Hello, Plant Fiber.

Last week, we welcomed a brand new Isager yarn to the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. Say hello to Isager Plant Fiber.

Plant Fiber is composed entirely of plant fibers, as you might have guessed: 70% ramie, 15% bamboo, and 15% hemp. It comes in 165-yard, 50 gram balls, has a nice shiny quality, and is available in 12 colors. As is typical for Isager yarns, the color palette is quite subdued, with a few standout colorways that pop out when combined with the others. These colors beg to be paired up.

We haven’t yet worked up a Plant Fiber swatch or sample, but I’ll be sure to post here when we do. I’m so curious to see how it knits up! Marianne Isager has designed two summer tops that use Plant Fiber, the patterns for which are tucked in with the yarn on the teacart.

Take a look, and consider Isager Plant Fiber for your warm-weather knitting projects.

More works in progress.

About a month ago, I posted pictures of two of the works in progress that hang around the shop. Anne and I always have at least two samples for the shop on the needles–one on her needles and one on mine. Because the urge to talk about what we make and what we see others making is strong, we find ourselves talking about these projects at many points throughout the day. When the process is enjoyable, we’ll tell anyone who will listen about how soft the yarn is, how incredible the color. Since I last brought this conversation to the blog, two new works in progress have sprung up.

I’m working on a simple drop stitch scarf with the new Malabrigo Arroyo. This pattern is a particularly good choice for variegated yarns like this, as the elongated stitches highlight a stretch of color in the yarn that would otherwise be distributed differently along the row. We’re used to variegated yarns striping and pooling in stockinette and other texture patterns, but the drop stitch scarf pools differently, purposefully. 
Within three rows, I had the pattern memorized, and since then, it feels like it’s been knitting itself. 
Anne is also working on a scarf, but hers is made from the Swans Island Organic Merino in the fingering weight. The pattern came from our perpetual calendar, 365 Knitting Stitches a Year, a nice resource to turn to when you intend to make a scarf and don’t intend to use a pattern. Flip through the calendar, pick an attractive stitch pattern, cast on an appropriate number of stitches for said pattern, and go until you run out of yarn. A formula for scarf success.
This one will look particularly lovely when it’s blocked, I imagine. I can’t wait to see it. In the meantime, come by the shop to see these two very special yarns in action, and listen to us go on about them. See you soon!

Hello, String Theory Selku.

On Tuesday, we got a box from String Theory, which is always cause for excitement. This box in particular was full of Selku, a 3-ply sport-weight blend of silk and merino wool. Selku is a yarn that I’ve written about before, which we’ve only stocked in a small handful of colors up until this week. This shipment brought five new colors of Selku, rounding out our collection in a truly lovely way.

Though I haven’t had a chance to work with Selku yet, I have stalked it enough on Ravelry to know that it’s a perfect choice for a special scarf or shawl. The weight and shine of the silk paired with the elasticity of merino should make for beautiful stitch definition and an elegant drape. Anne wants to use Selku to make the cover sweater from Connie Chang Chinchio’s Textured Stitches. Yes, our minds are buzzing, but we’ve yet to cast on. What would you make from this stunning stuff?

Come by the shop to ooh and ahh, to pet the yarn and consider the possibilities. See you soon!

Hello, Malabrigo Arroyo.

I’ve written before about the popularity of Malabrigo yarns. Known for their softness and many other fine qualities, Malabrigo yarns are always welcomed with great excitement. This week, in the midst of the busiest shopping days we’ve seen all year, we were treated to something really special: the arrival of a new Malabrigo yarn.

Arroyo, a sport-weight washable merino, has been on order for the better part of the past year, so Anne and I were nothing short of thrilled to finally see it in person. We weren’t alone in our excitement, either. There are those among us who memorize Malabrigo colorways, can identify Archangel, Arco Iris, or Indiecita from only a cursory glance. Arroyo comes in those memorable colors and 17 others, many of which have never before been seen at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. Here are a few of them, ready to be newly memorized.

Immediately, of course, I began thinking of socks. Could I make socks with Arroyo, and could I do it in one 335 yard skein alone? What size needle would make a strong enough fabric for socks, and what stitch pattern would ensure that it remained stretchy? You won’t be surprised to know that I took a skein home on Saturday afternoon, the better to answer such questions in the future. All projects have been set aside in order to experiment with Arroyo. I’ll be sure to let you know what I come up with. Happy holidays, everyone, I’ll see you at the shop!

String Theory. Again.

Anne and I were so completely sold on String Theory that it was less than a week between our first and second orders. Their Caper Sock, Bluestocking, and Merino DK yarns have been capturing the attention of many since they arrived at the shop two weeks ago. During those two weeks, however, Anne became fixated on another String Theory yarn: Selku, a 3-ply sport-weight blend of silk and merino wool. Though it’s not technically available for wholesale, we found ourselves making repeat visits to the String Theory website to pick out colors for a yarn that we weren’t even sure we could stock. Soon, Anne gave them a call and asked “pretty please,” which is, in short, how we wound up with a box full of Selku on Friday.

Like Jitterbug, the Selku came to us in open, untwisted hanks.

Anne and I twisted them up, tucked them into a basket, and made room for them on the teacart, where you’ll find them now.

The teacart has become, for the moment, a small fiber shrine to Maine, with two yarns each from Swans Island and String Theory, and a few copies of Coastal Knits placed strategically nearby. Come by to worship at said shrine, pet these and other new yarns, and daydream about your next project. See you at 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!

Cascade Ultra Pima.

As new yarns go, Cascade Ultra Pima is not the newest. We got our first few bags of it several months ago now. However, this is such a popular yarn that most of the colors we ordered back then have been backordered until recently. It’s only this week that we’ve begun to see the full range of colors.

Cascade Ultra Pima is a 100% cotton yarn in a dk weight, smooth and slightly shiny. It’s also very affordable, at $9.50 per 220 yard skein. Several knitters have wandered into the shop lately hoping to make lightweight cotton tees–this yarn would be a perfect choice for such an endeavor. Though it’s also right for a lace scarf, or a simple summer cardigan for cool evenings… Ultra Pima has a lot of potential this time of year. Look for it on the cotton tree, and consider it for your warm weather knitting.

Cascade 220 Superwash Sport.

********* As of December 15th, 2015, we no longer have any Cascade 220 Superwash Sport in stock. *********
Allow me to introduce you to my favorite yarn of the moment. Simple, sturdy, yet soft, and suitable for most any project: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport. A few weeks ago, we had only a handful of colors. I’d just begun a pair of socks in a light heathered gray when I overheard Anne on the phone, saying, “Yes, I’d like a bag of every color. Except gray.” Every color?
Oh yes. Every color. To me, this yarn suggests complicated fair isle sweaters, striped socks, many-colored hats and mittens… first, though, I had to finish my gray socks.

 

The completion of these socks brings mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s a success to have finished a pair of socks, where before I’ve been plagued by second sock syndrome. On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore that they are simply too big. Looks are deceiving: the socks appear to be the right size, yet they lack the negative ease that makes socks fit snugly, and so they feel oddly loose. I thought I’d try to shrink them in the wash, because, hey, it’s machine washable yarn, but it’s probably not machine dry-able. Bad news for my socks, good news for consumers of Cascade 220 Superwash Sport: the socks emerged from the dryer in exactly the same state they had entered it. This yarn is superwash, indeed.
Back to daydreaming about colorwork, then. Also, trying my hand at fingering-weight socks, which I’ll show off here soon…