Aw look! One pattern, 364 versions of the MDK New Ancestral Christmas Stocking.

Keep the Border or Ditch It?

Dear Kay,

This will be a five-minute note today. I am going to type as fast as I can.

How are we feeling about the Olympics? Why do they feel so polluted? Have you noticed the posture of elite athletes? It is kind of spectacular. I have concluded that pairs skating is one of the most dangerous activities in the world. And all weekend long, every time I looked at Bob Costas’s runny left eye, I immediately got itchy in my own left eye.

Here’s the thing that has sucked away my attention this past week.

birchsilksilver

This is Birch, the delightful version of the Birch pattern that you begin at the tiny, five-stitch point then keep adding to until you run out of yarn or steam. (It’s on Ravelry, this bottom-up Birch.)

It’s so great because you can screw up the pattern early but have to unravel just a few skinny rows. The original Birch was a killer because you’d cast on 300 stitches and die a little when you found a misnake.

The yarn is Tess’s Designer Yarns Petite Silk, in a sheeny silver that is as light as fluffy air. It is caviar yarn. I unearthed it in Stash Zone B, where I go all too rarely, and it took about four seconds to ditch all other knitting for this stuff.

Here’s where I need your help. Along toward the end of this thing, I got it in my head that I wanted to try a contrasting border. This goes against my fundamental belief that Birch is the most essential, elegantly plain pattern in the world. I adore it. But I had this leetol ball of Blue Heron Mercerized Cotton in the most peacocky colorway, so I did three repeats as I watched a documentary with Hubbo called Let Them Eat Rock, about a Boston band called The Upper Crust. (They dress in 18th-century frocks, breeches, wigs, beauty marks, whatever. They write satirical hard rock songs like “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” “He wears pantaloons./ He likes a French perfume./ He wanna sleep til noon./ He’s his mother’s pride and his father’s joy. . .” etc etc.)

ANYway, this is what came of that:

birchsilkwithborder

The mercerized cotton is ever so slightly heavier than the silk. It doesn’t want to be airy. (PS Note what happens to the Petite Silk after blocking. Before shot is above; after shot below. GAH, so wonderful.)

birchsilkborderblocked

I think it is a problem, not an asset. What think you?

Love,

Ann

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79 Comments

79 Comments

  1. Ditch the border…But if you get a chance to get more of the mercerized cotton, it would look gorgeous as a birch in and of itself!!

    Katie =^..^=

  2. Lose the border. Personally, I am adverse to mixing fibers like silk and cotton. Simplicity is always best.

  3. I agree with Katie. The mercerized cotton would be a beautiful Birch on its own. Right now it’s making the silk look like a large backdrop instead of the main event, and I don’t think that’s the effect you’re going for.

    • Exactly!

    • Agreed!

  4. The color is gorgeous, but I think your instincts are right on this one – I’d lose the colored edge. It adds weight that wasn’t there with the silvery color.

  5. First, thank you SO MUCH for posting this! After you posted the twitter snap and I couldn’t figure out the question, but then there was no follow-up, I feared a knitting maelstrom of some magnitude. I have been haunted! (I have also had a lot f time on my hands.)
    Second, I would stick with the original color, as a solo performer. It looks perfect to me. Elegant and lovely.
    I love the second color as well, but I think it needs it’s own stage.

  6. Ditch the 2nd color. It is elegant and worthy of standing alone without the border. Which is my favorite color in the world, but not on this beautiful piece!

  7. I’m glad I’m not the first to say ditch the second color… If it was mine, the last repeat would be embellished with some silvery beads to give it a little weight.

    • Ooh, now THAT is a brilliant idea – a slight shimmer of beads! Even matte beads would be a nice touch….

      I’m not averse to the idea of a border here, but the peacock blue one isn’t quite right. The color’s just too different, and wow, don’t you want to have that luscious grey yarn be the highlight of this shawl?

      (I also have to admit that I’m not keen on mixing animal and plant fibers like this….)

  8. Have to agree with other commenters, both colors are gorgeous, just not together. Birch is splendiferous on her own!

  9. I’m on the “lose the second colour” bandwagon – although it’s a beautiful colour. But it takes away from the elegant simplicity of the orginal piece.

  10. I’m with Alison on this. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  11. Ann, I think you have a real talent for enhancing a project with a different colored border–my fav example of this is the Citron Grand that you made in chocolate brown with the black border. Prettiest thing EVER!

