Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Today I bring you my second Quince and Co. hat of the month, and, as promised, an example of how sometimes finished objects choose their owners... or at least fail to choose the owners we intended for them. This hat was supposed to be for me, but last night at knitting I found at least three people who wear it better:

Maria-- fake-knitter extraordinaire.

Bristol-- très jolie!

And Leah (who isn't actually orange*).

Whereas on me, it looks something like this:

No offense, Whoopi-- it's just not a good look for me.

The color reminds me of a very dear friend who has been much on my mind lately, so it shall be hers... with instructions for shrinking to fit-- if necessary.

Project Notes

Yarn: Quince & Co. Osprey. I used this for my Marsan Watch Cap, and it's very nice stuff-- sturdy, soft and bouncy. It's pricier than the other Quince yarns, but one skein is more than enough for a hat... a rather large one, at that.

Pattern: Effie by Melissa LaBarre. Quince puts out some incredibly user-friendly designs to support their yarns-- this was one of the best patterns I've come across during this project. There were written AND charted instructions for the crown shaping-- what more can a girl ask? I would really like to make a less voluminous version of this hat for myself-- perhaps in a lighter weight yarn?

The Bottom Line: This is a very versatile hat-- there are so many different ways to wear it. It even looks equally good inside out. Just not on me. Sigh.

Many thanks to my knitting friends for their good humor and modeling talents!

*I was playing with the white and color balance settings on my camera... because I learned how!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My month of Quince & Co. yarns is almost at an end, so it's time to start rolling out some fabulous Quince hats. The first hat puts me at a milestone-- 13 is 25% of 52! This month has really captured for me what the 52 hats project is all about-- trying lots of unfamiliar yarns and patterns AND cranking out tons of handmade gifts. If I ever find the time, Rosalie here will be joined by a matching cowl and gloves-- a perfect little gift set for someone special.

It has a certain je ne sais quoi, no? And it's shiny.

Project Notes

Yarn: Quince and Co. Tern. This is such a refined, grown-up, luxurious yarn. It's a silk blend, and the colors are more muted and shimmery than Quince's other offerings. I had a hunch it would drape beautifully-- perfect for a slouchy beret.

Pattern: Rosalie (Ravelry link) by megi. The pattern, as I gather, was inspired by a hat worn by a character in the Twilight movies... anyway, I was drawn to the subtle texture of the stitch pattern, but I knew I would have to fiddle a bit to compensate for using lighter weight yarn. I must confess that I did not make a swatch-- I just did some math and hoped for the best. The pattern didn't give a row gauge-- note to self: always include row gauge in future pattern writing!-- so I was unsure how long to make the hat before decreasing. It didn't come out as slouchy as I envisioned, but now that I have the recipe, I can cook up some variations.

Techniques: Nothing to write home about-- though the pattern does call for my favorite double decrease: S2KP! That stands for: slip two stitches together knitwise, knit one, pass the slipped stitches over. It has no slant and traces a very prominent line across the fabric-- the asterisk pattern on the crown of the beret? That's S2KP!

The Bottom Line: I loved working with this yarn in this stitch pattern-- I find simple textural stitches to be very satisfying, especially in luxurious yarn. I also think this yarn would utterly rock in an intricate lace stitch. For some reason, I can't see myself wearing it-- perhaps it's my general lack of refinement, but I tend toward fuzzier, more rustic-looking yarns when I knit for myself. That's one thing I love about knitting gifts-- choosing just the right yarn and pattern to suit a particular person. Though sometimes my finished objects choose a different owner than I had originally intended-- tomorrow's hat will be a case in point!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Aw, shucks

Two of my fellow bloggers-- Chrissy & Andria-- have nominated me for a lovely award:

Compliments tend to make me bashful, but it is nice-- awesome, actually-- to know that people read and enjoy my work.

