Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Demystifying Yarn Weights & Suggested Gauge

Have you ever wondered how the suggested gauge or weight of a particular yarn is determined? We often get questions from knitters who are confused about the roles that both yarn weight and gauge play in their project. Today we will cover both of these topics in depth so that you have a better understanding of how yar

Yarn weight refers to the thickness or diameter of the yarn that you are using. Generally, yarn weight is measured in either yards per pound (ypp) or wraps per inch (wpi). One of these two measurements will define the weight of your yarn - usually classified as lace weight, fingering, sport, DK, worsted, aran or bulky.

If you are trying to determine the weight of a specific yarn, the easiest way to use a WPI tool. This handy gadget allows you to wrap your yarn around it in a 1 inch measurement, allowing you to count how many wraps fit into an inch.

Note: For an accurate wrap count, ’be sure not to wrap your yarn too tightly or loosely around the WPI tool. If you’re interested in learning the knitty gritty details, Craftsy has an excellent post on how to measure WPI.



Gauge is related to yarn weight, but is slightly different. Gauge is determined by a combination of what weight you’re using and what size needles you’re using and is ratio of stitches (or rows) per inch.

Here’s the key difference: yarn will always be a certain weight (thickness) no matter how you knit (or crochet) it, however you can use any yarn at practically any gauge.

For example, you can knit fingering weight yarn on US #0 or US #1 needles and get a dense gauge (8 stitches/inch) which is appropriate for sturdy socks. However, you can also knit that same fingering weight yarn on US #6 or US #8 needles to create a more open fabric, with fewer stitches per inch, for something like a lacy shawl.

So you can always determine the correct yarn weight by how many wraps per inch, but you can’t always guess a yarn weight from a given gauge.

Ready for a few more complications? Yarn ball bands often come with a suggested gauge. This means that for the average knitter, if you use that particular yarn with the recommended needle size, you should get approximately that gauge when you knit or crochet with it. From there, the Craft Yarn Council of America extrapolates this average gauge to a yarn weight.

However, knitting tension can vary widely: some knitters knit tightly and others more loosely, and a lot of factors can affect the resulting gauge. So even though certain yarns may have similar average gauges, they may not actually be the same weight OR you may get a different average gauge with any given yarn than is suggested. This is why using gauge to determine your yarn weight is more problematic and often incorrect.


Ok, let’s try and apply all of this information using a skein of our own Himalayan Summit yarn. As you can see on the ball band, we classify Himalayan Summit as a fingering weight yarn and suggest that it knits up at an average gauge of 6 stitches/inch on US #3-5 needles.


First, using that Craftsy tutorial, let’s check the weight. Based on our WPI tool, Himalayan Summit comes in at approximately 14 wraps per inch placing it within the range of fingering weight yarn.
Now let’s try knitting the yarn at a variety of gauges.


You can see that when we knit Himalayan Summit on small needles (US #0), we get more stitches per inch than the average gauge given and create a very dense fabric.


If we go up a few needle sizes (US #3) we get closer to the suggested gauge, which creates a more drapey fabric.


If we go up a few more needle sizes (US #6) we get fewer stitches per inch, which creates a fabric with lots more space, where you can see the room between stitches.


All of the above have been knit with the same fingering weight yarn but produce very different gauges!


We hope this has cleared up some of the confusion surrounding yarn weights and gauge. If you have further questions or would like to share your projects with us, please follow us at @bijoubasinranch or tag your photos with #bijoubasinranch.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How to Choose The Right Yarn & Project For Summer Knitting

The long, hot days of summer are here, but that doesn’t mean you have to put away your knitting! You are cordially invited to the BBR Summer Camp, where we always have a tasty beverage and plenty of time for knitting! Today we share some tips for choosing the right yarn and project for summer knits, along with our carefully curated Summer Camp knitting kit.

Let’s jump in!

Think Small
When it’s 90 degrees out, the last thing you want is a huge sweater or blanket project on your lap! Smaller, lightweight projects like socks, cowls and other accessories are great choices because they won’t cover your lap, plus they are easy to stash in your purse or knitting bag for little league games, poolside knitting, camping trips, or wherever the summer takes you.

