Hats are the best. A great way to learn to knit (or crochet!), pick up new skills, add variety to your queue, get that “I made it!” feeling fast. And of course, they don’t require a lot of yarn and they’re the perfect handmade gifts: The receiver is wowed with something you made yourself — without your spending a month or more making it! For this round of the holiday hat knitting cheat sheet, as I did with our Fringe Hatalong Series a few years ago (6 free patterns), I’ve organized it by the skills involved, from what I think of as the simplest to most challenging. You may dispute the order, and of course there’s no requirement that you knit them all or in this sequence, but if you’re looking for some fun patterns for charity or holiday gift knitting, and the chance to maybe pick up some new skills in the process, check out these gems that have caught my eye this year—
I’m totally stunned that this worked. A) I’m not a frequent or experienced crocheter. B) I have never attempted to crochet something that had to fit. C) My gauge was totally different from the Wool and the Gang “Joanne” pattern I bought for this, so I had to wing it. But really the most amazing part isn’t that I crocheted a hat that fits — it’s that I made a hat that actually doesn’t look bad on me! Incredible.
Before we get to today’s Elsewhere links, below, I want to note that I’ve changed the name of my Wabi Mitts pattern to Mamoru Mitts. Cultural appropriation (vs appreciation) is a subject I’ve paid ever-increasing awareness to since becoming a knitter, and while I think most people agree there’s some grey area, I personally would like to avoid even the grey zones. Especially in this case, since the ancient term wabi-sabi, which has deep and hard-to-convey meaning, is increasingly abused and misused, and I don’t want to contribute to that. Shortly after first deciding to change it, I also ran across this blog post on use of the term, which solidified my decision.
The mitts were originally inspired by Takako Ueki’s beautiful yarn, Habu N-68, which we sell in the kits, and by my admiration for Japanese aesthetics. (The Book of Tea is a perpetual reread for me, if you’d like a recommendation!) In weighing the decision to change the name — and to what — I spoke with Takako about it and she ultimately suggested a perfect alternative: Mamoru, which means to protect. Questioning myself on this led to a treasured conversation with my friend Takako and a name I feel is an even better fit for the pattern, so they are happily henceforth known as Mamoru Mitts.
For more on cultural appropriation, I thought it was really beautifully addressed in PomPom’s interview with Emi Ito, along with the links in the footer of that post.
Also, as I hope you know, we donate a percentage of Fringe Supply Co. revenue each quarter in an effort to pay it forward. Our Q2 donation has gone to KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) to help in their effort to provide legal assistance to children detained at the US border. If you’re looking for ways to help these children and the vitally urgent situation right now, in addition to making monetary donations, KIND’s front page lists a variety of steps you can take. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of Fringe, which allows us to contribute to important work in this way.
With that, I’m out. I’ve got a houseful of company coming for an epic event in my husband’s life this weekend, so I’ll see you back here next week!
With mysmock vest all done (and already worn repeatedly), my Summer of Basics trio is off to a speedy start! I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had cast on my modified Grace pullover (in dreamy toffee-colored Our Yarn from the shop) and had made it to the body/sleeve separation within the space of a very short trip. I’ve been sick the past week and spent a few days stuck on my couch, one of which I spent knitting most of the first sleeve so I could block it so far and see how it’s fitting. Remember I’m doing my own measurements and math, since I’m knitting at a different gauge than the pattern, and so far I could not be happier with how it’s shaping up. Now that I’ve been able to try on the blocked WIP, it’ll be full steam ahead again! And at this pace, it’ll be done long before it’s wearable. (I’ll tell you about that bit between the pink lines when it’s done, but here’s the backstory on that.)
Stuck at home sick also turns out to be the perfect time to start a crochet project, i.e. my Joanne hat. The one thing that keeps me from doing more crochet is having to pay close attention and count all the time; I worry about getting interrupted (or my mind wandering) and losing my place. So what better use of staring-at-the-wall-in-a-congested-stupor time, right? Step one, watch a YouTube video and remember how to crochet; step two, commence counting.
I didn’t do a gauge swatch. Getting used to working with this raffia is a thing, and there’s no way I’d be able to catch it with a smaller hook (I do like this Lykke crochet hook), so I’m just doing what I can do. My gauge seems to be a bit looser than the pattern calls for — meaning a bigger hat — but I also have a big head. Ergo, I’m winging it. I worked on the top disc part until it seemed perilous to go any bigger, and then I started working downwards. I figure I’ll just try it on as I go and fudge my way through the shaping. I have low hopes for this entire project, so there’s a fair chance of being happily surprised!
So far I’m having fun, but if anyone has advice on how to manage that cone of raffia, I’m all ears! It basically exploded like one gigantic continuous party streamer, and I spent another chunk of a sick day making my confinement all the more miserable by winding the tangled mess into four big raffia nests, now nestled in that Field Bag. Never doing that again, thanks.