So to return the favor, I'd like to nominate a few of my favorite small, worthwhile blogs-- the award is meant for bloggers with fewer than 100 followers. Please check these out, I always enjoy them:

And of course, be sure to visit Crafty Cripple (Chrissy) and The McGreen Experience (Andria)--Thanks, ladies!

*My Blogger Dashboard says SHU has fewer than 100 followers, but she does have a pretty wide readership-- not exactly small, but definitely worthwhile. I probably wouldn't be blogging without her inspiration, and I would love to see her nominees!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Giant Snowflakes!!

Since I am the queen of overly ambitious agendas and non-binding resolutions, I've made an entirely unenforceable pact with myself to post on all hats that are (currently) at least 90% finished by next Friday. By my calculations, that's four hats... yipes! Time to dust off the old speed-blogging manual...

Yesterday, I delivered hat 12 to its new owner-- my lovely coworker Jess, whom I haven't seen much since she busted her leg skiing. She's not been relishing the activity restrictions, though it does force her to sit still for the camera:

I think she likes the hat... my creepy papparazzi-ing, not so much.

Project Notes

Yarn: Canopy Worsted-- and a bit of Canopy Fingering for the lining. This stuff is softness itself, and too lovely to languish in my stash for as long as it did. Though I suppose the point of a stash is the ability to knit awesome things at a moment's notice. You see, I'm learning! I'm planning to knit my next batch of hats entirely from stash yarn-- contrary to popular belief, I do have some.

Pattern: Improvised! Jess is a hardcore winter adventurer, thus the snowflake motif, which I borrowed from TPHPE (The Prettiest Hot Pad Ever!) by Heather Zoppetti. It's a large motif, so the design is basically just three repeats of the chart. I did a hemmed edge because nothing else would fit! Though I do love a hemmed edge, and that extra layer of warmth is just the thing for cold, windy rides on the chairlift.

Techniques: I had a spot of bother figuring out how to close the top of the hat-- the motif is so tall that I needed to decrease very quickly to prevent the hat from being too long, or worse, poofy on the top. This excellent calculator helped immensely-- the top of the hat is nice and flat, even though I ignored some of the directions... And since I had to unravel and start over twice, I learned how to properly de-kink yarn for re-knitting*-- TECHknitter, as usual, showed me the way.

The Bottom Line: I'm quite pleased with how this one turned out-- it was worth the false starts to get it right in the end. I was also glad to do my part in the "Cheer Up Jess" effort-- she'll be back to imperiling herself in no time.

Stay tuned for more thrilling hat posts than you can shake a stick at-- and while you're at it, check out some other lovely stuff at FO Friday!

*How's THAT for looking on the bright side?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

52 Posts

I truly wanted to do something special for my 52nd post, but I seem to have developed a case of blogger's block. My plan was to write about my reasons for starting the 52 hats project. This seems to be taking away too much time and energy from knitting said hats... and posting about them. I'm not sure if anyone still believes that I'm really knitting one hat every week-- I certainly haven't offered proof in quite a while. So instead, I'm going to share a funny picture and a funny story.

My knitting group took a field trip to Harrisville, NH this weekend to visit Harrisville Designs. After fondling and sighing over Shelter-- so lovely, so expensive-- I began to ransack the wall of New England Shetland yarn, which it comes in something like 64 colors. I'm planning to tackle Kate Davies' Caller Herrin'-- a true Fair Isle tam!-- so I piled up different colors in search of a color scheme to approximate the original. One of my knitting friends is something of a camera whisperer, and she figured out how to turn on the black and white mode on my camera-- the better to see value relationships between the colors we were choosing. What clever little knitters we are!

Then we were invited to go upstairs to see the workshop room, which was set up for a weaving class. Complete with a whole wall of weaving yarns in hundreds of enchanting colors. Hundreds! Good thing I had my camera:

Ahem. I believe I once said I was going to read the manual...

