Review: ChiaoGoo part 2 and a Slouchy Colour Story too!

Have you ever stood by a wall of hand dyed skeins of yarn and found yourself staring at one skein, thinking “Wow, that’s kinda ugly.” I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but that’s how I felt about one of the Estelle Colour Story colourways when they first arrived in my store. And you know when your parents told you not to judge a book by its cover? Yeah… I’m going to talk about that today.

And, as promised, here is part two of my ChiaoGoo review!

So let’s start with the ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel 40cm x 2.5mm circular knitting needles. I was very excited to try these out. I allowed myself a little extra time for this one because I wanted to knit a toque with sock weight yarn on this needle. I used the Sockhead Slouch hat pattern by Kelly McClure, downloaded free on revelry. The yarn is Estelle Colour Story in Bubblegum.

I cast on 160 stitches since I was using a finer needle than recommended in the pattern. I wanted something denser than the suggested gauge. I’m not accustomed to working with bent circular needle tips, so it did feel a little strange at first. The cast on was fine, nothing out of the ordinary. I found the nylon coated cord a little grabby when I was sliding the cast on along it. Joining in the round was a little awkward and I found myself fighting with the reach a little bit. However, knowing that the first few rounds are typically awkward, I persisted and tried to reserve judgment. By about round four the resistance from the needle stopped and it felt good. I did find that I had to stop frequently to move the stitches out of the way on the cord on the right hand side. If I were competing, this would bother me. That bit of resistance from the slightly grabby cord is not necessarily a bad thing. Your work is not going to slide off when you don’t want it to. With a larger gauge needle this would be a non issue.

Once I got accustomed to them, I liked the fact that these needle tips are on the longer side for this short of a circular.

It gives you something to anchor your hand to as you knit. For some people this can minimize fatigue. It didn’t take long until I stopped being aware of the bend in the tips. The tips are nice and sharp; this wasn’t really an issue for this yarn or the pattern. I personally like them this way; I feel like it gives me better control. Also, I usually grab a handful of the left hand stitches and slide them along the needle to progress my work. I don’t typically use my fingertip to push the needle further into the left hand stitches to do so. Therefore, a sharp tip doesn’t give me a sore finger as it does for other knitters.

I really enjoyed this needle.

I typically knit a lot of socks, so I am happy using fine needle and yarn gauges. I love that the work slides effortlessly over the junction between the needle and the cord. Catching stitches on a dying junction point is something that irritates me when my needles begin to show their wear. It will be interesting to see how the junction stands up over the long haul. I definitely recommend this line of needles. They are pretty darn fabulous. I probably wouldn’t use them for all my knitting, but I will definitely be using them in my complex fine gauge pattern work.

So, on to the pattern and the yarn.

Sockhead Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure of Boho Knits was my pattern of choice for this test. I wanted an easy, straightforward hat pattern in sock weight yarn. The pattern was super easy to follow. I’m not a huge fan of the slouchy hat, so I didn’t make it as long as the pattern suggested. I love that there was a quick start pattern option with very brief instructions for those impatient experienced knitters who want to just get down to it. It’s a great basic pattern. Kudos to whoever formatted the pattern. Nice job! If you have a gorgeous skein of hand dyed sock yarn that you can’t bear to make into socks because no one will get to see how pretty the yarn is, this is a great alternative to knitting it into yet another shawl. Top marks here. I used finer needles because I wanted a nice dense fabric. So I did modify it a little. I’m very happy with the outcome. Kelly has a whole bunch of patterns to offer and you can find them here.

And on to the yarn…

Okay so I confess I can be a little judgy when it comes to colourways. The truth is that we don’t all like the same things and that is not just okay, it’s a wonderful thing. I know what I like. That having been said… yeah… the book-cover thing I mentioned earlier. So, the yarn I chose for this project is Estelle Colour Story in the Bubblegum colourway. This hand painted sock weight yarn originates in Peru. I specifically chose to knit this colourway because I was feeling bad that I desperately wanted it to prove me wrong. It was the one I stared at, thinking it was ugly. I SO wanted it to prove me wrong. And I’m delighted to I tell you, it did. I’m so happy that I tried this yarn.

The Estelle Colour Story yarns do just that. They tell a story.

This one took me back to my childhood in a delightful and unexpected way. It reminded me of Bubble-Yum, Bubblelicious, Double-Bubble and more! Oh my, as every colour showed its little piece of personality I couldn’t help smiling. Every colour of every bubblegum I ever chewed as a kid was represented. Score! Happiness meter: maxed out! My inner child was seriously satisfied by this yarn. (Go ahead and laugh, but I suspect you know exactly what I mean.) And my conscience is now clear! 😀

I hope you’ll take a look at Kelly’s designs and see what she has to offer.

