Lara Scarf: A Shawl-Collared Scarf in Cushy Brioche Stitch

Today my newest pattern, the Lara Scarf, is live on Ravelry! This is one of my favorite patterns to date, for many reasons: the thick and cozy brioche fabric, the interesting shape and construction, the tidy selvedges. Most of all, I love how it adds effortless chic to layered outfits.

The idea for Lara (pronounced "Lahhhruh," in case it matters to you) came when my husband was watching TV. One of the main characters in a show called "Billions" (Lara, obviously) came onto the screen wearing this amazing leather jacket with an attached knit collar, and I sort of freaked out for a moment. The show was paused, photos were taken on my phone, and an idea was born. What would happen if that shawl collar could be recreated as a separate layering piece? How would it be shaped? What would its construction entail?

This past April I attended the wonderful Make.Wear.Love retreat in Monterey, CA. This retreat is full of all kinds of knitterly activities, but the classes offered this year were led by some of the most amazing and knowledgeable teachers the knitting world has to offer: Amy Herzog of CustomFit (and the retreat's creator), designer Julie Weisenberger of Cocoknits, Clara Parkes of Knitlandia and other wonderful books (and we all know her highly-coveted and delicious Clara Yarn), and Norah Gaughan of just about everything (though her latest home is Brooklyn Tweed, and you should familiarize yourself with her excellent Knitted Cable Sourcebook, among other publications). One of the classes taught by Norah had to do with unique construction in knitting designs. I didn't attend that class, but the class' description mentioned that Norah likes to use thick polar fleece to drape over a dress form as a stand-in for knitted fabric. This idea intrigued me, so I went to a craft shop to buy some polar fleece. After sketching and measuring (and some swearing, I'll confess), I came up with a rough fleece "sketch" for Lara's construction. Using the fleece, I discovered that an arch shape was what I was after.

Shaped like the Arc de Triomphe, Lara is cast on at the top edge using the long tail cast on. Brioche is worked to create the collar, with a tidy and sturdy I-cord selvedge variation at each edge. Once the collar portion is complete, one half is placed on waste yarn while the first side is worked. Beginning with the inner neck, stitches are bound off to carve the neckline. A sloped bind-off technique is used to create a lovely continuous bound off edge; this line is then continued along the inner scarf flap by using a simple slipped stitch selvedge (the I-cord selvedge is continued down the outer edge of each side to the very end of the flaps). Once the first scarf flap is finished to the bound off edge, the second size is placed back on the needles, and the second side of the inner neck bind off begins. All of the techniques used are described in the pattern, both in the "Techniques" section and throughout the pattern's written instructions.

Part of what makes this pattern so fun are the surprises involved. It's the kind of pattern you just have to trust, and the scarf's details will emerge as you work. It's unlike any pattern I've seen yet, and it's a fun ride!

As always, gauge is key. Brioche is such a yarn-hungry stitch pattern, and it would be a shame to put in all of the effort to make a lovely scarf just to have it be too large, too small, too firm, too drapey. The gauge I chose the Lara straddles the line between drape and sturdiness; it's important to knit a decently large gauge swatch for an accurate measurement (I think mine was about 7" wide and just as long after blocking). Also, wet blocking the gauge swatch is imperative. Brioche grows horizontally quite a bit after washing; if your scarf turns out too wide, the collar's lapels will hang down by your belly button! Taking the time to knit and properly block a gauge swatch will help you achieve the look you want.

If you'd like to make modifications to Lara's size, here's some helpful information. To edit the placement of the collar's lapels, you can add or subtract stitches to the cast on number. Take care here, because a few stitches will have a large impact here. Brioche expands horizontally much more than it does vertically, and this translates into a dramatic difference in the collar's width. Once the collar is draped around the neck, that width becomes the collar's downward reach. At four stitches per inch (after blocking), you won't need to make any huge adjustments here. I've found it's best for the front edges of Lara's collar to reach just above the breasts for the most flattering look.

To control the dramatic impact of the shawl collar, you can add rows to the brioche rectangle that forms the collar before any neck shaping begins. Subtracting a few rows will make the collar narrower once folded; adding rows will create thicker lapels with more drama. Take care here, though; even just two rows in either direction will have a noticeable impact in the finished piece. I recommend sticking to the pattern, but I know there's always a handful of knitters who can't help themselves from making mods (I may/may not be one of them. I make no claims). Just use a light hand here if you must modify the instructions to satisfy your authority issues.

