Archive for the “colourwork” Category

Before last week's vacation, I decided that I wanted to make a new scarf on the machine (since there was no way I was going to get new mittens finished in time)m using Loops & Threads "Woolike" yarn from Michaels that I bought as practice yarn for the machine. It's a light fingering weight, mostly acrylic yarn with a soft feel to it, and it's quite inexpensive - $2.99 for 678 yards, but with the ubiquitous 40% off coupons, it comes out to $1.80 a ball.

First, I spent some time using Excel as graph paper (tedious, but sometimes I have a lot of down time at work) charting out the design for the border and main body of the scarf. This is what I came up with, though it got tweaked a little before I started - partly to adjust the stitch count for the width of scarf I wanted, and partly because it's more convenient to have even numbers of solid-coloured rows to avoid breaking the contrast colour yarn.

A screen capture of a fair isle knitting chart, done in Excel

Then, I had to figure out how to get this chart into Designaknit, which isn't exactly the most intuitive or user-friendly program. With that accomplished, I then figured out how to load the pattern into the machine, and began to knit.

It wasn't long before things went sideways. I didn't quite get the contrast yarn into the carriage properly, and dropped a whole bunch of stitches as a result. After some time trying to rescue the piece, I decided that it would be easier to just start over... so I did.

The end of the scarf, with solid blue lines separating a small snowflake border from the main body snowflake pattern.

The second attempt went a lot better. Not that I didn't make mistakes! The major one was that I forgot to keep an eye on my yarn supply as it fed up through the mast, and at one point a big chunk of yarn barf got hung up in the tensioner and I produced one super-tight row. I successfully unraveled it and then didn't get the machine set properly, so my next row was the wrong one in the pattern... which I didn't realize for another ten rows.

It takes 2.5 minutes to knit a 28 row pattern repeat across 150 needles. It takes an hour to unravel ten rows of colourwork.

Anyway, that was the worst of it, and I made the rest of the scarf with little further problem. I brought it on vacation with me, optimistically thinking that the seaming wouldn't take the whole week... but it did, and I sewed the last bit of it up on the morning that we left for home. For the seaming, I used a small crochet hook to line up the motifs on each side, and then made an attempt at doing mattress stitch.

Seaming the long side of the scarf

As a test piece goes, I'm quite happy with this scarf. I've worn it twice now, and it's incredibly squishy, soft, and comfortable - and *warm*! I have no idea how well the yarn will wear or how quickly it will get fuzzy and pulled, but since it took a few evenings to make and under $6 in cost, I don't mind if it does. My seaming skills could certainly use some improvement, and I already know how I would change the design and making-up for the next time... because there will definitely be a next time!

A long scarf with traditional snowflake motifs in navy blue and gray colours.

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I have a collection of Cascade 220 leftovers, and thought that it would be a good idea to make a scrappy pair of Fleeps (convertible glove-mittens) with stranded colourwork for extra warmth. First I charted out a colour pattern and then I colour-coordinated the leftovers with the remaining yarn from my Acres Wild hat, which will be used as the lining for the cuff and mitten top.

A collection of small balls of yarn in shades of greens, purples and blues.

Then I started knitting. I couldn't tell at first if I had the size right, though I'd measured and done some math and re-measured and re-calculated. It looked small. But knitting always looks small, and once I had it well past the cuff and into the hand section, I tried it on.

It's too small. (It's lumpy over my wrist because I didn't take my watch off when I tried it on, since I wouldn't be taking my watch off in real life, either.)

The back side of a colourwork mitten in progress.

While I like how the colourwork looks on the back of my hand, I'm not really fond of how it looks on the palm or the thumb gusset. And there are going to be far too many yarn-ends to weave in at the end of this project. Just look at that cuff! Ends everywhere - blargh.

The palm side of a colourwork mitten in progress, showing the start of a thumb gusset.

So I ripped it all out, wound the yarn back into balls, charted out a different colourwork pattern over more stitches with the thumb gusset increasing more sharply, and started again. I'll laugh if this attempt turns out to be too large, instead of too small. And then I'll cry, and then I'll start over again with a happy medium of stitches. Knitting is supposed to be fun and relaxing, right?

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Not that stranded colourwork is particularly difficult, but I feel like I'm done with the "hard part": I finished the outside of my new hat yesterday, and now it's time to unzip the provisional cast-on and knit the "easy part" otherwise known as the stockinette lining. It's almost a shame to cover this up, isn't it? But if I don't, not only will the hat be too big but it will also be less warm than I want. I have a sportweight yarn in a beautiful blue-green that will make a striking contrast.

Red and white stranded colourwork as seen from the inside. Star/snowflake shapes are on the bottom, and a series of dashes and dots on the top.

My original thought had been to make an overstuffed pompom for the top of the hat, but now that I'm looking at this nifty star formed by the decreases, I'm not so sure. Maybe I'll sew a button to the inside so that it can be detachable. What do you think - pompom, or no?

