I feel like the best thing I can do here is say as little as possible and just leave you alone while you stare at these photos.
(Or I could whisper for the few of you who want to listen a little while staring: Süsk & Banoo is a blog I should have known about a long time ago but only recently discovered by way of having shipped her a nice pile of Fringe Supply Co. goods — to Helsinki! — and then seen her nice blog post about it. She posted the top shot on Instagram the other day and then I saw that there were more on the blog. It’s the Purl Bee’s Lovely Ribbed Cowl knitted in some gorgeous charcoal wool, along with a matching improvised hat — a gift for her father, as modeled by her boyfriend. Husband? Whatever. Check the blog for the whole story.)
PREVIOUSLY in FO Sightings: Z’s coveted closet of handmade clothes
As you may have noticed, my appetite for amazing sweaters is vast — cables, colorwork, clever construction … yes, please. Sadly, my actual allotment of knitting time (not to mention my yarn budget) is scant. I keep pointing out to myself that it’s not like I need all of those sweaters anyway, and besides, where would I put them? And if what I want is to knit them, there are smaller-scale ways of scratching that itch. So I thought this might make a good little occasional series — useful for me and others similarly afflicted. I’m calling it Someday vs Right Away.
At the very top of my list of not-gonna-happen-anytime-soons is Stonecutter, Michele Wang’s remarkable take on the fisherman sweater. If it’s complex mixed cables we’re longing to knit, there are hats galore that might appease us — including two great options from Wool People 6, the most recent Brooklyn Tweed collection: Gentian by Irina Dmitrieva (bottom left) and Bough by Leila Raabe (bottom right). I can only imagine the tremendous sense of accomplishment that would come with a finished Stonecutter, but either of these might provide a rewarding little dose of that. Right?
QUICK NOTE: I’m happy to announce three new Fringe Supply Co. stockists: Apple Yarns in Bellingham WA, Seaside Yarns in Juneau AK and my first international store, Sunspun in Canterbury, Victoria, Australia! Hit ’em up for some Fringe goods, will ya?
J.Crew is pretty much hitting it out of the park right now with their winter accessories, especially the knitted goods. One of my favorites is this simple Chevron Hat. What I don’t like so much is the way the crown decreases interrupt the chevrons, or that it’s “viscose/nylon/lambswool/rabbit hair/cashmere.” (I’d love to know what the percentages are, but that adds up to “synthetic with a touch of animal fiber.”) Happily, those of us who knit can make our own. Kate Gagnon Osborn’s Opus Spicatum (free pattern) has a much more elegant decrease scheme. It’s designed for The Fibre Company’s Road to China yarn (65% Baby Alpaca, 15% Silk, 10% Camel, 10% Cashmere), and you could go with their Garnet and Cobalt to simulate J.Crew’s burgundy/navy version. To match the heather-grey and off-white version above, I’d suggest Quince and Co’s Lark (100% American wool) in Kumlien’s Gull and Frost.
ALSO: If you’re into J.Crew’s Zigzag Stripe Scarf, you might take a look at Jill Zielinski’s Empire State Cowl (free pattern) — just knit it as a tube scarf, with solid-colored ribbing on each end, rather than grafting it into a loop.
I don’t have much to say about this hat other than it’s the most purely pleasurable knitting experience I’ve had lately. You know how sometimes your days are so fast-paced and jam-packed that all you want to do before bed is cast on some stitches and knit mindlessly in a spiral for a little while? That’s me at the end of last week. A stockinette hat was sounding like the knitting version of a long, hot bath, and I’ve had my eye on the Purl Bee’s Simple Rib Hat pattern since it first posted.* I also have a nice little stash of Purl Soho’s Worsted Twist, which they sent me a few weeks ago, and I thought this hat would be the perfect “swatch” to try it out with. Man, was that a good idea.
This yarn is magnificent: soft but structured, beautifully plied, and so well behaved you can hardly believe it. (The photo above is of the unblocked hat.) I’m eager to see how it takes to cables and such, but the thing about a plain hat like this is that all of the pressure is on the yarn. The finished piece will be exactly as dull or special as the yarn is, and the Worsted Twist is way over at the special end.
*I hadn’t knitted this particular hat before, but I did borrow the tassel for a baby hat last year.
It seems to me that one of the most interesting — and potentially fun — challenges in all of knitting is designing the crown of a hat. That is: taking whatever stitch pattern you’ve used for the tube portion of the hat and figuring out how to get it to artfully narrow to nothing within the few inches of the crown. Loads of hats avoid the issue altogether by having you, the knitter, simply stop whatever interesting thing you’ve been doing and switch to stockinette for the crown. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m always wowed by designers who step up to the challenge — often making the crown the most beautiful and interesting part of the whole hat. These four great examples have floated across my screen lately, all of which happen to take a “star” approach, so I just wanted to take a moment to point at them and clap.
TOP: Tea Jenny by Kate Davies (who’s always good at crowns)
MIDDLE LEFT: Lowbrow Hat by Thao Nguyen (to go with your fave from the cowls roundup)
MIDDLE RIGHT: Gwyneth by Leah McGlone (I’m dying to knit this!)
BOTTOM: Fjordland by Dianna Walla (from Pom Pom 7)
I’m sure you’ve all got loads more examples of outstanding crowns, and I hope you’ll share them in the comments.
ICYMI this week is more (gift-worthy) beanies: Beautifully textured hats.
The universe has sent me several signs in the past month that it’s time for me to learn fair isle knitting. (Tell you about them when I can.) What the universe apparently missed is that I had already signed up for a class! Which is where I spent my Sunday morning: learning proper habits and smart tips from the highly revered and totally charming Mary Jane Mucklestone. She not only bowled me over with her deep historical knowledge and her mountain of jaw-dropping colorwork swatches — each of them roughly twelve by twenty-four inches! — but also with her red clogs, literally the best clogs I have ever laid eyes on. I didn’t get very far on this hat-to-be, but I have totally got this.
[MISSED CONNECTION: Your name was Denise and you loaned me a stitch marker. Didn't mean to swipe it. Will pay you back in spades if you'll only tell me how to contact you!]
The Knitting Lab market was high quality but tiny compared to similar events I’ve attended, so I managed to escape with only one skein of yarn — a really deliciously hairy, naturally pewter, alpaca and mohair blend from Toots le Blanc, at half price. And Friday evening I got to eat at a hilarious little Japanese place with two of the very loveliest yarn people. Pretty brilliant weekend.
ICYMI this week is quite recent but highly relevant, here in gift-knitting season: Scarves to start now.
The yarn is Kenzie, sent to me by Skacel.
I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for a quick knitting hit right about now. I’ve been really craving a big ribbed hat with a wide fold-up brim, and am fairly obsessed with that red skullcap I just made for Bob. So can we talk about this excellent crimson ribbed number on Bette Franke? All we need to knit it for ourselves is my own free pattern, the Stadium Hat, adding a couple of inches to the length for the fold up brim. And for the yarn, I’m thinking O-Wool Classic Worsted in Sumac. As they say: Done and done.
See Vanessa’s post for additional shots of the lovely Bette and Sigrid.
Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission