Cute Kitten – A baby hat

Hats seem to be becoming my go-to for baby shower gifts. I like to give something personal to go along with the registry gift. What I love about baby hats are the infinite possibilities for cuteness. Everything looks cuter when it’s baby-sized, but also babies can pull off some spectacular hats in ways that adults never could.

Kitten Hat upright

Very happy with how this hat came out… even if I needed to redo the whiskers about eight times!

I prefer Caron Simply Soft yarn for baby hats because it has a glossy sheen that gives the hat a polished edge without blocking, it’s easy to clean, and best of all it’s soft. I wouldn’t want to put a rough and scratchy material on a baby. Maybe yarn snobs will say I’m not being fancy, but it doesn’t make sense to me to spend $28 on a skein for a project that the child will inevitably grow out of quite quickly.

My yarn stash has gotten a little out of control, so I’ve been challenging myself to not buy yarn this year unless a pattern specifically calls for a size/amount that I do not already possess. Hence why I decided on the white yarn. I had a skein of Caron Simply Soft in white from a previous project. My Nonna also gifted me her yarn stash, and the details are done in yarn from her collection. Unfortunately, her yarn didn’t have any labels so I don’t have any information about the pink or grey yarns.

Kitten hat flat

Brim unfolded in this picture.

I free-styled the pattern for this hat. The body is a basic stockinette-stitch beanie with a ribbed edge. The outer and inner ears and nose are knit separately and sewn on. The whiskers are embroidered on last. I tried to also embroider eyes, but I’m not very good at embroidery. After several attempts, each yielding eyes slightly crazier than the last, I decided that no eyes was better than crazy eyes.

I’m happy with how this hat turned out, and I’m looking forward to sending this off to my cousin who is expecting their first child soon!

Happy Knitting!

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Fair Isle First – The Owl Mitts

Fair Isle knitting looks way more intimidating than it actually is. These cute owl mitts were my first attempt at Fair Isle knitting style, and I really enjoyed it. I loved watching the pattern come together with each new row.

At the Gore Sheepshearing Festival this spring, my friend B and I purchased the pattern  by Subito Farms for these Owl Mitts. The pattern uses size 4 double-pointed needles, and also came with several additional charts that we could use for future projects. We used the recommended sock-weight yarn called Polkagris by Subito Farms (75 yards of blue and 75 yards of white), also purchased at the Festival.

Owl Mitt front and back

The Owl pattern is on the back of the hand, with the hexagon pattern on the palm of the mitt.

Getting started, as it usually tends to be, was the hardest part. Neither B or I had ever knit Fair Isle style before, and the pattern was not the easiest to read. The written instructions were in abbreviations, but there was no glossary for the terms. We figured it out, but it made for a discouraging start.

Luckily, we received some guidance from the shop owner of Inspire to Knit & Tea in Plymouth, NH when we were purchasing new knitting needles for the project. Neither of us had size 4 and saw this as a good excuse to buy new needles – as if one needs another excuse to visit a yarn shop! For more on the skills I learned during this project, check them out here.

Once we got through the first few rows into the chart, it started to click and we got into a groove. This project knit up quickly, and watching the owl design develop with every row was both satisfying and gratifying.

Owl Mitt Face

This pattern reminded me of Hedwig!

Surprisingly, I found it a lot easier to keep track of my place while knitting in Fair Isle style. The chart made it easier to keep track of individual stitches. It also made it faster to pinpoint mistakes (for better or worse). Fair Isle does not seem to be very forgiving if one misses a stitch or a color change. More than once I needed to undo a row or two when I got careless.

I also made the embarrassing mistake of forgetting the ribbing rows prior to bind-off. It wasn’t until after I finished the second mitt that I realized that error. I needed to undo my bound-off edge to correct that one. Luckily it’s fixed and I’m quite pleased with the result.

All in all, I enjoyed Fair Isle style and I’m glad that I tried it. I feel like a door has been opened to a whole new world of colorful, patterned possibilities.

Happy knitting!

Inside the Summer Knitting Bag

Summertime is a great time to knit, I love knitting by the water or the campfire. Nothing is more relaxing. Here’s a quick look at the projects I’ve been working on this Summer.

 

The Sun Shawl

Current Status: Final laps

I am loving this pattern by Sylvia McFadden! It’s been an amazing summer knit. I started the project while on vacation in July and continued working on it during my commute until it grew too large (and heavy). Now it’s become my weekend project by the campfire or in the car during long trips on the highway (in the passenger seat obviously – no one can knit and drive).  It’s a circular shawl, so part of the driving force for me to finish it is so I can see how the finished piece looks. Although, it’s so heavy that I’m starting to wonder if it might become more of a small blanket. Either way, I can’t wait to finish so I can wrap myself up in it on a summer evening.

