Sunday, February 8, 2009

Milkweed Fluff

My Christmas I.O.U.s are coming along nicely. One is done, and the other two are underway.

Today, I sewed in all the ends to finish the soft brushed mohair sweater for my tall-elegant-mom. It's so light and soft, it reminds me of the white fluff, drifting on currents of air, from the seed pods of milkweed, beloved of monarch butterflies.

This sweater, like the last one I made for myself, is knit from hand-dyed Kid Hollow brushed mohair yarn, purchased at the 2008 Fall Fiber Festival in Montpelier, Virginia. This colorway is almost a solid silvery gray, with darker streaks here and there making it a semi-solid and giving it depth.

And, like the last sweater, I knit it using the Kid Hollow Mock-Neck sweater pattern designed by Puff the Magic Rabbit. It's a nice simple stockinette pattern, to keep the focus on the soft texture and the hand-dyed color. It's a worsted gauge pattern, but because the yarn is so fluffy, I found I needed to use US size 6 (4mm) needles.

This time, though, I made some modifications to suit my mom's more classic style. I changed the rolled edgings to a restrained ribbing, and I knit a crew-neck instead of the mock-neck in the pattern.

The yarn has a lovely fuzzy halo. I actually think the halo will continue to develop as the sweater is worn. I think a lot of the long fibers are still caught in the stitches and will work their way out over time.

I'm happy to say that I think the sweater will fit tall- elegant- mom just fine. I did a better job of knitting to gauge on this sweater than on the one I made for myself, so it didn't come out oversized like the other one. With her height, I think it will actually look better on her than it does here on me.

After knitting two sweaters with this lovely yarn, I've learned some useful lessons about working with brushed mohair. First, I don't need to baby it. To get gauge consistently, I need to knit it with just as firm a touch as any other yarn. But when unraveling, it's time to be very gentle with it. At the tricky spots like ends of rows where it's apt to tangle, tugging the yarn tail to try to pull the stitches out is asking for trouble. (Believe me, I know!) It responds much better to having one stitch lifted off another with lots of slack.

And all that fuzz makes it hard to count stitches. Stray bits of fluff often look like extra stitches. I wasted quite a bit of time looking for mistakes when I saw phantom stitches. But eventually I figured out that it was much more reliable to count the stitches from the back, with the reverse stockinette side facing me. Somehow, the little purl bumps on the back were much easier to distinguish. That saved a lot of grief. So I've learned to manage the yarn better, and knitting this second sweater was a much more relaxing experience than the first.

Now that this sweater is done, it's amazing how different it is from the last one. Small changes in the edge treatments, gauge, and color transformed the same sweater design in the same yarn from a funky hippy shirt for me to wear with jeans into an understated classic that my tall-elegant-mom can wear with tailored slacks and heels. It came out very nicely. I really think she will like it.

So now, with gusto, I can exclaim, "one down, two to go!"

Jingle bells will soon be ringing. :)


Anonymous said...

It's beautiful! Whenever your mother wears it, she can think of it as a soft warm hug from you (that's what that yarn always feels like- a hug)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! A classic knit.

Bess said...

Oh oh it is gorgeous. Congratulations on a wonderful creation. lucky mom.

Two Cables and a Frapp said...

Very pretty and I love it with the pearls.

cathy said...

Thanks, everybody! You all sure know how to make a girl feel good. :)

Question for those of you who have knit with fuzzy mohair: should I be thinking about brushing up the nap? Any wisdom would be welcome. :)