Category Archives: Yarn

De dambordsjaal van Tony’s moeder

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Mensen denken vaak dat breien typisch iets is dat je in de winter doet. Maar als je die nieuwe trui wil dragen zo gauw de dagen kouder worden, moet je’m natuurlijk wel klaar hebben aan het eind van de zomer. Deze zomer vroeg mijn vriend Tony aan zijn mama om voor hem een sjaal te breien in Bio Merinos van Schoppel. Het patroon is super simpel, het resultaat subliem.

Tony’s mama gebruikte 4 bollen Schoppel Bio Merinos, Tony koos voor Mosterd omdat hij dat zo’n mooie kleur vindt. Bio Merinos is een gecertificeerd biologisch breigaren van 95% lichtjes vervilte merinowol en 5% linnen. Voor deze sjaal gebruik je best naalden van 3,5 mm. Zelf zou ik zeker mijn addi rondbreinaalden van 60 cm gebruiken, maar je kan dit project uiteraard gewoon breien met je eigen favoriete naalden.

Tony’s mama heeft 54 steken opgezet. Daarmee maak je een sjaal van ongeveer 24 cm breed. Ze heeft eerst vier rijen recht gebreid om dan over te schakelen naar een dambordpatroon met vierkantjes van 10 steken breed en 14 rijen hoog. Voor de eerste rij heeft ze eerst 2 steken recht gebreid voor de zelfkant, dan 10 steken recht, 10 averecht, 10 recht, 10 averecht, 10 recht, en dan nog 2 steken recht voor de zelfkant. Ze heeft haar werk omgedraaid voorde volgende rij en 2 steken recht gebreid voor de zelfkant, de volgende 50 steken zoals ze op de naald liggen (10 averecht, 10 recht, 10 averecht, 10 recht en 10 averecht) en dan nog eens 2 steken recht voor de zelfkant. Deze twee rijen heeft ze nog 6 keer herhaald. Dan heeft ze het patroon omgekeerd: 2 steken recht voor de zelfkant, dan 10 averecht, 10 recht, 10 averecht, 10 recht, 10 averecht, en nog eens 2 recht voor de zelfkant. Voor de volgende rij 2 steken recht voor de zelfkant, 10 recht, 10 averecht, 10 recht, 10 averecht, 10 recht en nog eens 2 recht voor de zelfkant. Ook deze twee rijen heeft ze nog 6 keer herhaald. Dit patroon is ze blijven herhalen tot haar vierde bol bijna op was. Ze is geëindigd met opnieuw 4 rijen recht gebreide steken, en ze heeft haar werk afgekant. Tony’s sjaal is bijna 2,50 m lang!

Checkered Scarf WetblockingDit soort project moet je nat opspannen als je je vierkantjes graag écht vierkant wil. Je moet de sjaal dus nat maken en hem vastpinnen om hem in de juiste vorm te dwingen. Je hoeft helemaal geen speciaal opspanmatje te gaan kopen enkel voor dit project: een jogamatje of iets gelijkaardigs werkt perfect (je weet al dat wij graag werken met de matjes van Heid de Frenay)! In dit patroon kan je je speldjes gemakkelijk gelijk verdelen: elk vierkantje moet ongeveer 4,5 op 4,5 cm zijn.

Deze sjaal is een project in ieders bereik: recht, averacht, opzetten en afkanten, meer is het niet. Je moet natuurlijk een beetje tellen, maar niet teveel, en je hebt een hoeveelheid tijd en geduld nodig die recht evenredig is aan je breisnelheid.

Als je liever met iets anders werkt dan Bio Merinos, kan je ook kiezen voor Bio Balance van BC Garn (de helft biokatoen en de helft biowol), Cheeky Merino Joy van Rosy Green Wool (100% superfijne merino in felle kleuren, machinewasbaar) of Bio Love van Rosários4 (100% biokatoen).

Het schema voor dit patroon ziet er ongeveer zo uit:

Checkered Scarf

Je vindt het schema hier in PDF formaat: Dambordjsaal.

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The checkered scarf Tony’s mom made

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Quite often people look at knitting as a winter activity. But if you want to wear that new sweater when the days get chilly, you’d better knit over summer, obviously. This summer my friend Tony asked his mom to knit him a scarf in Bio Merinos from Schoppel. The pattern is easy, the result is splendid.

Tony’s mom used 4 skeins of Schoppel Bio Merinos, Tony chose Mustard because he likes the colour so much. Bio Merinos is a certified organic yarn composed of 95% slightly felted merino wool and 5% of linen. For this scarf you’d use 3,5 mm needles. I would prefer my addi circulars of 60 cm long, but this project doesn’t require anything in particular: just use your favourite needles.

