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Soul Scarf No.5

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

This is a woven-like scarf knit using linen stitch - worthy of becoming an heirloom!


You will need:
3 x 100g skeins of Swans Island Company Natural Colours Worsted Weight OR Swans Island Company Pure Blend Worsted Weight - choose whether you wish to knit the scarf in one colour, or different colours.
1 pair of 5mm straight needles

Instructions:
Cast on 59 stitches.

Commence linen stitch pattern:
Row 1 (wrong side): slip first stitch knitwise, *purl 1 stitch, slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn in back, repeat from * to last 2 stitches, purl 1 stitch, knit 1 stitch
Row 2 (right side): slip first stitch knitwise, *slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn in front, knit 1 stitch, repeat from * to end of row.

Repeat these two pattern rows until you have just enough yarn left for a cast off row.
Cast off all stitches.
Sew in ends.
Wear with pride!


Soul Scarf No.4

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

This is a textured scarf knit using two colours in a clever but easy slipped stitch pattern.  


You will need:
8 x 50g skeins of The Fibre Co's Terra in the following: Main Colour x 5 skeins + Contrast Colour x 3 skeins and 1 pair of 5mm straight needles
OR 
3 x 100g skeins of Swans Island Natural Colours Worsted Weight or Pure Blend Worsted Weight in the following: Main Colour x 2 skeins + Contrast Colour x 1 skein and 1 pair of 5mm straight needles

Instructions:
Using Main Colour, cast on 55 stitches and knit 1 row.

Commence two-colour slipped stitch pattern, joining in Contrast Colour when you first commence Row 2 of the pattern:
Row 1 (wrong side): Main Colour - Knit to end of row
Row 2 (right side): Contrast Colour - knit 1 stitch, *slip 1 stitch purlwise with the yarn at the back, knit 1 stitch, repeat from * to end of row
Row 3 (wrong side): Contrast Colour - Knit 1 stitch, *slip 1 stitch purlwise with the yarn at the front, knit 1 stitch, repeat from * to end of row
Row 4 (right side): Main Colour - knit to end of row

Repeat these four rows until you have used up all of your contrast colour.  Using your main colour, knit a final row, and cast off all stitches.
Sew in ends.
Wear with pride!


Soul Scarf No.3

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

This is a beautiful textured scarf knit in a simple slipped stitch pattern.  


You will need:
3 x 100g skeins of Swans Island Company's Natural Colours Worsted Weight OR Pure Blend Worsted Weight and 1 pair of 5mm straight needles
OR
7 x 50g skeins of The Fibre Co's Terra and 1 pair of 5mm straight needles

Pattern Instructions:

Cast on 48 stitches.

Commence rib pattern:
Row: Knit 2 stitches, *Purl 1 stitch, knit 1 stitch, repeat from * until there are two stitches left.  Bring yarn to the front, and slip the last two stitches purlwise.

Repeat this row another 9 times (a total of 10 rib rows).

Commence slipped stitch pattern:
Row 1 (wrong side): Knit 6 stitches, *slip 1 stitch purlwise with the yarn in the front, knit 4 stitches, repeat from * another 7 times, bring yarn to the front and slip the last two stitches purlwise.
Row 2 (right side): Knit to the last two stitches, bring yarn to the front and slip the last two stitches purlwise.

Repeat these two rows until you estimate you have just enough yarn left to complete the final 10 rows of rib and a cast off row.

Commence rib pattern again, completing a total of 10 rows of rib.

Cast off all stitches.
Sew in ends.
Wear with pride!



Soul Scarf No.2

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

This is a classic scarf knitted in a basic garter stitch with simple rib ends.  Perfect for absolute beginners!


Choose whether you want a scarf knit in chunky yarn, or something finer.

You can also choose to knit the whole scarf in one colour, or in a main colour (the middle of the scarf) with a contrast colour (used for each end) giving a 'dipped ends' look.

For the 'dipped ends' look, you will need a certain number of skeins for the main colour, and 1 skein for the contrast colour, which will be divided into two for use at each end of the scarf.

You will need:
3 x 200g balls of Wool and the Gang Crazy sexy Wool (2 x main colour + 1 contrast colour) and 1 pair of 15mm straight needles
OR
3 x 100g skeins of Swans Island Company's Natural Colours Worsted Weight OR Swans Island Company's Pure Blend Worsted Weight (2 x main colour + 1 x contrast colour) and 1 pair of 5mm straight needles

Instructions:
Divide your Contrast Colour into two balls of generally equal size.
Using one ball of the Contrast Colour:
For Wool and the Gang Crazy Sexy Wool cast on 18 stitches
OR
For Swans Island Worsted yarn cast on 50 stitches

Commence rib pattern:
Row 1: *Knit 2 stitches, Purl 2 stitches, repeat from * until there are two stitches left.  Knit the last two stitches.
Row 2: *Purl 2 stitches, Knit 2 stitches, repeat from * until there are two stitches left.  Purl the last two stitches.

