Friday, January 28, 2011

Vintage Pixie Cap

So, I have arrived at Friday without a finished hat. Not to worry, I have all day... and failure is not an option.

10:59AM: After some false starts (Wrong cast on. Then wrong needle size. Then wrong needle size again.) hat #8 is underway!

11:47AM: I have finished four inches of the hat and three episodes of Pushing Daisies (thanks, Shannon!):

1:20PM: The pattern calls for the back of the hat to be seamed after casting off-- but why bother when you can just do a three-needle bind off?

1:29PM: Looks great, right? Unfortunately, it's far from finished...

2:29PM: The strap is almost done... I'm dragging my heels because I know what comes next: seaming!

3:17PM: I'm having a spot of trouble "easing in the fullness"-- can't decide whether I should start over or just continue fudging it.

4:09PM: All finished except for darning those ends... ugh, cotton ends!

5:24PM: Finished!! Including the button!

This is actually the best reproduction of the color-- WTF camera?

Project Notes

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton-Ease. One of my favorite craft store yarns. Generous skeins, as you can tell from my leftovers:

Will someone please tell me what to do with this? I've run out of ideas.

Pattern: Vintage Pixie Cap (Ravelry Link) by Hadley Fierlinger. Very cute... and a great last-minute project, as it turns out.

Techniques: shmechniques.

The bottom line: Phew. I knew I could eke this one out, but I'm going to try not to let it happen again. Though I know you guys won't judge me-- on Wednesday, you all agreed that I could wrap a shawl around my head and call it a turban. Also, I loved Pushing Daisies! I do hope Emerson Cod finds his way back to knitting-- pop-up books just aren't the same.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't Touch That Dial

We, er, interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a very special episode of 52 weeks, 52 hats entitled Not Another Hat:

Featuring Malabrigo Lace as "The Blog-Derailer"

Will our plucky heroine, brought low by last week's misadventures in double knitting, succumb to the seductive texture and mood-altering color of her new fling, or will she come to her senses in time to complete (the yet-to-be started) hat #8... by Friday?

(For more knitting-- and possibly less melodrama-- point your antennae to WIP Wednesday)

Friday, January 21, 2011


Hat 7 is finally finished, along my last reserve of patience and enthusiasm. I believe I invented at least three new curse words this week-- whoever said knitting was "relaxing" or "meditative" clearly never tried closing the top of a double-knit hat. And there was collateral damage:

Let's review the upside-- the colors are nice:

And it's reversible:

But the hem flare is working my last nerve:

Why can't you lie flat? Why?

Perhaps it will improve with blocking... and perhaps my mood will improve with some Malabrigo:

Project Notes

Yarn: Knit Picks Telemark. I didn't exactly love this yarn for We Call Them Pirates, and its diabolical properties-- namely splitting-- magnify with further use. Making SSP decreases with Telemark made me feel a little... stabby. Fortunately, no living things were harmed.

Pattern: Improvised, mostly-- I cast on approximately enough stitches, knit a tube with some stripes, and started decreasing when it seemed long enough. I worked myself into a bit of a lather over gauge, so about halfway through I checked to see if it would fit.

Techniques: Double knitting is a nifty parlor trick with many practical advantages: stockinette that doesn't curl, stranded colorwork without the stranding, yarn ends that magically disappear between the layers of fabric. There are great tutorials here and here. The most difficult part for me was casting on, but it didn't have to be. I used the two-color Italian cast-on, which creates an invisible edge-- tutorial here-- but is a real PITA to work in the round. Next time... and I think there will be a next time after a lengthy recovery period... I will probably use a different method. One thing I learned about tubular cast-ons: work them on tiny needles, then switch to the appropriate size for your project. Unless you want hem flare.

The Bottom Line: Once the dazzle of double knitting wore off-- and believe me, it does (right, Denise?)-- I found this to be a fairly tedious project. Progress was slow, and I had to concentrate pretty hard to maintain even tension. I wish I could say that I'm overjoyed with the results... maybe with a little time (and Malabrigo) I will feel better.

Though he doesn't know it yet, my husband has volunteered to model the hat in a future post. Yes, I still have more to say about it... just very little inspiration at the moment. I'm sure to find some over at FO Friday-- won't you join me?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stitch Reassignment Surgery

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you combined a Bollywood movie, double knitting, and blithe ignorance of purl decreases? Well then, lucky for you that I found out:

These are not the decreases you are looking for...

