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Blocking Aurora

Due to the fluffy nature of brioche stitch, Aurora is not straight-edged when it comes off the needles.  In fact, the increases and decreases used to create the points at the start and finish also make it look odd.  The i-cord edging helps create a bit of structure, but Aurora definitely needs to be blocked!

Blocking works wonders to open up the fabric and create a much more structured shape (though the brioche means that it will always be a little irregular).

I found that blocking wires worked wonders and allowed me to get exactly the shape I wanted to block Aurora to.  Conveniently enough, these even slipped beautifully into the hollow core of the i-cord edging, making them super easy to use.

How I blocked my two Aurora shawls

First, I soaked the shawl in cold water with a few drops of wool soak for about 20 minutes and squeezed it gently in a towel to get rid of excess moisture.

Then I lay it out into the approximate shape I wanted on the blocking mats.  (You’ll see from the photos that it’s my custom to put towels on top of the blocking mats).

I then threaded short blocking wires through the edges relating to the points of the shawl and down both sides.

I started by pinning out the very points to get the length I wanted and the shape I wanted for the pointed parts at both ends.  Then I pinned out the width for the main body of the shawl.  Here’s what the shape looked like for both shawls (excuse the lighting and colours – indoor blocking really isn’t designed for flattering photos of your knitting!)  You’ll see the elongated point option on the two-colour shawl and how it differs from the straight edge option in the three-colour shawl.

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Once I had the shape, I threaded short blocking wires through the garter sections next to each of the points to create a straighter line.  Especially with the decrease end, it won’t lie fully straight and it’s a trade-off between a straight line and how bunched the brioche gets, but you can see the effect I went for in the photos below.

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At this point, I checked that the width of the shawl along the straight section was fairly even the whole way down and I wasn’t making part of it wider than any other point.  I also played around gently with the tension to get the overall effect I wanted.

Right at the end, I checked the intersection of the points with the straight edge to ensure that I wasn’t creating any strange jagged shapes.  You’ll see how I handled this in the photo below.

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Then I waited impatiently for it to dry!  Because that’s always the frustrating part of blocking (I can’t wait to wear my newly finished items).

Getting gauge for Aurora

Let’s start with the good news: gauge isn’t critical for Aurora.  If you want to get started and see if you’re happy with the fabric you’re getting and adjust needles in the early stages of knitting, this is an option.  The pattern contains notes on how to weigh yarn as you go to ensure that you’ll have enough left to finish the pattern and support this approach.

However, if you do want to get gauge, here’s how I’d recommend swatching for Aurora.

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Use the i-cord cast on as per the pattern instructions.  Knit so you have 30 stitches to pick up along the i-cord edge before unravelling the provisional cast on.  With the i-cord edging on both sides, you’ll have a total of 36 stitches for your swatch.

Go to the brioche increase section and follow rows SU1-SU6 in the pattern.  This doesn’t actually get to the increase rows, so you’re creating a straight brioche section in two colour brioche.  After knitting these rows once, continue knitting rows SU3-SU6 to continue producing a straight brioche section.  I would repeat SU3-SU6 12 more times after the first time you knit SU1-SU6.

Once you’re done with that, you’re going to skip ahead to the bind off section in the pattern and use the i-cord bind off instructions that are written there.  You should be on the right side, but use whatever colour suits you – don’t worry about the colour in the bind off section on the pattern.  Given it’s a swatch, it’s up to you whether or not you can be bothered kitchener stitching the i-cord together (it could help improve the quality of your measurement a bit) or simply bind these stitches off.

After getting your swatch off the needles, you need to soak and block it.  I’d pin it out fairly hard like you would with the finished shawl and let it dry completely.  Once it’s dry, unpin it and lay it on a flat surface to measure it.  The blocking is important, because my gauge measurements are taken after I blocked my shawl under tension and opened the fabric up – it made a huge change to the drape of the finished item.

I have two gauge sets below, because I used different yarn bases for the two colour and three colour shawl.  These are both measured across 10cm.

Brioche is hard to measure, because it’s such a fluffy and malleable stitch.  This is why both the pattern and the swatch have an i-cord edging – to help it hold its shape.  I laid it out on a flat surface, smoothed it out, and let it lay naturally and I tried not to rearrange it as I measured.  I found I could easily change the results by scrunching the fabric up or pushing it out very slightly without apparently distorting it.  I have done my utmost to get good measurements!  The swatch should be big enough to let you measure from the middle of the swatch with a bit of room to spare on either side stitch and row-wise.

How to count stitches and rows in the swatch

To count the stitches, you want to count the “v” rows created by the brioche knit stitches in the main colour and the other colour purl bumps between them.  In the photo above, the brioche knit stitches in the dark colour count as 1 stitch and the space between them in the turquoise count as 1 stitch.

To count the rows, you want to count each “v” created by the brioche knit stitch as a row.  As the pattern is written, you’ll actually only create 2 of these each time you work SU3-SU6.  This is because each row of brioche is worked twice, once in each colour.  So that’s why it feels like you’ve worked way more rows than you see when counting your gauge – each row works only half the stitches.

Two-colour

Across 10cm, I had 20 stitches and 21 rows in two-colour straight brioche stitch after blocking hard.

