Colorwork Hat

Posted in FO, knitting by tchemgrrl on January 31, 2013

I know, I said last week about how I wanted to knit more big scale projects, and the next few posts will be accessories. But I have pulled out a few skeins of the yarn that will become a sweater for J, which means the sweater is practically done, right? Ah, well.

hat and mittens

If you ever make hats and don’t have the book “Hats On!”, I’d highly recommend it. I’ve knit several of the patterns and have enjoyed them all. One nice thing about the book is that Charlene Schurch did such an excellent job of making each hat in various sizes. This makes it pretty easy to mix-and-match patterns, because you can look through the book to find something that will work with, say, 140 stitches for the particular head and yarn that you’re using. This hat is a mixture of two patterns from the book, with further minor adjustments for the tighter gauge I used. The earflaps and crown shaping are from the Danish Earflap Cap, while the X pattern is the alternate colorwork pattern for the Lusekofte Hat, which J preferred over the snowflake pattern on the earflap cap.

I really like the way the earflaps are constructed. The stitches you cast on form the inner hem, and the earflaps are formed one at a time using short rows. If you’ve ever done a short-row toe or heel on a sock, it’s exactly the same thing. Then after you knit the remainder of the hem (some of which is colorwork here), you pick up stitches from the cast on edge and knit them together with the live stitches to seal up the hem. It’s a technique I learned about in this book and have used on a number of other projects.

I used navy Dale Falk left over from the toddler rainbow sweater, and bought a skein of gray Falk to coordinate. I knit it at a somewhat tighter gauge than listed on the ball band–I think I was using US 2’s, since I wanted it to be fairly windproof.

The end result was very successful. J had expressed interest in having a tassel on top and ties for the ear flaps, but I didn’t have a chance to make either, or even to wash and block the hat, because as soon as I wove in the ends he put it on his head and pretty much hasn’t taken it off since. (He’s since decided that it doesn’t need them.)

He likes that the fabric is stiff enough to allow him to do this with the earflaps when he’s indoors:

He really wears the hat like this.

When he walked into knitting group like that I could see several people trying to figure out how I had shaped the earflaps so as to get them to stick out like that.

Learning to Unlearn

Posted in spinning, toddler by tchemgrrl on January 29, 2013

There’s this concept in educational psychology that sometimes an apparent backsliding of abilities is actually linked to having taken a big step forward in understanding the conceptual framework behind the thing you’ve been doing. (There’s even a word for it, which I wish I could fish out of my head.)

Over the weekend, Toddler apparently figured out a general rule of plurals–that you can add an S to the word and then it means more than one. (I even tried the Wug Test, which he passed after a few minutes of thinking about it.)

If English wasn’t so darn complicated, he’d be done with plurals.

The only reason I noticed this developmental leap is that last night, while brushing his teeth, he looked in the mirror and pointed into his mouth. “One, two, three, foh tooth-es. Five tooths. Teeth-es. Mommy, five tooth-es?”

My brain just about imploded with developmental geekdom.

The most interesting thing, to me, was that he tried not only “tooths” but “teeths”. Which means that he already knows the correct plural of “tooth”. A week ago, he would have used the word “teeth” grammatically. This week, teeth-es. A mistake, but a mistake that lays out the workings in his head really clearly, and shows that he just learned a rule that will apply to about 95% of the nouns he’ll use. Before, he had separately memorized tooth/teeth and cup/cups and dog/dogs and deer/deer and box/boxes and spoon/spoons and all of the other nouns he knows. Knowing that there’s one rule and a few exceptions is easier to remember in the long run, but now he’s got to learn the exceptions all over again.


This being, in theory, a fiber-arts blog, I’m thinking about the ways this hooks into things I’ve seen from folks learning to spin. I think the important takeaway is this: Our brains love rules, but rules often fail us in unexpected ways.