In double knitting, what seems like the right thing to do is usually just the opposite-- and thus the decreases on the reverse side of my hat do not match the ones on the outside. Fortunately, Hero: The Love Story of a Spy* proved so distracting that I only completed three decrease rows before I noticed the error.

*Featuring the world's most glamorous shepherdess. And explosions.

Sometimes a crochet hook is a knitter's best friend:

All the offending P2togs are ripped out:

Unless you have a well-developed sense of adventure, I wouldn't recommend trying this with cotton...

And now they are nice, well-behaved left-leaning decreases:

Now and forever, I shall remember to SSP

Moral of the story: bring a simpler project to Knitting Night... or perhaps find less entertaining knitting companions.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gauge Worries

I knew gauge was going to catch up to me at some point in this project. I haven't been dithering over it much-- with 52 hats to make, I don't really have the time-- but my current project has me fretting big time. I'm starting to lose sleep over whether this damn hat is going to fit-- it's gotten to the point that I don't want to keep knitting for fear that further efforts would be wasted, but I also refuse to start over. The only way to resolve this impasse is to try it on.

I have about five inches of hat stub here. It looks so nice-- it would be a shame to frog it. And dagnabit, I'm on a deadline!

I slip the stitches onto a length of crochet cotton so I can measure the circumference of the hat accurately.

It's two inches smaller than I anticipated... curses. Maybe it will still fit. Let's see if I can get my husband to try it on...

Note the sweater-- I made that!

He agreed to model on two conditions-- that he could flash fake gang signs and carry a potato gun. Whatever. It fits!!! I keep asking him if it really, really, really fits, and he says yes it really, really, really does. Yay!

I also took advantage of the opportunity to measure how much more noggin the hat needs to cover-- I have about four more inches to knit, including decreases... still have to figure out how to decrease in double knitting. That reminds me, I should show you the other side:

It's reversible! It also looks as though I have a tiny bit of hem flare going on-- so embarrassing-- but at least it fits. Now the big question is... can I finish it by Friday? Stay tuned.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Floating Spiral Hat

Today I'm going to try something relatively new: sleep-deprivation blogging! Since Tuesday, I have slept a grand total of... 15 hours? Delirium hasn't set in yet, but, hoo boy, I can see it coming. I figure I have about two or three hours until all but life-sustaining brain functions go on critical override, so I'd better roll out my new hat before it's too late.

For those of you counting, this is #6-- 52 hats is more than 10% done!

Sleep-deprivation modeling is also somewhat dodgy.

I love the texture and the slightly pointy crown-- hope the recipient does too.

Project Notes

Yarn: KnitPicks City Tweed HW. When I purchased this, I didn't have a specific purpose in mind-- shocking, I know. One of my reasons for starting 52 hats was to give myself permission to try lots of different yarns. You know, for fun. Well, I got wild and crazy one day and ordered FOUR different colors of this, so you will be seeing it again. Tweed yarns often seem crunchy and itchy to me. Not this one-- it's almost huggable and has a lovely, fuzzy halo. It's spun very loosely, so the cables don't stand out dramatically-- I actually like the effect with this pattern, but if you want your texture stitches to really POP, you might be disappointed. As a side note, I had to restrain myself from plucking out all the different-colored fluffy bits as I was knitting. Maybe it's the loose texture of the yarn-- or maybe it's just a personal problem. In which case I'm probably not cut out for tweed knitting.

Pattern: Floating Spiral Hat by Owen Wiesel-- from Interweave Knits Winter 2009. Yeah, this one's not a freebie. Another shocker. While I'm a shameless free-pattern slut-- yeah, I said it-- there are plenty of designs for which I would willingly pay. In fact, I am sometimes shocked (and delighted) by some of the amazing stuff people give away. Now that I have started writing up my first original design, I realize how much work goes into even a fairly simple pattern. But I digress. This is an extremely clever design-- as you work, the beginning of the round migrates, and the cables create a spiral around the circumference of the hat. The effect is beautiful, but it does make it difficult to "read" your knitting if you lose your place. Definitely not the kind of thing you can zone out with in front of the tube.