Hey, I love a free download, but I also respect the amount of work in getting a design from inside your head into pattern form. So, shout out to Kelly at Boho Knits! If you’re looking for a great needle in these shorter lengths, I do recommend what ChiaoGoo has to offer. And finally, in all humility, here’s a shout-out to the yarns that look better knitted up than on the skein. You just never know…

Happy Knitting!

CoBaSi and Alecia Beth

A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to a wool-free sock yarn called CoBaSi (HiKoo).

The name represents three main fibres in it:

  • Cotton;
  • Bamboo
  • and Silk.

At the time, I looked it up, hoping to bring it into my shop but until recently couldn’t find a Canadian distributor for it. I have since brought in the full colour line of this beautiful and interesting yarn.

CoBaSi is put up in 50g skeins, (201m) which to me is ideal. With a gorgeous array of solid colours (and coordinating multis) you can purchase it for stranded colour-work without buying loads more mileage than you need. Most sock yarns are in 100g skeins so you can end up with a lot of leftovers when doing colour-work.

It’s wool-free. The fibre content is

  • 55% Cotton,
  • 16% Bamboo,
  • 8% Silk and
  • 21% stretchy Nylon

All those folks that can’t or won’t wear wool have another option with this yarn. It comes in

  • sock weight,
  • DK and
  • Worsted as well.

(At this time, I only brought in the sock weight.)

From the moment it arrived in my shop I was chomping at the bit to knit something with it. My original thought was to have it arrive in time for the beginning of Tour-de-Sock (July 7th). I thought I would use it for a round of the Tour. I might still do that. However, it arrived in plenty of time before the beginning of the competition.

An overwhelming case of “Startitis” had me casting on a summer cardigan last Saturday evening.

My impression? I am in love with this yarn. It has a great twist to it and it knits very smoothly. I am finding that I’m actually knitting faster with it than I usually do. Very rarely do I split the yarn as I go. I am enjoying it so much that I can hardly wait to finish up the “must do” things in my life just to get back to my project… even when I’m feeling very tired. The more I knit it, the more I want to knit. As a result, I have made a lot quicker progress than I expected. When I set it aside at the end of the night yesterday, I was ready to separate the sleeves stitches from the body stitches already. For me, to be that far in less than a week is bordering on the magical and miraculous!

cobasi yarn sweater
Here is a photo of my progress on the Alecia Beth cardigan.

The colours are vibrant and the stitch definition is excellent. I have not washed it, but it is rated as machine washable.  I have knitted with a blend of cotton, bamboo and linen and that yarn (Nako Fiore) stood up to washer and dryer beautifully. After all the work in a cardigan made of fingering weight yarn, the jury is out as to whether I will risk the dryer on this project.

I want to do a shout-out to Polish designer, Justyna Lorkowska.

The design in and of itself is stunning. But just because someone is a wonderful designer doesn’t mean they can write a good pattern. Pattern writing is an art form completely separate from the design process. This is a beautifully written, thoughtfully laid out pattern. She has tables in each section with anticipated stitch counts between each set of markers. This allows you to see at a glance (no matter what size you are knitting) what you need to know so you can move along. She gives an overview of each section before giving row by row instructions. So you can go into each section anticipating what you need to pay attention to… rather than figuring it out after you’ve frogged a section in frustration. I’m excited to make more of her designs.

If you want to buy her patterns, you can find them here:

stores/justyna-lorkowska-designs

The first pattern for Tour-de-Sock drops on Saturday morning, so I will have the cardigan on hold while I’m knitting the competition socks. I’ll likely work on it as a “tweener” project. I’m so excited to wear it, I can hardly wait to finish it.

When you happen to find a pattern that is a pleasure to follow, of a design that you adore and you add in a fantastic yarn, you get BLISS!

Happy knitting!

 

Foot Loose – Knee Socks

Diamond Luxury Foot Loose is a fun, hand dyed, 4-ply yarn. At 75% super-wash merino and 25% polyamide, its fibre content is pretty typical of sock yarn. It is put up in 100 g skeins/ 396 m. The label lists a gauge of 30 stitches to 42 rows producing a 10 cm swatch on 3 mm needles. I personally wouldn’t use 3 mm for socks with this yarn. If I were making a shawl or a sweater, I probably would. The price point is lower than you would expect for a hand dyed yarn.

This yarn is very soft. I used 2.5 mm needles and it knitted up to the gauge I expected for any sock yarn. The colourways are interesting and fun. The result is a random-ish speckly fabric, absolutely lovely to the touch.

