Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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Aramingo

Well, I’m behind in every one of my challenges this year, but I keep working away at them. And here’s a measure of success: I finished another project for my Diversity of Yarn challenge. Aramingo is the project for sport weight yarn.

A hank of Manos del Uruguay's Clara yarn in the Velvet colorway.

The yarn was a surprise. Clara is what the pattern calls for, and I liked the cowl pictured on the pattern, which was worked in a lovely tonal golden yellow. I prefer to wear pinks and purples, though, so I ordered a hank in Velvet. It was a lot more variegated than I was expecting. But I didn’t want to spend the money to mail it back, and I told myself that not everything I own needs to be super-subtle, so I went ahead and made the cowl. I think the variegation does obscure the lace pattern, but the colors are interesting enough in their own right. It is wonderfully soft. I hadn’t been expecting the pattern to be chart-only, but that was fine once I got used to it. I gave up on doing a gauge swatch because the combination of ribbing and lace seemed impossible to measure accurately. Now that I’m done, the cowl is a little limper than I could’ve wished, and I probably could’ve gone down a needle size or two. Maybe I’ll make another one in a tighter gauge. And yeah, a more subtle colorway. I mean, this was enough wild adventure for one pattern.

Aramingo cowl, laid flat.

A bandana cowl laid flat may look a bit odd.

The knitting itself was fun. I obviously need to knit heavier yarn than fingering weight more often because it sped along and I loved seeing it grow so quickly. (I’m currently working on a laceweight project. Words like “sped” and “quickly” do not currently apply.) I like the bandana cowls: they stay around your neck without a fight, and they hug the neck closer than tubular cowls do. As long as the cast on (or chain, if you’re crocheting) can fit over your head, it’ll work. At least with a chain, you can check for fit just as you join it. Since I was knitting this on a 24″ (60 cm) needle, I couldn’t tell until I’d gotten well past the join, and it was a bit tense until I knew it would fit. It’s now waiting for temperatures cold enough to wear it, and since our unseasonably warm fall heat wave (94° F/34 ° C) has finally ended, that may happen relatively soon.

—–

Aramingo
Pattern: Aramingo
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Clara
Colorway: Velvet
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)

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Bandwagon

Over the years, I’ve heard from people who smoke that one way to get a bus to show up is to light a cigarette. Along those lines, let me tell you that one way to finish a knitting project is to wail in a blog post that the project shows no signs of ending and that you will probably have to reknit parts of it. This is a roundabout way of announcing that I’ve finished the Bandwagon shawlette. I wish I were more excited about it, but the most I’ve managed so far is to be really glad that I’m done with it.

Bandwagon shawlette lying flat on the ground.

Friend: “You knitted an electric guitar!”

The pattern called for 420 yards of fingering weight yarn and I had a ball of gradient yarn just that length. I also got the gauge called for. So I was totally surprised to discover myself with only a few rows to go and 20% of the yarn unused. The thing is, with this particular yarn, I liked the yarn as a whole—it was one of the first two gradient yarns I bought—but I really liked the paler end of the yarn since it’s pretty much my favorite shade of pink. So I ripped back to the end of the last increase section and worked three more pattern repeats. This used more yarn, of course, but the overall shape began to change. I had enough yarn to work a fourth extra pattern repeat, maybe even a fifth, but then the shawlette would’ve strayed way too far from the original design. To successfully use all the yarn while maintaining the original shape, I would probably have needed to frog it and essentially redesign it from the beginning. But by this point, I was more interested in finishing the scarf than in using all the pink yarn.. So I ended up with 13% unused. It went off to a friend to be used in one of her projects, so it’s not like it ended up in the trash, but I would’ve been happier if it had worked in my project. [Insert heavy, dramatic sigh here.]

The color was the best part of this yarn. Knitting with it wasn’t all that much fun, though, as it split constantly. If KnitCircus discontinued Sock du Soleil for that reason, I am totally on board with that. I have more of their yarn in my stash with imminent plans to use some of it (by “imminent” I mean “after I finish at least one of the other projects I’ve currently got going) and I’m hoping that this newer yarn is improved.

