FO: A Hat of His Own

When Justin and I were dating, I bought him a pair of red mittens for Christmas. After we’d gotten married but before I’d started knitting, I crocheted him a hat to match. It was made from Caron Simply Soft, it was solid red, and it was subtly textured, alternating two rounds of single crochet with a round of double (or was it half-double?) crochet. He wore it for a winter or two before he lost it, and it was another winter or two before I plucked up the enthusiasm to make a replacement.

By that time I’d started knitting, but only just, and I wasn’t confident in my ability to knit in the round. I didn’t want lack of muscle memory to slow me down or uneven tension to spoil the result, so I stuck to the crochet I was familiar with. I also went back to the same yarn and pattern. But because I made the replacement during an interstate drive and didn’t have Justin’s head handy for reference, I ended up increasing a few too many times, and the finished hat was too big around and much too long, even for his larger-than-average 24″ head. He wears it anyway, but with a sizable cuff at the bottom to keep it in place and out of his eyes.

Now, with more than a few successful knit hats in my collection, I felt the time had come to make Justin the better-fitting—and warmer!—hat he needed and deserved. Needed, because the red hat obviously no longer passes muster in this more experienced maker’s opinion, and the 3″ difference in our head sizes means we can’t share hats even if wanted to. Deserved, because he’s a reservoir of patience and support when it comes to my hobbies and a gracious recipient of anything I make—including less-than-stellar dinners and off-beat jokes—and therefore knitworthy (the lost hat notwithstanding).

So, hot on the heels of Jonah the D&D dice bag, here’s a wonderfully woolly, cabled hat for Justin. He picked out the (free) pattern, Brigid Hat and Mitts from Willow Yarns, and the yarn, madelinetosh Tosh DK in Chicory from Warm ‘n Fuzzy.

The hat is designed to fit a 21″ head circumference, which is pretty typical for adult hats and thus too small for Justin. To compensate, I added a repeat of the cable pattern but went down a needle size from the recommendation, finding the sweet spot that yielded a hat exactly 24″ around. For more technical details, check out my project page on Ravelry.

Like all hats, I found this one satisfying to knit because it practically flew off my needles—even after casting on, knitting through the first few rounds of the body, and then frogging and re-starting to get the right size, it only took me two weeks from start to finish. The cables were a little different than ones I’d knit before, because there are places where one crosses under another and then vanishes instead of continuing to travel away, but this kept things interesting for me. And because every cross was two-over-two, they were easy to accomplish without a cable needle and easy to fix if I made a mistake.

Justin’s been wearing the hat practically every day since it was finished, and he gets compliments on it any time we go out. He loves to tell people that I made it, and I love him for that. Knitworthy, indeed.

FO: Jonah

If there’s a list of the top 10 most contentious topics in crafting, surely selfish/unselfish creating is on it. For myself, I’m in the staunchly selfish camp. I tried my hand at a bit of unselfish sewing about half a decade ago, and it did not go well. In hindsight, the attempt was ill-advised, and had all the hallmarks of a project doomed to failure: keeping the project a surprise instead of consulting the intended recipient, using techniques and materials that were new to me, and sewing on a deadline all conspired to make it a less-than-stellar experience for me or the victim beneficiary of my well-meaning intentions. Since then, I’ve shied away from hand-making gifts, as I don’t trust myself to focus on what’s actually important—the desires of the receiver, rather than my desires as a maker-giver—and I’ve become rather jealous of my creative time anyway.

I broke my streak when Justin joined a Dungeons & Dragons group and asked me to knit him a dice bag. It’s his first grown-up D&D campaign, and thus his first opportunity to purchase a fancy set of dice. We had both seen knit, crochet, and hand-worked bags—in fact, one of the members of group has a handmade bag—but he wanted something special to commemorate what he hopes will be a long and prosperous (and non-fatal) adventure. His character, Odo Fridtjofsen, is a trident-wielding fisherman, and Justin felt that it would be appropriate to have a suitably themed bag to wrangle and transport his all-important dice. I couldn’t agree more.

Justin picked the pattern, the Fish Purse by Doreen Blask (available for purchase on Ravelry). He also picked the yarn,
Blue Moon Fiber Arts Super Sparkle in Sapphire, because of all the yarns at our LYS Warm ‘n Fuzzy, it reminded him of scales the most.

I made several alterations to the pattern. I knit it in a fingering yarn held double instead of a DK yarn held single; I used a US 3 to get a firm gauge without the possibility of holes. I omitted the scales but added a bottom fin that mirrors the top fin. Instead of creating I-cord drawstrings, I created two three-strand braids using six equal lengths of yarn for each braid. Before knotting each braid I added a sterling silver charm that Justin picked out. One is an anchor, the other a ship’s helm. I threaded both drawstrings through the eyelets so that the ends hang downward, like the barbels of a catfish. I omitted the shoulder strap as well.

