With the holidays coming up I’m going to try to focus on smaller projects that make great gifts (hats, cowls, scarves, slippers, sockies, mitts, leg-warmers, etc). What are you making for the holidays this year? I received a reprieve this year, only one hand knit required, so I’m developing my self-love and making myself some new leg-warmers and a new sweater made with the new Fibre Co. Cumbria. I’m looking forward to sharing that project with you, the results so far are great – I’ve gone off-book and am trying a new experiential experiment with it, fingers crossed!
I was originally thinking of using a sightly heavier yarn for this, some Cascade Eco+ Merino that was leftover from our Felix Pullover, but I kind of wanted to experiment and see what the hat would be like with Drops Air, a lighter, airier yarn. I think it made for a really nice fall hat or something for people who have a lot of hair. Now that I’m sitting down and giving it another thought, I’m having a “what were you thinking?!” moment and realize that it would look sensational made with the Malabrigo Mecha (smack forehead). Thankfully, there’s always another hat on the horizon! It would be interesting to make the same hat over & over in different yarns and see how they turn out …. maybe that will happen some day, when I’m no longer a person with a DaVinci-esque attention span (he was notorious for not finishing his work, once DaVinci solved a puzzle he lost interest and moved on).
If you mke a pompom for this hat, don’t kill yourself making it dense. I did, I got all perfectionisty and packed it tightly, which made it look smooth and dense. Unfortuantely, this made it smooth and dense. This hat looks great with a “hand-made” looking pompom, and light and airy is definitely better. If you like a tight pompom, go for a smaller size pompom maker, like the yellow one from clover.
Design Hack: Want a quick pick-me-up for a dull hat? Add a fur pom-pom or a hand made pompom in a contrasting colour!
Another experiment with Drops Air, Antler turned out super light and cozy. Like, super-duper light and cozy. I just tried it on, and it’s so cozy that I’d kinda like to crawl into a matching onesie made with the same yarn … that would be quite a sight, quite possibly the ultimate in ‘cocooning’ (something to think about for halloween next year). I’ve completely lost my train of thought … that’s how cozy it feels!!! Oh yeah, wear it with your Infinitude cowl, you’ll never want to take your outerwear off.
We made the brim of our hat short so it can be worn like a slouch, but it was designed with more ribbing and you can take it either way, depending on what looks nice on you.
Please meet our latest success, Decemberist! I’ve been eyeballing this pattern for a while and figured “What have I got to loose?!” It knits fast with super thick yarn on 9mm/US13 needles (or larger if your yarn is accommodating). We used 3 balls of Drops Andes in colour 8112, an icy blue, so it was a pretty affordable project too ($33). The pattern was straight-forward, and the lace is given in both written instructions and as a chart – it probably fits into an advanced-beginner/intermediate skill level, and would probably make a decent introduction to lace knitting for anyone wanting to expand and explore.
Overall, I think it is a very successful project, and it would make a great holiday gift knit (I kind of like that it looks like a substantial sized gift, even though it’s light on cost and labour). If you know someone with a cottage it would make an amazing wrap to snuggle up in at night or at the end of the season. Women who work in cold offices will also appreciate one of these. I also think that this wrap is so pretty that when your friends/family/colleagues see you wearing this they are going to ask you to make them one, so you might as well get ahead of the curve and start early. Will it look a little strange seeing the women in your office walking around wearing the same wrap in different colours? Maybe, but the Pointer Sisters rocked the look, so I say own it and be your best, favourite you!
Drops Andes is a comfortable, lofty 2ply blend of Alpaca and Peruvian Wool. It’s soft to the touch, and kind of feels like what I always wish wool actually felt like – that stage that is just short of the buttery soft texture you normally find with a fine merino or baby alpaca. All of the colours are lovely, but I think the pattern would look especially good in the following:
Greys: 519 Dark Grey Mix, 9020 Light Grey Mix, 9015 Grey Mix, 8465 Medium Grey (solid)
Neutrals: 100 Off White (naturalish), 1101 White (cream), 206 Light Beige Mix, 619 Beige Mix (oatmeal)
If you want to make yours larger the easiest way is to use a slightly thicker yarn with a larger needle. Malabrigo Rasta (5 skeins) and Cascade Spuntaneous (3 skeins) would both be great yarns to sub, and you can go up to a 12mm/US17 needle with both of them. Unless you are a tight knitter, I would NOT increase the needle size for the Drops Andes; after blocking the fabric flows and drapes, its a beautiful tension (around 9 sts over 4″/10cm).
