Planning (Way) Ahead

You know what I realized the other day? Rhinebeck is only 4 months away. FOUR MONTHS! That might sound like a whole lot of time, and not even the most dedicated knitter is wishing for fall so soon into summer, but if I want to actually finish a garment before the festival, I need to start plotting now.

Blue Moon Fiber Arts Twisted, colorway Grimm Green

I have three skeins of BMFA Twisted, about 1680 yards of worsted/aran weight wool yarn, waiting to become a sweater. This is the same yarn I used for my Overdyed Cypress vest and I know it will make a delightful garment. I’m picturing a button-up cardigan with cables or texture and a thick, cozy shawl collar. However, that vest took me 6 months start-to-finish, so I need to get crackin’ sooner than later. Here are the three patterns on my short list.

Dark & Stormy:

Photo copyright Caro Sheridan. Click for pattern page.

Thea Coleman’s Dark and Stormy cardigan has such a gorgeous cable panel on the back, doesn’t it? It also features a generous shawl collar (which you can see in other photos on the pattern page). The stockinette will likely make the knitting go a little faster. I think this is knit top down with raglan sleeve shaping. My concern is that raglan shaping might not be the most flattering for my larger bust, and I’m wary of getting creative with modifications so early in my garment-knitting career.

Chocolate Stout:

Photo copyright BabyCocktails. Click for pattern page.

Another lovely pattern by Thea Coleman (that woman is a wizard with cables) is Chocolate Stout. This one looks deliciously grandpa-ish, with it  deep pockets, cuffs, and overall texture. It is knit bottom up with a drop shoulder sleeve treatment. Drop shoulders are the same as those on the vest I’ve already made and they were simple enough to work.

Little Wave:

Photo copyright Jared Flood, click for pattern page.

I’m also very much in love with the Little Wave cardi, designed by Gudrun Johnston. I really love the little zig zag/texture stitch and the garter stitch details. It has a less cushy shawl collar than I was picturing, but it still has the same spirit. This one is knit bottom up with a saddle shoulder. I have no idea what my opinion on saddle shoulders might be.

Three gorgeous sweaters with very similar looks, but different constructions. Which would you choose? Why?

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IS #88: Ways with Wool and Words

I could easily count a dozen people in the virtual knitting world who have had an impact on my love of this thing that we do with some string and a couple of sticks, but amongst the top 5 would certainly be Clara Parkes. In fact, I’ve already written about her for Inspiration Saturday a couple of years ago, when I went into detail about The Knitter’s Book of Socks. Here’s what I wrote, then:

All of the mildly obsessive, detail-oriented patterns of questioning that make me a good scientist were being applied to my knitting and I couldn’t find answers anywhere, until I read Clara’s books. She is a thorough, concise, and engaging writer, and she gets into the knitty gritty details in a way that makes you want to know them all. Her website features weekly reviews of different brands of yarn, tools, and other books that I love reading because I trust her. If I’m about to try a new kind of yarn, I usually check to see if she’s reviewed it first, just to better know what I’m getting myself into.

In addition to yarn, she reviews knit-related events and this week’s newsletter about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival was chock full of inspiration. I’m not going to reiterate the whole thing here, so do check out the newsletter, but below are a few vendors I’ve suddenly become quite interested in (be warned: Clara Parkes’ writing is the epitome of ‘enabling’).

Yarn Undyed USA:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words

Photo copyright YarnUndyed USA. Click for website.

I’ve linked to the USA website in the photo above, but here’s the UK website of the this UK-based company. Their name sums up what they sell: undyed yarn, usually in bunches of 5 skeins, for professional hand-dyers or amateur dabblers. The UK site has a wider range of yarns and fibers available, but the aran-weight BFL wool (pictured above), the alpaca/silk blends, and the 100% yak yarns have also caught my eye.

Eden Cottage Yarns:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words

Photo copyright Eden Cottage Yarns. Click for website.

Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns has been flooding Instagram lately with photos of her booth set up and show prep, but with such gorgeous, pastel shades of hand-dyed yarn, I didn’t mind. Her colorways have a wonderfully gentle, peaceful quality about them and I look forward to trying her yarns at some point, particularly the DK weight superwash Polwarth base, Oakworth (pictured above in the Robin’s Egg colorway).

Laura’s Loom:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Laura’s Loom. Click for website.

The photo gallery of handwoven pieces on Laura’s site is incredibly inspirational, even for someone who does not weave. She weaves and sells a variety of products, from scarves to blankets and housewares, and she sells the locally-sourced yarn that she weaves with, as well. The care with which she sources her wool, produces her yarn, and creates her fabric is evident in her item descriptions, and I really admire that. One of these throws (pictured above) must be mine someday! And I’m pretty sure I could gaze at her landscape gallery for hours.

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Laura’s Loom. Click for website.

Knockando Woolmill:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Knockando Woolmill. Click for website.

Given my total immersion into the Outlander books lately, it’s no surprise that I’m in love with every tartan product on the Knockando Woolmill’s site. Plus, the colors! Glorious colors! As Clara wrote in her newsletter, the mill has been operating since 1784 and has a fascinating history. If I ever make it to Scotland, I’ll be sure to try to work in a visit. In the meantime, I’m doing my best not to purchase that scarf pictured above before I even finish this post.

Feel free to blame Clara Parkes for any impulse buys, that’s what I intend to do! What’s been inspiring you lately?

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IS #86: Simple Socks That Rock

Today’s post is inspired by my favorite sock yarn of all time: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock. It will involve spoiler photos for the first shipment of the 10th Anniversay Rockin’ Sock Club, so I suggest you click away if you don’t want to see the color.

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Spoiler protection photo.

The first shipment is in the sport weight base (called Mediumweight) and the colorway is Feelin’ Groovy. It reminds me of tropical Starburst candies and its brightness is a welcome contrast to the white snow-covered world outside. I love STR because it is unlike most of the other sock yarns out there. Many of the typical, indie-dyed sock yarns are made up of a 2-ply superwash Merino/nylon base. The other common sock yarn base is a loosely-plied 3-ply with Merino/chasmere/nylon. In contrast, STR is a very tightly-plied 3-ply yarn that is composed entirely of superwash Merino wool. This gives it lots of energy while knitting and makes a really snug, plump fabric with excellent stitch definition.

IS #86: Simple Socks That Rock

January shipment of the 2015 RSC.

The shipment came with a couple of fun little Floops stitch markers. I can’t access the accompanying pattern just yet because my dear mom signed up as herself when she bought the membership for me as a gift, and the passwords aren’t working. However, you can peruse other people’s projects here. It’s a basic, toe-up sock pattern knit in rib and modified linen stitch. Its simple stitch combination makes good use of the frequent and relatively short color changes in the yarn. It has inspired me to highlight some other good, simple sock patterns that would work well for the crazy variegated colorways so lovingly dyed by BMFA. (It turns out I’ve discussed sock inspiration before, click here for some sock patterns I’d been dreaming about (and still need to knit!) and here for details about my own free, simple sock pattern.)

Photo copyright dutchcolorqueen. Click for pattern page.

This pattern, Intrepid Traveller by Gail Marracci, was part of the Rockin’ Sock Club the last time I was in it in 2011. Its straightforward ribbed design with the elongated stitch detail is perfectly-suited to very colorful yarns. It was written for Lightweight (fingering) but could easily be modified for thicker yarns, as well, and might be what I end up using for my shipment.

Photo copyright Sarah Ronchetti. Click for pattern page.

The strong vertical lines of the Scott Base pattern, designed by Sarah Ronchetti, look lovely in a semi-solid but would work nicely in a multi-colored yarn as well. You might lose some of the stitch detail, but the texture would add an interesting effect to a striping or pooling yarn.

Photo copyright Laura Kicey. Click for pattern page.