To make changes to the length of the collar's flaps, it's a fairly straightforward section to make mods to. Since the vertical gauge won't change very much after blocking (from 7 sts to 7.25 sts per inch), you will have a better sense of the final length of this portion of the piece. Keep in mind that the width of the collar will change quite a bit, though (from 5 sts to 4 sts per inch horizontally); you'll have to stretch the unblocked work at the collar to make sure you have an accurate sense of the finished drape. It's a tricky thing.

That said, I've refined the instructions to fit most women. I'm a 5'10" Amazon type, and you may notice that I added a bit of extra length to both the collar's width and the scarf flaps' length in the sample knit in Andouin. It wasn't a huge mod, and I'd say that it's still slightly too large for me. The sample knit in Kittywake is accurate to the pattern's directions, and it fits me well. It also fits my 5'3" narrow-shouldered friend beautifully; for this reason, I'd say the pattern is a one-size-fits-all size. If you (or the scarf's intended recipient) are on the extreme end of the height scale, you can refer to the above paragraphs to see how to make mods that will be proportional to your body's height. Weight makes no difference with this piece; it's all about where the parts fall on your body, which is mainly all about torso length and body height.

I hope you enjoy knitting and wearing Lara as much as I enjoyed designing it. It's a design that I'm exceptionally proud of, and so it's a success already. I design for the love of it, and Lara has brought me a lot of joy. My hope is that it might bring joy to other knitters in turn. The knitting world is full of some of the loveliest people I've met, I love contributing to this exciting and supportive community. Lara is my love note to the knitters of the world; and here's to the joy of the season as well!

The Best Non-Dairy Rice Pudding You've Ever Had

I'll admit it, I'm spoiled. I have an amazing husband who does things like make rice pudding that's dairy- and egg-free so I can actually eat it. Sweetened with maple syrup and made with a blend of coconut and almond milks, it's as healthy as it is delicious.

I know what you're thinking: NON-DAIRY PUDDING IS GROSS. You're right. It is. Until now, I've refused to eat any such thing. They're full of ingredients I refuse to eat, or they're just plain disgusting. But this one is ridiculously, obscenely good. And if you can't (or won't) eat dairy and are on the hunt for delicious recipes, don't pass this one up.

This pudding has two secrets to its success. First, it's made in an Instant Pot. There's no standing over the stove for twenty minutes; it's incredibly simple to make. Second, it uses a blend of non-dairy milks. A friend let me in on the secret that the flavors of coconut and almond milk cancel each other out, and I'll admit that I was skeptical. Both flavors are so noticeable, how could it be that they could ever recede in something as simply made as pudding? But I'm a believer now, because I couldn't detect either flavor in this dish. It's not that I dislike the flavor of almond or coconut milks; far from it. But sometimes, you just want to eat a dessert and pretend you're eating the same dairy-laden comfort food you were raised on. This pudding completely did that for me.

Without further ado, here's the recipe. My husband made the pudding and wrote the recipe for me; it's almost like he loves me or something.

-2 cups organic white basmati rice, rinsed
-4 cups Original New Barn almond milk
-1 can (16 oz) full-fat coconut milk*
-1 cup raisins (we used our homemade raisins, but any oil-free organic raisins would do)
-1/2 cup maple syrup
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
-1/2 tsp. good-quality salt (we like Real Salt for cooking and baking)

*I use Natural Value's coconut milk, because it's nearly impossible to find canned coconut milk that doesn't contain guar gum, and this one is fairly decent and guar-gum free. Just be sure to use the full-fat version, or you'll be sorely disappointed with your pudding.

Place rinsed rice, almond milk, maple syrup, salt, and spices in Instant Pot bowl. Stir well to combine. Close lid, check that vent is closed, and turn on porridge setting. Make sure it's set for twenty minutes, if it isn't already. You can adjust the cooking time using the +/- button.

When cooking time is done, allow 10–15 minutes for pressure to release before opening lid. Once lid has been safely removed, stir in coconut milk and raisins. Stir until combined.

Pudding can be served warm, but I prefer it chilled. To chill, place pudding in bowl and cover with bee wrap or plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. A few hours of chilling time is the minimum, though overnight is best.

I serve this pudding chilled, with a bit of maple syrup drizzled on top of each serving. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ravine Cowl KAL

Here in Northern California, we're having a late autumn heat wave, and all I can think about are cozy fall knits. In honor of my wish for colder weather, I'm hosting my first KAL! The Ravine Cowl pattern is free, available for download on Ravelry or you can find the more comprehensive version (with photos!) here on the blog. It's a simple seed stitch cowl, but I've included extra photos and tips for beautiful CO and BO edges using techniques that I found work beautifully with this pattern.

