where’s waldo hat

Some projects are exquisitely satisfying. It doesn’t even matter if it is something as simple as a plain hat, the kind of thing that even a total beginner could produce without breaking a sweat, sometimes all these little things come together in a project that make me squeal with joy every time I think of it!

Case in point: the hat a friend of mine asked me to knit for her boyfriend a few weeks ago. When I asked what she had in mind, she said she wanted a “where’s waldo” style hat, in other words: simple, close-fitting, with a pom-pom. She came over to look at my yarn stash, chose the colours, and I was set to go.

Already the choice of colours had me pleased as punch. When we were standing in front of my collection of worsted weight yarns, we were both drawn to the exact same combination. I tried to show her other options, because I didn’t want to push my preference on her, but it was clear that she was just as in love with it as I was.

Afterwards, as I set off to knit, I had a clear image in my mind of how I wanted this hat to look. But instead of looking for a pattern, I decided to improvise based on another pattern I knew well. I thought that would work to create the result I wanted it, but I wasn’t sure. Aaaaah how satisfying when it did work out!

Finally, as I was close to finishing, I started biting my nails, wondering whether I had enough of the contrast colour left to do the ribbing and a pom-pom. I did have some similar yarn in back-up, but it just wouldn’t have been the same. Imagine my satisfaction when it turned out that the amount I had was just right for a nice ribbed band and a pom-pom of the perfect fullness! So not only did I have all I needed to complete the project, but I used up every last bit of my yarn. Perfect destashing!

And there you go, a simple project that just tickled all the right spots of my knitting brain. Utter satisfaction. :)

What tickles you when it comes to knitting? What in a project makes you grin to yourself secretly as you knit away? :)

Details on how I made the hat on Ravelry.

lost in blue

A look at my recent blog posts seems to show a slight obsession with the colour blue lately… I hadn’t even realised it until I started blogging again! But it certainly cannot be denied. I think one of the reasons must be this amazing colourway of Cascade 220 Heathers, which is officially called ‘Mallard’ though I nicknamed it ‘Midnight’ for myself (the colourway number is 2448, if you’re interested).

Yes, this is the same yarn as in my post from last week. I had bought a large quantity for an adult male sweater that I was planning, but those plans didn’t work out so I decided to play around with it for other smaller projects. So far I’ve done 2 toddler sweaters in it, and you’ll be seeing more of it in the future as well (I already have a hat planned out).

Cascade 220 Heathers embodies all my favourite yarn qualities: 100% wool without being too scratchy, worsted weight which gives beautiful gauge with my favourite 4.5mm needles, not too expensive yet very durable, comes in 100g hanks meaning that 1  ball of yarn can often last you through a whole project. And the colours, oh the colours. Heathered must be my favourite new word, an ever so slightly tweedy look which gives the perfect amount of depth and interest to a solid colour without any risk of pooling. Can you tell I’m in love?

What’s your favourite yarn? :)

Pattern: Odette Hoodie by Carrie Bostick Hoge

gradients

I’m a little bit obsessed.

I found this yarn candy on a trip to London earlier this year. Even though I wasn’t knitting much at the time, this was impossible to resist.

It is a Pigeonroof Studios mini-skein set.

Apart from taking photos of it, I’m also dreaming up what lovely things I could make with it. I’m undecided between simple stripes or trying to blend the colours somehow… Any tips? Have you knit with gradients before? Aren’t they magical? :)

Kindle cozy pattern published

Well, I finally got off my sorry ass and released the Kindle cozy pattern out into the world! You can find it on Ravelry here, for free.

I hope you like it, and if you end up making it, pleeeease send me some photos, I’d loooove to see :) And if you find something that I totally messed up, pretty pretty please let me know so I can fix it.

