Chunky Yarn—The Yarn Knitting Dreams Are Made of

There is something about a simple chunky sweater that makes me see hearts in my eyes and reach for my knitting needles. The knit piece that made me borderline obsessed with chunky knits is a cropped sweater my aunt knit in the 60s. It’s a gold chunky sweater in garter stitch, and I live in it every winter.

If you haven’t ventured into chunky yarn territory, please do! You will get the pleasure of working with some of the softest, plushest yarn, and the satisfaction of completing projects in record time. The first time I used chunky yarn was the first time I picked up knitting needles. I made a modified Jane Richmond Marian cowl for a friend, and I was so surprised at how fast I finished it. The second time I knit with chunky yarn, I met Malabrigro Rasta, and I didn’t look back.

Rasta is a slightly felted, unbelievably squishy yarn, that is a dream to knit with. I have knit many cowls with this yarn, including the Foster Cowl, which is a breeze to make. The Foster Cowl kit is a great introduction to chunky yarn for a beginner knitter. The kit includes the Foster Cowl pattern, one skein of the Malabrigo Rasta yarn, and one pair of US 17 24" Addi Turbo circular needles.

Another great pattern is the Softwaves Magnum Cowl by Laura Irwin. Laura Irwin is a local Portland knitwear designer, who designs clean, chic patterns that have an eye catching structural design. The Softwaves Magnum Cowl is the perfect pattern for an experienced beginner knitter. It’s a fast knit, but the seaming will teach you something new. Be warned though, once you wear this out, everyone you know will want one.

Image Source: Wool and the Gang

I usually avoid knitting larger pieces like coats, because of the time they might take; but make it a chunky knit coat, and it has become something attainable in less than a year. If you have enough scarves and cowls in your closet, try the Cross Country Coat by Wool and the Gang. It’s a great pattern for intermediate knitters. There is also the Brooklyn Tweed Bannock Coat, for the advanced intermediate knitter that wants to add a chunky knit piece to their collection.

If you are looking for super chunky yarn, try Loopy Mango Big Loop. You will need at least size US 50 needles, or your arms.

Need a little bit more inspiration? Here are some links to a few more patterns made for chunky yarn:

Clara Cowl
Snail Twist Cowl
Twister Cowl

Oatmeal Pullover
Twice Reversible Ribbed Poncho
Lila Winter
Riverbend Cardigan

November 26, 2015 by Laura Oriana Konstin

What Do You Keep in Your Keep?

In case you missed last week's post, I wrote about The Keep 2.0, a knitting bag collaboration between Knit Purl and The Goodflock. The Keep has quickly become my go-to knitting bag. With the perfect amount of storage and the clean, chic design, this bag is always at my side.

As promised, I’m going to share a few of the knitting goodies that I have readily accessible in my Keep. One never knows when the urge to knit will overtake you.

Projects: I always keep two projects in my knitting bag. One that I really want to finish, and the other to help me procrastinate on the project I really want to finish. It’s a vicious circle. I currently have the Veronika Pullover by Cocoknits and the Annabel Pullover by Carrie Bostick Hoge in my Keep, both vying for my attention.

Needles: Many of the projects I work on require multiple needle sizes, so my knitting needles are always with me.

Journal: For my sketching and note taking needs. My note-taking skills have really improved since grade school (my sketching not so much). I now take extensive notes on my knitting projects and would feel lost without my journal.

Linen pouch: This contains all my smaller items—sewing needles, stitch markers, mini scissors, cable needles, crochet hooks, measuring tape, point protectors, and the list goes on. One day I am going to reach into the tiny pouch and pull out a hat stand à la Mary Poppins.

Now that I’ve shared a few of my must-have items in my knitting bag, we would love for you to share some of yours. What do you have in The Keep you currently own, or might own in the future? Please share below in the comments section and on Instagram using the hashtag #WhatsInMyKeep.

