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Vintage Green Strange Brew

July 11, 2019

pink and green – fresh new territory

Green isn’t generally one of my go-to colours. As you’ll see from this post on my very favourite colour combinations, I tend toward the primaries, with orangey reds, teally blues, and golden yellows featuring heavily. So this green + pink concept… it’s colouring WAY outside my usual box (which of course, as a designer is where I’m interested in going).

My exploration of machine knitting (more on my machine in a later post, I promise!) has opened my world to 4-ply yarns, leading to a collection of Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight, Jamieson’s of Shetland Shetland Spindrift, and JC Rennie Supersoft Lambswool. During the 2018 Edinburgh Yarn Festival I was SMITTEN with this cone of ‘vintage green’ Rennie’s Supersoft, and spent the better part of the show collecting other shades of green and pink to coordinate with it. You know how it can be when a project idea strikes!

51 weeks later

One week before Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2019, I realized with a sense of embarrassment and impending doom that all that ‘perfect green sweater’ ambition had come to naught in the previous 51 weeks. I love a deadline, so I decided to ‘bang out a Strange Brew’ in the week that remained before the show. A solid plan if ever I’ve had one.

Doing a little sleeve swatching to decide on my colours

Imagining a cropped / kinda baggy silhouette, I began with the Strange Brew women’s size L (42.5″ chest), following the sock weight instructions. I made a short unshaped body, and long unshaped sleeves on the machine. Then I decreased to half the stitch count to hand-knit the cuff ribbing, which made for these (very comfy) relaxed sleeves with a slight bell effect.

At the yoke, I began with a pattern which I’d tested out in swatch format. From there, I alternated the larger motif with a narrower motif, working the decrease rounds in between.

colourways I used:

As you can see from the chart and the finished knit, I experimented with different options for the small-scale motif; I think I prefer the 3rd option, which reads more clearly as a little string of boxes on a deep pink background.

It’s also useful to note that in rounds 1-28, I was able to control the vertical alignment of the patterns one to the next, because there are no decrease rounds between these patterns. So I was able to offset the larger patterns a half-stitch-repeat relative to each other, and align the small pattern between. However, with the decreases in rounds 29 and 47, alignment above was not consistent, as it may seem from the chart. But in the finished knit I don’t think it particularly matters, given the horizontal ‘banded’ nature of the design.

I have been loving this sweater since I finished it (a day after EYF finished, of course! because as much as I love a deadline I also love to miss them….) I took it to Paris with me to show it off to Alexa when we met up. While there are things that I would change if we published this as a pattern, I am very pleased with it as a knit, and I’ve learned by 37 that perfect is the enemy of ‘finished’.

Will you ‘Strange Brew’?

We have documented a number of finished Strange Brew sweaters now! Here some others which you could make using our Strange Brew colourwork yoke recipe in your own size and palette, using similar charts to the ones we developed.

A sweater for my best friend Chantal
John’s holiday sweater
Neve’s Strange Brew prototype
A geometric yoke for me
Related Strange Brews for Max and myself

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Posy

July 4, 2019
Posy Shawl Detail

I’ve always loved the extreme increase and decrease moves you see in Estonian lace patterns. I remember first coming across them in the Laminaria pattern, a really excellent free lace shawl pattern published in Knitty way back in 2008. Knitting that pattern began my interest in this sort of lace.

The lovely Laminaria shawl by Elizabeth Freeman, photo by Sylvia Hilsinger

Designing lace is always a bit of a journey. I think the Posy shawl started with a round lace pattern from Barbara Walker’s Treasuries (but I’m not 100% sure). From that starting point I swatched and tested many iterations. I imagined a field of flowers, some with buds tightly closed, then enlarging with the vivacious living energy of spring and sunlight, until they burst open into the beautiful organic shapes of blooms.

Aimee knows just how to perfectly style a shawl to look effortlessly amazing!

