Knitting with Two Colors.

Back in November, I wrote about two of my favorite new colorwork resources: Alice Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting and Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs. I remember the feeling of contentment I had in placing those two on my bookshelf at home, thinking, “This completes my colorwork library.” That, however, was before Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors appeared. Now, having seen this new book from Schoolhouse Press, gaps appear in my colorwork library where none existed before. Where was the technical detail on preparing for and cutting steeks? The guidance on altering existing colorwork patterns, and designing your own? Ways to incorporate shaping into a colorwork sweater without completely confusing the patterning? The hows, whys, and whether-or-nots of various hems, borders, and necklines? Why, here they are, calmly and clearly explained by these two most experienced colorwork knitters, Swansen and Detjen.

Knitting with Two Colors is neither a book of sweater patterns nor a book of colorwork charts, but truly a book of techniques, a slim paperback volume that is absolutely bursting with information. I can imagine no better companion to Starmore’s Charts for Color Knitting or Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Motifs than Swansen and Detjen’s Knitting with Two Colors. Colorwork enthusiasts, and anyone else who’s curious, should take a look at this book, and take home a copy if there’s an ambitious colorwork project in your future. Find it on the teacart.

Schoolhouse Press.

I have a lot of favorite things in the shop. From time to time, some unsuspecting customer will ask me what my favorite yarn is, and the answer they get is lengthy,¬†a handful of yarns at least, and only represents my favorites of that particular moment. We have so many yarns that I love to knit with, and so many more that I’m aching to work with but have not yet gotten to. The same can be said for books, though I am slightly more focused in that department. I keep my knitting library relatively small, favoring reference types over project-based books, usually. When I look at my own collection, it closely mimics one shelf at the shop in particular: the Schoolhouse Press and Elizabeth Zimmermann shelf.

We devote a shelf to Schoolhouse Press publications partially for organizational reasons, but primarily to honor the output of a particularly outstanding book publisher. Schoolhouse Press was founded by knitting heroine Elizabeth Zimmermann in the mid 1950’s and is now run by Zimmermann’s daughter, Meg Swansen. The Schoolhouse Press shelf is my favorite for a reason: the books that are found there are stuffed with information that liberates knitters from patterns, encourages experimentation, and urges you to be the boss of your own knitting.

And now, we’ve collected all our single patterns from Schoolhouse Press into one binder. Zimmermann’s classic¬†Baby Surprise Jacket can be found there, along with the updated version: the Adult, Baby, and Child Surprise Jacket, and others–the Tomten, the Green Sweater, and now, the Square-Rigged Vest. There have been several developments, you see, since last we spoke of my Square-Rigged Vest. Anne insisted that it become a class, and I agreed to teach it. (It’s half-filled, so if you’re interested, register now!) A phone call to Schoolhouse Press solved the problem of the pattern being out of print–they kindly reprinted it for us, which is why you’ll now find it in the Schoolhouse Press pattern binder. With every new publication, and kindnesses such as these, Schoolhouse Press gives us another reason to appreciate and admire them. Come by the shop to join us in our admiration, and I’ll gladly point you towards my favorite shelf in the shop.

Hello, Briggs and Little Sport.

Recently I completed a project that had been stuffed in the bottom of a basket for about a year. I’m not a monogamous knitter, but lingering unfinished projects do bother me a bit. Every once in a while, I’d remember this particular project, a half-completed colorwork vest, and worry about it a little. Would I ever finish it? Why did I put it down again? There must have been something intimidating ahead in the pattern, something scary enough that I’d hide the whole thing away and spend a year knitting other things. When I pulled out the pattern, an out-of-print Meg Swansen gem called the Square-Rigged Vest, it was immediately clear why I had stopped when I did. After casting on at the bottom edge and knitting happily round and round in the color pattern, I’d reached the armpit, where I’d have to plan for steeks. I’ve cut my knitting before, but something about the little bit of math and boldness required for this next step tripped me up. Coming back to it a year later, I was pleased to find myself excited rather than nervous at the prospect of steeking, and in a matter of weeks the whole project was done.

The yarn is Briggs and Little Sport, an unsung hero of a yarn. A rustic, single ply, 100% wool yarn, Briggs and Little Sport is quite affordable, comes in an astonishing array of colors, and has a sticky quality to it–all of which make it perfectly suited to stranded colorwork knitting. Once knit, the stitches cling to each other, which is handy for steeking, since it takes some serious pulling and stretching for the cut stitches to unravel.

Briggs and Little Sport is often passed over, I think, because it isn’t soft to the touch. It took some time to get used to it, but soon my fingers were accustomed to the texture of the yarn and enjoying the process. I was promised by those who had knit with it before that it would soften with washing and I can’t tell you how right they were. It’s not cashmere or anything, but then, that’s exactly what I love about this classic, wooly yarn.

If you’re considering a colorwork project, Briggs and Little Sport is certainly worth your attention, but I’ve seen it used successfully in other ways as well. Marion and several of her students have made February Lady Sweaters holding the Briggs and Little doubled to obtain a worsted-weight gauge. When I searched for the yarn on Ravelry, I found that many knitters are using it for socks, shawls, mittens, and hats, as well as sweaters. Come by the shop to visit this unsung hero and consider how you might make use of it. See you soon!