2 Below Hat

I have a stash. I hear from reliable sources that it’s rather small considering how much I knit, nevertheless, it’s extensive enough that I often forget treasures in its depth.

Late one day in January, we realized that we’d lost my daughter’s very warm hat. Or, to be precise, she lost it – somewhere between school, home, and various stops along the way. I dug through our hat bin, my hat bin, the next size up hat bins, alas, to no result.

Thus, the stash.  The lost hat was made from Good Karma Farm yarn which is soft enough for hats and scarves and comes in vibrant colors that I love for winter. I had a small sliver of hope that I would find a long forgotten skein of Good Karma lying in wait for this terrible moment. Yet, again my search came up empty. Then my daughter saw it. In the very back of the top drawer of my stash was a bag of forgotten, botched projects, and inside a newborn “hat” made form Rowan Big Wool. As soon as my daughter saw it, she fell in love with the light pink color of this monstrosity, leaving me to frog it.

Trying on the hat the never worked. In the image you can see that the scarf portion is so thick that it does not gather when ribbed.
The wool is thick for this style of project – the scarf portion stretched too much.
Post frogging, I started to rework the crown of the hat. I knit almost all hats from the top down so they can grow with my kids as I easily add more width and height.
Warm hat for a child
Warm hat for a child with ear flaps and braids. This hat has quickly become a favorite for the days when the temperature sinks below 20 and stays in the teens or single digits. When it was -1F one morning, we wore the hat and a hood.

The Warm Fuzzy as we call it, lives on and has been handy for 2 winters now. It seems to have so much fluff built in that it has grown with my daughter as she has grown. I bet in dire circumstances, even I could wear it. 

The finished blanket

I wrote two separate posts (http://www.theknittingarts.com/blanket-blues/ and http://www.theknittingarts.com/squared-away-blanket-preview/) about my blanket fiasco already, and I’m very happy to report that I have finally finished my daughter’s blanket.  This is the largest project I’ve ever done in physical shape, although it’s certainly not complicated and once you complete one column, the rest is repetition.  Believe it or now, this is also not the most expensive project, despite the large amount of yarn I used: I bought the Brown Sheep Nature Spun Chunky yarn on eBay, so the cost was comparable with a store bought, 100% wool blanket and the bonus is that this yarn is moth-proofed.

Here are some shots of the finished blanket.

Knitted blanket

Knitted blanket

By the way, I’m happy to report that it’s warm, my daughter loves it and while it’s too big for her to drag around the house, I’m glad to know that it’s big enough for her to take to college, in what? 12 years!

Squared Away Blanket preview

I have a short preview of one of my favorite creations so far: the Squared Away Blanket. I had written a while ago about the challenge of creating a great blanket for one child and being absolutely unable to create anything worthy of notice for the second.  Good bye that issue!  I have created a beautiful blanket for my second daughter.  I hope you agree.

The best laid plans

All the best laid plans sometimes fail: the night before our trip to the Duchess County Sheep and Wool festival at Rhinebeck my daughter got sick with a fever and despite my husband’s ardent arguments for me going alone rather than face a year of pining for the festival, I could not drive for 7 hours by myself, and so, we didn’t go.

A week later, I asked my best friend to rescue me from the dumps with a visit to the local yarn store – JP Knit and Stitch in Boston’s newly hip and quickly gentrifying neighborhood.  I got 3 skeins of ECO + by Cascade yarns for a coat for my daughter and 2 skeins of Weekend DK by Berroco in Cornsilk (which is the color of sunshine).  I had two baby sweaters to make: one for my husband’s colleague and one for a friend’s nanny who is about to become a grandmother.

For the colleague, I followed instructions for the Eyelet Yoke Baby Cardigan, but I made one change: instead of increasing before and after the eyelet rows, I used the eyelet rows as my increases.  It made for an ever so slightly different result, but it saved me lots of time.

Eyelet yoke baby cardigan

Once I had to make the second version of this, of course, I had to follow my modifications.  I also thought that the body on this sweater was a bit too wide, so I omitted the raglan increases after the yoke increases.

Here is the final product (I will post detailed directions at some point soon).