This shawl is a narrow crescent that’s nice and long. This means it’s very easy to wear as a scarf. This is the sort of shawl that I tend to be most comfortable wearing day-to-day, as it simply wraps around and looks great without any fussing required.

sister shawls – different yarns create distinct effects

The two finished Posy shawls have quite different qualities, which brings me a lot of pleasure! Made in a single-ply lace, the pattern is sharply defined. Julie Asselin’s Nurtured fine yarn holds a block beautifully, it has this crisp, papery, and slightly stiff quality that really makes the structure of the pattern itself shine.

After knitting several versions of the Love Note sweater, I became more and more obsessed with the joys of combining sock yarn with mohair lace (more on combining these yarns here). The painterly exploration of colour you could enjoy when layering one colour over another was just fascinating, so decided that making another sample that utilized this yarn combination was a solid plan!

On the right are the skeins of La Bien Aimee singles in ‘romance’ and the mohair silk in ‘yellow brick road’

Knit in mohair & single ply, the shawl is much floppier and soft than its crisp and structured cousin. It is a soft warm hug around your neck, bringing a lot of warmth for its ephemeral weight. The lace is not as crisp, of course, but it has a subtle beauty nonetheless. I love both of these shawls, which do you prefer?

In Praise of Partnership

June 27, 2019

Being self-employed isn’t easy. You not only have to MAKE the work (and that work must be of high quality), but then you must also sell the work.

You sell the work either by publishing and promoting your work to customers (that’s what we do), or as a freelance designer / writer / artist who works for clients who will use or publish and promote your work.

While it might look, from Instagram, like Alexa and I are knitting all day, the reality is we juggle a lot of balls to bring you inspiring new patterns!

thanks partner!

I definitely wouldn’t be able to call knit design my career if it weren’t for my partnership with Alexa. Thanks again friend!

Alexa and Emily from Tin Can Knits

I write this to share with designers or business people who may be at the beginning of their journey, first because it’s useful to recognize that everyone in business who has reached a point of relative stability in their work didn’t start there. Alexa and I started in a morass of uncertainty that you may find yourself in! Secondly, when you’re aiming to do something difficult, like starting a business, it can be really useful to find other people you can lean on for support.

can I really do this? My suspension of disbelief

One of the big hurdles when getting started? Building your own self-confidence and believing that you can do it, and that your work has value. There are so many doubters out there that your own confidence has to keep you going at times.

Alexa and I both left more ‘conventional’ career paths in education and architecture respectively. It took what I thought of as an extended ‘suspension of disbelief’ on my part to get started with Tin Can Knits.

There were doubters, who thought I should just ‘get a real job’ and stop mucking around, wasting my time on something that would never pay the bills. I was even one of the biggest doubters – I really had to battle to keep my own self-critic (who worried all the same things) in the corner in order to give myself a couple years to turn Tin Can Knits from a wild dream into a paying job.

I had a couple good stories to tell myself to keep going. My dad told me that when starting a business, you won’t make any money for the first 3 years. This helped me keep expectations low. Tin Can Knits didn’t start out as a full time gig. I had other jobs and would work in my free time to make Tin Can Knits a reality. A family friend I respected also said that before 30 is a great time to try a business venture and fail! This helped me accept that failure was likely. These stories I told myself helped to rein in my self-critic, and maintain my suspension of disbelief a little bit longer.

is it any good?

Assessing the quality of your work, on your own, can be tough. You have only one set of eyes, and your eyes are so very close to the work. Having a partner to assess and give the green light to publish designs helps.

you’re not brilliant when you begin

A tough nugget… you’ll need to do crappy work before you can do good work! I’m going to be really honest here: when you start something new, your early work may not be that great. But, you’ve got to be willing to COMPLETE, and get feedback on that early work in order to move through to doing better work. You need to practice to gain competence in anything. It helped me to have a partner who was enthusiastic about launching!