Use Cool Yarn
Fibers such as cotton, hemp or bamboo are fabulous yarn choices for summertime knitting. This time of year, our breathable blend of yak and bamboo, Lhasa Wilderness, is a customer favorite. The natural antibacterial properties of bamboo are an added bonus for this yarn!

Thin Yarn, Big Needles
Lace and fingering weights of yarn are the name of the game this time of year - wouldn’t you much rather knit a fingering weight shawl than a big, bulky scarf?! Don't be afraid to use larger needles than is recommended on the yarn label - this will produce a looser gauge, which means your finished knit will be less dense and way more breathable! For example, Tibetan Dream is our signature fingering weight yarn, which blends pure Tibetan Yak down with just a bit of nylon to create a soft and durable yarn. When knitted at a looser gauge on larger needles (for example, US 6 or 7), it creates a wonderfully airy fabric, as opposed to the denser fabric that would be made when knit at a tighter gauge on smaller needles.
Each limited edition BBR Summer Camp Kit comes with everything you see here!

The Perfect Project: BBR Summer Camp Kit

We make it easy to pick the perfect yarn and pattern in our newest limited edition kit! The Lily of the Incas Shawl by Kristin Omdahl features bands of stockinette and reverse stockinette and ties which are knit into the shawlette as you go. The beautiful scalloped edge is surprisingly simple to create, as you’ll see in this tutorial video:


This gorgeous shawl pattern uses just 1 skein of Tibetan Dream yarn and is knit with US 6 needles to make an airy, lightweight fabric that will keep the chill off your shoulders on cool summer nights.


Each kit includes your choice of yarn colors, a print copy of the pattern, needles from Indian Lake Artisans, and so much more to make you a happy camper (including 1000 bonus Yak Pak points you can use towards a future purchase!).


Our specially-made drawstring pack is the perfect way to take your project on the go, and it wouldn’t be summer camp with a specially-made tee shirt! We also include a limited edition BBR Campfire mug, and if you need some ideas on what to put in it, you’ll find our favorite recipes for tasty beverages here.


We look forward to seeing all of our happy campers’ projects - be sure to share them with us here in our Ravelry group or over on Instagram using the #bijoubasinranch and #BBRsummercamp hashtags in your post!

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

How (& Why) to Block The Canyon Steps Cowl with Allure Fiber Wash

Meet our newest exclusive project kit, the Canyon Steps Cowl! This fun-to-knit pattern designed by Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter features a series of triangular motifs which grow larger as you knit. Shown here in the Brynhildr (undyed) color of Gobi fingering, this cowl would also look fabulous in any of our hand-dyed semisolid and variegated colors from the Valkyrie color series.


Canyon Steps uses just 1 skein of Gobi, a luxurious blend of baby camel and mulberry silk from Bijou Basin Ranch. It begins with a wide rib edging followed by 3 sections using charted and written instructions, and finishes with a wide rib edging with a stretchy bind off. It's a great project for knitters of all skill levels - if you can knit and purl, you can make this cowl!

Like many projects, this design benefits from a good wet blocking; we recommend using Allure Fiber Wash to bring out the best in this specialty fiber blend, and you'll receive a FREE bottle of Allure in the fragrance of your choosing when you purchase the yarn and pattern together in this convenient kit. You'll also get free shipping and 3 custom, hand-made stitch markers from Purrfectly Catchy Designs!

Why do we specify a fiber wash for finishing your project? It's quite simple: luxury fibers such as camel, silk, cashmere, qiviut and yak have no naturally-occurring lanolin or wax on them before harvesting, yet many fiber washes contain lanolin, waxes or other animal oils which are left behind on your garment or yarn after washing. Allure was specially designed by our resident chemist and co-owner of Bijou Basin Ranch, Eileen Koop, to create a true no-rinse, no residue wash that is also biodegradable, pH neutral and free of bleach, phosphates, synthetic fragrance and dyes.

To put it simply, Allure is a natural, rinse-free wash that will let the original softness of these luxury fibers shine!