For example: a person learns one way of putting twist into fiber to make yarn and posts a video that only demonstrates that way of doing it. Beginning spinners get that far, try it, get the idea, but then come up against various limitations of that technique (a few examples: denseness of final yarn, inability to spin thinner, being comparatively slow and unwieldy, and the fact that the technique only works for top or batts, not any carded preps like roving or rolags that can’t be stripped in the same way.)

In order to get over those obstacles, the beginning spinner needs to develop the ability to draft while there’s already twist coming at them, which is a hugely more flexible technique. Getting the hang of dealing with active twist is related to figuring out a whole bunch of spinning things–it’s the equivalent of figuring out that most plurals consist of the base word with an “s” on the end. But the first attempts, like “teeth-es”, are probably going to be more wobbly than keeping drafting and twist insertion as totally separate entities.

Grownups don’t get to spend as much time in the “beginner’s mind”, and often have a really hard time trusting in the fact that the short-term setback in quality will lead to a longer-term gain in overall ability.

Another example: The last time I remember hitting on a fiber-related stumbling block like this was when I got my charkha and started spinning cotton. The leap to one-handed double-drafting was pretty ugly, but it meant that I could spin cotton WAY faster, and led to being able to draft wool faster on a flyer wheel, in spite of the fact that I still can’t reliably do one-handed double-drafting with wool on the flyer wheel. But my brain and hands somehow translated SOMETHING from one to the other.

Anything that you’re unlearning in your life now?

2012 in Review (Spinning)

Posted in handspun, spinning by tchemgrrl on January 24, 2013

Same idea as the knitting review, but for spinning. Here’s what I’ve finished spinning in the past year, and what I notice when looking at it in aggregate.

-Aqua/Lime Batt, 2 ounces, 150 yards:

aqualime batt

-Spot Hollow Jacob, 8 ounces, 300 yards:


-Trillium, 4 ounces, 415 yards:


-Lobba, 4 ounces, 225 yards:

TdF day 4

-Silk singles, 225 yards, 2 ounces:


-Rainbow yarn, 300 yards, 4 ounces, and various plied scraps, of 45, 40, 180, 50 yards respectively (and another 100 yards not shown):

Final TdF Tally

-BFL, about 400 final yards out of a sweater-sized lot:

Black and Bluefaced closeup

-Tartan, 4 ounces, 210 yards:

tartan yarn

-Silver Batt, 4 ounces, 270 yards:


-Yak/merino, 3 ounces, 195 yards:


-Superwash wool, 3.8 ounces, 315 yards (no completed picture yet):


And some shop samples that haven’t been washed or photographed. And a bunch of samples from Abby Franquemont’s class in November (which I should talk about here because it was wonderful.)

Hot diggity. Apparently I spun about more completed yardage than I knit. That may explain the relatively low knitting output. A few of these things went into knitted projects or were given as gifts, but most of them are waiting for me in the stash. I thought the fiber box was looking a little thin, and now I know why.

Here’s where my spinning goals and knitting goals may interface a little funny. I had mentioned in the last entry that I’d like to knit a few larger-scale projects, but the handspun I’m the most excited about is the colorful, smaller-scale skeins. I did a lot of experimentation with color and how to control handdyed fibers this year, and I want to know how all those things came out before I go spouting off too much about good ways of doing these things. And I have a few more of those experiments to go before I’ll REALLY be ready to write or teach or communicate about them.

I did a lot of what I’d think of as “comfort zone spinning” this year; same as the knitting. 2 and 3 ply sport to worsted weight stuff that is fun to spin while not adding much to my repertoire. I did enjoy the experimentations with color that I did, but I mostly kept the spinning to stuff I’m pretty used to. I have a singles-heavy project that I just started working on that should expand my horizons a bit. I’m okay with what I’ve been making, though, so my main goal may be to knit up more of my handspun and learn more about it from that end. I’m okay with having a knitting-heavy year.

2012 in review (Knitting)

Posted in knitting, made with handspun, Organization, planning by tchemgrrl on January 21, 2013

A chance for me to see a bigger picture.

