How to work mini-bobbles

When I came up with the idea for my Xerophyte Shawl (you can read about its inspiration here), I wanted to include bobbles at intervals in the stockinette fabric - but working hundreds of full-sized bobbles was more effort than I was honestly prepared to make. And so I was very happy to come across Sarah Wilson’s article for Interweave, 5 Ways to Work a Bobble, which includes a method for making mini-bobbles using a wrapped-stitch method sometimes known as the Estonian Button Stitch. This method has the advantage of producing a small, flattish bobble without needing to turn your work, and is much faster than any other bobble method I’ve tried.

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New patterns: Orfeo Hat & Cowl

This pair of patterns has been almost a year in the making, and my obsession with stranded colourwork is still going strong! The Orfeo Hat & Cowl feature colourwork inspired by the decorative stamped motifs found in seventeenth-century books and music scores. I enjoy spotting all the little decorative elements when I’m looking through an old music score, finding something new to sing or checking a detail of an old favourite, and when I find a motif that has knitting-design potential I do a quick sketch and make a note of where I found it. The IMSLP database is a fantastic treasure trove of public-domain music scores, and it’s where I go to find most of my sheet music these days.

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Warning: more music-historical geekiness ahead!

The motifs I used as the starting point for my Orfeo Hat & Cowl come from some early editions of music by Claudio Monteverdi, one of my top two favourite composers (the other is J.S. Bach). The same tiny, tiling motifs appear on the title page of Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo (1609) and his Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610), which were both published by Venetian music printer Ricciardo Amadino. You can see the motifs below, forming the border of a page.

Motifs which can be combined in various different configurations are brilliant for creating a stitch pattern, and the shape of these reminds me of elaborate lyres or c-clefs. To create my colourwork pattern I traced enlarged versions of the motifs onto squared paper and added clean straight lines to contain them. To me, the contrast between the elements creates movement and drama, and feels very baroque.

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The yarn I chose for my samples is Outlaw Yarn’s Bohemia Sport (45% Polwarth, 45% Alpaca, 10% Possum; 183yds/167m per 50g skein). When I was still at the swatching stage for these designs I asked around on Instagram for recommendations for good yarn for stranded colourwork, and I’m glad I went with this suggestion. It’s soft and warm, the fuzzy halo helps the stitches ‘mesh’ well without obscuring the design, and it can be worked at a tight gauge, which is how I prefer my colourwork.

I used half a skein of each colour for the hat, and a little over one skein of each colour for the cowl - so if you’d like a matching set, two skeins of each colour will be plenty. The colours I picked are Parchment for the hat’s main/background colour (MC), Gaslight for the cowl’s MC, and Leadlight for the contrast/motif colour (CC) for both. Leadlight has unfortunately been discontinued since I knit my two samples, but the new colour Erebus is a great substitute - it’s a dark blue/charcoal shade, whereas Leadlight was plain black.

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I chose the Twisted German Cast On for both the hat and cowl because it’s quite substantial as well as stretchy, but you can use any cast on you prefer for 1x1 ribbing, e.g. Tubular, Long Tail, Alternate Cable, etc. I used this tutorial to remind myself how to work the Twisted German method: Photo Tutorial: Twisted German / Old Norwegian Cast-On.

Once you get into the colourwork, there will be some rounds with longer floats which you will need to ‘trap’ on the reverse side. I found a few good tutorials for this, including Andrea Rangel’s Catching Floats in Colorwork, Dianna Walla’s trapping long floats in stranded colorwork, and Ann Kingstone’s Trapping Floats. It does interrupt the flow of your knitting, but I feel it’s worth it to tidy up the long floats so they won’t snag on things and pull your stitches out of place.

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Orfeo Hat features:

  • a stranded colourwork beanie knit in the round from the bottom up

  • swirling colourwork motifs which grow out of the corrugated ribbing of the brim, and simpler abstract colourwork in the crown shaping

  • hat dimensions: 18”/46cm circumference and 8.5”/21.5cm length, to fit adult head sizes ranging from 19-22”/48-56cm head circumference

  • requires 101yds/92.5m of the main/background colour (MC) + 102yds/93.5m of the contrast/motif colour (CC) in sport- or fingering-weight yarn

  • pattern includes charted stitch patterns only.

Orfeo Cowl features:

  • a stranded colourwork cowl knit in the round from the bottom up

  • swirling colourwork motifs edged with corrugated ribbing

  • cowl dimensions: 27”/68.5cm circumference and 10”/25.5cm height

  • requires 216yds/197m of the main/background colour (MC) + 209yds/191m of the contrast/motif colour (CC) in sport- or fingering-weight yarn

  • pattern includes charted stitch patterns only.

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The Orfeo Hat and Orfeo Cowl patterns are available on Ravelry, both individually and as an ebook (with a reduced price per pattern).

Why 'Baroque Purls'?

I just made the switch from my old Instagram handle @amyvdlaar (an abbreviation of my name) to @baroquepurls, which I’ve been using on Ravelry for years. Now that I’m using Instagram as much as Ravelry, I decided it was high time my names on my two favourite sites matched, so that people can find and recognise me more easily. And I realised that while I’m at it, I should probably explain why I originally chose the name!

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New pattern: Oil Paint Cowl

The Oil Paint Cowl is a cosy cowl with textured colour-play inspired by the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. The all-over colourwork pattern uses the brilliant ‘marlisle’ technique pioneered by Anna Maltz, which adds textural contrast and colour-mixing to stranded colourwork. The foreground pattern of brushstrokes is stranded using one colour only, and the background is worked in garter stitch with both colours held together.

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I was lucky enough to visit an amazing Van Gogh exhibition last year at the National Gallery of Victoria, and I snapped a few photos of details I liked - you can see some of my favourites below. The colours, textures, and movement of the paint ended up inspiring this cowl design. I suggest picking one of your own favourite paintings to help choose your yarn colours!

I knit my cowl using two skeins of Malabrigo Mechita (100% merino; 420yds/384m per 100g skein). To keep the brushstroke pattern well defined I chose the semi-solid colourway ‘Frank Ochre’ for the stranded stitches, which also shimmers beautifully in the marled garter stitch background. And to really bring out the impressionist painting effect, I chose the variegated colourway ‘Sheri’ for the background, to add extra richness and depth.

I also tested out the combination of Frank Ochre and Glitter, and the swatch reminds me of Van Gogh’s paintings of fading sunflowers. But in the end I went with Sheri for the background, because the cool tones give a livelier contrast with Frank Ochre.

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Oil Paint Cowl features:

  • a cosy short cowl knit in the round from the bottom up

  • all-over marlisle colourwork pattern of stylised brushstrokes

  • techniques include stranded colourwork, and knitting in the round

  • suitable for solid or semi-solid fingering-weight yarn with contrast between the two colours

  • the background/MC also suits variegated yarn or colour gradients

  • one size, easy to alter by changing the number of repeats

  • pattern includes full written instructions as well as charts (made possible by the small 8-stitch repeat).

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The Oil Paint Cowl pattern is available on Ravelry.