I’ve been keeping track of my progress in my Ravelry projects. I’m using Berroco Vintage in Douglas Fir, which is a lovely shade of green that photographs horribly in low light (which is why I have so few pictures of my progress on this one). I almost through my third skein in this project, and am pretty sure I’ll need to use a fourth. 

Fair Isle Owl Mitts

Current Status: Awaiting their photo-shoot

These adorable mitts were my first attempt at Fair Isle Knitting and my first attempt at chart knitting. I learned a lot while making them, and really enjoyed the process. I look forward to trying more Fair Isle patterns in the future. I still need to take pictures of them, so hopefully soon I can share them here!

Cute Kitten Baby Hat

Current Status: Ready to mail

This hat was a quick-knit project, I completed the body of the hat in a weekend and the detailing took about a week. I didn’t use a pattern for the hat, I improvised as I went. I need to wrap it now and get in a mailer to send to my cousin as a baby shower gift. I have a post about it coming soon!

A Sweater

Current Status: Pattern purchased

Over the winter I came across the pattern book PlumDandi, which I gushed about here. Last week authors Alicia Plummer and Melissa Schaschwary hosted a sale on their independently published patterns. I purchased three sweater patterns, but haven’t decided which one to try for my first sweater.

Here are my options:

  1. Overlynd by Melissa Schaschwary
  2. Real Life by Alicia Plummer
  3. Backshore by Alicia Plummer
  4. Keene by Alicia Plummer
  5. Genesee by Melissa Schaschwary

I’m likely going to use a Berroco yarn, because I love them, in a neutral color. Not sure which one I’ll start with, but I’m really excited for this next big project!

5 Beginner Tips for Fair Isle Knitting

This summer I knit in Fair Isle style for the first time. I used to be intimidated by the pattern intricacies, but am so happy I tried this knitting style. Fair Isle knitting is not as difficult as it appears, and it’s a lot of fun to knit. During my first  Fair Isle project, I was given some advice I’d like to share with other Fair Isle newbies, in the hopes that others will not be as afraid to start like I was for so long.

1. Knit loosely

This advice came from the shop owner of Inspire to Knit & Tea in Plymouth, NH. If you naturally tend to knit true to gauge or loose, you’ll be fine. If you are naturally a tight knitter, you’ll need to be cognizant of every stitch.

Knitting too tightly pulls the carried yarns and shrinks the project. My friend, B, experienced this firsthand. She’s knits tightly, and her project bunched within the first 5-10 rows. We compared our mitts and hers was half the width of mine. She needed to unravel and begin again.

2. Charts read right to left

Knitting charts are read right to left, starting from the bottom of the right-hand corner. As you work your way through the chart, you’re going upwards. The chart may have numbers indicating stitches and rows to help you navigate.

Chart knitters would already know this information, but this was also my first chart knitted project so I was completely unaware. Thankfully the shop owner also mentioned this helpful guidance!

3. Second mitten’s chart is opposite

When working on the second mitten, the chart is read in the opposite direction: left to right. This ensures the completed mitten is a mirror image of the other. It makes sense when you think about it, but if the shop owner hadn’t told me I’m not sure I would have thought of it!

4. Carry yarn loosely from behind

When carrying the non-working yarn, ensure that its always on the wrong-side of the project. Otherwise, the carried yarn will obscure your pattern entirely! This is harder to see when knitting ribbing in alternating colors, but would become very apparent once you segued into the pattern.

It’s also important to carry the yarn loosely. I can’t stress this enough! If the yarn is pulled too tight, it will create a bump or a bulge in the finished object.

5. Twist the yarn

Twisting the carried yarns when switching colors helps to prevent holes in between the stitches. To achieve this, I would always change colors by carrying the new working yarn over the completed working yarn prior to making the first stitch in the new color. Every few color changes I would need to untwist the yarn balls, which was a pain, but the finished object was worth the effort.

Thinking I was being clever, I tried carrying the Main Color over the Contrasting Color and the Contrasting Color under the Main Color during each color switch to prevent the yarn from twisting and needing to untangle the yarn balls. As a result, my owl’s face on the right-hand mitten is not quite as tight as the face on the left-hand mitten. Also, when stretched, there are holes in between the color work. To correct this mistake, I would have had to undo half of the mitten. Since this project was only for me, and not a gift, I chose to live with it.

 

I’m still a novice when it comes to Fair Isle Knitting, but these tips are the ones I learned on my first project to help get me started. What are some other tips out there for Fair Isle beginners?