(I think I might have to try it, just to see how it looks.)

The top of a red and white hat. The stitches and colours form a star shape.

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At this point I really don't need more hats, but I've been having so much fun knitting them that I started a new one anyway. This one will have a snowy theme, and Michael helped me chart it out so I'm doubly excited to knit it.

Burgundy and white balls of yarn, with a circular needle that has the beginnings of a new hat.

Like the other hats, I'm knitting this in Cascade 220 with a 220 Sport lining, but unlike the other hats I've started with a provisional cast-on. It's something I've never done before, but my mom (who, by the way, has test-knit both the Crossing Trails and Hollis Hills hats) suggested it as a way to avoid the annoyance of having the lining curl up into the work while you're trying to knit.

The funny thing about that is that the provisional cast-on is even more in the way, as the chain is fairly loose... oops? Have I done it wrong?

Closeup of the start of a hat, with the provisional cast-on curling around.

I looked up several variations and decided to try the one where you crochet directly onto the needle and go from there, rather than attempt to pick up the stitches from a long chain. Once I had all the stitches I needed on my needle, I chained a few more before cutting the yarn and pulling it through the last chain. That will make it easy to "unzip" when it's time to knit the lining.

My goal is to have this hat knit and the pattern written up for publication before it starts warming up too much. I'd love to wear it on one of our snowboarding trips this winter!

(On that note, I keep seeing these gorgeous - and expensive - Dale of Norway sweaters in the ski shops. I might just have to knit one for myself. And then there are the doubleknit hats, another technique I haven't yet tried... and the cowls... so many ideas, so little time!)

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One of my New Year's resolutions for 2019 was to release more knitting patterns, and I'm happy to share the first one of the year with you! Please extend a warm welcome to the Hollis Hills Hat.

For the past twenty years or so, my aunt and uncle have hosted Thanksgiving as an annual family reunion. Two dozen (or more) of us descend on their house from all over the country, starting our celebration on Wednesday evening and keeping it going straight through the weekend. Since New York can be cold in November, I wore one of my warmest hats to Thanksgiving dinner last year – and my aunt admired it to the point of putting it on her own head and running off to look at herself in the mirror. I asked her (not too subtly) what colour her winter coat was, and then sent her this hat as a surprise bit of thanksgiving.

Check out the Hollis Hills Hat in Ravelry's pattern library, or click the button to add it to your cart there:

Hollis Hills Hat, modeled

The hat is knit with two contrasting colours of worsted weight yarn, plus a small amount of sport weight yarn for the facing. I knit this purple hat with Cascade 220, using approximately half a skein of each colour, and approximately 70 yards of Cascade 220 Sport Superwash for the facing.

The pattern includes charts for two sizes and has an optional facing, which is knit in a lighter-weight yarn on the same size needles. Omitting the facing will result in a looser hat.

Hollis Hills Hat

The beet-red facing feels like a fun surprise, hiding away underneath the more subtle purples.

Hollis Hills Hat, with the brim turned up to show the lining

Half a skein of the 220 sport was enough for a lining that's more than three inches tall, so there's a triple-thickness of wool to keep the cold off one's ears.

Hollis Hills Hat, inside-out

I hope you enjoy knitting this hat as much as I did!

Important Copyright Information: The Hollis Hills Hat knitting pattern is © 2019 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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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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Over the weekend I sewed the lining into the hat (which wasn't nearly as tricky as I was expecting). I used the instructions on Techknitter's blog post, which also explains why one would want to sew a facing down rather than knit it in. The only difference is that I didn't split the stitch I was sewing onto, because I want the stitches and floats to be able to move and shift around when the hat is blocked.

A stranded colourwork hat is inside out, with a facing partially sewn in. A darning needle is halfway into the next stitch to be tacked down.

And then, yeah, I took out the top of the hat and re-knit it. There were some really loose stitches that I couldn't tighten up well enough, I wasn't 100% happy with one of the decreases being white instead of black, and I wanted a smoother decrease overall. It was worth the time it took to do, and I'm glad I didn't spend a lot of time waffling over whether I should or shouldn't.

The hat took a nice warm bath in some Eucalan right now, and I'm excited to see what it looks like once it's blocked and dry! (Also: the soap dispenser in my bathroom is one my dad made. He's getting really good at this pottery thing. I haven't asked him, but I bet he'd be happy to take orders for yarn bowls...)

A stranded colourwork hat floats in a bathroom sink full of water topped with bubbles.

Edited to add: it's drying now! Is it impolite of me to say that I think it looks amazing?

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In an effort to get this hat finished while it's still cold enough to wear it this year, I finished knitting it earlier this week... and then spent far too long angling the camera, myself, and the bathroom mirror to get a good picture of it. It's still unblocked here; the lining isn't sewn down yet, and I've left the lifeline in for insurance, because I'm not 100% sure that the way I worked the decreases will block out smoothly.

