Best new hat patterns

Best new hat patterns

There have been so many outstanding hat patterns published in the last few months, I thought it was time to highlight my favorites. I’m crazy about all of these:

1. Fractals Hat by Olga Buraya-Kefelian — striking geometry and a great crown

2. Hickory Cap by Veronik Avery — great pillbox shape, clever construction

3. Boyfriend Hat from the Purl Bee — a total classic (free pattern)

4. Magnolia beanie by Maria Socha — simple lace-stitch chart, fantastic crown (free pattern)

5. Wissahickon beanie by Meghan Kelly — top-down and all about the crown

6. Garter Ear Flap Hat by Purl Bee — sized for the whole family (free pattern)

7. Walsh head scarf by Julie Hoover — I want it as is and also at kerchief or shawl size

8. Lara’s Hat by Susan Ashcroft — previously mentioned, now available (free pattern)

9. Muckle Toque by Mary Jane Mucklestone — the hat version of her great Muckle Mitts

10. Quadrifurcus beanie by Rililie — great woven texture and shaped back/ribbing

.

SHOP NOTE: So pleased to report that the sold-out buttons have been restocked!

.

MORE GREAT HATS: A hat for every head / Beautifully textured hats / All star crowns

New Favorites: Ebony and ivory

New Favorites: Ebony and ivory knitting patterns

There have been two new knitting pattern photos this week that have made my eyes widen and my mouth fall open. Both happen to be near-black and off-white, which is a combo I find irresistible. And in both cases, used to exquisite effect. First came Joelle’s Diagonal Pinstripe Scarf, a simple garter-stitch scarf (free pattern at the Purl Bee) knit on the diagonal with randomly placed single-row stripes, which creates a sort of ticking effect due to the garter stitch. Or as she says, “in Heirloom White with fine lines of Dark Loam, the effect is like a graphite drawing on cotton rag paper, loose and mysterious.” Then came Michele Wang’s Alloy, part of the latest Brooklyn Tweed collection, BT Winter 14. It’s classic Michele — an impeccable set-in-sleeve pullover with contrasting textures — but in this case she’s added color-blocked panels in the sleeves and sides. Had it been knitted in anything other than Fossil and Cast Iron, it wouldn’t have been the same. As is? Want.

.

By the way, I know there are several of you who’ve been studying my Pullovers for First-Timers post, trying to decide what you want your first sweater to be. If you’re leaning toward a drop-sleeve pattern (i.e, no sleeve-cap or armscye shaping) there are two great options in that new BT collection: Abbott by Michele Wang and Benton by Julie Hoover. Both manage the proportions well.

Pullovers for first-timers: Or, an introduction to sweater construction

Idlewild blueprint

I’ve been promising this post on sweater patterns for beginners — or first-time sweater knitters at any level — for quite awhile, and it’s turned out to be a bit of a monster! But let’s get one thing clear right up front: There is nothing intrinsically hard about knitting a sweater. Don’t let the size of this post scare you! As I’ve said before, if you can knit a mitt, you can knit a sweater. Depending on the type of sweater, it may involve some combination of increases/decreases, casting on or binding off stitches mid-stream, picking up stitches, possibly even some short rows — some or all of which you’ve most likely done by the time you’re thinking about a sweater. It’s just knitting. But given the potential investment of time and yarn money, a sweater represents a bit of a mental hurdle for lots of knitters. I’ve met people who’ve been knitting for decades, who have all kinds of fancy knitting skills, but who’ve never felt confident about knitting a sweater.

I feel like in addition to the time and money, another hesitation for people is just not knowing how sweaters are made — what it is you’re signing up for. It’s less daunting to dive into a pair of fingerless mitts, say, without really knowing what it will entail. Embarking on something as big as a sweater when the process is a mystery can be doubly daunting. So this post is a set of patterns I think are good starter patterns, but which also provide an overview of the four or five most common* ways a pullover is constructed — along with some pros and cons for each — to help you decide which might be the best place for you personally to start. (Coincidentally, Hannah Fettig and Pam Allen just did a podcast on basic sweater types at knit.fm, so I’d suggest listening to that for their thoughts as well.)

NOTE: Since everyone’s skills are different, I’m suggesting one basic/beginner pattern for each construction type, along with more ambitious alternatives. If you’re perfectly comfortable with cables, lace, colorwork, or whatever, there’s no reason your first sweater has to be plain stockinette. But if you’re newer to knitting and doing your first sweater, you might want to keep it simple in that regard.

