Monday, November 9, 2015

Learning Brioche Knitting

I forgot when writing the last entry that I meant to mention thread holders.

Most of the time, I put the ball of crochet thread into a glazed ceramic bowl, where it can spin around freely.  It keeps the ball off the floor; I'm usually satisfied.  For times when I need the project to be more portable, I just pop it into a plastic food storage bag (the cheap, un-"zippered" kind, though the zipped ones work, too).  These bags have the added benefit of providing a spot to store the WIP away from dust and dirt.

For some reason, though, when I was working on the latest doily, I began to wish I had a "real" thread holder.  (Maybe because the ball is so small, it was moving around more than I'm used to.)

There are some pretty ones for sale, online.  (The commercially available ones are sometimes called "string holders".)  You could also make your own fairly easily with a piece of dowel and a block of wood for the base.  Then there's the "toilet paper" design, where the ball of thread hangs horizontally instead of sitting around a vertical post.  All interesting for future reference, but I wanted one right then, without spending money or bothering with woodworking.  

 Fortunately, one of the pictures I found in my search jogged a memory.  Some crocheters use an empty CD (or DVD) spool to hold thread!  (I might even have done this myself, before, but I'd completely forgotten the trick.)

Makeshift Thread Holder

This particular spool is fairly short, which works fine for small balls, like Cébélia, but for something bigger (Aunt Lydia's, for instance), a taller spool would probably be sturdier.

So... If you haven't seen this before (or if you've forgotten it, like I had), I can recommend this "crochet tool" that you may already have in the house.  It worked really well for me.  I'll try to remember to use it again, next time I'm crocheting thread.

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Here's a progress shot of the current WIP:

Brioche Cowl

I think the colors go together pretty well, and I'm glad to finally be using up that variegated yarn.  I wouldn't have bought that color if it hadn't been in a clearance bin.  Highly variegated, "contrasty" yarn can be so difficult to use in a pleasing way (imho), but this seems to be working out.

I started out planning to knit a modified version of the "Newsprint" pattern, but after reading more project notes and watching more videos, I changed my mind.  The patterns are essentially the same, I think, but they're written differently, and this one has that rolled edge.  Mainly, I chose this one because the designer had posted a video tutorial that I found easy to understand.

I don't think the pattern's in Ravelry's database... I thought about adding it, but the designer is on Ravelry, herself, as is a project entry for her own cowl, so maybe that's a sign that she doesn't want the pattern in the database...

In any case, you can find the pattern for free on her website, Milkshed.  Here's a link directly to the pattern and video for the cowl in question:  Two-Color Brioche Cowl.

I'm still a long way from finished, as you can see in the photo, but I've been pleasantly surprised by brioche knitting.  I really, really like it!

For one thing, it's fun to say.  ;o)
But seriously, I'd gotten the impression that brioche was Tricky and required Extra Concentration.  Intimidating, in other words.  However, so far, it's really not difficult at all.  Once you get into the rhythm, it's easy, and for some reason, I find this particular rhythm pleasant and fairly effortless.  I've had much more trouble messing up the rhythm with seed stitch and linen stitch, by comparison.  (That video tutorial helps a lot, if you're new to brioche-- especially if you knit Continental style.)

Some of my purl stitches (the pink vertical stripes inside the cowl) are a bit wonky, but I think I can even them out when I'm finished.  That said, if you're like me (tend to "row out", purl gauge not a perfect match to your knit gauge), I'd definitely suggest using the yarn you want to be most prominent as color A (i.e. not the color of the rolled edge).  Though brioche is reversible, I'm finding that the front of my cowl (the part facing me as I knit) is neater-looking than the back.  Maybe washing and gentle blocking will make it more even in appearance.

So far, I haven't used lifelines, though they're frequently recommended.  I can see why.  I got off-rhythm at one point.  (Something felt wrong, and I knew it, but I foolishly kept knitting!  Argh!)  I had to tink out at least a third of the round, and it was pretty messy in a couple of spots.  ...So, yes, I'll try to make myself put in a lifeline on the next round, to be on the safe side.  Because as fun as it is to knit, this cowl is a slow-grower, and it would be extremely frustrating to make a mistake that I couldn't figure out how to fix.

I imagine that this is the easiest brioche project ever.  In the round.  Two colors (which makes it easier to see what you're doing, I think).  No twists/cables.  No decreases/increases.  But if this goes well, there's a brioche hat or two I have my eye on... (Check out Katrin Schubert's designs!)