Once your Canyon Steps Cowl is off the needles, it might looks something like this:


Here's how to use Allure to put the perfect finishing touch on your project:

Supplies for blocking the Canyon Steps Cowl using Allure Fiber Wash.
  1. Gather Supplies: in addition to Allure, you will need a small basin or sink, a few fluffy towels, and some t-pins or Knit Blockers (a handy tool for creating straight edges quickly). A tape measure and foam mats are also handy, though not required. 
  2. Fill your basin or sink with tepid water and add 1-2 capfuls of Allure per gallon. 
  3. Gently add your cowl to the water, pressing it into the water slowly to make sure that it is totally submerged. Be careful not to agitate it. 
    Washing the Canyon Steps Cowl in Allure Fiber Wash.
  4. Allow to soak for 10-15 minutes. 
  5. Gently remove your cowl and gently squeeze to remove excess water, being careful not to wring or twist.
  6. Place cowl on a dry towel and roll up, applying gentle pressure to remove excess water. 
  7. Remove from towel and place on either foam blocking mats or another dry towel, and begin to shape your cowl to the dimensions specified in the pattern. 
    Using T-pins to create a flat, straight edge on the Canyon Steps Cowl.
  8. Use t-pins (shown above) or Knit Blockers (shown below) to create a straight edge at the top and bottom of the cowl; allow to air dry away from sunlight.
    This time-saving tool quickly creates a straight edge via the plastic combs with sharp pins.
And that's it! Once your cowl is dry, you can enjoy wearing it for years to come using these easy care steps. We hope you'll share your project with us on Instagram using the #bijoubasinranch hashtag. Happy knitting!

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Summer Patterns & Knitter Projects in Lhasa Wilderness Yarn

With warmer weather approaching, you may find yourself conflicted with the urge to knit vs. the very natural inclination to avoid anything that will make you feel warm (such as projects knit with wool yarn). Don't worry, there's no need to stash those needles away for the summer: try knitting a project with Lhasa Wilderness yarn, our breathable blend of 75% Tibetan Yak and 25% Bamboo!

You'll find this yarn to be surprisingly cool, and we have a multitude of semisolid and variegated hand-dyed colors to choose from in addition to natural brown and natural cream (click here to see all your options!). Each skein has a whopping 250 yards, so there are quite a lot of projects you can make with just a few skeins of yarn. Fun fact: Bamboo is naturally antibacterial - just one more reason to love this yarn!

We've rounded up some of our favorite designs and knitter projects to inspire your next knit with this fabulous yarn.

Pattern Ideas
Take a trip without leaving your house with the Islander Shawl by Irina Eberhardt. This asymmetrical shawl combines eyelet, stockinette and garter stitches to create your own version of paradise as you knit. Best of all, it's knit in one piece with no picked up stitches!


The name says it all: Summers Here! This striped sleeveless top from Allura Linda Designs is knit in the round from the bottom up, then separated at the armholes to work flat for each side. Mix and match your favorite colors of Lhasa Wilderness to create a summery top that is uniquely yours.


The Alora Cowl by Andi Javori is knit flat the long way, then seamed at the ends to create an oversize cowl that will look great with any outfit. This is a fun way to pair up our variegated and semisolid hand-dyed color options, or you can opt to make a version with both of our undyed color options, natural brown and natural cream.

Knitter Projects

Remember the saying "Good things happen in threes?" That's how we feel about this trio of cowls that Ravelery Lizonfood has knit with our Lhasa Wilderness yarn! If you want to learn more about the pattern and project, you can visit these project pages on Ravelry (we also recommend similar colors from our current palette):
  • The Cameron cowl by Veronica Parsons is featured above in the top image; we recommend knitting it in our new Lavender color way if you want to achieve a similar effect. 
  • The Charlotte Lace Cowl by Patricia Hart is shown above in the bottom right image; try it in Raspberry for a similarly electric effect.
  • The Polypodium Vulgare Cowl by Hunter Hammersen is shown above in the bottom left image; a similar color option would be Pistachio.

We have also spotted several recently-finished projects using our FREE Culebra Simple Shawlette knitting pattern! It's so fun to see which colors of Lhasa Wilderness each person chooses for their project. Clockwise from top left: Ipiatek's project in Natural Cream, Ribbity's project in Lohengrin, Catmujer's project in Culloden, and Minnebelle's project in Teal.

You can get your own copy of the Culebra Simple Shawlette by signing up for our newsletter here.

