Sunday, December 18, 2011

Looking Back, Part 1

I've started releasing my hats into the wild-- three went in the mail this week, and I've hand-delivered a few more. Sorting through the (huge) pile of hats has started to put the past year in perspective for me. There are some pretty good memories in that pile, and I'd like to share some of my favorites.

One reason for starting this project was to try tons of different yarn-- I'm kind of a reluctant stash-expander, so knitting lots of hats gave me the excuse I was looking for. I used 34 different yarns to make my 52 hats-- some of them were forgettable, some are best forgotten.* These are some of my favorites-- in no particular order:

1. Lion Brand Amazing-- this stuff is so much fun! I'll never get tired of watching the colors change, and I love the fuzzy, cohesive fabric it creates. I still have some leftovers, and this cowl has been hovering in my queue since March...

2. Quince & Co. Chickadee. I tried all the Quince yarns in February, and this one was my favorite. It's dense, springy, and a dream to knit with-- and the Quince colors are like candy. This would make a great all-season cardigan.

3. String Theory Merino DK. I tend to prefer solid and heathered yarns to variegated colors, but String Theory won me over. My husband likes it too-- I'm getting increasingly obvious hints regarding a sweater.

4. Brooklyn Tweed SHELTER-- this yarn may ruin me, in many senses. I have used up almost every inch of the leftovers from Irving and Pup Tent making little sweater ornaments-- and I have eight skeins waiting to become a sweater... for me! Knitting with SHELTER has led me to seek out other woolen-spun yarns-- the velvety texture is addictive.

5. Springtide Farm Cashmere. So, so lovely. I don't own any other cashmere garments to compare it to, but I checked a kitten, and yes, it's softer than that. I'm dreaming of a pair of simple fingerless mitts to match my Simple Pleasures hat.

Before starting this project, I usually improvised my hats-- and they were all of the beanie genre-- so here was also a good excuse to try out lots of different patterns. Here are some of my favorites, again in no particular order:

1. Empire by Kirsten Kapur-- a stocking cap that's not too silly for an adult to wear with dignity. The simple stitch pattern keeps things interesting for the knitter but isn't fussy or precious-looking. I'll definitely be seeking out more of Kirsten's designs.

2. Selbu Modern by Kate Gagnon Osborn. All told, I knit four of Ms. Osborn's designs, and this one was my favorite. I love how the simple stitch motif morphs elegantly into a star shape at the crown.

3. Quest by Laura Nelkin. Very clever, very sharp. This looks so perfect with short hair that I may cave in and make one for myself.

4. Waffel Hat by Anna and Heidi Pickles. This is such a fun hat. The smocked stitch took a long time to knit, but it looks amazing.

5. Turn a Square by Jared Flood. Possibly the perfect hat to knit for a guy-- simple enough to be manly, but the stripes keep it interesting. And it's a good excuse to buy Noro Silk Garden.

Since I'm a nerd, I tend to enjoy the technical side of knitting, and this project was a great way to try out all kinds of new techniques. My favorites happen to all be either cast-ons or bind-offs-- and I think it's incredibly important to give careful consideration to the way a handknit garment begins and ends. So try some of these, will you?

1. Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off. It really, really, really is stretchy, and it looks phenomenal.

2. Emily Ocker's cast-on, which answers the question of how to begin a top-down hat. I haven't tried TECHKnitter's improved version, but I promise I will.

3. Provisional crochet cast-on-- in this version, you chain OVER your knitting needle, eliminating the need to pick up stitches from the chain. This is really the only provisional cast-on that I bother with.

4. Channel Island Cast-on-- stretchy AND decorative. It's a very sweet addition that requires little extra effort. I love how it looks with 1x1 ribbing.

As for my favorite hats-- I'll save that for my next post. Stay tuned!

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