But enough about the yarn. How was the pattern/project? Well, it was a fairly easy knit. I was first attracted to this pattern because of its unusual shape. It was an interesting project (until the reknitting began, anyway) because it wasn’t intuitive how the shape was going to develop. I was knitting it in a state of blind trust that eventually what was on my needle would turn into what was in the photo. I didn’t realize that part of it was garter stitch, so that was a (pleasant) surprise when it started. And I like how the color worked in the entire project. Now that I have one in hand, though, I’m not sure it’s going to be easy to wear. I can drape it around me well enough, but I wear shawlettes for both style and warmth, and I’m not sure how much warmth this can provide. Still, even if it doesn’t work as an accessory, I’m still glad I did it because of how different it was to knit.

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Bandwagon
Pattern: Bandwagon
Yarn: KnitCircus Sock du Soleil 75/25
Colorway: Hollyhock Gradient
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


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Breaking blog silence

This has not been the most productive year of knitting/crochet ever for me. I just realized that we’re in late July and I’ve only finished two projects. Two. And I haven’t finished a project since early May. Curious, I looked back over the stats for the past five years. I’ve been averaging twelve completed projects a year. Okay, it isn’t my imagination that my output is dropping!

sweater neckband

This neckband is beginning to seem like a mountain that I can never quite get to the top of.

I’ve been knitting fairly constantly (thank you, weekly knitting group), but my focus changed a bit this year. For several years now, I’ve been concentrating on knitting shawlettes, scarves, and cowls—one- or two-skein projects. Naturally, I was able to get those done fairly quickly. By contrast, I came into this year with a sweater on the needles (the Smart Plaid Pullover). It’s mostly done at this point: I’m knitting the Never-Ending Neckband—k2 p2 ribbing with DK yarn on a 16” size 2 needle (40 cm, 2.75 mm) is a bit painful to do for any length of time—and then all I have to do is tweak the length of the sleeves, sew them on, and finish the side seams. It’s just that it’s not done.

Meanwhile, the Bandwagon shawlette is being annoying. I’m knitting it in a gradient yarn, and I planned it so that my favorite color in the range, the light rose pink, would be at the end of the project. The challenge with any gradient yarn is using up as much of the yarn as possible without running out. The first attempt left me with nearly 20% of the yarn untouched. Nope. I ripped back (sob!) to the end of the last increase section and added three pattern repeats. Now I’m not going to have enough yarn. Aargh. Back to the end of the section, and I’ll try just two extra pattern repeats this time. I’m intensely hoping that the third time will be the charm: I’m really ready to be done with this project.

I’m not having technical difficulties with the Sparkly Purple Shawl. It has simply grown too large and heavy to be hauled around casually. However, as we’ve just recorded a temperature of 66.9° F (19.4° C) at the café where the above-mentioned knitting group meets, I may be working on it there to stay warm. Super-bulky yarn: your friend in summer, oddly enough. For those of you not in the area, it’s high summer in Minnesota right now and outside temperatures are in the 80°s and 90°s (25°-35° C). So I’m dressing for those temperatures and this café is an unpleasant shock to the system. All the income from our drinks is probably going towards the electric bill.

Back when I thought I’d finish Bandwagon on my first attempt, I assumed I’d need a second project to get me through CONvergence. I started the Aramingo Cowl, which was not only an attractive design, but would fulfill the requirement for sportweight yarn for my Diversity of Yarn challenge. (Despite my drop in productivity, I’m not ready to abandon the challenge.) I haven’t been having specific problems with this project either; it has simply been pushed to one side while I wrestle the sweater and Bandwagon. Plus, I’ve needed to refer to its charts constantly, so it’s not a project I work on easily around others.

So that’s been My Summer in Knitting: much effort and things to show for it, but not a lot of statistics. The mere fact that I haven’t been finishing projects quickly hasn’t stopped me from buying yarn, so I’m eager to start several projects but I don’t dare because then I’ll never finish anything. I must finish something soon for the sake of my stress levels!


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Antarktis

In March, I went to the Great Guild Getaway. I’d brought along the gray sweater, but having only one project for an entire weekend was too monotonous. (Sleeves. Worked two at a time. Necessary, but done more out of duty and the determination to finish this sweater rather than pleasure.) So I started another shawlette. It nearly didn’t get going because I hadn’t brought along a needle large enough to get gauge, but I was able to borrow one (thanks, K.!) and dive in. Note to self: always bring a full set of needles. Always.

