New neighbors

A new couple has moved in to the arroyo across the street from our apartment.

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I keep seeing them when I’m out with my iPhone, but someday I’ll have to stalk them with my telephoto lens, in the hopes of getting a better picture.

They look like young creatures to me – full grown but not quite filled out, with that semi-adolescent lankiness. But then, maybe all coyotes look like that. These are certainly the first ones I’ve got this close to. And they seem at home in the arroyo – this is my fourth sighting in probably as many weeks.

They’re lovely graceful creatures, with their low loping stride, slipping into the invisibility of the long grass and sand that lines the arroyo at a moment’s notice. They worry me, though – the arroyo is in the middle of a city (admittedly not a massive one), surrounded by homes and a semi-industrial/warehouse patch. The coyotes probably shouldn’t be as at home here as they are, if they want to stay here.

I’m told that the arroyo was fixed up by the Department of the Interior not long before we moved here – it used to flood every monsoon season, so it got graded and drained and whatever else you do to arroyos that flood. Apparently it used to be much wilder and overgrown, and home to much more wildlife. I’ve seen javelinas out here (but only once), tons and tons of birds, lots of little lizards, and once a bearded dragon-type creature. But these are the first coyotes I’ve seen.

Interior also built a nice walking path around the arroyo, with landscaping making it all pretty, and a huge draw for the neighborhood. There are people I regularly see walking the path in the morning when I go to work, and in the evening when I walk myself. I’ve learned to recognize people by their dogs. I’m sure the coyotes aren’t going to mess with the largest German Shepherd I’ve ever seen who lives a few blocks away (he’s like the size of a Newfoundland), but there’s a yippy Shih-Tzu that regularly slips its leash, and lots and lots of cats that roam free.

There’s also a bike park, with human-built obstacles, like a skateboard park but for BMX bikes. That’s where the coyotes are in the picture above. The one is sitting on a dirt obstacle, and there are a bunch more obstacles to the right, out of the picture. At the very far end of the circuit was a kid with his bike. Clearly he could see the coyotes, because he stood next to his bike, just watching them, waiting to see what they would do. In coyote v. BMX, it’s pretty clear who’s going to win.

It’s a little unnerving, though, to see the coyotes quite so close. You know they don’t want to mess with humans, but you also don’t know whether they could get aggressive, or if they’re just fragile enough that encountering us could harm them – the way that touching butterfly wings is so tempting, because they are so beautiful, but cripples the butterfly if you can’t resist.

I love seeing the new neighbors, at the same time that I want to tell them to run far, far away.

Product v. process

I have always been a product knitter – I almost invariably knit because I want the finished object (and since it’s me, because I want to wear a particular sweater). I regularly frog projects partway through if it becomes clear that I won’t wear the finished item, and out of this “the right final product is what I want” mindset, I also frog projects that I’ve finished and worn and have decided don’t really work for me as is. That takes a little bit more resolution, but I’m pretty comfortable with those decisions (in fact, I am considering frogging my Boxy & Buttony pullover – it’s amazingly comfortable but it’s quite a lot of fabric, possibly too much to be really flattering on me, and I think that this yarn would benefit from being knit at a tighter gauge – maybe something like this, or this, or this – or at least something with seams. No rush on deciding, though, since it’s too hot here to wear wool sweaters for the next 6 months again).

Which is why I was kind of surprised recently to find myself pushing the items I want to own and wear to the back of my queue in favor of items I simply want to knit, for the sake of knitting them.

Craftsy had a big sale in the last week or so and it included Malabrigo Rios. I first encountered this yarn when I wanted to make a baby blanket for a friend and their stone-colored gray-yellow-beige colorway was perfect for my friend’s gray and yellow nursery.

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But then I went and made myself a sweater out of the leftovers because I loved knitting with it so much. I don’t normally knit worsted weight stuff, and I haven’t even been able to wear the sweater yet because it got too warm before I finished, but I love having the sweater and I loved making it. This yarn is just so lovely and soft and squishy and yet bouncy and a joy to knit with. It’s probably not as springy-bouncy as your average non-superwash, but it was still amazingly fun to work with, and it created a lovely fabric that had a nice amount of drape without being droopy or draggy. I don’t need super-hardy tough-as-armor sweaters, and I don’t like wearing those kinds of fabrics. This stuff was great.