If you feel confident with your mathimagical abilities, you can also upsize the pattern by increasing the amount of stocking stitch you work before starting the lace. You’ll need to add an extra 36 sts to the stocking stitch section (so you’ll need to do an extra 6 repeats for “Section 1”, which would add an extra 12 rows). Depending on your tension, this should give you about an extra 3.75″/9.5cm of depth and about 16″/40cm in width.
If you don’t already own 9mm/US13 needles (or larger) this might be a great opportunity to buy some Knitters Pride Interchangeable needles. You’ll need a long cable for this project, which is something you may not get a lot of use out of in the future (unless you’re going to get into making Bulky Blankets, which are awesome things in their own right). With interchangeable needles one pair of tips can become any length of circular needle from 24″ to 60″, and extra cords are a very reasonable $3.97 each (instead of $20 to $35 for a new pair of needles with a different length cord).
This project is a two thumbs up! It’s pretty, fast, not too complicated, affordable, and giftable. I’m thinking about trying it again in Malabrigo Rasta in 429 Cape Cod Grey, but I’ll wait a month or so in case you guys need the yarn.
I really love how this project came out! It’s soft, airy, light, cozy, and with the pattern being free and the yarn only costing $20, it’s a pretty cost effective knit too! If you’re starting to think about holiday gift to knit, this is a great go-to project.
The pattern is called a scarf, but I don’t know why because it’s actually a cowl. We made the smaller size and in the yarn we used (Drops Air) it can be worn either once or twice around the neck. I also found that the “twice around” brings the ‘full goldilocks’ – it isn’t too big or too small, it’s just right (in my mind, that means it doesn’t gape, letting cold air in). If your finished project looks small just wet-block it, mine stretched from 20″ x 10″ to 24″ x 9″.
The pattern, Infinitude Scarf, is a simple little thing that combines knits and purls in the easiest way. The skills are pretty simple: casting on, working in the round, using a knit & purl stitch in the same row, and binding off. We made the smaller size, but had extra yarn so just kept going in the welt pattern by adding an extra 3 pattern repeats (so we did “Knit 4 rnds, purl 4 rnds” a total of 6 times).
We used two skeins of Drops Air, a new yarn for us this year. It’s a super light and airy alpaca that knits easily and looks great! It’s a ‘blown’ yarn, which means it consists of a loosely knit chain core made of polyamide and then the Alpaca is literally blown into and through this core, coating it in a delightful halo of the softest alpaca. The result is an extra depth of colour because you can see a bit of the core through the translucent outer layer. Drops Air comes in both heathered and solid colours, but I think the heathers are extra pretty, with that extra dimension of colour added. Did I mention that it’s also super soft? Yeah, it’s crazy soft, it totally passes the neck test. Drops Air comes in a bunch of colours, made in Peru and the European Union, and it only costs $9.97 a skein.
I just finished a third Nuvem and it was a total win! It’s light and airy as a cloud and cozy as hell. It’ll be an awesome spring/fall wrap, I just want to cocoon in it. I used Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk and 4.5mm/US7 needles, so it also didn’t take a super long time (I took about a month, but I totally dawdled because I wasn’t into any tv shows or audiobooks). Anyway, everyone who picks it up says they they feel compelled to make one – especially after I tell them the yarn only cost $36 (total).
The pattern isn’t very complicated, but it does involve a cast-on that some may not be familiar with: Judy’s Magic Cast-on. It’s isn’t hard, and I don’t think you should let it stop you from making this project. Judy’s Magic Cast-on is a very popular technique for making toe-up socks, and there are tons of videos and tutorials for it online, so if you have a hard time with one just skip to the next.
Nuvem Needle Hacks
The last time I made a Nuvem I came up with an easy Knit Hack to help keep track of my needles on this project!
This pattern is worked on two identical circular needles, which can get unwieldy. After I had been working for a while and my Nuvem had grown sufficiently I found that I was able to transfer all of my stitches to a single 60″ circular needle. My preferred type of needles for this project are interchangeables (I have a set of Addis, but Knitter’s Pride are also a great option, their extra cords and tips are affordable), because if I’m going to buy two identical needles of the same size, they might as well be interchangeable tips.
