Knitting: Breaking Into Brioche

A while back, I got sucked into a particularly deep Ravelry rabbit hole and discovered the talented Susanne Sommer’s page with so many gorgeous, truly modern knits. Having added nearly everything on her page to my Ravelry favourites, I then decided I simply had to cast on soon and decided her Peachy shawl would be the place to begin.

 

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“Brioche and Garter are a match made in heaven” – Susanne Sommer

Several long nights were then spent, whilst nursing my newborn, hunting online for the perfect yarn combination. I wasn’t able to get what I wanted in Australia, so ended up getting some delicious Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles shipped from Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam! It is really the most delicate and delightful yarn I have ever had the pleasure of holding. The urge to cast on was irresistible. Despite the multiple works-in-progress already filling my knitting bin, I really could not wait!

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The finished product

Pattern: Peachy by Susanne Sommer of Sosu

Source: Ravelry download

Price: €6

Yarn: Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in Teacup (A), Genie (C) and Jelly (D) and Madelinetosh Eurosock in Antler (B)

Needle: 4mm long circular

This pattern used a few techniques I didn’t know, including i-cord tab cast on, two colour brioche and i-cord bind off. The cast on was tricky! I watched Susanne Sommer’s video several times over and cast on several times before I got the hang of the manoeuvring required.

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My hideous unevenly tensioned mess and rather complicated counting system.

Once, I got started, I then felt like my knitting looked like a hideous unevenly tensioned mess. Nothing like the beautiful close ups of the finished product I’d seen on the Ravelry page. In desperation, I frogged and cast on again several times before giving up and asking for help on the brioche forums on Ravelry.

Much to my delight, Susanne Sommer herself responded, reassuring me that all would come together with the blocking. So I took a leap of faith and pressed on.

Two colour brioche is a clever technique in which each row is worked twice, once with each colour. The first time the row is worked, half the stitches are slipped with the working yarn making a yarn-over loop which is paired with the slipped stitch. The second colour is then worked into the previously slipped stitches together with their yarn-over, while slipping the stitches and creating a yarn-over for those stitches already worked in the first colour.

I’ve just read and re-read that last paragraph and realised I’ve made it about as clear as mud. The visual learners among you will probably prefer to just watch this video. It’s far simpler than I’ve made it sound.

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Right side and wrong side displaying the gorgeous effect of two colour brioche stitch.

The pattern is beautifully written with details on the special techniques provided. The only minor flaw is that near the start of the brioche triangles in both sections, a few stitches are written as being worked as though they already have a yarn over, when it hasn’t yet been created. Being a brioche novice, I inadvertently worked two stitches together as a result (e.g. pattern calls for a brioche knit (brk) and I k2tog instead). Given the size of the shawl and the lacy speckled yarn, this error is never going to be noticed, so I left it!

Working brioche was initially rather all consuming and required a bit of concentration, but once I found my rhythm, with a rather complicated counting system—I had three row counters on a crochet hook to keep track of my rows and repeats—it was easy to work this project while also indulging my Netflix addiction.

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Post blocking beauty.

That is until a slip of my concentration or, worse, of the needle resulted in an error. Fixing brioche is a whole new level of knitting prowess! I must confess, I just made it up. I fiddled with the threads until I thought they looked like they were doing something similar to their neighbours. The use of two very similar coloured yarns in the biggest section of the shawl made this even harder as I could often not see which yarn went where. Fortunately, my perfectionistic tendencies are fading as I age, and I was at no point tempted to frog the whole thing and start again. Though I did occasionally pop a lifeline through the project, just in case a real disaster struck.

I won’t be entering this shawl into any serious competitions as errors abound, but they mostly are hidden well among the rows and rows that I managed to get right.

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Don’t look too closely. Errors abound.

