Rainforest Mini Gale

A size 2T poncho knit in a heathered dark teal.

Confession time: While I understand that creating a project holding yarn double, triple or quadruple is not economical, I can’t help but love the squishiness of the fabric that is created using the technique. So as I opened my stash hatbox and saw 7 skeins of Knit Picks Stroll, yarn that was originally intended to make myself a sweater, I couldn’t help but wonder at how soft the dense fabric would be if I held enough strands to work the yarn at an Aran weight.

One of the major downsides of holding yarn multiple is that you’re dividing the amount of yardage you have to work with. For example, if I have a skein of yarn with 420 yards and I opt to use it double-stranded in a project, I really only have 210 yards of that yarn to work with. This means that instead of having 1617 yards of Stroll to work with, I would only have about 400 if I were to hold enough ends (4 total) to bump the weight up to Aran. Not a huge problem when you factor in all the little people in my life that I’ve been knitting for lately (although I’ll be honest and say there was a moment where my husband was hoping to get a shawl). After swatching, I decided to make a Mini Gale and got ready to cast on.

Though I admit that many of my projects lately have been larger ones, Mini Gale few off my needles in a matter of days. The pattern was the perfect combination of interestingly mindless and fast, it felt really good to finish it. Other than holding the yarn quadruple, no modifications were made to the pattern (unusual for me I know!).

As I mentioned, holding multiple strands of yarn together is not the most economical way to produce a knit fabric. That being said, it’s a really fun way to use up yarn in your stash because you’re no longer limited to the original weight of the yarn. Holding yarn multiple is also a fun way to create a marled look! If you’ve never held yarn multiple before, I’ve put together a cheat sheet to help you get started (below). Otherwise, hold the yarn together as if it were a single strand and knit as usual.

Starting strandFingeringDK/SportWorstedBulkySuper Bulky
Lace2 strands4 strands8 strands16 strands32 strands
Fingeringx2 strands4 strands8 strands16 strands
DK/Sportxx2 strands4 strands8 strands
Worstedxxx2 strands4 strands
Bulkyxxxx2 strands
Note: These numbers are a rough approximation, make sure to swatch!

You can also combine different weights to achieve a thicker gauge. For example, you may opt to hold 2 strands of fingering weight with 1 strand of DK/Sport in order to achieve a Worsted weight yarn.

Despite having my eye set on specific projects for the skeins in my stash, my eyes are often looking at single skeins and wondering what other color combinations I could create by holding multiple strands together. Some designers even write patterns that encourage you to do this on purpose (ie: Marley, Simplest Baby Blanket)!

Red Feather Spice

Since before we even started dating, I’ve been knitting for my husband. In fact, by the time we started dating I think I had already made him three pairs of socks and a scarf. One of his favorite stories to tell is how we went into the movie theater to watch The Joker and came out with a half-finished sock (I can knit without looking, but I can’t turn a heel without looking!). In my defense, we were really good friends before we started dating and he’s from an area of New Zealand where it doesn’t really get cold. His first pair of handknit socks were such a game-changer that he literally asked when he could get a second pair as soon as he had them on his feet. He took to my handknits so enthusiastically that for our first holiday season together, I knit him a sweater. And then I knit him another one a few months later, and another one a few months after that.

I’ve almost knit sweaters for the men (ok one man) in my life before. In fact, I was working on an octopus embrace sweater when the sweater curse struck and I realized that the work needed to create the handknit wasn’t worth the relationship! After that, I refused to knit anything larger than a sock (just because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of stitches!) for my partners. My husband, who at this point now has 4 handknit sweaters to his name from me, is the first man I have ever given a sweater to. He’s also 100% worthy of each of them and is always willing to oo and aww when I show him progress updates.

Knowing that we had a winter baby on the way, I wanted to make him something particularly cozy this year (after all, there would be a time that he would have to take the dog out on his own). There are about 8-10 sweaters that I’ve favorited over the last few months because I thought he would like them, so I don’t have a good reason for choosing to make a Spice Cardigan other than the fact that my local yarn shop‘s birthday was coming up (they had a giveaway bag if you spent over x amount, which is so easy to do with sweater quantities) and I have been wanting to work with Spincycle Yarns for a while. In fact, it wasn’t until after I purchased both the pattern and the yarn (I snagged some Forge by Hudson + West Co to go with the Spincycle) that I realized the pattern required the cardigan to be steeked. But we’ll get to that in a little bit.

When it comes to sweater construction, I don’t have strong feelings about top-down, bottom-up, or pieces that require seaming. I usually pick a sweater pattern by the design itself and then throw myself into it. Having said that, I’ve never knit the sleeves of a sweater before knitting the body of a sweater. This is not an uncommon technique, many knitters even do it so that they can use the sleeve as a gauge swatch. Andrea Mowry actually wrote Spice in such a way that you knit the sleeves before you knit the body of the sweater. True, it’s easy enough to knit the body of this sweater first and then set it aside for the sleeves, but it was sort of satisfying to have “completed” two parts of the sweater before even casting on for the body.