Techniques: Tubular cast-on-- I love the clean, finished look of this cast-on, and nothing stretches quite like it. As I mentioned in my WIP Wednesday post last week, I figured out how to work it in the round-- I say figured out because I really didn't find any good tutorials out there. In fact, many of the tutorials I did find seemed to suggest that it wasn't possible to do a tubular cast on for knitting in the round. That is nonsense. I'm not going to bore you with the details here because I'm going to try to write a tutorial on the subject... someday. I also tried cabling without a cable needle for the first time, and I think it's a great technique to learn. If you have cabled the "normal" way, I think you'll find it pretty easy, if a bit heart-stopping the first time you leave live stitches dangling in mid air! Here's a tutorial from Knitty-- you'll have to scroll down for the "without a cable needle" instructions.

The Bottom Line: I love the design, and I'm proud of myself (I think) for taking a chance on the yarn. I can officially cross a name off my Christmas list-- and it's only January!-- though I'm very tempted to give this to the recipient now. We'll see how long I can resist.

Winter has-- finally!-- arrived in Maine. I'm going skiing tomorrow-- I love gliding through the woods on new-fallen snow. Right now, I'm off to gawk at some FOs while I still have the attention span-- I apologize in advance for any nonsensical comments...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vacation wrap-up

After thirteen blissful nights off, I loathe the thought of staying up all night tonight (and tomorrow... and the next night). My attempts to avoid premature-onset bad mood have failed thusfar. On the bright side, we made an admirable start to the new year-- catching up with friends, going for snowy walks, reading aloud to each other, and working on our respective projects. My new healthy recipe for the week-- Unfussy Apple Cake from 101cookbooks-- was well-received:

It was very hearty, only mildly sweet-- next time I will add more chopped apples-- and definitely healthy... before we doused it in cream. Light cream, but still.

I'm off to a fast start on my January hat line-up. Hat #6 is finished, and I am nearly done with the striped stocking cap prototype:

My hasty progress has hit a bit of a speed bump in the form of hat #7. I knew this one was going to take longer because a) I had to teach myself double knitting and b) double knitting means, somewhat predictably, twice the number of stitches. What I didn't anticipate: having to drastically rethink my whole concept of gauge.

For reference, this is a 24" circular needle-- and the hat is approximately eight miles in diameter.

The ball band helpfully suggests a gauge of 6 stitches/inch on a size 3-4 needle... and (wait for it) I'm knitting 5 stitches/inch on a size 1. I fear I have fallen down some kind of rabbit hole.

I also spent a fair amount of time figuring out how to cast on. I kept telling myself there must be a way to adapt a tubular cast-on for double knitting. As it so often turns out, there is-- this is the Italian cast-on done in two colors, and it's fiendishly fiddly. For that reason, I'm not particularly looking forward to starting over. Additionally, the Voice of Reason-- which I do hear occasionally-- is urging me to take a nap this afternoon.

I hope to be sleeping when you (I hope!) are reading this-- tomorrow. I look forward to seeing what everyone else is up to... when I wake up!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tam C

It's Friday, so that must mean it's time to roll out the latest installment of 52 hats-- queue the soundtrack of trumpets blaring, fireworks bursting, and crowds going wild. This is #5, so I'm nearly 10% done! Not that there's any turning back at this point-- knitting 47 more hats is my official 2011 Knitolution, and I risk severe shunning by my fellow knitters if I fail to deliver... a fate worse than death, it seems.

Drumroll, please:

The first hat of 2011 atop the first mountain of 2011!

Seems as though I'm keeping this one for myself. No offense to my other hats, but this one is my favorite so far. Would you like to see more of the top? I thought so.

The brim isn't half bad either:

I heart corrugated ribbing.