So there I was, at the Craftsy sale, finding that Rios was on sale for less than I’d ever seen it, and finding myself powerless to resist buying a swack of it. In Teal Feather, because I’m a sucker for a good teal, and a semi-solid seemed more practical than the beautiful but harder to wear variegated stuff.

(I’m also in a particularly labor-intensive, energy-draining, confidence-beating moment at work – which is why I’ve had no time for blogging or even photo-taking – so the yarn was a promise of good times to my future self. Which is a whole other ball of emotional wax, of course.)

And now I just want to make things with this yarn for the sake of making them, not having them. Right now I am obsessed with the idea of making the Waking Tide pullover by Courtney Spainhower.

Waking_Tide1_medium2Photo © PinkBrutusKnits, borrowed off Ravelry; will happily remove if requested.

I just love this sweater. I love the yoke, I love the way the body of the sweater falls from the yoke, I love the minimal eyelet trim at the hem, I love the amount of ease, I love how good the pattern looks in a tonal or semi-solid, I love that it’s knit in the round and in one piece, I love that there’s lots of stockinette but that there’s also the yoke for a bit more challenge, I love that the yoke provides texture and movement but that the sweater is still fairly minimal and not fussy.

And don’t get me wrong, part of why I love it is that I think it would look decent on me – I have broad enough shoulders to hold up a sweater without shoulder seams, my bust is very average-sized so I don’t run into the problems busty ladies face in trying to figure out where a yoke should fall to be flattering, I like having the visual interest closer to my face, I like that it’s not fitted around the waist, and the length and hem treatment should work with my pear shape.

But chances are good I would wear this maybe five times a year. I would only be able to wear it to work on days I don’t have to wear a suit/jacket (i.e. no meetings), and I would only be able to wear it in comfort during our very short winter. It’s not the most practical choice for my lifestyle, is what I’m saying. Honestly, worsted weight wool, period, isn’t the most practical choice for my lifestyle but there are workarounds (I think a cardigan would be more versatile weather-wise than a pullover, especially something short-sleeved or shorter with some lace; or I could go for a short-sleeved pullover).

Nonetheless, I want it. Because I want to make it; I want to see the shape develop under my needles, I want to see how the transition to the yoke works, and what kind of shaping creates the yoke and the neckline. I want to see what this yarn will look like in this sweater. And I want to see what the sweater looks like when it’s done, and what it looks like on me.

For maybe the first time, that’s enough. Maybe I will make this sweater and try it on. Maybe I will love it, and keep it, and treasure it for those few times a year I can wear it. Maybe I will love it, and put it in a drawer, and nonetheless frog it a year later to make something else with the yarn. Maybe it will be meh, and I’ll decide right away to frog. But whatever I decide, I will have had the pure pleasure of making, which seems to be what’s hooking me now, more than the pleasure of having.

(Or maybe instead I’m hitting my annual discontent with the desert and want to knit this as an expression of homesickness for places that have what I think of as a normal climate. With winter. And cold. And a legitimate need for wool sweaters. That, too, is a whole other ball of emotional wax.)

California dreaming

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Last weekend, I traveled to Amy Herzog’s make.wear.love retreat (PDF), held at the lovely Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. How to describe it??

This was my first knitting retreat – and, actually, my first experience of formal knitting classes ever. I took a beginner’s spinning class once (at Fancy Tiger Crafts, my favorite yarn store ever – Denver, I still miss you). But otherwise, my mom taught me the knit stitch sometime when I was a kid, and I’ve managed to teach myself everything else via the glories of the internet. It was also my first time in northern California, so between these two things, it was a bit like entering a parallel universe.

The classes were great (though I have to share that I totally embarrassed myself, chatting with Norah Gaughan at check in, when we talked about being on the same flight into Monterey, because I totally did not realize who she was at all. At the end of the conversation I introduced myself, she rEllie’s, “And I’m Norah,” I said, “Nice to meet you,” and took two steps out of the registration building and went, “OH!!! THAT NORAH!!!!” So that was why she’d looked kinda familiar in the airport. Gulp. To be fair, it was kind of interesting then to think about how some designers are instantly visible because they model all their own stuff, and how some designers are much more behind the scenes – I find those kinds of marketing choices fascinating. I still couldn’t help but wonder if I’d been completely gauche though).

