Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Earflap Hat - Modified

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
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
Darning needle

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! 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

More Fair Isle-ish

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!

Monday, November 02, 2015


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.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Camera Hates Me

I knit V. a really lovely, simple cardigan recently, and just got the buttons on it this weekend. It's from a 1965 pattern for a girl's raglan sweater in fingering. However, as the title of the post says, my camera hates me. Here is a terrible photo of the book:
And here is a terrible photo of the pattern in the book:
And here is a truly horrendous photo of my finished project:
I swear, this really is a nice sweater, but I'm experiencing a profound level of resistantalism. Photos I took last week on this camera (set to Auto) came out just fine (you know, if you like pumpkin patches):
But try to photograph a sweater I spent about two weeks knitting? Noooo.
But anyway, here are the fun facts:
Child's Raglan Sweater (1965)
Needles: US #1 & #2
Yarn: KnitPicks Palette in Navy (about 4.5 balls)
Notions: 7 5/8" navy plastic buttons
I could not tell you the gauge, because I did not check. Probably about 7 sts = 1 inch in the stocking stitch body, which was on US #2 needles, because that's a typical size for me to use and it usually runs about that.
I'm fairly certain I have almost this exact same pattern in another vintage book that is seamless, but I was too impatient to dig it out. (By the time I did, V. would probably have been size 7, instead of size 6.) V. complained at first try-on that it was itchy, so I gave it a good soak in conditioner, which seems so far to have solved that problem because she hasn't complained again. I ironed on a name tag I usually put on all her outwear so that the sweater won't get lost at school. This is a real problem. Six year olds are not known for remembering where they put their cardigan, much less anything else, unless you don't want them to have it. Last year she had a store bought navy cardigan very similar to this one which she lost on the first day of wearing it. This cardigan cost me roughly the same, if not a little less, than the store bought one, so I am not losing it.
I actually like this pattern well enough that I'm considering making her one in another color, such as Kelly Green or yellow. A simple pattern like this has a lot of potential, because if I wanted, I could make it Fair Isle, or anything else I want. We'll see.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Slip Slip Skull Fingerless Gloves Sale!

Halloween is almost upon us again! To celebrate, I'm running a 10% Halloween Sale on my Slip Stitch Skull Fingerless Gloves pattern. 
 Slip Stitch Fingerless Gloves specs:
One Size Fits Most
Needles: US #2 (2.75 mm) dpns
Yarn: light fingering
Gauge: 11 sts = 1 inch in skull pattern
I have updated the pattern this year to include written instructions for the skulls as well as the chart.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Say What -?

Belding Bros. & Co.'s The Self-Instructor in Silk Knitting, Crocheting and Embroidery (1886) gives very precise instructions as to what method to use when casting on. It is, according to them, "the only one admissible in silk." They are as follows:

Well, now, that was truly illuminating, wasn't it?
After a bit of pondering (wherein I probably formed brand new frown lines), I deduced that it is very likely the Knit Cast On method. If I am wrong... well, I hope I'm not.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hodgepodge Hat

I had this idea in my head for a while to make a tam style hat out of mitered squares. Sort of like the ubiquitous mitered square blanket, but in a hat. And in the round. It seemed like a viable solution to small scraps of yarn, or a pathological need to do intensive knitting. The opportunity finally came along when I scratched a baby sweater project in Noro fingering weight yarn.
This was the result:
My blurriness is in direct proportion to my fussiness fuzziness.
I call it my Hodgepodge Hat, not because it resembles mutton soup, but because "Patchwork" would have been too trite. 
I began by knitting the brim, and once it was long enough,, I then worked the mitered squares along live stitches until I'd come full circle. At the last square of each round I had to pick up the edge stitches of the first square to join it. This became a very fussy thing to do once I was decreasing for the crown. I was really wondering what I was thinking in doing it this way. Originally, I was going to write the pattern up, but after I was done I swept that right out of my mind. Plus, I think the ribbing is too loose!
An excellent view of my Sherpa-wear
But all-in-all, I think it's a nice hat. Maybe I'll knit it again someday in a sensible manner that is easy to convey to others in writing, as opposed to a video of knitting contortions.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Getting Medieval

What do you do over the weekend when you don't feel like knitting?