    But in this case, I think your Birch would look best without the border. Something just doesn’t look right with the different color added.

    Thanks for inspiring me once again!

  12. I’m jumping on the “ditch the border” bandwagon because I think the cotton’s too much of a color difference that it overshadows the dreamy silky gray. If the cotton had been a tone or two darker it would have been magic.

  13. I think both yarns are beautiful, but not together. The first picture says it all!

    • I agree. Both are beautiful on their own. But distracting together.

  14. Ditch the border. I adore Blue Heron yarns, but I think this is too much of a contrast. Even if it was the same yarn as the main piece. It’s gorgeous just the way it is.

  15. Beautiful but not together…

  16. I think you should ditch the border. It overwhelms.

  17. You know the answer or you wouldn’t have asked…ditch the border. Lovely!

  18. No. NO! That border just does not work for me. Love both separately, but not together. (Sounds like they’re getting divorced – we both love you, we just can’t be together.) Maybe a cowl with the blue? Fingerless gloves?

  19. I too say ditch but I like the bead idea. It is beautiful!

  20. I need to see it in context, like on a person before I make a decision/recommendation.

  21. I would leave the border off. The heavier weight and color do nothing for the shawl. Border color is gorgeous, just not as a border for the shawl.

  22. Too heavy, too dark. A contrast border would be lovely, but not so much contrast and a matching fiber/weight would more satisfactory result, I believe.

    However, oh, so pretty.

    • When you said border, I would picture something like a smoky grey, just a shade or two darker than the original…the way it is now, it looks like a bedskirt-frilly and beautiful around the edges, but the center just gets hidden under the mattress :-(

  23. I would ditch the border. The shawl is gorgeous by itself; not so gorgeous with the border in another color. A border in the same color would be lovely, however.

  24. Both are lovely, but I agree that not together. I appreciate the curiosity and the opportunity see them together, though.

  25. Ahh – mixing caviar and cotton, this time just doesn’t work!
    Too heavy, too dark. Texture is wrong.
    I love that color of Tess Designer Yarn silk and how it shimmers and floats.
    If you really want a border, call Melinda and she will send you something absoloutely perfect!

  26. ditch the border – takes away from the beauty of the stitch and the shimmery gray/silver yarn.

    Keep warm in Nashville.

  27. Ditch the border. Too heavy looking, both texture and color.

  28. Ditch! It makes it look heavy and more like a tablecloth or something.

    Ding dong ditch!

  29. I love the color, and I don’t mind the color contrast. What I’m reacting to negatively is the continuation “in pattern”. I think I don’t like where in the repeat the color starts (the demarcation doesn’t quite make sense to me visually). If it were a plain garter border I might have a different reaction.

    • Popping up again to say that Askbew hit the nail on the head. It MIGHT work to have a contrast colour border, but what’s wrong here is continuing the same pattern – it does look odd. I’d still be inclined to go without a contrast border, but Askbew did make me wonder whether it might work if it was a different pattern.

      • yes, I agree with this. The silk by itself is divine. The blue by itself is divine. But by continuing the pattern with the blue, it looks as if you ran out of the silk and needed to finish w/ the blue. A contrasting stitch pattern (even garter) would look more purposeful.

        • Totally agree.

        • Egg-zactly!

          • Yep me too, I was thinking just the cast-off in the lovely other colour.

      • I *love* the contrasting color, but I agree it looks a little awkward to continue in pattern. How about just casting off in the blue? Just a small line of color to jazz it up!

    • I’m loving this idea folks have proposed of the cast-off in the blue. Just the teensiest bit of blue. Shazam!

  30. IMHO, no border. Both colors magnificent, but not together. They fight each other, like my two cats.

  31. I’d get rid of the border. The shawl is beautiful without it.

  32. Ditch the border. It distracts.

    I agree with the bead idea though.

  33. Agree with others. The peacock cotton is gorgeous, but makes the luscious silk look like merely the bearer of the border. Take off the border and let the silk float.

  34. No border – some things should remain “pure.” I like Jeanne’s idea about beads, though.

  35. I came here with the radical idea: lose the border. I see I am a bit late. Yeah, rip it.

  36. Ditch the boarder, it does nothing for the pattern.

  37. Well that is a beautiful shawl. I personally would not add the border but if you like it then go ahead! I agree about the Olympics, I’m enjoying them but there is something…off…like I keep thinking they’re “rigged” somehow. Happy Knitting!

