For the past couple years I have noticed a surge in the popularity of knitted owls, especially cable owls. Recently I was asked to make this owl cable hat, but the cable owl is so versatile and easy that it's found in sweaters, mittens, gloves... just about anything. But, this being Vintage Thursday, I feel compelled to point out that (like many clever motifs) the owl cable is not a new innovation.
Enter Workbasket and Home Arts Magazine (Number 3, Volume 37, December 1971):
This volume has been well-loved
I received a slew of old Workbasket magazines from my grandmother a couple years back, mostly for the early part of the 1970's. They are a real study in changing domestic fashion, addressing everything to husbands making comments about your thighs being like saddlebags, to growing violets and making granny square ponchos. (I'm definitely going to write more about them in the future, especially the granny square fad.) One of the interesting things about this issue is the Owl Snowsuit, which my grandmother has noted in her scrupulously neat handwriting on the tattered cover.
Do you see those googly eyes? Yes, those are owl googly eyes!
Unfortunately, this pattern only comes in size 1, 2 and 3. But there's the sweater AND mittens with owls! I'm really tempted to make the mittens, but with a modification: instead of sport weight yarn on US #3 dpns, I'd use worsted weight yarn, just like the plan mitten pattern from 1944 I use calls for to keep the chill out.
Recently I have begun collaborating with a friend of mine who dyes and spins yarn. You may remember her - she was the same person who comissioned me to knit I don't know how many earflap hats from her handspun yarn one Christmas. We've taken it one step further and are selling things now at craft fairs and on etsy.
I know quite a few people make a living or augment their income with selling hand knit or crocheted goods. I am trying to be one of them! But what Wendy(for that is my cohort's name) and I are doing takes that a step beyond. Wendy does not buy her yarn, then dye it. She spins it herself on an actual spinning wheel, in an actual crowded and chaotic craft room, not very unlike my own craft room. She has a hand cranked wheel for carding wool that may some day give her tennis elbow. She stinks up her place soaking and washing and drying fleeces. When we say we are making these things by hand, we mean from the sheep to the shelf.
Wendy usually gets fleeces from Romeldale sheep, an American breed which is critically endangered. I even have the names of the sheep she gets the fleeces from SOMEWHERE in my craft area. They produce a very soft and springy wool that dyes up beautifully, as you can see in the image below.
I sometimes want to keep this hat for myself.
Some of the fleece Wendy uses is what we call Mystery Wool. A friend or an acquaintance says, "Oh? You spin? I have a fleece for you!" and then the next thing she knows, she has a fleece with an unknown provenance, with characteristics yet to be discovered. And other times she just happens on a good deal.
On my end, it's a bit of a challenge. I never know what yarn I will be working with next. The gauge changes, the texture changes, the style changes, according to Wendy's whim. This means everything is unique, and that I am really never knitting or crocheting the same thing twice. It keeps me on my toes, and I am constantly developing patterns which incorporate versatility to keep up with the yarn.
But what does this all mean for you, Gentle Reader? It means you can get handspun, hand knit/crocheted stuff from us! Stuff that will last! Stuff that is so removed from big box store yarn that it doesn't even know what a box is! Imagine!
A while back I made a plethora of earflap hats based on the Very Basic Bulky Ear-Flap Hat by Anne Carroll Gilmour, and now that winter is coming (yet again!) I am revisiting the pattern. I was digging through my stash and I found a ball of yarn that has been sitting around forever and decided to make use of it. A couple people asked about the pattern, so here's what I did:
Pink Toddler Ear-Flap Hat Materials:
Patons SWS (Soy Wool Stripes) - 70% wool/30% soy - 1 ball (100 m/110 yds) "Natural Geranium"
1 set of US #8 (5 mm) dpns
H (5 mm) crochet hook
Gauge: 4.75 sts = 1" and 6 rows = 1" (4 sts = 4 cm and 5 rows = 2 cm)
The pattern I modified to get this hat can be found as free download at Ravelry here. I am not going to reiterate what it says, just note my modifications. Please reference it for clarification.
I followed the instructions for the earflaps EXCEPT that I worked it in garter stitch, not stocking stitch. This makes it noticeably shorter. If I were to knit this version again, I might increase every 3rd row, rather than every 2nd, to make them longer.
I did an e-loop cast on of 10 sts for the back and 20 sts for the front, just as the directions called out for the smallest size. (Total: 64 sts) I joined to work in the round and did 4 ridges of garter stitch.
After the garter stitch brim, I switched to stocking stitch and worked it until the hat was 4 inches (10 cm) deep, rather than the 5 inches called out in the original pattern. I based this measurement on the sizing in patterns I have for toddler beanies.
64 sts divides by 8 nicely, so I decreased by *k6, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round, then knit one round, and *k5, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round, etc. I decreased in this manner (every other row) until 8 sts remained, then I used the darning needle to cinch the stitches together.
Using the crochet hook, I joined the yarn at the bottom of an ear flap (where the ties will hide it). Since the earflaps are begun by casting on 3 sts, I made the 1st and the last stitches like corners, ie. I 2c in one st, 1c in the middle, then 2c in the third. Everywhere else I just worked a single crochet (c). The ties were made by cutting 6 strands of yarn approximately twice the length of my arm. I connected them to the earflaps by hiooking the middle point of the yarn through the center single crochet (the one between the two 2c's, or "corners") and making a slip knot. I added one to either side on the corners in the same manner, and then braided them together, being careful to keep an even tension on preventing the strands from twisting. This produces a nice flat braid. I simply tied a knot at the end when it seemed long enough, and then trimmed the loose ends.
I blocked it, and that was that.
If you have ay questions, please leave a comment. I hope you enjoyed this explanation!
I find Fair Isle-type knitting fairly addictive (no pun intended), hence the hat below.
It's a toddler hat with added ear flaps. Do I have a toddler? No. But it's so cute!
Generally speaking, I like working in fine gauge yarn because I find it more economical. About $20 of yarn will keep me busy quite some time, especially if there is more than one color.
And I just love how it looks. You'd think I'd make one for myself, wouldn't you? Well... I've been thinking about it. I lost my favorite winter hat (a Peruvian beanie in alpaca I got at the thrift store for $1. I know, I know... I do all this knitting and wear something from a thrift store!) and started a replacement during the early spring, which is now sitting in one of my work baskets, totally neglected. It's an ACTUAL Fair Isle hat, in ACTUAL Shetland yarn, but... I have to frog it back because I changed my mind about one of the color combinations. But I'll no doubt be getting on it soon, because winter will eventually arrive, and I am on the East Coast.
In Other News
It looks like I will be getting off my tukas and doing a table at Go West! this December 13th. Yay, me!
I hope everybody had a swell Halloween! As usual, V. got thrown into a last minute costume, a character of her own choosing:
Well, ok, this did take a little planning, because I ordered the fleece weeks ago. But I DID wait until Saturday afternoon (a.k.a. Halloween Day) to sew it.
I based it loosely on the Jaguar costume she wore last year, but instead of a hood with a face, I made her a hat with just the ears. The ears and tail were fabric covered pizza box, and the only closure was some Velcro under the chin. All in all, I think it turned out great, and she got praise everywhere she went. Naturally, I was in medieval clothing (yet again), but instead of wearing my 1400's Flemish clothing and posing as a plague victim, I wore my new toque with my new blue wool dress (no photos yet, but soon!). Last year I was asked several times if I was a zombie Pilgrim. Um... no.