Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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.


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


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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Fortune’s Shawlette: the sequel

As wearing my first Fortune’s Shawlette proved to be as fun as I thought it would be, I went ahead and made a second one. This time, I was determined to fix all the (mostly minor) problems I’d had with the first one. To start with, I was going to have enough yarn. That was fairly easy to manage since most skeins of fingering weight yarn have more than 375 yards, the amount in a hank of Hawthorne. I was also determined to get the right gauge. I’d thought I was getting the right gauge last time, only to discover that I’d tightened up as I crocheted, and was getting 7 blocks to 4 inches rather than 6 blocks. I’m sure the truly dedicated soul would have ripped out and started over, but I was too close to the end to consider that an option. On the bright side, I’m obviously outgrowing my perfectionistic impulses. 😀

Gray and pink Fortune's Shawlette

Gray, pink, and fun.

I ended up using a generous hank of Shepherd Sock. The model hank has 435 yards to 100 g, but I weighed mine and it came in at 108 g: 470 yards to play with! Looking at the yarn in the hank, I’d thought it was about 75% gray and 25% pink, but once I started working with it, it was closer to a 50/50 split. Fine with me: it looked great in the shawlette.


I like the shawlette both from a distance and up close.

Getting gauge was a bit more of a struggle. I really am a tight crocheter, it seems. I had to go up to a 7.0 mm hook, and when the only one I had turned out to hate the yarn, I bought another and pressed on. The extra yardage helped. I was able to fit in another row, and this time I remembered to add the final row before starting the edging. It makes the top edge smooth rather than with little corner points poking up. I’ll have to test this further, but I think if I reserve 20% of my yarn, that will be enough to work the final row and the edging on future shawlettes.


Shawlette in action.

Yes, “future shawlettes.” I’m plotting more of them. Just not right this moment. Maybe one in green? Purple? Green and purple? (I have a yarn with both those colors in it.)


Fortune’s Shawlette (gray/pink)
Pattern: Fortune’s Shawlette
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock
Color: Once Upon a Time
Hook: 7.0 mm


Fortune’s Shawlette

This project is Facebook’s fault. Years ago, I “liked” some knitting and crochet-related pages. Now Facebook occasionally tosses “suggested posts” about knitting and crochet onto my Wall. As this beats all the ads they’ve ever shown me about Older Men Seek Faithful Women (shudder), I haven’t been complaining. Some of these posts come from Moogly, and if the pattern looks appealing, I track it down on Ravelry and favorite it, which is how I met the Fortune’s Shawlette.

Fortune's Shawlette.

In its full glory.

A bit of yarn.

All that remained.

What called to me about it? It’s crochet, and I’m still in a mighty crocheting mood. It uses one hank of KnitPicks’ Hawthorne Fingering: I had two single hanks waiting to be used in great patterns. It was lacy: a change from what I’ve been making lately. And above and beyond all that: I saw it and I wanted it.

Unfortunately, fortune was not as kind to me as it was to the designer. I knew from the get-go that making the shawlette exactly as written was chancy because the designer had said she finished with only one yard left, and when I read through the project notes on Ravelry, most people who’d used Hawthorne had run out of yarn before the end. I had to rip back two rows to gain enough yarn to do the edging. Later, I realized I’d left out the last row, but judging from how much yarn I have left, I don’t think I could’ve done the entire edging if I’d remembered it. It’s along the top edge of the shawlette, though, the part that’s bunched up around my neck, and the only time the loss is obvious is in photos when the shawlette is laid flat.

Unblocked shawlette.

Pre-glory: unblocked.

I like how the pattern stitch shows off the color bursts in the yarn. This is a variant of a crochet stitch called the Diagonal Box Stitch. For those of you who knit, it’s worked somewhat like entrelac: you make rows of little squares tilted diagonally. If you knitted or crocheted this yarn the “normal” way, the patches of bright blue would show up as bright lines in your knitting, but this stitch turns them into little boxes instead. Cool.

Up close.

Up close.

