Rhinebeck indie yarn & sweater pairings from Amy Herzog

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This is the sixth in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

After the interview I did with designer and knitting techie Amy Herzog last year, I decided to ask her to pair yarn from some of the indie dyers at the trunk show with her sweater patterns. I’m looking forward to showing off my Acer cardigan — which I knit to my measurements using Amy’s brilliant CustomFit software and Skeinny Dipping’s Journey Worsted — at the fairgrounds on Saturday!

Knitters, it is so great to be us right now.

When I learned to knit as a kid, I had a really limited set of yarn options. There was department-store acrylic, of course, as well as basic wool in both woolenspun and worsted-spun varieties. If cost was no issue, Lopi was definitely available — and of course there was dishcloth cotton, though you wouldn’t really want to wear a sweater knit from it (ask me how I know). And that was pretty much it.

Contrast that to now: hundreds of varieties of yarn at every price point, fiber blend, and several unusual constructions. The explosion that happened in our community when knitters met the internet has changed our craft in a thousand ways. One of the most important is that individual artisans can now engage with knitters everywhere — and Indie Untangled in particular does a lovely job of making that match.

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I share Lisa’s love of artisan yarn, and can easily get lost playing around with how deeply-complex colors meshed with stitch patterns in a design. But I often hear from knitters that the sheer… specialness of artisanal yarn makes it hard to commit to a sweater project. What if it’s not right? What if we don’t like the result?

So in celebration and anticipation of the third Indie Untangled event at Rhinebeck this year, I thought I’d offer my opinion on some pattern/yarn pairings that are sure to produce sweaters you want to wear all the time — from general recommendations to specific yarn/pattern pairings that I think will be divine.

Designs as blank canvasses

Before I dive into specific matches, though, I want to take a moment to talk about using special yarns in general. In my opinion, if you’re pouring your effort into a yarn that makes your heart flutter, the yarn should be the star of the show. And that means the design should take a back seat to, and support, the beauty of the yarn — rather than competing with it.

This doesn’t have to mean plain stockinette, although sometimes that’s definitely the best way to showcase a spectacular yarn:

Small Point, Bourrasque, and Beacon Hill all use Stockinette to highlight gorgeous yarns. Photo credit for Beacon Hill to Caro Sheridan of Splityarn.

Small Point, Bourrasque, and Beacon Hill all use Stockinette to highlight gorgeous yarns. Photo credit for Beacon Hill to Caro Sheridan of Splityarn.

It can also mean small-scale stitch patterns or design elements that showcase something exquisite about the yarn you’ve chosen. Here are a few sweaters where lace gets translated into a beautiful fuzzy texture by a rustic woolenspun, or a small-scale texture breaks up more substantial color changes:

Caulfield uses a small eyelet-and-slipped stitch tiling pattern to blend colors; Foyle’s Pullover turns lace into texture; Cushing Isle breaks up big color switches with twisted stitches.

Caulfield uses a small eyelet-and-slipped stitch tiling pattern to blend colors; Foyle’s Pullover turns lace into texture; Cushing Isle breaks up big color switches with twisted stitches.

But whether you’re into miles of Stockinette or not, when you’re evaluating a design for your show-stopping yarn, it’s a good idea to stop and check whether your favorite part of the design will be in conflict with, or support, the yarn itself.

Matches made in heaven

The Woolen Rabbit. I’ve worked with Kim’s yarns extensively over the years, and have never had an experience that was less than blissful. I’ve designed several patterns for her yarn, so it’s tough to choose just one — but this fall, I’m in love with cables.

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Partly, this is because I’ve just introduced cabled patterns in CustomFit, my custom-gauge-and-size sweater pattern generator. But I was very excited to make Birch Bark, in particular, one of the first. I originally worked this sweater up in Frolic, and I’m still excited by the way the very graphic cables interact with the subtle color changes of Kim’s yarn. I’ve taken advantage of the re-release to make a long-sleeved version for myself, and this time I’m using WW Kashmir. I think it would work beautifully in a number of colorways — it was hard to choose! My three finalists were Oakmoss, Pussywillow, and Enchanted Forest.

The Uncommon Thread. I was introduced to Posh Fingering when I worked up my Round Cove cardigan, and I’ve hankered for my own ever since I made it. But when thinking about pattern pair-ups for this post, I couldn’t get the thought of a Sunset Drive in the Posh out of my head:

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The Sunset Drive sample in these pictures was actually made for someone else, and I’ve wanted to make my own version with a slightly-dropped neckline. I’m more of a neutrals-wearer, myself, so I think I’d lean into that with Uncommon Thread’s lovely muted shades. You can see all of their colors here; I’m dreaming of Baby Elephant Walk, Squirrel Nutkin, and Olive Leaf in particular.

Rosy Green Wool. Finally, a relative newcomer yarn — at least to me! I recently worked up a new design explicitly for Rosy Green Wool’s Cheeky Merino Joy:

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Tidal Pool is available on Ravelry as a traditional pattern, and will be available via CustomFit later this fall. I was so incredibly impressed with the sophisticated color and diamond-sharp stitch definition of this yarn that I knew I couldn’t do anything other than an updated classic. The textured stitch pattern of Tidal Pool is a direct homage to the loveliness of this yarn.

Should you be looking for another canvas, though, I think it would look equally stunning both in allover textures and on simple, classic silhouettes like my Options KAL pullover, Firth and Coracle.

And with that, I think I’ve gone on about sweaters for quite long enough!

I’d love to keep the conversation going — if you have any special yarn-pattern pairings that you adore, share them with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram — or see more of my musings on my own site. And whether you’ll be at Rhinebeck or not, have a great fall filled with lovely knitting!

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