Knitting

Hat Month

November is Hat Month here at Casa Polymath. This isn’t something I planned, but rather something which fell together from unrelated hat needs.

None of my existing hats fit comfortably, so I wanted to knit a quick, simple hat for myself. I’d also promised the Technician a hat to go with the cowl I made him last winter. And, of course, the Tiny Tyrant demanded to get in on the action. 

The second group of hats I wanted to make were Christmas gifts, and the brief here was for a series of hats which were quick to make, and different from each other.

Inspired by Louise Tilbrooke’s #hatsforhumans KAL (mentioned in my last post) I decided that I would also use the oddments of wool left from my hat projects to make hats to donate to charity. 

I’m mostly working from free patterns: Tin Can Knits Barley, Emily Dormier’s Quick Ombré Hat, and Joannie Newsome’s Tall Celtic Knotwork Hat. I also have some Woolly Wormhead patterns up my sleeve, and invested in Tin Can Knits’ Strange Brew pattern, which includes a swatch hat and a range of colourwork motifs – perfect for those oddments I mentioned.

Surely that’s enough hats to last a lifetime, I hear you ask. But wait, there’s more: I also joined Woolly Wormhead’s Mystery Hat-a-Long. I’m making Hat B, and am a little behind, having only just finished Clue 1. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to mention that there’s a lace element to Hat B and I’m very proud that I’ve managed not to screw it up (so far).

I’ve finished 5 hats so far this week, and am hoping to keep up that pace and end November with plenty of hats to gift.

More hat pics soon 😁

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Knitting

Cast on: Wood Warbler Cowl

20170904_142054520_iOS The Wood Warbler cowl, designed by Martina Behm, was the September pattern for A Year of Techniques, and I originally planned to knit this in September. After multiple attempts to get gauge on the recommended 5mm needles, I had to resign myself to waiting for my single pair of 4.5mm needle tips (then being used to knit my lopapeysa) to become available. Then it was October and I moved on to the Good Intentions knit and the October A Year of Techniques pattern, and here we are nearly in November.

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Since this is a DK-weight, garter cowl, with only a few increases and decreases to worry about, I’m fairly confident that I’ll finish this one in November too, which means I can add it to the Christmas gift pile. The Schoppel Wolle Gradient is a slightly felted 100% wool yarn, which gives it a somewhat stiff feel when knitting. I believe it will hold it’s shape well, and assume that that’s why it has been used for this particular pattern, which is knit straight, on the bias, and grafted to form the cowl. I ‘m enjoying the revelation of the gradient as I knit, and toying with the idea of knitting one for myself, but swapping the green-blue colourway for something with a touch of pink or orange. I think that decision will wait until I’ve finished this and try it on, however, as I think I may prefer something squooshier and softer round my neck.

Knitting

Cast on: Ruschia Hat

Last March Arnall-Culliford Knitwear launched A Year of Techniques: a book of patterns which each addressed a new knitting technique. The initial 6 patterns were released on a monthly basis as pdfs, with options for a hard copy or ebook of all the patterns to be delivered when it launched in September. Each pattern, designed by the likes of Bristol Ivy, Sarah Hatton, and Ella Gordon, is small enough to complete within a month (in theory 😂), and accompanied by step-by-step instructions; there are also online tutorials available at the Mason-Dixon Knitting website.

Although I signed up to A Year of Techniques in late March, and I have the yarn to knit 9 or 10 of the 12 patterns, I’ve yet to complete any of them. I’m hoping the Ruschia hat (designed by Woolly Wormhead) will prove different, and not only because I have a recipient in mind come Christmas.

The yarn I’m using is the recommended Fyberspates Scrumptious Aran (55% wool/45% silk) in the slate colourway. The technique in question is short-row shaping, but the pattern also draws on techniques from previous months: a provisional cast on, and garter stitch grafting. I have used short rows before (for the Studies in Ice pattern), but I didn’t feel confident about them, so it’s nice to have a reason to practice. I recently acquired Woolly Wormhead’s Elemental ebook, so I’m also seeing this as a bit of a test run for all those gorgeous sideways knitted hat patterns.

I’m not overly fussed by the yarn, but the pattern is excellent: easy to follow, requires a little attention to keep straight, but not so complicated that you can’t let your mind wander. I think I will definitely knit this again, just maybe in a different yarn.

Knitting

Cast on: Westknits MKAL 2017

Despite my extensive list of Christmas knits, I allowed myself to be seduced by the idea of a Westknits mystery knit-a-long (MKAL). As you may know, an MKAL is one in which the pattern is divided into clues, which are released over the period of the KAL. The knitter starts with the yarn requirements, and needle sizes, but no idea of how the finished piece will look.

