Over on the Ravelry forums I read something about knitting stranded colourwork with a light tension so that the stitches wouldn't pucker or pull, and something about that must have stuck with me. Even though I've knit several stranded hats that came out just fine, I started this purple one with a mindset of staying loose... and uh. Yeah.

Pirate wearing a purple hat that's far too large.

I revised the pattern a little and knit a second hat at my usual tension, and that one came out just fine. The original could be worn as a slouchy hat, but the double thickness makes it harder to get it to flop over properly. It's too big for Michael, too. It's too big for *everyone*.

Pirate and Michael wearing almost-matching Hollis Hills Hats.

The important thing, though, is that this hat is a gift for my aunt, who admired my Crossing Trails hat at Thanksgiving with so much enthusiasm that I felt compelled to surprise her with something of her own. The pattern is almost ready to share! Keep an eye out for it later this month.

Wouldn't this picture make a perfect album cover? And if you look closely, you can see that he's working on a colourwork project of his own...

Pirate wearing the smaller Hollis Hills Hat, with Michael making bunny ears behind it.

I'm not sure how it started, but I mentioned something about brioche stitch. "What's that?" he asked, and I pulled up some pictures. Then we watched a couple of YouTube videos about how to do the two-colour brioche stitch and the appropriate cast-on for it. Before too long we were heading out to a yarn store, where he bought some Cascade Eco+ in a solid dark and spattered light blue, and between Christmas and New Year's he's knit nearly two feet of scarf. (It's grown quite a bit since I took the picture.)

A dark and light blue brioche scarf in progress.

I'm really pleased he's taken up this hobby. It's fun to share with him! This is only his fifth project and I'm not at all ashamed to say that he's a way better knitter than I was, when I was on my fifth project. That's all kinds of awesome.

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Five and a half years ago, I bought this green Austermann Step yarn at The Mannings (which, sadly, closed a few years ago. Ah well.) It's going to make be my next traveling sock, perfect for hauling around with me to work on while waiting for mechanics and flying across the country. As a winterholiday gift, I got a set of Addi FlexiFlips, and thought that this would be a great time to test them out. I've heard both good and bad things about them, and I've been curious to see if I'll love or hate them.

I already had several inches of sock knitted on my trusty old DPNs, which meant that I'd be working from them onto the new FlexiFlips.

The very beginning of a subtly striped green sock on the needles, with a mostly unknit ball of yarn.

But when I went to make the first stitch, something seemed off. The new needle seemed subtly thicker. Maybe it was just my imagination? I got my gauge ruler.

It wasn't my imagination.

I almost always knit socks on US 1 (2.25mm) Susan Bates DPNs, which I buy at Joann in a multi-pack of sock-sized DPNs for a small amount of money. (They're $10, but then everything at Joann is at least 40% off.) So I'd asked for the FlexiFlips in size 1 as well... without realizing that while Addi do sell a size 2.25mm set of FlexiFlips, their size 1 is actually 2.5mm.

Well, heck. Everyone else calls a 2.5mm needle a US size 1½, not a 1. And Addi's other needle sizes match up with the usual US to mm conversions. Harrumph!

I guess I'll just keep going on the DPNs, because even a .25mm difference in needle size can make an obvious difference in gauge, but... do I spend the money for a set of 2.25mm FlexiFlips, when I'm not even sure I'll like knitting with them? Do I try a different sock on these 2.5mm ones first, despite my concern that they'll be too loose? Do I write to Addi and complain about their non-conventional sizing? How disappointing.

The "obvious" solution, I guess, is to hang onto them and spin some more sock yarn, which tends to come out a little thicker than the commercial yarn (at least it does when I spin it) so that I can finally try these.

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Back in May, I started a pair of toe-up socks using some chain-plied merino yarn that I'd spun up about five years ago. I had eight ounces but I wasn't sure how far it would go, so I wound it into two cakes and started knitting. As the sock grew up my leg, it looked like I'd be able to make knee-highs - and since the yarn was on the thicker side, that seemed like a really good idea. These were gonna be some warm socks.

I worked in calf increases through a series of trying on the sock, measuring, adding more stitches, and taking careful notes so that I could duplicate it for the second sock.

Despite some inconsistency in my spinning (I do feel like I've gotten better since then!) and some nervousness towards the end of the second sock when I was playing yarn chicken (I won!) I am super pleased with the way these came out.

A striped pair of handspun, handknit knee socks with calf shaping.

So now I've got a pair of fraternal twin stripy socks with Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato heel (which I learned from this YouTube video). Here's their project page on Ravelry, with some notes that may or may not be useful to you if you're curious about the calf increases.

And then, of course, I had the fun of trying to take pictures of my own legs and feet from an angle that showed off the socks but didn't look super awkward! Eventually I accomplished it after discovering that my phone's camera will take a picture if I shout "cheese" at it. It should be easier next time, as I got a remote control for the camera as a winterholiday gift!

I also got a lighting kit with those inside-out umbrellas for properly illuminating my subjects, and I'm hoping to get the chance to try that out soon. It's been so dreary and gray, I've had trouble getting good photos - but this should solve that problem nicely.