This cowl is written in two sizes: the small size will sit on the neck without wrapping and is perfect for moderate climates (or to add a touch of color to your autumn wardrobe); and the large size is perfect for wrapping around the neck, adding a cozy dollop of winter warmth throughout the cold season. One or two skeins of heavy Aran-weight yarn will do it, depending on yardage and size chosen.

The yarn I designed this cowl for is Hinterland Ravine, an Aran-weight mule-spun dreamy blend made from Canadian wool and Hinterland Farm's alpacas' fiber. It's available for purchase from Tolt Yarn & Wool. If you'd like a more colorful palette to choose from (or would simply prefer 100% wool), Beaverslide's Fisherman Weight 3-ply yarn is a great choice. I currently have two Ravine Cowls in my closet: a small size made with one skein of Beaverslide in Hidden Lake, and a large size knit with Ravine in a warm beige color. These are two of my most reached-for knits once the weather begins to cool, they're so cozy and they go with everything.

The winner for this KAL will be chosen at the end of October 2016 and announced on Halloween. This winner will receive a skein of either Hinterland Ravine or Beaverslide Fisherman 3-ply in the in-stock color of their choice. I'd love it if all KAL participants would take photos of their progress and share them on Instagram, since looking at everyone else's knits is half the KAL fun! If you do post a photo, please use the hashtag "#ravinecowlKAL" so I can see your entry. I don't want to miss out on seeing your cowl in progress!

Happy knitting!

Aquinnah: My Contribution to Brooklyn Tweed's Wool People 10

The Aquinnah Scarf and Wrap is a pattern that I'm so very proud of. I designed it for Brooklyn Tweed as part of their Wool People 10 collection, and I'm thrilled to announce that it was published today.

I designed Aquinnah in three different sizes, so all knitters can find a version that speaks to them. The small worsted-weight version uses about 8 skeins of Shelter, and the sample was knit in Long Johns. The large worsted-weight version uses about 14 skeins of Shelter, and the sample was knit in Nest. And finally, the bulky-weight version uses about 7 skeins of Quarry, and was knit in Hematite.

You can purchase Aquinnah and the other stunning patterns from Wool People 10 on Ravelry or from Brooklyn Tweed's website. I also highly recommend taking a moment to scroll through the WP10 Cookbook, where you'll see more detailed photos of each design, as well as more information about each yarn and designer involved in this wonderful collection.

All photos by Jared Flood, courtesy of Brooklyn Tweed.

Read My "Featured Designer" Profile on the Quince & Co Blog!

When Quince & Co asked me if I'd write about the Natural Home Collection for their blog, I said yes right away! Quince is one of my very favorite companies, and their yarns always top my Favorites list. I feel honored to have been a Featured Designer on their blog, it's such a treat.

To read about my inspiration for this collection (as well as a little about my love of Quince's Kestrel), go check it out on their blog!

The Natural Home Collection is Live!

I'm so excited to share that my Natural Home Collection is now live on Ravelry! I combined my love of nature with my passion for making, and the result is this collection. I'm happy with how it all came together!

Included in the collection are three different patterns. The Felted Lopi Bowls are made with Hinterland Cabin, a lopi yarn made from Navajo-Churro yarn. I adore this yarn, which I've written about before, and it felts so beautifully. This Canadian yarn is available in the US from the Woolful Mercantile.

The Linen Placemats are made with Quince & Co's Kestrel, a chainette/ribbon linen yarn that's incredibly unique. Kestrel has so many beautiful and subtle colors, you'll be sure to find a hue that suits your home.

The Hemp Scrubbies are a wonderful way to use this tough yet lovely fiber. The yarn is made by Darn Good Yarn's Three-ply Hemp, made from pesticide-free hemp that's spun by a co-op in Nepal. The symmetrical texture and worsted weight make for a scrubby that's as aesthetically pleasing as it is useful (plus you can wash and dry it in the machine).

I hope you enjoy these patterns!

Testing Call! Linen Placemats for Spring

Calling all test knitters! The swatch shown above is for a rectangular placemat pattern, which uses Quince & Co's Kestrel held double. The resulting fabric is dense yet soft, and completely machine washable! I put a lot of thought and care into gauge, selvedges, and Bo and CO options to give the placemats a clean, finished look.

These placemats are truly lovely, adding a light and fresh look to your spring table. The pattern is part of my Natural Home collection, and the placemats use 100% organic linen sourced by an American company.

If you'd like to be a test knitter for these placemats, contact me here or check out my Ravelry group to sign up! Happy knitting!