Revising the Ravelry Goal

At the start of the year, I set a Ravelry Challenge Goal of completing 7 projects. Some of the projects in my queue were on the larger side, so this seemed doable. I underestimated myself though – I met my goal at the end of March!

So I’ve decided to increase my goal for the year. I think 15 projects will be a good number. I want to continue to challenge myself, so we’ll see how this goes!

Of course, my knitting queue largely falls on what inspires me in the moment, so this isn’t entirely set in stone or really in any order. It’s more of a wish list.

Here’s my current queue wish list

  1. The second Viking Hat (personal pattern)
  2. The Cunning Hat (personal pattern)
  3. Anchor hat pattern
  4. Another hat (undecided pattern yet)
  5. Fair isle mitts (from the Sheepshearing festival)
  6. Sweater for me (there are two patterns from Plum Dandi Knits that I’m eyeing)
  7. Sweater for my husband (Expedition pattern by Todd Gocken)
  8. Socks for my husband (toe-up, magic loop method)

One of the hats is currently in the works, and I’m about to start selecting yarns for the next one. The fair isle mitts and socks are also both likely this year, (probably in the summer when it’s too hot to work on large projects) because both of those would also involve learning new techniques. I’m curious to see if the rest of the patterns will ultimately be the ones I work on to round out my challenge goal, or if another pattern will come along the way.

Inside the Knitting Bag

Two hat projects in the works right now, both at different stages of completion. Both of these hats are patterns I’m designing myself, and the finished hats are intended as Christmas gifts for my relatives.

Viking Helmet Hat

The body of hat is now complete, this yarn is so soft to the touch. The design is based on a trapper-style hat, so I picked up the stitches along the cast-on edge to create a neck guard to the helmet. I decided to do this section in garter stitch, because I like the simplicity of it and the contrast adds a little dimension to the hat.

I’ve also knitted the base of the two horns, but they’re not entirely complete. Next up for the horns will be stuffing, a mattress stitch to add a curve to the center, and sewing the horns onto the hat.

The Clever Hat (Firefly’s Jayne Cobb inspired)

Cast on is complete! I made a game-day decision and changed the needle sizing for my pattern. Rather than casting on with US Size 6 needles I went with US Size 8. I think after the ribbing section is complete, I’ll switch to US Size 9 or 10 for the body of the hat.

The hat consists of three color blocks, the first is in orange yarn. For that I’m using stash yarn from my Grandma’s stash. She used to make orange hats for us when we would go playing in the woods so we would easily be spotted.  She had several skeins of yarn in just the shade I was looking for, and it seemed more sensible to use what she had rather than buy new yarn.

Gore Sheepshearing Festival Recap

Last weekend we joined our friends at the annual Sheepshearing Festival at Gore Place in Waltham, MA. It’s a fun family-friendly event that takes place at the Gore Historical Society, a large house on beautiful grounds. There are animals (sheep, alpacas, and sheepdogs),  a craft fair (mostly centered around yarn and wool crafts), lots of food trucks, tables from community businesses and groups, and a band.

DSC_0182

Ready for his haircut!

This is our second year attending the festival with our good friends. We arrived shortly after 10:00 and started the morning off watching a farmer deftly trip his flock with shears. It was impressive the amount of strength and dexterity it took to keep the animal still and calm during the process. The wool was clipped in one large piece, rather than trimmed at the ends like a haircut.

Gore Sheepshearing Festival

The wool is sheared off in one piece.

Then the girls strolled the yarn booths at the craft fair (swoon), while the boys visited Wild Billy’s soda truck and the other food vendors. We of course had to stop by the alpacas – they’re so fluffy and cute!

Alpaca

It looks like he’s smiling!

As is tradition, B and I each bought a new yarn kit. This year we’re going to learn fair isle knitting. Neither of us have done it before, so by each having the same kit we can compare notes as we go. The pattern is for a pair of blue and white fingerless gloves featuring an owl motif.

B was more adventurous this year – she’s also going to try spinning! She bought a drop spindle and a few ounces of brightly dyed wool. I’m excited to see how it goes!

We overindulged at lunch, buying salads with grilled salmon from the booth run by the local boy scouts troop (healthy!) and chicken tenders and fries because we were shopping hungry (not so healthy!). There are so many food options at the festival it’s hard to choose.

DSC_0204

The militia on the march.

There are also colonial reenactments of daily life and militia, which is pretty cool. They have tents stationed at the front and back of the house, and the militia will periodically parade between them. families reenact daily life scenes such as preparing meals or spinning on a spinning wheel (like the kind in sleeping beauty). The historical society offers tours of the interior of the house.