Hat posts will be back with a vengeance on Friday-- I have a lot of catching up to do!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Small Misfortunes

If there was ever a week for not feeling sorry for oneself, this is it. I have spent quite a bit of my free time glued to the computer screen, reading updates about the catastrophe in Japan. I feel blessed at the moment that the only misfortunes in my life are a moderate head cold, a seemingly congenital inability to correctly estimate the length of yarn needed for a long-tail cast on, and this:

Lovely colorwork... wrong gauge.

My heart goes out to the Japanese people-- I truly hope the crisis will soon be over so that healing and rebuilding can begin. I wish there was more that I could do than offer money and moral support-- but such as it is, I will give it.

I count myself lucky that putting this back together is a relatively easy task.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chroma Stocking Cap

Today is a big day for me and my blog. This is my 50th post! And today, I released my first pattern for test knitting! This has me very excited... and nervous. I'm pretty comfortable designing hats, but pattern writing is a whole 'nother ballgame. Anyway, it's about time I shared the prototype in all its glory... without further ado, I give you hat 11*:

The perfect thing for a dreary March day in Maine

Making stripes with two colors of self-striping yarn is not a particularly original concept-- I believe everyone and their mother has seen (or made) the Noro Scarf. I always loved the look, but not being much of a knitted-scarf wearer, I thought I would try to turn it into a hat. My first attempt was a success, but it only whet my appetite for MORE STRIPES! Thus was born my first ever pattern.

My design process was pretty simple... as I mentioned before, writing up the pattern has been a struggle. They don't teach these things in Knitting School, and having twelve years of knitting experience doesn't really help. Hence the test knitting-- and thanks to my readers and knitting friends who suggested it! I'm hoping to get useful feedback that I can incorporate into the pattern before I officially release it. I'm still looking for more testers, so if you're interested, check out this thread on Ravelry's awesome Free Pattern Testers discussion board. I'd love to have you!

*Gah! I really need to catch up on these posts!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


As of 9PM Monday, my WIP count is back to a happy place-- Huzzah! So in honor of WIP Wednesday, I thought I would share a couple of tricks related to one of my current projects-- a snowflake hat I'm making for a coworker:

Mary Lou wants snowflakes, so Mary Lou shall have snowflakes!

I don't always swatch for hats-- almost never for a ready-made pattern or a plain hat, unless I'm using an unfamiliar yarn-- but since I've waded into the fascinating waters of knitting design, I'm doing it a lot more... and since I typically make hats in the round on circular needles, I use an unusual method of making a gauge swatch. I hesitate to say I invented it, since anyone with average intelligence and a bit of knitting experience could probably figure it out on their own-- in fact, I'm sure they already have-- but that's no reason to keep it to myself, right?

The idea came to me a little over a year ago when I was having gauge woes over a sweater and feeling like Fortune's fool. I knew a flat swatch would give me a less-than-accurate prediction of in-the-round gauge, but I didn't have the patience to make a huge swatch. I tried this method for knitting a circular swatch flat, but I found it unappealingly messy.* DPNs were also not an appealing (or accurate) option. I initially dismissed the idea of making a small tube on two circulars because I didn't have two circular needles in the same size. And then it hit me: I could use DIFFERENT needles and test gauge for TWO sizes simultaneously!

The delight over my own cleverness faded as I realized that I do not enjoy knitting on two circulars... at all. But the method has endured in my repertory because it has a number of advantages:
  • The swatch lays flat for ease of measurement. I help it along a bit by slipping the first stitch on each needle every other round-- this creates fold lines that divide the two sides of the swatch.
  • It's a heck of a lot easier to knit (and swatch) stranded colorwork in the round.
  • Did I mention that you can test two different needle sizes AT THE SAME TIME?! This really does work, by the way. In the snowflake swatch, I used sizes US 2 and US 3. The gauge is ever-so-slightly tighter on the US 2, but enough to make a difference in how many pattern repeats will fit around a 21" hat.
OK, tip two:

Stranded colorwork photocopies REALLY well.

Now you can stop staring at your coworkers' hats in an attempt to memorize the pattern-- they will thank you for it.

