Sunday, January 4, 2015

My 2015 Knitsolutions

Okay, so it's super-difficult to create a portmanteau (I've always wanted to work that word into regular "conversation") of "knitting" and "resolutions." And yes, I think you're supposed to set these up before the new year.

So let's just get to it. When I list them out, put them out into the universe, hopefully that will make me more accountable and stick to the plan. And no, "go the gym more" won't show up on this list anywhere.

Blog More

I mean, this one is obvious that I can't even write more than "this is obvious."

Knit More

Why would I even have to put this down in a list of resolutions? Everyone needs a simple gimme-resolution so that you have a sense of accomplishment. I can already check mark this one DONE.

Design More

I've got lots of ideas. I've got patterns I've half-started and just never pulled the trigger. I want to push myself to design new things that I haven't tried before: sweaters for adults, maybe a mitten or glove. Some things I can't see myself designing. Socks, for example. There are already so many amazing sock designs and, frankly, I hate knitting socks. (I've been working on the same pair of socks for probably three years. Maybe I'll finish them this year.)

I've set a goal of at least 12 pattern releases for the year. There will definitely be a few more scarves, cowls and other neckwear. Also look for a hat or two. I've got one on the backburner that'll compliment Bluestone really nicely. There is a sleeveless sweater in a heavy aran yarn with a simple knit/purl graphic pattern I think you'll really love.

Miss Babs' K2
Shaken Not Stirred

Expand My Yarn-y Horizons

Let's face it, we all have yarn we love and go back to over and over. The old favorites, the workhorses, the yarns you know consistently have the colors and the feel you love. Except, there are literally, like, gazillions of amazing yarns out there that we don't get a chance to try. Maybe they're just not that popular, or too "average" and normal. Or new. Or we just have a default. Maybe it's a different weight than we usually use. For example, I'm often a fan of fingering or light DK weight yarns, perfect for shawls and lace, but last week, I ordered a bulky merino from Miss Babs (go check out K2) and, wow, I'm in love: one day and I have a new hat and I'm already scheming how to score some more.

Bonus, my new K2 has was knit with my Stress-Free Hat pattern! Try it!

And if I find a yarn I like, I'm definitely telling you all about it.

Finish That Baby Blanket

The baby was born last month. I need to get it done. And soon. Yesterday.

What are your knitsolutions? (I still think that looks like "knit fixes" but it's the best I can do.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Stress-Free Knits - A Hat

I run into fellow knitters pretty often and one thing I hear a lot is "I need to make a hat for... " and "How do I knit a hat?" Everyone wants a hat, needs a hat, makes a hat. And there are so many hat patterns available. Hats of all kinds: lace and fair isle and big floppy and tight beanie and cabled and felted and beaded and... well, you get the idea. The patterns are out there. Go get one. (I would, of course, suggest my Bluestone plaid hat when you want a really special gift for someone.)

But, really, sometimes you just want a basic hat. All the fancy is great for hats for yourself. You know what went into it. You have all the pleasure of wearing that hat and knowing how you made it. But gifts for non-crafters? C'mon. Admit it to yourself. They generally aren't as impressed with what a hat looks like as you are. They don't notice fancy tubular cast on or intricate cables and lace. They say "Hey, this hat is comfortable and it keeps me warm and it's a color I like." So, go easy on yourself.

2 skeins Plymouth Gina
US #10 needles
Friday afternoon--yes, I'm not lying, Friday afternoon and in about 2 1/2 hours--I whipped up a very basic hat using two skeins of Plymouth Gina yarn, a really great wool with long color changes. It's the most basic hat: several rounds of ribbing, 1 round of increases, plain stockinette to the top, and four quick rounds of decreases. The secret to success with this basic hat is lining up the color change so that it starts in basically the same spot but offset a little - when one skein changes color, the other will start changing a bit later, staggering the color changes.