But anyway, the classes: my first was Norah Gaughan’s “Creative Geometric Design,” which was an engaging glimpse into how one designer approaches her projects, and a really fun way to think about coming up with design ideas. I don’t know if I will ever actually design sweaters (I fantasize that I will, but also suspect that fantasy is better off staying a fantasy), but it was also helpful for looking at schematics and thinking about what I might want in a sweater. The amazing part was how she could take a rectangle or circle of fleece, cut armholes in it, toss it on a model, and after about 30 seconds of tweaking, transform it into the roots of a beautiful garment.

Also she had a dark green alpaca sweater that looked good on everyone in the class and was the most amazingly comfortable, snuggly thing to wear, and everyone at the retreat is waiting with bated breath for the pattern to come out.

My second class was Julie Weisenberger (aka Cocoknits)’s “European Finishing Techniques,” which was a compilation of many tips and tricks. I was familiar with some of what she showed us, but many of the techniques were great and I will definitely use them (especially her middle-of-a-row bind off and shadow short wraps). The atmosphere was at once energetic and relaxed, with a lot of answers to individual questions. I’m still not convinced that her method of picking up stitches (to pick up and knit) will work for me, but I need to get the proper tools to try it properly on one of my own projects. My only regret is that by the end of her class I was fading fast, as the day had been full of learning and interaction with strangers, and my introvert brain was exhausted.

Also her sense of style was amazing.

My third class was Clara Parkes‘ “Know What Your Yarn Wants to Be,” about how different fibers and yarn construction result in yarns that work better for some projects than others, and some of the general things to keep in mind. She was as charming in person as she has always seemed online, and the depth of her knowledge is crazy. I’ve read her The Knitter’s Book of Wool, as well as a lot of other general discussions online about yarn and how to match it to a project, and while I’d never claim to be an expert, I wondered a little bit how much of the information would be new. And the answer was: plenty! For instance, sure, I knew that alpaca was a very slippery, smooth fiber, and that therefore it tends to “grow” because the stitches don’t cohere very well in finished fabric. But that was just a useful background for her discussion – a starting point, not the sum total.

Also now I want a pair of wool sneakers.

My final class was with Amy Herzog, “Sweater Design Intensive,” looking at different shoulder constructions for sweaters (drop shoulder, raglan and modified raglan, yoke, and set-in sleeves) and how to modify the different kinds to fit your shape. There was math, and I can’t claim I absorbed it all, but it made sense at the time and Amy Herzog explained it beautifully. What was really helpful – in a way that books can’t be helpful (though I have and value her books) – was seeing the actual real sweaters, which she wore, and used to demonstrate common modifications and fit issues, and passed around so we could see the construction and fabric.

Also she has the most beautiful speaking voice.

One of the things that thrilled me most about the weekend was how, well, ecumenical all the instructors were about methods and approaches and designs. No one was dogmatic or restrictive or scolding about what knitters should or shouldn’t do, instead emphasizing that while they had strong beliefs about the best way to do things, the important thing was that as knitters, we have accurate expectations for what a given yarn/pattern/design could achieve, and achieving that in a way that made us happy.

I also appreciated that there was quite a lot of diversity in style on offer. To date, Amy Herzog has emphasized fitted, set-in sleeve sweaters with waist shaping, and honestly, I felt a bit of an imposter when I showed up, as I never knit sweaters like that (I hate fitted tops and waist shaping). But she has started to offer Custom Fit designs without waist shaping (if you’re unfamiliar with Custom Fit, go take a look at the link), and is about to introduce an A-line option (previewed at the retreat). She explained that she was moving into more variation on sweater shapes, and in her class, she showed a number of examples of these new-for-her constructions from her next forthcoming book, which all thrilled me.

Norah Gaughan’s explorations of geometric shapes were further along that spectrum, nearly as far from the traditional Herzog sweater as you can get. But while the result was garments that were loose/non-fitted, even frankly voluminous, they remained flattering and not sloppy (and much more to my taste).

Even opinions about gauge and sweater fabric were varied. Amy Herzog was pretty decided that all yarn has a gauge that is right for that yarn, and I think Clara Parkes would tend to agree. (I found particularly interesting the argument that drape shouldn’t be about knitting a yarn at a loose gauge, but about the inherent qualities of the fiber.) But in contrast, Julie Weisenberger talked about how a lot of her designs used a very open gauge.