But be nice… don’t judge your own FIRST work by the POLISHED, 10-years-into-the-game work of industry leaders. Just don’t! Instead, scroll back into the archive of what they produced at the beginning to see how human and amateurish that stuff looked! It’ll help you realize that you can do this too.

getting it out the door

Because I am accountable to Alexa, I have to come through on my commitments, and get designs done and out the door. Procrastination can be a big problem if you are on your own, so having another person in the mix can be really helpful.

I personally suffer from perfectionism, so decision making and completion is difficult at times. When I notice that I’m putting off acting on or finishing off something because I’m having a hard time deciding, I can bring it to Alexa and we can decide together how, and by when, I will take the next step.

bounce that ball back and forth

There’s SO MUCH that Alexa brings to a problem that I never even thought of and vice versa. It’s a testament to my self-centeredness that I am surprised by this nearly EVERY TIME. When I’m sure I have considered all the angles, Alexa brings up 2-3 more issues, possibilities, or potential ways of viewing the problem. She’s one smart cookie!

It’s taken the better part of a decade for me to learn to really take advantage of this major upside to our partnership. There are simply some problems, questions, and opportunities which are more effectively tackled as a team.

Alexa wrote last week about how we use ‘bouncing the ball back and forth’ as a way to move design projects forward, to great effect!

Icefall Sweater
I love it when Alexa takes a design I’ve lead on, and makes a REALLY beautiful version of it, imagining it in a completely different way than I had!

* fools jump in…

Now, I’m NOT saying you should jump into a partnership.

I didn’t know, when I got started working with Alexa, what a partnership would mean. I didn’t know that it would be like my second marriage (my third, really, as I’m on my second husband!). I also didn’t know how carefully you ought to pick a person to go into business with.

I just got Lucky Lucky Lucky, because Alexa is a gem. The right sort of hard-working, big-idea-creating, uncomplaining, let’s figure out how this can work sort of positive thinker to be my other other half. And she can knit like nobody’s business!

Alexa jokes that the first time she went to see our accountant, they said, “OH, you’re in partnership? Is there any way you can buy out your partner? Partnerships are the worst! They never last.”

So bear this in mind before you ruin your relationship with your best friend by going into business with her!

Our happy Tin Can Knits family in Tofino!

can I pick your brain?

We’re often asked, by people starting out in the industry, for advice on getting started. My best advice is that, partnership or no, you might benefit from some of the aspects of partnership we’ve mentioned (confidence building, other eyes, accountability).

There are other ways to get some of these benefits, without having a business partner. You can hire a coach, who can be the person you bounce ideas off of, and who holds you accountable to your goals. Or you might join a group of other people who are also starting a business or side-hustle; this kind of group often can be found (or you can start one) on sites like Meetup.com, Craigslist, or via your local library.

Meeting with people who are working through their own business problems can be very inspiring. Also, to counterbalance those people in your network who are casting shadows of doubt over your plan, it helps to know other people who are practicing their own ‘suspension of disbelief’ in order to try something uncertain.

In fact, I personally meet with several such as part of my creative work: Nina of Rainbow Heirloom and I have a weekly work meet-up, where we meet, have a bit of chat, and then get down to an hour or so of work. Jess of Ginger Twist Studio and I meet up for coffee every month or so, and check in with the big things we’re each planning, debating, or struggling with. Find someone you trust to bounce those ideas off of!

Penny: A collaboration

June 20, 2019

One of the questions Emily and I are asked most often is : how does your business work as a partnership? It seems that many people find the creative process impossible to imagine as a collaboration, but Em and I? Nearly a decade in, we can’t imagine it any other way!

When we did our first book, 9 Months of Knitting, the designs were mostly easy to identify as something Emily designed or something I designed. But now? Our design process has only become more collaborative over time; now sometimes even Emily and I forget ‘who thought it first’!

Some of our pattern designs start with a swatch or a sketch, some begin with a baby-sized knit, and others with a bit of text describing the idea in words. Read more on design origins here. In some cases, the originator of the idea will take it and run with it, but sometimes it takes outside eyes to perceive what is really magical about the idea, and develop it. Penny was one such design.