By now, you probably know just by looking that this is another pattern from Janina Kallio. This one is Antarktis, which Google Translate tells me is how you say “Antarctica” in Finnish, German, Norwegian, and Swedish. I didn’t know that when I started, so my choice of a yarn in icy turquoise and blue shades was coincidental. I’m sure whoever named this color Pegaso was imagining Pegasus flying through blue skies on a sunny day, but I think of water whenever I see this colorway. I hoped I’d have enough yarn, because the pattern calls for 400 yards (366 m) and I had 415 yards (380 m), but I still ended up leaving out one pattern repeat in the final mesh section and half a repeat of the lace border.

There was nothing particularly memorable in the knitting process, which is good for my enjoyment of the knitting—”memorable” too often means I had to rip something out—but leaves me with little to write about. I cannot offer you Grand Drama this time, merely a photo of the shawlette.

Antarktis shawlette

So far, no major upheavals with the gray sweater either. Again, not a bad thing from my perspective. I’m really ready to be done with it, though. Only 52 rows until the end of the sleeves!

—–

Antarktis
Pattern: Antarktis
Yarn: Malabrigo Mechita
Colorway: 892 Pegaso
Needles: 7 (4.5 mm)


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Supposedly simple double orbital

Having made the two Byzantine bracelets and enjoyed doing so (eventually),  I wanted to learn a different weave. I had a lot of jump rings left over from the first Byzantine bracelet, so I tried making samples of different weaves. Mixed success on this front. Some, like the spiral weave, worked fine, although I discovered soon enough that spiral didn’t interest me all that much. But much of the time, even though I understood how the rings were supposed to go together, I couldn’t physically get them to do what I wanted. Welcome to the concept of “aspect ratio.” Basically, jump rings vary in their inner diameter and the thickness of the wire they’re made from, and the two together are the aspect ratio (aspect ratio = inner diameter divided by wire diameter…okay, I’ll stop with the math now). If the wire is too thick in proportion to the inner diameter for the weave you’re attempting, you’re not going to be able to cram the rings into the space available. If the wire is too thin, I’d guess you’d be able to make the weave, but it’d be flimsy and loose and not look very attractive. This latter possibility is all hypothetical to me, since I was having the first problem. Apparently 16 g rings of 7/32″ inner diameter are fine for the Byzantine and spiral weaves, but other weaves like double spiral and box were just not working.

I put the loose rings aside and bought another kit, figuring that at least they’d give me rings that were the right size for the design. Sure, I’d decided these kits weren’t great for beginners, but now I had all the experience of two bracelets behind me (!). Plus, I liked several of the vendor’s other designs. I chose one in double orbital weave and in an attractive combination of rainbow  and silver rings. Silver colored, that is, not real silver. I was still going to be working with enameled copper.

The first stage was encouraging as all get out: make a chain of the silver rings. This took me twenty minutes, tops. Two rings alternating with one ring. I gloated silently at my proficiency. Yes, all problems were behind me and I was on my way to being a chain maille queen. All I needed to do was add in the colored rings, and…

…nope.

It sounded simple. Lay the chain on the mat, which would cause the paired rings to move apart slightly, like a metal Venn diagram. Then take a colored ring and wrap it around the marquis shape in the center of the “diagram,” close it, then repeat with a second ring of the same color. Again, does this not sound simple?

The first ring of each pair, which I thought would be the more challenging of the two, went in with a bit of a fuss, but not much. The second was hell. I’d poke one end in, and you’d think that the first ring would hold the whole arrangement steady, but no. The second ring would get snagged in the first ring, or it’d go through the silver rings wrong, or it’d go through one of the single silver rings. Twenty minutes for the entire silver chain turned into fifteen to twenty minutes for each second colored ring, and often that ring was scratched by the time I finally got it closed.

