I love cashmere. Working for as long as I have with cast-off cashmere sweaters – unraveling then re-plying the incredibly soft fibers – my hands are definitely spoiled. Even a fine merino is a tad scratchy in comparison. But…I’ve found that I’m really picky about what I knit with my finished yarn.
Most of the current patterns for knitting accessories with fingering weight yarn seem to be written for garter stitch, and garter stitch, while great for the ubiquitous triangular shawl, doesn’t produce that “ahhh” response when I touch it. Now if I use a small needle, say a size 3, I can produce a superb fabric – like felted cashmere – but its uses are limited mostly to hats. (Well, a jacket or coat would be the cat’s meow, but that would take more cashmere than I can get my hands on.)
It took me a while to realize what I was looking for. In addition to next-to-skin softness, what I really wanted was loft, the kind of loft I’d been striving for in my spinning. I want to go “ahhh,” squish the knit and have it spring back in my hand. Stockinette wasn’t doing it, in part because the squish factor just isn’t there in my renewed cashmere. Because of the process I use, my yarn ends up being fulled, almost felted. Duh. I finally realized I needed to introduce loft to the fabric in the knitting itself. And, if you’re going for loft and “cush”, try brioche, said a little voice. So I did.
I decided to use a “failed” gradient dyed cashmere. (I’d ended up with blotches because I hadn’t mixed my dyes properly!) I chose a design from Ravelry, the Reversible Cabled Brioche Stitch Scarf by Saralyn Harvey, with a few modifications.
So far, I’ve only tried single color brioche, but, with Nancy Marchant’s expert instruction, color is coming next. Once I got over the learning curve, I found the knitting to be rhythmic and soothing. And the result so far? Exactly what I wanted.
(Better photos when I get back to my studio.)