Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I've just woken up all tingly and excited-- you know when you can just tell it's going to be a good day? Usually days that start at 3:30PM are not accompanied by such feelings of pleasant anticipation. I think I can identify a few reasons:
  • After two weeks of dreary, wet, terrible weather, the sun has come out at last.
  • It's Duckfat night.
  • Today marks the halfway point of 52 hats... and I'm mere inches away from finishing hat 26!
Before I get too pleased with myself, let me not forget that this project also involves blogging... or at least it did at some point. There are some good reasons and some half-assed reasons for this, but rather than make excuses and risk ruining my good mood (which I have now enhanced by putting on my favorite red shoes), I'm just going to get on with it.

So, hat 23! Definitely on of my favorites so far, and I made it for one of my favorite people. My husband wants it too, for obvious reasons:

Sorry, dear. Your new camera is awesome, though. Damn.

Project Notes

Yarn: Manos Del Uruguay Silk Blend. My husband gravitates to this yarn-- pretty good taste, eh?* Anyway, this yarn is magic, and one skein is exactly enough to make a ladies' size beanie.

Pattern: Koolhaas by Jared Flood. It comes as no surprise that this is a popular project on Ravelry-- and that's kind of great, because I was able to find advice on substituting a different weight yarn within seconds. Who needs math?

Techniques: I'd like to think I improved upon this pattern the tiniest bit by maintaining the twisted stitches while decreasing... but I do enjoy that sort of thing.

The Bottom Line: Except for the rows where every stitch switches position with its neighbor, I loved knitting this-- and the result is worth it. Now if I can only manage to prevent my husband stealing it-- though perhaps I could barter it for the disposal of the exquisitely unsanitary baseball cap he wears to play tennis...

Now it's off to finish hat 26-- wish me luck!

*He usually manages to pick out the $30/skein hand-dyed without any prompting whatsoever-- a
nd then he always looks so sad when he finds out how many skeins a sweater would require.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Top-Down Ribbed Beanie

My sources tell me it's been a while since I posted a hat, and I need to fix that. I'm battling some fairly profound fatigue right now, so it's going to have to be quick. This is the 22nd hat I've made, though only the 20th hat I've posted-- rest assured the other two exist.

Short hair has totally redefined my relationship with hats-- I shall not be modelling this one!

Project Notes

Yarn: Plymouth Happy Feet DK, which you may recognize from my swap socks. Mary Lou ran out of the first skein with one inch of the toe left, so there was plenty left over. I know someone out there needs a magenta beanie.

Pattern: Top Down Ribbed Beanie by Charisa Martin Cairn. Top-down is the way to go when you have leftover yarn to use up, and this pattern is just the ticket.

Techniques: To start the hat, the pattern recommends Emily Ocker's cast-on. And now that I have Googled it to share the link, I find that TECHknitter has-- of course-- improved upon it-- all hail TECHknitter!

The Bottom Line: I don't have a lot to say about this one, nor do I have much to say for myself-- at least nothing that doesn't closely resemble whining. It's been a rough week, but a couple good nights' rest and a knitting picnic tomorrow should go a long way toward curing me. I shall have some more scintillating hats, and hopefully some more scintillating conversation to share in the next few days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May in Close-up

I'm quite busy actually knitting hats-- shocking, I know-- but I wanted to give a little sneak preview of what I've been working on:

The race is on to finish hat 26... I have seven days!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hey, could you turn it down?!

I never made much of an agenda for hat knitting in May, which is starting to look like a bad idea... out of five hats I need to make this month, I have finished precisely one. I refuse to let this fact startle me.

One symptom-- or perhaps one cause, I'm not sure which-- of this lack of organization was an overwhelming desire to dip into one of my hand-painted skeins from last weekend's dye workshop. A desire that I resisted for, hmm, twenty-five seconds-- I had planned to use it for a hat anyway, and I really, really, really couldn't wait to see how it would knit up.

Well, I'm not sure how I feel about it now:

Ow! My eyes!