Here's the best part:

I already have the coordinating scarf! Funny story, actually, about that scarf-- my dear friend Emily and I must have had the same color brainwave back in December 2009, because she mailed me the scarf mere days after I purchased the orange yarn for my husband's sweater. I finished the sweater in February 2010, had just about enough yarn left over for a hat, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Project Notes

Yarn: The main color is Berroco Ultra Alpaca, and the contrast color is Plymouth Boku. As I mentioned, I knit a whole sweater from Ultra Alpaca, and it is terrific stuff. My husband has been wearing the bejesus out of it for almost a year now, and it has held up extremely well. I do recommend knitting it slightly tighter than the recommended gauge-- it will grow less with blocking and still drape well. Yes, I said "grow less"-- because with 50% alpaca content, it's gonna grow. This makes sweater knitting quite an, ahem, adventure. As for the Boku, I can't really comment on whether or not it accurately mimics Noro Silk Garden (I assume this is what Plymouth Yarns was going for) since I have never knit with the latter. It does have a satisfyingly nubbly, irregular texture from the silk content, which I thinks pairs well with the fuzziness of the Ultra Alpaca. And it's half the price of the Noro...

Pattern: Three Tams by Angela Sixian Wu, from the Winter 2007 issue of Knitty. Brilliant, brilliant pattern. The only hard part was choosing which of the three tams to knit-- I chose Tam C, but I will likely make A & B at some point.

Techniques: Stranded colorwork, again. This one calls for corrugated ribbing, which looks amazing, but is a bit fiddly at first. Centered double-decrease, which creates the "spokes" on the top of the hat. And I will get on my soapbox and say that this hat NEEDS to be blocked. The colorwork looks so much better, and the tam shape is non-existent before blocking. Alright, you may carry on.

The bottom line: More fun than a barrel of monkeys. Whoever first thought to combine stranded colorwork and self-striping yarn should win the knitting equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Someday I will get around to making a proper Fair Isle tam with a dozen colors and hundreds of ends to weave in... but right now, I'm more than content with Fake Isle.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vacation WIPs

I have two things on the needles right now, and I would probably have more if my husband didn't keep trying to drag me out of the house to "do things." Perhaps he doesn't yet understand that knitting is a "thing" to "do"-- I'm going to give him a couple more months to get used to the idea.

First thing:

Hat #6 is underway. I'm just waiting for some quiet time to start the cables. Note the tubular cast-on. I worked it in the round, and I'm feeling rather self-satisfied about that.

Second thing:

The stripey stocking-cap prototype. I sat down for a few minutes Monday night and figured out how I think it's going to work, and so far I'm sticking to the plan. It should start looking less like an amorphous blob... soon, I hope!

We went for a long, snowy hike today and saw bear tracks. That should satisfy my husband's appetite for adventure for at least a couple of days-- I still need to teach myself double knitting before I return to work!

Monday, January 3, 2011

January line-up

I blathered on for so long yesterday that I decided to save my January hat line-up for a separate post. Here it is:
  1. Floating Spiral Hat by Owen Biesel from the Winter 2009 Interweave Knits. I'll be using Knit Picks City Tweed.
  2. As-yet-untitled double-knit beanie for my husband in Knit Picks Telemark. I'll be using this pattern as a guide. This one has a deadline-- his birthday is January 27th. I'm new to double knitting, so it's going to be an adventure.
  3. Autumn in Garrison by Kate Gagnon Osborne in Fibre Company Canopy Worsted-- for me!
  4. Vintage Pixie Cap (Ravelry link) from the book Vintage Knits for Modern Babies by Hadley Fierlinger. This should finish off the last of the Cotton Ease remnants from last year's baby knitting fest.
I'm also working on the prototype for a free hat pattern based on my Amazing Voyage Hat. I managed to snag some of the elusive Amazing yarn the other day. And by some, I mean this much:

Pretty impressive for a non-stashing knitter, eh? If I don't get too distracted by all the pretty colors, I hope to have the hat-- and pattern-- ready to share by January 31st!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Goal Snowball

Despite the crappy weather it usually brings us here in New England, January has become one of my favorite times of year. After the whirlwind of family and holiday obligations it's nice to have some unstructured time to reconnect with friends and reflect on the general state of my life-- which, on the whole, is pretty darn good. We're on vacation this week, and I am ever so glad we decided to stay home, relax, and ease ourselves into 2011.

I don't feel a great need for drastic resolutions this year-- having achieved the ripe old age of 30, I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to keep myself happy and productive. This is not to say that I always DO what it takes... but I think I'm getting better at it. Starting 52 hats has been a huge step in the right direction-- I'm more organized, I'm finishing what I start, and I'm spending more time doing things that I love. It's exciting to start a new year with this kind of momentum!