Nina is wearing the regular length Penny sweater in SweetGeorgia Superwash DK in ‘grapefruit’

Emily knit up the original idea for the Penny sweater, whipping up a teeny size for little Max. We both loved the idea of an all-over lace design, and were charmed by the way this particular lace sort of rippled away from the central double twist, and worked well with the v-neck.

The original teeny sample (in the vibrant SweetGeorgia Superwash DK in ‘blood orange’) is something like the finished sweater… but I tweaked it a bit!

With that in mind, I took over the design, swatching the lace a few different ways, grading the pattern, and eventually knitting up not one, but two kiddie samples, (neither of which are exactly to pattern, because sometimes it takes 4 tries to get it JUST right!). Once I had finished all of the pattern writing etc, we also decided cropped sweaters are so hot right now so we had to add a cropped and speckled sample too!

This swatch led to the final iteration of the lace panel. We both loved the textured nature of it.
This prototype I knit up for Jones is almost to pattern… but not quite. After making this, I changed the rate of decrease in the yoke, and the lace on the sleeve too. This one is knit up in SweetGeorgia Superwash DK in the warm and delicious ‘auburn’.

We finally arrived at the right combination of lace panels and flattering v-neck shaping. Penny was born of a genuinely collaborative process! Each step of the way we would photograph, discuss, and brainstorm the next adjustment to try. Working together allows us to get fresh eyes on any situation, which often results in a brilliant suggestion for something else to try or a detail that might make it all work!

Working as a creative on your own can be difficult! I’m sure the way we do it wouldn’t work for everyone, but for Emily and I, working collaboratively is exciting and productive.

Want to hear more from Emily and I? Sign up for our email updates, and we’ll write you letters about our knitting inspirations, tutorials, and new patterns!

Em made a yarn at the Border Mill!

June 13, 2019
A blend of black BFL (Blue Faced Leicester), a bright and a deep red UK alpaca, I made this yarn at The Border Mill last summer, and it’s getting close to being a finished sweater!

Last summer I was treated to a very special ‘behind the scenes’ visit to The Border Mill, a small mill in the Scottish borders, where husband and wife team Juliet and John make beautiful yarn, with particular focus on processing alpaca fibre. One thing that is special about their business is that they don’t have minimums; they will process as small a lot as a single fleece.

What surprised me was learning that the making of yarn, they way Juliet and John do it, is a CRAFT process. I suspect that the word Mill had led me to make assumptions of a much grander scale and automation. After spending a hands-on afternoon looking at the steps from fleece to skein (and even to hand-woven textiles), I have a new appreciation of the level of time, attention, expertise and craft that go into every part of the process.

Juliet and I outside The Border Mill.

how yarn is made at the Border Mill

Juliet and I spent an afternoon going through the process from fleeces arriving at the mill from all over the UK, to finished yarn all ready for your knitting, crochet, or weaving pleasure! While The Border Mill does process both sheep and alpaca fibre, they specialize in alpaca, which requires care and special handling to achieve the best results.

checking the fleece

Juliet and John receive fleeces from clients across the UK, and first they assess them for quality and feasibility. There are some kinds of fleeces that the mill can’t handle (for example, if they are altogether too dirty).

tossed

Next, alpaca fleeces go into a ‘tossing basket’ outside (this is probably not the technical term!), in which they are tossed and tossed, like in a tumble dryer. A good deal of the dirt and dust plus many of the guard hairs are shaken out through the mesh of the basket.