I go through phases where I feel like I’m spinning my wheels in terms of craft. Toddler has been going though a phase of un-awesome sleep combined with a phase of all-Mommy-all-the-time, and I haven’t been getting much creative work done as a result. It’s a good time of year to actually assess output and see where I could go in the next year.

A hat for J (He started wearing it immediately off the needles so I haven’t had a chance to block and photograph it yet, but a post will be coming soon.)

5 Mason Jar covers (4 pictured, one more was knit and given too fast to take a picture):

Mason Jar sleeves

Eze Shawlette:

120512 009

Never-worn Rainbow Sweater (not that I’m bitter):

squash sweater

Paxton for Hunter:


Vest for Lydia:

L's vest

Vest for no one in particular:

Little vest

Hitchhiker v.2:

Handspun Hitchhiker

Braided ball:

cool toy

Hitchhiker v.1:


Hoodie for Charlotte:

Charlotte's Hoodie

Springsteen-inspired hat for Unca Billy:

springsteen hat

Year of the Kid Sweater, I think. And shawls.

That’s an average of one thing (or set of things) per month, which is actually way more than I expected to see. There are a lot of gifts that were sent out almost immediately upon completion, which may be why it doesn’t feel like much, because I don’t *see* them all the time. There are also a lot of smaller items–all those one or two skein projects, and I often don’t give those the same level of consideration that I do to a large shawl or sweater. More than half of them involved a significant contribution from my handspun, though, and I only bought commercial yarn for one of the projects. This seems about right.

Looking through the group does clarify some things that I’d like to do this year. I have several sweater-scale quantities of handspun. Both the larger scale of a full-size sweater and the exclusive use of handspun in a big project appeal to me.

Also, what the heck, it’s been a ridiculously long time since I’ve knit socks. I got some really lovely sock yarn at the yarn swap this summer, so maybe that’ll happen.

The baby sweater craze is not likely to abate anytime soon; I actually have some yarn balled up and another baby project for another baby of friends is next on my list.

And someday, though maybe not this year, I’d like to knit something that the Toddler will deign to wear. (He’s been getting more interested in the pointy sticks recently. “Mommy knittin’,” he’ll say, and wave his arms in a fair approximation of what I’m doing.)

Quick Gift

Posted in FO, handspun, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on January 17, 2013

My knitting group has been going through a certified Cuppow craze. Cuppows are small plastic lids that turn wide-mouthed Mason jars into travel mugs. They’re convenient and cute and ecologically minded and cleverly-named, and so are just about the most Ithaca thing imaginable. (There’s even now a locally made version made of metal being sold at the co-op, for those who avoid plastics.) Their use spread like wildfire in the knitting group, to the point where we all went in on a large wholesale purchase together.

It being a knitting group, within a few weeks, everyone had designed their own way of protecting the jar and displaying their knitting. L’s had no bottom, K’s and a different K’s had bases and started from the bottom, but involved different numbers of yarn strands, needles, and stitches cast on, and at least one other person’s made some but I don’t see them in her projects. I worked mine top-down and played around with various stripe and stitch patterns so as to use up leftovers.

I was able to complete a whole one of these in a single knitting group session, so they’re a ridiculously quick knit and are GREAT for very small bits of leftovers. The gray stripe in the last cozy came from a ball of yarn about the diameter of a quarter and ended up looking perfectly at home.

The stitch patterns and yarn combos were made up more or less totally on the fly. I was really happy with how they came out, and the recipients seemed to enjoy them too. I also think this would be a good project for beginner handspun, where you could actually handle it and enjoy it all the time. A winner all around.

Combined with a Mason jar full of tea-making supplies and a Cuppow, they’re a quick, inexpensive, homey gift. We’re always trying to make the holidays more homemade, and these fit in pretty well with the Apple butter and the local wines and the handsewn gift bags.