As for piece three, the dress, I am now in possession of the English edition of the Japanese pattern book. Just waiting for my fabric to arrive.
For anyone new here, Summer of Basics is a very simple concept: Spend the next three months making three pieces your wardrobe could really benefit from. The definition of “basic” is completely up to you — one person’s outlier is another person’s core wardrobe item. You be you! They can be knitted, sewn, crocheted, or any mix thereof. If you take this as an opportunity to stretch your skills, awesome! And everyone is invited and welcome, whatever your age, race, size, gender, ability, you name it — including those in places where we’re headed into winter, not summer. Please don’t let the word “summer” or “basics” deter you!
Remember, this year is Low-key SoB — no eligibility requirements or judging or prizes, just the joy of making good stuff for yourself. You can share your progress — or follow along and chime in — by using the #summerofbasics hashtag on Instagram and/or by posting on your own blog or wherever on the internet and leaving links in comments here for others to see.
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For my trio this time around, I’ve decided on 1 knit, 1 sew and 1 crochet project! (Life circumstances permitting.) Hilariously, they all come from the same color family, which is pure coincidence, albeit born of my obsession with this part of the color wheel at the moment:
1.KNIT: Grace pullover by Denise Bayron Denise is a good friend but I knew nothing about this design until it was revealed a couple of weeks ago as part of the Laine issue that launches today. The instant I saw it, I knew I had to knit it — in the toffee-colored Our Yarn from Fringe — so it was a no-brainer to make it one of my SoB picks. I’ll be knitting at a little bit finer gauge than the pattern (chunky rather than superbulky), but it’s top-down so will be easy to adjust. This will be such a simple, versatile sweater — and in this abbreviated shape, hopefully well worn.
2. SEW: Dress N by Naomi Ito I’ve been obsessed with this Nani Iro dress pattern, simply known as pattern N, since it first crossed my radar last year. I ordered the book at the time — Atelier to Nani Iro, in Japanese — and thought I would brave it. But I’d be lying if I said I weren’t thrilled that the English edition publishes in just a few weeks. I’m determined to form a dress habit this summer (more on that soon) and this one is the obvious place to start. Plus I’ll be using a fabric designed by my pal Alexia Abegg — part of the debut collection for the new Ruby Star Society line launching this summer — which is called She, in a gingery spice color they call Earth. (As it happens, she’s talking about all of this on this week’s episode of the Love to Sew podcast.) Everything about this is a little outside my comfort zone and I am SO excited about it.
3. CROCHET: Joanne hat by Wool and the Gang I desperately need a crushable hat and have never found one that works for me. And I think I’m actually going to try two here — the first being the crocheted Joanne bucket hat from Wool and the Gang (from last summer’s New Favorites), in a tawny colored raffia (the natural was sold out!), and the second being a sewn hat pattern in the Nani Iro book (left image above), which I’m planning to make out of natural canvas, just to see! Hopefully one or the other will actually suit my head and solve my problem, if I can manage to tailor the fit.
There’s also a new Fancy Tiger pattern coming sometime this summer that scratches one my longest-running itches, and I’m considering it a bonus item. I decided to make the hat one of my official 3 instead, to help ensure I actually tackle it!
So that’s my plan, and it seems so doable! How about you — will you join me?
It occurred to me as I was shooting my beret the other day that I’ve never posted about how I make pompoms, although I’ve taught it in my classes. Here’s the tried-and-true method for making pompoms that I’ve been using since childhood, no special tools required:
1.) Wrap yarn around the fingers of one hand (or piece of cardboard, a spatula, anything that’s a bit bigger than you want your finished circumference to be). It takes more yarn than you might think. For a loose, shaggy pompom, use less yarn. For a denser, fuller pom, use more. Experiment!
2.) Carefully slide the bundle off your hand and lay it across a separate strand, then use that strand to tie a knot around the belly of the bundle. Pull it tight, but don’t break the yarn. If you need your pompom to have tails for attaching to something else, leave them long and keep them out of the way as you proceed.
3.) Insert your scissors into the clump of loops on each side of the belly band and cut through them, being careful not to cut the strand holding them together. You now have a limp, shapeless pre-pom.
4.) Start pruning! Trim the ends just like you would a hedge, shaping it into an orb. The more you trim, the denser the pompom will be. (Especially if you use a loosely plied yarn that unplies as you work.) Again, experiment to see what suits you!
That’s it! For a hat, run the tails down through the top of the hat, secure on the underside and weave in the ends. (Pictured above is my version of Courtney Kelley’s April Hat, a free pattern.)
If it’s going to be attached to any surface, I like to leave the bottom a bit flat. For any other purpose, you’ll want to make it fully round. Pompoms are a great use of yarn leftovers, and you never know what you might find to use them for!