Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013: The International Year of Stats (no make that Hats)

I wasn't joking. 2013 is indeed the International year of Statistics or Stats for short. From a purely professional point of view this has been great. I feel extremely vindicated teaching first year stats when the whole world is having a year to acknowledge how vital, useful and cool they are.

From a knitting point of view though in a bizarre way, 2013 has become My Year of Hats! I have knitted 13 hats this year!! I didn't intentionally start off 2013 thinking, "Oh! This will be the year I knit pretty much nothing but hats", but that's the way it turned out.

Let me introduce you the hats that have flown off my needles this year...

Hat number 1
My middle daughter Mel is directly responsible for the start of the madness. She is currently in Padova in Italy near the tail end of her giant European adventure. When planning for the trip began in late 2012 she very thoughtfully put in a request list of knitted accessories to take with her. And so the first hat I made was for her. I began knitting the first hat in late December 2012 and finished it on New Year's Eve.I'm still counting this as the first hat of 2013 though. (For the full story see Newness for the New Year).
Pattern: Cables and Lace Hat by Lion Brand (Free pattern). I have to admit, I wasn't all that enamored with the picture of this one on the pattern but the reality is perfect.
Needles: Set of 4.5mm double pointed needles (dpns)
Yarn: Paton's Romance, 90% Australian Merino Wool 10% Cashmere 50 g ball (84 m per ball). It's an 8ply (DK weight)  but thick and squishy and knits more to 10 ply (aran weight). Colour: 4161 White. It took about 1 and 1/3 balls. 
Cost: Approx $9 per ball.  Bought at Clegg's Melbourne City store. Expensive beanie I know. But everyone deserves cashmere at least once in their life.

Hat number 2
aka The Birthday Beanie. My nephew seems to have had a beanie stapled to his head for the last few years. The beanie has a twofold purpose. It hides his ears and keeps his incredibly curly hair under control. The current beanie may now be qualifying as a health hazard as he never washes it, so I made him a new one for his 21st. Thanks to my boy for modelling this. (See What's on my Needles).
Pattern: Wurm by Katharina Nopp (Free pattern).
Needles: 4mm dpns (actually they are still labelled as size 8 - antique jumper length Aero dpns)
Yarn: Mystery ball of what appears to be handspun from my stash. I have no idea where this came from but it's meant this was free to knit!

Hats numbers 3, 4 and 5.
The boy enjoyed modelling the birthday beanie so much that I had to make him one of his own. Let’s call it an Easter Present. This is the first clothing item I have knitted him since he was a baby. Then I had to make a matching one for his eldest sister to stave of her theft of said hat. I am so proud of having made items of clothing so cool my hipster kidlets will wear them. And so the Matchy Matchy beanies became hats four and five for the year.
I also knitted another Wurm in a beautiful soft lofty recycled op shop wool in a light cream tan (Hat number 5). Here it's being modelled by the middle daughter in the red coat and it's at this moment starring in its own modelling trip across a European winter. I can't wait to see what its been up too. (Actually there's a sneak peek at the bottom of this post).
Pattern: Wurm by Katharina Nopp (Free Pattern)
Needles: 4mm dpns (actually they are still labelled as size 8 - antique jumper length Aero dpns). I love these needles for knitting hats. And only $2. Best op-shop buy ever!
Yarn: 8 ply op shop sourced homespun fairly greasy wool with some flecks of other fiber. Cost about 50 cents per 200g or about 50 cents per hat.

Hat number 6
And we were back to a request from the middle daughter again. She already had her eye on a cute little owl head hat from Simply Knitting issue 100. So I knitted this up in a weekend and had a ball doing it. Its so much fun to watch the face building up row by row. This classified as one of those "just one more row" knits, perhaps explaining why it took so little time.
Pattern: From Animal Hats by Rachel Henderson via Simply Knitting Issue 100.
Needles: Set of two 4mm needles.
Yarn: Cleckheaton Country in cream (1 ball - sourced from an op shop), Cleckheaton Country in Beige (Seconds from the Australian Country spinners Wangaratta Woolen Mills, a present from my mother after a recent trip there - she knows what it takes to make me happy) and the orangey mustard is aran weight wool from the stash which is so old I have no idea of its origins.