Be sure to share your projects with us on Instagram using the #bijoubasinranch hashtag. Happy knitting!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring Shawls and Short Row Knitting Tutorial

Spring is here! Despite the fact that some of us are still digging out of snow, spring and summer are definitely on their way (we promise!). With those seasons comes mild weather and air conditioning. Each year we’re on a quest to find the perfect spring shawl to combat the chill.

Today we’re excited to talk about the Culebra Simple Shawlette, a free pattern designed by Marly Bird that calls for two skeins of our luxurious Lhasa Wilderness, our 75% Tibetan Yak/25% Bamboo sport weight yarn. Pick a bright springy color from our brand-new Reflections Color Collection or stick with a classic natural cream color that will go with everything!

L-R: Visionary, Enthusiast, Fantasy, Stargazer and Daydreamer, dyed exclusively for us by Colorful Eclectic

Culebra starts at the outer edge with a lace border and then the remainder of the shawl is “filled in” by knitting short rows back and forth. We have done a mini-sample today to illustrate the technique.

Shawls that start at the outer edge are a bit daunting to cast on, since you’re starting with the maximum number of stitches at the front end. We recommend using stitch markers to aid in casting on. Select a moderate section of stitches (we suggest 25) and place a stitch marker after each group of 25 stitches to aid in counting if you lose track. Once you begin your first row you can remove the stitch markers as you go, or move them to indicate pattern repeats.

In this case, you will begin with a lace pattern which is both charted and written for your ease. Again, we chose to knit a mini-sample so it won’t look exactly like yours but is just meant to give you a bit of an idea how the lace will look.


Once you have completed the lace section, it’s time to work on your short rows. If you haven’t knit short rows before, this technique is used to create sections of shaping in knitting. Short rows are rows where you only knit a subset of your stitches; that is, you don’t knit all of the stitches on your needle, but rather a short row. Short rows are used for a variety of applications: to add bust shaping to to garments, to add extra length at the back of a sweater, to create triangles or wedges in your knitting, and many more. Short rows can be knit with wraps and turns or double stitches to make the technique blend into your knitting. For Culebra, you will be knitting in garter stitch which will hide your wrapped stitches, so these will be fairly simple with not a lot of extra work.

Culebra instructs you to knit just a bit more than halfway across your finished lace section (the pattern specifies the stitch count, but obviously it a bit different in our sample) and then turn your work. Then you will knit back just a short section of stitches and then turn your work again. You have just created your first short row - the first layer at the bottom of your shawl. You can see that once you have knit these two rows with turns that your short row section stands out a bit, apart from the rest of your knitting.


Now you will fill in with the next short row. Knit back across your stitches until you come to the stitch where you turned your work last time. To close the slight gap you will knit that stitch together with the next stitch (k2tog). Then you will knit 3 additional stitches beyond that and turn your work again. Repeat the process on the wrong side of your work - knit to the stitch where you stopped on the last row, k2tog to close the gap, and knit 3 additional stitches before turning your work again. And that’s it!


You will continue in this manner, each additional row growing by a few more stitches until you run out of stitches to incorporate into the rows.


When you have run out of stitches to work, you will work one final knit row and then bind off. Your perfect spring shawl is complete!



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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

All About The Brioche: Tips for Mastering Brioche Knitting

This month, we are delighted to announce the return of Gobi, our fingering weight 35% baby camel/65% mulberry silk yarn. Available in 8 hand-dyed  colors from our new Valkyrie Master Color Series, each one is inspired by the powerful and strong mythic warrior daughters of Odin known as The Valkyries. These shieldmaidens ride the over the fields of battle and select the bravest and best warriors and them to the great hall of Valhala in the land of Asgaard. The durable and strong fibers in Gobi are the perfect base for these gorgeous colors, ensuring a warm, wearable garment with wonderful color retention.

For  upcoming fiber festivals, we're offering a free copy of  Lisa Hannes’ All About That Brioche shawl pattern with the purchase of 2 skeins of Gobi yarn. This pattern is perfect for beginners, including short sections of 2-color brioche, along with longer garter color blocks. If you won’t be attending shows this year, you can easily make your own kit by selecting two contrasting colors of Gobi (a multi-color and a solid would be lovely) and purchasing the pattern. Our sample shown below is knit with 1 skein each of Brynhldr & Eir:

We're selling out of colors fast but will be restocking as soon as we are able! 

