Recently in Chai Frilled Category

Smooth as Silk

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Chai Top, Front
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Chai Top, Back

There's definitely something to be said for ripping. In the case of this top, it went from making me look like the ballet dancing hippo in Fantasia (yes, the frill really was that unflattering because of where it fell and the fact that it was so bulky) to my normal happy self.

What made removing that ruffle much less painful was the fact that it was knit down from the bottom edge rather than knit as a part of the piece. This meant that I could rip it off without affecting the structural integrity of the rest of the garment. I just picked up stitches around the bottom after the ruffle was removed and knit for a little more than two inches. After binding off, I did a row of slip stich crochet and followed it with a band of single crochet. Then I attached it to my blocking board and soaked the bottom with water and let it block overnight before releasing it from its pins.

The result? Beautiful flat edge.

Now, this would not have been the right decision with a wool garment. If it had been wonderfully elastic wool, it would already be rolling and no amount of crochet or wet blocking would make all that much difference. The hem would absolutely have been the right way to go.

But silk is a different, rather inelastic fiber. And once you block it, it doesn't really want to to roll or curl. You can see that at the base of the garment and at the sleeve edges. The sleeves are also terminated with a simple cast off edge. They've been blocked for several days now and have shown no inclination to curl.

I also decided against the hem for another reason. The fabric is very drapey (something that goes hand in hand with the lack of elasticity). A hem would have added bulk at the waistline and reduced some of the body skimming drapey quality of the top. Or at least that's my fear.

Without the ruffle I have a top that I like quite a lot. I don't have another top that is this soft against my skin. And the Chai has this lovely subtle shimmer that makes the top a little more interesting than it might otherwise be.

What did I learn?

  • ArtFibers' yarn is still awesome. With two tops down and one to go, I feel like the investment I made in their yarn and pattern help was definitely an investment in my wardrobe that I'll get some return on. I'd let myself off of my yarn diet if I could suddenly be transported back to San Francisco.
  • Invisible cast ons are your best friend if you're not sure about a border or edging. You can rip out the border without great fear for the rest of the piece and there's no pesky grafting to worry about.
  • I love the subtlety of the variagations in this colorway. There's definitely a color texture, but it's much more like Koigu and there's no pesky pooling to be unhappy about.
  • Silk and wool are different. Silk fibers aren't elastic and won't curl very much after being blocked into place. This adds to the drape of the fabric.
  • I need to knit more V necks!

The only concern I have about the Chai is it's durability. It is a yarn with a handspun texture -- thick in some places, thin in others, variable twist throughout. The less twisted areas are fuzzing a little bit, which is giving the top a little bit of a soft focus halo.

Overall Verdict: I love it and will definitely enjoy wearing it. I think it will make an excellent top to go into the fall with and combines both subtle and business like with just a tad flirty.

For anyone keeping score... this is the first of three projects that I need to complete before I can buy anymore yarn....

Unruffled

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After a full Saturday of knitting, investigating the Fry's Electronics (geek Mecca) and some more knitting while taking in Spiderman 2 (cast on in a dark movie theatre? no problem!), Sunday morning, this is what awaited me:

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Chai Top Pieces

By midnight Monday morning, this is what had resulted:

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Chai Top Unruffled
What happened, you ask?

By relatively early this evening, I had the sleeves attached and the side seams sewn up. Victory! I thought. All I have to do now is steam out that ruffle. Before I headed on to my steaming adventure, I tried on the top and showed it to my chief photographer and fashion critic. A raised eyebrow, a wrinkled nose and an "I'm not sure about that, Therese" later, I found myself back on the floor of our basement, ripping out that ruffle. There's no pictures of the intermediate stage. After a second look in the mirror, I knew I needed to rip and rip fast to keep my momentum.

The rest of the evening was spent ripping out the ruffle (thank goodness that it was knit down from an invisible cast on), picking up stitches and knitting a few rows in the round from the waist down -- without the ruffle, the bottom of the top comes to just above the top of my pants and I'd like it to be a little bit longer than that.

But now I find myself in a little bit of a quandry. How to finish the bottom? I don't want to just knit down in stockinette and then cast off -- I want something that will lay flat, not roll. I could do K1P1 ribbing (similar to the neckline) but I really don't want ribbing around my hips.