November 24, 2015 by Laura Oriana Konstin

The Keep 2.0

Back in 2013, we partnered with Marco Murillo and the extremely talented folks at The Good Flock to bring you The Keep, a modern knitting bag designed just for Knit Purl, and sold exclusively through us. The Keep was so well-loved, we collaborated with The Good Flock once again to bring you an updated version.

The Good Flock takes design and craftsmanship to an exceptional level. Their philosophy is one that we admire, and one that reiterates the thoughtful design process they go through to achieve beautiful products.

“The products we make can be buried in your backyard. They're made of wholesome things that won't hurt the earth or trees or worms—even the mean ones.”

According to Marco, part of the ease of collaborating with Knit Purl is our customers’ shared mindset. “Our customers care about quality over quantity. They want useful objects that are handcrafted.”

Made right here in Portland, The Keep is a meticulously crafted, chic and functional knitting bag. It’s made using a durable waxed canvas (black or gray) that can withstand the elements, wherever your knitting adventures take you.

The canvas is accented by a rich honey-colored leather. The leather base helps the bag stand upright, so you can work straight from your knitting bag. The updated leather handles have been elongated and contoured for a better fit over your shoulder, making it the perfect bag for those on the go.

The Keep now features two metal snaps on the inside top, to keep your knitting in and unwanted weather out. Stay organized with The Keep’s ten pockets. With five on the inside and five on the outside, you can easily find all your knitting essentials, and still have space for your patterns and tablet.

Not only does The Keep make a phenomenal knitting bag, but The Good Flock produced a modern and refined bag that can be used everyday. I know I plan on making it my go-to bag and I can’t wait to share with you what’s inside.

November 12, 2015 by Laura Oriana Konstin
Tags: Favorites New


Brioche is a stitch I’ve been meaning to learn for a while now. Brioche creates a lofty, warm and reversible fabric, and it seems like it is everywhere this year!

image © Stephen West

I especially like the way two-color brioche looks with one color acting as a backdrop to the raised rows of the main color like it does here in Stephen West’s Askews Me Dickey knit with Woolfolk’s super soft Får.

image © funkymunky

While it looks beautiful in neutrals I also like how two-color brioche can highlight subtle (or not so subtle) color changes in hand-dyed yarns as this Ravelry user's scarf project does.

image © Olga Buraya-Kefelian

While I’ve found lots of inspiration to learn this stitch, I hadn’t found the time to sit down and teach myself. When one of Olga’s upcoming workshops at Knit Purl turned out to be on brioche, I had to enroll! I’m looking forward to learning from such a dynamic designer and being able to add another fun stitch to my knitter’s bag of tricks.

November 04, 2015 by Summer F
Tags: Patterns

Know Your Yarn: Yak

Lineup of Tibetan Yaks

Photo © Enrico Dell'Angelo of mYak

I'm always curious about the story behind things. When I set out to investigate the yak yarn currently gracing our shelves, one of the first things I learned was how much the people around me enjoy the word "yak." My coworker Summer was really hoping I'd name this post "Yakkin' About Yaks" (Cait suggested "Just Yakkin'"), and I can't tell you how many times I've read or heard the words "yakety yak" in the past two weeks.

Not surprisingly, it turns out that in the animals' native Tibet, words for them have very different associations. Nor (ནོར་), a Tibetan word for "wealth," can also be understood to mean "yaks." Living in a condo in Portland, I certainly value products like ice cream and sturdy leather boots, but it took some reading before I began to grasp how riches could be truly equated with shaggy bovines.

Yaks hail from the Tibetan Plateau, just north of the Himalayas. This high-elevation region, which covers more land than the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California combined, is prone to bitter cold, drought, heavy winds and intense solar radiation. Overhunting has made the area even more perilous for wild yaks, but they do still live here. By all accounts, they are majestic creatures, standing up to 6 feet tall and 10 feet long, with proud curving horns and flowing black coats and tails. Their domestic neighbors—having lived among humans for at least 4,000 years—are a bit less imposing and vary more in color, but they are still extremely sturdy animals. Their thick coats provide crucial defense against the harsh climate. Descriptions of a yak's coat read like tags on technical apparel, with multiple protective layers each playing a role. The coarse, slick outer coat can stay on year-round, repelling moisture and ultraviolet rays, while an exceptionally fine, crimped undercoat of down provides insulation in winter. A midrange layer fills in the gaps and—like the outer coat—includes some fibers with insulating hollow cores. The coat's typically dark color absorbs precious warmth—light-colored domestic yaks grow extra-thick coats, quite possibly in compensation.

