Spring is in the air! That means it’s time for a new profile picture wearing something hand knit in spring colors.
Queensland Collection Caracara was actually introduced in the fall. This yarn is a 50% Acrylic, 30% Nylon, 20% Kid Mohair with approx 259 yards per 25g that knits to 1.5-2 sts per inch on a US 3-8 needle. However, as it works up into light, fluffy garments it is also good for these early spring days when you want to be warm but also free from the weight of your winter coat.
I’ve had one ball of color #3 – Seagreen, Mint, Blue Violet – on my desk all these months waiting for the right one-skein project to come along. These colors remind me of the sea side and I wanted a project that would enhance that feeling.
The right pattern finally presented itself in the Scaruffle pattern by Bess Haile. You can find this pattern in “The Knitter’s Book of Yarn” by Clara Parkes.
Now this isn’t one of our books, but you should be able to find it at your local yarn store or even your local book store. This book has a lot of information about how yarn is made with discussions of spin and ply and how to expect the different fibers to behave. All that information can not only help you appreciate yarn more, but also understand what to expect when you make a project or need to substitute yarn because you can’t find, or don’t like, the yarn called for in a pattern.
The Scaruffle pattern calls for 227 yards of a fingering weight mohair yarn, which meant Caracara would be an excellent choice. Other good options would be Debbie Bliss Angel and Party Angel with its metallic flair, or Louisa Harding’s Simonetta which also has a bit of glamor.
This scarf is knit lengthwise using short rows. I think it would be good for an advanced beginner because it is basically garter stitch, but would be a good introduction to short rows. Many knitters get stressed out the first time they work short rows. “What do you mean I’m not working all the stitches?!” they ask. A project like a scarf, which doesn’t have to fit, would be a good place to test this technique since there will be less pressure to get the finished project “right.”
Of course, by leaving those stitches unworked and returning to them later you can introduce curves and shaping into your project. This is very hand for places like sock heels and toes where you want to knitting to follow the shape of your body. They are also useful for adding bust shaping to sweaters. Knitty.com has an interesting article about using short rows for shaping.
On this scarf, the short rows make a gentle ruffle. When working short rows on a large project like this I find it helpful to place a stitch marker after I turn the work. The stitch makers make it easier to know when to stop and turn on future rows. They also make it easier to ensure I’ve worked the same number of short rows on each end since I can just count the markers rather than looking for the little gap between sections.
Back to my scarf.
I cast on during my Friday knitting group and just whipped right through it.
But then a classic knitting problem befell me. I ran out of yarn before I could cast off!
It was my own fault. If I had followed the pattern I would have been fine, but I wasn’t measuring my progress. Instead, I got greedy and just kept knitting. Lace weight yarn always seems like it will last forever. And, since I was working short rows, the more I knit the shorter and quicker the rows were to work. I was sure I could get one more row out of it.
Sympathy and suggestions poured in when I posted my dilemma on Facebook. Do I rip out a row or keep going in a different color?
The two most popular suggestions were:
Take a crochet hook and do a slip stitch all the way around its almost the same as a cast off and you don’t need yarn to do it.–Debra
Starting at the end w/out the tail pass one loop over the next stitch until you reach the tail…and walaa you have castoff with out ripping out.–Lori
Veronica suggested that I could unravel my swatch and use that yarn. Usually I’m a firm believer in swatching, but hadn’t this time since it was just a little scarf.
I also posted a picture of my scarf with the other Caracara colors I had nearby. Most people liked either the color at 4 o’clock or 6 o’clock.
But in the end I chickened out on adding a second color. I took a deep breath, frogged the last row, and cast off normally.
I think it was worth the effort.
As you can see, Caracara is a self striping yarn. The lengthwise construction of the scarf really draws the colors out creating a lovely effect. The combination of construction and colors makes the finished scarf look more complicated than it is.
You can see a similar striping effect in the shawl pattern in Jenny Watson Designs Book #17, which features sweaters and accessories using Caracara.
But don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to scarves, Caracara with make soft, warm sweaters as well. This pattern is also in book #17.