The solution was in how to insert them. The best way I can describe it was that at first, I was putting the rings in like a needle and thread: point one end in the direction I wanted it to go and use the pliers to pull the ring into position, assuming that the rest of the ring would follow. That’s what the various books I’d read had instructed me to do, and it had worked just fine for Byzantine weave. For double orbital, I needed to put the ring in like a staple: both ends in at once and then close the ring. Okay, jump rings aren’t staples, and I couldn’t put them in simultaneously. But the moment I got one end in, I’d move to put the other end in, and then wiggle the ring a bit to bring both ends up where I could grab them again and close the ring. Success, usually in two minutes!

And finally: one rainbow double orbital bracelet:

Chain maille bracelet, double orbital weave

I’m taking a break from these kits. I’d still like to make some of these designs, but clearly my tolerance level for working with small enameled copper rings is not high. Plus, I’ve ordered several packs of aluminum rings in an aspect ratio that should work better for the weaves that interest me. And after I’ve played with them a while, maybe niobium? I have ideas for how to use that in a bracelet. It’s too bad I don’t wear bracelets in cold weather because they’re hidden by long sleeves, since at this rate, I’m going to have bracelets all over the place.


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Byzantine, Byzantine

My interests wax and wane.  I got all enthusiastic about chain maille back in November. I ordered a kit, had some trouble with it, and ordered some more beginner-suitable supplies. When they arrived, I made a start at Byzantine weave. Yes, it was better to practice on bigger rings, and what I’d suspected proved to be true: aluminum is easier to work with than copper, and anodized color doesn’t scratch as easily as enameling. I did a couple of pattern repeats, was delighted to make some progress…and then didn’t touch it again until last month. The holidays? Other interests? Just too much to do? I dunno. What it came down to was, I put the supplies away in the closet, and didn’t take them out again.

I’m getting into setting definite goals for myself this year with the intent of accomplishing them. (Our HR department would be so proud of me, except that most of these are personal goals, not work-related ones.) Looking around for loose ends to tie up in my life, I remembered chain maille and set finishing the aluminum Byzantine weave bracelet as a goal. I don’t know if something was percolating in the back of my brain or what, but despite the lack of practice, this time, I could see real results. Encouraged, I kept adding rings. (I bet the chain maille equivalent of “just one more row” is “just one more pattern repeat.”) Sure, I was still scratching rings or having to reclose them because the ends didn’t quite line up the first time, but actual chain maille was dangling from my pliers.

And then it happened. I closed enough jump rings that I stopped focusing 100% of my attention on trying to do it just right. I kept working, but I started thinking about other things, and then I looked down and realized I was closing rings pretty decently. Not perfectly, but good enough for a beginner’s first piece. That was encouraging as all get-out, so I kept on, and boy, bracelets don’t take nearly as long to make as sweaters do. Meet my first chain maille bracelet:

byzantine-blue-silver-aluminum

Since I was still in happily obsessed mode, it was good that I had that kit on hand to work on. Now with a real sense of what it feels like to open and close jump rings, the kit was comparatively easy. Comparatively, mind you. I still need practice on closing rings well. (Darn. Must make more bracelets, I guess.) And I still think enameled copper scratches way too easily. But look—I made a second bracelet!

byzantine-purple-teal-platinum

I’m happy to be able to work with smaller rings, because I prefer the more delicate look they create. But of course, you need more rings per inch as you go smaller, so pieces take correspondingly longer to make. Still, practice helps speed things up. When I started the kit again, it took me about 45 minutes to do an inch of Byzantine weave in the smaller rings. By the end, about a week later, I could do an inch in 15 minutes. That’s not just because I’m faster at opening and closing each ring, but also because there are “speedweaving” techniques: methods of pre-closing certain rings in a pattern that let you join them together faster. Right now, I’m following the directions and trusting that it’ll work, but with practice, I’m hoping to understand why they make it go faster.

byzantine-together

Together, to highlight the difference in jump ring sizes. The top bracelet is 3/8″ (1 cm) wide; the bottom one is 7/32″ (6 mm) wide.

I like Byzantine weave, and I want to do more in it. (I dream of a bracelet in rose gold.) But there are many different weaves, and I’m in the mood to try a different one now. Probably in silver, light blue, and/or dark blue, since I have a lot of those aluminum rings left over. It’s a good thing blue goes with so many things in my wardrobe.


