Friday, 22 February 2019

The Betula Jacket Knitting Pattern

The Betula Jacket is a variation on the Shorelines Shawl Collar Cardigan pattern and I'd say it's an improved version. My daughter liked it so much, it now belongs to her. 

This one is knitted in World of Wool Chunky Superwash Merino and Silk which I scoured and dyed with silver birch tree bark. The yarn is quite heavy and drapey and the knitted fabric actually increases in size after washing. Maybe not for the purist, but good news for my daughter, superwash yarn does have the great advantage of making knitwear less likely to be accidentally shrunk in the wash.

300m chunky yarn in Contrast Colour (CC)
600m chunky yarn in Main Colour (MC) - my MC is actually 200m of three shades of pink knit in stripes
4.5mm and 5.5mm circular needle with long cord
Pair of 5.5mm straight needles
4 Stitch Markers
4.5mm crochet hook
Tapestry needle for sewing in ends
35cm open ended heavy duty zip
Sewing needle and thread and 40cm x 20cm fabric for facing zip if desired.

Tension after washing - 10 cm squared = 14.5 stitches and 18 rows 

Finished jacket has a bust measurement of 108cm and a hip measurement of 98cm (with ribbing intended to stretch to fit).
In the photos, it is worn as a loose jacket by my daughter who is size 10, though it was actually made to fit me, size 16, with 100cm hip and 105cm bust measurements.

CC = contrast colour
k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 stitches together
M1L = make 1 stitch angled left
M1R = make 1 stitch angled right
MC = main colour
p = purl
PM = place marker
RS = right side
ssk = slip 1 st as if to k, slip the next st as if to p, slide the left needle through the front loops of the two slipped stitches and k together 
SM slip marker
st = stitch
w&t = wrap yarn around needle and turn to work back in the other direction
WS = wrong side
yo = wrap yarn over needle before working next stitch

Pocket linings (make two)
Using 5.5 mm straight needles and MC, cast on 22 stitches and knit 4 rows of stocking stitch, then break yarn leaving a long tail for sewing up the pocket later. Keep both pocket linings on a straight needle.

Using 4.5mm circular needle and CC, cast on 133 st (I used a twisted longtail cast on method)
(WS) Edging Row One   
P1, *P1, K1* repeat from * to * to last two st, P2
(RS) Edging Row Two   
K1, *K1, P1* repeat from * to * to last two st, K2
Work this pattern for 13 rows to make ribbed edging, ending on a WS row.

Change to 5.5mm needle and MC (if you are making stripes, change colour every two rows, carrying yarn up alongside fabric edge).
Row 1 k
Row 2 p
Row 3 k 27, pm, M1L, k 25, pm, M1R, k 25, M1L, pm, k25, M1R, pm, k27 (137)
Row 4 p
Row 5 k
Row 6 p

Make pocket fronts:
Row 7 k 23 and turn, leaving the other stitches still on the circular cord - you will now be knitting only these 23 stitches to create the front of the right pocket.
Row 8 p back to edge
Row 9 k 21, k2tog (22 stitches)

Row 10 p back to edge
The sloping opening of the right pocket is created by repeating rows 9 and 10 another 10 times. Slip the remaining 13 stitches onto a holder.

Using a straight needle, slip 23 stitches off the other end of the circular cord. Attach yarn at the edge which will become the pocket opening to knit the front of the left pocket.
Row 7 k
Row 8 p
Row 9 ssk, k to end (22 stitches)
Row 10 p
Repeat rows 9 and 10 another ten times. Break yarn and leave the remaining 13 stitches on a holder.

Making more of the body and completing the pockets:
Row 7 Using the needle at the opposite end of the circular cord to the right pocket and starting from the far edge of one pocket lining, with its RS facing, knit across the 22 stitches of the pocket lining from the straight needle, then knit across the stitches on the circular cord, slipping the markers as you reach them, to the junction with the left pocket front. Take the straight needle with the remaining pocket lining and knit across these 22 stitches to finish the row.
Row 8 p (135 st)
Row 9 k to marker, M1L, k to marker, M1R, k to one st before marker M1L and slip marker, k to one st before marker MRL and slip marker, k to end (139 st)
Row 10 p

Continue working in stocking stitch for another 6 rows.
Row 17 k to marker, M1L, (k to marker, slip marker) repeat, k to one st before marker, M1R, and slip marker, k to end (141 st)
Row 18 p removing markers.
Continue working in stocking stitch for another 4 rows