Here you can see how different guard hairs (short, coarse) look in comparison to the finer fibres that will be used in the finished yarn. Doing a good job removing guard hairs is important to achieving a silky-soft and non-itchy alpaca yarn.

washed

Next the fleece is washed in big commercial washers. This can take a long time. Sheep fleeces can be relatively easy to wash because they have lanolin, and when the detergent washes out the lanolin, it carries a lot of the dirt and grime along with it. As alpaca fleeces do not have lanolin, they hold onto the dirt and dust more stubbornly.

air dried

After the first wash, fleeces air-dry for a day or two on mesh racks.

into the blower

Fleeces are sent into the picker room next, which is a very basic method of opening up the fibres.

through the pre-drafter

The fiber next travels through a pre-drafting process, which opens up the fibres and separates out a lot of the shorter staple lengths and guard hairs, improving the fibre that remains.

a second wash & dry

At this point the fleece goes back into the washing machine, and out onto the drying racks for a second cleaning, now that the fibres have been opened up significantly, and any of the shorter fibres removed.

dyeing

While much of the yarn that the Border Mill’s produces are undyed natural shades, Juliet also creates EXQUISITE tweedy colourways. Fibre is dyed into several different shades ‘in the fleece’ – that is, before spinning – and then these different colours are blended together in in the following steps to form tweedy and heathered yarns.

carding

On the carder, we begin to blend fibres for the finished yarn. To make my yarn, we combined different colours and fibre types, layering them one on top of another on the conveyor belt that fed the carding machine. I chose to combine dyed black British BFL wool with red and pink dyed British alpaca fibre. What came out the other end of the carding machine is called a ‘sliver’ – a long snake of partially-drafted fibre, ready for further blending.

Feeding dyed fibre into the drum carder.
The sliver that came out of the drum carder; we did some that were red, some that were pink, some that were a blend, and some that were black.

combing & blending

The slivers were blended together further as they travelled through a combing machine called a drawframe, creating the final ‘semi worsted’ sliver which has partially-aligned fibres. The number of times that the sliver passes through this machine impacts how aligned the fibres are, and also how evenly blended the colours are.

Because I wanted my yarn to have a ‘tweedy’ finish, with hints of the base colours that we began with showing through, we didn’t want the fibres to be too evenly blended.

This machine blended the slivers of different colours together, and combed to further align the fibres. We sent the slivers through 2-3 times each, and they gradually became more blended.

spinning singles

Next the completed sliver is spun into singles! The spinner looks like a pretty complex piece of machinery… I was very impressed.

plying singles to make the final yarn

Once singles are produced, they are plied together on a machine similar to the spinner, to form a 2-ply (or more) yarn. We designed my yarn as a 2-ply, and between fingering and sport weight, so that it would match well with Border Mill Alpaca Tweed Silk, and I could pick some contrast colours from the shop’s delicious rainbow!

finishing touches

Once the spinning process is complete, yarn is finished by steaming it, which helps to set the twist so it doesn’t split too easily. Lastly it’s wound onto cones, and then off onto balls or skeins, and labelled for sale.

For some Mill customers, Juliet also creates custom hand-woven textiles. She really stewards the entire process, from fibre off the back of the beast to a fabulous result! Visiting her weaving studio brought home once more how artistry, craft, and care are woven into every aspect of the business.

I am pretty much in love with everything I see from The Border Mill! The colours, the softness, I can’t say enough about how special this yarn is.

I designed the Tortoiseshell shawl for Laine Magazine issue 6 in Border Mill Alpaca Tweed, a tweedy worsted-weight.

Plus I’ve gotten part-way through a sweater for myself in the yarn custom yarn that I made! I’m still planning to adjust the yoke design slightly before I call it ‘done’, but here are a couple of ‘work-in-progress’ shots. What do you think?

Love Note

June 3, 2019

Once upon a time, at EYF, I saw, from across the room, a skein of hot pink mohair. It was love. I needed it. ‘I don’t even like pink…’ I told myself. But somehow, I crossed the aisle, picked up that skein of Skein Queen Floof, and it came home with me (don’t worry, I also paid for it!). At that same show I also snagged two skeins of La Bien Aimée merino singles, in ‘neon static’ and ‘Aimee’s sweater’. I knew they were delicious, but I didn’t know what they might become, so they joined the rest of my (significant) stash!