Hat Number 7
This is the point in time where where my hat madness stepped up a gear or so. In early winter we went and met the eldest daughter at her house in Melbourne and spent a chilly Sunday morning wandering around an eclectic Sunday Market whose chief specialty is second hand and vintage clothing. We were looking at what was on sale and what the young hispters were wearing and she turned to me and said, "Hats! You should knit some hats and we'll come here, get a stall and sell them. Your hats are so much cooler that ones around for sale here. My housemates keep trying to borrow mine and would pay for you to make some for them". And so the seed of an idea was born. I'd knit a stockpile of hats and we'd sell them (somehow). And so Barnaby was born, a hat  knit for the future hat stockpile with no specific person in mind. (See also Meet Barnaby - an unclaimed hat).
Pattern: Lee by Ysolda Teague
Needles: 4mm set of 4 jumper length Antique Aero needles, a 4mm medium length circular for the brim
Yarn: Cleckheaton Country Naturals (85% pure wool, 10% acrylic and 5% viscose), colours Coal and Burnt red - fully machine washable on a delicate cycle.
Details: Double layer brim lined in red, decorative raised stitch detail offset to one side in red.

Hats numbers 8 and  9 
May I introduce Twisted Silver and Latte with a Twist? When I decided to be serious about knitting hats for potential sale, I went looking for interesting free patterns on Ravelry that looked like what my girls would wear, had a sort of Unisex appeal or were something that looked captivating to knit but still trendy enough. Lina by Johanna of Joko Knits fit the bill. I knitted this originally as written using a silvery grey subtly variegated wool. And so Twisted Silver was born. I love the crown shaping on this. The cables magically diminish into the crown. But the first beanie is too exact a fit for the girls and a little too short in length (I Think this is more a large child's fit). So I made it again adding extra repeats for a more modern slouchy look (Latte with a twist).
Twisted Silver
Latte with a Twist
Pattern: Lina by Johanna of Joko Knits
Needles: my favourite set of size 8 (4mm) antique Aero jumper length dpns
Wool: Grey and fawn recycled 8 ply pure wool from the op shop,

Hat Number 10
The Graeme Street Slouch. This is a hijacked item. I swear was making this for the hat stockpile. But no sooner did it work its way off my needles than it was firmly ensconced on the boy's head. I have to admit it does suit him and he wears it heaps.

Pattern: Graham by Jennifer Adams (a free pattern)
Needles: A set each of 4 mm and 4.5 mm dpns
Wool: Brownish red 8 ply (DK) tweed courtesy of the op shop again.

Hat number 11
OK, I’m getting there with this design thing. This is my first self-designed hat pattern. The inspiration is the stitch pattern from Martin Storey’s gorgeous cowl necked cable jumper Winterbloom from The Knitter Issue 55. I knew I wanted to make a long slouchy beanie that was soft enough to drape neatly on the crown. This is a 21st birthday present for my daughter's friend and European Traveling companion Louise. (See Happy Birthday Louise - I made you a hat!).
And here it is in London. Mel is wearing her Wurn. There two are both knit from the same yarn.
Pattern: Adapted stitch pattern from Winterbloom Jumper by Martin Storey
Source: The Knitter Issue 55
Needles: 4mm set of 4 jumper length Antique Aero needles
Yarn:  Upcycled 8 ply (DK) op shop wool. Creamish brown blend. It has a really soft fuzz and light halo and blocks up with a light soft squishy feel and drape.

Hat number 12

This one is just a sneak peak at this stage. There are two reasons for this. 1. I need to take some modelling shots of this one. And seeing it is for me, I need to smile nicely at my boy to play photographer. (And it is the middle of an Australian summer so it needs to be a coolish day so I don't die of heat stress) and 2. There is a story that goes with the knitting of this that deserves its own blog post. Stay tuned.
Pattern: as the leaves begin to fall by Eliza Jarvi (ifandany designs) (Free pattern)
Needles: 4mm set of 4 jumper length Antique Aero needles
Yarn:  For the leaves: Moda Vera Pure Wool 8 ply yellow green. For the background: upcycled 8 ply (DK) op shop wool, alpaca and, I suspect angora, blend in winter white/cream with small gray and black fibres.

