Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Barking and burping

That post title might be rather odd, were this not a knitting blog.

Since it is a knitting blog, however, that means that it's only weird if you have yet to encounter brioche knitting. In brioche knitting, a brioche knit stitch is abbreviated as brk, which is rendered in spoken English as bark, and a brioche purl stitch is abbreviated as brp, which is rendered in spoken English as burp.

In other words, I am playing with brioche knitting.

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon brioche - I think it may have been while reading through Grumperina's blog archives. This was a while ago, and it sort of settled into my mind as something that might be interesting to play with later.

Then along came Jeny Staiman's Metamorph cowl pattern, which is also seriously interesting stuff - a plain tube can become a twisted tube with the help of a fold and some buttons - and, as written, the pattern calls for brioche stitch. A plan began to form in my mind. The sample shown worked in brioche stitch in the pattern is done in two colours, and it looks really nice, and the notion of working with more than one colour has also been bouncing around in my head, and I thought this might be an awesome project to try out two new techniques.

I sifted through my stash and came up with two hanks of Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in colours that I thought would work well together while being sufficiently contrastive to show off my efforts, and wound them up. This all happened in the later half of December, when the idea of new knits in the new year was also rattling around in my brain, so I held off on casting on.

And then I stumbled upon a discussion thread in Ravelry's forums in which posters were swapping stories about dye from a darker yarn bleeding into a lighter yarn in the same project while washing and blocking. And I looked at my two yarns, and one has some wonderfully dark reds and browns in it, while the other was much lighter - a sort of warm pearly grey colour. And I began to worry. What if that darker yarn bled into the lighter yarn when the cowl hit the water? I don't know how that could be fixed. I'm not even sure how it could be prevented in the first place - there were ideas being bounced about in the thread about doing a pre-soak on yarn with a product like Synthrapol or vinegar to ensure that the dye was set, but that seemed, well. Like a whole lot of extra work. Plus I wasn't sure where one could get Synthrapol. Plus there were some who felt that this sort of pre-treatment might not always work, depending on what kind of dye was used in the first place.

My lack of experience with dye and what it does in multi-coloured knits, combined with these sorts of horror stories, made me take a step back from the two-colour brioche cowl idea. I still think I'd like to try it some day. Just perhaps not with hand-dyed artisanal yarn. I have this notion that commercially-dyed yarns are less likely to have issues with loose dye bleeding out. Of course, that could be totally wrong, and may very well come back to bite me when I get there. But that's the direction I'm leaning as of this moment.

It seemed, then, that my foray into brioche knitting would be delayed indefinitely.

Until that incident with the fail on my sister's sock. That spurred me into thinking it would be nice to whip out a cowl for her real quick, to ease the sting of having to wait longer for her socks. I started considering her holdings in the stash. I remembered, in the summer of 2011, when our family was on a cruise vacation to Alaska, while we were stopped in Juneau we paid a visit to Seaside Yarns, where my sister purchased this:

That would be A Tree Hugger's Wife Basic Sock, in Glacier. Once we were outside of the shop, she turned to me, held out the bag containing the yarn with a smile, and said, "Pretty, please." We laughed, I accepted the bag, and stashed the yarn away when we got home.

Now, Basic Sock is 100% merino wool, and in my experience, socks made from 100% merino wool yarn only last about a year or so before I walk a hole in the heel, so I like to use these sorts of yarn for other non-socky things. Which suited my sister just fine - she was so enamoured with the colourway that the idea of turning the yarn into a shawlette or scarf appealed to her quite a bit. Take another look at that photo, though. Do you see the boldly greeny-blue section? And how it contrasts so nicely with that much paler, almost cream-coloured section? Looks great in the skein, but that sharp contrast was making me nervous. When I undid the hank to wind it into a cake, I saw that the colour runs are fairly long - not so long so as to give you two or three row stripes in socks, but long enough that a project with varying row lengths - like a triangular shawlette - would end up with prominent zigzags and flashes of colour. Which, of course, would end up competing with whatever stitch pattern you were trying to work, which would mean the thing would end up looking like a hot mess.

See the alignment of circumstances here? I want to knit a cowl for my sister. I want to try brioche knitting. I have this hank of yarn that has potential to misbehave, colour-wise, in a lot of patterns.

Put all that together, and you get this:

It occurred to me that all the slipping and yarnovering you do in brioche might work in my favour here, and blend the colours of the yarn together. Sure enough, it does - there's some pretty bold striping going on in the ribbing at the caston edge, but once the brioche starts, you'd scarcely believe it's the same yarn. Instead of blotches of colour here and there, it looks almost like I'm holding two different yarns together, producing a marled sort of effect. I feel so clever when I imagine how something will turn out and it actually turns out the way I'd envisioned.

There is one thing that is nagging at me, though, and you might be able to tell what it is from the photo. The brioche fabric seems to be biasing a bit. I can't tell if this is because the thing is still being scooted around a circular - the brioche leans in the same direction that I move the fabric as I work - or if it's a true bias in the fabric. I have this feeling that the fabric shouldn't be biased in any event, so if it's really the fabric, then that would suggest that I'm doing something wrong. I can give it a little tug and straighten it out, though, which makes me think that it'll get sorted out with blocking. We shall see what we shall see.

In the meantime, I'll keep on barking and burping away.

Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd put on the Internet.

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