Paua Shell Tank

I am reminded of Thanksgiving dinner… the preparation takes forEVER, but the actual event is over before you know it.

That’s how it feels, looking at my finished Paua Shell Tank.  I started the spinning shortly after purchasing the fiber in late summer 2006.

The fiber is 50% Tencel / 50% Merino, dyed in the Dragonfly colorway by Bonkers Handmade Originals. I bought one 4 oz. package from the Yarn Barn in Lawrence, KS when I was in town for some meeting or event, then later decided I really needed another.  Fortunately, they had more of the same batch, and I had a friend willing to pick it up for me and send it via the ‘friend network’ so I didn’t have to pay shipping.

Divided into batches, ready to spin

I decided to split it in half, dividing between ‘mostly bright’ and ‘mostly dark’, and started spinning.  My spinning sessions were very sporadic, and I didn’t finish the last skein until the end of 2009.  That’s pretty pitiful.  I was delayed at one point by my own error in spinning from the wrong color group, and not even noticing until after it was plied!

That led to an interesting learning experience.  Yes, you CAN unply and re-ply yarn, but I don’t recommend it!  I planned out the fix for that error, then gave it a shot only a month later.  Looking back, I’m surprised that I didn’t put it off longer than that.  It must really have been bugging me.

The last bobbin, just before plying.

"Paua Shell" yarn

Time to start knitting!  I had decided way back at the beginning to make a tank or sleeveless top, so all I needed to do was make a gauge and stitch swatch and start in.  As it turned out, this pretty much coincided with DH’s recent back surgery, so I cast on while he was in the operating room.  That first ball lasted a long time, because I ripped it out 4 times (!) before I was satisfied with the bottom edge.  I changed from a curved hem to a straight hem, and went through at least 3 edge treatments, ending up with 8 rows of seed stitch on the bottom.

I knit this garment in the round, using a column of purl stitches to mark the side ‘seams’, then threw in some waist shaping and forged ahead.  The random striations of color were exactly what I’d envisioned, with  absolutely no pooling.   And the tencel gives the fabric a lovely, silky sheen.

In progress

I did some minimal short-row bust shaping, then bound off for the front and back necklines and armholes as I came to them.   The first bind-off (front neckline) meant I was now working a flat piece back and forth.  That didn’t change the effect of the color, but by the time I got to the armholes and was ready to knit the front straps, those narrow sections would mean a lot of pooling.

In order to maintain the striated look through the straps, I cast on a few stitches across each bound-off area and started steeking.  I worked the steeks in purl, continuing to use stockinette for the rest.

Steeked, ready to cut apart and finish the shoulders.

Although I did do a bit of splicing to join each new ball, I was not confident that the cut edges would felt enough to stay together, so I hand-stitched along both sides of the cutting line to reinforce them.  After taking the scissors to it and cutting the steeks apart, I used a three-needle bind-off for the shoulder seams, and was on the home stretch!

I picked up and knit around the neckline and armholes with seed stitch to match the bottom edge, and make sure they lay nice and flat.  To keep the edges from gapping or sagging, I started with the same size needles I used for the body, worked a few rows, then changed to the next size smaller, ending with a smaller size yet.  The bind-off in purl finished them nicely.

Detail of armhole and neckline edging

And finally, after three years of (not much) spinning and three sometimes distracted weeks of knitting, the final product!

Paua Shell Tank

I’ve worn it several times already, and found it to be light and comfortable, and pretty cool in spite of its wool content.  It’s going to see service year-round, since it will go nicely under jackets or cardigans, as well as on its own in summer.

I love it when a plan comes together!

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3 Responses to Paua Shell Tank

  1. Anne says:

    Stellar colorway! It looks like a great wardrobe staple – nice!

  2. Sharon says:

    Thanks! It was love at first sight with that color combination, and I’m relieved that I didn’t mess up the dyer’s inspired work by spinning it wonky. 😉

  3. Christine says:

    Fabulous! I love the photos and story along with the creation. I love love LOVE the fo too!

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