Result? Love at first sight. I wet-blocked it, pinned it out, stood back to make sure everything was symmetrical, and wanted it dry right that moment so that I could try it on. I’m not going to start another one until I finish another current project, but that shouldn’t take all that long. Meanwhile I’m studying my stash, trying to find another excellent yarn—one with more yardage. I’m determined that my next Fortune’s Shawlette will be full size, so even though my other hank of Hawthorne would look great in this pattern, I’m going to use something with at least 420 yards (384 m) to it. (A hank of Hawthorne has 357 yards (326 m). Too much for a cowl, not enough for a shawlette. Aargh.) But trust me, it’s not like I’m lacking viable candidates in my overflowing stash. Depending on how long my passion lasts for this pattern, I may be making several of these.


Fortune’s Shawlette
Pattern: Fortune’s Shawlette
Yarn: Knit Picks Hawthorne Fingering
Color: Irvington
Hook: J (6.0 mm)


Alkira Cowl

More crochet! Yes, I still knit. I’ll get a knitting post or two up here sooner or later.

This is one of those patterns that can be customized to different weights of yarn and made in different sizes. I was in the mood to use up a skein of sock yarn, and it’s not hard to find shawl and cowl and scarf patterns for about 100 g of fingering weight yarn. But I wanted to use that skein of Smooshy I’d tried to use for a Damson and which had proven to be a bit short. A design that would let me stop whenever I ran low on yarn and not at a specific point in a pattern was perfect.

Alkira CowlI’d say the pattern was fairly easy to crochet. May Cheang deserves credit not only for the pattern itself, but for presenting it in such an easy-to-understand format. She included a photograph for practically every step. (The things you can do when you’re not limited by printing costs.) This was great, since she uses what is possibly a unique pattern stitch. It’s much easier to follow instructions that say “Insert the hook here, here, and here” when a photo clearly indicates where each “here” is. Many crochet patterns include charts, but I’m not sure even a good chart would have been much help with parts of this stitch.

Okay, Cheang adores the pearl edging, but it was a lot fussier than I wanted to deal with. The cowl may be a bit smaller in circumference than I’d intended just because I was tired of making one little pearl after another. But the finished effect is a nice change from standard chained edgings, and it was great not to have to count zillions of chain stitches and hope I wasn’t off by one or something. Still, if I do this cowl again, I’ll probably use a different edging.


Alkira Cowl
Pattern: Alkira Cowl
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy
Color: Cool Fire
Hook: G (4.0 mm)


Elnora Cowl

It could be argued that someone with multiple tubs of yarn in her stash doesn’t need more yarn. I try to remind myself of this whenever I go somewhere where yarn is being sold. This reminder worked as well as it always does when I went to Shepherds’ Harvest this year: I came home with two balls of yarn. At least I also came home with a plan for one of them. Annie Modesitt had a stand, and along with the yarn she was selling, there was a crocheted cowl on display. The pattern was free on her blog, I’ve been wanting to do more crochet, the cowl only took one ball of yarn…a sale was made.

Crocheted cowl.Modesitt warns you that the pattern hasn’t been tested. It worked fairly well, although I did better following the chart once I got started than trying to figure out where I was in the written directions. The two weren’t exactly alike when it came to joining the round, but generally I only needed the written directions for a couple of rows of a six-row pattern. But I’m mystified as to how she got the gauge she did for the original cowl. The pattern gauge is 8 sc/1″ (2.4 cm), using a size F (3.75 mm) hook, with the option of using a G (4.0 mm) hook for the first and last rounds to keep them from being too tight. I’m a tight crocheter, so I figured that if anything, I’d go up a size. Instead, the best I could manage was 7 sc/1″ on a size B (2.25 mm) hook, the smallest hook in my set. I refused to drop down to steel hooks to work with fingering yarn! So I resized the cowl for the gauge I was getting, eliminating a couple of pattern repeats. I want to see the display model again and see what 8 sc/1″ looks like! How did she crochet that yarn that tightly on an F hook?

I should have seen one problem ahead of time. This is a gradated yarn, but it’s also symmetrically dyed instead of starting at one color and ending in another. Since the cowl needs to end on a specific round of the pattern stitch in order to look right, I didn’t make it all the way through the yarn. So I have less purple at the top than at the bottom. Not that that’s going to be apparent when I’m wearing it, but I liked the purple and would’ve liked to have seen more of it. I’m happy to report that the yarn texture improved after its first wash. I’m wondering if the yarn started life as a sock blank to be dyed. Whatever its origins, it looked and acted as though it had been knitted and then unraveled, with a limp, unspun look. But the tight gauge kept that from getting out of hand, and then it bounced back after it had soaked in water for a while—at least until I stretched the heck out of it while blocking it to open up the mesh. The yarn, a merino/bamboo/nylon blend, feels nice, although the tight gauge robs it of a bit of its softness. With this pattern stitch, it has a nice drape.