On the plus side, it is colorful. But I'm concerned that it's a bit too, um, loud.* Those little islands of green are like flashing neon signs... and not in a good way. I don't think anyone wants to wear Vegas on their head. At least not anyone in my immediate social circle.

So I decided I need to tone it down a bit-- I ordered some of the same yarn in a solid dark grey, and I'm going to alternate them every row. This, of course, still leaves me with only one finished hat for the month...

*And yes, the colors are more vivid in real life. Thanks, camera.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Extra! Extra!

Breaking news: the Chroma Stocking Cap pattern is now available! I had so much fun knitting this... and I hope you will too!

The pattern is available for free on Ravelry here; if you're not on Ravelry, you can also download it here. (Someday I'll figure out how to embed the PDF...)

Stay tuned for more thrilling tales of knitted hats and other adventures...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Vacation Fiber Day!

We've been vacationing at home this week, and it's been divine-- though I do wish someone would come up with a more glamorous term for it than "staycation." My husband agreed to let me have a whole day to play with yarn, and I was quite productive:
  • Hat 22 is nearing completion. It's kind of a boring top-down ribbed beanie, so I have to alternate with more enticing projects...
  • Such as hat 23-- I couldn't resist dipping into some of my hand-painted yarn from Saturday's dye-a-palooza, and I think it's coming out rather lovely.
  • I swatched a cable pattern for hat 24-- which I'm making to coordinate with a coworker's very lovely red cashmere scarf.
  • I finally banged out a finished version of my Chroma Stocking Cap pattern and I plan to post it to Ravelry on Monday!
  • It also happened to be the first truly lovely day of spring here in Maine, and I really love to take my knitting outside in good weather... which led to possibly the most perfect combination of activities since knitting and reading: knitting and walking! With my yarn tucked in my pocket, I trucked down to the library and grocery store, and later I made my way to the park with my husband, who remains dubious of my multitasking. I am so far unscathed, and I promised him that I will still look both ways when crossing the street...
I would love to say I had photographic evidence of the above activities, but my productivity did not extend as far as picking up my camera. Maybe next week!

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Obsession*

*Or, if you care for puns, A Lesson Before Dyeing...

You'd think having a year-long hat-knitting project would be enough to qualify for full-on knitting dorkdom, but friends, this weekend I found out that I'm nowhere near the bottom of the rabbit hole-- but I'm falling ever faster. One of my knitting buddies** designs and teaches classes for SuriPaco, and she invited us all to partake in a day of yarn & fiber dyeing down at the alpaca farm. Need I say that this was heaven? Check out what I made:

Or rather, what WE made-- I was able to convince my husband to join us, and I'm pretty sure he had even more fun than I did.

Three guesses which color was his doing.

And here's the whole day's produce-- impressive, right?

When it comes to fiber, PKOTT does not fool around.

I haven't yet torn down my garage to build a dye kitchen... but I'm seriously considering it. My car doesn't fit in there anyway.

For further (and better) documentation of a stupendously fun day, check out Leah's blog-- and many thanks to Bristol for sharing her dyeing expertise! Finally, I'll leave you with a gratuitous cute farm animal shot:

That's right, Sadie here was even cuter than the alpacas. Well played, Sadie.

**I firmly maintain that "buddies" is the appropriate moniker-- like the drinking variety, they are quite effective at furthering one's addiction...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Snowflake Swap Hat

Let it not be said that foolhardy year-long knitting projects are entirely without compensation. Yesterday, I exchanged this:

for these:

Knitters, I believe, rarely receive hand-knitted gifts, which is particularly sad because we are perhaps uniquely able to appreciate them. I think a swap is the perfect way to address this (admittedly minor) injustice-- and Mary Lou agrees.

Project Notes

Yarn: Berroco Comfort DK. 100% wool makes Mary Lou itch-- and as I was unable to find a blend in a suitable color, it had to be acrylic... not that there's anything wrong with that! I'm all for choosing the right yarn for the project at hand, and after working with it, I don't feel this yarn was a bad compromise. I only hope it's warm enough...