Tibetan yak and calf

 Photo © Jamin “Lobsang” York of

Yaks are so exquisitely adapted to high-elevation life that they tend to languish in environments we'd consider more comfortable. At home on the plateau, they've managed not only to subsist but to support an entire culture of people. Though the nomads of Tibet also raise sheep, goats and horses, it is the yak that has made their way of life possible. As the American bison (a cousin of the yak) was to Plains Indians here in North America, the yak has been to nomads in Tibet. Nomads traditionally live in tents woven from rugged yak hair and tethered with yak-hair ropes. They weave softer parts of the coat into warm blankets and clothing. They carve yak bone into small implements. Nourishment comes from rich, sweet yak milk and products—like butter—derived from it. Yak meat and even yak hooves provide valuable protein. Yaks can be ridden—even raced—and they can carry heavy burdens. Their butter can be burned for light. Even their dried dung can be burned for heat (the Tibetan plateau, after all, is generally above the treeline).

A sidenote: It seems that many Americans are under the impression that yaks are unusually smelly! While travelers to Tibet often comment on the pungent and pervasive smell of yak dairy products fermenting or burning, people who work with yaks characterize them as having less of an odor than ordinary cows. Even their dung (I promise to stop talking about dung soon) is said to be surprisingly inoffensive. Perhaps there's been some confusion between yaks and muskoxen, whose scent is potent enough to be included in their name? It's my best guess.

You don't need to live in Tibet (or burn dung) to benefit from yaks. It's not that yak products are newly available in other parts of the world. Long, lustrous yak tail hair was once prized for fly-whisks in the Roman Empire and for Santa beards in this country. Recently, however, there has been renewed interest in the yak's downy undercoat, which can be combed from down-covered babies or from the bellies of mature yaks just before it would be naturally shed for the summer. Today, buying yak wool can make you feel warm and fuzzy in more ways than one. Modern processing produces more uniformly fine fiber, and companies like mYak strive to ensure the fiber they market is serving the people and animals it comes from. Although yak fiber can vary widely, the finest down rivals cashmere in softness while remaining uncommonly strong. It is, of course, exceptionally warm, yet breathable. It tends to be more lofty and bouncy—while being less slippery and prone to shedding—when compared with other warm fibers like alpaca. In a blend like Sublime Yak, yak wool can add plush softness, strength and delightful depth of color.

Tibetan boy holding baby yak

Photo © Paola Vanzo of mYak

Because Tibetan nomads rely on yaks in so many ways, much of the expert knowledge they have passed down for generations pertains to yaks. I don't want to over-romanticize a way of life that must have many challenges. Still, I can't help but admire efforts to preserve time-tested, extremely resourceful nomadic traditions, especially in the face of pressure from the Chinese government to settle down and change. I think knitters, with their inherent appreciation for both traditional knowledge and fine fiber, stand in a unique position to help these tenacious communities endure, along with the extraordinary animals they raise. Having convinced myself to purchase some mYak Worsted in Desert last weekend (I hope to make a version of Birch Bay), I can tell you from experience that it happens to be a very enjoyable cause to support.

Sources: The Yak, 2nd Edition, The Fleece & Fiber SourcebookThe World of Tibetan NomadsTibet's Irreplaceable Yak: A Beast of Burden and More

October 30, 2015 by Keli Hansen

An Interview with Carol Sunday of Sunday Knits

Carol Sunday is an innovative designer known for her timeless, fashion-forward pieces. She also has her own yarn line, Sunday Knits, which we are ecstatic to have in our store. Her yarns are soft and structured, and incredible to work with.

