Icicle

I’ve enjoyed learning the Brioche style of knitting, though it seems to take a LOT longer than traditional knitting to get the same amount of fabric.  Only “seems” because you are actually using twice the yarn, and it’s making a much loftier fabric than with conventional knitting.

Meet Icicle, by Nancy Marchant, from the book, “Knitting Fresh Brioche.”  Once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed it.  It’s not exactly “mindless knitting” – you need to pay attention to what you are doing, but it is enjoyable knitting.

Practice is really the key to this style of knitting.  It has a rhythm and pace that is completely different from conventional knitting.

Yarn is important – almost in the double-knitting sense.  In fact, Brioche is a sort of double-knitting, in that you are knitting four passes (two right-side, two wrong-side) for each completed “row.”   A bulky yarn will make a bulky fabric and be harder to knit.

I used KnitPicks Stroll Fingering in colors Black and Dove Heather.  This is a sock-weight yarn that worked well enough, but might have been slightly too fuzzy for the project (and it’s not a “fuzzy” yarn).

Even after I felt comfortable with the style (and had memorized the 20-row pattern), I still managed to get off on the stitch count with frustrating regularity.  I could usually find and fix my error within the row, but I kept getting off on the last stitches of the first row in the four-row set.  I expect it was due to inattention, but sometimes, I could not “see” where the extra stitch was added (or removed).  

I take back my previous recommendation about using a size larger needle.  That was inexperience talking, and by the time I got half-way through the yarn, I wished I had used a small needle.  I think it would have made a neater finished project.

Using two skeins of each color (or 100 grams of each color, or 460 yards of each color), the final project was 10″ x 80″ – a nice length for a generous scarf.

I have a recipient in mind for this scarf – it suits his sense of style and coloring.  Since I’m still a novice at this – and the project has some flaws – I’m hesitant about giving it to him.  He’s a very stylish person, and this might be a bit too “home-spun” for him.  Maybe he’ll start a trend.

Weekend knitting – gift stashing

My very first knitting project was a knitted scarf made from Lion Homespun and two cheap plastic stick needles.  I don’t know what happened to that scarf.  I think I have the needles, somewhere.

The pattern is very easy and yields terrific results.  The yarn is very nice and lofty, and this becomes my go-to gift scarf (particularly to men) because it is so well-received.  Don’t tell them that it is also the easiest and quickest pattern to knit!

Supplies:

  • One skein Lion Homespun yarn
  • One set of #17 straight needles

Instructions:  This project is worked with two strands held together and knit at the same time – pull from the center and the outside of the skein at the same time.  Cast on 12 stitches using the long-tail cast on.  Knit until you are nearly out of yarn.  Cast off using stretchy cast off method (I use the knit 1, YO backwards, k1, pull YO over last stitch, pull first stitch over last stitch).

I was out of my usual stash of ready-to-give scarves, so picked up three skeins at Michael’s on a recent trip to the city.  This project only takes a few hours – I knit up the three you see here over the weekend.

One year, I gave this scarf to everyone in my family.  One thing I noticed was that every scarf was a different length.  This is true for this set, also.

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New techniques – Brioche Knitting

I like the Brioche style of knitting and wanted to make another project using this method.  Pinterest and Ravelry had the usual selection of patterns, many of which came from Knitting Fresh Brioche, by Nancy Marchant (available from Amazon).  Someone knows how to improve rankings on social media and search engines, it seems (I’m not complaining – they are lovely patterns).

I did purchase the book – partly because I wanted to study the method, and partly because there were patterns I wanted to try.

So, swatching commenced.  It took a frustratingly long time for me to get the hang of the technique.  It’s not hard – really – but it takes a tilt in thinking from conventional knitting.  I started the swatch pictured below about 6 times before I get to the point you see – and then dropped some stitches (which is where I stopped).  I felt (finally) confident enough in the technique that I moved onto another project.

One thing to keep in mind about this technique is that there are four rows for every round – one for each color back and forth.  You are knitting with Main Color then Contrast Color in succession.

Lessons learned (and learning).

  1.  Don’t use the Italian Cast-on (I’m not even going to link to it) as recommended by all the instructions (written and video) that I reviewed.  That was about 3/4 of my problem – that is too loose and unstructured for the technique (in my opinion).
  2. Use a version of double-knitting cast on.  I looped both colors of yarn together and did a long-tail cast on, but twisted the colors at each stich, so the effect was alternating colors in the cast-on, and the cast-on row had plenty of give to match the project.
  3. Set markers and pay attention to stitch count.  For some reason, it is very easy to add or subtract stitches in a row without noticing.  Markers are helpful to maintain your place.
  4. Use a lifeline.  I say this guardedly – with this style of knitting, a lifeline is very helpful.  If you drop a stitch, it is very difficult to recover.  However, even with a lifeline, it’s challenging to keep the stitches in line.
  5. Consider using a needle size larger than the yarn calls for.  I haven’t completely confirmed this suggestion, but it does make knitting a bit easier with more “room” in the stitch.
  6. Practice.  While not difficult – and there’s really only the first pattern row of each four-row set that requires close attention – I really had to practice to get my hands used to the pattern and flow of the project.

Sample below.  I’ve moved onto a project from the book, which I’ll post shortly as I get some length to share.

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Brioche Cable Cowl Completed

Finally completed!  It took no fewer than four complete “do-overs” to get onto this pattern, but once it clicked, I completed it without too much difficulty.

Things to learn –

  1.  Needle size matters – use a larger needle size than recommended – you really want a loose knit on this project, both because of the type of project (a cowl needs a lot of give) and because of the double-knitting-like feel of the project.  While you are only ever knitting with one color per row,  the style is double-sided.
  2. Pay attention to stich count and transition between rows.  Because you ar changing colors at each round, the transition needs to be smooth so it doesn’t look messy.
  3. This pattern could have been written more clearly.  Instead of referring to the sample colors, the author would have made it easier to read by referring to MC (main color) and CC (contrast color).  I never did get that straight, and – until I finally caught onto the pattern – it was confusing.
  4. Start with something simple.  While I did swatches in the brioche knitting to figure out the technique, a two-color, in the round project was maybe not the best project to start with.

I am pleased with the result, however.  The Caron Simply Soft yarn is very soft, and the project is lofty and generous.

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