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More near-instant gratification and a not-so-instant goal

I knitted another Rasta Triangle Cowl. It’s a versatile pattern, and it seemed like it’d be great for another Malabrigo yarn I wanted to try: Caracol. As it turned out, though, Caracol didn’t behave much like Rasta, even though the yarns are essentially the same weight. But, hey, it’s beautiful to look at! And yes, I’m giving most of the credit for that to the yarn.

Caracol triangular cowlOne of the reasons I like this pattern is that it doesn’t have a gauge. It simply instructs you to use size 15 (10.0 mm) needles. Generally, I’m fine with that—not having to knit gauge swatches contributes to the near-instant gratification element of this project. The Rasta worked out fine, but Caracol is a thick-and-thin yarn, and the 15s were too big for it. The cowl is lovely to look at, but annoyingly limp. (Lesson learned: whatever I do with my other skein of Caracol—yes, I have another one—I don’t plan to go above size 13 (9.0 mm) needles.) Oh, and the cowl was a pain and a half to block. Not only did it go limp, but touching it to gently pat it out to a rectangle was enough to get damp blue-green lint all over my fingers. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I had to pat it back into a rectangle. The pattern instructs the knitter to stretch the heck out of this piece, but I decided with the first one that I would be happier if it was shorter and hugged my neck more. But the Caracol stretched out merely by becoming wet. I ended up pushing it together and hoping it would shrink as it dried. Which it did. Sort of. Not enough, alas.

Close-up of Caracol Cowl and its buttonsLint and limpness aside, though, it’s a glorious color. I love the stained glass effect created by the black binder thread wrapped around the wool. And unlike the Rasta cowl, where it was a struggle to find good buttons, I found good buttons for this cowl practically the moment I walked into the fabric store.

So, cowl, yes. But I want more this year, knitting- and crochet-wise. Looking over last year’s stats, I was disappointed that my pie chart of yarn weights had only two “slices” in it. So I made up my own Diversity of Yarn Challenge. It’s pretty simple; make something this year in each of the eight standard yarn weights. Caracol is super-bulky (#6 Super Bulky), so I’m off to a good start. I’m currently knitting a DK-weight sweater (#3 Light). I can easily come up with a fingering weight shawlette (#1 Super Fine). I have plans for a chunky weight sweater (#5 Bulky). That leaves jumbo (#7 Jumbo), worsted (#4 Medium), sport (#2 Fine), and lace (#0 Lace). Plus the actual knitting/crocheting of these projects, of course. I have most of these yarns in my stash—okay, I learned there was a Jumbo category as I was writing this post, and I’ll need to get some yarn for it—it’s just a matter of finding patterns for them and making them.

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Caracol Triangle Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Caracol
Color: Teal Feather
Needles: 15 (10.0 mm)


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2016 by the numbers

I see from rereading 2015 by the numbers that “I’m letting myself not feel like I have to do another fifteen projects.” Rest assured, I didn’t. I managed nine projects in 2016. No, nothing was wrong. I just found other things to do that weren’t knitting or crochet.

First up, the colors I used in projects last year. Not that there’s a theme here or anything.

Pie chart of dominant project colors.

One of these colors is not like the others…

Okay, now there’s a pie chart I could wear. That’s my everyday wardrobe (with one little exception). Oddly, gray, the color I used the most during 2015, is nowhere to be seen. I’m currently working on a gray sweater, though, so if I finish it this year, it’ll count.

Pie chart of project craft

Well, this certainly wasn’t the Year of Crafting Variety. That 11% represents one project. On the other hand, I did do one crochet project. But I definitely want to do more crochet in 2017.

Pie chart of project yarn by weight

No, not much diversity in my project yarn weight either. I enjoyed the projects I did (most of them anyway), but I’d have liked to have done more of them in something besides fingering weight yarn. And when I did do a project in something besides fingering weight, I went to the other end of the yarn weight spectrum altogether. No happy mediums in 2016!

My plans for crafting in 2017? Still up in the air. More crochet, different yarn weights, and maybe even more colors if that happens to work out. But above all, enjoyment, even if I end up doing a year of nothing except knitted projects in fingering weight yarn.


