Thursday, January 29, 2015

Miss Babs' K2 - A New Favorite

Back in December (maybe? could have been January but December feels right) I went on a buying spree with Miss Babs and found several pounds of yarn in my mailbox a couple of days later. One skein was an irresistible K2 in color "Shaken Not Stirred."

"OMG" has never been more appropriate for a yarn. First, the color is perfect, of course. I expect nothing less from Miss Babs. The blending is flawless. In my experience, the Babette colorways are more exciting because they're unpredictable. That can also make them more challenging to work with on large projects. Fortunately, I chose a smaller project (and then an even smaller project to finish it up) and the color just shines.

I don't usually knit with chunky yarns but I've been on a hat knitting binge. Give me a chunky yarn, size 10 needles and I'll have a hat finished in no time flat. K2 is no exception. It knits smoothly with no snags or splitting. The finished stockinette is squishy with good body, nothing wimpy about the superwash merino. And to change things up, I knit a cowl using much larger needles--US 17, I think--and the fabric is just as nice as at a tighter, more "normal" gauge, just looser with more drape. In the cowl, I paired it with some leftover Quince and Co Puffin in River that I had laying around because, to be honest, I was too lazy to rip out the cowl when I ran out of yarn to make it smaller.

Next time you're shopping for yarn for a quick present and you want something colorful and hardy, I definitely recommend K2. The hat pictured is my basic "Stress Free Hat" pattern and the cowl is based on a cowl I've seen on Ravelry a lot. I can't attest to the pattern, as I just made up my version (and switched to stockinette) as I went along, but support independents designer and give Foolproof by Louise Zass-Bangham a try!

(Update on both projects: my mother claimed both, first the cowl and then the matching hat. I guess it's just a good excuse to find more K2 and make another hat for me!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Great Destash of 2015 -- Part One

My yarn stash is seriously getting out of control. Have you heard the acronym SABLE? Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy? Mine is nearing SABLEx3+.

I've been threatening all of my yarn -- and its embarrassing how much yarn that is -- that if it doesn't start inspiring me or spontaneously knitting itself into sweaters, it'll get its marching orders. And today, the destash begins.

The pile of yarn gathered for part on of the destash took less than 15 minutes to pull together. And it's just the tip of the iceberg. All of the skeins are mainly grouped by color and, when there are multiple skeins of the same color, all the same dyelot. And I have no pets and don't smoke, so you shouldn't have any unwanted odors. Just pure wooly-ness (mostly).

My decision to clear out yarn is your gain. In order to hopefully replenish the stash, I'm offering this perfectly good yarn to anyone who wants it at discount. I'll list an asking price, you make a best offer and, when we come to agreement, I'll ship the yarn to you. I'm not sure how international shipping works, but I think that's possible, too.

I think it'll be best if you email me ( what yarn you want and, because I'm fully expecting a mass rush for the yarn (yeah right), I'll go by time/date stamp in the email if two people want the same yarn and priority will go to the person who wants all skeins of the colorway offered.

Here we go:

Plymouth Gina, 100% wool

  • Color 0007: 7 skeins - $5.00 each
Plymouth Gina, 100% wool

  • Color 0005: 7 skeins - $5.00 each
Plymouth Gina, 100% wool

  • Color 0006: 5 skeins - $5.00 each
Classic Elite Yarns Desert, 100% wool

  • Color 2058: 1 skein, $5.00
  • Color 2047: 1 skein, $5.00
Nashua Handknits Wooly Stripes, 100% wool

  • Color WS26 Jewels: 3 skeins, $5.00 each
Skacel Merino Lace, $100% Merino

  • Color 800: 1 skein, $10.00
Blue Ridge Yarns Kaleidoscope, superwash Merino

  • Color Secret Garden: 1 skein, $15.00
Malabrigo Worsted, 100% Merino

  • Color Col china: 3 skeins, $5.00 each
  • (one skein has been wound, but not knitted)
  • Color Lettuce: 1 skein, $5.00
  • Color Red Java: 1 skein, $5.00
  • Color American Beauty: 1 skein, $5.00
Shibui Knits Sock, 100% superwash Merino
  • Color 51304: 2 skeins, $5.00 each
Marks & Kattens Fame trend, 75% superwash wool/25% polyamid
  • Color 651: 1 skein, $10.00
The Fibre Company Khroma DK, 50% baby alpaca/50% merino
  • Color Aegean: 3 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Cyprus: 5 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Clementine: 6 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Thira: 4 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Olive Oil: 5 skeins, $5.00 each
  • Color Raspberry: 3 skeins, $5.00 each

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!