So all in all, it was a successful weekend. It was a little daunting attending by myself, but everyone was very very nice and it was pretty easy to fall into conversation with people. I find it a bit exhausting to talk to strangers for four days, and I had tiny flashbacks to high school social anxiety at meals, as there’s a dining hall that serves you cafeteria style, and then you have to scan the room and decide which table to plop yourself down at that day (did you sit with people who know each other already? are you interrupting their chance to get together and catch up? are they amateurs like you or semi-pros? are they perhaps esteemed local designers/dyers which you don’t realize until the end of the meal? ACK).

Conversely, though, something I found incredibly welcoming was how, if you were tired out from making conversation, or didn’t see someone you had already met, you could sit by yourself (at events more than meals, I should say), and as long as you were knitting, you were part of things. The way that knitting made you a part of the social fabric, even without being sociable, was kind of amazing.

I also loved that in every class, at least half of the students were knitting away the whole time. I know people who knit at conferences or work meetings, but I’ve never been in a position to do so, and have always had a sneaking feeling that to do so was rude. But here it wasn’t! How could it be rude to knit at a retreat centered on knitting? It was just lovely – both to have more knitting time, and to see what so many others were knitting, and start up a conversation about their yarn, or pattern, or needles, or so on (this happened with all the completed handknits people were wearing, too. Sadly, I didn’t actually bring any of my handknits, because they take up a ton of room and my suitcase is small).

So. That is an incomplete (though not short) description of my weekend away. It was truly very very far away from my daily life, and a lovely immersion in Knitlandia.

IMG_3495It was gray and cloudy-to-rainy the whole weekend, except late afternoon on Saturday, when the photographers with their tripods descended on the beach like seagulls. I was surprised to realize that although I didn’t grow up on the coast itself, growing up in a northeastern coastal state was enough to instill in me the belief that the sun should rise, not set, over the ocean – and when I saw the sun sinking into the Pacific it just looked wrong!

Outtakes

I don’t think you have to like cats to like knitting, or vice versa. But a lot of knitters out there seem to have cats.

And if you are a knitter with cats, the following pictures, taken while I tried to photograph my Mountain High sweater, may be familiar to you.


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These guys are an absolute MENACE to my knitting. In particular, the gray boy is obsessed with everything yarn: he pulls knitting out of my work basket, he tries to drag handknit sweaters out of my laundry basket (…through the holes in the sides), and one of the first things he did after we brought them home was find some bright pink Cephalopod Yarns yarn and start to eat it, chomping away with strings hanging out of his mouth like pasta.

img_2733It’s a good thing they’re cute.

Finished object: dilute torti sweater

Do any of you have sweaters you love almost despite yourself?

I just finished one of these. It’s Heidi Kirrmaier’s Mountain High, which I had seen but never been drawn to until I saw IADJW’s version and became slightly obsessed. (Now that I look at the pattern page, I love the mauve version in the second picture down, too.)

I shouldn’t love this sweater so much, for lots of reasons. Frankly, I don’t think it looks very good on me. It’s worsted weight, and I never knit in worsted weight, because I am bulky enough as it is; I don’t need added bulk. The gauge is tight enough, and the yarn springy enough, that the fabric tends to hide my bustline (which isn’t that prominent anyway). It’s an a-line sweater, with a wide garter hem, which doesn’t do my bottom-heavy shape any favors. The yarn is pretty variegated, which looks busy. I alternated skeins, which kept the pooling to a minimum, but resulted in lot of horizontal striping, which doesn’t make me look any narrower.  And it’s an odd neutral shade mixing cool gray and warm pale yellow, with shades of beige along the way; I look positively haggard in beige and yellow (even light gray can be dicey).

It’s also by far the warmest item of clothing I own, which means I’ll probably be able to wear it maybe three times a year here if I’m lucky.

But.

I love this sweater. Love love love love love.

First, it fits! I absolutely didn’t swatch for this at all – and I’m not sure why, since I usually try to – just cast on and forged ahead. But it worked! (It’s actually kind of big at the moment – I hadn’t realized how the added weight of worsted weight yarn means that superwash worsted stretches even more than superwash fingering; I think it will spring back eventually, though, or I may try throwing it in the dryer briefly). In any case, it’s super comfortable and cosy.