This has left me with 3 options: 1 ) stockinette to desired length and 1" of garter stitch, 2) stockinette to desired lenght and 1" of seed stitch or 3) stockinette to desired length followed by a crochet edging, maybe a slightly scalloped decorative edging that I would also use on the sleeves.

I'm leaning towards the 3rd option because it would give me some of the feminine look I was trying to go for with the ruffle and it wouldn't clash with the neckline ribbing, nor require that I add the garter stitch or seed stitch borders to the sleeves (important because I probably don't have enough yarn to do anything too elaborate since I wasn't able to reclaim all the yarn from the ruffle ripping).

Any opinions as to which option I should pick or other possible finishing options? For the record, Chai is an irregularly spun tussah silk yarn with a very nice drape and relatively little elasticity.

Candy Everybody Wants

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Two Headed Ruffly Chai Monster

When I step back from it, it almost doesn't look like a top. This is probably the first time I've ever blocked a top after seaming the shoulders together. Probably not the wisest thing to do (the shoulder seams make that area a bit difficult to stretch out correctly) but not a fatal mistake in the great scheme of things either. The ruffle is going to take some special attention (and probably some steam) to add the drape that I would like it to have, but that will come later, after I have the rest of the garment together. Perhaps tomorrow night I will get the neckband sewn in, if something else doesn't grab my attention first.

Speaking of getting my attention...

Tonight John and I went to an awesome new restaurant here in Chicago. Le Lan opened last Friday and does a Vietnamese/French fusion thing. It's not for the faint of wallet, but it was quite wonderful, and had a casual atmosphere. The server was friendly and not pretentious. The food was excellent -- especially desert. I had an apricot souffle paired with a keffir lime creme brulee. Just to die for. One of the partners in Le Lan is also connected to my favorite French restaurant in Chicago, Les Nomades, which is where I got to try my first souffle. I'm happy to say that Le Lan's souffle's are pretty close. I can imagine going to Le Lan just to have dessert. But I'm sure we'll be going back for the whole deal as well.

I would never have known about this restaurant (at least not this early in it's career) except for a special delivery that comes to my inbox everymorning called "Daily Candy Chicago", which I signed up for after Maggi sent me an email to let me know about it. Daily Candy has let me in on a bunch of fun cool things in Chicago, so I owe Maggi a big thank you for letting me in on the secret (there are also versions for New York and Los Angeles and Everywhere even if you're not in the Chicago area).

Definitely the sort of candy everybody wants!

Chai Front

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Everything but the Ruffle

Have you ever felt like you just lost a day? That's sort of been my whole week this far. I can't believe it's Thursday morning. This will be my last post until next week, as I am heading off to Texas to visit my brother and go to a good friend's wedding. I like Texas (I went to school in San Antonio) but between the rain and the heat it's not going to be a vacation paradise this time of year. Hopefully it will clear up and be nice for the ceremony!

The picture of my Chai' top's front is one I took before I added the ruffle. You'll just have to imagine a ruffle for the moment, as it's too late for me to get out my camera.

I am pleased with the neckline, and I think I will have enough yarn left after the ruffle for the little sleeves. But I am going to do the neckline finishing work first before I proceed, just to be on the safe side.

Well, I better head off and get my suitcase packed -- we picked a 5 pm flight, so I have to get up extra early tomorrow morning and go to work.

Happy Independence Day!

P.S. I feel like I am apologizing a lot lately -- just let me apologize once again to anyone who hasn't got an email response from me and was expecting one. And also to anyone who has left a comment in the past couple of days. I appreciate them all, but work is keeping me hopping right now...

The Frill's the Thrill

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Try saying that 10 times fast!

I didn't get so much knitting done today. John and I headed off to SuperComm and spent a great deal of time looking at what is going to be the latest and greatest in networking and communications technology. It isn't my field per se, but I am always entertained by a good trade show. And when you have the Likes of Lucent, Intel, Cisco and IBM in a conference center, there are bound to be a few entertaining things. And a nice company by the name of Juniper Networks had some pretty decent canvas bags as conference trophies (I just love marketing swag), so I have a new, if geeky, knitting tote in addition to getting to explore wireless networking technology for my office and exploring the latest in cool cellular phones.

