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.

cascading scarf

When it comes to men’s scarves, I have an exceedingly simple recipe which gives a beautiful result. The only issue is – it is exceedingly boring to knit. Three-by-three rib for hours and hours (and hours) on end, anyone? The solution – add a small and subtle design element which will barely show in the finished product (to make it man-wearable) but will make the knitting process a bit more interesting.

Enter my idea of a “cascading scarf”. Now, this has probably been done before. It’s not exactly rocket science. But I had honestly not seen it anywhere, and came up with the idea on my own: interrupt the endless ribbing with a series of staggered cables, to give a sort of waterfall effect.

Here’s how it turned out.

I have to say, it looks exactly as I had envisioned it in my head, which is exceedingly pleasing! I couldn’t be happier with it!

The wrong side doesn’t look bad either.

And the best part? When worn, no one can even guess that this is anything other than the simplest of man scarves. Mischief managed!

If you would like to replicate it, my adjusted recipe is on Ravelry.

man hat

With the winter and the gifting season firmly on the way, the one question I most often get from both friends who are knitters and those who considering giving it a try is: can you recommend a hat pattern for a man? It usually comes with the additional explanation that it should be really simple, but really really simple. Some want the simplicity because they fear that their skills are not up to the task, all want it because they know the man will not wear anything else.

Well, luckily, as I wrote several times on here already, I have the perfect answer: Jane Richmond’s Christopher.

The pattern is simple. You need to know casting on, knitting in the round, simple adding and subtracting stitches. That’s it. You don’t even need to know how to purl. For some technical tips I put together (after making this hat about, oh, gazillion times), have a lookie here and here.

The result is a double-layer reversible hat, which makes it a plus in so many ways. From the male perspective: it is super warm, and if one side gets dirty he can just flip it onto the other one and pretend nothing happened. From the knitter’s perspective: everyone will think you are veeeery skillful (well, I’m sure you are anyway, but the point is, this is a real simple pattern to make, but non-knitters would never guess or believe that!), and you can play it safe with colours by making one bland side (the one he will probably wear) and one more adventurous one (just to please yourself).

Now, let’s just get this straight, though. When I say adventurous, I mean you might be allowed to add some stripes. But be prepared that when you ask what combination he wants, he might say: gray and gray. And if you try suggesting something else, he might make this face at you.

hat to the rescue!

In my last post I wrote about the trouble with finding the right xmas gifts for my friends and family. But even if I had to get three different presents for each and every one of my family members, it would still not be as difficult as finding something for my brother. And I’m not alone. Big Brother has probably received enough aftershave-showergel sets to last him several lifetimes. Simply no one knows what to get him. Ever. In one moment of desperation I even considered simply giving him some money and letting him pick out those elusive things he really wants on his own. But that remains too heartless an option for me (not to mention that I would feel more than a little silly giving a 35-year-old pocket money :D). This year, though, I remembered something that I hadn’t tried before – handmade. And so, after the successful completion of his son’s hat, I decided I had it in me to knit another one in 2 days for my bro.

Stash again came to the rescue (what a wonderful thing!), it turned out that I had two yarns that went great together so all I needed to do was go ahead. Taught by the previous experience, I wove in loose ends as I went and held yarn more loosely at colour changes. I started on December 23rd and thought this knitting would be a great companion to the family rituals of eating, talking and watching TV in the next two days. We usually get together with my brother’s family only in the evening of the 25th, so I had plenty of time to wrap this baby up! My wrist was starting to complain a bit after that much knitknitknitknitknitknitknitknit without any purls or yarn-overs or any sort of other movements (yes, there is such a thing as too much stockinette!), but I was dealing with it ok.

And then the ball dropped. My mother announced that bro and his family had decided to stop over in the evening of the 24th for some joint Christmas cheer and exchanging presents. Whaaaaaaat! I was robbed of a good 24 hours of the race to the finish! Despairing and panicking, I decided that the only reasonable thing to do was wrap what I had – the yarn – along with a sweet note and hope that no offense would be taken for my gift-tardiness. I had read about this solution in so many knitters’ blogs and heard about it in so many knitters’ podcasts that it seemed perfectly normal and even kinda predictable to me.