Once the work across the pocket linings and the main body reaches the same height as the pocket fronts (a total of 22 rows stocking stitch), slip the stitches from the pocket tops off the holders and onto two separate straight needles.
Start the next row by knitting 1 st from the right pocket front, then for the next 12 stitches, holding the pocket top in front, knit together one st from the right pocket top with one st from the main piece. Knit across the work to 12 stitches from the end, knit together one st from the left pocket top in front of one st from the main piece and finish by knitting the last stitch from the left pocket front (143 st)

Continue working in stocking stitch until the work measures 32cm in total finishing on a WS row

Sleeves (make two)
Using 4.5mm needle and CC, cast on 33 st (I used a twisted longtail cast on)
(WS) Cuff Row One   P1, *P1, K1* repeat to last two st, P2
(RS) Cuff Row Two    K1, *K1, P1* repeat to last two st, K2
Work this pattern for 9 rows to make ribbed cuff, ending on a WS row.

Change to 5.5mm needle and work in stocking stitch for 2 rows, change to MC and work another 8 rows, ending on a WS row. (If you are making stripes, change colour every two rows, carrying yarn up alongside fabric edge.)
Sleeve Increase Row   K1, M1L, K to last 2 st, M1R, K1
Work this increase row on the eleventh row and every following eighth row until you have 49 stitches on the needle. Continue working in stocking stitch until sleeve measures 41cm. Place first two stitches and last two stitches on safety pins, cut yarn allowing an end for weaving in and leave remaining 45 st on needle.

Starting with a RS row on 5.5mm needles in MC, k 34 across body, place 4 st on a safety pin and PM. K 45 across one sleeve and PM. K 67 across body, place 4 st on a safety pin and PM. K 45 across the other sleeve and PM. K 34 to the end of the body. (225st)
Purl back across all st, slipping markers.

Decrease Row for Neck and Yoke
K1, K2tog (neck decrease) *K to 3st before marker ssk, k1, SM, k2tog, K to 2 st before marker, ssk, SM, K1, K2tog* repeat from * to *, K to 3st before end, ssk (neck decrease), K1
Purl back across all st, slipping markers.
Repeat these two rows 9 times in total (135st)

Decrease Row for Yoke only
*K to 3st before marker ssk, k1, SM, k2tog, K to 2 st before marker, ssk, SM, K1, K2tog* repeat from * to *, K to end
Purl back across all st, slipping markers.
Repeat these two rows 12 times in total (39st)

Final decrease row
K1, ssk, K1, remove marker, K2tog, K1, SM, K1, K2tog, K19, ssk, K1, remove marker, K1, ssk, remove marker, K1, K2tog, K1 (33st)
Purl back across all st, slipping 1 remaining marker and leave 33 st on needle.

Front Edge and Collar

Using 4.5mm needle and CC, with RS facing, starting at the bottom of the right front edge and working through the spaces between the first and second columns of stitches, pick up one st through the first four row interspaces, miss a space, continue picking up 4 st from every 5 rows up the front, along the neck angle and up the straight edge of the neck, knit the first 5 live st from the needle, SM, K 28, pick up 4 st from every 5 rows of the straight edge of the neck, from the angled edge of the neck and from the left front edge.

First Row (WS) P1, *K1, P1* repeat from * to * until you reach the marker. Remove marker. If you just made a purl stitch, w&t now, if you just made a knit stitch, P1, w&t.
Second Row (RS) *K1, P1* repeat from * to * for 24 st, w&t

Short Rows for Collar
Working in the established rib pattern, when you reach the wrapped yarn, knit it together with the next stitch, P1, w&t. Repeat this for 40 short rows, at which stage the collar will cover the entire slope of the neck line.

Next Row
Working in the established rib pattern, when you reach the wrapped yarn, knit it together with the next stitch, then continue P1, K1 rib to the end of the row at the bottom of the right front.

Next Row
Working in the established rib pattern, when you reach the wrapped yarn, knit it together with the next stitch, then continue P1, K1 rib to the end of the row at the bottom of the left front.

Work in rib for 9 full length rows

Either, cast off in rib and bend the width of the straight edge of the front border in half, sewing the cast off edge to the front of the work on both sides, 
Or use the working end of the yarn and a crochet hook to fix each live stitch of the straight edges of the front border into the stitches of row one of the border, 
Cast off all the collar stitches loosely to allow it to fan out.

Pocket Edging

With right side facing, pick up 20 stitches evenly across opening of pocket.

Knit one row
Cast off knitwise and sew down edges.
Repeat on the other pocket.


Using Kitchener Stitch, graft together  the four safety pinned stitches from the sleeve with the four stitches from the body at each underarm. Sew up the sleeve seams and sew in the pocket linings. Weave in all loose ends. Wash and block then set the zip in to the WS of the straight edges of the border, completing the job with fabric facings.