The i-cord edge of the shawl gives it a lovely softness, but my yarn choice has almost ruined the effect. Given my time again I would use four yarns all of the same composition and type. I couldn’t get my hands on specific Madelinetosh yarn suggested in the pattern, but I wanted the same neutral colour, so I bought it in Euro Sock instead of the recommended Merino Light. I didn’t appreciate that the different structure of the yarn (4ply vs. single ply) would so dramatically effect it’s elastic properties. Indeed, I only really worked out what a ‘single’ yarn was very recently when reading a handspinning book! As a result, the difference in the stretch of my i-cord edge in the first section—where I used the 4ply Euro Sock and a single ply—compared to the second section—where both yarns were single ply—was so noticable that I thought it would ruin the project entirely! Fortunately, some gentle but firm blocking has made the difference far, far less noticeable and I don’t think it will effect the fall of the shawl too adversely.

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World’s slowest, but possibly most lovely, bind off.

The i-cord bind off (lovely photo tutorial here) has got to be the world’s slowest way to cast off. But it is also one of the most lovely. I really love the effect of the bind off in the neon bright pink of the Jelly yarn. Super squishy! It draws a big underline across the bottom of the project and gives it a very finished and polished quality.

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Suboptimal blocking conditions.

Blocking this gorgeous number wasn’t done as delicately as I would have liked due to a lack of blocking mat real estate and also a lack of patience for blocking wire placement on the part of a certain hungry baby. I used wires along the long edge of the shawl, but the shorter edge I just used a few judiciously placed sewing pins. Despite the imperfect technique, the blocking has brought out the absolutely beauty of the brioche, as Susanne Sommer promised me it would, and I have fallen in love with it all over again.

I think this is my favourite knit of all time, which, having knit for the better part of 20 years—the last 10 of them in earnest—is not a minor accolade. I’m so excited to have discovered the diversity and creativity of the Ravelry rabbit hole and as a result, I still have a knitting bin full of works in progress and even more projects I simply cannot wait to cast on.

 

Knitting Baby Stuff: Rainbows & RainDROPS

I’ve had my eye on this pattern for a while after spotting this gorgeous version by kcol on Ravelry. So when a close friend revealed the gender of her baby due this month, I reallocated my gorgeous balls of Knit Picks Chroma in Groovy and instead of making the socks I bought them for, I set about for to recreating kcol’s version of the DROPS b14-27 Jacket.

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The finished product.

I knew from the project notes on Ravelry that this would knit up larger than expected, so I cast on the 6-9 month size in the hope it will fit well for next winter when bub is nearly one year old.

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The gradient of the Knit Picks Chroma works brilliantly for these skinny stripes.

Pattern: b14-27 Jacket by DROPS design

Source: Garnstudio DROPS Design

Price: Free!

Yarn: Knit Picks Chroma Fingering in Groovy & Cascade Yarns Heritage in White

Needle: 3.25mm circulars

This is a very clever pattern which uses short rows to create a flared cardigan knit side-to-side with cast on and cast off to create sleeves. Essentially only two seams should be required. Except knit as written, one must change yarn every 2 rows! So the benefit having only two sleeve seams is overwhelmingly negated by the need to sew in eleventy-million ends. Having cast on and knit a few colour changes, I quickly recognised this issue and in addition to dreading the end weaving, I wondered whether I’d be able to make the finished product look neat and tidy. My end weaving skills are still a work in progress.

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It quickly became apparent that the clever two-seam construction was going to become completely irrelevant with eleventy-million ends to weave in.

Modification required!

By adding a white border along the bottom, I would be able to carry the yarn for the stripes and avoid the eleventy-million ends all together. Genius!

So, I frogged and cast on again adding a 6 stitch white border to the bottom edge. I quickly refreshed my memory of how to do an intarsia colour change by watching this video and got stuck in.

However, I soon realised that the neat intarsia method I was using was designed only for stocking stitch. I improvised for the wrong side knit row of this garter stitch pattern, but after a few stripes it was clear my improvisation was giving lacklustre results! Further Google searching brought me to this video and —after yet another frogging—I started again. It looked much better!

Once I was (finally) on my way, this knit up reasonably quickly and despite the rows and rows of garter stitch, the short row turns and the gradient colour changes of the Chroma yarn kept it interesting and fun.

The only other small modification I made was to slip the first stitch of every row purlwise to give a neat edge. A trick I learned from Kelly Brooker‘s newborn patterns.