If there is any different in perceived color, it is merely due to the lighting.  These are knit from the same exact yarn and dye lot.


Sheep and Wool Festival 2015: Getting ready

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are changing and we begin the eager anticipation for the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.

This is an anxious time for me, to be sure.  My kids have grown out of every lovingly created knitted garment from last year and while the younger one can inherit some of her sister’s things, the oldest has nothing and if I don’t produce something that she likes, she is more than happy to go to school without a sweater, hat or gloves, even when it’s 40 outside.

Here are some of the rules I’ve set for myself:

  1. I shall not buy undyed merino wool from that awesome Massachusetts based farm (I already have 2 years’ worth of purchases that I have not been knitted).
  2. I shall not buy alpaca or llama, unless they are blended into something, like Good Karma Yarn.
  3. I shall wear a cap and drink lots of water so I do not develop a headache by 2pm
  4. I shall not spend more than $200
  5. I shall carefully enter all of my purchases – with pictures – into my Ravelry stash when I come back.
  6. I shall not buy yarn for a hat for myself, but will use leftover skeins from sweaters.

This festival is our family’s annual yarn and food binge. I go for the yarn, my husband goes for the lamb and my kids go for both.

Here is my list of projects that require yarn:

  • mittens for the girls (inexplicably, we’ve lost the pair my youngest should inherit).  Goal: make 2 pairs for each child, so we always have something to wear.
    • 2 weights – sport and thin cotton
    • Pink for the little one
    • blue? for the older one
  • Light sweater for the older one – similar to the vest I made?
  • Sport weight sweater for me – not sure of the color.  I often wear greys and I find that they match just about anything, so perhaps a few shades of grey.
  • Zipper collar sweater for my husband – it took me two years to knit the last sweater, so I’d better start now before he wears through it
  • Dress coats for the girls
    • Heavy yarn, could be rougher (no merino!)
    • Pink for the little one
    • Blue? for the older one?  Perhaps I can find a combo that fits everyone so we can be matching.
  •  A heavy yarn for a sweater for my FIL.  I made him a sweater two years ago which, sadly, is too small.

Making waves – kids’ vest and perhaps a sweater

This morning, an amazing thing happened:  my daughter and I were discussing what she could wear to school – it’s a chilly morning, but would warm up a lot later in the day – and I thought it would be great for her to have a vest.  Then I went into my knitting basket, pulled out a bag with her vest, cut the strings and wove them in.

That’s right, folks!  I actually had a garment completed in time to catch up to my children’s astronomic growth!  Ta da: here is the result of my perils.

Knitting the same thing twice

There is an old Russian expression that translates roughly as “You can’t step into the same water twice.”  That’s so true and I’ve recently realized that you simply can’t knit the same thing twice either. Either your hands, your yarn, or the humidity in your house will change and something will be just a little different.

Three years ago, I bought Blue Moon Fiber Arts Woobu in a beautiful blue hue to make my husband a sport weight sweater.   It took me two years to make the sweater and I had to improvise the pattern as I went along, even though I started with Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Brooks Sweater, which was just the sort of thing my husband wears exclusively.  The trouble started around the shoulders where her suggested shaping was creating curves along the arms/shoulders, rather than a straight vertical line up.

Having knit many a sweaters in the contiguous method, I realized that this shaping was simply the inverse of the arm shaping in the contiguous pattern and after about 5 tries to get the proportion and placement right, I was able to create a beautiful shoulder curve.

My husband, to give  him credit, wears the sweater almost every day, especially as we’ve been pummeled with snow and arctic temperatures all winter.  So, you can imagine my surprise when he said that he wants a new Brooks Sweater. He’s timing it ahead so if it takes me another 2 years to make him the next sweater he’ll be ready for it because this one will develop holes.  And so, I’ve started my NYS Sheep and Wool list:

– 2 skeins Blue Moon Fiber Arts Woobu

I can’t wait!

Sheep and Wool Festival Detox

This past October’s Sheep and Wool festival was exactly as expected: an overwhelming yarn binge that left me reeling for months to come.  So much yarn in one place gives so much potential for creativity and projects.