And I’m still in a mood to crochet, so on to another crocheted cowl pattern! I don’t know why I even bother to maintain a queue on Ravelry. When it’s time for a new project, I look over the queue, decide I’m not in the mood for anything on it, and go off to browse patterns until I find something entirely unexpected. Then I put it into the queue at #1. Is that cheating?


Elnora Cowl
Pattern: Elnora Cowl
Yarn: ModeKnit Yarn ModeSock Flow
Color: Hydrangea
Hook: B (2.25 mm)

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Feeling virtuous

There’s nothing quite like the warm glow of having used yarn from a failed project. Last year, I decided to make the Tru Love Bites cowl and bought a hank of the recommended yarn: Lorna’s Laces Sportmate. When the cowl failed and I frogged it, I dutifully balled the yarn up and tossed it back in the stash. Now what it was supposed to do was sink into the depths, not to be seen again until after I’d finished the grieving process. As my stash fills half a closet, there were plenty of places for it to go missing. Instead, you’d think I’d deliberately planted it front and center. It seemed like every time I went into the stash for something, I’d run into it. After a few rounds of this, I figured I’d better either get rid of it entirely or make something else out of it, since being ambushed with bitter memories was doing nothing for my creative impulses.

Pink Marble CowlOff to Ravelry’s pattern browse. My requirements were simple: a pattern that looked at least moderately interesting, that used no more than 270 yards (247 m) of sportweight yarn (all I had to work with, since I refused to buy another hank of this yarn), and was free (I was feeling rather miserly about this project—hadn’t I sunk enough time and money into its predecessor?). This cowl looked pretty, peeking out from a collar on the sample photo. And it edged out the competition by being a crochet project—I keep meaning to do more crochet!

The project itself was fairly simple. It’s worked in the round and the join gradually slips to the left so you don’t have an obvious line down the back. It’s a nice pattern stitch, but you need to put a bit of distance between you and it to see it clearly. While I was crocheting the cowl, at first I thought it looked dull and flat compared to the photos in the pattern. Then one day I laid it down, walked away to get something, saw it as I returned, and the pattern popped out when I was several feet away. But here’s the puzzling part: the pattern calls for 210 – 220 yards (192 – 201 m) of sportweight yarn, which I figured would be a good inroad into my hank of Sportmate. I got gauge and I made the cowl the same size as the pattern called for. A little taller even, since I got swept up in the pattern and overshot the height by about an inch. Yet I’ve only used 162 yards (148 m). So I haven’t got enough to do much of anything else with, but too much to casually toss in the trash: aargh!

The Sportmate makes this “autumn” cowl light and airy. A Cozy Summer Cowl, perhaps?


Pink Marble Cowl
Pattern: Cozy Autumn Cowl
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Sportmate
Color: Galena
Hook: F (3.75 mm)


A couple of cowls

I continue to be fascinated by small, quick-to-finish projects. Not only do I have the satisfaction of, well, finishing things quickly, but I’m convinced I can see my stash diminishing before my eyes. That is, when I’m not seeing it increase before my eyes (ooh, new yarn catalog…ack, stop it!).

Chromantic Cowl

Chromantic Cowl

It was love at first sight when I saw the Chromantic Cowl in a recent KnitPicks catalog. It probably would have been love if it had been a knitted cowl or if it had been a sweater, because what I fell in love with was the monochromatic color shading. I spent half an hour or so one afternoon plotting out various colorways I could make: pink, gray, blue, reddish-purple, bluish-purple, green. Obviously the first one I tried was pink. KnitPicks’ model is pink as well, but theirs used both warm and cool pinks and I wanted to stick with cool pinks as much as possible. I did have to use one warm pink, and the transition from light to dark wasn’t as seamless as I could have hoped, but I’m happy with the results. The pattern makes both a short cowl and a long one. That’s the long one you’re seeing, but I have more than enough yarn remaining to make a short one, and I might do so, just to see what it’s like. If you have several similar shades of fingering weight yarn on hand, this would be a fine project to use up some leftover yarn.

