Pierrot Yarns contest

I should’ve posted about this earlier, but I just wanted to remind folks that there’s still time to enter the Pierrot Yarns contest. The idea behind the yarn is to showcase the company’s yarns, so you can enter any item you’ve either knit, crocheted, or woven with one of their yarns.

There are some pretty nice prizes (gift certificates, books, etc.). Plus, everyone who enters something in the contest receives an entry prize, so there’s nothing to lose, right?


Pierrot Yarns review: Soft Merino

This week I’m reviewing Pierrot Yarns Soft Merino (store link || Ravelry link). It’s also available in fingering (UK 4-ply) weight, but the one I’m reviewing here is sport to DK weight. (Note that the store website lists it as “chunky,” but that’s just a result of direct translation from Japanese. It gets 23 st per 10 cm, which is squarely in the sport weight category. Which reminds me that I should probably write up a post about Japanese yarn weights one of these days.) These are my two skeins of color #8, wine red:

Soft Merino DK

Here’s what you’ll find on the label [English translation in brackets]:

  • 毛 100%(メリノウール) [100% merino wool]
  • 約40g玉巻(約95m)[approx. 95m per 40g skein]
  • 棒針 6号〜8号 [recommended needle range: Japanese size 6-8 knitting needles (3.9-4.5mm)]
  • カギ針 5号〜6号 [recommended crochet hook range: Japanese size 5/0 – 6/0 (3.0-3.5mm)]
  • ゲージ 23目30段 [suggested gauge: 23st and 30 rows in 10cm (stockinette)]

Knit swatch (before washing/blocking):

Knit in stockinette on US 7 (4.5mm). My gauge before washing was 22.5 st and 30 rows in 10x10cm. Being such a tight knitter, I’m amazed I got so close to the suggested gauge – never happens!

Soft Merino unwashed swatch

No pilling as you knit it, and I didn’t experience any splitting. The yarn was nice to knit up – very soft! I wouldn’t hesitate to use this for baby items (keeping in mind that it’s not superwash wool).

Knit swatch (after washing/blocking):

Knit in stockinette on US 7 (4.5mm). My gauge after washing was 19 st and 31 rows in 10x10cm. So it grew just a bit, especially in width.

Soft Merino washed swatch

It was hand-washed in cold water with mild detergent, then rolled in a towel to remove excess water. I blocked it loosely with pins and left it to dry. The dried fabric is very soft but has no visible felting after one wash. It also didn’t bleed when washed, which surprised me with a red yarn (other colors may bleed when washed, of course, so always be careful when washing).

Crochet swatch (before washing/blocking):

Double crochet (US) with size D hook (3.25mm). My gauge before washing was 22 st and 6 rows in 10x10cm. I cheated a bit here and didn’t make a huge swatch, so I measured over 5cm and just multiplied everything by two.

Soft Merino crochet swatch

I found that the yarn split occasionally while I was crocheting it, but nothing too frustrating. With this hook size, I got a nice, soft fabric that holds its shape but isn’t so stiff it’s bulletproof.

My impressions:

  • The name Soft Merino is truth in advertising – this yarn is very soft. Very nice on the hands while knitting or crocheting, and the resulting fabric is smooth like butter.
  • Comes in a lot of colors, which is good for anyone wanting to do colorwork.
  • A bit splitty if you’re crocheting – not a problem when knitting.
  • Blooms nicely in the wash, but pay attention to difference in gauge after washing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this yarn. Now to decide what to make with my remaining skeins!

Japanese pattern-reading tutorial: Lesson 1

Welcome to my first attempt at a Japanese pattern-reading tutorial! This is meant to be a KAL/CAL type tutorial, so grab those hooks and needles and join in.

First things first: the patterns we’ll be starting with are one small crochet project and one small knitting project. These were chosen to help people get a feel for charted pattern reading without having to invest in a long-term project. Feel free to do just one or both. Our crochet pattern will be 29-210-28 Pop Merino Beret (Ravelry link) and our knitting pattern will be 26-27-20 Child’s Sweater (Ravelry link). Thanks are due to Pierrot Yarns for allowing me to use their patterns for this tutorial.