When I’ve got a wedding to go to, first thing I wonder is (DEEP SIGH), what will I wear? For this one, I pulled out an old favourite dress (one that my former flatmate said was ‘probably too short for a family wedding)’. HAHA. I love it to bits and discovered I could still, with some aggressive zippering, maneuver into it. BUT, it needed just the right sweater to go with it. Head to the shops for something? Of course not! I had a whole week before the wedding, so it was clearly time to cast on.

The results of this cast on frenzy became the Love Note, a sweater with much to recommend it: a little lace, cropped, a soft like a springtime duckling, and PINK! What more could you want in wedding attire?

The English springtime, well, it’s not warm. I’m not gonna lie, I had chilly thighs, but no regrets! John piped in the guests, and the Scots side of the family represented in matching kilt getup.

I’m not gonna lie, my thighs were COLD, but damn, was that sweater ever fabulous! And like a true professional who pays her mortgage by designing, I told the whole extended family “yeah, it’s my own design”, with that sort of pride and earnestness displayed by children to adults who respond with a kind of tolerant disregard. Sometimes family doesn’t ‘get’ your job, especially when that job looks, from the outside, to be little more than going to coffee shops and knitting all day! Ah well, at least my husband, business partner and I recognize that I do indeed have a real job.

Over a dress is great, but this look is really more my daily style.

I cropped this number hard, and it’s great over a dress, but to be honest I’m not a big wearer of dresses, I nearly always wear jeans and a tank top. So it works this way too. I’ve worn this sweater nearly every second day for a year, so that’s a pretty solid recommendation for its usefulness in a non-fancy wardrobe like mine. I love the floaty fabric, the lovely halo, and the delicious colour always lifts my mood.

This was the swatch that convinced me to blend the hot pink mohair with the pale speckle! Check out our tutorial on blending mohair for suggestions on how to choose a pairing.

#LoveNoteKAL with us!

Usually by the time Alexa and finally complete and launch a new design, we aren’t too keen on knitting it again… at least not for a little while! But Love Note? We can’t get enough! we both immediately wanted to cast on another! Alexa’s making one in La Bien Aimée in ‘shire’ mohair over ‘shire’ merino singles. I’ve got some Rainbow Heirloom Kidsilk Cloud that I really want to make into another for me… So we’re going to Knit Along together! Starting now (Alexa’s already begun) our super serious deadline is July 15, 2019. Just kidding, it’s not serious at all!

So, cast on for your feather light, warm and fuzzy Love Note today, and KAL along with us on Instagram using the hashtags #LoveNoteKAL #LoveNoteSweater and #tincanknits! Or participate in our Ravelry Group if you don’t do Instagram.

Painterly Yarn Combinations: layering mohair over a base yarn

May 30, 2019

Lately we’ve been having great fun combining lace weight mohair yarns with other yarns, resulting in beautiful painterly effects. Our new Love Note sweater and Posy shawl patterns both use this yarn combination.

Years ago at Edinburgh Yarn festival I impulse-bought a couple single skeins of La Bien Aimée yarn in ‘Aimée’s sweater’ and ‘neon static’. I also found myself irresistibly drawn to this hot pink Skein Queen Floof. It was a set of impulses that would really come together! Last year, I had a wedding to go to, and the world’s love of pink was really ramping up, so I decided a pink sweater had to happen, right?!

I swatched various yarns that I had alongside the pink mohair, and could tell right away that the speckle would be a winner! On the far right you can see the pink mohair and next to it the yarns I swatched alongside. What a difference combining makes!

Alexa saw my photos and said ‘WE MUST PUBLISH THAT PATTERN’. So I got to work perfecting the details and developing colour combinations that would work with the soft and romantic palette I envisioned for our Paris trip.

Through extensive swatching, I have some strategies to share on how to select colour combinations when combining a lace weight mohair with a sock weight yarn!

