World’s softest helmet (2018 FO-5)

World's softest helmet (2018 FO-5)

This hat for my nephew — No.2 in the so-called February Hats Project — was a total delight to knit. It’s the 1898 Hat, which was the last of the six patterns for the Fringe Hatalong Series a couple of years ago and which I never got to knit! I’d done the first four of them along with everyone, and then got derailed on the final two by all the usual year-end obligations in my world. (There’s a summary and links to all 6 fantastic patterns here.) So I was excited to finally get to do it, and it was even more fun than I expected. The pattern was designed for seamen — you can read all about it here — with double-thick earflaps, and the way it’s constructed is just so clever and polished. It’s amazing to watch it come together.

The yarn is Woolfolk Far, my first time knitting with it, and it’s almost alarmingly soft. It’s ultra fine merino in a chainette construction, and after all the sheepy rustic woolly yarns I’ve been knitting with it, I almost couldn’t hold onto it. Do you know what I mean? It’s like trying to knit a puff of air after all that. I knit with worsted-weight yarns pretty much always, and have a really good feel for my gauge, but had to go up a needle size with this after my initial pass at the brim was coming out TINY. But once I got that sorted out and my fingers grew used to it, it was a joy to knit, and made the softest squishiest hat you’ve ever seen, which is kind of funny since it looks like helmet.

My only mod here was to make it shallower to fit the lad’s head. Halfway through the crown decrease rounds, I went down one needle size as well as omitting the work-even rounds from there on up, for a more rapid decrease overall. It’s 19″ around and 7″ tall, and hopefully I’ve nailed it.

I’ll definitely be knitting this again (and again).

World's softest helmet (2018 FO-5)

PREVIOUSLY in Projects: Ebony and ivory mitts

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The battle for Olympic (beanie) gold

The battle for Olympic (beanie) gold - free patterns

Stiff competition around the Winter Olympics this week. I don’t mean the skiing or skating or snowboarding — I mean the tight race among knitting pattern designers, battling it out for top position on the Ravelry podium (aka Hot Right Now) with their Chloe Kim-lookalike hat patterns, all of them free downloads:

TOP: Olympic Inspiration by Barrettangie

BOTTOM LEFT: Gold Medal Hat by Jen Geigley

BOTTOM RIGHT: Chloe Kim Chunky Hat by Marly Bird

Plus who knows how many more! There’s even an option for crocheters: the Knit-Look Super Bulky Slouch by Jennifer Pionk.

And did you hear about the Finnish ski coach who knits on the slopes? My obvious recommendation for times like those — where you literally want to have a little tiny bit of knitting in your pocket — is Log Cabin Mitts! I need a press contact …

Have an eventful weekend, everyone — even if knitting is your main event. What are you working on?

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

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Beyond New Favorites: Marlisle

Beyond New Favorites: Marlisle

The most astonishing thing about knitting — this thing people have been doing for centuries! — is that not only is there always more to learn, but there are still clever people coming up with new ways do things all the time! New shaping and construction methods, smoother increases/decreases, original stitch combinations and motifs. You can argue that there’s actually nothing new under the sun — that every idea has been had before; maybe we just don’t know about it. But it doesn’t matter! It’s the constant flow of creativity that thrills me. And Anna Maltz’s new book, Marlisle: A new direction is knitting, is a superlative example. The book released on Saturday (our copies are going quickly!) and I can’t remember being so excited about a brilliantly simple idea or a collection of patterns.

It occurred to Anna (aka @sweaterspotter) awhile back that if you were knitting with two yarns held together — creating a marl — and you dropped one of them from time to time, carrying it as a float in the back for a few stitches, you could suddenly do all sorts of intriguing things, with none of the fuss of intarsia. She calls the idea “marlisle” — marl crossed with Fair Isle — and it first appeared on her Humboldt sweater, which has been in my queue ever since. With this new book, though — and the 11 patterns it contains — she’s really pushing the envelope, and applying the idea in a variety of ways. There are simple but very effective applications like the hat above, Hozkwoz, or the cover sweater, Midstream, with vertical stripes up the front and back. There are slightly more complex ones, such as the drop-dead stunning yoke sweater, Trembling, with its 3D facet motif. And there’s the incredibly meticulous pair of mittens, Delftig, with an intricate tile-like design achieved by alternating between holding one color, the other, or the two together. So she’s covered a range of surface designs — from bold and graphic to allover flame patterning to gingham and plaid and trompe l’oeil effects, and used them on everything from hats and cowls to shawls and sweaters. The whole thing is truly stunning, and I’m sooooo excited and inspired by it all. I cannot wait to cast on.