Since I’ve never participated in an MKAL before, and the previous year’s Westknits shawls are so gorgeous, I decided I wanted to do this year’s Speckle and Pop Mystery Shawl. I was hoping to source most of the yarn from my stash, but I needed 3 main colours that fade (I’m not big on speckles so I dropped that requirement), and 5 pop colours, and nothing I had was really working together.

I decided to order some Old Maiden Aunt 4ply in Cold Sheep and Pretty Floral Bonnet, to go with my skein of To the Black. 20170928_121417759_iOSMy instinct that they would fade well was correct, but they didn’t work with the pink gradient set of mini-skeins I already owned (featured in the mailbag on Odds & (Week)ends #2). I felt that I needed some brighter yellows and greens against the cool blue-purples of the MCs, so ordered  some mini-skeins from Mothy And The Squid, and a yellow to blue gradient set, Toxic Spill, from Easyknits.

The winning combination ended up being a red (Dye Ninja‘s Mrs Ogg’s Bloomers, bought at EYF), a yellow-pink (Rosy Maple Moth from Mothy And The Squid), and the yellow and green shades from the Toxic Spill set.

All the colour deliberation, and waiting on orders, has put me about a week behind, but Clue 2 is apparently a shorter section, so I may be able to make the time up. I confess that I had a little look at people’s progress pics of Clue 1, because I couldn’t quite visualise how the colour pops would work, but now that I’ve started I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, and enjoy watching the shawl form as I knit. I won’t post any photos on here until I’m done, but check out #westknitsmkal2017 on Instagram if you want a peek at shawls in progress.

Knitting

Finished Object: Studies in Ice

I have a new sweater! Studies in Ice was an absolute joy to knit: the pattern is clear, and simple to follow, and the Lopi yarn knits up quickly. After some deliberation I went with the Seydisfjordir variant as I felt the rust and sand combination were a better fit for the chevrons, and I’m very pleased with the result.

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For me this was a great learning experience as many of the techniques –  long-tailed cast on, short rows, grafting with Kitchener Stitch – were new to me. This was also my first seamless garment, and it was fascinating to see the construction emerge as the sweater grew. 20170923_140908613_iOSIt was also a chance to practice my colourwork – which sent me to the A Year of Techniques book to refresh my knowledge of dominance in stranded colourwork. I’m not totally satisfied with the yoke, however, as I sped through a couple of rows of single colour in the middle of the chart, and messed up the tension.

Lopi yarn was also new to me. It has a lovely ‘rustic’ feel to it, and varies in thickness, as it’s unplied, which took a little getting used to. I can tell that the sweater will be beautifully warm (my lap was certainly kept warm in the final stages of the knit 😂), and am looking forward to testing it’s reputed water-repellency. The yarn comes in a great range of colours, and I’m planning to make some more Lopi knits, hopefully venturing into their Alafoss (chunky), and Einband (lace) ranges too.

20171002_130620917_iOSThe only part of this project which was less than fun was, of course, blocking. The lack of space was an issue again, and the time of year (we’re getting into damp Autumn days) didn’t help: it took 4 days, and boosting the radiator, to dry it. It was tempting to skip blocking, as it already looked pretty good once the sleeves were grafted and the ends woven in, but blocking has eased the yoke tension, so it was worth the wait.

Knitting

Cast on: Good Intentions Club #1

If you’ve read any of my weekly updates, you’ll know that I’ve been listening to the Knit British podcast. In episode 92, the first I listened to, Louise mentioned that she was thinking of hosting a Good Intentions Club – a year-long KAL whose participants commit to knitting 4 projects (1 per quarter) for which they already have the yarn and pattern in their stash.

Since my space is limited, I was already eyeing up my stash and plotting how to lose the random balls of yarn bought during my ‘winter knitter’ years. Some of it can be transformed into Christmas gifts, but there are also a couple of sweater quantities of yarn that I’ve lost enthusiasm for, and that take up the space I need for newer, prettier yarn (I see you judging me,… and I deserve it 🙂 )

The serendipity was irresistible, so I’ve set up my project bags for the 4 quarters, and on 1st October I duly started on Ingvild. This is a cape designed by Anniken Allis, in Noro Janome yarn. Janome is one of Noro’s colourfully eclectic self-striping yarns that’s 60% silk/40% wool, and which has been discontinued. The pattern is one I bookmarked in The Knitter while in the grip of a cape obsession, almost a year ago, and when I came across the right quantity of yarn, I bought it with the pattern in mind.

