Thursday, 29 January 2015

Two Hats for Toddlers

This year I decided not to knit any Christmas gifts. It was such a relief to remove that pressure from myself. However, just because I wasn't knitting Christmas gifts, did not mean my niece and nephew had to go without a handknit hat for Winter. The hat for my nephew was easy. I have a few skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash in my stash. It's my go to yarn for kid friendly projects as it is both machine washable and can be tumble dried (which, apparently, is VERY important as kids generate an awful lot of washing and having to dry stuff flat in Winter in a smallish house is not fun). I picked out a good colour for my nephew, a strong blue colour, In The Navy (885).

I knew this would be a good colour on him as we have similar colouring. I decided to go for a simple hat pattern that I've heard people rave about since it came out, Barley by Tin Can Knits. This is a free pattern and it is simple, but has enough to keep it interesting. I think it really shows off variegated and handspun yarns brilliantly, even though I didn't use either. It is a very good pattern for a beginner knitter as it is full of clear instructions and links to tutorials for every stage of the pattern.

One thing I did differently, was to use the Alternate Cable Cast On, as I think this method looks great for ribbed cast ons, especially with hats. Other than that change I knit the hat precisely as written and it whizzed off my needles. I blocked the hat on a balloon and I think it really neatened up the stitches and gave it good shape.

I wish I had a photo of him wearing his hat, because it looks adorable on him. It has a loose slouchy fit and he loves the hat. When he put it on for the first time, this little fashionista (he's not yet two) was admiring himself in the mirror, which tickled me no end. As the pattern goes all the way up to men's sizes I think he's going to be getting many more of these hats in the future, and I plan on making myself one too.

For his sister I was informed that pink was pretty much the only colour she was interested in. As some of you might know I'm very anti-pink for small girls as it seems to be the only colour available for them. However, as I love my niece very much and would like my knitwear to be used, I went in hunt of a pink that she would wear and I could tolerate. I found the answer in Petal 122 in MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino. It's a very delicate pink and not too candy floss for my tastes. I also decided to add a contrast to the pretty pink, by adding a hot pink, Fuchsia 143, to the mix. This also served the purpose of bumping up the yarn yardage I had available just in case I needed more than one skein. This yarn is machine washable, though it can't be tumble dried. When the yarn arrived I was pretty happy with my choices, as it often hard to make a colour judgement online.

This is a sport weight yarn, and I luckily I had found a suitable pattern in my library, Alternato by Woolly Wormhead, from the book, Classic Woolly Toppers. This time the Alternate Cable Cast On was written into the pattern and it was Woolly Wormhead's tutorial that introduced me to the technique, some time last year, and since then I've used it in all ribbed cast ons.

The ribbing on this hat is twisted and this really pops in this yarn. After the ribbing I changed colour to the lighter pink, and still on the smaller needles, used for the ribbing, I knit one round. I then did the increases at the end of the ribbing, back in written pattern, and changed to the larger needles. This hid the colour change really well.

I knit the main body of the hat inside out to make the reversed stocking stitch a bit more even, as my knitting is much neater than my purling. I think it worked out well.

Once again, I blocked the hat on a balloon. This hat needed blocking much more than the one for my nephew. The decreases on the crown really needed evening up, as they were performed quite rapidly to make the slouch puff out.

Again, I don't have a picture of this hat being worn, but I can assure you that my niece looks fabulous in it, and, though I hate to admit it, the soft pink colour looks really good on her. As this hat pattern is also written in multiple sizes I may make her this hat again, as it is a fun knit. I may also make one for myself at some point, as I think it would look great in handspun yarn.

As these hats worked out well, I think I can see myself making more for the kids in the future. I really want to encourage their growing love of all things woolly.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Manteau: A Knitter's Poncho

As I have been playing catch up on my projects, it's quite nice to be able to say what I really like or dislike about a project once it's been finished and used. Sometimes the projects you enjoy knitting the most, aren't necessarily the ones that you use the most and vice versa. I suppose this is where being a product vs a process knitter comes into play. I have decided over the last few years that I am both a product and process knitter. I love having all sorts of projects on the needles at any one time. I have mindless easy projects and complex and challenging ones. Some projects have that magical balance of product and process that make them fly off the needles and into your wardrobe. This project is one of those.

In October, Tangled Yarn had a great discount on their stock of Malabrigo Worsted yarn. I love Malabrigo, and saw my opportunity to get hold of a reasonable amount of this yarn and actually use it for something other than a hat or cowl. Normally a garment's worth of this yarn is well outside my yarn budget. This discount was so good I was able to buy 5 skeins of the SFO Sky colourway. A wonderfully interesting variegated colourway, that my other half calls Winter Camo!

This was one of those incredibly rare occasions where I planned the project before I hit the Pay Now button. I found the colourway I liked in a reasonable quantity and spent a few hours researching Ravelry for the right pattern. When I saw the Manteau: A Knitter's Poncho by Shannon Squire, I knew I had found the right match. Once I knew the yarn requirements I took a gulp and paid for my skeins. They were worth every penny!