We recently started carrying Angelic 3 ply, a merino-angora blend, that is every bit as delightful as the Eden and Nirvana on our shelves. Happily, Carol designed a pattern set for Angelic, the Wandering Ribs Hat and Cowl, which is exclusively ours for the next month (we've paired them as a kit, too!).

Carol was able to join us for an interview to share a little bit of her yarn story and inspiration process.

Knit Purl: These patterns feel so Portland to me, and fit in so well with Knit Purl's aesthetic. Could you tell us a little about your inspiration for these designs?

Carol Sunday: Thank you! I'm so glad you like Wandering Ribs, as I designed this duo especially with Knit Purl in mind. Your esthetic—clean, fresh and thoughtful—was my inspiration for this project. The cowl, in particular, is also something I'd been wanting to design for my own wardrobe. It's a nice light layer with a very fluid and simple look. Both are easy to wear, yet interesting and engaging to work.

The Wandering Ribs stitch pattern is a scaled-up version of my own Adam's Ribs stitch pattern, which I'd developed a few years ago. At its heart, it's a herringbone, but with a jazzy syncopation. During the first set of rows, the right-leaning panel moves and the other panel follows. But the set is an odd number of rows, so in the second set, beginning on the back side of the first, the formerly left-leaning panel becomes the right-leaning panel and moves, while the other panel follows. It's very musical, very rhythmic, both to work and to look at.

KP: Angelic is such a special yarn. It's so dreamy and soft, with a gorgeous halo. What's it like to knit with?

CS: You're so right about Angelic. It's dreamy, and a joy to work with. The hand is light and even. And while if a little thin on the needles, all that changes after washing, when its gorgeous halo steps forward. Fabric knitted with Angelic is really silky feeling against the skin, and light as a cloud. At the same time, it's not so fluffy as to obscure textured stitches. My Interlochen, for instance, was knit in Angelic 3 ply in smoke. I love the luscious quality that the angora blend brings to this lavishly cabled stole.

KP: Do you have any other favorite patterns to match with Angelic?

CS: Here's a sneak peak at my Verduri scarf and mitts, which will be published sometime in November. Here I used Angelic wren as an accent with Eden in twig as the main color. I love the ethereal quality that Angelic gives to the lace trim.

I also like mixing my yarn blends and using them together in colorwork projects like these Night Birds mitts that I'm making in a new colorway. The fluffy birds here, in Angelic dijon, just sing along side of their Eden and Nirvana neighbors.

KP: Can you describe a bit of your design process in general?

CS: As far as designing in general, I don't have a specific design process that I follow. I don't use story boards, and I'm really pretty undisciplined when it comes to the creative process. I let each project determine its own course.

How things go for me is often like this … I get an idea, and if it seems like a good idea, I get all excited. The idea takes over my life for a time. I work fast to get down every nuance while it's fresh. I might sketch or play with stitches, maybe start putting a stitch pattern idea down in chart form. I want to capture the spirit of the idea, to flesh it out, and to note what's essential and exciting about it—its shape, texture, construction, and how they work together. And then I toss my sketches and notes in a drawer and my swatches in a basket. I'm rarely ready time-wise to start working on a new project when inspiration strikes, but if I've made the time to distill the juice when it's flowing, then I can draw on it later for a project when the timing is better.

Designing is my passion. When I started thinking, eight or nine years ago, about how I might create for myself a career as a knitwear designer, my yarn line, Sunday Knits, was not even a gleam in my eye. However, at that time a lot of my ideas involved stranded colorwork, and I wasn't happy with what I was finding, yarn-wise. I wanted wool that was a bit plumper than fingering-weight yarn, light, woolen-spun and soft enough to wear against my bare (and sensitive) skin. And I especially wanted it in the right colors—plenty of neutrals, some soft hues, some vivid colors, and all in harmony with one another. So I started searching.

KP: What can you tell us about your yarns—how'd you come to building a relationship with your mill, and what drew you to these particular fibers?