Note to Self - I do want one of these jackets - the fabric would be fuller and bouncier knitted in a yarn woolen spun from a Down type sheep fleece and the collar could be fab made in a mad art yarn, possibly even with tail spun locks.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Exhausting a Silver Birch Bark Dye Bath

Though I know silver birch bark contains enough colour to dye an equal weight of fibre, I prefer to start with twice as much bark, so as to be sure of a deep pink result. After peeling 600g bark off a fallen birch branch, I planned to dye 300g yarn. 

The peelings were left to ferment for a week in a bucket of water, then simmered for an hour or so and left overnight. The process of fermentation had reduced the pH of the dye bath to a fairly acidic pH 5, so I added enough dissolved soda ash to bring it up to neutral pH 7 before simmering my scoured yarn for an hour. After soaking overnight, the yarn came out a nice deep pink and the dye bath was still so dark I could barely see the peeled bark floating around at the bottom of the pot. Retesting with indicator paper later that day, it seemed that the bark must still be fermenting despite having been simmered, as the pH had dropped again. Over the next five days, I kept adding a little more soda ash to keep the pH neutral and dyeing successive batches of scoured yarn by simmering for an hour and leaving them in the pot for an overnight soak. By the time the dye bath was giving only palest pink, the original 600g bark had dyed 1.4 kg of fibres - some of them shown in the photo above.

The fluid still looked dark. Nonetheless, I feel clear the dye bath is exhausted - or possibly, vice versa.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Red Onion Skin Dye On White, Grey and Alum Mordanted Yarn

"More onion dyes, Beaut?" My companion heaved a sigh. "Whatever could you want more ginger wool for? Thinking of knitting yourself a uniform and joining the Brownie Guides?"
"This week, I want to try dyeing white and grey wool with red onion skins. I expect red onions won't give me ginger so much as plain brown wool - which might do for a Brownie cardigan, except I'm just that little bit too old and I think my niece is in the Rainbow Guides."
"Never seen any brown on a Rainbow, Beaut. Brown is just a muddy old mixture and brown overdyed on grey wool will be as dull as ditchwater. Why don't you mordant this yarn with alum? They say alum makes red onion dye turn green."
One of the great things about onion skin dyeing is that you don't need to mordant your fibres beforehand to get strong and lightfast colour. Dye things well in the first place and I've found onion skin dyes only fade much if they have to be washed. Still, I had to agree this experiment would be more interesting if I divided my three balls of yarn into two skeins and mordanted one of each with alum, before dyeing all the skeins in the same dye pot.

To extract the dye, 80g red onion skins were boiled in water for an hour or so and left in the pot overnight. The six skeins, weighing 150g in total, were simmered in the dye bath for a couple of hours. Big disappointment when I fished them out next day.
"Overdyeing grey yarn with red onion skins may have given me dull and predictably darker browns, but I might as well not have bothered with the alum mordant. There's barely a hint of green to be seen."
"You probably did the mordanting wrong. Wouldn't be the first time, would it, Beaut?"
"I did my best. Three of those skeins had an hour simmering in a 10% alum solution and then 24 hours to soak afterwards."
"You wouldn't have reused that alum solution that's been sitting on the patio for weeks?"
"So what if I did?"
My companion wandered off sighing and tutting under her breath. I don't usually store mordant solutions for more than a few days, but I've heard people say they keep theirs indefinitely. Though perhaps not outdoors in the snow.

I did actually have some of the same white DROPS Alaska yarn that I accidentally mordanted with 15% alum, ages ago. A 50g skein went into the red onion skin afterbath for a simmer. Result next day was quite definitely green, so poor mordanting must have been the problem previously. Remind me not to bother keeping used alum solution hanging about.

Looking at my onion skin dyes of 2019, after all that experimenting, my companion pointed out that both the brown and the red onion skin colours look nicer on white than grey wool. 

"Still, the alum mordanted skein from the red onion bath makes me think green and ginger brown colours could go well together. Instead of dyeing the last few balls of this wool with bark like I planned, I might wait for the trees to come into leaf. Greenish yellow leaf dyes should come out well if I'm overdyeing grey yarns."
"Yes, Beaut. So long as you mordant them properly."