Tony’s mom cast on 54 stitches. That makes for a scarf of about 24 cm wide. First she worked 4 rows of knit stitches, then she switched to a checkerboard pattern with squares of 10 stitches wide by 14 rows high: 2 knit stitches for the selvedge, 10 knit, 10 purl, 10 knit, 10 purl, 10 knit, 2 knit stitches for the selvedge. She turned the scarf, then she worked 2 knit stitches for the selvedge, continued as established for the next 50 stitches (which is 10 purl, 10 knit, 10 purl, 10 knit, 10 purl), then 2 knit stitches for the selvedge. She did repeat these two rows 6 more times (that’s 12 more rows). Then she reversed the pattern: 2 knit stitches for the selvedge, 10 purl, 10 knit, 10 purl, 10 knit, 10 purl, 2 knit stitches for the selvedge, she turned the scarf, worked 2 knit stitches for the selvedge, continued as established (10 knit, 10 purl, 10 knit, 10 purl, 10 knit), worked 2 knit stitches for the selvedge, and repeated these 2 rows 6 more times. She kept doing this until she ran almost out of yarn, then finished with 4 rows of knit stitches and bound off. Tony’s scarf measures about 2,50 m!

Checkered Scarf WetblockingThis is the type of pattern that requires wet blocking if you want the scarf to look nice and the squares to stay square, so you’ll have to pin it while wet to your blocking mats to force it into shape. Mind you, there’s no need to go buy blocking mats just for this scarf: your yoga mat or anything similar will perfectly do (you already know we like the ones from Heid de Frenay)! When wet blocking you can use the squares in the scarf to decide where you place your pins: every square is supposed to be 4,5 by 4,5 cm.

The project is in everyone’s reach: there’s nothing more to it than knit, purl, cast on, bind off, some counting but not too much, and an amount of time and patience that entirely depends on your knitting speed.

If you prefer something other than Bio Merinos you could also use Bio Balance from BC Garn (half organic cotton and half organic wool), Cheeky Merino Joy from Rosy Green Wool (100% superfine merino in bright colours, machine washable) or Bio Love from Rosários4 (100% organic cotton).

A schematic view of the pattern would look like this:

Checkered Scarf

Find the schema here in PDF format: Checkered Scarf.

L’écharpe damier de la maman de Tony

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Les gens tendent à considérer le tricot comme une activité hivernale. Mais si vous voulez mettre votre nouveau pull une fois que la température commence à baisser, il faut bien qu’il soit prêt à la fin de l’été, bien évidemment! Cet été, mon ami Tony a demandé à sa maman de lui tricoter une écharpe en Bio Merinos de Schoppel. Le patron est super simple, le résultat est superbe.

La maman de Tony a utilisé 4 pelotes de Schoppel Bio Merinos, Tony ayant choisi la couleur Moutarde parce qu’il l’adore. Bio Merinos est une laine bio certifiée composée de 95% de laine merinos légèrement feutrée et de 5% de lin. Pour cette écharpe il est indiqué d’utiliser des aiguilles de 3,5 mm. Personnellement j’utiliserais mes aiguilles circulaires addi de 60 cm de long, mais vous pouvez bien sûr utiliser les aiguilles de votre préférence, ce projet n’exigeant rien de spécifique.

La maman de Tony a commencé par monter 54 mailles. Cela vous donnera normalement une écharpe de 24 cm de largeur. Elle a d’abord tricoté 4 rangs à l’endroit, ensuite elle a entamé le patron de damier avec des carrés de 10 mailles sur 14 rangs: 2 mailles à l’endroit pour la lisière, puis 10 mailles à l’endroit, 10 à l’envers, 10 à l’endroit, 10 à l’envers et 10 à l’endroit, puis 2 mailles à l’endroit pour la lisière. Ensuite elle a retourné son travail, tricoté 2 mailles à l’endroit pour la lisière, tricoté les 50 mailles suivantes comme elles se présentent (c’est à dire, comme elle travaille du coté envers de l’écharpe, 10 mailles à l’envers, 10 à l’endroit, 10 à l’envers, 10 à l’endroit et 10 à l’envers) en terminant le rang avec 2 mailles à l’endroit pour le lisière.  Elle a répété ces deux rangs encore six fois, pour arriver à un total de 14 rangs. A ce moment, elle a renversé l’ordre et elle a travaillé comme suit: 2 mailles à l’endroit pour la lisière, 10 mailles à l’envers, 10 à l’endroit, 10 à l’envers, 10 à l’endroit et 10 à l’envers, 2 mailles à l’endroit pour la lisière. Ensuite, ayant retourné le travail, 2 mailles pour la lisière, 50 mailles comme elles se présentent (c’est à dire 10 mailles à l’endroit, 10 à l’envers, 10 à l’endroit, 10 à l’envers et 10 à l’endroit) et finalement 2 mailles à l’envers pour la lisière. Elle a répété ceci encore six fois pour arriver à 14 rangs. Elle a continué de travailler ce motif jusqu’à ce qu’elle est arrivé proche de la fin de sa quatrième pelote. Ele a travaille encore quatre rangs à l’endroit puis elle a terminé son travail en rabattant les mailles. L’écharpe de Tony mesure presque 2,5 m!

Checkered Scarf WetblockingCe genre de projet doit obligatoirement être mis en forme afin d’assurer que l’écharpe garde son aspect bien droit. Il faut humidifier le travail et le fixer sur un tapis de blocage afin de le forcer dans les bonnes dimensions. Il n’est point besoin de vous acheter un tapis blocage dans les magasins spécialisés: un tapis de yoga ou quelque chose de similaire suffira largement (vous savez déjà que nous aimons bien utiliser les tapis de  Heid de Frenay)! Pour fixer l’écharpe il faut se référer à la taille des carreaux: chaque carreau doit mesurer environ 4,5 sur 4,5 cm.

C’est un projet qui est vraiment accessible à tous: tout ce que il demande c’est de savoir tricoter une maille à l’endroit, une maille à l’envers, de monter et de terminer le travail, et de disposer d’une dose de temps et de patience grande ou petite en fonction de votre vitesse de tricotage.

Si vous préférez une autre type de matériel que le Bio Merinos, vous pouvez choisir le  Bio Balance de BC Garn (demain coton bio, demi laine bio), Cheeky Merino Joy de Rosy Green Wool (100% mérinos super fin en des couleurs très vifs, lavable en machine) ou Bio Love de Rosários4 (100% coton bio).

Voici le schéma de ce projet:

Checkered Scarf

Vous pouvez retrouver le schéma en format PDF ici: Checkered Scarf.

Being kind to the animals

A member of a local knitting group posted this announcement on their Facebook page:

Asos plans to ban mohair, cashmere and silk from next year

and noted in the comments that they hadn’t known that there were any animal welfare issues related to mohair.

The question is not if animal welfare issues do exist. They do. We all know that PETA has lots of horrible images about animal abuse that nobody really wants to see. At the same time these images are part of a campaign strategy, and the individual cases shouldn’t be generalized to a whole industry. We might not all know farmers, but those who do, know that they care about their animals.

As one member of the group mentions: the people at Asos talk about these plans most probably because they’re directing their marketing efforts at a growing group of vegans and vegetarians and in doing so get the full support of a number of vegan organisations. Asos in any case mostly sells synthetic fibres, which brings about a whole different series of issues with the plastic pollution of our world and the use of non-renewable sources.

So what can you do? The ideal world does not exist. Making ethical and sustainable choices always requires some kind of trade-off. When buying yarn there are basically two options: going certified organic or going small and local.

Certified Organic

No specific label exists for organic yarn, but generic textile labels apply to yarn as to any other piece of textile.

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Most probably you’ve already seen the Oekotex “Confidence in textiles” Standard 100 label. This is an organic nor a fair trade label. It doesn’t say anything about animal welfare. It only says that there aren’t enough harmful chemicals left in the garment to – well – do you any harm.

fair_wearIf you usually buy organic or fair trade, you might also have found the Fair Wear Foundation logo in your clothes or on a cotton bag. This label doesn’t say anything about animal welfare either. It only says that no humans have been harmed in the production process, that their working conditions are acceptable and that they’ve got proper payment for their work.

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The only standard that covers about everything is GOTS – the Global Organic Textile Standard. Yarn, tissue or garments carrying this label have been produced with fibre issued from certified organic agriculture. If animal fibre is involved, the land on which the animals live has to be certified for organic agriculture as well. All parties involved in the production process up to the wholesaler have to be certified for the final product to be allowed to carry the logo. None of the production plants can use harmful chemicals, water has to be cleaned, recycled and used sparingly. The label also requires social responsibility: fair trade, proper payment and proper working conditions are all part of the standard.

It’s not perfect: this standard has been issued by the textile industry and hasn’t been defined by an independent authority, unlike the European bio label for food, where it is the European Commission that laid out the rules.