CS: I sampled yarns from a number of mills, here in America and then globally. When I first received samples from the mill I now work with, to be honest, I wasn't that impressed. But once I'd knitted with it and washed my swatch, I was head over heels! It was the softest, most beautifully spun yarn I had ever worked with, and I've been knitting for over fifty years. The fabric it made was cohesive, luxurious, yet the stitches weren't lost in the beautiful bloom of it. It was really love at first swatch!

My mill spins and dyes to my specifications, but the fibers used in my yarns—merino wool, cashmere and angora—are from their sources. They are the experts (in fact, generations of experts), and I trust their fiber selection, which is about not only breed, but also about the fineness of the individual fibers as measured in microns. They are truly masters of their craft.

KP: I love that your yarns are humanely sourced! Can you explain a little about the process of gathering the merino and angora?

CS: I’m glad you asked about fibers and humane sourcing. When I started out, I didn't realize that there are inhumane ways to shear sheep. But, and not to get too gruesome, on some large merino farms the sheep’s hindquarters are sliced open (without anesthesia!) to make shearing quicker and to acquire more fleece. And with angora rabbits, I used to think that brushing as a way of acquiring their fur sounded pretty nice, until I found out that "brushed" harvesting often means yanking all the hair off the rabbits bodies while they scream in pain. This is quite common practice with many French (breed, not location) Angora rabbits farmed in China.

Of course, once I found out that such practices exist, I questioned my mill's owner, who is much more knowledgeable than I am on such matters, and who is as deeply committed to sourcing only the most humanely farmed and harvested fibers as I am. We also share a strong commitment to sustainable use of energy and water, frugal and thoughtful disposal of waste and respectful and kind treatment of the people who contribute to our product. These things matter.

KP: I agree completely. I love that yarn companies are working more towards transparency, as well as ethically sourcing their yarns. Not just that, but also ensuring that they are not only pleasing to wear and knit with, but the animals providing the fibers and the environment they live on are beneficial, too.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Carol! Your yarns and patterns are so beautiful, as are your words.

October 28, 2015 by Cait Lamborne

Autumn Fever

Autumn is my favorite season. It’s not just because it’s an excuse to drink hot cider all day or eat everything that has the word pumpkin in it (I do both). I love autumn because of the beautiful color pallet: rich oranges, dark yellows, deep greens, blackish browns, with vibrant reds and purples.

I see all of these colors in Brooklyn Tweed’s Quarry yarn. My favorite Quarry colors are Hematite, a reddish purple-plum color; Serpentine, a forest green color; and Alabaster, a wheatfield color. They really say fall to me. Now, what to knit?

October 16, 2015 by Lacey Link

Yarn Love: Noro Rainbow Rolls

I admit, I’m easily swayed by bright, happy colors, especially in a single skein of yarn. Unfortunately the promise of these yarns is often much greater in the skein than in a finished product, where the colors may pool or contrast unappealingly.

Because of this, I have many single skeins in my stash that are purely eye candy, with no patterns planned for them. When I saw Noro’s new Rainbow Roll though, an unspun wool pencil roving resembling a giant lollipop, I knew just what to do with it—thrumming!

Thrumming is accomplished by knitting a bit of unspun roving into your project every few stitches. Thrumming creates a cushy and extremely warm fabric, perfect for winter accessories like mittens, slippers, and hats.

My first project will be making a pair of mittens for my little one that will take advantage of the Rainbow Roll’s rich color shifts without being eye searing.

Here are a few other thrummed patterns from Ravelry that would be ideal for the Rainbow Roll. Click through to learn more.


October 09, 2015 by Summer F

What We Knit: Keli's Brontasaurus

Recently, Keli came into the office with this adorable striped brontosaurus that she knit for a little girl. Everyone in the office squealed with delight upon seeing it. Pretty much everything about this dinosaur is impressive—the cool stripes; plump stuffing; beautiful, even stitching; and the twinkling eye.

Excited by this beautiful knitted object, I decided that we needed a more regular column for Knit Purl staffers to share their projects with blog readers. I sat down with Keli and asked her a few questions about this adorable toy.