Three-colour

Across 10cm, I had 22 stitches and 19 rows in three colour straight brioche stitch after blocking hard.

The pattern isn’t sensitive, has tips about weighing and brioche is hard to measure; so if you are getting anywhere between 18-22 rows and 19-23 stitches, I would recommend getting started with those needles and keeping an eye on weight to track yarn usage!

Star Trails

I am very pleased to announce that my second pattern, Star Trails, is live on Ravelry.

Star Trails is an asymmetrical triangle shawl which is easy to wear and relaxing to knit.  The lace pattern is easier to knit than it appears and is ideal for beginner lace knitters who are looking to move beyond eyelet knitting.

For all the information on Star Trails, click here to see it on Ravelry.

If you’re coming to Unwind this weekend, there will be printed copies of the pattern available for purchase from the Dark Harbour Yarn stall as this is made in Nikki’s beautiful yarn.

I hope you enjoy knitting this pattern as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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Midwinter Sky – Errata

Unfortunately, even with the best will in the world, errata often slip into a pattern.

One of my lovely customers drew my attention to a couple of errors in the written instructions for the lace repeat section of Midwinter Sky.

These are as follows:

In the lace repeat section, all the “Rep from * to last of lace st” are 1 st short. These should be as follows:
R1: Rep from * to last 3 lace st
R3: Rep from * to last 4 lace st
R5: Rep from * to last 5 lace st
R7: Rep from * to last 6 lace st
R9: Rep from * to last 7 lace st (please note, another correction for R9 is below)
R11: Rep from * to last 8 lace st

R9 also had a stitch missing in the written instructions and should read:

R9: yo, k1, k2tog, yo, k1, k2tog, yo, *(k1, yo, ssk) twice, (k1, k2tog, yo) twice, rep from * to last 7 lace st, (k1, yo, ssk) twice, k1, yo

Edging table – R13, middle column, should read “rep from * to 7 st before second m”.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.  And please get in touch with me if you have any questions, concerns or feedback about the pattern.

Carrying yarn in kfbf stitch

I don’t know about you, but I hate weaving in ends.  If I can avoid doing it, I prefer to, so I love patterns where I can carry my yarn with me as I work rather than breaking it.

In my pattern, Star Trails, the colours can be carried throughout most of the work, with the contrast colour being carried through the whole shawl and never broken until the very end.

This is done in the kfbf stitch, which is used at the start of right side rows as the main increase.

So here’s a few instructions and some pictures to help explain how I use this technique.

How to carry the yarn

When knitting the kfbf stitch, start by knitting in the front of the stitch as usual without removing the stitch from the left needle.  Insert the tip of the right needle into the back of the same stitch on the left needle as you usually would to work the second part of the stitch.  You’re now at the point as per the photo below where you need to make a few slight adjustments to carry the yarn.

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Take the colour you want to carry (in this case, the lighter colour yarn) and move it so that it is lying over the working yarn that you are using.  I do this by lifting the yarn over from left to right so that it is on top of the working yarn.  You can see how this looks in the photo below.

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Knit into the back of the stitch as you usually would, again without removing the stitch from the left needle.  The yarn that is being carried will be ‘caught’ in this stitch.

Now at this point, the yarn has been caught and you could finish off the kfbf stitch as per usual without any further work on yarn carrying.  However, I found I could get a much neater finish with a few more simple steps.

Insert the needle into the front of the same stitch to work the last part of the kfbf stitch.  Cross the colour being carried over your working yarn again, this time from right to left.  This shown in the picture below.

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Work the final stitch in the kfbf stitch as usual and lift the stitch off the left needle.  After working the kfbf stitch, tug and stretch the edge (for Star Trails this is a selvedge) of the shawl where the yarn is being carried as you would when blocking.  This ensures the yarn is being carried loosely enough that it will not affect the tension in the shawl and distort the shape while blocking.

I find that the stretching to ensure there is enough yarn being carried works best if repeated a couple of times.  After working the kfbf stitch, I work a few more stitches along the row (five or six) and then stretch the increase edge of my work.

When I get to the point where I am switching the colour I work with (so, for example, I have been carrying the contrast colour up the side of my work and I am now about to start knitting with it again), I also repeat the stretching along the full area where the colour was being carried before I start working with that colour and again after working the first two or three stitches in that colour.  Doing this doesn’t take long and it ensures that I have a nice edge to work with when blocking.

Things to watch out for when using this technique

In my pattern, the contrast colour yarn is carried throughout the whole shawl.  But the main colour is broken before the lace panel and rejoined after the lace panel.  Why did I do this?

Because I found that if I carried the yarn loosely enough that it didn’t distort the selvedge that it was slightly visible in some of the lace.  Given the trade off between the wrong colour being visible (only just – I know this wouldn’t bother some knitters) and a tight edge, I decided that breaking the yarn was the best approach.

These results will vary depending on the pattern, yarn, knitting style and subjective taste of the knitter.  But when using this technique, I think it’s best to observe closely – particularly before working with the yarn that’s being carried again – as you always have the choice to break it and rejoin if this technique isn’t suiting your taste.

Happy knitting and I hope you enjoy both this technique and this pattern.  Any questions about this technique?  Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me!