The Monkey socks, designed by Cookie A, are another pattern that look wonderful in both semi-solid and variegated yarns. The lace is simple and bold enough that it still shines through a colorful yarn, and the lace stitches slightly change the angle of the fabric which gives an interesting chevron effect to any stripe details.

Photo copyright Hunter Hammersen. Click for pattern page.

And finally, Marooned by Hunter Hammersen is another example of good use of slipped/elongated stitches with multi-color yarn. I love the way the vertical columns and horizontal slipped stitches play with color, it really can’t be beat.

So, in sum, any pattern with all-over repeated texture, a chevron-like effect on the fabric, strong vertical lines, or regularly slipped stitches will likely work well with highly variegated yarns like Socks That Rock. Do you have a favorite simple, fun sock pattern that would work well in colorful yarn? Share with us in the comments below!

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IS #84: Yak Attack

Some time ago, the generous people at Bijou Basin Ranch sent me two gorgeous skeins of their Bijou Spun Himalayan Trail  light sport weight yarn to review as part of a promotion of their new colorways inspired by the Outlander series.

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Bijou Spun Himalayan Trail. Click for website.

The lovely 50 g skeins (colorways Skye and Murtagh) each contain 200 yards of organic 75% yak, 25% superfine Merino 2-ply yarn. They have sat wound and ready to knit for literally months, patiently waiting for me to have the time to devote to designing something with them. I played around with some two color stitch patterns, but just could not make up my mind about what exactly I wanted to create. Mitts or hat? Cowl or scarf? A combined 400 yards is enough to make something lovely, but since I was working with an unfamiliar yarn (and more importantly, an unfamiliar fiber) I was wracked with indecision.
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Swatching evidence.

I’ve since begun re-reading the Outlander series. (I started it once a long time ago and was put off by all the rape threats and the weirdly anti-feminist and homophobic undercurrents in it. However, I guess I’ve been desensitized by the first 50 Shades of Gray book (no, I have not read the rest) because it didn’t bother me as much this time around and now I’m hooked, despite the rape-iness. But I digress.) As I’ve been reading the books, I’ve been thinking about the lovely yarn and exploring some knitwear ideas with greater urgency. Here are some patterns that I think would be smashing in this yarn.

Doodle Mittens:

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Photo copyright Suann Wentworth. Click for pattern page.

These Doodle Mittens, design by Suann Wentworth, have been in my queue for some time. While traditional colorwork is gorgeous, I really love the modern, fanciful design on these mittens. (Seriously, I’m a total sucker for swirls.) The mittens are designed for about 300 yards of sport weight yarn, which would be perfect for 2 skeins of Himalayan Trail in contrasting colorways. I really love these, but since I already have a pair of perfectly serviceable mittens, I decided against knitting these despite my love of the design.

Prickly Thistle Mittens:

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Photo copyright IgnorantBliss. Click for pattern page.

I know I just said that I decided against mittens, and I did, but I couldn’t resist sharing this gorgeous colorwork pair designed by SpillyJane anyway. Mostly because they’re pretty, but also because they are thematically appropriate (what with the Outlander series being based in Scotland and all). Yay, thistles!
Calinda:
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Photo copyright Faye Schiano. Click for pattern page.

I think that this cowl, designed by Barbara Gregory, is just absolutely gorgeous. It’s knit with fingering weight yarn in the round and alternates plain stockinette sections of each color with some elegant colorwork patterning where the sections meet. It’s actually part of a set with matching mittens, so I’m not sure how much of the 400 yards needed for the pattern is used for the cowl alone. However, the plain sections could be shortened a bit if yardage runs low with just two skeins of Himalayan Trail. A sleek cowl like this would be an excellent use of the soft, fuzzy lightness of the yarn.

Mrs. Jekyll & Little Hyde:

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Photo copyright LaMaisonRililie. Click for pattern page.