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Well-loved patterns

With summer over, I found myself with more time to manipulate yarn. I had fun using patterns I already loved, mainly to see how they looked in new yarns.

First up, another Fortune’s Shawlette. By now, three times in, I’m quite familiar with the pattern. But when I saw this colorway, I knew instantly that I wanted it and that this is what I wanted to do with it. I mean, seriously, it’s in shades of blue, pink, and purple. That’s basically the heart of my wardrobe—how could I not use this yarn? And the joy of the Fortune’s Shawlette pattern is that variegated yarn shows up as spots of color rather than streaks.

triangular lace shawlette

Fortune’s Shawlette

And after that, as promised, another Be Simple Variations shawlette. I’d planned to make another one of these, and maybe more than one, since they wear well in the sense of not falling easily off my shoulders. The last thing I made in this colorway just never was much fun to wear, and I wanted something that I actually liked. The colorway is out of production, so I figured this was my last shot at it. There’s the tiniest hint of orange in it, a color I so rarely get to wear, but with this much pink and purple around it, I can carry it off.

besimplepink1

Be Simple Variations shawlette (pink)…

Close-up photo of the Be Simple Variations shawlette.

…and a close-up of the stitch pattern and the picot bind-off.

And there they are: two more shawlettes in favorite styles and my shawlette drawer that much closer to bursting at the seams. Oh yeah, wrecked furniture—now that’ll give me a sense of accomplishment!

—–

Fortune’s Shawlette (blue/pink/purple)
Pattern: Fortune’s Shawlette
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock
Color: 26 Wisteria
Hook: 7.0 mm

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Be Simple Variations (pink)
Pattern: Be Simple Variations
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy
Color: Cool Fire
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


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The stylish near-instant gratification cowl

About three years ago, I made a cowl in Malabrigo Rasta. I liked the yarn—soft! pretty! thick!—the knitting was simple and fast, and the cowl is attractive. But it’s basically a cylinder around my neck and it doesn’t quite work for me. I wanted something somewhat more shaped. So there I was, still with Rasta-lust, and not sure how to satisfy it. A two-skein Rasta project seemed like it might be a bit excessive: I’m too short to really carry off one of those ginormous Outlander-style cowls, and besides, wouldn’t I be a bit top-heavy and in danger of tipping over? 😉 But I didn’t know if one skein would let me do anything more than cylinders in various stitch patterns.

rasta_triangular_cowl

Last spring, Suncat and I were doing our annual Not-Yarnover day, which involved visiting yarn shops that are technically local, but not our usual favorites. At one, I saw Malabrigo yarns all dyed in this lovely colorway, and the Rasta called. But what to do with it? Conveniently enough, the store had a skein knitted up in this pattern. It looked promising. Note that it’s narrower at the top than at the bottom, just as the neck is narrower than the shoulders. So it covers the area where the neck joins the shoulders, while minimizing the gap between the cowl and the body—a gap that lets chilly air in. This is good. So I was able to justify buying the yarn. (Okay, I can usually find some reason to justify buying yarn, but I thought this one was particularly good.)

The knitting was easy: there isn’t even a gauge to shoot for (whee!). Finding good buttons was more of a challenge than I expected, but the fabric store down the street has a reputation for great buttons, and they were able to come up with these. And it was really nice getting to knit something besides fingering weight yarn. (Note to self for 2017: knit something in some other weight of yarn!) I love the look of seed stitch, but I usually don’t have the patience for it. However, in super bulky yarn, it was only a couple of hours of knitting, and even I can make it through that.

I like this cowl enough to try it again. By now, I’ve picked up a couple of skeins of Malabrigo’s Caracol, which looks to be interchangeable with Rasta, plus I’ve acquired another skein of Rasta. (So much potential!) Maybe I’ll use seed stitch again, or maybe I’ll try some other simple stitch. The main point is, I can have fun playing with these yarns, finish the project super-quick, and not feel like I’ve wasted my time or money because I’ll enjoy wearing the finished project. Win-win!

—–

Rasta Triangle Cowl
Pattern: The One-Ball-of-Rasta Version of the Triangle Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta
Color: Añil
Needles: 15 (10.0 mm)