Second, I loved this pattern. It’s yet another seamless top-down sweater – and I know I should try something with set-in sleeves – but Heidi Kirrmaier’s patterns are so much fun. I always find myself a bit baffled to start – this pattern begins with short rows shaping the neck, and I’m geometrically challenged enough that it took me a while to figure out how it all fit together. But if you follow the pattern, everything comes together like a beautiful puzzle. (I’ve knit her Summer Solstice pattern which is even more so like that.) I know some people hate the slog through the body of a top-down sweater, but as long as I can see what it’s turning into, I can knit stockinette for days. Knitting something bottom up and in pieces doesn’t look like a sweater, it looks like a bunch of flat pieces, and my product-knitter self just isn’t motivated by that.

Third, I love that it’s a-line. I know it’s not really conventionally flattering on me, because I have no waistline in this and it emphasizes my hips. But when I’m hanging out at this end of the scale, I HATE having anything fitted at the waist – it’s uncomfortable and makes me super self-conscious. As some fashion bloggers say, I surrender the waistline. Similarly, I like a-line shapes right now because they don’t catch on my hips and ride up, and I never have to tug them down. I get that all the fashion rules say that covering up your body with acres of fabric is less flattering than more fitted garb, and I promise that my more formal work wear is more tailored. But for causal wear I really love having stuff that makes me comfortable in my body, which right now is stuff that doesn’t remind me exactly what the contours of my body look like.

Fourth, I LOVE the feel of the yarn. It’s Malabrigo Rios, and it’s so satisfyingly soft and springy. Yes, it’s superwash, and yes, we’re not really supposed to like superwash, because it’s unnatural and strips the yarn of its natural scale and coats it in plastic. But from the time I was a tiny child I hated wearing wool because it prickled like mad, and superwash doesn’t do that. I finally get to enjoy the lightness and warmth and temperature/moisture regulation of wool in comfort. (Admittedly, there’s only so much regulation can do, and this is going to be too warm for 90% of the time here. But one of the things I’ve realized is that while it seems a waste of money to buy/make cold-weather clothes here, on those few days when it does get cold here, I have nothing to wear. So I can treasure this for cold days for years to come.)

Finally, the color makes me happy. It really doesn’t flatter me at all, which I knew from the start; it began with leftovers from the baby  blanket I made last summer, and I chose the color based on my friend’s nursery color scheme, not on whether the color flatters me. But I have had two beloved dilute torti cats in the past, and this color almost exactly matches the color of their coats. In fact, I was knitting this over the holiday season when we had to put the second of these very special ladies to sleep. So I love that this is a dilute torti sweater, and I can wear it to honor them.

One of our sweet dilute torti girls adoring her papa. See? Sweater color!

I see a lot of discussion in fashion blogs (and on Project Runway!) about whether fashion has to be flattering in shape and color, and I’ve always been someone who tried to wear clothes that flatter my shape and skin tone. But there’s something satisfying and maybe liberating about abandoning that here. It’s not like this is a crazy, hideous, avant-grade kind of garment; it’s absolutely not. No one is going to stare at it for how hideous it is, and I suspect most people won’t even give it a second glance. But given how much women’s clothing normally seems intended to get that second glance, to make people – usually men – look at you, ignoring that feels kind of like freedom.

24028402086_72de9dd6cc_oProgress picture showing the sleeve stitches held on waste yarn. Mostly because I love the look of the pink waste yarn against the neutrals, and kind of wonder if I should have trimmed the sweater with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fancy strap for my fancy camera

I have been working on lots of different stuff lately, including a couple of finished knitting projects I need to post about, but thought I’d show you my latest sewing project:

  

I hated the strap that came with my camera – it had SONY SONY SONY SONY all over it, plus it was flimsy and had scratchy edges. So I decided to make one. 

It ended up being a comedy of errors: I originally intended to use cotton webbing (for durability), but once I stitched on the ribbon and tried to attach the connectors, I realized the webbing I’d bought was way too stiff to hang comfortably as a strap. So then I made a strap out of leftover black canvas and some fusible fleece. That worked much better, but I absolutely mangled the vinyl patches at the ends. I ended up gluing them for function’s sake, and they work, but are ugly.

And of course after I did this I found a much better guide for how to make a strap that would have avoided all these problems – oh well.

I don’t know whether I’ve forgotten how hard it was to learn to knit well enough to produce usable finished objects, but sewing seems to have a much steeper learning curve. In part it’s because I seem to sew in fits and starts, because the lighting in our loft, where the sewing machine lives, isn’t good enough to get much done in the evening. It’s also that depending where you are in a project, it’s harder to pick up and put down sewing in the middle of something. 

But it was fun to get back to the sewing machine, even if the project just required cutting and sewing straight lines, and swearing a bit at some vinyl. 

Yarn Review: Pacifica Company’s Zephyr DK

Back in the fall sometime, on Twitter, I took notice of a campaign to fund a new American yarn company – Pacifica Yarn Company, by Argyle Sheep. In addition to supporting the American textile industry by sourcing, dyeing, spinning, and packaging their yarn in America, Pacifica Yarn Company wanted to produce garment-quality yarns for warm climate knitters:

The goal is to create yarns that can be knit with every single day of the year regardless of the weather.

We’re a team of Southern California knitters who understand that although alpaca is lovely and soft, it’s just not practical for our temperate climate. Even 100% wool yarns can be too much to bear during much of the year. But cellulose yarns like cotton and bamboo lack the spring and life of their wooly counterparts.

We love knitting and wanted to create an affordable yarn that feels great against the skin, like a warm breeze on a cool summer evening.

I mean, you knew they had me at warm-climate knitting, right?

So I forked over by $15 to support this endeavor, in return for one skein of their first yarn, Zephyr DK, which arrived in December. I promise you their 16 colors are lovely, even though I chose Ink (black/gray).

24467607935_c8402f868e_oI’m afraid I didn’t take a picture of the skein until after winding it and swatching, so this is what’s left – you’ll have to imagine it showing up in classic skein form.

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Zephyr DK is a woolen-spun yarn made of 55% Texas wool and 45% California cotton. It’s spun in Wisconsin and dyed in Maine, and Argyle Sheep describes it as follows:

Zephyr DK is woolen spun, meaning the fibers remain in a lofty jumble that traps air, reminiscent of an ocean breeze. Its three plies are lightly twisted to preserve its buoyant quality, while maintaining a sprightly bounce. It was specifically designed for making garments that are comfortable to wear in temperate climates.

This woolen-spun yarn has an adaptable gauge, which can compress to a tight sport weight or grow into a light, drapey fabric when worked on large needles. Zephyr DK has a soft but dry hand and a slightly rustic nature; woolen spinning can result in small variations of thickness, and you’ll find the occasional speck of vegetable matter, which shows this yarn is never treated with harsh chemicals.

Comprised of a modern palette with 16 colors, Zephyr Dk has a lightly heathered appearance due to the wool and cotton taking the dye at different levels. This creates a muted, variagated colorway that will bring depth and visual interest to your finished garments.

Garments knit from Zephyr DK realize their full potential after a wet blocking, as each stitch relaxes and bonds with its neighbors to produce an even, light, soft fabric.

Zephyr DK is designed to be a workhorse yarn with incredible stitch definition, perfect for textural patterns or plain old stockinette. We think it’s ideal for sweaters of every variety and warm weather accessories.

I wouldn’t normally quote someone else at such length in what is supposed to be my ownreview of this yarn, but I found the above to be so accurate that there didn’t seem to be much point in trying to paraphrase.

In the skein, it feels matte, dry, and a little bit stiff. It does have a rustic, heathered look, from the combination of fibers, and is very light – much lighter than most DK cottons I’ve used. I wound it, dug out some size 8 needles, and swatched: stockinette to measure gauge, a random lace pattern, a couple of cables, a little moss stitch, and then a brief bit of ribbing.

24441358726_6561cf96fe_oThis picture is a little over-exposed – I’m still figuring out my new camera – so the color appears a little lighter than it actually is; the picture of the wound yarn above is more accurate.

I started with some KnitPicks Caspian needles, which are (very pretty teal and turquoise and blue) wood, because they’re one of the two size 8s I have, and they’re beautifully sharp. However, I found this yarn a bit too sticky for knitting on wood – I am a tight-ish knitter who prefers speedy, slick needles, and the Zephyr was a bit slow on the Caspians. I switched to Chiagoo Red Lace needles, which are lovely smooth stainless steel, and had no further problems.You can see the relatively loose plies in this yarn, but I didn’t have a problem with splitting the yarn, even with my sharp lace needles (however, I am devoted to sharp tips so you may find a blunter tip preferable with this yarn).

The yarn was relatively stiff on the needles, without a great deal of stretch, but not unpleasant to work with. The lesser elasticity would probably make complex lace a bit more difficult, but then, the weight and appearance of this yarn isn’t suitable for really elaborate lace patterns anyway; I just picked something relatively simple from a web stitch dictionary (Wave stitch) to give a sense of how lace would look.