Do you say... make medieval headgear?


Well... ok. But I do.

The Toque
Some time back - a year or so ago - I started a medieval garb project that was centered around the 1200-1300's. I had a wimple, but no period appropriate gown to go with it, and in my quest for something that looked comfortable and simple, I settled upon the cyclas. A cyclas is basically a loose gown with no sleeves, worn over an under gown, which is probably worn over another gown, over a chemise. (No central heating!) The appeal - aside from the ease of construction - was the ease. I could smuggle monkeys, or a band of jugglers, under a cyclas, because it doesn't have a fitted waist. This is a plus, because nothing is truly sadder than being five pounds too heavy to wear a gown you hand stitched, and only finding out right before you intend to wear it, except, of course, then having to wear the wrong headdress or hat altogether.

The most popular hat for this period in Western Europe seems to be (aside from the coif) the dubiously-dubbed "coffee filter hat", or fillet. It's essentially a pleated or ruffled linen crown-shaped headpiece. There are no extant examples, and while I wouldn't exactly say it looks silly walking around looking like you have a paper coffee filter on your head (I've considered much sillier) the general effect I've seen with these hats (once made) doesn't appeal to me greatly. So, I opted for a less common style, the toque, or what we these days call a "pillbox."
Scantily clad in my kitchen in a half-made toque. You know, a typical Saturday.
It all begins with some millinery wire and stiff canvas. There re no extant toques that I know of, so for all I know, they did use wire. Or at least I like to think they did, because certainly plenty of wire got put in headdresses through the medieval period in Europe. (How else do you think that "flying nun" look keeps staying up? Starch will only get you so far!)

I zig-zagged the strips of canvas I had by machine to make the crown of my toque, but everything else, including attaching the wire to the canvas, was done by hand. I used a medium weight bleached 100% linen to cover the toque, which I had to use 100% cotton thread on, because the linen thread I do have just seemed too bulky to get the polished effect I'm looking for.

I used recycled lightweight linen for the lining.

Center back seam of the finished toque
Unfortunately, I took some very blurry photos posing in the toque, but I think the photos will at least give you a general idea of how it turned out.
With barbette
With veil

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wash, Block, Repeat.

I like striped hats. I especially like striped beret type hats. Witness below, the dk weight hat I knit for V. a couple years ago:

KnitPicks came out with some neon colored yarn not long ago and I got the wild idea to combine the two. I started with yellow and gray:
This is fingering weight yarn. No surprise there, coming from me. Here's how the top of this version looks:
I like it, but the sizing wasn't quite right, especially after I blocked it on a plate. Yeah, yeah, I know - I should have run a piece of yarn around the base of the hat ribbing and pulled it on so that the ribbing wouldn't necessarily be blocked as well, but that strikes me really as just a short term solution. I know from experience that hats stretch out with wear. So the ribbing has to be a little tight, even if it's blocked with the hat, IMHO. So... I knit it again, but in navy and tan, which is what I had on hand in the same yarn.
I finally got the fit perfect, even after blocking. However...

I was knitting this as a publishable pattern, and waiting all this time for my yarn support. I was feeling as clever that I had it all worked out to perfection before the yarn came for the sample... and then the yarn came. In worsted.

Which, alas, is really nobody's fault. At no time did I specific yarn weight. I had completely forgotten that the neon yarn came in more than one weight. Urgh!

Now I'm starting the process all over again. I recalculated for worsted and knit it up. Same problem: the band is too loose. I have to do some swatches of ribbing, wash and measure them, and then recalibrate, and re-knit.

