Slow knitting: How to Read your knitting

sheepsorrel_pamallen
Sheep Sorrel by Pam Allen in Hannah Thiessen’s Slow Knitting

I’m knitting Pam Allen’s Sheep Sorrel hat using Falkland Aran by Debbie Bliss in Claret. This is a soft, shiny organic wool, from a farming community in the Falklands. It’s a three-ply, with a good amount of twist, stitch definition, and has a good amount of loft (ie very springy and squishy) and elasticity.

The pattern is clearly and efficiently written, even including instructions on how to do the cables with and without a cable needle.

Why bother
You can knit faster. You know when sections change, and know what comes next. You can find (and correct) errors faster. With a recurring pattern, you reading your knitting means you understand what the designer intended, and you can actually let go of the pattern (which means portability). Many people often praise patterns for being easy to memorize. Reading your knitting means you don’t need to memorize at all.

How-to
Read the general description in the pattern introduction first. This will not click at first. But we’ll come back to that later.

Then look at the pattern section. Make a rough stitch chart if there isn’t one. (If there is, then skip to the next step).  It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough for you to understand. The Sheep Sorrel hat has a 15 stitch repeat over 4 rounds.

Do a mini-swatch 
If you are a learning-by-doing knitter like me, making a swatch to learn a pattern isn’t such a hardship. Cast on the required stitch number plus 6 extra for a 3 stitch border on each side. Place stitch markers, so you don’t forget where your border sits.  Knit three rows (for a garter stitch/ non rolling edge) and then get going. Once you’ve done two or three repeat, finish off with with three knit rows and bind off.
I wouldn’t bother cutting my yarn. This swatch isn’t to be blocked, so it is perfectly fine to rip it out after, and knit it into the hat.

I definitely am not a big fan of swatching in the round, however I wanted to see how quickly it would take me to learn the pattern on the fly. I took me four repeats, dear Readers. In my defense, a glass of red wine was involved.

On the fly
Once you’ve gotten into knitting the pattern, exactly as written (a stitch marker after each repeat will help you keep your place), stop and have a good look at what’s on the needles.
Now is the time to revisit that general description and compare it to what you have before you. Sheep Sorrel seems to be about panels and mini-cables (actually twisted stitches, but hey, let’s not quibble). We can see that the garter and patterned panels alternate and are separated by columns of cable. We also see that each column of cable has a p1 before and after it.
Once I realized this, I realized that one type of twist was used per column. Some columns twisted to the right and others to the left. That meant I could undo and repair any twist that was incorrect (if something looks like an S, then it’s wrong). I left one S, because nothing in this world is perfect.
At this point, I knit another round, without peeking, to see if I understood the pattern. Once I had done that, checked, then made my corrections, I knew I could let go the pattern and continue the required length of knitting. I wouldn’t say that I’ve memorized the pattern, but I’ve understood the logic behind it: I want to keep my panels going, and the cables twisting the right way round.

Happy knitting!

 

 

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Food for thought: Yarn

 

“Yarn is not a lost puppy, looking for a home. Above all, … it is a commitment not only of money, but also time.

Knowing where it comes from matters, because you will be spending countless hours together – make sure you have found yourself in good company.”

 

– Hannah Thiessen, Slow Knitting: from sheep to skein to stitch. Abrams Publishing

Made in Germany 2.5

 

schoppel
fotosource: Schoppel Yarns

 

More Yarns 

It occurred to me, that I hadn’t listed every yarn I knew of from Germany, so here are some more:

 

Atelier Zitron 

atelierzitron_wolkenspiel
fotosource: Atelierzitron.de

 

Is a bit more on the luxurious end of the market. They have yarns with fibre blends including Yak and Silk. They often are advertised as being produced to Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Productclass 1, however, this just means that there aren’t any harmful chemicals in the product. There are actually much higher categories/ labels (such as Standard 100plus, Standard 1000, Made in Green and STeP, the last two being an organic label and a sustainable textile production label). So Oeko-Tex100 is kind of a basic, if you ask me.

 

 

 

Schoppel

Here we’ve got the famous Zauberballs (Ann from MasonDixonKnitting has actually pulled one apart). I’m told they’re addictive. And I do not doubt it. Although they are originally made for socks with about 25% nylon, they make just about any project into a lovely explosion of colour. I’m particularly keen on trying out El Linio (next year, maybe).

If you’re in the area of the Swabian Alb (that’s southwest Germany), this yarn company also produces the Albmerino line made from local merino sheep in collaboration with a local shepherding company. The way I understand this, is that the majority of sheep are kept in Germany for the meat. So Schäferei Stotz produces lamb meat for sale directly to consumers and also to high-end restaurants like Traube Tonbach (three Michelin stars for a hotel restaurant tucked away in a tiny Black Forest village: the food is melt-in-your-mouth-good-then-look-for-postcard-to-write-home-about-it!). They also sell warm lamb and sheep fleeces, woolen duvets and pillows and the like. But rarely do they produce yarn.

It’s a fairly big deal then, that Schoppel is going back to locally-raised sheep.

 

Finkhof

finkhoffotosource: finkhof.de

Of course, once I wrote ‘rarely’, an exception popped into mind. That’s Finkhof. They started out in the 1970s as an alternative commune project which evolved into the Shepherding collective it is today. Their catalog is thick. Not like telephone book thick (unless you live in a very small under 3,000 soul village), but a substantial hommage to all the things one can do with sheep – from mattresses to blankets, wool, footwarmers, backwarmers, wools for weaving, spinning, fabric … The wool is organic, has a rustic feel. Definitely worth a look in. They have a Ravelry group.

from left: wool-silk mix onesie, felted wool sleepsack and merino fleece in background; right: Finkhof does two sizes of yarn: Thick (Aran) and Thin (sport) / Source: finkhof.de

*word of the day: This baby is goldig. That’s the German word for ‘too cute for words’.

 

 

Rosy Green Wool

rosygreenwool_aran_bigmerinohugfotosource: Rosygreenwool.com

This is just the last (for now), but by no means the least. Rosy and Patrick have managed to start a new yarn company in what may have seemed a fairly saturated market. They prove that there is always room at the top. Especially for an organic (GOTS certified) high quality wool for a fair price. Admittedly, the wool is sourced and spun in England. I’m hoping this will expand some day to German wools. Still, I cannot fault them on their work with working to protect rare sheep breeds via developing, promoting and selling limited runs of their yarns.

They’re on Ravelry, but I won’t lie: it was a sad day when they discontinued their blog. It’s worth getting onto their newsletter list, as the more popular colours and the limited edition yarns (great if you have a yarn bucketlist) sell out fast! Like Finkhof, they mostly do Aran and Sport Weights, while their rare breeds yarns are in fingering weight. (I’m holding back here, because a review is coming) They also do yarns for dying. Which is the perfect place to pause.

Do you know of any other German yarns that I still haven’t mentioned? Let me know. I’m trying to build up a Directory of German, and hopefully eventually European yarns.