For my adult-sized hat, I used 16" US #10 (6.0mm) needles.
  • Cast on 68 stitches, join in the round (don't twist your stitches over the needle or you'll never have a hat!) and place a marker for the beginning of the round.
  • Work 9 rounds or 1x1 ribbing (knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, over and over, around and around).
  • Increase round: knit 5, knit front and back and repeat all the way around. There aren't enough stitches to work another knit front and back at the end.
  • Keep going around and around in plain stockinette until the hat is 8" from the cast on edge.
  • Decrease round: knit 4, *knit 3, knit two together, repeat from * to end of round
  • Knit one round plain
  • Decrease round: knit 2, knit two together, repeat all the way around
  • Knit one round plain (you probably want to move your stitches to double pointed needles here)
  • Decrease round: knit 1, knit two together, repeat all the way around
  • Knit one round plain
  • Decrease round: knit two together all the way around
  • Decrease round: knit two together all the way around (yes, do that round twice with no plain row)
  • Cut your yarn and use a darning needle to slip go through all the live stitches. Remove your needles and cinch it up tight. Weave in ends and put it on. It's awesome!
Don't stress about your hat knitting! All your friends and family will have warm heads this and every winter.



A pair of hats made with this basic "recipe" for a hat
Spud and Chloe Fine
Do you have some yarn you want to turn into a hat? Here's my formula for a basic hat that will fit someone at sometime. (And I'm a bit of a heretic, I guess. I just go for best-effort.)

First, a little math. An adult head is roughly somewhere between 20" and 23" around. Generally. Knitting stretches so don't worry too much about perfection. It's a hat! Now, look at the band on your skein of yarn. You want to find two pieces of information: recommended needle size and gauge. Pretty generally, I pick out a needle that's a size or two smaller than the one recommended by the yarn but if it's a lightweight yarn, I don't go down too much either. Use your best judgment. You're smart!

Next you need to know the gauge. It might be in words or in a picture. Or ask the yarn store owner to help you figure out the gauge. Now, do a little math. If the gauge is something like "18 stitches/4 inches", divide 18 by 4 to find 4.5 stitches per inch. Then multiple 4.5 stitches by the hat size.

I generally start with 21 inches.
4.5 stitches per inch x 21 inches = 94.5
Subtract 10% of those stitches.
94.5 x 10% = 9.45

94.5 - 9.45 = 85.05
Round your answer to the nearest multiple of your ribbing (2 for 1x1 ribbing, 4 for 2x2 ribbing, etc.) Round up or down; it's one stitch. Who cares? Let's go 84. There's your cast on.

Once you have the stitches cast on, work ribbing for as far as you want. Like I said earlier, you're smart and you know what a hat looks like. Go long if you want to fold it over or short if you just want to get it done!

Finished with the ribbing? Now switch to stockinette. Remember how we subtracted stitches to find the cast on number? Let's add them back now. In the first round after ribbing, work 9 knit stitches and then knit front and back the next stitch. That adds an extra stitch for every 10 stitches. (That's 10%, by the way). And again, don't stress if you don't get around and it doesn't end even. No one will notice and it's a round object.

Keep going in stockinette (knit every stitch, every round) until you are about 8"-9" from the bottom edge of your hat. Why not measure from the cast on? Well, you might, but if you want to fold up your ribbing, you'll measure from the fold because that's the bottom of your heat. Now we start decreasing.

I'm a big fan of really fast decreases. It gathers up and, when I wear a hat of this style, I don't feel like such a pinhead. It's three rounds of decreases, each separated by a plain round. While you work these rounds, at some point you'll probably want to switch to double pointed needles. Do it. They're not scary.
Round 1: knit 3, knit two together - all the way around (don't worry about odd stitches left at the end!)
Work one round plain
Round 2: knit 2, knit two together - all the way around (again, don't worry about odd stitches!)
Work one round plain
Round 3: knit 1, knit two together - all the way around (guess what I'm thinking?)
Work one round plain
Rounds 4 - whatever: knit two together around and around. Keep doing that until you have some stitches left. Aim for 8 or so. That makes it easy to cinch the hat closed. Just cut the yarn and draw the tail through all the live stitches.

That's a finished hat!!

What are some changes you might want to make? Stripes, of course. That's easy. Fewer stitches for a kid's hat. More stitches for those people with big heads or lots of hair. Shorter hat for a little person. Longer hat for someone that wants something slouchy.