Handmade lace

Completed handmade lace is very delicate and beautiful

While we didn’t participate in the tour, B and I did step inside to see the lace-making demonstration. Lace-making seems intensely complex! The patterns and multiple strands of thread connected to bobbins was very cool to see, it’s a true art form.

Another great festival in the books!

Inside the Knitting Bag

My current knitting bag has a few projects happening, incidentally they’re all hat-related. After having finished a few larger projects following patterns, I was in the mood for something quicker. Then I decided to create my own patterns… so there went the quickness. I’m really happy with the directions of all these projects.

Viking Helmet Hat – Toddler size

I’ve started the Christmas knitting early. Our nephews are close in age, so I thought it would be fun to knit them some superhero-themed hats this year. I couldn’t find any patterns online, so I decided to create my own.

For the first hat, I’m working on one inspired by the character Loki. I’m using a basic trapper-style cap design to create the helmet shape, with the intention of picking up the stitches from the brim to create the ear flaps. The initial cast-on for the brim also includes a little dip to indicate the front of the helmet.

Bear Cub Hat – Baby size

I finished this cute little baby hat, and since it’s the second hat like this that I’ve made, I want to write the pattern down. It’s a hat I enjoy making, but it would be much easier to have my notes consolidated rather than to have to recreate the pattern each time.

Jayne Cobb Inspired Hat – Adult Size

Very early stages. I’ve sketched out the design and drafted the pattern for the hat. Now I need to find the yarn for it. This will be another Christmas gift this year….

This hat is also a trapper-style hat. It will feature a basic cap: knit-in-the round in stockinette stitch with a brim done in ribbing. There will be a pom-pom on top and the stitches for the ear flaps will be picked up from the brim and knit down.

Sawyer Complete

I’ve gushed about the latest pattern book on my bookshelf, Plum Dandi Knits: Simple Designs for Luxurious Yarns by Alicia Plummer & Melissa Schaschwary, and that’s where I found this lovely pattern, Sawyer.

Coffee break

Pausing for a coffee break in Portsmouth, Sawyer kept me warm on a chilly, windy day.

For this pattern, I used one and a half skeins of Berroco Vintage in black currant, a yarn that I received as a Christmas gift this year. I love how soft this yarn is.

This was one of those patterns that I wore as soon as I finished it. Spring has been unusually cold this year, which has given me more opportunities to wear this item. There’s two ways to wear it, depending on the look you’re going for. I tend to gravitate toward the Cowl option.

I completed the majority of the knitting for this project during my commute. The lace pattern repeats were the perfect balance for challenging my concentration and allowing me to get lost in the knitting.

All in all, I loved this pattern; and it’s so easy to wear that it makes the delay of nice spring weather not so hard.

Quick Knit Hat

This hat, Pebble by Sylvia McFadden of Softsweater Knits, is probably the fastest hat I’ve ever knit. Granted, I was participating in the Ravellenic Winter Games, so I had a self-imposed two-week deadline. I was really proud of myself for finishing a hat in two weeks and finishing my first hat that involved lace work.

Pebble Hat side view

I’m wearing the hat very slouchy, but since it’s a beanie you can wear it close to the forehead too. It’s a good length for a hat.

I used exactly one skein of Paton’s Kroy Socks FX Yarn in Cascade Colors (and I mean exactly one, after bind-off I had six inches of yarn remaining). The pattern calls for the size 1 yarn to be “held double”, but this is a four-ply yarn, so even though it’s a size 1 it knits like a size 3. I took a gamble and went with it. I also didn’t knit a gauge swatch – horrible I know!! But when the gauge is twenty rows knit in the round in the lace pattern – at that point I just took a second gamble that my gauge would be close enough. Worst that could happen I would need to undo the hat. Luckily that didn’t happen, my gauge was close enough to the pattern that even with my two little tweaks it worked out okay.

Pebble Hat

I love the color of the yarn against the snow!

The most challenging part about this pattern is that I needed to check the pattern constantly. There were times when I’d finish a row, only to then have to un-knit the entire row because I missed a stitch at the beginning of the row that would throw off the entire pattern. Sometimes I hide my mistakes when knitting, but this hat doesn’t seem like the type of pattern that would hide mistakes well. I’m happy I was a perfectionist about completing this pattern, because the end result is beautiful!

Overall, I’m pleased as punch with how it turned out. I love the gradient color of yarn, it knit up beautifully and really showcases the stitches well. I’m saving the hat for my mom for mother’s day, even though it won’t quite be winter weather by then.