I always wonder why shawls and wraps don’t come in sizes – people comes in different shapes and sizes, and a person with larger shoulders, back and/or bust will need a larger garment, right? Luckily, this pattern is extremely flexible, so it’s very easy to make this wrap smaller or larger. I cast on 143 stitches, which measured 37”/94cm in length after blocking (the end sections each measure about 17″/42cm). I feel like my wrap would fit up to a size large, but if I was an XL or larger I’d make it longer. If you want yours longer you can cast on more stitches (based on my tension, that’s about 3.85 stitches per inch, so if you wanted your wrap to be 4″/10cm longer I’d cast on an extra 15 stitches). If you want it wider you just have to knit extra rounds (or block it width-wise – I blocked mine length-wise).
Width (after blocking length-wise): 23”/58cm
Length (after blocking length-wise): 71”/180cm
You can get an idea about the finished size in the picture below. The mannequin is a size 6 and on the small size at that (no booty whatsoever), so I’d say that this is what it would look like on a small person.
On our Last Date I promised to update you on my yarnsperiments, and I have lots to share! I originally played around with holding 2 strands of Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk together, and since then I moved on to see how it acted when I held it with a heavier yarn. The concept is to hold a light, airy yarn like a brushed alpaca or mohair with a heavier, more conventional yarn. The heavier yarn stabilizes the fabric, giving it body, and density. The airy yarn gives it a soft, all-over halo (please note: the fabric can only be as soft as the fibre. A downy alpaca will continue to be soft, and itchy mohair will still be scratchy).
And so, I offer up my experiments …. I’ve used the same 2 yarns throughout: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport and Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk. The Cascade is a sport-weight machine washable merino wool, it is super soft and comes in 50g/125m skeins (perfect for experimenting). The Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk is a worsted weight brushed alpaca that looks kind of like mohair but feels like happiness. It comes in 25g/140m skeins. Both yarns are 100% natural fibres.
On the C Train
My first foray into this combo was On the C Train, a pattern that was designed to be made with 2 strands of yarn held together. It’s made in a K1P1 rib (which I like to call ‘stupid stitch’, which while tedious to knit, makes for an elastic fabric that fits well. I ran short on my base yarn, the Cascade, so the size is a bit on the small side (slouchy on a 21″ head) – all of my modifications are in Our Ravelry Notes.
The finished fabric almost looks felted, I think because of the colours:
The yarns were a dead-on colour match, there’s just about no distinction between the two when they were knitted up. Of course, dye lots can shift colours around, but this combo on this day for this project were twins.
Both yarns are solid colours. They are not heathered, so there isn’t any differentiation in the colour, it’s flat.
The colour is dark and doesn’t reflect much light. (Yes, yarn can reflect light, and it affects how you perceive the colour. The darker the colour is, the less depth and the flatter it’ll look). The halo of the alpaca also prevents light from being reflected off the merino.
Anyway, it looks really cool! It doesn’t feel remotely felted, it’s soft, extremely comfortable, and has an all-over lightly fuzzy texture. This hat could look really cool in a black on black combo.
Chunkeanie is a pattern we’ve made before, and I’ve always really liked the aesthetic. When I’m knitting it I feel really meh about it, but once it’s done it just looks amazing! It especially looks good on, which is important, since it’s a hat, not a tea cozy. One caveat, I feel like the pattern runs small, their size medium fits my 21″ head. The texture is still soft, and very comfortable. I like this particular yarn combo knitted on the 5mm/US8 needles, it blooms nicely, although I think the brim could be knitted on 4.5mm/US7 needles.
This colour combo with the light greys looks amazeballs! The light grey of the Cascade merino is a bit more of a cool colour, and the alpaca is warmer. They ended up working well together, with the fuzzy alpaca becoming the dominant colour. This is an interesting phenomenon that I hadn’t actually noticed until now. I’m glad I photographed the hats next to their constituent yarns, you can kind of see which colour is more dominant when they are neighbours. Cool! I just learned something new!
The fabric of this hat looks a lot less flat and more fuzzy than felted, probably for a few reasons:
Both of the yarns’ colours are heathered, which give it a bit more depth of colour.
In the purple alpaca yarn the silk and alpaca content are almost indistinguishable, the entire strand looks the same. In the light grey the silk (the carrier yarn or core) took the dye in a different way (silk does this, it’s fickle) and it is lighter than the alpaca (you can see the silk shining through in the picture below). This little hit of colour runs through the stitches, randomly creating little highlights. (One of the advantages of knitting holding 2 strands together is that the colour distribution is completely random. When the yarns are already pre-spun together you lose that added depth of colour.)