Well, not to anyone else. That’s not to say Brother didn’t love the gift! He, and everyone else, thought it was an Absolutely Hilarious Best Ever Idea to wrap the yarn. Though we always make a big funny show of opening our gifts (even if they are something reaaaally small, it’s just our little tradition), this reaction will be entered into history books. The surprise, shock and hilarity on my brother’s face were such that my Mom later actually expressed regret that we did not own a video-camera, “precisely for great moments like that”!!! I did not have the heart to admit to everyone that this was not such a crazy original idea as they thought, that I had just nicked it from other knitters… But I guess that’s ok. And if it’s going to cause similar reactions in your loved ones, I definitely recommend that you nick the idea too… :)

This is the larger version of the hat, with an extra 8 stitches. As demonstrated by my niece, while also created to fit closely around the head, if you have a smaller head and are an uber-cool teenager, you can wear it as a hipster hat as well. ;)

Perhaps next year’s gifts should be the same hats for her and my sister in law? :)

last minute

A few months ago (potentially as early as September) someone asked on their blog what knitting plans we had for Christmas. I commented proudly and confidently that I did not plan to burden myself with any gift knitting, no, I was way above such pressure-inducing goal-setting myself. And I stuck to it. Until December 15th rolled around. On December 15th, I suddenly found that every single one of my lunch breaks was being spent running around shops frantically, trying to a) think up what the people on my list could possibly want and b) trying to find it. Time was running out. Work was crazy, Belgian shops’ opening hours even crazier (read: closed before I get off work), and my weekends taken up by travels in places where it was impossible to shop. Panic was rising. And then I remembered that there is one activity I can do even when the shops are closed, even when I’m on a train, and even when I’m in a countryside cottage chilling with friends – I can knit. And so Christmas knitting happened. Not in September, no. More like on December 20th. Daunting, but you know what – I pulled it off!

The first one was easy – the pattern I already owned for a while. The yarn was in my stash, left-over from other projects. There was a moment of panic when I thought I had run out of the gray, only to find a few more metres (just as much as I needed!) tucked away at the bottom of my knitting bag. The knitting was simple, mostly mindless and quick (it took three days total!). The result was a lovely reversible man hat, with just enough interest and just enough plainness (of the kind that the males prefer). Ok, so my nephew did look at it quite disappointedly and briefly when he opened the package, but then again he’s an 8-year-old boy. He looks at any non-Lego gift disappointedly. I spotted him wearing it a few days later – that’s what counts. (And there was a little something extra for him in the package, of course, more in the Lego direction…)

A few words on the pattern, if you’re interested in making it for your boy or man. The construction is very simple, you start knitting one hat from the top, doing regular increases, and when you reach the point where you would normally bind off, you change colours and continue as if knitting another hat from the brim, decreasing until you reach the top of the head.

The pattern is well written, and I like the fact that you first start off with the solid version, which lets you get used to the whole concept, while the fun striping comes later on, in the second half. Though of course you could switch that around. Or do it all in one colour. Or in some third combo. You can really do whatever you like. The result will always be a waaaaarm and wonderfully fitting reversible hat.

One piece of advice. Don’t forget you are making a reversible hat. Seems kinda obvious? Well, you’d think. But you might get into the situation of reaching the end, having left all the yarn ends loose, because you plan to weave them all in when you’re done with your knitting, as usual. And then you might have to weave them in through a small 8-stitch-wide hole, because you’ve done all your decreases and there’s no other way to do it. Just sayin. Weave your ends in as you go. There is no exposed wrong side on this one when you’re done.

Another thing I wished I had done was look up jogless stripes. If I had, my colour changes probably wouldn’t have looked like this.

I did consider embroidering the mysteriously missing red stitches in the same yarn, but it was Christmas Eve and things needed wrapping. And I didn’t feel like embroidering through an 8-stitch-wide opening (see above). In the end I decided it was ok, 8-year-old boys don’t care anyway. On my next attempt I simply made sure that I held the yarn more loosely when I switched colours and it came out a lot better. But more on that in the next post…

p.s. I’ve been meaning to write a NY resolutions post, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. So let’s just say, I hope 2012 will bring me more time to return to the blog and hang out with you guys! Cheers to that! :)

another man scarf

Hello there, I just wanted to direct you to another lovely Man Scarf that was brought to my attention recently! I’m so happy people are finding my notes helpful in bringing smiles to the faces of men in their lives :)

And I like the colour of this one – it reminds of me of the “snow” you get on TV after the programme is finished (is it called “snow” in English too?). Thank you Where the nodding violets grow for sharing!