Brioche 101
If you’re new to brioche, let us give you a short introduction and some tips and tricks to master this technique! First let’s talk about what brioche actually is: brioche is a knitting technique that creates a lofty, reversible, ribbed fabric. This is accomplished by slipping stitches and creating yarnovers that are knit together with stitches in the following rows. In many patterns, brioche is knit using two colors of yarn, although you can knit 1-color brioche as well.

For the purposes of our discussion today, we’re going to show you 2-color brioche knitted flat using standard terminology found in most patterns. Brioche has its own language so we’re going to define a few abbreviations and terms here.

Sl1yo stands for slip 1, yarnover, and it is a stitch you’ll be using on every row. What you will do when you see Sl1yo is slip the next stitch from your left needle to your right needle, while simultaneously wrapping the yarn around your needle from front to back. This slipped stitch and its corresponding yarnover will be treated as 1 stitch in the subsequent row.

Brk stands for brioche knit, and you’ll sometimes hear it referred to as the “bark stitch.” When you see a brk stitch, you will be knitting the next stitch together with its corresponding yarnover that was created on the previous row.

Brp stands for brioche purl, and you’ll sometimes hear it referred to as the “burp stitch.” When you see a brp stitch, you will be purling the next stitch together with its corresponding yarnover that was created on the previous row.

Here's the slightly tricky thing to understand about 2-color brioche when knitting flat: to create a reversible fabric, each row is actually knit twice: once with one color, and once with the second color. So for each 2 rows of knitting, you are actually knitting 4 rows!

Essentially, each side of your piece will have a color that is dominant on it. If we’re talking about Color A a light color, and Color B a dark color, let’s say that the Right Side of your work will have Color A as the dominant color and the Wrong Side of your work will have Color B as the dominant color.

Practice Makes Perfect
On each Right Side row, you will first knit and slip stitches across in Color A. Then, without turning your work, you will slide the stitches back to the beginning of the row you just worked and you will purl and slip stitches across in Color B. You have now completed the first, Color A dominant side of your brioche.


On each Wrong Side row, you will first purl and slip stitches across the row with your Color A. Then, without turning your work, you will slide the stitches back to the beginning of the row you just worked and you will knit and slip stitches across with your Color B. You have now completed the second, Color B dominant side of your brioche.


 Now that we have defined the terms, and talked about the order in which the rows are knit, we hope you’ll begin to understand what the following rows signify:

Row 1 (RS/Color A): *Sl1yo, brk; repeat from * to end.
Row 2 (RS/Color B): *Brp, sl1yo; repeat from * to end.

Row 3 (WS/Color A): *Brp, sl1yo; repeat from * to end.
Row 4 (WS/Color B): *Slyo, brk; repeat from * to end.

Let's practice by making a small swatch with 2 colors of yarn and either circular or DPN needles. Start by casting on for an even number of stitches (for our sample used below, we cast on 36 stitches).

You will begin by working 2 setup rows to prepare for the pattern stitch:

Setup Row 1: With Color A, *sl1yo, k1, repeat from * to end of row,

Now, without without turning your work, slide the stitches back to the beginning of the row you just worked and work as follows:

Setup Row 2: With Color B, *brp, sl1yo, repeat from * to end of row,

You are now ready to turn your work to work both Wrong Side Rows (Rows 3 & 4). From here, continue working Rows 1-4 for the remainder of your swatch.

If you forget which row you are about to work, let your stitches guide you! The yarnover will tell you which color you should be working with (hint: it's the opposite color - so, if your yarnover is Color A, that means you should be working with Color B) and also whether or not you should be working a brk or brp row (if the yarnover is paired with a knit stitch, you will work a brk, and if the yarnover is paired with a purl stitch, you will work a brp row). And, as noted above, you will be able to easily see whether you are working the Right Side or Wrong Side of the fabric by checking which color in dominant.


You may see patterns written slightly differently, or using slightly different abbreviations, but these are the basic stitches that make up all brioche patterns. In the case of  Lisa Hannes’ All About That Brioche shawl, some simple shaping is added to the end of the rows, but the remainder of the pattern is very similar to what we have noted above.