Justin’s favorite part, and the thing I was most worried about, was replacing the knit eyes called for in the pattern with googly eyes. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to find sew-on ones, and when we did I wasn’t sure if they would be the right size (they’re 20 mm). Once I sewed them on, though, they proved to be exactly the thing to bring the whole project together.

Jonah is currently safeguarding 14 dice, but he could easily hold twice as many. He’s weathered several intense sessions already, and could easily outlast Odo if the party keeps up the shenanigans. Justin is more than pleased, and I’m happy to have made something he’ll treasure as much as his memories of the game.

Does this herald the beginning of more unselfish crafting? As a matter of fact, it does. 🙂 Stay tuned!

FO: Diversion

Last year was, for me, as for many people, not a particularly good year. When it came time to add this scarf to my notebook in Ravelry (I’ve fallen out of the habit of recording my projects in real time, and instead rely on notes taken throughout a project to summarize everything when it’s finished), that reality was driven home when I discovered that I had completed only one knitting project all year, a cabled hat. I had started a sweater, and re-started another, but neither came off the needles in those 366 days.

This scarf was the product of two forces. The first was a desire to overcome the deep creative block produced by a certain fingering-weight striped sweater that refused to be finished, and that I slowly came to regret starting at all. I’m not typically one to have multiple projects running concurrently—at least, not of the same craft—but I felt if I tried to remain monogamous with that particular project, I’d never knit again. A simple, soothing project that I could pick up and put down during a car ride or evening television seemed like exactly the thing I needed to keep me from quitting knitting entirely, without sending me down an ever-increasing spiral of other projects that would prevent me from finishing the sweater eventually.

The second force was a previously documented intense dislike for scraps. I don’t mind a remnant that’s large enough for a second, smaller project, or a yard or two of yarn that I can wind onto a bobbin in case future darning is required. But a couple dozen yards of yarn, too long to throw away without guilt? Hate them. I had just such a quantity of grey Cascade 220 Superwash Sport, left over from my Hermione Hearts Ron hat and Holding Hands with Ron gloves. The obvious solution was to use the yarn for stripes in a larger project.

The “pattern,” if you could call it that, is just a rectangle of ribbing, left unblocked so that it looks like stockinette but doesn’t curl at the edges. It’s a trick that I first learned about many years ago from Jared Flood’s Noro Striped Scarf, when I was a new knitter who spent more time reading about knitting than practicing the craft. For more technical details of my scarf (finished size, yardage, needles, etc.), check out my project on Ravelry.

The navy yarn is Rosy Green Wool Cheeky Merino Joy, a Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified superwash sport-weight wool and an absolute delight to knit and wear. It’s easily as soft as the wool-silk blends I’m fond of, with a wonderfully smooth hand and plump twist. I haven’t knit with many yarns, but of the ones I have experienced, this is easily my favorite. If I could only ever knit with one yarn again and this were it, it would be no tragedy.

This scarf proved to be exactly the diversion I needed from my other knitting challenges, and a balm for the stresses of life. (The only thing it didn’t turn out to be was the end of the grey yarn: while I did manage to use up all of the scraps from my other projects, shortly after weaving in the last end and crowing my triumph, I discovered another whole skein lurking in my stash.) It coordinates with my favorite hat and gloves, and it’s a welcome companion to my peacoat on frosty days, even if it doesn’t stand out against the coat’s navy wool. I’ve worn it several times a week since I finished it, and though I’ll be packing it away very soon as the weather warms up, I look forward to pulling it out again in the fall, and for many seasons to come.

Lest all my attempts at serious faces above lead you to believe that I don’t love the finished product, I’ll leave you with a few smiling photos as proof:

Progress? Progress!

Remember this promising sliver of knitting?

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I’m not surprised if you don’t—it made its first and only appearance all the way back in January. January. That was six months ago, friends. Egads. (So much for this being a year of knitting productivity…)

I stalled out sometime in April after I completed the back and started the front. Fingering-weight stockinette doesn’t make for particularly speedy knitting, but it’s mindless enough that I can work on it while watching TV and riding in the car. No, what strangled my enthusiasm for the project was not the pace, but the prospect of weaving in all. those. ends.

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I hate weaving in ends. Every time I sat down and knit another stripe, I created two more ends to loom on the horizon. Just look at them, promising hours of tedium—and no doubt frustration—as I try to figure out where to put all of them without any stray colors cropping up where they don’t belong.