The colorwork stitches being every other stitch is nice as well, the yarn flew between my fingers as opposed to requiring that I slowed down to pick up a float from time to time.

I suppose this brings me to steeking, that thing I’ve successfully avoided my entire knitting career. Until this sweater. After attempting a few stitches of the crochet reinforcement, I ended up deciding to use the straight stitch on my sewing machine instead. Though nerve-wracking, it was easier than I thought it would be to sew through the knit fabric. Next, I picked up the stitches for the collar based on a suggestion from Tincanknits and tried to knit a row (and put off cutting the fabric a little longer). This method result in a cramped working space, so I ended grabbing my scissors and spending two minutes cutting the knit fabric before continuing the collar.

Now that I have a steeked project under my belt, I can say that it’s honestly not that bad. I don’t see myself seeking out projects just to steek, but I don’t see myself actively avoiding them either. All in all, I would (and probably will) steek again.

An orange cardigan with a shawl collar and five toggle buttons laid flat.

Wide Ridged & Wrapped Shawl

13 mini skeins of fingering weight yarn creating a rainbow gradient from pink to purple.

Every season has elements about them that are beautiful and worth looking forward to, as well as elements that challenge you. Personally, I don’t have a strong preference for summer over winter or fall over spring. In fact, I have specific activities that I look forward to enjoying each season that help me combat the elements that challenge me.

That being said, instead of seasons giving me a harder time I find that there are specific months that I look forward to a lot less than others. For example, where we live, April is an ugly month. The snow is more or less melted (but you can’t rule out a random storm) and everything looks (and is) dirty. Trash and dog poop that was neglected during the winter months suddenly makes an appearance. Hiking trails are half mud half ice, meaning that you spend most of your time hiking trying to negotiate how many times you need to take your microspikes on and off. Usually, if I can get through April I can coast through the remainder of mud season (yes it’s a season all its own here) and on to enjoying summer.

November, despite Thanksgiving and the break that tends to come with it, is my other pain month. Similar to April, it’s a dreary month often marked by freezing rain and naked trees. Getting outside becomes a game of “do I have enough waterproof layers to stay warm” and the world around you turns grey while it waits to be blanketed in the first snow of the year.

A large rectangular shawl knit in 13 different colors creating a rainbow gradient from bright pink to purple laid flat on a blue towel to dry.

To combat the gray weather, I found myself knitting a wide version of the Ridged and Wrapped Shawl by Stephanie Shiman out of a 13 mini-skein pack of Mary Ann by Wonderland Yarns. Though the stitch pattern is simple, transitioning from red to greens to blues to purples kept the project interesting. This project saw me through this year’s Great British Bake-off competition, some light reading, and the first couple of episodes of the Wheel of Time (which we’re enjoying, even though it differs from the books).

Though I’ve worked with wonderland yarns before, I always find myself drawn to the vibrancy of their colors. True, the Mystery & Danger pack boasts loud and bright colors, but even their pastel collections are rich and beautiful.

The hardest thing about this project, for me, was deciding where to “randomly” place ridges. How far apart was too far and am I accidentally creating too much of a repeating pattern were the two most common questions going through my head throughout the entire process. Also, it took me a long time to work through this shawl because, though worth it, it’s a bit of a marathon. I highly recommend setting goals (I’m going to knit this many skeins this week), and/or having other projects (in my case sewing) to pick up when you need a break.

As with any long project, I tend to develop a wandering eye, which means that the start-itis now that it’s complete is real! I have so many knitting (Spice, Mini Gale, Sorrel Mini, Peperomia Mini, Birds of a Feather, and Camera Mits to name a few) and sewing (at least two pairs of PJ pants!, Josephine Sweatshirt, a button-down…) projects lined up that I haven’t decided where to start.

Scrunched up rectangular shawl of 13 colors creating a rainbow gradient from bright pink to purple.

Euphorbia and Mince Pie Fading Lines

A young woman wearing a purple cardigan with a colorful collar. The collar transitions smoothly from the same purple as the cardigan to orange to teal.

Sometimes when you cast on a project that you’re excited about, it takes forever to come together. No matter how many rows that you knit and how much time you spend knitting them, the project never seems to progress. In fact, taking the time to measure your project seems to reinforce the fact that you are indeed in a knitting black hole until you suddenly measure and discover that you’ve managed to work past your desired amount. The Fading Lines Cardigan by Joji Locatelli was not one of these projects.

Perhaps it was the fact that I just bound off a lace shawl (more on that to come!). Perhaps it was working with Mary Ann from Wonderland Yarns, a yarn that slid over my needles like a dream, or the understanding that I had a test knit that needed to be worked up and passed along to them. Perhaps it was participating in Joji’s Fall KAL. Honestly it could have been a number of things or the combination of them all together, but in less than two weeks I was binding off the second sleeve and prepping to pick up stitches for the gradient collar. From casting on to binding off, I started and ended this project excited to wear the finished cardigan and never entered the “when will it be done” phase.