So, let’s get started. What do you need to know to start a charted Japanese pattern? Well, chances are, identifying the suggested yarn, hook/needle, and gauge is a good place to start. For Japanese patterns that are on Ravelry, of course, you can often find this information on the pattern’s Ravelry page in English. But you probably want to know how to figure it out from the pattern itself, right?

Step 1: Don’t panic! It’s just a pattern.

Step 2: Know where to look. In Japanese patterns, 99% of the time, you’ll find all the information about yarn, hook or needle, gauge, and finished measurements up at the top of the pattern. Got your crochet beret pattern handy? Let’s see what we’ve got:

top of beret pattern

The part circled in blue is where all the important information is. The part crossed out in red may look important, but it very rarely is. It’s just a short description of how the pattern is worked. For example, in a sweater pattern, it may say something as earth-shattering as “make back, make front, make two sleeves, sew together” – not so important, right? You can already get all that information from the charts and diagrams.

I can already hear someone saying, well, when should you pay attention to the Japanese blurb? My own opinion is that pretty much the only time the blurb is useful is when it instructs you to use more than one strand of yarn at the same time. Luckily, this is pretty easy to figure out. Check the blurb for 2本どり. Do you see it? If so, you’re supposed to be using 2 strands of yarn at the same time. (It could be 3本どり in rare cases using 3 strands at once.) If not, it’s just 1 strand of yarn. There’s no 2本どり in the beret pattern, and if you check the sweater pattern, you won’t find it either. So now we know that we’re making both of these patterns with one strand each.

Step 3: Know what to look for. It’s not fancy, but I’ve marked the important parts of the materials list. Here’s the beret:

beret materials list

And here’s the sweater:

sweater materials list

Already this post is getting too long, so I’ll just make it short and tell you the crucial info. I’ll go into more detail about this stuff later – so that you can figure it out for yourself – but for now, I just wanted to help people figure out what materials they’ll need for the tutorial.

This is what you should know for the beret:

  • 85g Pop Merino
  • (Japanese) size 7/0 crochet hook (check out snuffykins’ helpful chart and you’ll see that this is a 4.0mm hook, which is a US size G.)
  • size: head circumference 45cm (that’s 17.7 inches)
  • gauge: 15 st and 8.5 rows in pattern stitch
    • gauge measurements unless otherwise noted are for a 10cm by 10cm swatch – you can see that it says 10cm平方, which confirms the 10cm size here)

For the sweater, the crucial info is:

  • 200g Junmo Namibuto2
  • (Japanese) size 8 knitting needles (for knitting needles, get metric sizes from the ABCs of Knitting website – these are size 4.5mm, which is US 7)
  • gauge: two are listed
    • stockinette: 17 st and 28 rows (again, in a 10cm by 10cm swatch)
    • pattern stitch: 17.5 st and 28 rows
  • size: chest 64cm (25.2 inches)

Step 4: If all else fails, remember that Ravelry is a great resource. There’s no shame in asking if someone else can identify the yarn for you. The Japanese knitting and crochet group is an excellent place to ask.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll do the next lesson later in the week, but it’ll be about resources that help with charted patterns. We’ll start the actual knitting & crocheting next week, which should give everyone time to gather the materials they need. I’m thinking of doing tutorials for the crochet pattern on Mondays and for the knitting pattern on Thursdays. Does that work for everyone?

Pierrot Yarns review: Organic Cotton Fingering

This week I’m reviewing Pierrot Yarns Organic Cotton Fingering (store link || Ravelry link), one of three weights available in Pierrot Yarns’ organic cotton line. This is the fingering (UK 4-ply) weight:

swatch in snow

Organic Cotton Fingering

It comes in sport/DK, fingering (4-ply), and light fingering (3-ply), but I’m only going to talk about the fingering weight version today. All three weights are made of organic, undyed, unbleached cotton. Because they aren’t dyed or bleached, the yarn is a warm, creamy color.

Here’s what you’ll find on the label [English translation in brackets]:

  • 綿 100% [100% cotton]
    • Note: it doesn’t say organic cotton in the info section of the label, but it does elsewhere. Look for オーガニックコットン to verify that it’s organic cotton.
  • 約25g玉巻(約70m)[approx. 70m per 25g skein]
  • 棒針 3号〜4号 [recommended needle range: Japanese size 3-4 knitting needles (3.0-3.3mm)]
  • カギ針 3/0号〜4/0号 [recommended crochet hook range: Japanese size 3/0 – 4/0 (2.3-2.5mm)]
  • ゲージ 23目34段 [suggested gauge: 23st and 34 rows in 10cm (stockinette)]

Swatch (before washing/blocking):

Knit in stockinette on US 3 (3.25mm). My gauge before washing was 28 st and 36 rows in 10x10cm.