I would like to use this opportunity to say a huge huge thank you to my amazing test knitters, who not only provided useful feedback on the knitting and advice on phrasing things clearly, but also an inordinate amount of moral support when things were looking topsy-turvy and I was ready to cry, hide under my desk and pretend that I had never even tried putting together a knitting pattern. (Yes, pattern writing is that stressful. For me at least.) Thank you so much, Sarah, Franca, Dona, Thea, Abbey and Elena. You were awesome.

detective work

Today, I have a lesson for you, my friends. It’s very simple: enter your yarn data into Ravelry. Your full yarn data. Including the colourway (and yes, even dye lot, as useless as it often feels). Why, you may ask? Well, because you may find yourself in the following situation:

It’s been a year since you purchased the yarn. You’ve made a few projects with it but they were mostly improvised so you didn’t bother noting the colourways down. Who cared anyway? You had so much of this stuff that you didn’t know what to do with it. And then, because you had so much of it, you might decide to start a blanket with it. And then (do you see it yet?), you will most certainly (and completely unexpectedly), run out of it. The shop where you had bought it originally will not carry the same colour anymore (because it’s a small shop and they order things haphazardly, and even if you asked them they probably wouldn’t know what those two shades of gray were that they happened to have last winter). The yarn company in question will offer 9 (nine!) different shades of gray all of which will be very similar to the one you (don’t) have (anymore). This will make it impossible to tell from the photos alone which one you need. Especially when you take into account the fact that the same yarn looks different in different photos (see for example the colour 8400 here and here). And displayed on different computer screens. And then all you will be left with will be detective work and guessing.

After a while, you will place your order, from two different yarn shops in two different European countries (both different from the one you currently live in), cross your fingers, and hope for the best.

So there you go, my friends. Enter your yarn data into Ravelry.

p.s. Special thanks go to Cascade’s website for their great overview of yarns and colourways, and Laine et Tricot for their useful note on the shades of Cascade grays (also, they sell the yarn much cheaper than any of the other European shops I found, too bad they did not have the colours I needed!).

p.p.s. I’ll keep you posted when they arrive…

elephant duo

This was not in my knitting plans at all. One day, I simply found myself picking up the gray and yellow yarn, thinking that they go well together, and from there onwards there was no stopping me. I guess that’s what photos of cute babies do to one.

The duo was initially meant to be a trio, including a pair of gray booties. But to my great distress I had discovered that my favourite bootie pattern has in the meantime been taken off Ravelry, which led to trying out another one and failing miserably several times. I kept ending up with two different-sized booties, no matter how many times I ripped and re-tried. Yes, baby knits are great because they involve few stitches and are thus quick. But the fact that they involve few stitches also means that a difference of 3 or 4 stitches in a row makes a huge difference in the size of the finished object. And thus I decided in the end that an elephant trio would be too matchy-matchy anyway and that no self-respecting baby boy would match more than two items of clothing like ever. And therefore it actually would have been totally silly to give him booties as well, right? Right.

The hat pattern is Gooseberry, which I love for its simple elegance and stretchy practicality. My only objection was the lack of specificity about the size. The pattern simply indicated it was a “baby size”, which in my book is anything between 0 and 12 months, and therefore not terribly helpful if you’re aiming for anything more specific than that and do not have the intended recipient on hand to estimate as you go along. As a result I ended up playing around with the numbers and hoping it fits. I’ll let you know when I find out.

The vest is Milo, which is just a godsend blank canvas for an adorable baby gift. There are so many lovely versions available to draw inspiration from, ranging from cables to colourwork to rainbow striping… I could spend hours just looking at all the different ideas on Ravelry and planning dozens of different Milos to knit up some day. The only thing I didn’t like about the colourwork here was that, done in merino yarn, it looks pixelated rather than with nice round edges. This led to people not always recognising what the pattern was supposed to be (“Such cute piglets!”, my mother exclaimed upon seeing it, for instance). But I still did not yet dare knit something wooly for new parents, the last thing they want to be doing is worrying if the wool is chafing their baby’s cheeks and the last thing I want to be doing is wondering if the baby drool is going to make the vest felt (let’s not even talk about handwashing, I dare not utter that word in their company… ;)

WIP week: blocking mittens

I finished the colourwork on my first Fiddlehead mitten a few weeks ago, but given the fact that the mittens come with a lining (which I haven’t knit yet), I was unsure about the size and wanted to see how they would react to blocking. And since colourwork, especially by inexperienced colourworkers, requires heavy blocking, I found myself in a kerfuffle. How to block this thing and make sure everything is stretched well and stays like that until dried and set? I thought and thought and thought, and then I remembered this tutorial.