Mason Jar sleeves

Mason Jar Sleeve

Fits a standard wide-mouth Mason jar.

-Ability to do, or willingness to learn: knitting in the round, decreases, colorwork (optional).
-Between 0.5 and 0.75 ounces of worsted weight yarn, or about 50 yards.
-Size 8US needles, either double-pointed or an appropriate combination of circulars to deal with small circumferences. (Gauge about 4 st/inch, 6 rows/inch, but it’s pretty forgiving.)

Cast on 36 stitches, and join without twisting.

Knit 5 rows of garter stitch, then begin stockinette section. The stockinette section can be a chance to sample a colorwork pattern you’ve been thinking of, or simply knit a plain or striped stockinette pattern that is pleasing to you.

Knit for about 4 inches.

Purl one round, then knit one round even. (This will form a neat turn for the base of the sleeve.)

Decrease 4 stitches evenly across every round until you have 8 stitches. Cut a long yarn tail, thread it through the last stitches, and pull tight. Throw it in the wash for a cycle to full slightly if it seems loose.


Posted in FO, handspun, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on January 11, 2013

In early November I went on a short business trip that involved about 10 hours on a bus and plenty of downtime in between.

I usually turn to shawls when this happens, and this time was no different.

The Eze shawlette was in the holiday issue of IK that I’d picked up shortly before my trip, and the short but still non-repeating pattern appealed to me. The Yak-merino that I spun up this past spring seemed like it would go well, so on the most total of total whims, I grabbed the skein, the copy of IK, and a pair of needles that seemed about right on my way out the door.


Working on the project provided was exactly what I’d hoped for–a pleasant layer of complexity, but very easy to work on in little bits of time or in long stretches on the bus between naps. The yarn doesn’t shed as much as I’d feared, though the yak does obscure the lace just a bit.


I made a slight modification to the pattern by repeating one section of lace because I wanted to use up all of the yarn. Of course, then I had been about one row over-optimistic and needed to end the lace pattern one row before the end. Not too bad, though–the droplets look like hanging bells instead.

This was a really fast knit. I started it on a Wednesday and wove in all the ends at the next Saturday’s spinning guild meeting. Amazing what 48 hours more-or-less to oneself will do, even when one is spiraling down into a bad cold. (Maybe because of that; I was all on my own in NYC and went to bed at 6pm. Plenty of cozy knitting time.)

120512 009

The shawl seemed very small when finished, but opened up enough after blocking to be okay, though still quite small. If I were to knit it again, I’d start with more yardage and plan on adding a few repeats in.

What Happened?

Posted in Black Sheep Handspinners Guild, handspun, knitting, made with handspun, spinning by tchemgrrl on January 4, 2013

I blinked and suddenly hadn’t posted in 2 months. Partly working on holiday-related projects, partly the spate of birthdays and Hannukahs and Hogswatches and Festivuses, partly a family-wide cold that lasted approximately one geologic age.

(A conversation with the toddler’s pediatrician 3 weeks in, a point at which Theo got mildly wheezy:)

Me: “We all have that cold that lasts forever right now.”
Her: “Ugh, everyone has it. Nobody can kick it in less than a month. What’s up with that anyways?”
Me: “When the medical professional is talking like that, you know it’s a special virus.”)

Now that gifts have been given and wellness is returning, I may actually be able to post regularly, again. In the mean time, enjoy the gift of a 37.5 pound vegetable that volunteered in a friend’s garden, enjoying a sweater that a 35 pound toddler refuses to wear:

squash sweater

And enjoy the gift of shameless promotion.

Roc Day, our guild’s annual fiber festival, is happening next Saturday, Jan. 12th. Info here. I’m in charge of the committee this year, which means that if you go and see a wool-ensconced blur, it’ll probably be me running around to make sure everything’s running smoothly and everyone is happy and verifying that the vendors are not sharpening their knitting needles in preparation of a turf war. You should come! Just don’t take sides in the turf war.