For Wool and the Gang Crazy Sexy Wool repeat these two rows another 14 times (a total of 30 rib rows)
OR
For Swans Island Worsted yarn, repeat these two rows another 24 times (a total of 50 rib rows).

Commence garter stitch pattern:
Row: Slip first stitch knitwise, knit to end of row.

Repeat this row until the Contrast Colour ball has almost run out.
Join the Main Colour and continue garter stitch pattern until you have almost used up both balls of Main Colour.
Join the last ball of the Contrast Colour, taking care to ensure you join the new colour on the same side that you earlier first changed colour.
Take note of how many rows you first completed in garter stitch after the rib rows in the Contrast Colour at the beginning of the scarf.  Complete around about the same number of rows in the garter stitch pattern - if you make it a row or two less then you should ensure you have enough yarn to complete the full rib section.

Commence rib pattern to finish:
For Wool and the Gang Crazy Sexy Wool, complete a total of 30 rows of rib
OR
For Swans Island Worsted yarn, complete a total of 50 rows of rib.

Cast off all stitches.
Sew in ends.
Wear with pride!




Soul Scarf No.1

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

This is a classic design scarf knitted in a basic garter stitch with a neat edge.  Perfect for absolute beginners! 


Choose whether you want to make the scarf in chunky yarn, or finer yarn.  Also, you can choose whether you want the whole scarf to be in the one colour, or if you would like to play around with more colours e.g. in stripes, dipped ends, etc.

You will need:
3 x 200g balls of Wool and the Gang Crazy Sexy Wool and 1 pair of 15mm straight needles
OR
3 x 100g skeins of The Fibre Co's Tundra and 1 pair of 7mm straight needles
OR
3 x 100g skeins of Swans Island Company's Natural Colours Worsted Weight or Pure Blend Worsted Weight and 1 pair of 5mm straight needles
OR
2 x 100g skeins of Life in the Long Grass fingering weight and 1 pair of 3.5mm straight needles

Pattern Instructions:
For Wool and the Gang Crazy Sexy Wool, cast on 18 stitches.
OR
For The Fibre Co's Tundra cast on 32 stitches
OR
For Swans Island Company Worsted weight cast on 50 stitches
OR
For Life in the Long Grass fingering weight cast on 60 stitches

Pattern row: Knit to the last two stitches.  Bring the yarn to the front.  Slip the last two stitches purlwise.

Repeat pattern row until you have just enough yarn left for a final cast off row.
Cast off all stitches.
Sew in ends.
Wear with pride!


An Interview with Caroline Niland from Life in the Long Grass, Co. Cork, Ireland

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

What is 'Life in the Long Grass'?

We are a hand dyeing studio based in the countryside in Co. Cork, Ireland.  It is run by me and my partner Jonny (and our 5 year old daughter Nellie).  I'm a self-taught graphic designer and webcoder and Jonny is an Architect.  I'm a painter and have been fascinated with landscapes since I was very young and Jonny has painted watercolour illustrations for most his life - we have a lot in common and are inspired by ideas, art and our surroundings.

How did Life in the Long Grass come into being?

We started LITLG 3 years ago when we found ourselves unemployed after moving to a remote part of Ireland.  I had always knitted and had dabbled in some handdyeing and desperately wanted to make something that worked for us rather than working for other people.  When things got to a low point I looked at our skill set and decided to create a product that we would both be proud of and enjoy working on.  Knitting was my thing and we both loved colour so it was a natural progression to start LITLG.  We had eclectic backgrounds to draw inspiration from living and working in London and Ibiza for years with other creatives and artists from different industries it seemed like the time was right to do our own thing.

Can you tell us how and where your yarn is produced?

All the Merino we use comes from South America - we do not use Australian because of the mulesing issues.  The sheep are kept on small farms run by families rather than big ranches and they are the main source of income for the farmers so are looked after very well.

I first fell in love with LITLG when I saw 'Rosehip' in the 100% Merino, in terms of the colours and how they are put together on the skein - can you tell us how you came up with your colourways, and the process used to create these gorgeous colours?

We see colourways everywhere but mainly in our environment.  Particularly colourways with texture they fascinate us and the task of trying to translate that to yarn then to a knitted fabric is a challenge.  We then paint up different combinations onto canvas or in our notebooks.  We generally only mix colours from primary dye colours using professional dyes so that we can get the colours we want rather, these are then written down as recipes so that we can repeat the colourway again.