Combining or ‘blending’ mohair with another yarn

There are a few different ways to blend mohair with another yarn; using a yarn that is the same colourway, a darker colourway or a lighter colourway. Are you curious about how, physically, to knit two yarns together? We’ve got a post here all about marling, and a post here that explains how to work with two strands held together.

mohair + yarn in the SAME colourway

The top left of this swatch is La Bien Aimee’s ‘yellow brick road’ colourway on both mohair and merino. Underneath is the ‘yellow brick road’ mohair with ‘romance’ merino.

When working a mohair lace with a sock yarn in the same colourway, the blended colour will essentially come out very much the same as if you were knitting in a single colour; while the mohair lace takes the dye slightly differently than the merino yarn, the overall effect is fairly similar. The above example is a blend of La Bien Aimée Merino Singles with La Bien Aimée Mohair Silk , both in the iconic ‘yellow brick road’ colourway.

This is Alexa’s Love Note holiday sweater in the works. She is knitting it up in La Bien Aimee singles and mohair, both in the ‘shire’ colourway. You can see that while they are the same colour, the merino is lighter while the mohair adds a darker halo.

Alexa is also making herself a holiday party sweater Love Note in La Bien Aimée Merino Singles and Mohair silk in ‘shire’; a deliciously vivid green. You can see how the mohair and merino are slightly different colours, and the depth and shine this adds to the finished fabric.

Sticking to a single colourway is a beautiful way to combine yarns, but I’m personally more intrigued with mixing DIFFERENT colours, and finding out what kind of effects I can achieve!

darker mohair + lighter yarn

When you blend a darker or more saturated mohair with a lighter yarn, the paler colourway seems to glow underneath a deeper halo. I REALLY love this effect, it’s what we used when I made the Love Note sweaters, and for the heavy-weight version of the Posy shawl too.

The Love Note pullover uses La Bien Aimee … over ..

The deep dark Love Note is a blend of La Bien Aimée Merino Singles in ‘rust’ with La Bien Aimée Mohair Silk in ‘undergrowth’.

Top-to-bottom: La Bien Aimee ‘rust’ mohair over ‘rust’ merino, then ‘undergrowth’ mohair over ‘rust’ merino, then ‘undergrowth’ over ‘undergrowth’. While the single-colour combinations are beautiful, the two-colour blend has a fascinating liveliness.

The pale ephemeral Love Note is a blend Rainbow Heirloom Solo Light in ‘driftwood’ with Rainbow Heirloom Kidsilk Cloud in ‘sweet dreams’. To my eyes, this is technically a more saturated colour over a less saturated one, with the value of the two yarns being quite similar.

Top to bottom: Rainbow Heirloom ‘sweet dreams’ mohair over ‘driftwood’ merino, then over ‘apparition’ mohair. The difference between the colours of the merino is subtle, but the warmness of the ‘driftwood’ makes for a very different effect overall.

The original hot pink Love Note prototype I made is a blend of La Bien Aimée Merino Singles in ‘neon static’ striped with ‘Aimée’s sweater’ held with Skein Queen Floof in a vivacious hot pink (I lost the yarn tag, oops, but I think it was like ‘barbie’s handbag’).

The subtle neon speckle shines through underneath a halo of vivid mohair.
When I made the first swatch, I assumed that the hot pink mohair would work best combined with a deeper, darker colour, so I tried a red/orange, a medium pink, and then a deep plum. While these speckled / marled effects not without appeal, I wasn’t satisfied. Lastly I tried the pink over the pale speckle and got VERY excited. This combination was perfect!

The soft yellow Posy Shawl is a blend of La Bien Aimée Merino Singles in ‘romance’ with La Bien Aimée Mohair Silk in ‘yellow brick road’.

You can see how La Bien Aimee’s ‘yellow brick road’ mohair is a much more saturated colour over the speckled colourway ‘romance’. I love this combination; the speckles are muted, and the mohair colourway itself is toned down too.

