There are some designers whom I admire hugely, and some whom I just want to sit and absorb knitting knowledge from, and some whose stars have shot so high into the knitsphere that I’d be awed just to meet them. But there is only one designer that I genuinely like so much that I want to sit down and a pour a nice cup of tea, and spend half an hour knitting with her each week. And… I do!
Brenda Dayne produces Cast-On, my absolute favourite knitting podcast and the most relaxing half-hour in my week. She is (as I was until a couple of years ago) an American expat living in Britain and, in between her interesting and entertaining pieces about knitting and spinning and dyeing, she also paints pictures of her home in west Wales that take me straight there. Cast-On is an absolute delight.
And even if I weren’t a fan of Brenda’s, I’d want to show you this design for the name alone, but her Brother Amos Hellfire Lace Socks are worth knitting not just because of Brenda, and not just because of the name (Hellfire..? Lace..? How did those two words end up side-by-side?!?) but because it is a gorgeous design. I love the way the lace flickers up the leg (what better to keep your feet warm as winter sets in?), and I know the stitch pattern would be interesting to knit without being too daunting.
And they’re beautiful, aren’t they? Just beautiful!
These socks call for a yarn that lives up to their fiery name, and I think they’d would really… (ahem!)… glow in the warm colours of Ball of Fire or Sunset Over a Stormy Sea. Don’t you?
One of the most exciting things about buying yarn from small, indie dyers like SpaceCadet Creations is that each skein is hand-created and unique, dyed on its own or in a very small dyelot, and not like any other skein in the world. But now and again, someone will look at my shop and then contact me to say that they love my colours but… what can be made with yarns from such small-batch dyelots? What can be knit out of a single skein of yarn?
Now, there are legions of addicted sock knitters who could probably jump in with an answer that question (“Socks!”) but, in reality, there are just so many beautiful projects that can be created from just one or two skeins of hand-dyed yarn! Let me share a few patterns that have caught my eye…
This beautiful shawlette was designed to show off the colours of a of a single skein of sock yarn. Mary-Heather chose simple stitchwork to compliment the colours of even the most wildly variegated colourway, such as those in Sunset over a Stormy Sea, and the regular increases help reduce the chance of pooling. The shawlette looks fantastic tucked into the top of a jacket — stylish and functional at the same time. And I think it’s a perfect first project for anyone who is experimenting with hand-dyed yarns.
I fell in love with these the minute I saw them! The lace pattern is delicate without being fussy, and the gloves look warm and lady-like at the same time. Using just a single skein of yarn, I think this pattern would look stunning knit up in an autumn colourway.
This little cowl is so sweet, so perfect, that I every time I see the picture I just want to cast on for it RIGHT NOW. It’s always at a moment when I’m busy dyeing or blogging and so I can’t cast on but… still, as soon as I see it… I want to start it RIGHT NOW! I love the simplicity of it, how quick it would be… how it would be a little gift just for me. I’m seeing it in a warm colourway such as Bramble Rose. You know… I really am seeing it.
In fact, I may just have to stop blogging and go cast it on. Right now.
Note from the SpaceCadet: My friend Abigail of TAAT Designs is a wonderful knitter and real connoisseur of hand-dyed yarns. And I am delighted that she agreed to share how she chooses the right pattern for each unique yarn…
In a recent post on my blog, I was reflecting on my relationship with yarn and I realized that it’s not just about the yarn, but also about the potential contained within it. When I see a skein of yarn, I see more than just the yarn itself. I see the twist of the yarn, the way the colors blend together and how the fiber appears. From here, however, it’s not always straightforward to picture what the yarn will look like when it is knit up, which makes it hard to choose a pattern. Especially with handpainted yarns, there’s always a bit of uncertainty. How long is each bit of color? Do the colors repeat in a systematic manner, or are they completely random? With experience, it becomes easier to predict these things without knitting a swatch, but even a prediction is still no guarantee of what the finished product will look like.
Most handpainted yarns do have a predictable repeat. This means that they will tend toward pooling or striping, depending on the length of each stretch of color. The best way I have found to determine this is to unwind a length of the yarn – two yards is usually enough. If the entire length is all one color, then the yarn will stripe in many usages (socks, children’s sweaters, hats, mittens – anything that is less than about 2 feet in circumference or width). If the length is multiple colors, then you can try to predict whether it will stripe or not by estimating how many stitches you can get out of each color section (a good rule of thumb is that it takes 3x as much yarn as the length of fabric you are knitting across).
Once you know roughly whether the yarn will stripe or not, it becomes easier to choose a pattern. My preference is for yarns that do not stripe, or have minimal striping – I like a new color in every row of my knitting. I’m also a big fan of knitting socks with handpainted yarns, so that’s usually where my mind first goes.
When I received my skein of SpaceCadet Creations’ Cold Waters earlier this year, I wasn’t sure at first what it wanted to be. The colors were so subtle and yet striking all at once, and I wanted to choose a pattern that would really show off the colors. From looking at the yarn, I was able to predict that it would stripe slightly, but not be too overpowering. There was also not much chance of pooling (which I do my best to avoid). This told me that I didn’t need to choose a pattern that would actively reduce pooling, but I didn’t want to choose a pattern that was too busy, either, so that I didn’t overpower the yarn. Because Cold Waters uses tonal shading rather than lots of different colors, however, I knew the pattern could have a little something going on.
The stockinette portion of the sock clearly shows the beautiful, subtle, not-quite-single-row striping of Cold Waters.
Around the time I received my Cold Waters, I also received a gorgeous pattern from Yarnissima (through a monthly sock yarn club I belong to), The Portland Gussets. I had been looking for the perfect yarn for this pattern, and Cold Waters seemed like it would fit. It had everything I was looking for: medium-length color repeats (too short, and the pattern would be lost in the yarn), not too much color variation (any more, and the yarn would obscure the pattern), but enough visual interest (not enough, and the pattern would be boring).
I quickly cast on, and the socks just flew off my needles. The pattern and yarn were a great fit!
When you’re knitting hand-dyed yarns, each skein is a unique adventure. With a little practice, it becomes easy to match a yarn to pattern. If you take the time to examine the yarn and read its color repeat, the yarn will help you decide which pattern to choose for it.
TAAT Designs is a newly formed design group created by four friends — Trisha, Allison, Abigail and Tesia — to combine their love of knitting with their desire to create unique and fun patterns for knitted objects of all types. Read more about their adventures on the TAAT Designs blog.