The crocheting went well enough. The body is done in granite stitch and the contrast color trim is reverse single crochet. I’ve decided reverse single crochet is much nicer to look at than to do—crocheting from left to right is unnatural! Every time I crochet something, I’m reminded that I really do like it, and again, I’m vowing to do more of it in the future.


Harmonia’s Rings Cowl

But back to knitting now, for a Harmonia’s Rings Cowl. Not many surprises here: I’d been planning to make a gray one even as I was buying the yarn for the brown one recently, and I did. It’s soft, snuggly, and warm, just as expected. As with the brown one, I skipped the beads and the picot bind off, and I don’t miss them this time either. Even though I used the same yarn as I did for the brown one, there wasn’t enough yarn to add an extra pattern repeat at the bottom, which was a bit of a disappointment. (Drat—more leftovers!) But that makes it no less wonderful, and I look forward to wearing it soon.


Chromantic Cowl
Yarn: KnitPicks Palette
Colors (dark to light): Regal, Mauve, Cotton Candy, Blossom Heather, Blush

Harmonia’s Rings Cowl
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted
Color: 009 Polar Morn


Dishcloth sextet

For years now, when I’ve gone to visit family, I’ve stayed with my cousin C. I wanted to make something for her as a token of appreciation, but I wasn’t sure what. C. just doesn’t seem to be the sort of woman who’d ever wear a scarf or shawlette, although I’m sure she’d ooh and aah over one. It took me way too long to figure out that dishcloths are just as handmade as shawlettes, but far more durable and practical.

Once I had the idea, putting it together was easy enough. I picked up five balls of Sugar ‘n Cream, vowing to make dishcloths until it ran out. I chose one of the ombre colorways for the sake of my sanity: endless squares of a plain color guaranteed a UFO. I hadn’t looked that carefully at C.’s kitchen the last time I was there, but I thought I remembered the countertops were brown, so I hoped Terra Firma would go with them. If it didn’t, well, at least brown wouldn’t show dirt as badly as other colors could.

After that, it was just a matter of choosing patterns and making dishcloths. I decided to use a different pattern for each dishcloth. That would keep me from getting bored, let me test several patterns, and the finished set would be more creative. I ended up knitting three dishcloths and crocheting three. Well, more like crocheting two and a quarter dishcloths: the yarn ran out on the last one and it’s more like a coaster or small potholder.

Knitted and crocheted dishcloths.

Upper left to lower right: Traditional (knitted), Sedge Stitch (crocheted), Bee Stitch (knitted), Seeing Squares (crocheted), Chinese Waves (knitted), Diagonal (crocheted).

Not all dishcloth patterns are equal. Chinese Waves was thick enough to be used as a hot pad or potholder. Seeing Squares may also make a better hot pad because the fabric is so stiff. The stitch—single crochet worked in the round—wants to curve slightly to the right, but the square design of the dishcloth won’t let it, so the fabric ripples a bit. I probably won’t make it again, but it shows the yarn off wonderfully (they all do). Ditto for Sedge Stitch which is just a little too thick for my liking. The Traditional is traditional for a reason: easy to make, has a nice drape to it, plus a bit of texture to help with the scrubbing. I plan to make a few dishcloths for myself someday, probably the Traditional, Bee Stitch, and/or Diagonal patterns.

I gave C. the dishcloths over Thanksgiving. Maybe she’ll use them, maybe she won’t—they’re hers now. But they do go well with her kitchen counters!



When simplicity fails

Last year, I made a Simple Crochet Shrug. “Simple” is the key point here: this project is a large rectangle with armholes. Mine gets used a lot at work in winter, so I thought I’d make another one for home. It would give me the chance to use a different colorway, plus I’d be able to experiment with tightening up the gauge. The loose gauge is deliberate on the part of the designer: “Large hook is used to create an open fabric that will easily stretch to fit a range of sizes.” Hey, I get it. The pattern is marketed as an easy project, and making it one-size-fits-many is a surefire way to simplify matters. It’s just that the fabric is so stretchy that I’m constantly readjusting the shrug because it sags.  But since I’m probably not the largest or tallest person this pattern is intended to fit, I figured I could go down one hook size, tighten up the fabric and get a smaller, but better-fitting shrug.

Why, yes, it looks like it fits. Bear in mind I'm standing still.

Why, yes, it looks like it fits. Bear in mind I’m standing still.