There is no shortage of two-color, fingering weight slouch hats on Ravelry, but this design by La Maison Rililie is unique and quite striking. It is a reversible hat, with both sides sharing the same brim and then separating so that one side shows a sporty, two-color stripe while the other shows a pretty lace with the contrast color peeking through. I love it and in fact, had been kicking around an idea for something very similar in cowl form. The only hiccup is that the hat is written for a light fingering/laceweight yarn so I’m not sure how well the thicker sportweight yak/merino will work in the pattern size-wise without some adjustments.

Dual Cable Hat:

Photo copyright MarlyBird. Click for pattern page.

This hat was designed by Marly Bird specifically for the Bijou Basin Ranch Himalayan Trail yarn. Isn’t that brim so cool? I’m tempted to knit this one just to figure out how it was done! I suspect it’s one of those stitch patterns that looks incredibly complex but is deceptively simple. Either way, it’s gorgeous, and I’m sure it’s lovely and warm in the yak/merino yarn. There are, of course, a whole slew of patterns designed specifically with the Himalayan Trail yarn in mind, including a few Outlander-themed pattern kits. My favorite kit patterns is the Forever Linked hat and cuffs set designed by Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter, for which you’d need two skeins of the same colorway in order to knit both pieces. After all this searching, the perfect pattern utilizing two different colorways seemed destined to elude me, until I had a lightbulb moment.

Ecclefechan Mitts:

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Photo copyright Kate Davies Designs. Click for pattern page.

Is there any designer whose work fits the bill better than Kate Davies when one needs a colorwork pattern for yarn inspired by a historical fiction novel based in Scotland? (The appropriate answer is ‘not bloody likely’.) Kate’s blog makes me homesick for the Highlands (which I’ve never visited) nearly every day and her designs are steeped in historical research and Scottish inspiration. Colorwork is her forte, and according to her notes, the pattern for these mitts was inspired by the dense colorwork gloves traditionally knitted in Dentdale and the Scottish Borders. In other words, these beauties are perfect. They’re designed for fingering weight yarn but I intend to swatch with the thicker sportweight and see how things work out! And of course, a full review will follow.

Have you read the Outlander series, tried a Bijou Basin Ranch yarn, or felt homesick for foreign lands you’ve never visited? Do you have a favorite project for 400 yards of two different colors, or a favorite Scottish knit? What are you feeling inspired by lately? Leave a link in the comments and let us know!

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IS #83: Bulky Cowls

‘Tis the season… for bulky handknits! Not only are they on trend at the moment, but they’re also a knitter’s best friend when it’s 12 days ’til Christmas and gifts still need to be made. Not that I’m in that situation, because I said I wasn’t going to knit any gifts this year…

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Malabrigo Mecha, colorway Whales Road

Except for one (there’s always one). There’s a young lady on my gift list who wants accessories for Christmas and no store-bought, machine-made cowl is going to befoul her pretty little neck while she’s related to me. So a bulky cowl in the yarn pictured above, it will be. But which pattern?

Casu Cowl:

Photo copyright Galia Lael. Click for pattern page.

I’ve had my eye on this lace-and-texture cowl for quite some time. It’s a free pattern that is written for worsted weight yarn but is easy to scale up. Knitted end-to-end (like a scarf) and then grafted together, you can make it pretty much any size you need.

State Street Cowl:

Photo copyright Carrie Bostick Hoge. Click for pattern page.

I’m such a sucker for lace-writ-large, and this cowl does not disappoint. The stitch pattern looks a lot like the one used on the ever-popular Monkey Socks and the size and shape make it seem so cozy.

Drop Stitch Cowl:

Photo copyright Abi Gregorio. Click for pattern page.

I’ve seen this cowl turn up quite a bit on blogs and project pages. I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be simpler, and would look best in super bulky yarn (as shown) vs. my tiny-in-comparison regular bulky yarn. I would especially love this drop stitch pattern knit in colorful yarn.

Shawl Collared Cowl:

Photo copyright nevernotknitting. Click for pattern page.

This cowl is just hands-down, super classy. The thing I hate about some short cowls is that they’re never QUITE close enough to the neck! They tend to just hang there like pretty knitted jewelry, too short to wrap twice around for snugness but long enough that they let too much air in around the neck. The shawl collar here fixes that with double thick garter stitch coziness right where you need it! I probably won’t knit this for the pre-teen gift I’m planning right now but I’ve certainly talked myself into making one for me ASAP!