I had a little time before we took off today to finish up the last several rows of the frill on my Chai top. The original design for this frill was supposed to double the number of stitches at the base, knit some rows, and then double the stitch count again. I decided that the second increase would make for a little too much frill, and just opted to keep knitting straight. Here's the result:

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Chai Frill

Yes, yes -- anything can look halfway decent when lying down. How does it look when gravity is exerting force on the ruffle?

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Ruffles Have Ripples

Not too bad, but still a little stiffer than I think a flouncy ruffle should be. I kind of like the eyelet effect that resulted from the YF, K1 that was used to do the increasing. There'll be a whole lotta blocking going on once I get this little number ready to seam. ArtFibers recommends taking an iron to the Chai fabric to increase drape and shininess. I'll probably definitely be doing that, otherwise I think that ruffle is going to be a little stiff.

I'll probably be casting on for the front tonight. Since I've now entered yarn paranoia mode, I want to make sure that I get this knit up fast enough to get another ball in the same dye lot if I'm a little under what was anticipated. Probably I should just relax, but I can't think of anything worse (from a knitting perspective) than being just a little bit short of finishing a garment in an exotic yarn. Invisible cast-on number 2, here I come!

Two Tops at One Time

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My dear friend Julie (the divine Ms. BoogaJ, RingMom extraordinaire) can walk through almost any yarn store and without even looking find herself petting something wonderful with alpaca in it. I can do the same thing with silk. If a yarn has silk in it or is a silk blend, you can be sure that I will be drawn to it. Silk, I think, has most of the luminosity of mohair without all the scratchiness.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise then, when I purchased the Chai yarn from ArtFibers when I visited San Francisco. Chai is 100% Tussah Silk and very soft to the touch. The yarn itself has a handspun quality with thick and thin areas, and that gives the knitted fabric a little bit of a rustic textured quality. The texture, combined with the wonderful sheen of silk, provides a lot of spice for the standard stockinette routine.

I didn't plan to start the Chai top project in Ann Arbor because I had decided that the top would probably turn out a little too warm for summer (silk is also an excellent insulator for it's weight). I just wanted to show the yarn to Mom. But somewhere between working on the Confetti Tank Top and showing off my Chai stash acquisition I decided that I would "just cast on to see". And after I cast on, I just couldn't stop knitting. This stuff just makes my hands happy.

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Chai Top: The Back

The design idea for this top is a little different than for the Biscotti top, although the same principle rule applied: it had to be able to go to work. Because I was in the mood to try out a series of different neckline styles, I envisioned this top to have a modest V-neck, little cap sleeves and a bit of a ruffle/frill at the bottom to add a feminine touch. The back is mostly bland except for the ruffle (that bit of aggressively red-orange yarn at the base of the piece is an invisible cast on that will be removed when I pick up stitches for the ruffle).

The color looks a little bit drab in this picture. Like the Biscotti, this Chai colorway (#16) is more subtle than brazen. It has deep mauves and sages and gunmetal blues that look mostly grey or grey/green until you get up closer to the fabric. The bright sunlight makes the colors look kind of muddy and rusty.

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Chai #16 Swatch

I know I already posted a swatch shot, but I couldn't resist a photo coming from a much bigger piece that makes the texture stand out a bit. Chai's thick and thin qualities mean that when it knits up the fabric has irregular ripples and little islands that bubble out of the fabric.

Tonight was devoted to picking up stitches and working on the frill. The total number of stitches at the base is doubled for the ruffle, so I've been feeling like I'm "knitting in place" and getting nowhere, but I only have a few rows to go. I'm modifying the frill design a bit -- there's supposed to be another doubling of stitches (to almost 400) that I have decided not to do, mostly because I am not sure having that much fabric at my hips will be all that flattering. And also because I have a little creeping bit of "enough yarn" paranoia.

Not sure if I'll take a break from this and go back to the ribbon tank after the back is done. I'm just sort of letting my fingers lead me where I want to go lately. But it's a good bet that they'll be interested in wandering over more Chai.

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