You can see all of the patterns at Ravelry and order a copy at Fringe Supply Co. (Our stack is dwindling but we’ll have more any minute!) There’s a fresh interview with Anna on the East London Knit podcast, and you can also read more about the Ricefield Collective here and her appearance in Our Tools, Ourselves here.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Colorwork mitts

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The February hats project (2018 FO-3)

The February hats project (2018 FO-3)

So about these hats I’m knitting this month. I mentioned before that my sister and her family — the Floridians — are going on a ski trip in March, and for Christmas I “gave” them each a promise to knit them a hat. The real fun of it was picking out a pattern with each of them, and yarn to go with, so they’re getting just what they ostensibly want. Of course, hats can be tricky for knitters to make (raise your hand if you like to make a hat and then find a head it fits rather than vice versa) and tricky for most people to wear. As in, what you like and what works nicely on your head aren’t always the same thing. So what seemed like a really simple idea is actually a bit of a high-wire act, especially given the built-in deadline!

I started with my brother-in-law’s, who opted for the Lancet hat above in slate-colored Quarry. In addition to already having the yarn in my stash, I started with this one because it would be the quickest, and having 1/4 done would feel good. I finished it Tuesday night — it was still slightly damp when I took this pic yesterday — and I’m about 40% dubious that it will fit and 60% sure it won’t. He is a tall man with a relatively small head for his size, and I think this will prove to be too tall as is, but too short to roll up the brim. That unfortunate in-between length. And with the nature of this particular chart, if there’s not a tweak that can be made with blocking, I’ll find it another head and him a new pattern! Cross your fingers for me that it magically fits.

Here’s the rest of the plan—

The February hats project (2018 FO-3)

SISTER: We happened to be texting the morning the Woolfolk Wool Elements collection hit my inbox, with at least three hats I thought she’d love, so I sent her the lookbook instantly and she settled on Første by Jessica Gore. I’ve been wanting to knit with Far since my friend Kristin first released it a few years ago, and she kindly sent me the beautiful little pattern book when she heard how much I loved it. So I’m eager to swatch and cast on! (And yes, I’m swatching for this one — I don’t have time for it to come out wrong.)

NEPHEW: Originally said he wanted a ski mask — you know, the full-face stocking cap with eye holes? As an alternative that I would actually be willing to make, I suggested Kristine Byrnes’ 1898 Hat, which I thought might satisfy his concerns about warmth — with its doubled earflaps — and he loved it. Far also comes in several shades of blue he loves, so he’s getting the same yarn as his mother, in this nice denim-ish blue. This one will be good to alternate with the cable hat at moments unsuitable for that.

NIECE: This one is the trickiest. I thought an Andean-style earflap hat would be cute for her, and she liked this simple Purl Soho version, the Top-Down Ear Flap Hat. I’ve promised to add a little bit of colorwork — both to cute it up a bit and to make it warmer, since it’s sport weight — and I’m debating between something really simple like lice stitch or adding a more prominent motif. So this is more hat, at a smaller gauge, with colorwork and tassels — and with its own fit challenges. (Too deep and it risks slipping down over her eyes while skiing, which is why I chose a top-down version, in case it needs tweaking.) Plus I need to find a soft yarn, in just the right canary yellow, that’s also suitable for colorwork. And finish it in time. No problem!

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: January 2018

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Queue Check — January 2018

Queue Check — January 2018

It’s been my goal for my blue Bellows that I would knit it start to finish (other than the partial sleeve-swatch) within the month of January. For two reasons: 1) I’d like to wear it. I have a bad habit of finishing sweaters just as it becomes too warm for them, and have to immediately put them away for next year. And 2) my sister and her family are going on a ski trip in March, and at Christmas I offered to knit them each a hat. In order to have any hope of having all four hats done on time, I’ve set myself a firm start date of Feb 1. Meanwhile, the cardigan is in jeopardy.

I was on track to have the back piece finished and bound off on Friday night, soaked and onto the blocking board before I went to bed, so it’d be dry and ready for next steps by Sunday morning. The collar on Bellows is a project unto itself, so it was imperative that I take advantage of a little window of opportunity Sunday morning to (at minimum) get the shoulders seamed and the collar stitches picked up, so I could knit that over the ensuing couple of evenings and be done on schedule. ALAS, at the last minute, I realized I should have been listening to the voice in my head that had been saying all night “this seems like a lot of fabric.” I am often smart enough to check stuff before bind-offs, and so just for good measure I spread the back out next to me on the couch and popped the unblocked front piece on top of it. And yup, I had gotten carried away the night before. I’d been dutifully pinning a marker on every 10th row, knowing the fronts were 60 rows from ribbing to underarm and thus that my sixth marker would mean I was ready to begin shaping. (Ref: Count, don’t measure.) And yet I’d knitted 70 rows. Did you know that marking your rows for easy tracking only works if you actually count your marks?

So I lost half of my Saturday to removing the bottom ribbing and first ten rows, and getting it back onto the needles before re-knitting the ribbing downwards. I thought this would be faster than ripping back 44 rows at the top and reknitting them on Saturday night, but that would have been the wiser move. Rookie mistake: I didn’t realize knit-purl rows aren’t so easy to rip upwards. In the end, fixing it this way took just as long and cost me a bunch of aggravation and a fair chunk of yarn. During which I also realized I might not have enough yarn for the collar anyway! So it’s not currently where I wanted it to be, and is now vulnerable to being shunted aside while I turn to the four-hats project.