Knit Purl: What do you like best about the project?
Keli: I was pretty delighted with the jogless jogs, and knitting the legs from picked-up stitches so they seemed to grow right out of the body was very satisfying. I also enjoy grafting, so closing up the top of the body was fun. And then the eyes were fiddly, but it was great to give the little guy some personality.

KP: Is there any particular reason you chose Shibui Staccato for the project?
KH: I chose Staccato because I was looking for a solid fingering-weight yarn to make a small, modern-looking toy. I thought the silk in Staccato would give the dinosaur "skin" a nice texture.

KP: How did you decide on the colors?
KH: I was originally thinking it would be fun to make a hot pink and gray dinosaur for a little girl, but we had dinner with the expectant parents right after a baby shower and they mentioned that they were already getting sick of pink. I decided to swap out the pink for a teal that matched the sweater the mother was wearing that day.

KP: What was the recipient's reaction?
KH: The little girl I made it for (who is just over a year old) had a cold and was busy eating dinner when I gave it to her. She shook it a few times and went back to her food. Later her mom said, "Can you give it some love?" and the little girl snuggled her cheek against it and grinned.

KP:Do you plan to knit any more toys?
KH: I think I proclaimed a few times that this was the first and last toy I'll knit, but last night I saw an awfully cute narwhal on Ravelry…. The dinosaur did make a great summer project, and I love that it won't be outgrown in a matter of months.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful knit with us, Keli! To find out more about Keli’s dinosaur, check out her Ravelry page here:

October 07, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall

Interview with Sheila Schneider, Onami Cowl Designer

If you look around, ombré seems to be just about everywhere these days—from fashion design to home decor, and even to nail art. A French word for shaded, ombré refers to a graduated color scheme that moves from light to dark. Despite its current popularity, ombré has been around for quite some time. Ombré shading was originally used in the early 19th century as a form of fabric painting. Since then, ombré has graced various textile treatments—pre-Civil War quilts, furniture, ribbons, and now, yarn.

The American Sock kits from Pigeonroof Studios come in five beautiful ombré shades. Using the ombre yarn as inspiration, our very own Sheila Schneider designed the Onami Cowl. The Onami cowl pattern gently blends the colors of the Pigeonroof Gradient Kit, with both a striped version for beginners, and a stranded version for more adventurous knitters. Sheila and I sat down for a moment and had a chat about her captivating color-shifting design.

Knit Purl: Your design is beautiful, and has such a lovely rhythm and flow. Did you have a particular source of inspiration for this design?

Sheila Schneider: I wanted a design that would meld the colors together without being too fussy. Something that would be interesting enough but not too difficult for the average knitter to accomplish.

KP: I really like the name Onami. Can you tell us how you chose the name for the pattern?

SS: Once complete, the pattern and color reminded me of waves, which in turn reminded me of the famous Japanese painter Katsushika Hokusai. The name comes from one of his woodblock prints and means Billow Wave.

KP: Do you think the Onami cowl would be a good project for newer knitters, or someone wanting to try stranded color work for the first time?

SS: The stitch pattern is an easy one to memorize, so I think an advanced beginner could certainly knit the stranded version in this cowl and a beginner could knit the simpler striped version. A more experienced knitter should find the pattern interesting enough to stay engaged.

KP: Who are some of your favorite designers, and where do you generally find inspiration?

SS: As with most knitters, Ravelry is inspirational. However, I love fashion magazines and find lots of inspiration in the latest trends. In regards to the favorite designer question … though I wouldn't say I have a favorite, I seem to have a fair amount of Jane Richmond, Hannah Fettig, Veera Välimäki, and Bristol Ivy patterns saved in my Ravelry Favorites.

KP: What are you knitting these days?

SS: I am presently knitting the Holden shawl, though I must admit I have more than a few other knits I should be finishing.

KP: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

SS: I really enjoyed working with yarn from Pigeonroof Studios so much so that I have since purchased another set in her Sherbet colorway.


Thank you, Sheila! Your Onami cowl pattern is exquisite. Ready to knit your own Onami cowl? Find the Onami Cowl kit here.


September 30, 2015 by Oleya Pearsall