This weekend I plan to do all the finishing work and get some good photos, and then I can write up the pattern for publication! I'm pretty excited about releasing my first pattern of 2018, and hopefully I'll have the time to design and knit and write some more before the year is out. I'd like to get back to my purple cabled socks next. After that, who knows?

There's also been some progress on the second of my green Cakewalk socks - it's about halfway through the leg now. I've been knitting while watching YouTube videos (watercolour tutorials, interestingly enough) because I can't knit and watch TV or movies very well. At least, not if I want to keep track of the plot, characters, and dialogue!

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Yesterday I had a surprise day off work due to high winds. It was such a strange storm - we didn't really get any rain, only winds. The airport a few miles away reported wind gusts of almost 70 miles an hour! Trees came down around the area, lots of people lost power, bridges were closed, and they're just now starting to get everything put back together again. But hey, a day off means a day to knit! And what better project to work on than my new hat design?

There I was, happily knitting away, when it occurred to me that the hat was looking awfully... well... tall. There are a lot of rounds left in my chart, and my head's not that big. Hm, I thought to myself, it's the same number of rounds as that other hat I made, and that one fits all right. So I kept going. But it kept nibbling at the edge of my thoughts. Isn't this hat kind of tall? I'm nowhere near the decrease rounds yet. Am I sure about this?

black and white hat in progress, about 2/3 done

I went downstairs and retrieved last year's hat, which fits me snugly and is exactly the right height, and set it down next to the new hat. Suddenly the mistake was crystal-clear:

black and white hat WIP next to finished colourwork hat

I had knit fifteen rounds of corrugated ribbing instead of ten. The chart says ten (I triple-checked) so I don't know why those five extra rounds are in there, but there they are. I could see three options:

One, ignore the problem and keep knitting. But then I'd have a too-tall hat, wouldn't I, and what good is a too-tall hat? It wouldn't be sufficiently too tall to become a slouchy hat, it would just be a sticky-up hat. No good.

Two, rip back to the tenth round of ribbing and begin again. But then I'd lose a lot of work, and a lot of time, and I'd be annoyed.

Three, rework the chart so the decreases at the top of the hat begin a little earlier. That seemed like the most wise decision to make, so that's what I've done, and I think it will be all right.

I still have a doubt or two about the hat's circumference, but I'm sure I'm not fully accounting for the power of a good strong wet blocking. With only 20-something rounds to go, I should be finding that out pretty soon!

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While the commitment trying to start and finish a project during the Olympics is more than I want to take on right now, *starting* seemed easy enough. (Starting is always the easy part, isn't it.) And so, while I watched the Opening Ceremonies, I cast on for a new colourwork hat, with the same Cascade 220 that I used for Michael's bicolour hat.

My original plan had been to use a two-colour cast on, knit some corrugated ribbing, then pick up stitches from the cast on edge and knit a facing in a slightly thinner yarn, the leftover sportweight lambswool from my old Highwayman Armwarmers. That didn't quite work out the way I'd hoped, but before I ripped it all out to start over, I took this video of the way I work the corrugated ribbing:

I hold both strands of yarn in my left hand, the darker one over my index finger and the lighter over my middle finger. The working yarns are wrapped twice around my pinky to maintain tension, which is why they look as if they're twisted together. Normally when I'm knitting with just one strand, it's only wrapped once, but with two (or more) strands they pull against each other and get a little loose.

Anyway, I didn't like the way the cast-on edge looked after I'd picked up the stitches, so I scrapped it and started over with a new technique. Instead of starting with the hat and working the facing afterwards, I started with the facing. I cast on the same number of stitches as I'd planned for the hat, using the thinner yarn but on the same size needles as I'll use for the hat, and I knit until my leftovers were almost gone, saving some for sewing the facing down later. (There's actually another full ball of the stuff in my stash, but I didn't want to dip into that. I can use it for other hats!)

With 3.25" (just over 8cm) of facing knit, I switched to the Cascade 220 and knit one round in each shade of gray, then purled one round for a turning ridge, and then got started on the body of the hat with the corrugated ribbing.

While it looks as though that purl round is sticking out unattractively right now, it will create a spot in the knitting that just wants to fold inwards (because inside, it's a recessed round of knit stitches amongst a sea of purls) and will create a nice firm edge at what will be the bottom of this hat, once the facing is folded up and sewn down.

If all goes according to plan (I estimated the gauge based on Michael's hat, and I know how big my own head is, and I'm pretty sure this will fit... I hope...) I'll have a double-warm hat with a triple-warm band around my ears. And if it comes out too big, then someone else will have a double-warm hat with a triple-warm brim. But I think it will work. Fingers crossed.

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