I was completely won over when I felt how soft both the 100% Merino and the Silk and Merino blend yarns are - how is this achieved?

Well, first of all it is Merino yarn and it has an amazing soft handle. Some of our yarns are superwashed which is a process that makes the yarn smoother so it is less likely to felt.

Can you tell me about other fibre yarns you produce?

We are currently looking at Irish yarns from Irish sheep but the handle is currently rough and though great for a robust outer sweater is not good next to the skin.

Can you tell me about your Clubs?

We have 4 clubs per year: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter where we offer colourways that are inspired by that season.  You can choose from different yarn bases in 4ply fingering weight yarns.

And I see that LITLG also offers the ability for custom colourways?

We love making custom colourways especially from a conceptual point of view and enjoy recreating the exact colours from our primary dyes.

What can we look forward to in terms of LITLG yarn in the near future?

As we consider ourselves a dye studio and our strengths lie in our knowledge of colour and textiles we would like to keep growing and adding to our range.

Where do you think the knitting movement is headed - in terms of yarn and design?

It is definitely growing, it is a counter trend to our fast-paced technology-driven lives.  There is something wonderful about making something yourself which I think will grow in appreciation the faster we live.  There is something wonderful also about purchasing handmade products and dealing with people rather than large companies, the global nature of yarn and design is now accessible to everyone and we form relationships with like-minded people no matter where they are from.

What are you knitting right now?

I'm knitting a rather strange scarf with sample farm yarns from the UK and Ireland and Europe.  I want to have a long piece of fabric with different yarns together to get to know each of their qualities better.  I'm also frantically knitting a present for my 5 year old niece - it's a closed shawl/cowl in DK and fingering weight yarns, plus if I get some more time away from the dye room this week I will try and finish a sweater I started some months ago!

You've included a photo - can you tell us what it is and why it is a favourite?

It is a photo of the beauty and texture of what we see in our environment - this is what drives us everyday to create colourways that reflect this texture and beauty.



An Interview with Jackie Ottino Graf from Swans Island Company, Maine

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

What is 'Swans Island Company'?


Swans Island Company is a small business located on the coast of Maine, USA, in an unassuming farmhouse a few miles from the village of Camden.  We currently have two divisions: wovens, which includes our trademark high end blankets, throws and wraps, and yarns and design.  We are dedicated to the preservation of traditional materials and techniques, in sourcing organic fibres and using natural dyes.

How did Swans Island Company come into being?

Swans Island Blankets was started in the early 1990's on Swans Island, a small island community in an area of Maine known as Downeast.  The original founders left a corporate life to produce heirloom handwoven blankets using wool from neighbouring islands, and natural dyes to colour the yarn.  After a time, health issues forced them to retire and the business was put up for sale.  The current owners, Bill Laurita and his wife Jody moved to Swans Island for two months and learned how to weave, and eventually moved the four enormous looms to the mainland, where the business thrives today.

The yarn division was born about five years ago, which is when I came on board as the natural dyer.  We started with 6 or eight colours, on ultra soft organic merino worsted, using raw natural dues.  I would grind cochineal beetles in a grain mill, soak madder roots for days and immerse myself in indigo vats in our tiny front porch dye house.  We have since evolved, more on that in a bit.

Can you tell us how and where your yarn is produced?

When we first decided to sell yarns, we wanted to create a soft, luxury yarn with beautiful colours using natural dues.  The yarn base we use for our organic merino is worsted spun at a local mill.  The fibres are imported from Uruguay, as merino is difficult to source in North America (unlike Australia!).  The yarn is then processed at our dye house, where we skein dye it in our custom built tanks.

I first fell is love with Swans Island Company yarn when I saw the Natural Colours collection, in terms of the colours, and how the yarn varies with how strongly it has taken up the dye - can you tell us how you came up with this collection, and the processes used to create these gorgeous colours and effects?

Of course!  When I came on board, the colour palette was lovely but limited.  Orange from madder.  Yellow from Kamala.  Blue from indigo.  The original weavers like simple, classic colours.  There are two dyers now, and both us are very skilled in colour mixing and blending with natural dyes, and we have spent countless hours creating new shades.  When we create a colour we like, we divide the skein in half, put one half in a box, and the other hanging in a space with natural light.  After a few months, we evaluate the colour for fading, and if we determine it to be lightfast, it goes into consideration for the line.  Twice a year we look at the palette and our potential new colours, and figure out what needs to go and what needs to be added.