I think what has made this project a success for me so far is that the goals are defined and manageable. My general goal for 2011 is to apply this approach to some other areas of my life-- I'm giving myself monthly, weekly, and daily goals to complement my intense knitting agenda.

Each month, I want to:
  • Complete one home improvement project. After the initial excitement of becoming homeowners in April 2010, we have gotten a bit lazy. First up: replace the temporary (now going-on-6-month-old) paper shades in our bedroom with something more attractive... that actually blocks the light.
  • Clear my out-box. I'm good at identifying objects that need to leave my life. As for actually getting rid of them... not so much. Every month, I will sell, freecycle, or donate anything that needs to go.
  • Add one item of clothing to my wardrobe. I did an extensive wardrobe purge before we moved and I really need to start rebuilding. There's a nice knee-length, a-line corduroy skirt that has been calling my name for some time now...
Besides knitting a hat, each week, I want to:
  • Go on an outdoor adventure with my husband. We got into a pretty good rhythm of hikes and nature walks before the holiday craziness set in, and I want to get it going again.
  • Learn one new photography trick. I cracked open my camera manual for the first time today and figured out how to shoot in "RAW" format. Doing so promises better image quality and more editing options, but also prevents me from using the AUTO exposure setting. Horrors!
  • Try one new healthy recipe. I eat a reasonably balanced diet, and I'm not trying to lose weight, but I seriously need to expand my repertoire.
  • Write down one old favorite in my recipe journals. I started overhauling my recipe collection in 2010, and came up with a nifty organization method: Each journal contains one category of recipes-- baking, soups, poultry, etc.-- and I'm slowly adding categories and recipes until all of my favorites are readily accessible, rather than stuck in my hopelessly outdated laptop or scribbled on loose paper.
That brings us to daily goals:
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise. I have been a regular exerciser for a long time, but I still have my ups and downs. Since I injured my feet in August, I haven't been as consistent as I want to be. I haven't yet looked up how many calories per hour you burn knitting... but I'm pretty sure it's not enough to compensate for the sedentary posture it generally requires.
  • Maintain basic standards of cleanliness in our home-- a mutual goal with my enlightened husband. Every day, we need to wash dishes, sweep, wipe down the stove & counters, and put essential items (keys, shoes, coats, mail, dirty laundry) in their designated places. These are small things, but they make life so much better.
  • Take at least 15 minutes per day to plan and organize my life. Despite being born into the digital age, I still do most of my planning on paper. I have about ten thousand little notebooks relentlessly shuffling around to different locations in my house and handbag. This drives me crazy. So, as of today, there's a new order:
One notepad for grocery lists, one for general note-taking, a calendar, and a notebook for more long-term planning and list-making

Along with a pen, it all fits rather nicely into this tacky green envelope. In theory, if I spend less time hunting for these items, I should have more time to think about what I need to get done. Whether I get more done as a result remains to be seen.
  • Finally, I would like to be better company to my husband every day-- and enjoy his company. Many days we have only a few minutes together between our opposite work schedules, and I want to be able to relax and enjoy it, instead of being a bundle of stress and demands. I think maintaining the habits I have outlined above-- along with a generous helping of knitting-- will go a long way toward making this happen.
Speaking of of knitting... my stash has definitely started 2011 on the right foot:

Since I'm already knee-deep in a year-long knitting project, I'm going to try to keep my knitting plans from getting any more lofty-- but I think I have some fairly realistic goals:
  • Continue 52 hats-- #5 is in the bag:
Finished with yarn to spare-- my swatches are safe!
  • Complete one self-designed hat every two months... and publish some patterns!
  • Knit myself a damn sweater. This has been hanging over my head for far too long-- I need a basic, wear-with-anything sweater. It's going to be a cream or oatmeal heather semi-fitted seamless raglan with a slightly scooped crew neck. And that's final. Sort of.
  • Write a bit about my knitting history and my reasons for starting the hat project.
That's probably quite enough for one year... and one post for that matter. If you have made it this far, thank you so much for taking the time to read.* If you feel like it, leave me a comment with your goals for the New Year-- or point me to your blog, so I can stalk you.

*Sarah, I know this kind of post is right up your alley-- hope it provides some compensation for the relentless knitting content.