I used it to knit a pair of knee socks for my daughter. I used the Bintje pattern by Jatta Pauliina. The pattern is lovely. I have had it in my library on Ravelry for a very long time so I was happy to finally knit it up. I feel that the instructions assume that you have knit socks before. Other than one typo it was straight forward. In the heel turn, when you are knitting on the right side, where you normally slip the first stitch it says to k1.

I had to read the calf shaping section a few times to fully comprehend what I was supposed to do. That may have been because it was my first pair of shaped knee socks, though. It may also be that the designer’s first language is not English. This pattern is a free Ravelry download. I made the socks taller than the picture and I probably could have made them one or two pattern repeats shorter than I did. I had to start a second skein to complete them. My daughter has small feet (ladies 6.5 – 7) so the feet look a wee bit disproportionate to the legs. The photo has them stretched onto a large sock blocker. It distorts the heel a little but I wanted to show them off.

socks-lace-tall

I worked a yarn-over hole into the outside of each cuff to pull elastic through. I tied the ribbon around the elastic. I love the look of the Foot Loose yarn. It’s quite beautiful.

I look forward to using it again in a different colourway.

Sirdar Gorgeous Review

Have you seen those images of blankets knitted with crazy thick yarn on the internet? Sirdar Gorgeous is a single ply Ultra Super Chunky yarn. Doesn’t that alone make it sound amazing? Ultra Super! If we were talking comic books, that would be like having an Ultra Superman… Well today I’m going to talk about this Ultra Super Chunky Gorgeous Yarn. Even just typing that felt like a mouthful!

To start it all off, the specs on this yarn are as follows: 51% wool; 49% acrylic. They recommend 20mm  needles to obtain a 10cm swatch with a gauge of 5 stitches by 6 rows. The skeins are 150g and sell for around $22.50 each.

I have to be honest. I was very reluctant to sell single ply yarn in general.

Back when I was a kid, we raised sheep. We would send the fleece off to have it processed and would get some of it in the form of cakes of a roving-like yarn that could either easily be spun or was typical of what people made Cowichan style cardigans from. My memory of working that was that because of my typical tension, it would just come apart unless I spun it first. When my rep showed Gorgeous to me, I looked at him sideways (the look you would give a snake-oil salesman that you see through) and said,

“Uh, seriously? People actually WANT this stuff?” He laughed out loud and said that it was proving to be quite popular.

The first thing to acknowledge is that when you either crochet or knit with any thick yarn, because of the actual girth of it, mileage is relative to its weight. The thicker the yarn the less the mileage.

You’ll get less mileage from a DK than a fingering yarn; less from chunky than from DK or worsted and so on.

Gram for gram, you are going to pay about the same as you do for any other yarn. When you look at the mileage (okay, “yardage”) on the package you can see the difference. For instance, 100g of fingering yarn usually gives you 400m of yarn. Sirdar Gorgeous is 150g and 50m. So out of 100g of it you are going to get around 33m. That having been said, in fingering weight yarn you will cast on around 34 or 35 stitches to make a 10cm swatch in comparison to the 5 stitches in Gorgeous. Yes, it works up at light speed. Man, you can put a blanket together in no time flat with this stuff. But it takes a lot of skeins.

Sirdar has provided a number of patterns to support this yarn.

In addition to a number of single-skein projects (hats, cowls…) there are also patterns for throws and for an ottoman-like cushion. Of course, you can also just wing it and make a blanket or a poncho or whatever your heart desires. 🙂

sirdar-gorgeous-patterns

I started out crocheting this yarn. The first thing to note is that you need to have a very light touch with it. I found that where I normally guide the yarn with one hand to control tension, I really had to simply guide it to be sure it wouldn’t catch on anything. I barely held any tension on it at all. I am a knitter at heart. I can crochet and for some things crochet works best. With the size of this yarn, I just really didn’t care for the size of the holes between the stitches. After a while, I realized that I wasn’t going to be happy with the result. I unraveled enough to cast on 60 stitches on 20mm circular needles and continued to take the crochet apart as I knitted. I didn’t want to take it all apart and run the risk of tangling it all up. Now, if you love crochet, you may have loved it the way it was. I’m not saying you shouldn’t crochet it. It’s all about preference.

For me (sock knitting is my happy place), this yarn felt GINORMOUS to handle. It took me a bit to just get used to it. I normally knit continental style, carrying the yarn in my left hand and picking the yarn with the right needle. I am finding that with this yarn as thick as it is, I just naturally started throwing the yarn with my right hand instead. Again, it requires a very light touch. If you tend to pull hard on your yarn, you’ll have to back way off on your tension to avoid tearing the yarn apart as you go.

I played around with changing colours in a couple ways. I don’t like knots in my work if I can avoid them.

