Dateline: Bainbridge Island, Washington, Saturday, April 28, 2018.
I write this from the woods of Bainbridge Island, off the coast near Seattle, Washington. I’m at an annual retreat called Knitting with Company, a joint venture from two of knitwear’s most refined designers and thinkers, Catherine Lowe and Julie Hoover. To elevate the tone even further, the event is sponsored by the pride of Bainbridge Island, Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, one of the most magical yarn shops in the world.
I’m having a wonderful time.
Approximately 50 of the most laid-back-yet-gung-ho, curious and friendly knitters are surrounding Catherine and Julie, and Melanie Falick and me, who are here as speakers, with the love of knitting and making by hand. I’m running into friends from Instagram and from Ye Olde Bloggy Days of Yore. The latter group includes Jane from Victoria, British Columbia, who traveled here on a seaplane with a strict weight limit, yet brought two copies of Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide for me to sign, one for her and one for a friend. I got feedback on today’s issue of Snippets at breakfast. It’s been deeply restorative. The state of our union (knitting) is strong.
Since I knew in advance about our Shakerag Top Knitalong (aka the Ragalong? can that please be a thing?), and since it’s a perfect project for sit ’n’ chat knitting, it’s been my constant companion. I’m at the delicious moment of finishing the first and second balls and joining in the third and fourth balls. (The yarn is worked doubled for the opaque stripes, and single for the partially translucent stripes. Here’s a tip for Ragalongers: when you are knitting the single-stranded stripes, alternate between the two balls, every round, so that you use up the yarn evenly.)
Straight Talk About Sylph
I am absolutely loving knitting with Sylph (my shade is Rustle). This is no surprise, as I have knit with Sylph before. It’s also no surprise because Sylph is a strand of cashmere plied with a strand of linen, two of my favorite fiber flavors. But here’s the thing: when you are knitting with Sylph, the dominant flavor is linen. It has a crisp, light hand.
The cashmere is subtle. You have to take the cashmere on faith while you are knitting with Sylph, and trust that it will reveal itself more fully later on.
This is where a little luck came in. When packing for the trip, I looked at the weather forecast for Seattle and saw that my stay would start with sunshine and temps in the 70s, then turn to chilly temps and rain. I really did not want to be packing for two different climates, so I tried to choose sweaters and scarves that could work, with a little layering, for both situations.
My mini-version of Jet Stream, which Ina so generously knit for me, was hanging on a doorknob, and I grabbed it.
The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been true to the forecast, and my Jet Stream has been either around my neck or in my bag the whole way.
So, when curious knitters have asked me about what yarn I’m using for my Shakerag Top, I’ve been able to show them not only the crisp version that I’m knitting with, but what Sylph is like after you’ve washed and blocked it, and the cashmere has had a chance to bloom. “Here, look at my Jet Stream. This is Sylph after you wash it.” Response: [awed silence, rubbing cashmere against cheek] “No! Get out! It’s a different yarn!”
Washed Sylph is almost unrecognizable as the Sylph that was in the skein. The cashmere completely takes over. Only the lightness and swingy drape of my Jet Stream hints that there is linen in the mix.
If you are on the fence about Sylph, I recommend knitting up a one-skein project in it. (There are suggested patterns in the listing.) Wash it, let it get nearly dry, barely damp, and then put it in the tumble dryer for 10 minutes or so. It becomes something completely different. It becomes cashmere.
What yarn are you using for your Shakerag Top? What color? And how many of you are going to marl those double-stranded stripes?
Cast-on tip: Although the pattern instructs you to cast on with a double strand of yarn, I found it simpler to cast on with a single strand, then start double-stranding on the first round. The cast-on is a lot of stitches, and to cast them on double-stranded would have meant using 4 skeins (or ends) of Sylph simultaneously. (Here’s the method I use for casting on a large number of stitches using the long-tail cast-on, without fear of running out of yarn.) I can see absolutely no ill effects from my single-stranded cast-on.
O the Glamour
I have Ms. Melanie Falick to thank for this sneaky snap:
A little stump styling before getting on the ferry back to reality.