OK, here we go:

Drop-shoulder and dolman sweater knitting patterns for first-timers

DROP-SHOULDER AND DOLMAN SWEATERS

suggested pattern:
My First Summer Tunic — not pictured, but see this Knit the Look for more on this one (free pattern)

or if you’re feeling more ambitious:
Relax by Ririko — a bit of a hybrid with some eyelet interest
Idlewild by Julie Hoover — dolman with cables and shaping (see blueprint above)
Mix No. 13 by AnneLena Mattison — drop-shoulder with allover lace

The trickiest part of sweater design and construction is the “armscye” — the shaping of the joint where the sleeve meets the body. Drop-shoulder sweaters avoid the issue altogether by consisting simply of four rectangles (front, back and two sleeves) sewn together, with the body pieces being wide enough that the sleeves can just be a pair of tubes stuck on at the opening. Dolman-sleeve sweaters, similarly, are basically two big T shapes, one front and one back, seamed together, with an opening for the neck. Both are necessarily oversized to account for the lack of a sleeve cap.

pros: No armhole shaping to worry about; anyone who can knit a rectangle can knit four
cons: Drop-shoulder won’t really teach you any new skills (other than mattress stitch) or anything about true sweater construction

. . .

Top-down sweater knitting patterns for first-timers

TOP-DOWN SEAMLESS SWEATERS

suggested pattern:
Ladies Classic Raglan by Jane Richmond — ultra-basic top-down raglan

or if you’re feeling more ambitious:
Basic Round-Yoke Unisex by Hannah Fettig — or even the colorwork version, Willard Fair Isle
Portside by Alicia Plummer — boatneck tunic shape with pockets

With top-down, your cast-on edge is your neckline. You knit the yoke in the round, shaping it via increases, and it can be raglan, round-yoked, saddle-shoulder, or a simulation of a set-in sleeve. Once the yoke has reached your desired armhole depth, you set aside the sleeve stitches on waste yarn, join the back and front in the round and keep knitting the body downward from there. Then you put those sleeve stitches back on the needle and knit each of the sleeves in the round. So you literally knit the entire sweater in one piece, seamlessly. (For step-by-step photos illustrating the process, see the Ravelry page for my top-down-tutorial sweater.)

Sweaters knit in the round — whether top-down or bottom-up — have their detractors. But I consider them the gateway to sweater knitting. With top-down, you can literally try on your sweater as you go, giving you absolute control over the fit. Whether you’re knitting from a pattern or making it up, you’ll find lots of information about how it works — and how sweater shaping works in general — in my top-down tutorial. Understanding the basic concepts will allow you to modify any pattern to fit your particular shape.

pros: No seaming; lots of control over the fit
cons: None of the structural support that seams provide (less durable); with certain yarns, the sweater may twist on you over time, having been knitted in a spiral, which is what “in the round” technically is; less portable; the one big piece may feel more cumbersome to work on as it grows into a sweater.

. . .

Bottom-up sweater patterns for first-timers

BOTTOM-UP SWEATERS

suggested pattern:
Sweatshirt Sweater by Purl Bee — with or without the kangaroo pocket (free pattern)

or if you’re feeling more ambitious:
Bedford by Michele Wang — simple cables on the body only
Stasis by Leila Raabe — colorwork and a round yoke

Seamless pullovers can also be worked from the bottom up. In this case you knit three tubes starting at the hem: the body plus two sleeves. When all three of those pieces reach armhole height, they’re joined together on a single long needle, and the yoke is worked seamlessly upward from that point, shaped by decreases. It can be raglan, round-yoked or saddle-shouldered.

There’s also a hybrid category of bottom-up sweaters, where the body and sleeves are each worked and shaped separately all the way to the top, then seamed together at the arm joint, which can be either a raglan or a set-in sleeve.

pros: Can be seamless; the three separate pieces are relatively portable, and sleeves are always a nice place to start
cons: If seamless, same cons as for top-down, above; not as much control over the outcome as with top-down; no way to try it on until the body and arms are joined, so adjusting the length requires ripping back/un-joining.

. . .

Seamed sweater patterns for first-timers

CLASSIC SEAMED SWEATERS

suggested pattern:
Breton by Jared Flood (with or without the stripes)

or if you’re feeling more ambitious:
Redford by Julie Hoover — unisex! sweatshirt detailing, including side panels
Belesama by Michele Wang — ribbing plus textured-stitch panels on front and back

There have been sweaters for centuries longer than there have been circular needles, so traditionally sweaters were knitted in flat pieces** — just like you cut pattern pieces when sewing a garment — and seamed together with mattress stitch. Lots of people hate (or think they hate) the act of seaming. But I believe people’s increasing preference for seamless sweaters is as much to do with the control issue as with the actual seaming. I could be wrong, who knows. A seamed sweater typically has set-in sleeves, but can also be raglan or saddle-shouldered. With thoughtful shaping, a seamless sweater can actually be sculpted to fit a three-dimensional body, but the conventional wisdom (and the reality of most patterns) is that a set-in-sleeve sweater will conform to the human shape better than, say, a raglan. Obviously, there’s a lot of room for nuance and debate there.

In some cases, the sleeves of seamed sweaters are worked in the round up to the armhole, then the sleeve cap (the upper part of the sleeve) is worked flat. That eliminates the need to seam the arms.

pros: long-lasting, as seams provide structural support; pieces are portable; no painfully long rows/rounds to knit; a long history of published patterns to draw on
cons: you don’t know how you did until you seam it all together

. . .