For certified yarn I’ve already listed in a previous post about the big trade fair in Cologne what is available on the market (or will be after summer).

Small and local

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Knitting yarn with a GOTS label comes only in two types of fibre: there’s wool and there’s cotton. No alpaca, silk, mohair, angora, … That’s not because the standard doesn’t allow for it. There’s probably just not enough demand for these types of fancy yarn. So if you’re looking for these types of yarn, you have to look for your own alternatives. In which case going small and local is an option. If you know the person that takes good care of her goats, brings the fibre to the local cooperative of goat farmers the have it spun in a local spinning mill and the sells the yarn through her own online shop, why wouldn’t you buy her mohair? I’ve already mentioned Florence and her goat farm annex bed and breakfast La ferme sous les Hiez in a previous post.

If you’re looking for angora, you might want to have a look at Seidenhase.

Alpaca is easy to find with a fair trade logo and it can be found locally.

Silk is quite a different story. I do not have the feeling that I’m already to the end of the story there, so I’m not going to make any suggestion. Lots of animals have to die for silk and in most cases they’re indeed boiled alive.

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Even if organic certified wool exists, you might be bothered by the fact that it almost always comes from South-America and has to travel quite a distance to reach us: grown in Patagonia, processed in the UK, shipped to the brand owner in Germany, shipped to the retailer in Belgium and the shipped to final customer in Japan, it’s quite a distance for a skein of yarn but nothing exceptional. With the exception of the Mérino d’Arles from Rosy Green Wool none of the local yarns has a certification, but there are a lot of small brands out there! Very often you can only buy directly from them, or in just a couple of local stores. One of my favourites in this range is De Rerum Natura: beautiful yarn, beautiful patterns, superb colours, and local. Our own Mergelland is obviously in this category as well.

Still questions? Get in touch!

Mergelland, Edition 2017

Last Tuesday they arrived, after nine long months of waiting: 12 cardboard boxes, each containing a series of sealed plastic bags, each of the bags containing 12 balls of Mergelland yarn.

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We did hope to get them a few days earlier, right on time for the Slow Fashion Market at Tour & Taxis, but they got stuck in transport. No harm done, there’s still plenty of time to start knitting for the next winter season.

As with the previous clip, we sorted the fleece ourselves, put everything in bags and transported the whole lot to the mill in Cornwall. It’s quite a drive and this year there wasn’t that much time for sightseeing. What’s more, on the ride back home it did rain hard from the moment we left the mill until we got the car on the Shuttle!

This time we chose to use all of the black fleece for adding a darker shade to the series of natural colours we had from the 2016 clip and the remaining white for a first batch of dye colours. Choosing colours for the first time was rather stressy: how do you decide, not only on colours that you like, but also on colours that go nicely together and that will appeal to your customers? And once you’ve decided, how do you convey your wishes to the people at the mill and how can you be sure that the colours you will receive several months later are the ones you’ve requested? It’s actually almost as complex as running an IT project!

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Obviously there was no reason to worry, I could have trusted the expert knowledge of the people at The Natural Fibre Company! The colours turned out really well!

We try to stick to hard materials when choosing names for the colours, so in order of appearance you’re looking at Dark Slate (okay, I didn’t do a lot of effort there), Rust, Gold, Emerald, Navy (sorry, there is no stone or metal in this colour) and Shingle. They’re all in the shop now.

Slow Fashion Market

Last Saturday was Oxfam Day here in Brussels in one of those splendid buildings at Tour & Taxis. The theme of the day was fair fashion and on the program there were a Fashion Show, a Slow Fashion Market and a series of Do It Yourself Workshops.

We decided that we had to be there with Greener Wool. Tour & Taxis is just around the corner and there is no slower fashion than garments you’ve knit with your own hands using organic certified yarn, unless you spin the yarn yourself!

It was a bit of a rush to get everything together – including three shopping trips to get all the furniture and a timed tryout in our living room to check if I could build the stand all by myself within the given timeslot!

In the end it all went smoothly thanks to the many friends that spontaneously proposed to help!

Getting some of the new yarns in the shop by Saturday was quite a challenge … We succeeded in having the super soft Bio-Logic cotton from Plassard. The slightly felted Bio Merinos from Schoppel – which didn’t arrive sooner than Friday evening! – had a lot of success. The new Mergelland got stuck in transport and arrived only yesterday – we’ll tell more about it next week.