Meanwhile, one of the hats is actually started — ostensibly the quickest one. It’s Lancet in charcoal-colored Quarry, and I say “ostensibly” because it’s a sort of annoying chart — wide and fussy and not predictable or memorizable — which could slow me down. But still, chunky gauge.

I’ll tell you about the whole set of four hats when I haven’t already gone on for three paragraphs about my 10 extra Bellows rows! And the other thing that has magically appeared during my time on my mini-stepper this month is most of another pair of my log cabin mitts, this time in cherished Hole & Sons leftovers from my vintage waistcoat a few years back. Mitts pattern imminent …

Unless any of the four hats prove conducive to mini-stepper knitting, the log cabin-while-exercising will continue into Feb.

Bellows pattern by Michele Wang in limited-edition yarn from Harrisville Designsall Bellows posts
• Lancet by Jared Flood in Quarry color Slate
• Log cabin mitts in Hole & Sons (no longer available, but see its cousin, Isle Yarns)
Lykke Driftwood needles from Fringe Supply Co.

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: December 2017

New Favorites: Two-way hats

New Favorites: Two-way hats

I remember as a kid in the midwest, heading out into the snow to play, wearing a beanie that was lined — i.e., a double layer — so you could wear it either side out and fold up the brim so the inside was showing. I hated that hat. It was itchy and shifty, due to the layers, but warm, due to the layers. I hadn’t thought about that hat until seeing the hat pattern above, which I fell instantly in love with, and shortly thereafter came the one below. And now I’m obsessed with them both.

ABOVE: Reversible Rib Hat by Natsumi Kuge is contrasting colors that meet in the middle for a two-tone, ribbed, fold-up band that’s the same either direction

BELOW: Femte by Sari Nordlund is contrasting textures! I couldn’t love it more than I do. Absolutely stunning.

New Favorites: Two-way hats

PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Under wraps

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Favorite New Favorites of 2017

Favorite knitting patterns of 2017

Every December, I go back through the year’s New Favorites posts to see what patterns I had highlighted along the way and which of them I don’t want to lose track of as we head into another year of endless knitting temptations. The best of the best are always the ones I didn’t need reminded of because they’ve never stopped tapping a finger on my brain — I’ve gone back to them repeatedly, thought about yarns and colors and usefulness. This narrowed-down list leaves out so many beautiful and worthwhile patterns (scroll through the whole series to see) but these are ones I can most imagine having on my needles at some point. And by the way, I still want to make every single thing in last year’s list.

TEMPTATION OF THE YEAR
I’m reluctant to call Michele Wang’s simple-but-perfect Charles Pullover (above) the “Best” pattern of the year necessarily, but it’s the one I absolutely cannot get out of my brain, and definitely my very Favorite New Favorite. We’re into the time of year where I want to have on a big cozy turtleneck every single day, and my only one is 15 years old and looking it. So there’s an excellent chance this one will go from Fave to Made. (As seen in Mildly mannish cables)

Favorite knitting patterns of 2017

SWEATERS
top: Massaman by Elizabeth Smith (as seen in Massaman set)
middle left: Galloway* by Jared Flood (as seen in From BT fall/holiday)
middle right: Anker’s Sweater by PetiteKnit (as seen in Banded ribs)
bottom left: Vodka on the Rocks by Thea Colman (as seen in Vodka on the Rocks)
bottom right: Whelk by Martin Storey (as seen in Whelk)

Favorite knitting patterns of 2017

WEARABLE BLANKET
Veronika* by Shannon Cook (as seen in Veronika)

Favorite knitting patterns of 2017

SCARVES
top: Binary by Michele Wang (as seen in Texture by the yard)
bottom left: Facade by Shellie Anderson (as seen in Texture by the yard)
bottom right: Baedecker by Marina Skua (as seen in Baedecker)

Best knitting patterns of 2017

HATS
top left: Bulletproof Aran Hat by Chuck Wright (as seen in Aran-style hats)
top right: Voe Hat by Gudrun Johnston (as seen in From BT fall/holiday)
middle left: Huck* by Norah Gaughan (as seen in Huck)
middle right: Miguel Hat by Rosa Pomar (as seen in Holiday hat mania)
bottom left: The Adrian by Armenuhi Khachatryan (as seen in Adrian)
bottom right: Tincture by Andrea Mowry (as seen in Someday vs Right Away: Mosaic knitting)

Best knitting patterns of 2017

SOCKS AND SLIPPERS
Flaps by Cindy Pilon (as seen in Quickies! aka last-minute gifts)
Hansdatter Slippers* by Kristin Drysdale (as seen in Colorwork slippers)
Hot Chocolate Socks by Irina Dmitrieva (as seen in House socks)
Seamed Socks by Purl Soho (free pattern; as seen in House socks)

I feel like 2018 could be the year I finally knit my first scarf! How about you — what were your favorite patterns of the year?

*Asterisked patterns have been sent to me by the designer or publisher in the interim. I do not request that from anyone, but do feel compelled to note it.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Quickies! (aka last-minute gifts)

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