Whichever type of sweater you start with, fit is always a concern. Nobody wants to spend a month or more making a sweater, only to have it not fit in the end. So taking measurements — of your body and also a garment that fits the way you like — is critical. Any good pattern will include a schematic, detailing the finished measurements of the sweater. (Which presumes your gauge is the same as that listed on the pattern. If your stitches are larger or smaller, your sweater will be larger or smaller.) Picking the right size is the first step toward a successful outcome.

Questions? Disputes? Let’s talk about it—

.

*There are infinitely more than four ways to construct a sweater but we’re sticking with the basics here!
**I’m being corrected on this in the comments. Read on for further info

Scarves to start now

Scarf patterns to start knitting now!

So about that growing scarf obsession. I’m not talking about any skimpy little rectangles to flick around your neck; I’m talking about big, dramatic, shoulder-hugging scarves, bordering on “wraps” or “stoles.” Scarves that involve some serious knitting. So whether you want to be wearing one this fall or are thinking about knitting a few for the holidays, these are scarves to start now!

1. Wheaten by Anne Hanson, exquisite cables and lace (See also: Topiary and Afton)

2. Nathalie by Val LNU*, simple and effective rib-and-seed-stitch combo  (free pattern)

3. Kirkwood by Julie Hoover, love those classic cables

4. Doux by Julie Hoover, luscious yarn combo and lovely textured stitch**

5. Falmouth by Alicia Plummer, on-trend chevrons (and there’s a matching hat)

6. Isla by Carrie Bostick Hoge, good old knits and purls, even better with another repeat or two each direction

7. February by Beth Weaver, pure cable beauty with tallllll ribbed ends

8. Vermeil by Wencke Lucas, my life won’t be complete until I cast on this crazy stitch combo (in Pom Pom 6)**

9. Caribou by Pam Allen, curvaceous grid of welts (maybe?) and ribs

10. Snowflake by Joelle Hoverson, bulky with allover texture, this is probably the quickest knit on the list (free pattern)

.

*LNU: That’s cop-speak for Last Name Unknown. Don’t ask me how I know.

**I know, I know, I’ve featured these two before, but this list wouldn’t have been right without them.

.

Knit the Look: Elin Kling’s little black turtleneck

how to knit Elin Kling's little black turtleneck

Apart from being an irredeemable minimalist, I’m a great lover of sweaters paired with lighter-weight clothes and some bare skin. It’s one of my favorite things about living in the Bay Area: We get to do that all year. Elsewhere, of course, this is what’s known as transitional dressing. All of which means I’m obviously gonna love Elin Kling’s minimalist, trans-season ensemble of a little black turtleneck sweater with Audrey-style trousers and flats. Of course, a little black turtleneck (LBT, anyone?), being a timeless wardrobe staple, isn’t generally expensive or hard to come by in stores, but by knitting your own you can customize the fit and use whatever fiber you like. I’d suggest a pattern that has a tiny bit more interest (both in the knitting and the wearing) such as Julie Hoover’s Hudson, which you could knit in anything from the hardworking Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in Cast Iron to the luxe Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere in La Nuit.

See Vanessa’s recommendations for the rest of the outfit.

.

Street style photo © Vanessa Jackman; used with permission

New Favorites: Sleeveless turtlenecks

best sleeveless turtleneck sweater knitting patterns

Under my bed are a few bins of clothes that I don’t wear but can’t part with. Some because they have sentimental value and some because I just loved them so much that when it was time to stop wearing them I couldn’t let them go. And that includes multiple decades-old sleeveless turtlenecks. What is it about them? I have no idea. But I’d like to knit all of these:

1. Amber by Lisa Richardson

2. Frontenac by Julie Hoover

3. Siri by Caroline Lang

4. Danforth by Pam Allen

(And I don’t mean to put them under the bed.)

.

Note to Nashville readers: There are “High-fiber” tote bags on their way to the shimmering Haus of Yarn. Ask for them in a few days!

.

New Favorites: amazing colorwork from Brooklyn Tweed

brooklyn tweed winter 13 adara altair and kimmswick shot by jared

The latest BT collection, Winter 2013, came out this morning and it’s Brooklyn Tweed at its very best. There are eighteen designs presented in the most lavish BT lookbook yet — filled, of course, with Jared Flood’s beautiful photos. (The interlude of Hudson NY scenes is just gorgeous.) Eighteen is a lot of patterns and, while some of them are more to my personal taste than others, there’s not a clunker in the bunch. I’ll be mining this collection for weeks, but what tugged at me most on the first viewing is the colorwork at the front of the book, which isn’t ordinarily even my thing. But this is when I love Brooklyn Tweed the most — when they take classic styles and techniques and make them a little bit sharper, a little bit smarter, but without damaging the timelessness. Pieces worth the precious investment of your knitting time.

— The Adara Turtleneck by Michele Wang puts the colorwork around the waist.

— A little intarsia goes a long way on the Altair Cap by Jared Flood.

— Julie Hoover’s Kimmswick Scarf is miles beyond my skill set, but I would wear it in a heartbeat.

— And I adore both versions of Jared’s take on the lopapeysa, the Grettir Turtleneck and Crew (contained in one pattern).

grettir turtleneck and crew pattern and photos by jared flood