This kind of stuff is one of many reasons I never seem to get the dishes done.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Belding Bros. Lady's Mitts

So, I was browsing the Antique Pattern Library one day, looking for WWI patterns (as one does), and came across Belding Bros. & Co.'s The Self-Instructor in Silk Knitting, Crocheting and Embroidery (New York, 1886, 80 pgs.), and paused. I was intrigued.
I am not a silk knitter. Some random Noro is the closest I've been to silk yarn. And while I also tend to gravitate toward knitting fine, I usually stop at size US #0. I have some lace weight yarn in my stash, but I have never used it. Ever. I tried lace one time and came to the conclusion that I couldn't count, or follow directions. (The latter, if you've read much of this blog, will not be much of a revelation to you.) However...
Not long ago I was reading an article about Victorian knitting. There was an emphasis on much of it no longer being useful (who needs a silk opera cape these days? etc.) and I found myself bristling a little at that. Admittedly, we have become a very casual society, as the millinery industry knows only too well. And I have definitely been known to spend my entire weekend in pajamas, and to leave the house in mismatched socks. But just because we are no longer required in most instances to meet the formal standards of yesterday does not mean we can not.
So I decided to knit something in silk. This is what I chose:
I have a friend who does Dickens Faire, and  this seemed like an appropriate gift to pawn off on her, especially since I recall some mention in the past of needing fingerless gloves for her costume. She was probably thinking filet crochet, but one also shouldn't look a gift horse Victorian silk fingerless mitt in the mouth, so to speak. She acquiesced.
Now, it is just my luck that I was drawn to just about the only pattern in the pamphlet that doesn't specify needle size. What precisely, in this context, are "ordinary-sized steel needles"? The other patterns in the book for mittens and such for Ladies call for needles anywhere from No. 17 to No. 20, and have about 20 more stitches cast on. So, no joy with a comparison there.
The yarn in the pattern is Belding's "Superior" Knitting Silk. I tried very hard to understand what "Superior" Knitting Silk is - I even have an eBay alert going for anything that has the words "Belding + Silk" - but still no joy. There might even be tears. This image is what I have to go on:
Isn't that edifying?
Not especially.
I do know it is finer than fingering weight. Assuming the average hand to fit these gloves back in the Victorian times wasn't so very different from my own - quite an assumption, I know, but I'm also petite - then for this pattern I am casting on 66 sts for a 6.5 inch hand circumference. That's roughly 10 sts per inch. So, we are definitely looking at something smaller than a US #0 (2mm - 1.5mm), because US #0 needles do not get me 10 sts = 1 inch. In Victorian times, that could be anything from a 13 to 17 steel needle. And how they decided which minute fraction of a mm made a difference, I'd really like to know. I'm taking a bit of a risk here, but I'm going to shoot for size 18 needles, known in modern times as 5/0, or 00000. That's 1mm.
I did find 5/0 (1mm) knitting needles, thanks to miniature knitting aficionados keeping them in demand. HiyaHiya was the brand available at one of the online stores I like to use for some of these obscure hunts, so I went with them. They are deadly looking. I'm a belt knitter who tends not to use the belt, but on this occasion I may have to whip it out lest I impale myself in my enthusiasm.
Dime for scale
As for the yarn? I did what I normally do when I need to substitute for wildly discontinued yarn - I got weaving yarn. Above you can see one of the cakes I wound up from the skein of Paradise Fibers Undyed Silk Yarn 20/2 I purchased. It comes in 1000 yd skeins. I highly suspect this little project will not take up that much yarn, so I am going to (maybe) dye the project after it is knit... carefully. If it goes all wrong, well... I still have more yarn left to try again.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Too Broke for Blue - see me in my kitchen!

I'm trying my hand at video podcasting, or whatever it is called. I am so hopelessly square!

I hope you find this entertaining, and forgive me for the poor video quality. I think my laptop has too slow of a processing speed for the webcam I was using.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The quest for thread

Yarn substitution can be a tricky process. If you are lucky, you will not find yourself substituting yarn for a project that calls out discontinued yarn. The more time passes, the higher the likelihood of this being the case. Fashions change, as well as resources, so what may have been considered a common yarn 20, 30, or even 80 years ago may not be as common now. It may be so uncommon that serious research is involved just to find out what it really is. (More on Victorian knitting later!)
The Daffodil Doilie project I have been crocheting calls for discontinued yarn. Specifically, either J. & P. Coats or Clark's O.N.T. Best Six Cord Mercerized Crochet, Size 30.
I consider myself fortunate that these brands at least ring a bell. J. & P. Coats and Clark's is now more commonly known under the name Coat's and Clark's. According to their website (which has a fairly entertaining timeline about their history, if thread history interests you) O.N.T  ("Our New Thread") is a special six cord, soft finished thread for sewing machines first marketed in 1860.
Now, I don't know about you, but I'm fairly certain this pattern from 1949 is not asking me to crochet this doilie out of sewing machine thread. I gather that O.N.T. has become a trademark, having made a big splash back in Victorian times. A straight Google of O.N.T. Best Six Cord Mercerized Crochet, Size 30 gets me more in the realm of what is typically thought of when we say "crochet thread" - that is, this discontinued thread. 1949 really wasn't very long ago, and if I was die-hard about it, I could probably set up an alert on eBay to purchase the exact thread this pattern calls for in vintage yarn.
I opted for something manufactured within the past decade instead, and for several reasons. I didn't really want to wait to find the thread and wait for it to be shipped. Who knows when it would turn up? Waiting during shipping is hard enough. But impatience aside, I've learned the hard way that cotton just doesn't hold up as well over the years as wool or other fibers. I've had many a strand of vintage embroidery or crocheting thread disintegrate on me as I worked it, but have never had it happen with wool. 
There are several big players in the modern market of crochet thread. Aunt Lydia by Red Heart (which is owned by Coat's and Clark's) and DMC come foremost to mind. However, in size 30 both brands come in a limited range of colors. (Think "50 Shades of White.") In the end, I went to a brand I'd never heard of, Omega Hilo Crochet in Pistachio and Bright Yellow. I still don't know much about them, but I do know something essential: they have Size 30 crochet thread in OVER 60 COLORS. And it's accessible. (More on my heart wrenching quest to get Brown Sheep Nature Spun Fingering balls in specific colors later.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Every now and then, such as when spring arrives, I get the overwhelming urge to make something crazy challenging. This spring, it's a doilie.
I've been spending a considerable amount of time researching vintage and antique patterns this past year. One of the fruits of my labor is a newfound appreciation of mid-century handicrafts. Handicrafts, like fine arts, sometimes require a person to become familiar with the genre they belong to before they can be understood, if not liked. In a fit of spring fever, I decided I liked floral doilies, such as the one featured below in "Floral Doilies, Book No. 258" (1949) from The Spool Cotton Company.
The pattern is also available here.
One of the first things I noticed about this pattern (aside from it using Size 30 yarn, which is not available at the corner drug store, let me tell you!) is that it uses a shade of green called "Nile Green," which is very similar to sage green. "Nile Green" was very popular during this era. I see it over and over again in household crochet patterns, and I'm very curious as to its origin and if it crossed over into knitting as well.  

Ignore the dirty nails!
Size 30 crochet thread is, admittedly, a tad wee. There were times when I thought I might go blind, or at least experience debilitating eye strain. I can't recommend a good task light highly enough, especially since I don't have one and had to rely on leaning toward the sunlight at a window like a desperate houseplant.
Daffodils deconstructed
The actual design is rather simple. You make the trumpet shape for the center, then make a loop with the petals that then gets sewn onto the trumpet. Easy, right?
The center of the doilie - the "Nile Green" portion - I got done in about 4 hours.
One daffodil took me all of a Saturday.
The first daffodil triumphantly adhered!
Strangely enough, there are supposed to be 11 daffodils. At one daffodil a weekend, I'll basically be done with this sometime this winter. This is about where I am now: