The turn of the year: back into cotton knits

Spring has, I think, definitely sprung. I did think much the same a few weeks ago but it seems that I was a little premature as we then had a week of rain (the first in months) and the temperatures dropped. This time I’m a little more confident that while it’s still a little chilly in the shade, the fierceness of the full sun means it’s here to stay.

Other tell are signs include: having gone a whole day without socks, yep, yesterday was a full sandals day; the duvet has been washed and put away. I’m even thinking about doing the big week of washing and repairing the woollens before putting everything away for the summer. I’m as confident that this task will drift a fews weeks as I am that it’s really now summer.

While I may have jumped the gun in my mind when we had our first few lunches out in the garden; spring is a pretty short season here so I need to get organised and transition to a summer wardrobe. For the first 50 years of my life, my ‘summer wardrobe’ differed little from my ‘winter wardrobe’, the main change being the number of layers worn. Here, something a little more radical is needed and this has been reflected in my knitting.

So today want to share with you my latest summer knit. This is not hot off the needles. As short as spring is here, so is autumn, and I finished top last year just in time for the cold to settle in and so it never got its inauguration. Instead it has sat at the bottom of the laundry basket for a number of months until my jumping the gun had me making a symbolic start in washing the woollens and blocking this cotton top. The return of the chill and with it rain meant the woollens went back into rotation and this sat folded in the drawer. But as you can see from this picture, it’s about to get its turn.

The sun was certainly bright when I was taking these pictures, and don’t the iris look great in it!

This is a really simple top, a top down yoke, again made to the same formula as my other everyday sweaters which I’ve blogged about previously. While the pattern is simple this sweater got off to a bit of a false start in the making. I wanted to use up a series of deep stash 4 ply cotton leftovers from my stash. The blue is a lovely soft cotton; a previously knitted vest top had demonstrated that it was not hard on the hands like some cottons; but I knew there wasn’t enough on its own for anything I wanted to knit. So I thought I would pair it will a yellow slubby cotton yarn which I had quite a bit of and perhaps could stretch it further with some cream 4 ply soft cotton if needed.

So I cast on, it was one of those cast ons that has more to do with the visceral need to knit than actually thinking about what I was doing. As a result I got pretty much to the end of the yoke, popped it over the head and thought ‘arghh’.

Had I stopped for a moment in all this furious distraction knitting, I may have seen the evidence in front of my eyes – Yellow. Yellow is a terrible colour on me. There’s a reason that there is almost no yellow in my stash and what there is, has been there a long time. The fine stripes of blue which aimed not to use it all up too quickly did very little to distract from the overwhelming yellow of it all.

It got put aside and I moved onto something else, and something else, and so on, out of sight and definitely out of mind.

Then one day I was doing some natural dyeing and had a couple of dye baths that weren’t quite exhausted and I thought it would be a good idea to put in that yellow yarn, and the cream because cream isn’t a great colour on me either and I’d been smart enough not to put that in the yoke. Anyway, they both dyed into a nice beige colour and I’ve always liked the combination of blue and brown so the project slowly moved to the forefront of my mind as the temperatures rose last summer.

Then it came to the point of going on holiday and I needed a travel project. A cotton yoke using my tread and tested pattern seemed like the perfect idea.

I found the dyed yarns and then when looking for the blue, I found the yoke. The yellow yarn I had dyed was the leftovers from the yoke. The yellow in the yoke hadn’t been dyed, because I seems I had been so fed up with it, that while I had clearly hallucinated frogging the darned thing, I actually hadn’t. So the yellow yarn wasn’t all dyed, some was, but some was still yellow…..

Anyway, I shoved it all in a project bag and figured I’d sort it out when we were in the car.

My solution was the blue for all the ribbed cuffs, and for textured stripes in the yoke. The yellow and dyed beige yellow yarn, A and B respectively were striped between the blue textured stripes as follows order, ABA, blue garter stripe, BAB, repeat.

The short sleeves were knitted in the beige to the cuff and the body was worked in helical stripes in the blue and dyed beige cream soft cotton yarns.

In the end, despite the false start and wresting with all that yellow, I’m really please with how it turned out. I think it looks intentional rather than scrappy and I’m really pleased to have been able to deploy my natural dyeing skills to elevate stash yarns from something of a challenge to something I actively wanted to work with.

I’m also now looking forward to actually wearing this throughout this summer and adding to my knitted summer wardrobe. I think it may be time for another foray into knitting with linen again. I have some of the yarn I used to knit this in my stash in purple and I love wearing that top. So time to choose a pattern for it.

Have you ever knit something as a result of the need to simply knit and just keep knitting as a result of that need. Something that perhaps if you had stopped for a minute, you’d have stopped full stop! If so, please do share in the comments.

Until next time, happy knitting,

Tess xxx

2 thoughts on “The turn of the year: back into cotton knits

    1. Sorry, for the delay in responding I missed your comment as it unfortunately went to spam, but anyway, I do nothing special just adore them. These Iris have been grown in this part of Tuscany for centuries and were farmed for their root and fragrance for the cosmetic industry before the rise of synthetics. At this time of year you’ll see then all over, we have a bank of them along the road and they’ll sprout up just about anywhere.

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