Pattern: Improvised, using various source materials-- the coworker whose hat I photocopied gave my knockoff the thumbs up!

Techniques: See Wednesday's post for a tutorial (my first!) on hemmed hats.

The Bottom Line: It may be better to give than to receive... nah, receiving is awesome. Sock knitting is something I've resisted-- thus far-- so maybe I can continue to postpone the inevitable by arranging more hat-for-socks swaps... any takers?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My highly derivative method for making a hemmed hat

Back in early April, one of my Ravelry friends asked how I made the hemmed edge for my Giant Snowflake Hat-- I started to write her a rather long-winded reply before deciding that I might as well turn it into a blog post. I feel a bit like I'm standing on the shoulders of giants here-- TECHknitter (as usual) has a great series on better bands and facings, including a post on sewn hems, and I've also picked up quite a few tricks from Knitting Without Tears and Knitting in Plain English. So I hesitate to call this a tutorial... hence the post title.

There are a few good reasons for making a hemmed hat:
  1. It looks pretty and doesn't curl.
  2. The doubled fabric makes an exceptionally warm layer over one's ears.
  3. For the wool-sensitive, the lining can be made from a less irritating fiber-- no more prickly forehead.
  4. It's perfect for all-over color patterns where another type of border would be out of place-- or for large motifs that would be too large to allow for another border.
That said, the first time I made a hat that called for a hem, I found it a daunting process... in fact, it still daunts me a tiny bit, though less so each time. This is the process I usually follow for a basic hemmed hat:

1. Start with a provisional cast-on. This is my favorite method-- you'll need a crochet hook. Using waste yarn (or cotton crochet thread, which I prefer), cast on the number of stitches needed for body of your hat. THIS IS IMPORTANT: after you pull the end of the waste yarn through the last stitch of the chain, tie a couple of knots in it-- you need to know which end is which. Join your working yarn, knit across the row, then join to work in the round. Now, knit one round plain, then purl one round. The purl round is important because it gives a horizontal crease line that will enable the hem to fold over neatly. It will look awesome.

Here's the edge of that hat with the provisional crochet cast-on-- note the knots!

2. When you are finished knitting your hat-- which, if you are me, and you're doing battle with a colorwork pattern, may take a while-- go back to your provisional cast on. You'll notice a couple of things:

One side looks like a crochet chain-- which it is.

As for the other side-- those blue loops are soon-to-be live stitches!

The beauty of the provisional crochet cast on is that it can be easily, yet carefully, undone one stitch at a time, starting at the end of the chain (you did remember to tie knots in that end, right?):

Place each live stitch onto a circular needle as you go.

3. Once you have all the live stitches on your needle, the fun really begins. You can knit your lining in a contrasting color-- or knit color patterns or an inscription to the recipient or lines of poetry into it. You can use up annoying little bits of leftover yarn-- or maybe a stray bit of cashmere... Whatever you do, one rule to follow is to make it less bulky than the outer hat-- decrease the number of stitches by 10-20%, use thinner yarn, do BOTH if you're feeling crazy. A slimmer lining = a hem that is less likely to flare-- and you know how I feel about hem flare.

Another trick-- work the facing in 1x1 ribbing-- it will reduce bulk and give the edge just the right amount of grip.

4. Make your lining at least 2-3" wide, then... DO NOT CAST OFF! The point of making your hem this way is to have the least possible amount of binding at the edge, and to make it nearly invisible from the outside. So you are going to tack each individual live stitch to the inside of the hat. Start by transferring all of the live stitches to a length of waste yarn. Cut the working yarn to a length 3-4 times the circumference of the hat. Then, turn the hat inside out and fold the facing into place:

Slip the needle through the live stitch, and catch a few strands of a single stitch of the hat body.

Try to follow the same row of stitches as you progress around the hat--
and don't pull the yarn too tightly or your edge will cease to be invisible!

Once you have tacked down each stitch... you're done!

Pretty spiffy, eh?

Denise, I hope this satisfies your curiosity!