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.

 

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Knitting Baby Stuff: Woven Basket & Beautiful Buttons

It’s been a while since I was here. With work madness, home madness and study madness… there has been little time for knitting, let alone writing about it. But having made some big decisions – I quit my PhD (hurrah!) – I feel much more that my life is my own again, and I have finally finished this gorgeous little coat.

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W models the Latte Baby Coat.

Originally intended as the ‘boy’ option for a friend who ended up having a girl (and received the Rainbow Dress instead!), this coat has no current home. Unfortunately, it took so long to finish that W has grown and the sun has come out and I think we’ll get little wear out of it before Summer strikes in all its sweaty glory. So this will go into the ‘knits for no one’ pile – which comes in handy for Christmas and birthdays… and future children of my own!

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No way it will still fit come next winter. Damn.

Pattern: Latte Baby Coat by Lisa Chemery

Source: Ravelry download

Price: €4.75 (~$7.50AUD)

Yarn: Cascade Ecological Wool in Antique

Needle: 6.0mm circulars (for coat proper) & DPNs (for sleeves), 6.5mm circulars (woven basket on coat) & straight needles or DPNs (woven basket on pockets)

I made the hooded version of the 2-18 month old size with two front pockets and used 185g of the yarn. The woven basket stitch takes a little practise (especially when working the right side) but after knitting up a small swatch using some scrap yarn I got the hang of it fairly easily. However, it is a total nuisance if you drop stitches or slip. I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to pick it up again and ended up frogging the pockets a few times as I was knitting on awful plastic straight needles and slipping became an issue.

This yarn is delicious and squishy and I am very tempted to buy up to make a 3-4 year old size so that I can see in W in it again for more than the few minutes for the photos!

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Woven basket stitch and woven leather buttons. So squishy and delicious.

The beautiful buttons, chosen to mirror the woven basket stitch, are leather and from my very favourite Button Bar.

My other big achievement since I last wrote is I have ventured into handspinning! I am the ‘proud owner of a first spinning attempt’ in this lovely account of the day by our good friends at Trees, Bees & Cheese who were kind enough to share their expertise, spinning wheels and delicious soft alpaca fleece. I’m looking forward to getting more of a chance to refine my skills now that I’m PhD-free and bought some gorgeous undyed alpaca fleece on a recent trip to Berrima for when an opportunity next presents itself!

I’ve realised I have spent so much time frantically knitting for new arrivals that W has no current knitting goodness to wear. Coming into Summer, it’s not a big deal, but after his birthday present to me this year was a pile of knitting pattern for toddlers, I’m taking the hint! Now to find something super cute and ideally able to be made from my every growing yarn stash!

Knitting Baby Stuff: Raspberries & Cream

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Quaintly in DK weight yarn.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, I love Pekapeka patterns!

I had two little one-year-olds to knit for this year. The Little Boy Blue went down a treat and I’m hoping this girly knit is also a hit with the gorgeous Miss L as she celebrates her first year on this wild planet.

This gorgeous wild raspberry variegated skein from Gradient Aus had been sitting in my stash for a while and so I was delighted to discover this larger version of my old favourite, Composite, required just the right amount of delicious pink yarn to make the 12-18 month size.

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My last variegated knit with expanses of stocking stitch. Not a big fan of the smudge effect.

Pattern: Quaintly – DK

Source: Ravelry download from Pekapeka

Price: $5 USD

Yarn: Wild Raspberry from Gradient Aus (100g)

Needle: 3.5mm & 4.0mm circular needles

As for her Composite pattern, Kelly Brooker again has very clear and detailed instructions which make it difficult to go wrong. I used the charts to knit the lace sleeves (something I am still learning how to do well) and apart from one slight error, which would only be noticed on exceedingly close inspection of the capped sleeves, I managed to knit this while watching The Killing with subtitles. Though, I suspect I may have missed less crucial parts of the dialogue.

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The button band is written to be sewn together except for the top button. I’ve left it open so a large baby head can fit through without tears.

The button band is designed to only open at the top button and the remainder of it is supposed to be sewn down, however I left it open to allow for easy dressing. As the mother of a baby with an exceedingly large head, I am acutely aware of the issue of small necklines and I didn’t want to gift a garment that induced crying at every wear! If I’d noticed the mock button band in advance, I would have planned to pop and extra real button hole in. Hoping it doesn’t gape strangely when on.

Despite the gorgeous vibrant colour of this yarn, I think this is probably my last variegated project using big sections of stocking stitch. I’m not the biggest fan of the smudge look and have already been investigating other ways to use variegated yarn. Excited to try a linen stitch scarf and some cool socks, both waiting in my Ravelry queue as experiments in alternatives.

But first to finish that previously frogged nemesis knit.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Composite Colour Craze & My First Frogging

Following my recent mad hurried knitting for a newly arrived babe, I did a quick audit of expected arrivals and discovered I had a lot of knitting to do quick smart! Another arrival came this week, there’s another due any minute, two more in May and another in August. And that’s assuming I haven’t forgotten anyone. With two of my own projects still on the go, it’s a case of too much knitting and not enough time! But you’ll get no complaints from me!

So, digging through my stash and armed with my husband’s trusting kitchen scales, I managed to find enough yarn to turn out these cute little multi-coloured versions of the trusty Composite by Pekapeka. More information on the pattern here.

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Composite by Pekapeka using Louisa Harding Grace Silk & Wool. Leftovers from my wedding bouquet.

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Composite by Pekapeka using stash scraps in Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK.