The Meet up and knit or crochet! Brussels group exceptionally moved their knitting meet up from the city centre to Tour & Taxis, there were the friends from La Filière Laine and La laine des coccinelles and at a different organic fair in the next part of the building we met the people from Heid de Frenay with their fantastic yoga mats from locally produced felt. Quite a few people dropped by at the stand. There’s so much to tell about organic wool, GOTS certificates and local yarn that I didn’t even have the time to visit the other stands at the Slow Fashion Market! Then there were the people that wanted to know more about the double-knit scarf I’m making. It seems that I’ll have to organize double knit classes soon!

H+H Goes Green

Last Friday I travelled to Cologne for H+H, the international trade fair for creative handicraft and hobby supplies. It’s the largest trade fair for textile hobby supplies in Europe, the place to be for discovering new trends and finding new suppliers. I’ve been looking specifically for new certified organic yarns. In the next few lines I’ll tell you what I’ve learned this year.

Let’s list what existed so far with a GOTS certificate.

BC Garn has Bio Shetland, Bio Balance and Semilla Melange.
Rosy Green Wool has Cheeky Merino Joy, Big Merino Hug and Manx Merino Fine.
Lane Mondial has Bio Lana, Cotton Soft Bio and Bio Soft.
And there’s Garthenor, since the beginning of times.

Over the last year quite a few new yarns have been added to the range, some by suppliers extending their current range, other by suppliers entering the certified organic market.

Lane Mondial has added two new sizes to the Bio Lana range: Bio Lana Fine (last summer) and Bio Lana Big (new at the trade fair and not online yet).

Bio Lana Fine is a classic knitting yarn for needle size 3,5 – 4,5 mm. A ball of 50 g has a length of 175 m. There are 20 colours.

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Bio Lana Big is a 100% organic wool roving yarn, but I forgot to write down the details and there’s no web page!

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Rosy Green Wool found a source for merino wool in Europe and added Merino d’Arles in 11 colours to their range. It’s a fine knitting yarn for needle size 2,5 – 3 mm composed of 100% organic French Merino d’Arles wool and you get 200 m on a hank of 50 g.

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Rosários4, a Portuguese spinning mill and yarn brand with a range of eco-friendly yarns now has a GOTS certificate for some of their existing yarns.

Belmonte is a mix of 50% organic cotton and 50% organic wool. As opposed to other cotton-wool combinations Rosarios4 have obtained the mix by plying a cotton and a wool strand before dyeing, resulting in a two-tone marl of the same colour. Nice! Belmonte is designed for needle size 3,5 – 4,5 mm and comes in 11 different colours. A ball of 50 g measures 125 m.

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Bio Love is a fine 100% organic cotton yarn for needle size 3 – 3,5 mm. It comes in 16 different shades but it’s not online yet. A ball of 50 g measures 175 m.

Bio Wool is an aran weight knitting yarn for needle size 5,5 mm, 72 m for 50 g, 100% organic wool and available in 15 colours.

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Ecocotton Ecologico in 100% organic cotton has been designed for needle size 5 mm. Balls of 50 g measure 95 m. Not online yet.

For Nature and For Nature Print are composed of 100% organic cotton and require needle size 3,5 – 4 mm. For Nature comes in 50 g balls, For Nature Print comes in 50 g hanks, both measuring 150 m. There are 28 colours of For Nature and 11 colour combinations of For Nature Print.

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Lalalã is a roving yarn for needle size 15 mm and up, available in 9 colours and composed of 100% organic wool. A ball of 200 g gets you 50 m of yarn.

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The good news here is that Rosários4 has a slightly lower price setting than we’re used to for certified organic yarn. I didn’t do a price search on the internet, but based on the wholesales price I’d assume you would be able to find a ball of Bio Wool for less than 4,50 €.

Schoppel makes a first entry in the organic market with Bio Merinos, a mix of 95% felted organic merino wool and 5% linen from France, in a range of 9 bright colours. 150 m on balls of 50 g, needle size 2,5 – 3,5 mm.

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Plassard launches Bio-Logic, an insanely soft cotton in 5 equally soft pastel colours, sourced in Greece and spun in Italy, aimed at the newborn market. A ball of 50 g measures 125 m. It’s supposed to be knit with 4 mm needles.

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It looks somewhat as a trend. There’s more choice now than a year ago and well established brands enter the market. New yarn sizes and colour ranges open new options for us organic knitters. With the exception of the 5% linen in Shoppel’s Bio Merinos the fibre content stays limited to sheep wool and cotton because other fibres are difficult to get in a certified organic version.

I might have missed out on some products. If you know about new or existing GOTS certified yarns that I didn’t mention here, I’ll be glad to hear about it!

One more thing: the people from BC Garn will retire soon. They’ve sold the brand to their German distributor Schmeichel who will continue the existing range of yarns.