Last weekend, as I was running out the door to go to that cat/wool party, I grabbed my silly little suitcase:
It looks terribly childish, especially next to the red Deer&Doe dress I was wearing, but I realized at the very last second that it contained what I wanted to study in the two hour train trip:
My swatch for the Spring Brioche Shawl! The one I’ve been harping on about for months now.
Luckily, one of my knitter friends travelled on the same train as I and she agreed to sit next to all my childishness and we had a little study group going on. Showing and explaining my swatches made it easy to see what I like and what not. Even though my swatches always look messy and unorganized my friend could see every little change and its significance. A knitter friend is a wonderful gift! She advised me to stick to what I like and not try to force things that do not work.
When I got of the train I was ready for the final stretch.
So last Wednesday I put my suitcase on the table and made a thorough study of all the Brioche colour work that I would actually consider for this shawl:
(I once read this marvellous insult: “I neither have the time nor the crayons to explain it to you.” This is pretty much how I feel treated when the cat “helps” me like this. She has no regard for my work. Nor for my crayons.)
A clear plan emerged. The shawl is going to start out with a wide strip that’s knitted sideways. It will feature diamond shapes through travelling stitches all in one colour. At the top it will have two coloured brioche in stockinette stitch stripes (they are so neat!). Later on stitches will be picked up at one long side for a neck detail in the dark colour and at the other long side for an interesting edge in two colours. (We’re thinking stockinette stitched stripes again because they are so crisp but we have to consider curling too.)
I started the final swatch:
It’s at the bottom of the picture. The light green part has diamond shaped details by ways of travelling stitches. This was going to be the Art Deco part of the shawl, after all.
The two coloured part has stockinette stripes in it.
At the top is the long thin part you’ve seen before, in which I studied various two colour brioche combinations and searched for the right needle size.
But the travelling stitches… they don’t look nice. In fact they look horrible.
I played around a bit more, trying various variables, to get them better. I failed.
But now I don’t think it’s possible to make angular lines with travelling stitches on brioche, at all. They are all more flowing and round than angular. (And I cannot get the travelling stitches to be consistent in tension anyway).
On Ravelry this is the only project I’ve found that looks decently angular and is in travelling stitches, and with all the reclining on the couch I’ve been doing I think I’ve seen every brioche/fishermen’s rib project out there.
Celtish by Joshua Carlson a.k.a. The Bearded Knitter
Wonderful scarf and a free pattern too! But still quite flowy, more “Celtic” than “Art Deco”.
So I switched tactics. Travelling stitches were out. All those beautiful shawls that had inspired me to start this project had to be put out of my mind. I had to go another way. Fly free, mind, fly free.
One avenue that Brioche offers is to use the characteristic striped texture it possesses to make diamond shapes. Make lines with increases and decreases. Use lines to define shapes.
I studied a few examples on Ravelry. The best one is Windmolen jacket by Nancy Merchant:
But I didn’t have the book with me in the city so I couldn’t study it in detail. I tried a bit on my own in the swatch but I quickly saw I couldn’t make it work.
Another thing in the swatch that bugged me was the amount of stripes going on at the left. I don’t need 7 dark stripes. I’m reluctant towards stripes to begin with.
So I bound off a few of the stripes, to see how 5 dark stripes would look. Better. Much better. Pretty soon I bound off all of them, so I could focus on the light green part and study shaping through increasing and decreasing.
That was disastrous. Conclusion: I can’t make diamond shapes that way. And I don’t want to wait till the weekend to study Windmolen Jacket. And this is just another swatch.
So I changed course once more and “settled” for just textured stripes to hint at Art Deco. No diamond shapes this time. Only stripes. And not coloured stripes either, no, just the stripey texture Brioche has all on its own. Especially knit on a small needle and in good round yarn (hello Wollmeise) it can look very crisp.
Design plan: monocoloured stripes and a few multicoloured details…
Looking once more at the Brioche patterns I favourited on Ravelry and the sketches I made on my notepad I decided upon three stitch combinations I wanted to use in this sideways panel:
- a small band of two coloured stockinette stripes. Only 5 dark ones. (remember edge stitch)
- a slightly wider band with dark leaflike shapes on light background, all done with increases and decreases
- a wide band in only light green that has stripes feathering out. (remember edge stitch)
On paper I sketched the final decisions, determined that the increases would make a nice beginning and decided on the final number for cast on.
Then I ripped out all the swatches I’d made. Wound the yarn into balls again and casted on for the real thing:
Beginning of my shawl.
That’s the solid part on the right, with the increases fanning out and the yarn ends laying in the way. In the middle is the colour work, there are already two dark leaves finished and I already messed up how decreases must be done (change around the colour sequence to avoid light green lines in a dark green detail) and the leaves sport between them a rather pronounced light green column of burp-stitches. At the left is the stockinette stitch stripe part. There are 5 dark stripes there and only in the last 4 rows I realized that one light green column ought to be burps not knits.
This is as far as I got with this version of Spring Brioche Shawl.
Apart from the faults I mentioned above the main problem is the combination of a solid part with a two coloured part. Because of how Brioche works I had to work the solid part twice as many times as the coloured part. In between I had to twirl the yarns around each other to anchor the light part to the other part. And I had to push stitches around on needles all the time to work one part on one colour while the other colour was waiting half way the needle. It was driving me nuts. But I was probably willing to put up with it, even as the shawl would grow much wider, if the bridge between the two coloured and mono coloured part hadn’t looked so awful. It looks like I knotted each row together. While wearing mittens. Thrummed mittens.
Family Thrummed Mittens by Catherine Vardy
I put it in its suitcase for the night.
The next day I looked at it with fresh eyes. And I knew what had to be done: the solid colour has to be worked separate from the two coloured part. This means working a wide sideways strip in one colour, then pick up stitches at the long side and then work a second, two coloured, strip alongside it. This strip will have the “leaves” and the five (or three?) dark green bands.
(Adding a sideways knitted strip to any piece of knitwear is usually a thing I avoid but in this case it’s really the best thing to do.)
After that pick up stitches once again for neck detail and edging all around.
So here we are. Spring Brioche Shawl has started! This is two days of knitting:
A sideways knit band of Brioche increasing. Brioche is so stripey already that it doesn’t need anything else, less is indeed more. The top side is smaller than the bottom side. But overall it’s not deep/high at all, not even 15 cm. This doesn’t feel wide enough but I don’t know how Wollmeise brioche will behave when finished. Will it stretch? Will it bounce back?
Needles are small: 2 mm. The yarn is Wollmeise Twin which is a tightly spun, round yarn, and the colourway is Zarte Knopse. To be combined with Spinaci.
I really like how crisp the brioche looks on 2 mm needles! I like the feel of the fabric. For now it’s very bouncy. I already suspect I won’t have enough yarn for the shawl I have planned, this is knitting up yarn so fast. But I won’t mind buying more. It’s a good thing this is a repeatable colourway. But will a 600 grams shawl be usable?
When I’m buying more, I wouldn’t mind buying some extra for a pullover in Wollmeise Brioche either, mind. Probably in Lace since that’s a little bit smaller in gauge. The ease would be amazing. A fitted look without the need for not-breathing. Excellent.
But that’s for later, today I’m knitting my brioche shawl and as we’re travelling between city and cabin a few times I’m working from a little suitcase. I feel so organized!
(Suitcases also works to keep the yarn snobby cat Poekie out of my project)