Or not, as it turned out. I have finished my second simple shrug, and I am here to tell you there is an essential design flaw here. When I describe my body shape, I call it a rectangle. Looking at my body straight on, my shoulders are about the same width as my hips, nothing in between those two points is wider, and I haven’t got the markedly narrower waist that would give me an hourglass figure. But that’s just an approximation for convenience’s sake. The human body isn’t naturally rectangular, any more than it’s a triangle or an hourglass or a diamond or whatever. The problem is, this shrug is naturally rectangular, almost two-dimensionally so. It wants to lie flat. However, my body requires it to wrap around my chest, flow over my shoulders and back, flip back over my neck, none of which are perfectly flat. Because of that “open fabric that will stretch to fit a range of sizes,” I think the first shrug fit better, sagginess and all, because it could also stretch to go around a range of body contours as well. This one, being firmer, puts up more of a fight when I try to wear it. It will work fine for just sitting at my computer, typing, but it may be more of an annoyance if I wear it while doing anything active. (A sudden return to warmer weather has made it unnecessary for the moment.)

From the back. At least in this tighter gauge, it's no longer wrapping itself around my derriere.

From the back. At least in this tighter gauge, it’s no longer wrapping itself around my derriere.

If it hadn’t been for the whole fitting around my body (or not) problem, the tighter gauge would’ve been an improvement. I think this tighter fabric is nicer to work with. The yarn is Lion Brand Homespun, same as for the last shrug, and the color is Mixed Berries. I like how it came out, with the little bursts of gold brightening it up.

One thing that had annoyed me when I made my first shrug was that the yarn felt sticky against the plastic hook I was using. When I started this version, I thought this problem would only get worse, what with the smaller hook and tighter stitches. Instead, the yarn slid along the hook just fine. I don’t know any specifics about my first hook, but the hook I used for this shrug was one of the Susan Bates’ Crystalites, made out of acrylic. Homespun is 98% acrylic. Do acrylic yarn and acrylic hooks recognize each other as family or something?


2013 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week—Day 7: Looking Forward

Day Seven (Sunday April 28th): Looking Forward
One year from now, when the 5th Knitting & Crochet Blog Week rolls around, where do you hope your crafting will have taken you to? What new skills, projects and experiences do you hope you might have conquered or tried?

This could be anything from mastering a technique (broomstick lace, entrelac, etc), trying a new yarn or skill, or a long term wish to crochet only from your stash, or knit every stitch in one of the Harmony Guides. Maybe you have no desire or plans for your craft at all, no new element of knitting or crochet that you dream of mastering, in which case write about why that might be. In a year’s time participants will be asked to look back to see if they achieved any goals, no matter how general, and see which house conquered the art of looking forward.

ball of yarn

My future Wedge Pullover

I’m not the most goal-oriented knitter/crocheter on the planet, but this year I do have a couple of goals for the year to come.  I’m currently participating in the Year of the Stash. The idea here is to finish twelve projects by the end of 2013 that either a) use yarn from your stash bought before 2013, or b) were started before 2013. I’ve finished four projects so far and am hoping to keep this going through the rest of the year.  I also plan to (start and) finish the Wedge Pullover. After that, my “goals” get so vague and misty that it’s stretching matters to call them goals. Back when I was comparing my projects to my queue, I said in passing that I’d like to crochet more. Define “more.” And by when would I like to have crocheted more?

The prompt suggests writing about why you have no plans for your craft if that’s the case, but that’s not the way I’d put it. No, I can’t name a technique I want to master, nor do I have any formal plan of study for the year ahead. It’s more that I consider myself open to future ideas. I’m not going out of my way to look for new techniques, because that’s when I become more product-oriented than process-oriented: if I run across a pattern that I like, that uses a technique I’m not familiar with, then that’s when I’ll want to learn it. Until then…[shrugs].

Yes, I could do more to make my vague and misty goals precise and concrete. I haven’t wanted to do so enough to put the energy in; it’s easy to just keep working on the projects I’ve already got going. But it probably wouldn’t kill me to browse the Ravelry patterns, maybe add a crochet pattern or two to the queue, and maybe even make one with yarn I already have, adding it to the Year of the Stash. If nothing else, this sounds like it would give me more to write about next year for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week V—I do like getting as much of a head start on that as I can!