Voluminosa:

Photo copyright Katja Ottosson. Click for pattern page.

This cabled gorgeousness would be right up my stylish giftee’s alley. It’s lush and dramatic and a little bit sassy, plus it looks totally snuggle-able.

I’m not yet sure what I’ll end up knitting, I have been kicking a few ideas around for a design so I might end up going with one of those if I can get my swatches in order. Do you have a favorite quick gift pattern? Any great bulky cowls you’ve seen lately? Share with us in the comments below!

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IS #82: Small Business Saturday Edition

I must keep this post quick because I’m taking a big exam tomorrow (eek) but in the spirit of #SmallBusinessSaturday and the upcoming #CyberMonday, I thought I’d highlight a few small, independent businesses that handcraft perfectly gift-able items. There are so many incredible things to choose from on Etsy, so I’m narrowing this list down to shops that I’ve purchased from personally or the shops of people whom I follow on social media (blogs, Instagram, etc).

Royalty Soaps:

Photo copyright Katie White of Royalty Soaps. Click for shop.

Katie makes the most incredible cold-process soaps. The things she does with color and ‘toppings’ (for lack of a better word) are so creative. I’ve been using a lemon creme scented bar that is just divine. I’ve tried out a fair bit of handmade soaps lately, and the ones from Royalty Soaps have an incredible lather and feel so good on my skin, they don’t dry it out at all. They are my current favorite, hands-down.

Amy Hood Arts:

Photo copyright Amy Hood. Click for shop.

Amy is a Rhode Island knitter and artist that I met at a knit night some time ago. Her shop is a mix of gift-able items, with handmade zippered pouches prominently featured. As a marine biologist, I love the nautical and natural themes that run throughout her work.

Haldecraft

Photo copyright Lorena Haldeman. Click for shop.

These monster mugs are just the cutest! So creative, they’d make a really fun gift. Lorena’s mix of products is impressive. She carries ceramics in her Etsy shop, as well as handspun and hand-dyed yarn and handmade soaps on her other website. Busy lady!

June Pryce Fiber Arts:

Photo copyright Cheryl and Jenn. Click for shop.

Cheryl and Jenn are the lovely (semi-local!) ladies behind June Pryce Fiber Arts. They carry hand-dyed fiber, yarn, gradient kits, stitch markers, project bags, and shawl pins. I really liked the look of the lap mat featured above. Its job is to catch any VM that drops out of your fiber while spinning or to protect your lap from whatever messy crafts you are doing. Nice idea!

Northbound Studio:

Photo copyright Misty Ostrowski. Click for shop

Apparently I’m on a bit of a pottery kick, but I think these mugs and other table accessories made by Misty are so adorable. I’ve been watching her make these on Instagram and I love the kind of ‘cutout’ patterns she decorates them with.

katerynaG:

Photo copyright Kateryna Golovanova. Click for shop.

If you’re looking for a handwoven or handknitted beauty of a garment for someone really special, I’m pretty sure that Kateryna is your gal. I found her shop through some posts on the Socks That Rawk! group because she uses a lot of my favorite sock yarn to weave her gorgeous creations. They’re all as breathtaking as this one!

Mary Buttons:

Photo copyright Mary Clarke Edwards. Click for shop.

Speaking of weaving, Mary occasionally weaves amazing fabric from some of my other favorite dyers (Cephalopod Yarns! Verdant Gryphon!) and fashions it into lovely pouches. The one pictured above is actually fabric printed with a cable knitting design, which is pretty nifty in its own right!

The Knitting Artist:

Photo copyright Lisa Urban. Click for shop.

Lisa is an artist who makes incredible paintings of handknit still-lifes. I especially love the colors and textures in the piece featured above. You can purchase prints of her paintings or handmade greeting cards featuring larger-than-life knitting stitches, perfect for all the fiber enthusiasts on your gift list!