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But, fueled by my Me-Made-May pledge (which came about in part because of this very project), I finally made a concerted effort to drag this project toward the finish line. Over the course of four weeks, I knocked out the front and started in on the first sleeve. (Interestingly, it doesn’t bother me to be on Sleeve Island, and I’ve yet to experience Second Sleeve Syndrome on a project.)

To help combat the tyranny of ends, I used one of TECHKnitter’s strategies for weaving in as I go on the front and the sleeve. It slows down the process of turning a row and joining a new color, but I’d like to think it’s preferable to the interminable and uncertain job of dealing with all the ends at, well, the end. But I’m withholding full judgment until I can seam everything and put it on—I don’t want to actually recommend this approach until I know that it won’t come apart or create unsightly lumps or bumps on the face of the fabric.

Meanwhile, I’m itching to move on to other projects. With consecutive days of 80-degree temperatures and 90-degree days on the horizon, I won’t be sporting this sweater any time soon—except for blog photos, of course. 😉

Revisiting Wardrobe Architect, Part 3: A Capsule and A Spring Sewing Plan

Edit: After sleeping on it, I realized that I hadn’t shared my list of garments because I was embarrassed that others would think it greedy to want so many pieces of clothing. But hiding the list didn’t make it go away, and if I don’t share it here, I won’t have a record of what I was thinking and planning at this place in time. It will be interesting to look back in a season or a year and see what things remain on my must-sew list and what things were only passing fancies. So, I’m adding in my list where it should have gone in the first place. 

Each time I’ve tried to take a second run at defining a capsule wardrobe, I’ve ended up with a list far too long to reasonably be called a capsule. Even though I’m of the mind that my capsule isn’t about limiting myself to a set number of items for a season, but rather about building a foundation of remixable pieces that work throughout the year, once I start adding up all of the combinations of garments, materials, and colors/prints I’d like to have, the list quickly balloons.

Instead of fighting it, I’ve decided to embrace it and see where it takes me. I’ve made a list of all the garments I’d like to have in my closet, and broken it down according to items that will work best as casual pieces, items that will work best for special outings and the more polished work look I’d like to achieve, and items that will work equally well for both.

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Items marked with an asterisk are ones I don’t currently have and would need to make or buy. I have a lot of black work attire already, but going forward I want to avoid adding any more black to my wardrobe, since I find it very harsh with my skin tone and would prefer navy, brown, or grey. Cardigans in every color of my personal rainbow will be a key addition since I’m so often cold, and I’m optimistic that I can knit them all myself. I’ve combined items wherever I’m not picky about cut or color, such as t-shirts and skirts.

For the late spring/early summer, I’ve prioritized about a half dozen based on fabrics and patterns I already have. Instead of queuing them in a particular order, I’ll let myself pick my next project from that pool as the mood strikes. When I’ve gotten through those projects, I’ll go back to the original list, add or subtract garments based on changing needs or tastes, and pick another half dozen to work through. Groundbreaking stuff, huh?

Want to see the fabrics?

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From left to right, the fabrics and their intended projects are:

  • Nicole Miller Ditsey Eden in Black – Faux wrap dress – Simplicity 1653 (View B)
  • Sew Classic Rayon Spandex Knit in Potent Purple (I think) – Empire-waisted surplice dress – McCall’s 7116 (View D)
  • Lightweight Cotton Polyester Jersey in Navy with Skinny Red Stripes – Relaxed t-shirt and/or tank dress
  • 100% Cotton Interlock in Kelly Green – Blazer – Simplicity 1421 or Simplicity 2446 (Fingers crossed I have enough fabric for this, since I bought it with a completely different project in mind)
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Blue Floral – Skirt or dress?
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Poppy Floral – Skirt or dress?
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Blue-Purple Floral – Skirt – Butterick B4686 (View A) (To show off the border print)
  • Featherwale Cotton Corduroy in Navy – Skirt

I wish I could link to more of the fabrics, but with the exception of the first two, they came from Hancock Fabric’s going-out-of-business sale. I also wish I had more specific patterns nailed down for the skirts/dresses, but I keep waffling. Pencil skirt? Flared skirt? Sheath dress AKA bodice with pencil skirt? Fit-and-flare dress AKA bodice with flared skirt? If I thought I would actually wear crop tops (and could get away with it at work—we’re not that casual) then I could have it all. Instead, it is decisions, decisions. But! they’re decisions I’m looking forward to making instead of dancing around with a faint sense of anxiety. I’m excited to adding the finished garments to my wardrobe, which is definitely a step in the right direction. Finally.