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As usual, more for myself than anything else, but you may find it interesting as well:

PUBLISHED DESIGNS
Just one, the Crossing Trails Hat - but it raised over $50 for cancer research!

INCOMING YARN AND FIBRE
Yarn:
1 skein Classic Elite Yuri from Laughing Sheep (Mom's LYS)
1 skein Just DK from Shirsty Cat Designs at MD Alpaca and Fleece
2 balls Cascade 220 and 1 ball Cascade 220 Sport

Fibre:
2 ounces silk sliver from MDSW
4 ounces Into the Whirled Corriedale from a fibre trade
8 ounces white Corriedale from a fibre trade
6 ounces Buoy Blend from Hipstrings
6 ounces Shetland sampler pack
8 ounces Dorset
8 ounces Southdown
2.2 pounds custom blend from World of Wool

Total: 5 skeins yarn, 4.8 pounds (yike) of fibre

OUTGOING FIBRE (links go to pictures)
2 batts hand-carded alpaca in a fibre trade with a friend
Finished last year's TdF project: 2 pounds (!), 718 yards bulky three-ply
8 ounces Corriedale -> 296 yards two-ply for future flip-top mittens
2 ounces silk sliver -> 112 yards chainply, to line the mittens
4 oz Falkland and 4 oz Merino/silk -> 364 yards cable-plied yarn for the Tour de Fleece
4 oz yak/silk blend -> 258 yards chainply
6 oz Hipstrings Buoy blend -> 320 yards two-ply
4 ounces Coopworth roving, sold in destash

Total: 3.75 pounds, 2068 yards (wow)

OUTGOING YARN (links go to the post with the finished project)
1 ball Opal Rainforest, for Michael's Tiger Tiger socks (465)
2 skeins Cascade 220 for the Crossing Trails hat (220)
1 skein Cascade Heritage Paints for the Cakewalk Socks (437)
2 balls Patons Kroy and some Serenity Sock for the Rainbow Ragg socks (389) (57)
Handspun merino for the Handspun Socks (500)
1 skein Tess Super Socks for the Boulevardier socks (450)
1 ball Cascade 220 Superwash for Michael's replacement floppy hat (220)
1 skein Brooks Farm Acero, destashed to another Raveler (420)
2 skeins Cascade 220 for the prototype and second version of the "Hollis Hills Hat" (440)
1 skein Cascade 220 sport for the Hollis Hills Hats (136)
1 ball Trekking XXL for Sibling Socks (459)

13 balls / 4193 yards

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No matter how many times I do it, I'm always amazed by the magic that is turning the heel. It might even be my favourite part of knitting a sock.

A blue sock in progress, with a newly turned heel, on a striped navy and white background

Not to be a nudge, but the Crossing Trails Hat pattern is still on sale for 20% off and still raising funds for the Cancer Research Institute. Thanks to you, we'll be donating more than $50 already. With almost a month to go, do you think we can hit $100?

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Michael has had this patriotic Sugar 'n Cream cotton yarn sitting on his windowsill for... well, for a while. He'd thought he might learn how to crochet, but that didn't really happen, so on Sunday while we were watching the football games I made a new washcloth, using my own Scrubbing Nubbles pattern (which is free on Ravelry, if you want to make a washcloth too). Now his living room is a little bit neater.

A red, white, and blue washcloth.

And so's his closet, because he gave me some other yarn that's been languishing for probably a decade - two skeins each of yellow and white Baby Ull (at least, that's what I remember it being - the ball bands are long gone) and four balls of Baby Cashmerino in navy blue. I happily brought this home and re-wound it on the ball winder, since it had all been wrapped up around cardboard tubes.

Unfortunately the Baby Ull had quite a few broken strands on the outside of each ball, but I was able to salvage most of it. I didn't see any signs of bugs anywhere, so the damage is probably quite old, and I'm not going to worry about it. The Cashmerino is totally fine! I'm considering using it all together to make something like the Barndom shawl. Of course, that's just a thought, and thoughts change as time passes... who knows what this might become!

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Some time ago I started designing a pair of flip-top mittens to match the Moorefield Hat. Instead of knitting the glove first and then picking up stitches along the back of my hand for the mitten top, as I've done for all the Fleeps I've made, the plan for these was to knit the mittens first, including a strand of waste yarn across the palm, so that the colourwork could continue uninterrupted on the back of the hand. Once the mittens were done, I'd pull out the waste yarn and have flippy-open mitten tops, and I'd pick up stitches to knit the inside gloves.

I got as far as knitting the whole mitten, with the thumb stitches held for later, and pulled out the waste yarn to work on the inner gloves, and... well... there were some issues.

A partially knit mitten in four colours.

First, the whole thing isn't wide enough to accommodate a glove underneath - or, for that matter, my fingers - at least not if I want to have room to wiggle them around. Second, and relatedly, the thumb opening isn't big enough or high enough. Third, the opening for the mitten top is about five rows too low... and fourth, I'm not at all sure that I have enough of the white yarn left over to make a pair of mittens the way I've got it charted out. (Fifth, unimportantly, I really don't like that braided bind-off. I won't try that again.)