Organic Cotton Fingering unwashed swatch

This is nice, soft cotton. It doesn’t split while you’re working with it, which can be a problem with some cotton yarns. You can see a few flecks of brown in it – apparently little cotton seeds. Not unexpected for a yarn that’s advertised as relatively unprocessed (no bleaching or dyes, but obviously spinning/plying), but at least in the skeins I have, it’s hardly noticeable. From a distance, you don’t see the specks at all. Up close, you can see 4-5 specks. Nothing unsightly in my opinion, and definitely on par with other organic cotton yarns.

Swatch (after washing/blocking):

Knit in stockinette on US 3 (3.25mm). My gauge after washing was 25 st and 37 rows in 10x10cm. Luckily it snowed today, so I can offer this photo showing the natural cotton color against pure white snow:

Organic Cotton Fingering, washed swatch

It was washed in cold water with mild detergent, rolled in a towel to remove excess water, and then pinned out to dry on a flat surface. So it shrank a very small amount in width but got very slightly longer in rows. There’s no pilling or any other adverse effects from washing as far as I can tell.

My impressions:

  • Soft cotton yarn good for baby items, washcloths, or anything you want to wear close to the skin.
  • It’s nice that it’s organic (certified by whatever agency in Japan is in charge of organic certification).
  • It’s only available in one color: natural off-white cotton. Ideal for someone looking for natural items, but I imagine it would also be a great base for hand-dying any color you choose.

Japanese pattern reading: more advanced?

Lately I’ve been thinking it could be useful to blog about slightly more advanced Japanese knitting & crochet pattern reading. Tips for things not covered in most tips for Japanese knitting & crochet patterns, beyond the basics, etc. It could include reading from Japanese yarn labels, too. Would that be something people would find helpful?

There are some great resources for Japanese pattern basics. For example, most sites that offer tips on knitting or crocheting Japanese patterns provide hints for non-Japanese speakers to identify yarn, needle, and gauge information. But it’s not always as straightforward. In a pattern, you might painstakingly decipher the list of yarns and such, then get started and find out that your gauge is astronomically off target. One reason could be that the instructions for knitting with 2 or more strands are not often easy to find.

Do you see 2本どり floating somewhere off the side of a pattern schematic or stitch chart? If so, you’re supposed to be using 2 strands of yarn at the same time, which can obviously have drastic effects on gauge. (It could be 3本どり in rare cases using 3 strands at once.) Unfortunately, that won’t be listed in the yarn section (most of the time), so that means you’ll have to look around for it. If you don’t see it anywhere on the page, it’s safe to assume it’s just one strand.

Please leave a comment if you’d be interested in seeing something like this. Suggestions on what you’d find helpful are also very welcome.

Pierrot Yarns review: Merino Gradation

This past week, I’ve been using Pierrot Yarns Merino Gradation (store link || Ravelry link) to make a scarf. This is the yarn:

Merino Gradation skeins

While I was at it, I knit up a swatch to review. Merino Gradation is a roving-type yarn, by which I mean that it’s very loosely twisted (similar to Paton’s SWS). It consists of two plies, one off-white and another that changes color to create the gradation effect. Throughout the length, the second ply changes from off-white to blue-gray to black. The change between colors is a bit more slow and subtle between pure off-white and off-white/blue-gray than it is when black is involved, but there’s still gradation between the black and blue-gray sections. (What my swatches don’t show is that you’ll have some sections that are just off-white with no other color. It just didn’t show up in a swatch that small. See the long swatches on the Pierrot Yarns website if you’re curious what it looks like. You can also see it in the scarf I wrote about in my last post.)