It was also a little bittersweet.  One of my favorite places, Wild Apple Hill Farm has stopped operations and thus my daughter’s beautiful coat, which I have knit from their pink yarn, will remain in in its singularity until I find a suitable replacement. And, of course, I could not find the blanket yarn I needed.

Children's socks, toe upGood Karma Yarn was there and I bought 2 skeins of their sock yarn.  If you haven’t tried them yet for socks, definitely give it a go.  I knit their yarn on size 5 needles and I’ve now made socks for both my girls and I’ve started on a pair for myself.  The yarn is soft, pliable and gives that amazing cozy feel that we crave from socks, especially with the arctic winter we’ve had.

I also got some Good Karma Worsted yarn to make a Lattice Pie Hat for an adult with a scarf to match.  Pattern coming soon.

Tunic dress for girlsI found a new (to me) merino wool from Canada (Shelridge Yarns) which makes a thin yarn that knits up worsted.  I’ve made a dress for my daughter, which is beautiful and wears well. I used size 8 needles, which you wouldn’t guess by the looks of the yarn, but is absolutely required to give it the breathing room it needs.

Blanket blues

Baby blanket from Elizabeth Zimmerman's pi shawlI have two children.  When my first was a little girl, probably around age 1, I knit her a perfect golden blanket.  The blanket came so easily, I don’t even know how it happened.   I got the yarn in a good weight, it was superwash which fitted our sensibilities at the time, and the pattern, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s shawl, was the perfect match.  My daughter still has the blanket and loves it: we spend many reading moments with it.

Step 1: start off

Fast forward 4 years later, I have a second child who is about the same age and I start feeling the pressure to make another perfect blanket.  In retrospect, I should have gotten some of the same yarn in a different color and called it a day.  But I didn’t.  I decided that my kids were different enough that I had to make a completely different blanket, in a different yarn and with a different shape.  Thus I started on another Zimmerman pattern: the square blanket knit from the center out.

Baby blanket from Elizabeth Zimmerman's shawlThings went wrong from the get go.  I had purchased 3 skeins from Brooks Farm yarn at the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck and once I knit those up, I quickly realized that those skeins go very quickly in a square blanket.  The last skein added at most 1″ to the whole project.

Step 2: get more yarn

In desperation, at the next NYS Speep and Wool festival I bought what I thought was the same yarn, but they didn’t have the same colors.  Why didn’t I ask the lovely lady if I was buying the correct item is beyond me.

Once I started knitting, I realized that what I bought is much thicker (think bulky vs worsted or may even sport) than what I needed. In desperation, I emailed the farm.  They confirmed based on my hastily taken pictures in a hotel, that I was in fact knitting with the wrong yarn.  I upped the needle size between rows and the blanket grew, but over time, you could easily see that it just wasn’t correct.

This year, I made a second attempt to buy more yarn at the Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck. I was determined to go back to Brooks Farm yarn and get the correct yarn.

Ha ha!  The yarn has been discontinued.  I almost cried right then and there and spent the rest of my sheep and wool darting form one booth to the next in a desperate search for something that will work.  I came up with nothing.

Step 3: start anew

When I got home, I was determined to find yarn that was not only the same weight but also the same color – or at least matching one of the colors that was in the original blanket.

I ordered 5 skeins of Brown Sheep Nature Spun chunky wool which I had seen at Rhinebeck and was certain would match in thickness. $70. I sure wish that I had taken a picture of what I saw at Rhinebeck because once I started knitting it up, it became obvious that I yet again had the wrong yarn.

I admitted defeat.  I was not going to find the same yarn and I wasn’t willing to pay Brooks Farm to match one of the colors in the few remaining undyed skeins they had  (in retrospect, a money saving venture).  Now, I had 5 skeins of a very dark purple yarn, which in itself was not enough to make a blanket for a child who is now almost 4. I was determined to finish this blanket, and make it the most beautiful thing I could knit. In desperation, I bought more yarn in pink and light purple – another $70. Note to the dear reader: I never buy yarn in this unabashed gorging. I make lots of lists and buy yarn to match a specific pattern.