TECHknitter recently published an improvement on this method-- brilliant. Though probably extremely tricky to work in two colors.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Month of Quince

I didn't have much of a plan for my February hats-- which will all be unveiled in good time!-- so to give myself some structure for March, I decided it would be fun to use only Quince & Co. yarns... which come in several varieties, delicious colors, and are conveniently available at my favorite local yarn store, KnitWit. You are free to speculate whether this has anything to do with the existence of store credit at KnitWit and my recent cashmere extravagances...

First up will be little Chickadee:

From the left: Apricot, Rosa Rugosa, and Petal

This yarn begs for colorwork, so I'm making the Setesdal Love Hat by Kate Gagnon Osborne. I'm very much in love with the color scheme-- chosen with the help of my darling husband.*

Next will be the Empire Hat by Kirsten Kapur of Through the Loops. I'm using Lark, and I sure wish I could show you the color, but my camera isn't able to see it properly. It's GREEN!

Camera did a slightly better job with Osprey:

This is for the Effie Beret-- a Quince pattern by Melissa LaBarre. I really want a red hat for myself-- but if I can't obtain Winesap, I will settle for Peacock. Believe it or not, this is only the second hat I'm making for myself-- I have a growing pile of Christmas and birthday gifts!

I was going to make something from Puffin, the heaviest weight Quince yarn, but inspiration failed to strike. So I decided to try Tern, a wool-silk blend that comes in subtler, more shimmery colors. This is Seaweed:

This will become a lighter-weight version of Rosalie [Ravelry Link]-- and I hope to add a matching cowl and gloves by Christmas.

I still have some unfinished business to take care of, namely a hat for one of my knitting coworkers. We're doing a swap-- she's making me socks! This currently seems like a very good deal for me, but as we couldn't find a ready-made hat pattern that suited either of us, this one's going to be another semi-original design...

Speaking of designs, I'm putting the finishing touches on the pattern for my Chroma Stocking Cap [Ravelry link]-- I plan to release it for test knitting next Friday, so if you have any interest in participating, drop me a line here or on Ravelry. It will also be available as a free pattern... someday!

*Yes, he willingly goes into the yarn store with me. Don't be jealous.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hill Country Hat

I'm trying to catch up on unfinished business here at 52 hats, so today I bring you the hat equivalent of plaid flannel, Carhartt pants, and work boots:

AKA hat 10

This is just the thing for a man who would feel prissy in a plain watch cap. This hat could star in Marlboro ads.

Eat your heart out, Don Draper.

The recipient doesn't know I made him a hat, nor that I'm projecting gender archetypes onto him. I just hope he wears it-- the last time I saw him he was hatless in below-freezing temperatures. Not acceptable, even for a rugged individualist.

Project Notes

Pattern: Hill Country Hat by Clara Parkes. This comes from The Knitter's Book of Wool, but is also available for free. I should warn you that the book is fabulous-- I want to make almost everything in it.*

Yarn: Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Chunky (say that ten time fast). Each color is named for the sheep breed that grows it-- this one is Steel Gray Suffolk. No need for namby-pamby dyes here. It also has a straight-from-the sheep texture-- dense, bouncy, a bit rough... you would never mistake it for merino. One of Ms. Parkes' major points in the Book of Wool is that we overvalue softness in yarn and miss out on the full range of textures produced by our sheepish friends. That said, I don't find this remotely itchy-- and no real man would admit that he did.

Techniques: I found myself without size 10.5 DPNs, so I finally broke down and learned to Magic Loop-- what fun! Since this was another top-down hat, I used Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off again, and reveled in the pure genius of it.

The Bottom Line: I have a very deeply ingrained tendency to fiddle, so it's really refreshing to knit a pattern exactly as written, using the called-for yarn. It doesn't leave me much to talk about, which is also a pretty good thing once in a while, eh?

*My phrase of the moment seems to be "perhaps when these hats are finished..."