Our dye technique is pretty traditional.  We have big tanks that are heated from below, in which we sour, mordant and dye all of our yarns.  It's really the same method used for centuries to dye everything.  We lower the skeins into the dye bath, and minimally tend to them, allowing the colours to affix as they will.  We take precautions to ensure there are no white spots, but we feel that the natural tonal variations are what sets our yarns apart and really lends to their beauty.

The Natural Colours collection particularly has some shades that are created from natural indigo dye.  I am new to indigo - can you explain what it is, how it is used, and what a knitter would need to know when working with it?

Ah, indigo.  Indigo is a blue pigmented dye plant that has been in use for some 2000 years.  What is special about indigo as a dye is that it is not water soluble, and in order to function as a dye requires a set of steps to chemically modify it.  When done properly, an indigo vat will yield at least 15 different shades of blue, from the palest shade to deepest midnight.  We use indigo in four colours, light and dark blue, and as an overdue with yellow (to make teal) and magenta (to make purple).

While the colours are gorgeous, indigo gets a bad rap for its propensity to 'crock'.  Crocking is when small molecules of indigo are sloughed off with friction, such as knitting.  This is different than bleeding, which is dye that is not properly set coming off, usually in water.  We take every precaution we can to minimise crocking on our yarns, but sometimes it does still occur.  We tell knitters to finish their project, and then was the finished item in a warm soapy bath.  The excess indigo will come off in the water, and once the water is clear, the colour should remain fast.  We are really in love with the history and process of working with natural indigo, and try to be very transparent about what you may experience when knitting with it.  Some people love the authenticity, and some are turned off by the potential of having blue hands.

My love for Swans Island Company yarn was then confirmed when I felt how amazingly soft it is.  How is this achieved?

It really is next to skin soft.  Our merino is 19.5 microns, which is a method for testing the fineness of an animal fibre.  The lower the number, the finer the fibre.  Like I said before, it is difficult to breed such a fine fibre in North America, merino thrives in warmer climates.  So we import it, and our mill is very skilled at making lovely yarns!

We are also excited to see the Washable Wool collection, a machine washable yarn - can you tell us how this came about and the processes used to create it?

This fibre was introduced to us by a colleague.  We weren't interested in traditional super wash yarn which undergoes a series of chemical processes to render it washable, and is then coated with a plastic polymer to keep it from felting.  When we heard about this new fibre on the market, we decided to check it out, and long story short, it became our Organic Washable Wool collection.  This yarn is made washable using a certified organic enzyme treatment that is kinder to the environment and retains the integrity of the wool fibres.  It's a bright, springy yarn with excellent stitch definition that is perfect for cables and colour work.  It's the only yarn I'll use for kid knits from now on!

Swans Island Company also has a range of beautiful patterns to accompany the yarns - who is the designer, and what does Swans Island Company look for in a design, what criteria must a design need to meet to make the Swans Island Company grade?

Michele Rose Orne is our design director and largely our in house designer.  We have just started working with a talented team of up and coming independent Ravelry designers to curate this year's collection.  We are very excited about it!

What can we look forward to in terms of Swans Island Company yarn in the near future?

We have just introduced  a brand new yarn that we will distribute this summer.  While we love our Organic Merino, we wanted to create a yarn that was produced entirely in the USA.  What we created was a lovely rustic yet sophisticated woollen spun 2 ply worsted weight yarn, made from Rambouillet wool and alpaca.  It comes in 16 colours and is a wonderful good old fashioned yarn, spun at an amazing historic mill.

What can we look forward to in terms of knitwear design in the year ahead?

Some amazing things I hope!  We have 30 designs in the works for men, women and kids that will really highlight our growing family of yarns.

Where do you think the knitting movement is headed - in terms of yarn and design?

I think knitters are craving authenticity and craftsmanship.  As with the slow food movement, there is a slow cloth movement where the materials you choose make a big impact.  I'm not interested in mass produced yarns from China with synthetic colours and fibres.  I want to know where my fibres come from and how my colours are made.  I think it's great for small yarn producers like us, and for the farms and ranches we support in this movement.

Design-wise, I've been seeing quite a bit of Fair Isle colour work sneaking into the landscape, perhaps that's making a comeback?

What are you knitting right now?

Well, let's see.  My in the car emergency project is Boxy, by Joji Locatelli.  It's miles of brainless stockinette, and I'm using our fingering weight yarn in Seasmoke.  I am about to cast on our Charlotte cardigan in our new All American yarn.  In my queue is Lila By Carrie Hoge, and Downeast by Alicia Plummer (all on Ravelry).

You've included a favourite photo - can you explain what it is and why it is a favourite?

It is a photo of our new yarn - called the All American Collection - 75% Rambouillet, 25% alpaca.