So, I had a giant collection of very chunky yarn and I set off to work.  I wanted to make a rectangular blanket from the center out, knit much like its square cousin. I even made a few swatches working out the technique.  Things were looking up. I had a color scheme and a design.  That was, until I took it off the needles after working 3 skeins into the whole thing.  It bubbled in the center! Rip.

By now, I was feeling pretty manic.  The good thing is that my kids are pretty oblivious to the hard line goals I set for myself and so while they noticed that I kept knitting and ripping out lots of different layouts they only said “Mom, why are you ripping that out again?” but not “My blanket is too small. Why haven’t you made me a new one?”

At this point, I had to find a pattern, so I went to Ravely.  I found a double seed stitch blanket design that I really liked.  The only problem is that I don’t have the needles to knit such long rows, plus, since I didn’t have equal numbers of skeins in each of the 3 colors, it would be quite a challenge to figure out how to make different colored rows look elegant.  I had to make it work in squares, so I could knit it a little at time, but, since I don’t like to cut yarn, I had to make it work in such a way that I could knit 1 square and then knit another square adjacent to it from the same skein.

I swatched for about a week to figure out the size of the square I could knit that would take up exactly 1/2 a skein and then, I started.  It looks beautiful.  I’ve made two squares and I will write up the pattern and you will see how I have figured out a way to knit the squares without cutting yarn and binding off at the end of each square.  Here is the dark purple and the pink together and you can see the ball of the light purple that I will also use alternating.

While I will be making a rectangular blanket, you could use this technique to make square blankets or even odd shapes.

My full list for the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY

I had written a primer on shopping for yarn at the sheep and wool festival in Rhinebeck, NY where I included a partial list of yarns that I am looking to get.  Here is my full list.  Keep in my, my success rate is about 50% so when I come home, I will likely be toting only 1/2 of what I intend to buy.

  1. A sweater for my father in law, worsted weight, in blue color, 8 skeins, probably from Wild Apple Hill Farm, from Hudson, NY. They have an incredible selection of color.  The yarn is tough, but when I accidentally washed a pocket, it became soft and felted beautifully.  I have written this step into the pattern directions I am developing for this sweater.
  2. Socks for my kids, fingering or even better sport weight, 2-3 skeins, bright colors.
  3. Additional yarn for my daughter’s blanket, Brooks Farm, Solana (I bought 3 skeins two years ago, 2 skeins last year which were accidentally the wrong yarn), 3 skeins, matching color. I will bring the blanket to make sure I don’t make a mistake again.
  4. 2 extra skeins of the cream, undyed yarn from the Massachusetts dealer on the top floor of the split barn, for a vest or sweater for myself.
  5. A light sport weight yarn, preferably wool blend, for a spring fall beret for me, in blue color.
  6. Sport or fingering weight wool for gloves for me, two skeins, grey or similar, color
  7. Girls vest made from sparkly yarn
    Vest with a small ruffle at the bottom

    Vest yarn for my daughter, fingering weight, preferably with sparkles, 3 large skeins, purple, pink or blue hues; The last vest I made from Space Cadet Yarns, which has a little bit of sparkle.  They are not coming this year, but I really hope that I can find something similar (or I will have to order online).

  8. Single strand blue/green yarn for a light spring/summer hat and scarf for my daughters, 2-3 skeins
  9. Cotton blend for a dress pattern for my daughters (unlikely to find this at the sheep and wool, but will look); 4.25/inch
  10. Lattice Pie Hat made from Good Kharma Yarn's worsted weight
    Lattice Pie Hat made from Good Kharma Yarn’s worsted weight

    Thin vest yarn for my dad – preferably green colors, sport or thinner. Preferably a wool blend.

  11. 3-5 skeins of Good Karma Yarn, preferably in pink for my Lattice Pie hat and scarf patterns.
  12. Thin hat for the spring or fall for kids called Squared Away
    Thin hat for a child to wear in the spring or fall

    Fingering (8sts/inch) yarn, 2 skeins, solid color, for the Squared Away hat I have been developing.

  13. Fingering weight, 3 skeins, in red and white/cream solid colors, for the Cupcake Hat I have been developing