The value (the lightness or darkness of a colour) of the colours is much lighter than the purple hat. The dark value of the purple hat added to the flatness of the colour. With this hat, the lightness of the colour creates a greater depth of colour. I can still see details in the yarn, like the stitches and the plies. Even though our mind doesn’t tend to register those little lines, they create micro shadows which in turn creates contrast and adds more depth to the overall colour.
Anyway, this hat-speriment was definitely a win. It looks really good on me, and I think I’m going to have to make myself a second – otherwise I’ll swipe the store sample.
The grey hat worked out so well that I decided to try a different colour and make one for my mom. My mother has a little mini head, so I opted to try a smaller needle size and went down to a 4mm/US6 for the ribbing and 4.5mm/US7 for the crown. The tension was fine, but I definitely feel like the 5mm/US8 was a prettier tension.
The first hat (purple) was a dark colour, the second (grey) was a light colour, and this one was in between. It looks like the fuzzy yarn (the alpaca) is still coming out as the dominant colour in the fabric. The alpaca also seems to look patchier in this hat, which is an optical illusion because it is exactly the same as the other two hats. This is because of the special things going on with this particular colour combo:
The Cascade merino is a heathered colour, so it isn’t as flat as the purple. But the heathering is only one colour, white, and it isn’t as complex or have the depth of colour that is in the light grey, which has black and white in it. (You’ll have to take my word on this, my camera skills haven’t made it this far.)
The Cascade merino is a bit lighter than the alpaca, while in the other combos this was reversed. The base is showing through a lot more than the other hats, which look more uniform. Light colours project and pop out to the eye, while dark colours recede.
Like with the grey hat, the silk hasn’t taken the dye exactly the same as the alpaca and is peeking through, creating some small highlights.
The Chunkeanie pattern calls for an Alternate Cable Cast On, which you do not have to do to make this hat, but I like trying new things, seeing how they work, why the designer chose to use it, etc. The Alternate Cable Cast On is a great way to cast on for a ribbed edge of K1P1 or K2P2 and is a much, much, much easier alternative to a Tubular Cast On. Like, SO MUCH.
So if it’s so much easier, why does it need a hack? Good question. When you do this cast on you’re basically alternating making a knit stitch, then a purl stitch, a simple enough concept – in theory. In theory, my brain should be able to pay attention to knits and purls and knits and purls. In THEORY. In reality, I found myself having a nice little rendez-vous with my learning disabilities. I was constantly screwing up the sequence of the knits and purls and having to rip it out.
How I Mastered this Cast On
Stitch Markers. Get them, use them, they’re your little plastic friends! I placed a stitch marker after every 10 stitches, and before proceeding more than a few stitches past that I went back and checked to make sure the last 10 stitches were correct. Once I confirmed that I was on track, I moved on to the next 10.
Read the Stitches. The other thing I had to do was learn to read what the knit and purl stitches looked like. You can’t check to see if your stitches are correct if you don’t know what they are. The best way is to just practice casting them on and looking closely to see how the knit looks compared to the purl. To my eye, the knit is a long bar that sticks out and the purl is bead or a bump that recedes. I tried taing a picture and labelling it for you, but I don’t know if it’s super helpful – people all conceptualize things in different ways, so it’s best just to study your stitches closely and get familiar with them in your own terms.
Pay Attention to Your Join. This is where reading your stitches again comes in handy. Because the sequence of the stitches is what this cast-on is all about, I joined my stitches by threading the yarn tail on a darning needle and pulling it through the other side. I don’t know why, but I found that once joined my stitches had gotten turned around to the other side, and my round was starting with a purl. At this point I didn’t really care why or how this was happening, I just wanted to get on with it and make a hat, so I adapted and started my ribbing on a purl.
OMG, that was SO. MANY. WORDS. I’m sorry if it’s too many words, too much explanation. Please feel free to take it or leave it, or take some and leave the rest. My conclusions are thus:
The hats look really good!
I like the yarn combination, it worked out well.
The grey hat made me the happiest, but the purple was cool.
I now know more than I did before, and this exploration was definitely a worthwhile use of time and resources.
I’ve already moved on to my next project, I’m knitting a Nuvem with the Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk as a straight-up single stand. I think it’ll make for a super cosy wrap for spring, and so far it looks great – but more to follow!