With this yarn they would be way too obvious.

First, I pulled away about half the yarn from the last 4 inches or so of each colour and then twisted the two together. But that (although it worked) gave me a candy-cane effect for the stitches that contained the join. If joining the same colour, it works fine. Then I did something like a Russian join instead. So, I still pulled away about half the bulk of the yarn for the first 6 inches or so on each. But, instead of laying them onto each other and twisting, I folded them around each other (like links of a chain) and then twisted on either side of the link respectively. This gave me a clear divide between the two colours, no knots, and I was able to be very precise about where the colour change occurred.

Sirdar recommends a cold hand-wash and to lay it flat to dry; shaping as necessary while it is still wet. I have not washed it yet, but I would be terrified of what a washing machine would do to it. So, bathtub it is for my blanket.

The resulting fabric is so thick, soft, fluffy and cuddly that I suspect you’ll have to fight everyone else off to be the one who gets to snuggle under a Gorgeous blanket!

Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn

It’s been a while since I wrote a product review. When I come across something that wows me though, I love to tell everyone about how amazing it is. Today I want to tell you about Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn.

I love making socks.

If I’m really honest I haven’t tried a huge number of different brands of sock yarn, but of all the ones I have tried, this is my new favourite!

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Cascade Heritage Sock yarn is a line of 4-ply yarn in over 60 solid colours. Put up in 100g skeins, at 400m per skein the “mileage” is typical for a sock yarn. The price point is pretty typical as well. (Cascade has some “Heritage Sock Prints” as well, but I am specifically talking about the solids today as I haven’t knit the prints yet.) It is made up of 75% merino superwash wool and 25% nylon. Again, this is typical of sock yarns.

In case you are unfamiliar with sock yarns, the nylon adds strength and durability to the wool.

This makes a big difference when knitting socks as the toes and heels take a tremendous amount of abuse. Without the nylon content (or something similar) they wear out quickly. Considering the amount of work in a pair of socks, you really want to be sure the yarn is going to stand up.

After a friend showed me a skein of the print version of this yarn, I started hunting for where I could buy it for in my store. I contacted the supplier and asked whether they could send me a sample of the solids so I could knit it up myself and be sure I wanted to invest in stocking it. They happily sent me a sample. I thought I would use it in one of my Tour-de-Sock stages since that was what I was knitting at the time. I set it up on my swift and began winding the balls. I found that the yarn kept slipping over the top and bottom of the ball as I was winding it. I suspect that’s because the yarn is so very smooth, it doesn’t grab the ball like other sock yarns do. I am usually pretty ruthless when I wind sock yarn and spin the handle on the ball winder as fast as it will let me. I had to slow things down considerably in order for the winding to go smoothly. That irritated me a little, but to be fair, I’m impatient.

And to be honest, this yarn is well worth taking the time to wind carefully and slowly.

For the socks that I knitted up I used this yarn as my main colour. For my contrasting colours I used Knitca Sock. (Knitca Sock is put up in solid colours in 50g balls. The smaller balls means there isn’t as big of a spend when you are doing colourwork. The fibre content is the same.) By the time I finished casting on with Cascade Heritage Sock yarn, I was in love. This is by far the softest most luxurious feeling sock yarn I have encountered thus far. Knitca Sock is a pretty typical sock yarn in its feel. In comparison to the Cascade Heritage Sock, it felt downright scratchy. I had never considered it scratchy before, to put it into perspective.

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Before I even finished knitting up the sample yarn, I placed an order. I have a small shop and there’s only so much I can spend bringing in new products. This one will be a new staple in my store. I have brought in a small selection of neutrals and a few colours that customers specifically asked me for so far.

I hope to be able to eventually carry the entire colour array of over 60 shades.

My DH sits next to me on the sofa at night, watching TV while I knit socks. He has always said not to bother knitting him any because “wool feels rough and scratchy”. After knitting the sample pair, I had him check out the socks. He immediately recognized the difference in the way the two brands of yarn felt. The response: raised eyebrows and a “Hmmmm… and that’s wool?” My response to that was, “Oh yeah, baby! That’s wool.”

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I knitted up another pair for the competition in a creamy colour. When these were done. My DH picked them up and squeezed them. I asked him whether he thought I should make up a pair of socks in that yarn for him to test out. You know, just to see whether he could tolerate them. I told him that if he hates them, I won’t push to ever make him socks again. He agreed that he is willing to give them a try.

That, my friends is (IMHO) the best endorsement any sock yarn could ever ask for.

So after the competition is done, I will be delighted to make my DH’s first pair of hand knit socks.

If you haven’t tried this yarn yet, I encourage you to do so. It’s SO YUMMY!