This colourway works brilliantly in a simple stocking stitch pattern, which most of this project is made up of. I loved the little props of dark and light as I knit each row and the yarn, is of course, a dream to knit with. I loved every mindless stitch of this garment. It was comfort knitting on a grand scale. I did alternate the skeins though to make sure there was little pooling of colours and I think it worked well.

In addition to the miles of stocking stitch there was some nice slipped stitch work on the collar and the hem, which livened the project up and added a fun detail to the poncho. It also added a little bit of extra firmness to the fabric where it was done. I happen to like the reverse of this slipped stitch pattern, which is just as well, as the collar is often left open and it folds over to show the wrong side of the fabric.

The collar sits so nicely when it is left open. It breaks up the smooth expanse that covers my ample bosom. I normally don't like high rounded neck garments because it makes my bust look bigger than it is. This pattern breaks up the depth of the bust when the collar is worn open and it is much more flattering than when it is closed, in the same way that a v-neck garment would. However, if I'm cold enough to wear the neck closed, I really don't care very much about how flattering it is!

When the collar is closed, it shows off these lovely buttons I bought. I bought them online from Textile Garden. They are hammered aluminium and they are quite heavy. I might not have bought them if I'd seen them in person but they have actually worked out really well, and I love how they look. If I'm wearing the collar closed, the buttons tinkle when I move. It's like wearing small bells!

The shaping of the poncho is clever. The the way the increases on the raglans are performed means that the poncho does not flare out massively once it is past the shoulders. I means that the sides of the poncho pull in a bit where the arms are and keeps the heat trapped inside even when you raise your arms.

The poncho ends at the hips, which I thought would annoy me, and leave me with a cold back, if I wore the poncho as a jacket, and I wanted to extend the length a bit, but didn't really have enough yarn to do so. After wearing the poncho for a while, however, I really like the length. I did wear the garment as a jacket in the Autumn, but I usually wore a fleece underneath, that fit snugly and gave me an extra layer around my lower back and that meant I was fine outside. Inside, I wear it a lot on cold mornings as the house warms up. It's great for sitting on the couch with as I don't sit on the hem when I sit down, because of it's length. It also doesn't scrunch up on my lap when I sit down, which is good.

Essentially I love this poncho and wear it all the time. It is warm and cosy and I like that it looks different from all the ponchos and capes you see available on the high street. I was worth taking the time before buying the yarn to find a great pattern. It's not surprising that from when I ordered the yarn to wearing the finished garment, took less than 4 weeks. That has to be a record for me! Normally yarn has to marinate for months in my stash before it reveals what it wants to be.

I really do recommend both the yarn and the pattern, especially when put together. I do hope that there are more skeins of Malabrigo Worsted yarn on sale in the future, it really is lovely stuff. Maybe next time I can save up enough to buy a enough for a sweater!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Sierra Sunset Cowl in Silk

In November 2010 I bought a bargain of a skein of yarn at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show. It was a delicious skein of 200m of DK weight silk singles yarn in an antique rose colour. It was from (the then new) Artisan Yarns. There doesn't seem to be any products on their ETSY shop and I don't know if that is a permanent situation but they do have stock in at Loop Knitting, so their yarn is still available somewhere.

This particular skein has been burning a hole in my stash for a while. I love the yarn and the colour is so pretty, but when I had bright red hair it didn't suit me. I decided that I would offer the resulting item to my Mum as she loves this particular shade. After making that decision I found a pattern fairly quickly, Sierra Sunset Cowl by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich.

Over the last few years I have become a big fan of cowls. They stay where they are put, around your neck, and the ends don't dangle in your drink. This pattern seemed a perfect use of this gorgeous yarn. The pattern sample was knit in a wool/silk blend which meant that a drapey yarn would work well.

This cowl is a clever construction. As the cowl sits reasonably snugly around the throat the designer has created a knit flat pattern that features a button fastening at the narrow part that sits at the back of the neck. This means if you don't want to pull the snug cowl over your head you can undo and refasten the buttons.

I am fairly sure that I bought these buttons at either the same Harrogate Show or at another similar event. I got them from The Button Lady who has a stall at most big crafting events, in the UK, and there is always a crowd at her booth, because she sells such amazing buttons. These abalone shell buttons are very versatile, which is why I bought them for my button jar, as the iridescent qualities allow them to match several different colours. In this case the buttons pick up the pink from the shawl. The buttons could not have been chosen better as they fit the button holes perfectly. The buttons also help make the cowl almost like jewellery.

This simple project, involves a small amount of short row shaping and a very simple lace pattern, so it would be a good project for people wanting to practice those techniques. If you are a confident knitter, the project takes no time at all, I think I finished it in 2 days. The only downside to the pattern was the large quantities of pins I had to use to block it as the curved edges did not suit a wire blocking.

Of course once I finished my project and tried it on for photography purposes, I realised that this colour now really suits me and I would love wearing it. However, I was a good daughter and handed it over to my Mum, because I had already offered it to her. So, if this project has taught me one thing, it is to never promise away a project until you know whether you are going to fall in love with it or not! I may have to knit another one, this time for me!


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