Here’s what you’ll find on the label [English translation in brackets]:

  • 毛(メリノウール)100% [100% merino wool]
  • 約30g玉巻(約57m)[approx. 57m per 30g skein]
  • 棒針 6号〜8号 [recommended needle range: Japanese size 6-8 knitting needles (3.9-4.5mm)]
  • カギ針 5号〜7号 [recommended crochet hook range: Japanese size 5/0 – 7/0 (3.0-4.0mm)]
  • ゲージ 18目26段 [suggested gauge: 18st and 26 rows in 10cm]

Swatch (before washing/blocking):

30 st in stockinette on US 7 (4.5mm). My gauge before washing was 21.5 st and 30 rows in 10x10cm.

Merino Gradation swatch before washing
Because I’m a tight knitter, even with the largest suggested needle size, I got more stitches per cm than recommended. The fabric is pretty dense, but not bulletproof, either. It’s still flexible and there’s no denying the softness. If I were using this for a project, I would definitely use larger needles to accommodate my tight knitting, but I wanted to use a needle in the suggested range for sake of comparison. I’m curious to see what’ll happen after washing!

Swatch (after washing/blocking):

30 st in stockinette on US 7 (4.5mm). My gauge after washing was 21.5 st and 32 rows in 10x10cm. So the stitch gauge remained the same, but the row gauge actually shrank.

This may be because I dried it by setting it on my radiator (on low heat). It’s been so damp and rainy here in Paris lately that I feared without using the radiator, it would take days to dry, risking mildew. I did feel when washing it that it grew in size, so my drying method may have caused it to shrink back down. So my caveat here is to take your gauge after drying your swatch however you would wash the finished item.

Merino Gradation, washed swatch (white background)

Merino Gradation swatch (washed)Merino Gradation swatch (washed)

It was hand-washed in cool water and delicate laundry soap. The color bleeds somewhat (either the black or blue-gray dye), so be careful to wash with like colors. Texture-wise, it feels pretty much the same as it did before washing: soft and smooth. There’s a very faint halo of fuzz, but let me stress that it’s very faint. Also, because it’s such a loosely-plied yarn, I feared it would pill a lot when washed, but after one wash, no pilling at all.

My impressions:

The neckwarmer in my previous post was made with three skeins of Merino Gradation in color #2 (off-white, black, blue-gray). So I’ve had a chance to use this yarn for more than just the swatch, and I give it a positive review.

  • The color gradation is nice & gentle – no abrupt changing of color.
  • Soft but doesn’t have a huge fuzzy halo like some loosely-plied (roving-like) yarns.
  • Like most single-ply or loosely-plied yarns, it tends to untwist while you’re working it. However, it didn’t untwist nearly as much as I expected it to. My only previous experience with a yarn of this type is Paton’s SWS, which untwists terribly, leaving you with strands of fuzz that break if you sneeze. Merino Gradation untwisted slightly but never enough to make breaking a risk.
  • Only found one knot in 4 skeins.
  • The only con I can think of is that there are only four colorways available.

Merino Gradation neckwarmer

Don’t you love it when you stumble across just the right button for something? Even better if it’s already in your button tin and you don’t have to buy one. A few days ago, I finished making Hubby-Approved Neckwarmer for my husband, but I didn’t get around to putting a button on it until last night. I didn’t remember having any buttons big enough, but decided to have a look through my button tin anyway (which is actually just an old film canister – I miss having loads of empty ones for odds & ends, don’t you? Must be somewhere you can buy them without analog film, I guess.)

Turns out I not only had a button the right size, but it’s a perfect color match. Score! I used Pierrot Yarns Merino Gradation in the white/blue-gray/black colorway, and the button matches the smoky blue-gray color perfectly.

neckwarmer in Merino Gradation neckwarmer in Merino Gradation

I used three full skeins (186yds/170m) of Merino Gradation on US8 needles (5.0mm), and I cast on 36 st to make it wider. The pattern is extremely simple, but the instructions for buttonhole placement are lacking. As you can see in the photo, I had to put the button on the very end just so it wouldn’t choke K when he’s wearing it. I debated ripping back and re-doing the buttonhole, but by the time I realized that placing the buttonhole where the pattern says is a bad idea if you like to breathe, I’d gone several inches. So I let laziness get the better of me and kept going. I do have a partial skein left, though, so I might cast on again, knit a few more inches, and then graft it onto the short end.

The Merino Gradation was great to work with, by the way, and it’s really soft. My husband likes the smoothness and also thinks the colors are not too feminine for him to wear. A full review of the yarn (with swatches) coming later today or tomorrow!