So I went and found some plastic placemats. I bought three because I thought they were kind of thin and wouldn’t be sturdy enough to resist the pull of the knitted item. I was wrong, one was more than enough. Turns out that wool is not that strong in the end! ;)

I didn’t exactly bother to pull up the tutorial before I started cutting, but worked from memory (and of course forgot some things). I also thought I’d be a smartass and go “why on earth should the thumb be separate?” (and of course found out exactly why when trying to put the mitten on the blocker). In retrospect, holes (which I forgot) would’ve made the drying much faster, and a separate thumb (which I ignored), would have resolved the issue of plastic being slightly less flexible than human fingers. I guess what I’m saying is: follow the freakin’ tutorial, if you’re smarter than me.

In the future, I do plan to improve my ‘prototype’ by adding the holes, making the shape smoother, and making the wrist part longer, so that it sticks out of the mitten. Ok, and maybe even separating the thumb. ;) Luckily, I have enough placemats left to experiment.

Oh, and one more thing. Consider it Fridica’s bonus advice: be careful with where you’re cutting the mat. You wouldn’t want your scalpel to slash into the surface of your desk, for example. Purely hypothetical. Purely. :/

Here’s the blocker in action.

Not bad for a placemat!

two episodes of Dr Who later…

Last night I found myself picking up two skeins of a yarn I’ve been trying out lately… the famous Cascade 220 (Heathers).

I had chosen these two skeins at the yarn shop with a particular pattern in mind, so there was really nothing preventing me from casting on during a calm autumn evening at home. Two old episodes of Dr Who later, quite effortlessly and without even noticing really, I had achieved this.

The brim and first colourwork pattern repeat completed! Whew! With all those socks lately, I had really forgotten how quickly things go in worsted weight! However, there is a but. The colours are not doing it for me.

You see, back in the yarnshop, I had first picked up this red to pair it up with a medium gray. Then, after a lot of debating with myself about the pros and cons of ‘a really beautiful colour combo’ vs. ‘while pretty, too classical and frequently used’, I decided to replace the grey with this beige/straw/yellow/howeveryouwanttodescribeit to produce a more daring combination. Something that would be pretty, but more unusual, something which people would look at and say “wow, I never would have thought of combining those two colours, but it looks great!” Alas, what I got does not make me think that at all.

Instead, it makes me think of Burberry patterns and of old ladies. Quite the opposite of non-classical and daring. So this is going to the frog pond. The colours are still great, and I am sure it won’t be a problem to put them to good use. Just not together. So if you have some pattern recommendations to use up about 100g of worsted weight yarn, please do not hesitate to throw them my way!

something to aspire to

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This might sound a little cheeky, but there isn’t much in knitting that I aspire to, in the sense of wondering if and only timidly hoping that I may be able to do it some day. I haven’t done much lace, but I know how to do the majority of the stitches required for it. I still haven’t got around to knitting my first pair of socks, but I understand all the elements of at least one type of construction and I don’t fear it. I haven’t yet knitted and stuffed a toy, but I have all the materials ready at home, waiting until I find the time for it.

There is one thing, though, that makes my fingers hurt from the very thought of it, and my knitterly ego run into the corner of the room and whimper. Colourwork.

There have been attempts. First, optimistically, in the spring and summer of 2009, this.

Hello, wonky corrugated rib! Hello, puckering! Rrrrrip.

Then, in the winter of 2010, this.

How many stitches per round, while holding two colours? You’ve got to be kidding me. Rrrrrrip.