I’m now eyeing off the last remains of my rainbow yarn and wondering whether there’s another Composite there. It’ll either be glorious or hideous. I guess the only way to find out is to cast on!


One of my two non-impending-arrival projects, is this Debbie Bliss dressing gown for W. I cast on for the 24 month size some time ago and was loving the smooth rows and rows of stocking stitch. More on that here. A nice easy in-front-of-the-telly knit. But as I got further into the project, I started to notice that the yarn was disappearing quicker than I expected. I quickly got online and emailed Loveknitting.com (the source of my yarn) to get my hands on some extra balls from the same dye lot. They emailed me to confirm they had two balls left. But, unfortunately, they are only able to take orders for specific dye lots over the phone. As they are in the UK and I am in Australia and I happened to notice the yarn deficiency on a Saturday morning, it was a long and painful wait until their phone lines reopened Monday morning UK time. In that time, somehow, someone else had got their hands on one of my balls. So when I phoned through first thing, I managed to only get the very last ball of the dye lot and praying that Debbie Bliss’s pattern can’t possibly be out by two whole balls, I kept on knitting.

As I started the first sleeve already using my second last ball, I was hopeful, but not optimistic. As that ball finished up, still several centimetres from the end of my first sleeve my heart sank. A quick stitch count and I realised I’d somehow ended up a stitch out.

Hoping that I could get both sleeves from the two balls if I just increased my tension a smidge, I unravelled the first sleeve and reknit it taking care to give just a tiny bit of extra tension to my work.

But, as I started the second sleeve, already on my last ball, I knew it wasn’t going to work. I knit on regardless. I needed to prove it to myself. I didn’t want to unravel the whole project thinking I didn’t have enough yarn. I needed to know.

But two thirds of the way into the last sleeve, with a disappointingly small ball trailing behind me, I pulled out the kitchen scales once more. I weighed the completed sleeve. 52g. I weighed the sleeve in progress with the needle and the remaining yarn ball. 48g. I weighed my other needle. 8g. No matter which way I looked at it. I had proof that I did not have enough yarn. I was trying to make a 52g sleeve with 40g of wool.

As I set about the task of rewinding balls from a fast unravelling project – much to the delight of W who watched the ball winder with intense fascination – the word “frogged” came to me. I recalled seeing it as an option on the state of a project on Ravelry. Finished. In progress. Hibernating. Frogged. This must be frogging, I thought.

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Ten balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran post frogging.

A quick Google confirms that frogging is a term for unravelling a whole project. Apparently derived from the action required. ‘Rip it’ sounds like a frog. I also discovered that to un-knit one stitch at a time, something I do rather frequently when my episode of Law & Order has been too engrossing and I’ve made a mistake, is called ‘tink-ing’. ‘Tink’ being ‘knit’ backwards.

So, feeling like I have truly joined the ranks of the hardcore knitters, having frogged a whole project and expanded my knitting vocabulary in the process, I have cast on for the 18 month old size and am praying that Debbie Bliss’s pattern can’t possibly be out by three balls.

Knitting Baby Stuff: Rainbow Honeycomb Blanket

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It’s a pretty little blanket. Perfect for keeping W’s knees warm in the car and in the pram.

Pattern: Honeycomb Stroller Blanket by Terry Kimbrough, Susan Leitzsch and Lucie Sinkler

Source: Ravelry

Price: Free!!

Yarn: 8ply merino in lots of different colours

Needle: 4.5mm

I must acknowledge significant inspiration from Duschinka on Ravelry who made this rather drab looking pattern into something amazing! This pattern is surprisingly easy. The honeycombs are made by slipping two stitches from the neutral coloured row while knitting the band of colour and then knitting them again as you reach the next rows of neutral colour… if that makes sense.

Besides making honeycombs, the other new skill I learned doing this knit was twisting two colours together so that I could knit the border which had a vertical edge up either side without getting a gaping hole. This is called intarsia apparently. There’s a little video tutorial on it here.IMG_4124

Everywhere I go with this blanket – which is everywhere as it’s a favourite of W’s – I get compliments and assertions that I should make more and sell them on Etsy. Unfortunately, I’m not the world’s fastest knitter so to make it worth my while each blanket might need to retail for $500. The other drawback would be that it would get in the way of trying something new! Which is indeed one of my favourite things about knitting.

That being said, I am starting to think about making a new honeycomb blanket, maybe in different shades of the same colour, maybe in blues or greens. But first, I must knit the yarn I already have. Wonder if I can make a funky spin on the honeycomb blanket from my stash scraps…hmmm?

Pearls:

  • Knit the border as you go – I did this by knitting seven rows of garter stitch (114 stitches) to start, then knitting 7 stitches at the beginning and end of each row to form the borders up the sides then finishing with a further 7 rows of garter at the end.
  • Use the scraps from this project to make lots of rainbow gear – – nothing cuter than a little rainbow hat and romper suit! The hat is from this book and the romper suit was a slightly imperfect variation of this pattern. I knit with smaller needles and a smaller ply yarn in an attempt to make a newborn size from a 3 months size pattern… resulted in a very small outfit that W got very little use out of. Which is a shame. Super cute.
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I made this hat and romper from the blanket scraps. The romper was gorgeous but a bit of a failure (too small to get more than two wears out of it) and the hat was a failure due to the massive head W was born with. I think he wore it once!

20 Dec 2014
Addit: Here’s a picture of the wrong side to show the intarsia, sewn in ends and border a bit better.

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