Since I knitted a tension square for this once before, which didn’t turn out so well, I decided to be good and try again before casting on. Somehow I managed to match rows but not stitches; the opposite of what I did last time. I confess that I got impatient, and decided that I’d just wing it, as I’m fairly close either way (you may slap my hand now). The Good Intentions Club has porous deadlines (in theory I should finish before the next prompt on the 1st of January), but as I’m doubling up and knitting this as a Christmas gift I should probably try to finish with time to send it.

Another motivation to make Ingvild quickly is that I’m not enjoying knitting with Janome all that much. So far as I, with my limited knowledge, can tell, the yarn consists of dyed silk thread wrapped around unplied, undyed wool. The thickness varies in much the same way as the Lopi I’ve been using this past month, but without the joy of the sheepy feel you get from the latter. Partway into a row, my fingers begin to feel dry, almost as though coated with powder; it’s a rather odd sensation.

I’ll be posting the odd progress pic on instagram, and it should feature as a Finished Object post on here eventually – hopefully well before Christmas!

Knitting

Finishing Strong

My least favourite thing about knitting is finishing. 20170909_214826061_iOSTo clarify: I like getting to the end of a project and knowing how close I am to casting on the next project (I love starting things!), but I hate the finishing process – weaving in ends, blocking, sewing – that lies between the two. Especially sewing. Which is why, having finished my Alexus tunic back in July, it took me til this past weekend to sew and block the thing. And then I only did it because it was taking up space, I had a shawl to block anyway, and I resorted to bribery.

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Fuss Free Festival Shawl in Whistlebare Yeavering Bell 4ply enjoying a bath.

The first problem is that I rarely knit things big enough to need much in the way of finishing, so I just don’t have much practice. Secondly, I hate sewing. It’s dull and repetitive, and my sewing never looks neat. Third, and this is probably my biggest problem when it comes to finishing knitwear, I just don’t have much space. Certainly nowhere to put things to dry flat without having to move them repeatedly.

Alexus was knit in Rowan Handknit Cotton; good because it’s machine washable, bad because it really needed to dry flat, which took forever. And, even with it hidden away in the corner of my bedroom, the Tiny Tyrant still found an opportunity to parade up and down the length of it (by her logic, clothes lying on the floor are destined for the laundry).

The point of finishing is to make the final product look polished, and that is definitely not something I’m achieving with any consistency. While I’m happy with the fit of the tunic, I’m probably not going to wear it until I’ve done a little embroidery over the seams to neaten things up. I guess I’ll probably get to wear this next Summer?

I do intend to persist – I will only get better with practice – but I think I had best practice my finishing techniques on smaller things for now. My Lopapeysa is teaching me how much I enjoy seamless projects in the round, and one of the new books which arrived last week was The Art of Seamless Knitting (Simona Merchant-Dest and Faina Goberstein). It not only explains the techniques and construction of seamless knits, and provides some example patterns to try, but has step-by-step instructions on how to convert patterns for seamless knitting. The latter will come in handy for adapting a couple of sweater projects for which I have yarn but not enthusiasm. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Knitting

New Project: Studies in Ice

I meant to write about this project on Monday, which is when I cast on, but the Tiny Tyrant started nursery this week, so what little energy I’ve had left has gone into doing the knitting, rather than talking about doing the knitting.

Knitting on windowsill.
Some days are meant for knitting.

So, Studies in Ice is a pattern, designed by Beatrice Perron Dahlen of Thread & Ladle, for a typical Icelandic yoked sweater. Somehow I went from admiring the design, to telling myself that I would just buy the pattern since it was discounted at launch, to talking myself into joining the KAL she’s running. This despite all the life stuff going on, and that I want to knit the Autumn designs from A Year of Techniques, and that I’m trying to reduce my stash by knitting Christmas presents….

Since I own a lot of blue clothes I picked a lovely rust-brown shade of Lopi Léttlopi (conveniently forgetting that I already have merino in the same colour for another sweater project *facepalm*), with white for the colourwork yoke.

My plan was to knit the Vatnajokull version, but I’m now swaying toward the Seydisfjordur instead, so I’ve printed both charts out, and will decide when I have to.

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Vatnajokull (left) or Seydisfjordur?

This is my first time knitting with Icelandic wool, and I’m a little in love – enough that I’m idly wondering what other patterns on my wishlist I could use it for.

I’m hoping the KAL deadline (15th October) will be a big enough push for me to keep going despite distractions. At the moment I’m very much looking forward to wearing the finished sweater, which also helps. I’ll be posting updates on instagram (tagged #lopapeysakal), and hopefully will include it in my round-up of October’s Finished Projects.