Last time we chatted I was showing off my latest project, Paprika, but like all accomplishments, a bit of work went into it before it happened. Before starting, I swatched … I know, you hate swatching, you avoid swatching, swatching is gross, swatching is boring, blech. I think I understand how a dentist feels, telling their patients to floss – it’s a Sisyphean task. Instead of listing all the important (aka. boring, grown-up) reasons to swatch I think I’m just going to share ….
I once read that designer Veronique Avery learned how to knit, and design, by making swatches EXCLUSIVELY for a year. That’s right a YEAR of swatching. When I read that, I thought “Wow, this lady is single-minded.” But you know what, I bet by the end of that exercise she REALLY understood hand knitted fabric. She understood how different fibres, different tensions, and different stitch patterns behaved.
Designers understand that swatching is knowledge. But swatching is more than just the way to make sure your project is going to fit. Swatching is a way to experiment with yarn, explore it’s potential, see how it behaves. It’s a way to decide how you like it, how you don’t like it. Will it do what you want it to do, will it look like you want it to? Most people remind you that swatching is a way to avoid being disappointed, but it can also be a way to find new things you like!
Initially, I was thinking about making the sweater with some colour. I grabbed 3 warm colours and cast on a little cowl based on the Snap hat I made a little while ago. Yup, that’s right, it’s a swatch AND a project. Squares swatches are ok, but not so much fun. To start with I was playing with colour, so the tension didn’t matter, and I made something that made me happy – an actual garment (which is what the end product will be, anyway).
I initially thought I’d be into this colour combo, but once it was done it was full of NOPE (at least for this sweater)! Such is life. But I did find out how the yarn knitted at a new tension, what it looked like on both sides of the fabric, how some of the colours looked combined, and I have a great little cowl! (all of the project details are in my Ravelry Project Notes)
Following up on my colour-speriment, I thought maybe I’d rest my eyes and try a neutral ombre/colour gradient. So I made a cowl to swatch the tension and colours. The fabric is lovely, the colours blended well, and my swatch, a cowl, is lovely (an added bonus). But as I thought about the sweater, I decided simple was better, and that figuring out when to change the colours in the sweater felt like too much work for me. Sometimes the KISS (Keep It Simple Sister) principle is extremely effective!
Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk is a great yarn to play around with colour gradations and colour combining. The strands stick together and the texture blends nicely. As far as a swatch, it gave me my tension information, helped me narrow down my colour concept, and its a really nice, light, airy cowl! I haven’t written the cowl up as a formal pattern, but all the directions and details (needle sizes, yarn colours) are in my Ravelry Project Notes.
Following the second cowl (and a couple other swatches that I really did not enjoy, and I pitched the results) I learned a lot:
The yarn is really nice and soft, very cuddly and cloud-like
It’s quite versatile, it adapts to a whole bunch of different tensions
I like combining the colours in some projects but not in others
If I’m going to make an ombre sweater, it is best made from the top-down (so I don’t have to think too much about colour placement, matching the arms to the body, etc.)
I now have a reference for how some of the colours look combined
And of course, the most important thing I learned from the process, was that I really enjoyed working with this yarn, and I wanted to keep exploring it in different ways. At the risk of sounding like the final paragraph in a serial mystery novel … I did, and the results were unexpected! But You’ll have to wait for the next instalment to find out more.
I’m sorry it’s been so long since you’ve heard from us, I’ve had the Flu for what seems like an ETERNITY! While I’ve spent a good amount of my spare time dosed to the gills with Dayquil/NyQuil, I’ve managed to get a few things finished … including this sweater, Paprika.
I love the look of mohair, but I don’t love the itchy feel, so I’ve been doing some experimenting with Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk. It looks like mohair, but it feels like happy. Plus, it’s light as air! I made Paprika with two strands held together, on 8mm/US11 needles. It was a fast and easy knit, worked in one piece from the bottom-up, so no seaming – nothing fussier than picking up stitches.
The style is oversized and roomy. I made a medium but I could have easily made a small. It was definitely an affordable knit, coming in under $50 (I used 8 skeins of Drops Brushed Alpaca and Silk).
When you’re ready to make yours you should definitely take a look at our pattern notes on Ravelry, I found a few quirks with the pattern and noted my modifications & etc. I also feel that the sleeves are way too long and I’d make them several inches shorter. Other than that, I’m pretty pleased with the results!
S(M, L, XL)
Finished Bust Circumference: 45(48, 41, 54.5) inches or 112(120, 128, 136) cm