Hat number 13
This one was a Christmas Wurm for another nephew. It's the same silver grey as Twisted Silver above. My eldest daughter and I were Christmas shopping about a week before Christmas and she bet me that I couldn't make a hat for the nephew between then and Christmas given that he clearly needed more for Christmas than the present we has just bought him. She should know better. It was finished and blocked three days before Christmas but still damp went it went off to its recipient. I didn't remember to take a photo of it though.... You'll just have to take my word on the actual existence of hat number 13 till I get some pictures of it!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Designing for Novices: Mother and Daughter Bonding Time

Dear Blog.

I think I need to apologize to you for a seeming case of extreme neglect. No posts in October or November. I don't know what I was thinking. (Actually I do! Merger = New University, new employer, lots of marking, writing a new unit and children who keep using up all the internet bandwidth). I have however still been knitting, creating lots of new content. So let's play catch up again shall we? It's well past time I shared what I've been doing.

I'll admit I'm a novice when it comes to designing. Oh, I'm an accomplished knitter with 30+ years of experience. I'm happy to turn my needles to all manner of complicated stitch patterns, cables and lace, intarsia, fairisle and colour-work. I'm as happy with four needles as two. But I still have my L plates when it comes to designing.

I've dabbled a little in this this design thing before (see Owls are the New Elephants and Happy Birthday Louise - I made you a hat! for example). But it's been small steps so far. I understand the mathematics of gauge and stitch count (after all I'm a mathematics lecturer in my day job). But I've been chiefly designing by adapting existing patterns to fit another purpose or creating knitted pieces to fit a paper pattern.

I haven't ever really created an entire garment to order before but that's what a persistent request from Mel, my middle daughter made me try to do. Mel wanted a cable jumper for her trip to Europe at Christmas time. She wanted something very specific, a simple, elegant, classy aran jumper, modern but with a nod to traditional forms. No bobbles, not too intricately pattered, squishy cables.

So began a design collaboration. First Mel created a Pinterest mood board with pictures of the type of jumper she was dreaming of. I started by hunting through old knitting pattern books in op shops. I was looking for 1970s or 80s classic cable jumpers. We discussed shapes and sleeve types - raglan versus set in sleeves. Did she want a high neck, V-neck or polo neck? We looked at edges and cuffs, single rib versus double rib. I found an old pattern book to use for the basic sizing and measurements (Arans in Totem - by Patons - Book 746). 
We took a road trip to Spotlight and exhaustively hunted the yarn aisles. Mel picked the colour - non traditional but not something which would date too quickly. A colour that fitted with her wardrobe and flattered her skin tone. After all she saw this as a serious investment in a unique wardrobe classic. I directed her towards pure wool and 8 ply. I swatched a little to make sure I had gauge.
We began with a sleeve. (On a train). A deep 2 by 2 rib cuff long enough to fold over or cover her hands in cold European winters. "Is this long enough yet?"
"No, a bit longer." Consultation back and forth across the train aisle. Two broad 12 stitch cables winding their way up the length lightly edged in purl for definition. Cables on a knit background so they almost melt into the fabric. Loosely twisted every 20 rows or so. Raglan shaping for the sleeve caps.

The front  and back continue the same cables as the sleeves but three instead of two this time bordered by a panel of stocking stitch. At the edge a raised cable on a reverse stocking stitch (Purl) background. The pattern I used for this cable is the Medallion Moss Cable from The Harmony Guide to Knitting Stitches.

Pattern: Adapted from Arans in Totem by Patons  Book 746 Pattern number 2 His / Hers Jumper with round neck and fashioned raglan armholes. Used size 10 stitch counts and shaping.
Needles: 3.25 mm for ribbing and 4 mm for body, 4mm cable needle.
Yarn: Moda Vera Pure Wool 8ply - shade 68 - Brown although I would describe it more as an olive brown / khaki
I'm really proud of how this turned out. It's just what the daughter wanted. It fits like it was made for her. All the mods came together perfectly to actually fulfill the plan! Reality meets vision. And it was pretty cruisy knit for an allover cable jumper with cable rows only about every 14 to 18 rows. It's currently touring through Europe and I'm waiting to see the photos it comes come with.