probably tired of my rambling by now!), and I’m happy to share my thoughts with you. And yes, it has been two weeks and one day since my last post. This is because I had set my reminder on Fridays!

 

Ever wondered why your working yarn goes all “piggy tail” as you knit on your project? Or why it becomes all splitty as you crochet? Or as you (thumb) cast on a gazillion stitches? I have, and here are my “two pennies”…

 

Context and Empirical observations

I knit quite a bit. I think it’s no secret to anyone at this point. And when I knit those endless stretches of stocking stitch, my brain wanders to weird places, and pays attention to little things, and starts questioning them, and (over?)analysing.

I am a “thrower” (English-style knitting), and hold my working yarn in the right hand. However, when I started knitting stranded patterns, I figured out how to knit with the working yarn in my left hand too. And naturally, when working crochet chains (for provisional cast-on only, I can’t crochet!), I also hold the yarn in my left hand. Similarly, I hold the long tail in my left hand too when I (thumb) cast on.

Among many things, I noticed over time that:

  • Sometimes, the working yarn would turn all “piggy tail” when I knit, leading to an annoying mess between my work and the ball.
  • The long tail becomes all splitty, and seems to “untwist” when I cast on a large number of stitches, and I need to “straighten” the long tail to let the yarn “re-balance” somehow.
  • When working a long crochet chain, the working yarn (often cotton yarn, since I want it to be smooth) becomes all splitty and seems to “untwist” too, and can turn into a mess if the crochet chain is quite long.

 

Back to basics: Yarn Anatomy

Now, let’s come back to the basics of how yarn is constructed before we discuss the matter further. A piece of yarn is usually constructed out of several (2 or more) thin strands, called plies, twisted together into the final yarn. For this discussion, we won’t bother about those thin strands, but we will only consider the general direction of the yarn: whether it is plied “Z” or “S”.

Take your current project on the needles, and look at the yarn in the ball closely. No, closer than that. What do you see? Is the twist more parallel to the middle bar of an “S”, or to the middle bar of a “Z”?

"S" or "Z" construction?

“S” or “Z” construction?

Almost all commercial yarns I have worked with are plied “S”, which means that the individual “strands” hold together thanks to an anti-clockwise twist. There were a few exceptions to this “rule” (as for all rules…), like the now discontinued Rowan Colourscape Chunky, which was (softly) plied “Z”.

 

Discussion

Somehow, I figured that knitting with the yarn in the right hand (throwing / English-style) adds a tiny amount of twist anti-clockwise to the yarn for every stitch worked. And ever so slightly, this extra twist builds in the yarn, and causes the usual commercial plied yarns (almost always plied “S”) to become a little over twisted. This can lead to an unpleasant piggy tail mess in some extreme cases.

This is noticeable for example when knitting (yarn in the right hand still) in the round forever with a never-ending ball of yarn (a vanilla sock, the body of a jumper, a blanket knitted in the round), as one doesn’t “release” the extras twist every now and again by turning the work over. Have you ever noticed, when cutting the yarn to darn in the toe for example, that the tails you just cut seem to have that “need” to “untwist” to go back to their “normal” state? It’s that extra twist that gets released: that same twist you added as you knitted!

On the other hand (pun intended…), holding the yarn in the left hand leads to a slight inverse motion which adds a tiny bit of twist clockwise for every stitch (knitted or crochet). Adding twist clockwise to a yarn plied “S” is equivalent to “removing twist”. And as you knit/crochet/long-tail cast-on with the yarn in your left hand, more and more twist is removed from the yarns, leading to an underplied splitty yarn: the plies seem to separate, and the yarn becomes a pain to work with.

Here is what happens to the long tail when I cast on... Underplied, and splitty!

Here is what happens to the long tail when I cast on… It becomes underplied, and splitty!

 

I have read here and there some knitters complain about a yarn coming apart as they knit, and in particular as they cast on. Especially, this seems to be a common complaint regarding some softly spun and plied yarns (gently plied “S”…), like Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (which I’m very lucky to have been given a skein from over the pond), or Rowan Felted Tweed (a favourite of mine). I am not very surprised of the yarn untwisting as they cast on, but I would be very very curious to know whether those knitters were knitting “English” or “continental” style! I would bet a skein of yarn that they knit with the yarn in their left hand!

Similarly, some people (and lots of crocheters) complain about some yarns, especially cotton or cotton blends, for being too splitty. Cotton is a non-elastic fibre, contrary to wool, so it doesn’t bounce back in place like wool does. I am not entirely sure how much this plays a role in our matter, but I am sure that a lot of the “splittiness” is not so much that the yarn is “wrong” or “faulty”, but that it has not been spun and plied in a way that’s adequate for crocheters (or continental knitters).

In an ideal fibre world, I think there should be yarn constructions specific to crocheters and continental knitters (plied “Z”), and yarn constructions (plied “S”) for English-style knitters. This is where spinning comes in handy: one can just spin the yarn to suit a certain knitting style, and/or a certain project… Isn’t that fantastic?

Anyway, I have another few dozen ideas, interrogations, theories, etc which I’d love to discuss, to infirm or confirm my hypothesis and analysis. So, perhaps there could be future posts on this subject, who knows? I find looking at the engineering part of the yarn-to-knitting interaction fascinating (as you will probably have guessed by now!)

 

Now, I’ll stop rambling for a minute, and kindly ask you to share your experience. Do my “two pennies” worth of thoughts match with your experience as a knitter / crocheter? Or am I completely wrong (entirely possible, mind you…)?

Oh, and one last question to crocheters out there: I was wondering if, by any chance, the yarn that is specifically labelled as “crochet yarn” (for instance the crochet cotton) would be plied in the other direction, to avoid the splitting issue.

 

Thanks a lot for reading this far…

Aurelie

PS: Anything I forgot, anything you think of, please leave a comment below, or in the Ravelry group!

 

 

Posted in Crochet, Knitting, Spinning, Yarn, Yarn construction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments