Monday, January 02, 2012

Shelter Scarf, Part I: Christmas

This is the beginning of a scarf story. It begins with a ball of yarn. Brooklyn Tweed 'Shelter' in Button Jar, to be exact:

Actually, truth be told, it starts much earlier. Years back, in my pre-blogging days, I knit my father a cabled scarf for Christmas in soft, tweedy, pea green wool. At the time I wasn't even sure if he'd wear a scarf! But he loved it and wore it faithfully through many cold New England winters.

All good garments run their course, though, and this year it was time for a replacement. At first I set out about carefully reconstructing the original scarf. But this turned out to be impossible. The original yarn (Queensland Collection Kathmandu) had been discontinued. I couldn't find anyone on Ravelry who was willing to sell their stashed yarn to me, and the closest substitute turned out to have also been discontinued. So, I decided to try out Shelter, which is a remarkable yarn, woolen-spun in an historic New Hampshire Mill.

And try it out I surely did. I had to swatch nearly an entire skein of yarn before I figured out what to knit with it.

See, Shelter is a woolen spun yarn, which means that the fibers are all whipped up rather than aligned. It gives the yarn an amazing, lofty, pebbled texture. It's such a tactile pleasure to knit and wear, but it also brings challenges for cables or colorwork because you lose a lot of stitch definition.

Dad's original scarf (based on what I can reconstruct from photos) was knit in horseshoe cables and seed stitch in a sportweight yarn. It was understated and gentlemanly. But those slender cables and delicate seed stitches seemed to be swallowed up in the dark sproing of Shelter.

And that's why I ended up endlessly swatching, because I was putting this yarn through its paces, getting acquainted with it and learning about what did and didn't work in it. It was a fascinating process, but it gobbled up so much time that I couldn't actually finish Dad's scarf by Christmas. All he got was a narrow strip of fabric, all bunched up on my needles. It looked more like a snake than a scarf!

I'm nearly done by now, though. I worked on the scarf all through the Christmas weekend. Here I am, knitting in the Phoenix sunshine, with Isis snoozing in the grass behind me ....

To see what I ended up with, you'll have to wait for Part II of the story ....


Turtle said...

loving the design. Dont you just love shelter! It gets so much softer when worn... and i mean it's made in NH so.... two goodies!

Ceels said...

I'm guessing it won't help, now, but from memory the Queensland Collection Katmandu was the same as the Jo Sharp Silkroad (in DK and Aran).

I am sure the Shelter is a delight to knit with, though. I am planning on getting some when I have worked through a bit more stash :).

Rachel said...

Thanks for your thoughts on Shelter...quite interesting! I have a sweater's worth amount and had been considering something with cables but now that I've read your thoughts, I may be changing my mind on that. In fact, a sweater I had in the back of my mind may be perfect for it. Looking forward to seeing what you ended up making! Happy New Year to you and yours!