Blending your scraps with mohair/Silk
This is part of an ongoing series called #theyearofthescrap except that now it is multiple years and extremely joyful.
So there is this magic thing that happens sometimes when we combine our materials. It’s also a life thing, not just a making thing….. but when it happens in our making it is simply just magic.
Sometimes the project is so much more than the sum of it’s parts.
I believe that this is often part of what happens when we thoughtfully use our scraps. Scrap making asks us to use our creativity and our nous to get conscious about what we are combining in a way we don’t have to when we have what we need for the project.
I’m working hard on my knitting scraps at the moment - and this post is about the new star of the show - my new friend mohair/silk blends.
Now obviously mohair/silk is fashionable right now, which you can see all over the interweb. But I was a little slow to embrace it as an option. I suspect I have some kind of late 80s residual trauma associated with boys at parties in black mohair sweaters with super spiked four inch hair and lots of black eyeliner. And so initially when mohair snuck back I was fully just ignoring it. And yet.
And yet it snuck up on me.
I have used it here and there over the years, when the need arose to disguise non-soft yarn in kid-jumpers. But really I was still a bit resistant.
Then a couple of years back I started seeing people like the incredible Helga Isager do one clever thing, after another, pattern after pattern, where I could see that the perfect addition would be a strand of fluffy delicious mohair/silk.
Then there was a whole new Scandinavian crop of designers like Mette of PetitKnit coming out with delightful simple shapes that just what the wardrobe required. And I fell totally under it’s spell.
My more recent discovery is that I finally realised the untold magic that this blend can create with scraps.
Why Mohair/Silk Works to Combine Scraps so Beautifully
To put it simply - it blurs the lines between the colours and brings them all together in chorus, making them sing one coherent, stunning song.
The beauty of mohair/silk blends is two-fold.
In the first instance they create a sheen from the silk and lift the whole sweater with their glossy gorgeousness. They lift any garment with a general all-over sheen.
But then the mohair means they add the blur - and the blur does the blending.
The other advantage is that it increases the “weight” of your yarn allowing you to make your scraps go further….. In the projects below my 4ply/fingering weight yarn becomes like a dk weight allowing me to knit the yarn at a 21ish stitches per 10cm. More bang for your scrappy buck, so to speak.
And so today I have three projects for you. All made with scraps. All divinely lush and delightful and better yet, cohesive, because of that thin strand of mohair silk. What a gem.
Project 1: Iris Sweater in 4 Yarns
So this was my first attempt at using mohair to combine scraps and quite frankly it is one of my favourites. This little sweater went to a tiny niece of mine. And it’s all scraps. Scrap mohair, scrap cuffs, scrap sock yarn and scrap neck scraps.
In this case the strand of silver mohair/silk toned down sock yarn (which was a little gaudy as a kid had chosen it as her birthday sock yarn) that was the body of the sweater. As you can see from the photo above I used a scrap of silver mohair/silk from another project that matched the tones of the pink cuffs and coppery neckline.
The pattern for this sweater is Iris Sweater by Wiksten Made and what I love about it (other than it’s gorgeous little design features) is that it is NOT seamless!! This is increasingly rare but sometimes when we are using scraps it is helpful to have a little sweater that is composed in parts. This is because each little part only uses a wisp of yarn AND it can look really cute even when the back and front and sleeves are all done in different colours. Another great scrap buster - you can see another version I made from scraps years back here.
If you are scared of seaming then please look up mattress stitch - Purl Soho has a great tutorial.
Mattress stitch is FUN. Not awful but fun. Promise.
I wish I had a photo for you of the unblended sock yarn but it is bright. Combining it with the silver softened the whole thing and toned it in with the soft pink.
Project 2: Windy Sweater in Five Scrap Yarns
(and 1 non-scrap mohair)
This sweater! So this was the biggest scrap project I’ve made and realistically it was madness to begin this with no idea whether I would be able to get to the end with a sweater.
And the thing is that I actually didn’t. I was one sleeve short.
This project was saved by a friend who kindly donated a scrap ball when I realised that I had finally run out of yellow scraps. The donation was the perfect length and makes the sweater that bit more special as an act of friendship is knitted into it’s stitches.
I stupidly didn’t take a photo before I started so you can see some scraps in the photo below.