For Bodhi’s Love Note that JUST popped off the needles, Alexa used La Bien Aimee Mohair in ‘pb&j’ over Singles in ‘neon static’. I love the way the purple ‘softens’ the speckled neon static.

lighter mohair + darker yarn

When the mohair is paler than the other yarn, the blended colour comes out closer to the darker single, with the fuzzy halo of the fabric being lighter. I find this combination a little less compelling, but it can also bring a subtle beauty.

This tiny size of the Love Note pullover was knit in Tosh Merino Light in a green/gold and Debbie Bliss Angel in ’11-mint’

value matters

The difference in value (relative darkness or lightness) between the two colours you are combining matters. The swatch below illustrates this.

I find the dark teal mohair over the pale grey to appear more ‘speckley’, with an effect that seems more marled than blended. Where I’ve used the dark teal mohair over the mid teal, the difference in value is more moderate, and the yarns colours ‘blend’ more effectively.

Top to bottom: Rainbow Heirloom ‘wicked pacific’ mohair (quite dark) over ‘apparition’, then Madelinetosh Merino Light in ‘esoteric’, then Rainbow Heirloom in ‘wicked pacific’. I LOVE the combination in the middle, in which the merino is somewhat lighter than the mohair, but find the top combination, with the high-contrast pairing, to be too ‘speckley’.

So from my perspective, combinations with a moderate rather than extreme value difference between a darker mohair and a lighter yarn feel more ‘blended’ and effective.

A similar example is illustrated by the swatches below. On the left, Alexa swatched two options for her Love Note sweater; La Bien Aimée mohair in ‘shire’ over ‘life aquatic’ (top) and ‘shire’ (bottom). The mohair in ‘shire’ is quite a deep dark colourway, and we agreed that the effect was just a little too ‘speckley’ to feel right for her.

On the other hand, ‘shire’, in the merino was quite vibrant and bright, so despite the fact that they were the same colourway, the fabric has that glowy depth she was aiming for.

Top left: La Bien Aimée ‘shire’ mohair over ‘life aquatic’ merino. Bottom left: LBA ‘shire’ over ‘shire’. Top Right: LBA ‘elise’ mohair over ‘life aquatic’. Bottom Right: Walk Collection ‘jungle’ mohair over LBA ‘life aquatic’.

I took the LBA ‘life aquatic’ merino home from Paris with me, and decided to try combining it with a couple of mohair options. The top mohair is LBA ‘elise’ and the bottom is Walk Collection in ‘jungle’. I decided that ‘elise’ was the winner. To my eyes, it’s just a bit less harsh a contrast than the ‘shire’ mohair over ‘life aquatic’, and this difference means the blending works.

Get started swatching! Blending mohair with other yarns is a VERY fun way to essentially ‘build your own yarn’, and you can begin using materials from your own stash! Try it out, I think you’ll enjoy it.

my next mohair + projects

I got started pretty quickly on a modified Lush cardigan. I think I’ll be cropping it too, and working relaxed bell sleeves… I can never seem to follow a pattern as it’s written, even my own, sigh!

This yarn blend would work exceedingly well for other projects too… I considered hacking a Boardwalk or Lush cardigan, and you can see what I settled upon! I am working it on 6.0mm needles at the same gauge I did the Love Note sweater on, and thus I’m adjusting the pattern for a different gauge (we’ve got a tutorial on that here).

This mohair blending method would also work very well for a ‘fade’ type project. You could gather your sock-weight scraps and organize them within a similar value, or to create a fade. Then you could blend them all together with the addition of a single colour of mohair held alongside each through the project. I’m imagining a faded oversized flax sweater in my future…

mohair stripes, mohair solo

The bottom swatch is mohair worked in 2-row stripes with sock-weight yarns. The top is mohair lace worked on its own.

Yet more swatches! I’ve got about a million plans in my head, and one of them is a Playdate, or adjusted Boardwalk using stripes of mohair + sock yarn. I’m also intrigued by the possibility of a sweater made entirely in mohair lace… perhaps a Bonny lace top?

So, what will you blend? Do you prefer a lighter halo over a darker yarn or vice versa? We can’t wait to see what blended gems you come up with!

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