So I've ripped back to the cuff, which fits just fine, and I'm going to try again to make flip-top gloves - fingerless this time, I think - that match the Moorefield Hat. It'll have to be bigger all around, for sure. Maybe just going up a needle size would be enough... it will be an adventure, either way!

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Crossing Trails is a two-colour stranded hat with stylized trails weaving their way down a mountain. There are glades for those who like to ski or snowboard through the trees, and smooth trails for people (like me) who prefer to take the easier way downhill. The corrugated ribbing at the brim represents the perfect corduroy of a freshly groomed mountain.

KnittingPirate wearing the Crossing Trails Hat

Check out the Crossing Trails Hat pattern page on Ravelry or click the button to purchase the pattern:

~~~~~~~~ IMPORTANT NOTICE ~~~~~~~~
To remember those we’ve lost, and to honour those who are dealing with the disease in whatever form, this pattern will be discounted to $3.99 through January 2, 2019, and ALL PROCEEDS will be donated to the Cancer Research Institute. I will post a picture of the donation receipt.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Top view of the Crossing Trails hat

YOU WILL NEED
16" circular needle (optional, but recommended) and a set of five double-point needles, size US 6 (4mm) or the size needed to get gauge for your particular yarn, a stitch marker for the beginning of the round, plus a darning needle to weave in ends. You may also wish to use stitch markers to indicate the five sections of the hat.

YARN and GAUGE
The hat is knit with two contrasting colours of worsted weight yarn, plus a small amount of sport weight yarn if you wish to include a facing. The sample hat was made in Cascade 220 in shades of light and dark gray, using approximately half a skein of each colour, and the facing with approximately 60 yards of Patricia Roberts Lambswool No. 2 in dark gray, all on US 6 (4mm) needles at 23 stitches/4 inches, and fits a 21.5” head with a little bit of ease. Omitting the facing will make a looser hat.

Side view of the Crossing Trails hat on a cork head

Important Copyright Information: The Crossing Trails Hat knitting pattern is © 2018 Knitting Pirate. You may not sell or otherwise distribute copies of this pattern, but you may absolutely sell the hats you make with appropriate credit given for the design. If you have any questions about what you can or can’t do with this pattern, please feel free to contact me.

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(Read to the bottom for a look at my newest hat pattern, coming out tomorrow! I'm so excited!)

Yesterday I went to the Maryland Alpaca and Fleece show with a carful of friends. It was considerably smaller than May's Sheep and Wool, and also quite a bit colder and windier. I was more than a little tempted to buy a woven blanket and wear it under my coat!

Children hold alpacas in a line, while one is brought forward for judging.

Instead, I bought this skein of DK weight yarn from Shirsty Cat Designs. It's so variegated that I'm not sure what colour to call out; the colourway is "Alstroemeria" and it's got some greens and golds, both dark and light blue, and some eggplant purple in it. The skein is so different from one side to the other that I had to take two pictures of it for my Ravelry stash.

A skein of variegated DK weight yarn.

Now the question is, of course, what do I make with it? I'm leaning towards a floppy hat with a slipped-stitch pattern that will help minimize - or perfectly highlight - the beautiful variations of colour in this yarn. It worked for the yarn I used to make the Acres Wild hat, and I'd like to try something similar.

A skein of variegated DK weight yarn.

It was so cold and windy that I got to wear my newest hat, which is super warm thanks to a triple layer of wool over my ears. Here's a sneak peek at it:

Me wearing my new Crossing Trails hat

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I've been working on a new sock pattern. Here's a sneak peek (kinda-sorta):

The start of a blue sock, showing a ribbed cuff and the beginning of a wavy stitch pattern.

Neat, eh? It's a twisted stitch pattern that gently waves its way down the leg and foot of the sock. I really like it; I think it works well with the tonal blues of this yarn.

Over the weekend I got down to the toe, and tried it on before grafting, and... hm. It's way too tight. The stitch pattern looks terribly stretched out. I know that twisted stitches can pull the fabric in, but it shouldn't have been this much. So I measured my gauge on the stockinette sole of the sock, and came up with ten stitches per inch.

Ten? I usually get somewhere between 9 and 9.5 with "standard" sock yarn on size 1 (2.25 mm) needles. Well, that would explain it; that's nearly half an inch difference over my 8.5" circumference foot.

A little bit of math, and I've concluded that I need to restart these socks over ~70 stitches, rather than 63. I have a couple of choices! The obvious one would be to add another seven stitch repeat, but another option would be to add another stitch to the stockinette rib, for an eight stitch pattern repeat and a total of 72 stitches.

Some less obvious options would be to change up the stitch pattern to make it a little more design-y™ - maybe offset the waves, have them split at the heel flap and go down the gusset, that sort of thing.

I'm annoyed, but that's part of the fun of designing, right? Trying stuff, figuring out what works and what doesn't, ripping back, trying again, and making it better the next time.

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