23839359984_63805e009c_oAgain, a little overexposed.

I was too lazy to try the yarn on different sized needles, but the stockinette fabric I got on the size 8s was a nice balance between drapey and tight, at 17 1/4 stitches and 27 rows per 4″ (the tag suggests you will get a gauge of 4.5 stitches to the inch on size 8 needles, or 18 stitches per 4″). It passed Amy Herzog’s sweater fabric test, in that you certainly can’t poke your finger through it. It’s probably more on the drapey side, so you could go down a needle size or so if you wanted a somewhat sturdier, more independent kind of fabric.

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I threw in a couple of cables to see what the stitch definition was like, and while this is a more rustic yarn with what I’d called brushed edges, rather than sharply defined, the cables show up very nicely, even in this darker color.

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And here’s the seed stitch and ribbing (color is a bit more accurate at this angle). I think you’d want to go down a needle size or two to get much elasticity out of your ribbing, but then, I usually need to do that with whatever yarn I’m using.

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As I noted above, it felt a little stiff and rough in the skein, but it softens up a great deal when blocked. (I’m afraid I didn’t measure to see whether the gauge changed after blocking – my apologies.) The stitches bloom a little bit and stitch patterns become more cohesive. I haven’t done enough of a wear test to comment on pilling, but I have given the swatch some vigorous rubbing, which seems to lead to a tiny bit of cotton-based fuzz, but overall seems quite durable.

If pressed, I’d say it feels much more like wool than cotton. Although it has that bit of stiffness in the skein, and the resulting fabric isn’t quite as springy or stretchy as wool, it’s also very light, with the matte softness of woollen-spun yarn.

I stuck the swatch in the neck of my shirt and wore it there for a few hours and found it decently comfortable. You have to keep in mind that I am a bit of a pretty pretty princess when it comes to woolly wool, and even apart from the warm-climate thing, tend to stick to plant fibers because I find most wool prickly (except baby soft merino and superwash). This is not superwash, and while I don’t know what breed “Texas wool” is, it’s clearly something sheepier and more rustic than merino. I can definitely feel some prickle, but it’s much more wearable for me than most wools. It’s also only been washed the once, for blocking, so may well continue to soften up as it gets washed and worn.

What I really like about this yarn is that it provides a warmer-weather alternative to the more rustic, sheepy (often breed-specific) yarns that are very popular right now, and (in my experience) are really really hard to duplicate in plant fibers. Although my personal experience with these yarns is limited, it reminds me a bit of Brooklyn Tweed’s Loft and Shelter (or maybe Harrisville Design’s line). You don’t get the same variety of shades within a single colorway as you see in the 100% wool yarns, but you do get a heathered depth of color that seems hard to reproduce in purely plant-based yarns. Although Brooklyn Tweed patterns are written for fingering- and worsted-weight yarns and Zephyr is DK, so the patterns wouldn’t translate directly, Zephyr would work well in patterns with a similar aesthetic to Brooklyn Tweed – textured, rustic, woolly. It would be particularly great for those big sweaters involving quite a lot of yarn – waterfall cardigans or sweater coats or the like – that you don’t want to knit in cotton or silk or bamboo, because you know by the end of the day the weight of the yarn will have stretched the sweater down to your knees.

For me, the slightly ironic consequence of this is that while Zephyr is intended as a warm-weather yarn, I think it would look particularly good in very wintry kinds of sweaters or scarves – substantial, with lots of cables or ribbing or other texture. So maybe it’s most suitable for garments to wear when it’s seasonally winter, but that’s still not very cold where you live? I think it would also make lovely fingerless mitts, but may need a bit more elasticity to work for hats (I don’t think it would be great for socks, for the same reason, but would have to defer to sock knitters on that one).

All in all, Pacifica Yarn Company has produced a really nice yarn in Zephyr DK. I hope their future endeavors continue to enjoy success, and that the crowdfunding method works to support this enterprise. Their next project is supposed to be another warm-weather yarn, in 100% wool this time, again in DK, called Indian Summer, and I may have to back that campaign as well, to see how it turns out. Purely selfishly, I would love love LOVE to see them make a fingering weight yarn (but not everyone may be as devoted to fingering-weight sweaters as I am).

Has anyone else tried Zephyr DK? What do you think?