Caffeine Girl:

Photo copyright Deborah Kades. Click for shop.

Deborah makes colorful and creative polymer clay necklaces and bracelets. I love the button necklace shown above, all the colors make me so happy! She recently posted all sorts of nice things about my Sweet Sheep lotion bars on her Caffeine Girl Creates blog, which is what inspired me to write my own post featuring small businesses that I admire! Thanks, Deborah!

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Use coupon code THANKS2014 at checkout!

Don’t forget that the free shipping special is still ongoing at Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe. Enter code ‘THANKS2014’ at checkout to receive free shipping on all orders, everywhere, through Monday Dec. 1st. Happy indie shopping! What’s been inspiring you, lately?

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IS #81: Worsted Weight Shawls

Now that I’ve finished my Lucy Hat, I’m on the hunt for the perfect worsted weight shawl pattern to knit with the rest of this delectable wine-colored yarn.

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Verdant Gryphon Zaftig, colorway Kiss of Cabernet

So I’ve rounded up a bunch of my favorites.

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My own photo. Click for project page.

I knit this shawl (Springtime Bandit by Kate Gagnon Osborn) way back in 2010 and I still wear it every season. Worked in Malabrigo Worsted, it is exceptionally cozy. It’s not a super wide shawl (with extra repeats mine blocked to 58″ wingspan) so when I wear it kerchief-style I like to secure the ends with a fun shawl pin (the wiggle one is my favorite), especially since thicker fabric doesn’t drape the same way as lightweight fabric does. I’m talking myself into knitting this one again… but let’s see what else is out there!

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Photo copyright CatReading. Click for pattern page.

This one, Flourish designed by Rose Beck, has a very similar feel to the previous shawl, while being just a little bit lacier and more dramatic. It’s conveniently already shown in a deep wine color, too, so I have a pretty good idea of how my finished shawl would look! I’m really liking this one.

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Photo copyright KnitJaneKnit. Click for pattern page.

The Dane Shawl, designed by Jane Tanner, is a free pattern that has been in my queue for a long time. I queued it because its simple pattern repeat allows for modification in any weight of yarn, just choose an appropriate needle size and knit smaller or larger as needed! I would also like to give this more curved, shoulder-hugging shawl shape (vs. the traditional triangle) a try.

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Photo copyright tincanknits. Click for pattern page.

A similar-but-still-different shawl is Rosebud, designed by Tin Can Knits. The sample was knit in fingering weight yarn, but like the previous shawl, the entire shawl consists of one simple lace repeat that would be easy enough to size up or down for different weights of yarn. I think the rose motif would be especially striking in my wine-colored yarn.

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Photo copyright Owlish. Click for pattern page.

And now for something completely different! This beautiful shawl (Loie designed by Beth Kling) is asymmetrically knit from side to side in a textured rib that ends in a lovely cable and lace edging.

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Border closeup. Photo copyright Owlish.

Isn’t that border a gorgeous piece of work? It’s knit in DK weight yarn, but just up the needle size a bit and grab an extra skein for yardage insurance and I think it would work wonderfully in worsted. I would likely use some Codex yarn for this, rather than the Zaftig I have, because I like the way I imagine the silk blend would make the stitches shine.

And I can’t leave this post without mentioned this brand-spanking-new bit of loveliness:

Photo copyright Hunter Hammersen. Click for pattern page.

This worsted weight shawl is Nacarat, designed by Hunter Hammersen. It’s part of her new collection, Curls, an entire book full of asymmetrical wraps/shawls. The book was put up for pre-order today (at a discount!) and the first 250 people to order get a little goody bag as well, so you know I’ve already bought mine. I can’t seem to NOT buy one of Hunter’s books anyway. There are a whole slew of patterns that I love but I’ll wait until I actually hold the book in my hands before a blab about it any more.

Do you have a favorite worsted weight shawl pattern, or do you prefer lighter weight accessories? What’s been inspiring you lately? Share with us in the comments below!

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