Sunday, 19 June 2016

Knitting with linen

There’s a common complaint amongst knitters, that knitting with linen can hurt your hands, or be uncomfortable, because the fibre is inelastic.  Knitters look for wool (or other animal fibre) blends to  balance the lightness of the linen with the bounciness of the wool, and make for a pleasant knitting experience.

I’ve done very little knitting with plant fibres in my time, but I was positively drawn to the colours and sheen of the beautiful Kalinka linen at Wild and Wooly in Clapton – the shimmering petrol blue demanded to be purchased, and ultimately knitted in a drapey and cool wrap. 

I chose the Bernstein pattern, originally a garter stitch pattern, with two separate stitch patterns worked in, and true to form, I modified it.  In my version, it has become a stockinette stitch shawl with just the 1 stitch pattern (a mesh pattern) in panels.  The designer does not speak English as a first language, and some of the shorthand and abbreviations used in the pattern are German, which was a little confusing in the beginning, so I re-wrote the instructions into more common knitting English.

The linen was lovely to work with.  It’s a substantial feeling fingering/sport weight yarn.  I enjoyed hand winding the skeins into round balls to work from – in fact, there are lots of recommendations on the internet (therefore taken with a grain of salt) that the more you work the yarn, even from the skein winding stage, the softer the linen becomes. The internet also recommends some pretty rough treatment of the finished shawl to get the linen to soften further, but I have not been that brave.  I have washed it roughly and ironed it through a pressing cloth.  There’s still a long way to go to truly soften the shawl, but it feels lovely and cool on the skin, and still gleams.

I used almost 2 full skeins of the yarn, or about 565m, and have ended up with a shawl longer than I am tall, which is my preference.  I also like that the shawl is not too deep, and it only comes down to my mid-back if I wear it with the point all the way to the back.  

Kalinka has released a wool/linen blend, which I am keen to get a hold of and try

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