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Who knew garter stitch could be so fun?

As the Ravelry project page suggested, this is a HUGE cardigan. I suspect that maybe the error is in the given gauge. It certainly seemed way off! The pattern recommends 2.5mm needles. I (rather amazingly) didn’t have any in my seemingly endless needle collection, so I swatched on 2.75mm using the Chroma. My swatch was under size by more than 20%! So I reswatched on 3.5mm. This gave me the right gauge, but the fabric looked looser than I’d like. I compromised and knit my cardigan on 3.25mm needles. Despite being well under given gauge, the resulting cardigan is enormous. It looks more suited to a 2 – 3 year old than a 6 – 9 month old!! Next time, I might knit up on 2.5mm needles just to see what happens.

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The wrong side can be just as beautiful as the right side when you have no ends to weave!

So whether it’s this winter—or more likely the next!—that this cardigan fits, I’m hoping it gets lots of wear. I’m wrapping up these Rainbows & RainDROPS to send to a little girl who made a safe and happy entrance to this crazy world just last week!

 

Knitting Baby Stuff: A Beanie for Bugsy

I have been so busy knitting things for newly arrived bairns, that my own gorgeous not-so wee one didn’t have a single hand knit item in his current wardrobe. Feeling—albeit a little irrationally—guilty about this, I dug out my stash to find something I could quickly turn into a warm winter beanie as the cold weather finally set in.

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Katia Montezuma in #105. An impulse buy from House of Yarn.

I found this gorgeous impulse buy from House of Yarn, measured W’s seriously large head, and cast on.

This is a very quick knit, but I still managed to pick up some new skills along the way. I had never come across a provisional cast-on before. This is a nifty technique for keeping your cast-on stitches ‘live’ so you can come back and knit onto the other side of them later. A quick YouTube got me up to scratch. I watched this and this to figure it out. In this pattern it is used to allow a kitchener stitch grafting rather than a seam to complete the beanie tube.

I have to look up kitchener stitch every single time! Knit, slip, purl, purl, slip, knit.

I knit this up within a day and had just enough yarn left over to make two delicious tassels. I worked out how to do that by watching the video here.

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Getting my provisional cast-on on.

 

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His urge to take the beanie off matched only by my wish for him to keep it on.

Pattern: Pea Green Beanie by Michelle Dupont

Source: Twoandsix blog (found via Ravelry)

Price: Free!!

Yarn: Katia Montezuma in colourway #105

Needles: 7.5mm

So, it turns out toddlers can sense your level of enthusiasm—even when you try very hard to act neutral—for them to love something and respond by immediately generating an equal measure of dislike! It took more than a month of offering this beanie before it was finally voluntarily donned! I should have known this given the number of times the nemesis dressing gown has been worn! But, I managed to finally get it on his head for some photos yesterday. Super cute, super warm. Even if it spends much of its life in a cupboard.

Knitting: A Lot of Linen Stitch and a Little Something for Me

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My gorgeous storage bin from Australian company, Plyroom.

Between work, a very active little soon-to-be-properly-walking man to hang out with, the lethargy and general awfulness of first trimester pregnancy (boo, but yay!) and our whole family being taken down by some horrible virus that seems to work its way through the body head to toe over a period of several weeks, I haven’t had a lot of time to work on my multiple works in progress, let alone write about them.

But here I am, on a rather snotty Saturday morning—out of bed because I’m on call and it’s slightly undignified to answer work phone calls whilst huddled under a doona—with an update on my current knitting projects.


For Me

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Rows and rows of knitting in the round is a welcome reprieve from my slower linen stitch projects.

It’s been an eternity since I knit something for myself. I knit myself a cardigan for my wedding in 2013 but nothing since, mostly because it was only months after my wedding that I found out our gorgeous son was on his way and since then my knitting life has been almost entirely filled with knitting baby things for him and my friends’ (seemingly never-ending stream of) new arrivals. So, some time ago I decided I wanted to work on a project for myself. Something simple to knit, that I would wear often and be comfortable in. I wear a lot of lightweight (store bought) knits so thought a homemade version of something similar was much more likely to get worn than a more bulky style.