If you’re looking for a free pattern on Ravelry to practice your brioche, we recommend Emma Galati’s Brioche for Beginners cowl. Emma uses slightly different abbreviations than we have here, but her pattern is a simple 2-color brioche cowl designed for beginners.

You can find more information about brioche knitting on Nancy Marchant’s wonderful site Brioche Stitch. For a few tips and tricks about brioche, there’s also this post from Ann Shayne of Mason Dixon Knitting.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bracken Pillows Kit: Techniques & Tips for Knitting Cables & I-Cord

We are delighted to announce another kit we have just launched, the Bracken Pillows Kit by designer Therese Chynoweth. This kit features 3 skeins of Himalayan Trail yarn in your choice of colors, a copy of the Bracken Pillow pattern, and 3 stitch markers from Purrfectly Catchy Designs. These pillows are timeless, yet contemporary and will add just the right touch of elegance and luxury to your home.



The pattern includes instructions for how to knit and assemble both pillows pictured and enough yarn to knit the pillow of your choosing, and today we’ll talk a little about about the techniques used in the pattern and share some tips and tricks for managing them.

Cables
The square pillow pattern features a beautiful cable panel across the center. If you haven’t worked cables before, this is a fairly simple pattern to start with. Cables are created by adjusting the order in which you knit your stitches. In the simplest terms, when you create a cable, you will be pulling a few stitches off the needle and holding them aside (either to the front or back of your work) and then knitting the next few stitches. Then you will go back and knit the stitches you have pulled aside. This essentially twists the stitches together to form your cable.

When you are first learning cables, the easiest way to practice is by using a cable needle. You can find these at your local yarn store or favorite online retailer quite inexpensively; there are a few different styles, but a cable needle is essentially a short double pointed needle. Some cable needles have a slightly bent shape to help keep your stitches from slipping off the needle until you are ready to use them. If you don’t have a cable needle handy, you can always use a spare double pointed needle (DPN) in its place.


For this pattern, you will be working 3 by 3 cables, which means that your cable section will be 6 stitches wide. When you come to the place for a cable in your work, you will take the next three stitches (stitches 1, 2 and 3) and put them on your cable needle or DPN:


You will hold these stitches to the front or back of your work as directed by the pattern, then knit the next three stitches on the left-hand needle as normal (stitches 4, 5 and 6). Finally, you will go back and knit the 3 stitches on your cable needle (stitches 1, 2 and 3):


Congratulations, you have successfully knit a cable!

For those who have knit cables in the past and wish to try something a little easier and more efficient, you could try cabling without a cable needle. In this technique, rather than pulling the stitches aside on a cable needle, you’ll be removing stitches from the needle and pinching them together with your fingers. It sounds scary, but it’s really quite easy for smaller cables. For a great tutorial on how to cable without a cable needle, check out this Interweave post by Sandi Wiseheart.

I-Cord

The rectangular pillow in this kit features a mini-lattice pattern, as well as some artfully placed I-cords for visual interest. In this pattern, the I-cords are created by picking up stitches at the cast on edges and then knitting those stitches into I-cords of a certain length. Then the I-cords you create are twisted, then tacked down and secured.

Which begs the question, what is an I-cord? An I-cord is a knitted tube created by knitting the stitches in the round using DPNs. This is done by knitting a row of stitches on your DPN, then sliding the stitches to the right-hand end of the needle, bringing your yarn around back, and then knitting them again. Bringing the yarn around the back of your work will join the edges of your work together creating a hollow tube, or an I-cord. For a nice photo tutorial on how to knit an I-cord, check out this Purl Soho post.

If you're new to this technique, try picking up your stitches and knitting your I-cord on one of your gauge swatches first! Begin by picking up 3 stitches from your cast on edge with the right side of the fabric facing you:

Turn your work so that you are ready to knit the increase row from the I-cord instructions with the wrong side of the fabric facing you:


Turn your work for the last time so that you can continue knitting the I-cord for the specified length:


It's that simple!

We look forward to seeing your finished Bracken Pillows - please share them with us on Instagram by tagging them with #bijoubasinranch and follow us at @bijoubasinranch where we post customer projects, new products and other fun ideas.

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