I started with;
100g yellow sock yarn (top left)
250g of 4ply yellow yarn (the egg yolk colour bottom right)
20g Shetland 4ply (not shown but was a more flat mustard colour)
20g Maven sample from The Purl Box. (not shown)
+ donated ball of approx 80g for second sleeve (shown top right)
I then purchased 5/6 balls mohair/silk to go along with these yarns to see if I could get a sweater out of them. As you can see I chose a colour (bottom left) that was darker than all of the yarns which I believe helped to blend the colours together.
Now while this sweater looks pretty cohesive you can definitely see that the parts of this sweater are different colours. There are five colours in this photo + the mohair colour. Five different scraps pulled together by one strand of coppery mohair/silk.
What is what?
Each sleeve is a different colour (and a different weight!). One sleeve is a skein of sock yarn. The other sleeve is a scrap kindly donated to me.
The body is again a different colour and fibre content - it is 30% seacell, 70% merino. I had 2.5skeins of this yarn left over from probably 2010 when I purchased it for something that it didn’t work for. It had been sitting there forever…
The bottom of the neck is one colour and the top of the neck another! The top of the neck also has a little silk added which you can see in the sheen…. It is a 20g skein of Maven by The Purl Box which was left over from The Craft Sessions a few years back.
But again I think that the outcome is greater than the sum of it’s parts. So much so that many people have offered to take it home or alternatively to steal it from me, and I believe that that is only in part because of the beauty of the design. I actually think our eyes know that this is a bunch of different colours and that is what makes it interesting. I think this sweater looks delightful.
Project 3: Ellen Cardigan in four yarn scraps
My recent comfort project was a tiny wee Ellen Cardigan by Petite Knits that was entirely made of scraps.
You can see the yarns below. There is two scraps of mohair silk and two of 4ply. And together it made a smallest size baby sweater but I left off the pockets.
For this sweater I used approx 350m of mohair/silk held together with approx 350m of 4ply yarn. Its best to look at length rather than weight as different mohair/silks are slightly different. Knowing the length of your yarn and being able to do the math to work out how much you actually have enables you to make more informed choices about what project to pick. That said - getting loose as I did in my yellow sweater can be fun too.
The four different colours you see in the photo above right are simply the result of the four combinations of the four yarns.
The neckline is orange mohair/rust 4ply.
The buttonbands and cuffs were orange mohair/peach 4ply.
The yoke is pink mohair/rust 4ply.
The bottom body is pink mohair/peach 4ply.
Again this sweater is, I believe, prettier for it’s stash busting.
How To Use Colour
So I think that is an individual choice - obviously - but from the projects above I’ve seen two clear strategies.
When the mohair colour is lighter it tends to tone down the colour it’s paired with.
When the mohair colour is darker it tends to overpower/change/insert-word-I-can’t-find
the colours together as the darker mohair becomes dominant in your colour scheme. I think the darker colour draws the project together.
I’m only at the beginning of my experimentation but THIS POST from Helga that really helped me can be found on instagram here. It showed a variety of blended colours and I come back to it time and again.
One more thing. It’s possible to choose - as Helga’s post shows - a colour that is tonally similar to the colours you have (my copper on yellow) or you can choose something that is very different (a bit like in my pinky/peachy Ellen Sweater above) and make a new colour. Both of these strategies are great to have up your sleeve depending on the scrap differential you are dealing with.
The Downside Of This Scrap-Busting Approach….
That there is sometimes purchasing to do - which in some ways could be said to defeat the point of scrap busting. For the baby sweaters I used scraps of mohair from different projects. But for the grown-up sweater I did purchase a grown-up quantity of mohair.
BUT if the scraps remain unused and unloved without the addition of the mohair … then I think that perhaps the outcome - which is useful, cohesive, beautiful garments - is worth the environmental and economic cost. One cancels the other out maybe?*
Mohair/silk is a wonderful addition to your scrap using arsenal. The silk makes it shine and the mohair blur pulls the sweater together by muting down individual colours and pulling the garment together with a single tone. And it often results in a garment that looks and feels a little magic.
If you are using mohair/silk in your scrap arsenal then please tag me. I’d love to see them.
*Another of the difficult, slightly hypocritical tradeoffs/choices we make in order to do our best with respect to how we use resources.