New Favorites: Raffia

New Favorites: Raffia

Summer is coming, and I am totally into this collection of super-simple crochet patterns that Wool and the Gang has released for their new yarn, Ra-Ra Raffia. I have a big trip coming up this summer (tell you about it soon!) that I need a crushable hat for, which is basically a life-long wishlist item. I do not have a head for hats, so we’ve talked before about how if I could bring myself to crochet one, maybe I could actually get it to fit me right! This perfectly plain one makes me want to give it a try:

TOP: Joanne Hat looks so chic in black and a little like an upside-down planter in natural, but the latter might be more practical

BOTTOM: Paper Gangsta is a classic crocheted market bag that, once again, is making me want to make such a thing! (For knitted options, see: Market bags)

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: from the Scout collection

ScandinAndean earflap hat (2018 FO-10)

ScandinAndean earflap hat

The last of the four February hats was the one I was the most nervous about: the earflap hat for my 10-year-old niece. In addition to being the one where the fit could go really wrong — there being no ribbing to simply hug the head, and que sera from there up — I was making up the pattern and adding colorwork into the mix. So many opportunities for it to go wrong! Plus with my sister’s Første having taken two weeks to knit, I had two days to get this one done and blocked. No room for error. Thankfully, it worked out beautifully!

I was initially planning to use Purl Soho’s Top Down Ear Flap Hat pattern but was concerned it would be too thin, not warm enough — even with the little bit of stranded colorwork I planned to add — plus it would have taken longer at that gauge. So I decided to improvise a version of it at worsted gauge. A good yellow (as had been requested) is not super easy to come by, plus my niece is very crafty and I’ve passed on my love of yarn to her, so I decided I’d hit up my sweet friend Brooke of Sincere Sheep when I got to Stitches West, knowing she has a good naturally-dyed yellow in her palette, and I’ve been wanting to knit with her U.S. Cormo Worsted. Armed with the perfect skein, I swatched and measured and calculated. I’d be working at a gauge of 4.75 sts and 7 rows per inch, with a target size of 20″ circumference (92 sts) and 8″ depth (56 rounds).

At that point, there was nothing to do but knit — and hope it worked out. Rather than doing the top the way the Purl pattern has it, I split the crown stitches into 6 sections and increased every row thrice, then every-other row until I had 92 sts. (A total of 24 rounds for the crown.) On the first work-even round, I started the lice stitch — using leftover yarn from her mother’s cable hat — spacing them every fourth stitch (staggered) every third round. I wound up doing 9 stranded rounds, stopping a few rows shy of my intended depth. Then I took a good hard look at the stitch counts and ratios from the Purl pattern to determine how to divide up my sts for the ear flaps, which worked out to 20 sts for the back, 22 for each flap, and 28 for the front. Then I followed the decrease logic in the pattern, decreasing down to 3 sts instead of 4; worked 56 rows of I-cord; and did the tassels as per the pattern. And voilà: adorable.

I love how the ivory lice stitch breaks up the semi-solidness of the hand-dyed yarn, and totally love this yarn. As I was knitting the colorwork, I was feeling like Is it weird I’m using this Scandinavian lice stitch pattern on an Andean-inspired hat?, but I decided to just call it ScandinAndean and embrace how cute it is. Mashups for the win!

ScandinAndean earflap hat

So I’m very happy with how the four of them worked out: My sister and brother-in-law both got cable hats with a very similar motif played out a bit differently, at different scale. And the kids both wound up with earflap hats — my nephew’s squishy helmet and this darling cap for my niece. It warms my heart to know the four Floridians are somewhere in the Colorado Rockies right now, feeling toasty in their handknit hats.

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Log Cabin Mitts No.6

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A hat to rival Gentian (2018 FO-8)

A hat to rival Gentian

I’m over here combing through my giant stack of Logalong prize contenders — tearing my hair out over how thrillingly hard you’ve made it! — and hope to have it all sorted, settled and written up in the next day or two. Meanwhile, an update on my February hats project: The latter two of the four are currently wending their way toward Florida, and not a moment too soon.

You guys, this beanie took me two weeks to knit. And I’m not talking about two weeks where I didn’t have much time for it and so it got scant attention. I’m talking about two weeks that included large amounts of stress knitting, two cross-country flights, seven hours in a surgical waiting room, etc etc etc. I’m talking about two intense weeks of knitting. A hat!

My plan had been quite simple: All I needed to do was knit one hat a week. Piece of cake, right? For the final two, I had it all mapped out. I’d knit the ribbing on my sister’s Første before boarding my flight to Stitches West, so I could sit down on the plane, pull out my cable chart, and focus on nothing but it for the full length of the flight. (I’ve knitted worsted-weight cable hats before; I know the lay of the land!) Then I’d get yarn for my niece’s hat at the show, and knit hers on my flight home. Worst case scenario, I might still have some crown shaping or tassels to do, between the two of them, and then they’d be on their merry way.

Well. I started the fisherman’s-rib brim a few nights before my flight, and knitted about an inch of the 4.5 to be done. A little more progress the next night. And the one after that. I boarded the plane thinking I was surely just a few rows shy of the chart — I could whip them out before we were even in the air. Mm, no. We were probably somewhere over the Grand Canyon by the time I got to start the chart, and when they said we were beginning our descent into Oakland, I was the one bellowing “Noooooo …” from aisle 12. I’d only managed to knit about 10 rounds.

Long story short: It eventually dawned on me that this hat is as much knitting as a sweater body. In addition to the 46-round brim (that alone being as much or more than the usual number of rounds for an entire worsted-weight hat), the body of the hat is 144 stitches — that’s a sweater, in my world — and the hat totals 101 rounds of knitting. And let’s not forget the knitting is fisherman’s rib followed by densely packed cables. Not to mention chainette yarn that requires you to be really deliberate about where you’re sticking your needle. Of course it took two weeks!

But hear me when I say that it was worth every minute it took. This thing is MAGNIFICENT, and especially in this luscious yarn. I wish you could paw it. I might not have savored the knitting the way I did with Gentian, but the finished result is at least as thrilling. A hat to marvel at and beam over, and I’m so happy it’s going to my sweet sister. I just hope it fits.

Tell you how my niece’s hat turned out once she’s seen it. ;)

Første pattern by Jessica Gore in Woolfolk Far / Like it at Ravelry

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Black and bluish mitts

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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