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!