Have so much fun!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

High Fashion - A Rectangular Poncho That's So Easy to Knit!

Poncho - it's such a weird-to-me garment. They can be high fashion or "I made it with my grandma" (not that there's anything wrong with making anything with your grandma; I encourage it!). And who can forget the poncho craze ignited by Martha (Stewart) when she was released from prison and showed off a crochet poncho.

Rectangular Poncho
Photo: Paul Amato for LVARepresents.com
A poncho is basically just a square or rectangle or circle--polygon would be the right word--with a hole in the middle so you can stick it over your head. Fancy with lace or home-y with double crochet or granny square-esque  motif, poncho designs are all over the place. You may remember my first poncho pattern, Ruffner. Ruffner starts with a provisional cast on, a length of lace is knitted, then the provisional cast on is picked up and added to the live stitches, more lace is knitted and then you finish off and have a poncho with no sewing.

I loved designing Ruffner and I'm very pleased with the finished projects I've seen. Of course, I'd like to see more. And now, I have another poncho to add to my design portfolio. Published this autumn, Noro Knitting Magazine Fall/Winter 2014 has my Rectangular Poncho. It's knitted with Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn and is so easy! All stockinette with some easy increases and decreases and the gorgeous Noro yarn does all the heavy lifting color-wise.

There are a bunch of other really awesome patterns in the magazine. Check them all out at noromagazine.com and pick up a copy at your local yarn store, bookstore or online. Happy knitting!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gentlemen Wear Plaid Hats: Bluestone

If you poked around in my closet a couple years ago, you'd find hanger after hanger of plaid shirts. Okay, I'll be honest, my closet is still fairly full of plaid shirts. (Eddie Bauer and I have had a long, unhealthy-for-my-wallet relationship.)

Plaids and tartans have been a mainstay of knitting patterns for a long time but they're often clunky or, in my opinion, not really effective. I think part of the problem may be that plaid doesn't necessarily translate well from woven fabric to a knitted fabric. Knitted fabric can be too thick and bulky and when you add in colorwork and stranded yarns, it gets thicker and bulkier.

Plaid hat in process
Plaid hat in process
adding vertical stripes
Because of my affinity to plaids, I tried it over and over again but I was never happy with the results. Then, about a year and a half ago, Webs Yarn Store posted a blog with a new-to-me technique for easy knitted plaid. Go read about it. I'll wait.

I swatched a few different times to practice this plaid technique and I really love it. It has limitations, of course. The plaid is narrow/fine and lacks the "drama" of a wide tartan. But the fabric retains nearly the same drape as plain stockinette.

Finally planning a project, I grabbed three skeins of Quince and Co. Chickadee (love it!) and cast on

for a hat. The first part of the knitting, a ribbed hem, and then the around-and-around of stockinette with several single-round stripes of contrasting yarn was a breeze. Very exciting. And then...

You knew there was going to be an "and then...", didn't you? I started to add the vertical stripes with a crochet hook and, uh oh, it's hard to get the slip stitches in the fabric when I'm wrestling inside and outside the hat. It just got so frustrating. I will admit that maybe I'm not the best with a crochet hook but I think this easy plaid technique just isn't great for hats.

But I'm not stymied. I learned that a smaller and narrower plaid is more what I want in a finished fabric. Mixing a little stranded knitting with some plain stripes and I came up with the Bluestone Hat.

Bluestone Hat
Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light
I've got plans to make a lot more of these hats, especially in random team colors for all of my sports fan friends. And because you use relatively little of the accent colors, I could make three hats without having to buy extra yarn. Each hat will have a different main color, so they'll all be related but different, also perfect if I'm knitting hats for a family/group.

A little hint about knitting Bluestone Hat: resist the urge to wind the strands of yarn for the vertical stripes onto bobbins or into butterflies. Leaving the strands loose will make it easier to untangle everything when it inevitably twists around and together. Running your fingers through the strands a few times will straighten all the yarn out.

The Indie Designer Giftalong discount continues through the end of the day Friday. Don't forget to use code giftalong2014 to get 25% off. Buy now!