Then, for Christmas 2010, this.

Three colours. Haha. You would’ve thought the first two attempts had been successful, if I decided to do this. It did go quite ok, though, until I learned about a little thing called yarn dominance. And realized I had been doing it all wrong. Rrrrrrip.

I have actually restarted the latter, but they soon got moved to the bottom of the WIP heap. In the to deal with when I have the nerve again section. I do also plan to restart both Paper Dolls and Selbu, and I have yarn waiting for Fiddleheads and Tortoise and Hares. I am not one to back away from a challenge. Well, not indefinitely at least. ;) But temporarily? Oh hell yeah! :D I’ve been hiding from all of these for a while now.

But thinking about it now, I remember there was one successful (and extremely pleasing) colourwork project: Opus Spicatum.

Why did that work without major issues? Well, it hadn’t occured to me until now, but it’s obvious. It was knit in aran weight! The perfect kid-wheels for a bike – heavier yarn, bigger needles. And when I think about it – it’s one of the main issues I have with colourwork – my tight grip on the thin needle, which quickly causes a painful spot on my finger. Thus making the knitting literally pained. Eureka! Before I get down to all those lovely complex fingering-weight patterns listed above, I clearly need to get a few more heavier weight colourwork projects under my belt. How hadn’t I realized that before?!

Phew, we’ve got that figured out now. Good. But wait, I don’t know of any other colourwork patterns that call for worsted or aran weight… Hmmmm… Well, I guess that’s where you come in! Anyone willing to supply me with my kid wheels? I’d be much obliged for all and any pattern recommendations! Thank you :)

learning: colourwork and yarn dominance

So, as you know, I’ve recently begun my big adventure into the world of knitting with multiple colours. Once I had settled on my colours, I thought, there was no more decision-making or thinking to do – just making sure I read every little square in the chart properly and transfer that into my yarn. Knitting while holding a yarn in each hand is somewhat clumsy and slower than my ‘regular’ knitting, but I find that I get used to it fairly quickly. So I sped along, and soon enough, I ended up with half a mitten in three colours. Yay!

And then I discovered yarn dominance. Ouch.

The bug safely planted in my brain, I started doing more and more research. Basically, yarn dominance refers to the fact that, when knitting with two different colurs on one row/round, one of the colours will appear more prominent, and this does not depend on the colour itself but on how you hold your yarns. There are various explanations for why this happens (slightly larger stitches, the ‘float’ somehow pushing the stitches out, etc.), but regardless of the explanations, it does happen. And it makes a world of difference. Go and look at this sample here. Go on, I’ll be right here waiting. Can you believe it’s the same motif, just knitted with yarns held differently?!

It took me a while to believe it! But when I did, I realized I had been doing it all wrong… The rule of thumb for yarn dominance is to hold whichever colour you want to be dominant (and that is normally the colour of the motif) in your left hand (if using the standard double-handed technique). I, on the other hand, had been using my left hand to hold the background colour (i.e. MC – main colour): because I am a continental knitter, I knit faster with whatever is in my left hand, and the MC is used most often (as it is the background for all the motifs), so for me it made most sense to put it in the hand that is most skillful. I didn’t realize that holding the background colour in my left hand meant that the background would swallow up the motifs I had been creating so carefully in the contrast colours. Ouch.

At first, I decided to live with it – the first motif would be as is, and for the rest of the time I’d apply my newly-acquired knowledge. But there was another catch. In the pattern I’m working on, there is one section where the main colour switches from creating the background to creating the motif. I only thought of that after I had already finished the section, and realized that, in that section, I should’ve switched hands. Ouch.

The conclusion: I’m ripping. These mitts I’m knitting are small enough to warrant ripping for the sake of quality. And I want to apply my new knowledge. Before I cast on again, I’ll make notes next to the chart, indicating section by section which yarn should be held in my left hand.

Knitting is not just about handling yarns and needles. It also requires thinking and careful planning. Somehow, that makes me like it even more. :)