So I’m knitting this.

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Raglan sleeve line on my Lightweight Pullover.

Pattern: Lightweight Pullover by Hannah Fettig

Source: Ravelry download

Price: $5.95 USD

Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Fresco (5ply) in Coral

Needle: 4.0mm circular

It’s proving a lovely a straightforward knit thus far and with all the linen stitch I’m doing (see below) the stocking stitch—which knitting in the round is just rows of rows of knitting—is a welcome reprieve. Unfortunately, I’m in a slight panic about finishing another project in time so this one has been on the back burner for a few months now, but with the reason for the looming deadline factored in, I suspect I won’t be wearing it for a while anyway!


For My Husband

The last time I knit something for my husband is an even more distant memory than my wedding cardigan. It was a lovely thick ribbed roll neck jumper called Flint from Sublime yarns which took an eternity and used a lot of very lovely, rather pricey, merino wool. Unfortunately, I had no idea about positive ease when I took his chest measurements to get the sizing and so rather than a lovely loose slouchy jumper, my husband ended up with a thick form fitting top which had the rather awkward effect of making him look as though he’d gained 5 kilograms the instant he put it on. Not quite the desired effect! Needless to say, it’s somewhere in the bottom of his chest of drawers providing a home to a family of moths.

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Kiogu Linen Stitch Scarf is knit lengthways with the tassels formed by leaving a length before cutting the yarn and rejoining for the next row.

So, I desperately want to make something lovely for him. He’s not really into knit wear to begin with, but he does wear scarves in winter. He prefers the more the slick gentlemen’s style than chunky knitted numbers. I’ve gone with this pattern and so far I’m not 100% sold on it, but we shall see.

Pattern: Kiogu Linen Stitch Scarf by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas

Source: Ravelry download

Price: $5.00 USD

Yarn: Kiogu Painters Palette Premium in 357, Knits Picks Stroll Tonal in Canopy and Kindling (all 4ply).

Needle: 3.75mm circular (the pattern calls for 4.0mm but mine are being used with the pullover and I figured it’s not critical with a scarf to get the gauge perfect)

I started making this using the Kiogu 357, Knit Picks Canopy (green tones) and another Kiogu I have (447) which is brilliant blue. The result was spectacular but far too colourful and outlandish for a gentleman’s scarf. I am now knitting it with the 357 and Canopy using the Knit Picks Kindling (brown tones) for every second stripe. Happy with the results, but the small needles, long rows (it is knit lengthways) and linen stitch may it slow going.


For Baby

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Take-Me-Home Swaddle Blanket in Pink Grapefruit and Pistachio Green Line Weight yarn from Purl Soho.

So, as you may have gathered, we are expecting baby number two next year and so I have been unable to resist putting down these projects in favour of (yet another) baby knit. Enjoying the linen stitch scarf and keen to use some finer yarn, I have cast on this delicious and squishy baby blanket. It is knit using two colours knit together and with the linen stitch gives a very pleasing effect of both randomness and beauty. I am using the most divine soft yarn from Purl Soho and the blanket already feels cuddly and lovely. The main drawback with thin yarn is, of course, that it takes an age to see any progress. I started this very soon after we found out that I am pregnant, and as I approach the halfway mark of my pregnancy I am no where near halfway through this blanket. It is now sitting in its little bag next to my bed and I am knitting a minimum of two rows each night before bed in an attempt to ensure it can actually be used when our baby is still a baby!

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Right side on the two colour linen stitch. Random colour variations and beautiful symmetrical triangular stitches.

Pattern: Take-Me-Home Swaddle Blanket

Source: The Expectant Knitter by Marie Connolly

Price: Free (I borrowed it from our local library)

Yarn: Purl Soho Line Weight (3ply) in Pistachio Green and Pink Grapefruit

Needle: 6.0mm circular needle

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Very civilised project pile. These see-through drawstring bags from Loveknitting (which come with yarn orders) keep everything together and visible. Perfect for the multiple project knitter.

Okay… phone’s ringing. Gotta scoot.