Fading Lines is worked top down with a small amount of waist shaping. Once the body is complete, the arm stitches are then removed from stitch holders and worked in the round. The final piece of the sweater, the collar, is created by picking up stitches (probably the slowest and most mundane part of the entire project — but completely worth it!) and knitting with a gradient yarn.

Skeins of Curiouser (teal), Mince Pie (purple), or Tulgey Wood (brown) in Mary Ann from Wonderland Yarns laying to the right of two skeins of Blossom in colorway Euphoria (gradient that transitions from teal to purple).

Normally, I’m not a purple person, but as I poured over the different gradients found in Wonderland Yarn’s Blossom I couldn’t help but be drawn to the colorway Euphoria. Euphoria, which fades from purple to yellow to teal (or the reverse depending on how the yarn is caked), begged to be turned into something that would bring a pop of color to my winter wardrobe. As I mentioned in my first Joji KAL 2021 post, the project was chosen after the skein of blossom was chosen, and then the color to knit the body of the sweater in was chosen. The amazing team at Wonderland Yarns paired three choices with Euphoria for me to choose from: Curiouser (teal), Mince Pie (purple), or Tulgey Wood (brown)

My go-to color should have been Curiouser, but for some reason it was the only color combination that I nixed off the bat. From there, I posted the photo to my Instagram story and asked you for help: Mince Pie or Tulgey Wood? All the while hemming and hawing over it myself, wondering if I would end up making the same decision as the winning vote. In the end, it was very close. Mince Pie won by three votes and seconds before learning the victor I had decided that I too was leaning more towards having a purple sweater over having a brown one with a pop of color.

The deciding reason is the same one that will have me reaching for this cardigan all winter: it’s so easy to wear a lot of brown and black. Sure, I can wear a black top underneath the cardigan, but this version of Fading Lines will wrap me in color in a way that the Tulgey Wood wouldn’t have been able to. So thank you to everyone who voted for Mince Pie, but even more to those who took the time to private message me the reminder that winter is already filled with beautiful neutrals.

Modifications were made to the pattern, but mostly in the form of length: I shortened the overall cardigan length by three inches and increased the sleeve garter rows to match the bottom. The other modification I made was working 17 garter rows on the collar instead of 16 before the final four rows were worked. The main motivation for this was to ensure that all of the colors appeared in my collar, but honestly I wish I had worked closer to 20 garter rows instead (I chickened out due to a fear of the collar being too large. It’s not, it could have been bigger!).

The Comfort Zone in BSF Techno

A young woman standing with her arms crossed wearing a plum handknit poncho.

Everyone reaches for different projects – or crafts – for different reasons. While working on my Masters in Library Science, I knit almost exclusively socks, in fact I was cranking out almost a pair per week due to the train commute and the long lectures. In the dead of winter, I find myself reaching for colors that I don’t find often in the winter wonderland outside my door. For whatever reason, summer often has me reaching for thicker wools and larger projects. Despite the hot June that summer brought, the cooler July weather had me dreaming of being wrapped in something warm and fuzzy. Add that to procrastinating a lace shawl I’ve been slowly working on for months (more on that soon, I promise!), and the Comfort Zone poncho by Espace Tricot found its way off my queue and onto my needles. Especially as we transition back to working from our cool (yes even in winter) offices.

Confession time: I’ve never actually knit with Blue Sky Fibers’ Techno before. There isn’t really a good reason for this outside of “I don’t work with bulky or single ply yarns frequently”. That being said, when deciding to cast on the Comfort Zone, I found myself thinking about how warm and snuggly the fabric Techno would create. Plus, being a Blue Sky Maker for a little bit longer means that it’s the perfect time to try new yarn.

Actually knitting with Techno is so much fun, possibly because of the ease in which new strands spit slice together and possibly because it feels like you’re knitting from a cloud. Though fuzzy in nature, Techno does not tickle my nose the way some alpaca yarns do and I don’t feel the need to reach for a lint roller after knitting on my lunch break.

A young woman standing sideways to the camera holding the bottom edge of her plum poncho away from her body.

The Comfort Zone knit up both faster and slower than I thought it would, whether that’s because I anticipate thicker yarns knitting up quicker or not is a toss up. In order to make something that provides a little more movement in the arms, I modified the sizing of the pattern a little bit. Knowing that alpaca and alpaca blends tend to create a heavy drapey fabric, I cast on for size 1 and knit until the ribbing was 4 inches (instead of 6). Then, I increased up to the size 2 stitch count (104 to be exact), which is 4 rows longer than the plan rows following the increases call for. Knowing that the final ribbing would add 5 inches, I measured my poncho with a goal of having around 12 inches and discovering that I had 14. I started the bottom ribbing without knitting any extra rows.

Now that the Comfort Zone is off my needles, I find myself wondering what else I can add to my wardrobe in Techno (Tamarack Blanket Scarf perhaps? Or a sweatshirt style sweater in Club Grey?). The bloom induced by wet blocking has created this feeling of wool armor that’s designed to keep me safe from the cold. Though I’m not one to rush the summer months away, I do find myself looking longingly at the Comfort Zone each time I enter my closet. Is it my fault that I’m happy with the fabric and the fit?