  38. I don’t like the border but if you want a border, I would only make it 1/2 inch wide and it might give you the look you want.

  39. I’m way too late too. The blue should stand alone on another Birch or something. The original piece is gorgeous as it is.

  40. Definitely lose the border. It is gorgeous all on it’s own!!

  41. The border’s gotta go. Had to catch up on Upper Crust–no wonder you lost your judgment a bit under the influence of Le Duc d’Istortion!

  42. Dear Ann,

    I vote to remove the border. It is a beautiful color and of course the knitting is of excellent quality, but I don’t think it adds to the overall beauty of Le Birch.

  43. The border has to go. There is no comparison between those two garments. Hope the blogosphere is a help.

  44. So, my slightly different take is that I don’t mind the colour change, but I think the weight change might get wonky. That said, I’m “rip-averse” so probably a poor judge.

  45. I’m late to the party but the border needs to go! It is too heavy, for one thing. Although I love the color of the cotton, you had this dreamy thing going and then I was hit over the head or tripped or got woken up without enough sleep.

    I’m off to sleep with hopes of recovery by the a.m.

    Love the rest of it!

  46. Nope, no border. It definitely does not work.

  47. Won’t take long to count the votes.

  48. Definitely a problem. Although the two colors work well together, a big band of the cotton doesn’t work well with the silvery yarn. At most, a tiny crocheted border of the cotton might work.

    And I love your typo of “misnake”. Maybe the knitting community might adopt that for a cable gone wrong?

  49. Birch was the very first lace pattern I wanted to knit, back in, what?, 2004? I knew it was beyond me then, so I put off knitting it. Ten years later, my skills are vastly improved and both it and the bottom-up version are in my queue and I STILL haven’t knit a Birch.

    When I do, though – I don’t think I’ll be adding a contrasting border…. The colors are lovely together, but I think your first notion about Birch’s elegance and simplicity points to the fact that it really, truly doesn’t need a border…

  50. ditch the border. why mess with perfection?

  51. Ditch the border. It draws your eye away from the elegance of Madame Birch. She is lovely.

  52. Ditch! You want elegant simplicity here.

  53. How about those Yankees?

    (Couldn’t think of anything to add–except maaaybeee: the border is a beautiful colorway. However, it would limit the outfits you could wear with Birch, cuuuzz those colors don’t go well with everything).

    The decision is ultimately yours, Ann. We’ll love you no matter what.

    Knit on!

    LoveDiane

  54. Hi Love the blog – I am in awe of birch! I am trying to subscribe but I enter my email, hit the subscribe button and nothing happens.help! Pip

  55. That is beautiful beautiful beautiful. But I think I like it better without the border.

  56. I won’t go against the grain here entirely… but I like the way the border looks dip-dyed. I could see a dip dyed smaller version – maybe a fancy table runner? But I don’t know if I’d be able to handle that final point of no return – dip.

  57. Lovely border color and yarn, but not on this project. Please follow your instincts and remove it.

  58. Upper Crust! Wow! Didn’t know there was a documentary. Lord Rockingham’s wife is a friend.

    I’d drop the border, maybe just start again with that color for a birch bit on its own.

    • Lady Rockingham, indeed! We have not made her acquaintance, though Lord Rockingham was a classmate and fellow Phool of our husband. The documentary is by Rodman Flender and we don’t think it was ever distributed very widely. Emaileth if ye wisheth more details.

  59. Agreed – distracting. One or the other.

  60. Ditch it. I like the color by itself and having a slightly heavier yarn on the border could be an advantage, but the contrast between the colors is too abrupt. Maybe if you did that color in a different pattern, it would fit in better.

  61. I was in NYC yesterday and am late to the party. Just my humble opinion…don’t mess with perfection! Birch is simply too elegant all on her own – let her fly solo to show all her glory! Goodbye border!

  62. Love “The Upper Crust”. I didn’t know they were still around. I used to see them play at “The Court Tavern” in New Brunswick. Great live band, singing about things getting caught in “their Ass – cot”

  63. I agree. Lose the border. The blue does nothing for the shawl. A darker shade of the main color wouldn’t be so bad, but I think it’s perfect without the border.

  64. I’ve looked on Ravelry for this yummy shawl in the bottom-up version or which you speak. All I can find is Rowan’s top-down version. Would you be willing to link it when you get a chance? Tx!

  65. Take it off. It doesn’t need a border.