Friday, 1 February 2019

Knitting Modular by Melissa Leapman - Review

In January this year, Storey Publishing released Melissa Leapman's latest book and posted a review copy to me. 
My companion, Elinor Gotland, watched me unwrap the parcel at the kitchen table.
"What's this one about, then? Mmmm, 'Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles.' Not the punchiest title, Beaut." 
I grabbed the book back and read the opening pages.
"The title tells us what we're getting. Looks like a 'module' is a triangle of knitting, Part One shows how to fit the triangles together with edges and borders in order to knit all sorts of shapes of shawls, wraps and stoles."
Turning the pages, I was soon drawn in to examining the written patterns, charts and photos of knitted triangles. Sitting back with a sigh, I found my tea had gone cold.
"When you consider that there are 185 stitch patterns in here, this one book must contain an infinite number of shawl recipes. Not that I need another shawl, of course."

My companion offered me the last flapjack on the plate.
"Don't fight it, Beaut. You may not need one, but you're no more likely to resist those shawl patterns than you are this biscuit."
I tried not to get crumbs on the book as I studied the Seven Steps to Shawl Success described in Part One.
1. Choose a Silhouette 
2. Choose a Stitch Pattern 
3. Choose a Background Texture 
4. Choose an Edging 
5. Choose a Cast On Tab 
6. Choose a Border 
7. Choose a Bind Off
Part Two forms the main body of the book, expanding upon the practical construction of all seven steps, with fully illustrated instructions for knitting different edges, wedges, horizontal and vertical insertions and lower borders. It is all clearly written in an encouraging, informal style; easy reading which soon gave me confidence I'd be able to put together a whole shawl pattern myself. 
If only I could get past  Step One. 
"Truth be told, Elinor, I don't really fancy any of the shawl silhouettes. Long, narrow crescent shawl shapes appeal to me much more and you can't make one of those out of triangular modules."
My companion tapped a hoof on the description of how to sew four wedges together to make a long, paralellogram shaped wrap.
"You don't have to start knitting all your wedges at the same time with spine stitches in between. If you decide to knit them separately and then sew them together, there's nothing to stop you using a dozen little triangles to make a scarf." 
"Ooo, brilliant idea. I can try out lots of these lovely stitch patterns and it won't matter if I use different coloured yarns. I'll knit one triangle every evening." That proved a bit optimistic. It took a ridiculous amount of titting about with tabs and edgings before I realised all I needed to do to knit a single triangle was to cast on three stitches and start straight in on any of the wedge patterns.
Although all my triangles were in the same brand of double knitting yarn and all were 60 rows deep, knitted on 4mm needles, the various stitch patterns pulled in or spread out the fabric, making their finished dimensions look quite different. Happily, washing and blocking did equal them all out once I was finished.
There's a quick reference index on the right hand margin of each page, showing the number of stitches in the pattern repeat featured. I chose whichever pattern appealed most from the wide selection of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 stitch multiples. Though I struggled to keep a two stitch pattern right, it was actually easier to see where I was when knitting the higher stitch multiples.
Whether geometric, bobbled or lacey in style, once blocked, each 60 row triangle measured about 20cm deep and 35cm long. I didn't realise they would turn out quite so wide when I decided to join ten together to make a cowl. Keeping the live stitches of five triangles on each of two circular cords, I crocheted all the sloping edges together to form a continuous loop.
Although following the triangle patterns had gone smoothly, I got stuck with perpendicular border 177. I kept finishing the repeat one stitch short to start the next :( 
The deeper perpendicular border options knitted up fine, but were going to need far more yarn than the scraps I had left. In the end I gave up and borrowed a narrow perpendicular border from a free shawl pattern online.
For other technical help, the glossary at the back of the book was excellent. It's not just a list of terms, it has drawings and descriptions of each stage of each stitch. I thought I already knew the basic ssk decrease, lucky I just checked, as Melissa describes another way of doing it for a neater finish.
The Ten Triangle Cowl is long enough to loop three times around my neck and yes, it's a right hodge podge of styles, but I like it. The yarn was all plant dyed with weld or meadowsweet on white or grey wool and I think the colours are comfortable together. All in all, I'm delighted to own Melissa Leapman's book. As I remarked to my companion on our walk today, it's going to be a wonderful resource for future projects.
"I might sew four triangles together to make a cushion, or knit all 118 triangle stitch patterns and crochet them up into a big throw or a blanket."
"Easy, tiger. It's taken you all month to finish that cowl. Which is yet another ill planned item that has come out far too big."
"Perfect timing for this snow, though. And there's room for two in here, if you like."

Elinor and I continued on our way through the frosted fields.
"I think knitting modular is a brilliant concept, it's got so much potential."
"I was right about the title though, Beaut. Too short to do the book justice. Should have been 'Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps, Stoles, Scarves, Cowls, Cushions, Throws, Blankets and Probably More.'

ISBN 9781612129969
Hardcover Price £23.99 also available as an ebook.