Recently in Hats Category

Even though I know blocking is a good thing, I am always a bit surprised at the incredible impact it can have, even on a simple piece like a hat. One dinner plate and a steam bath later, my multi-color hat goes from being something of a beanie to the beret with a little flair that it's supposed to be. No matter how tempting it might be, it's these moments that remind me that a garment is only finished after I've blocked it.

Mais oui, c'est moi dans ma beret tricot!

Forgive my rudimentary language skills -- this little beret brings out my French side (and to be fair, I do have one -- my mother's family, the DuValls, arrived in the United States right about the time of the French Revolution). Why? Because I have finally found a hat style that I can wear and look good in. How is it that I never, before today, actually tried on a beret? For some reason, I have been convinced that I would look awful in one. When I put this little hat on, I elicited an unprompted Wow! That's really cute! from the husband. Clearly I must be onto something.

Yesterday I promised a few more details about my new chapeau. First off, the design and pattern for the hat are taken from Anna Zilboorg's 45 Fine & Fanciful Hats to Knit. Since I'll be reviewing this book soon at Two Friends Collect Books, I'll just be brief and say here that I find this to be a lovely and inspiring book and there's no doubt that I'll be going back to it soon. This is the very first beret design in the book -- I looked through the 4 different patterns and liked this one the best. And there's not much tricky about it except the few rows towards the top that have three colors in them.

For color, I was motivated by what I could find in my worsted weight yarn collection (I'll admit that I did browse through the most recent KnitPicks catalog, but decided to stay faithful to my desire not to expand a my stash -- of course, that didn't stop me from splurging on several nice 16" Addi Turbo needles for the project... I can always justify new needles). I actually have a nice collelction of Cascade 220, including some nice felting left overs that I already knew would blend fairly well. Initially I was only going to use two colors in the hat, but I liked the balance of 4 colors in the design I picked. I was surprised at how challenging it was for me to pick 4 colors that I thought went together. 2 is easy, 4 really starts to stretch the color wheel my brain a little bit. The 4 colors I ended up with?

The light green is 9460 -- it's actually a heather with a bit of yellow and grey in it.
The lavender is 9324 -- also a heather that pushes the purple to the bluer side, but goes well with green
The pine green is 9448 -- this is a solid green that I chose as a darker version of the same green in 9460
The deep purple/magenta is 8885 -- this was my biggest leap out onto a limb, it's not really in the same family as the lavender, but I wanted one bright, almost warm color that would pop a little bit.

I wanted a set of colors that went together, had a little sophistication but also had a little pop since my main winter coat is a long black number, I don't mind dressing it up with a flashy hat or scarf. I like to think that my first effort at color selection isn't so bad. Green and purple is a little unusual for me, but that's what happens when stash dictates selection, I guess. The scary thing? I actually was wishing that I had a little yellow to throw into it... probably a good tthing I didn't have any such color in my stash.

A couple of folks asked about the yarn guide that I mentioned yesterday. It's actually a very simple (and inexpensive) little device from Clover. If you want to get a closer look at it, click here (I'm not endorsing this store, they just had the best pictures I could find on short notice). Clearly this device is not going to be very useful if you do your two color knitting with both hands. To be honest, I'm not sure how helpful it will be to those of you who carry your yarn in your right hand, but it works like a charm for those of us who are incapable of figuring out how to carry yarn in our right hands. ( If you're an English style knitter and you've tried it out -- I'd love to hear your experiences.) I'm still not incredibly fast with it, but it takes away the incredible frustration of tangled yarn that I had encountered every other time I'd tried to tackle a stranded knitting project. And it makes working with three colors pretty easy, too!

The blocking is the best part of this project however. When else would you get to use one of your favorite dinner plates to shape a garment? The beret is fit over the plate and then steamed to get the wool convinced to give a little on both the top and on the sides. It also helps to even out the stitches a little bit and makes the final product a little more finished looking.

Not sure where I will go next with the two color knitting. I'm not feeling quite ambitious enough to take on a sweater yet, but I can certainly imagine a pair of mittens or fingerless gloves in a lighter weight wool.

Oh -- and if you want to see another version of this beret, click on over to Jonathan's blog and take a look at his rendition of the project. Jonathan's not too far down I-290 from me in Oak Park. Must be a multi-color beret knitting vibe going on in the Chicago metro area!

P.S. Tomorrow my best buddy Julie is having surgery. Fortunately it's minor, but I don't think any surgery is ever fun. If you have time click on over and send her some good wishes for a speedy healing process!

Better Bucket


It's been chilly here in Chicago lately. So this girl's thoughts have turned to warm fuzzy hats. I've been wanting a bucket hat something fierce. So finally the lovely French accented voice of the Plassard yarn that Becky sent me over Christmas whispered in my ear and I pulled out Bonne Marie's pattern and started knitting. I got started late Saturday night and by Sunday evening I had my new chapeau.

Plassard Merinos and Louinie

I am much in love with the Louinie. It's fuzzy but subtle. Creates an almost velvety texture for the brim and the top of the hat, and doesn't scream "Elmo incoming!" The top is Louinie alone, the brim is a combo of Louinie and Merinos. Bonne Marie's non-rolling brim modifications are excellent.

Bucket-O-Biologist Francaise

This hat is a little oversized -- my hair is flat but it doesn't need help from a hat accomplishing the process. And some times I like to pull it back with a barrette. Nothing makes me crazier than taking a hat off and having my hair holder go with it (well, some things do make me crazier, but when it comes to hats, this is probably the tops). As a result of a little extra looseness, this hat also comes down over my ears. Not as stylin', probably, but warm. And warm is everything in a Chicago winter.

Merci beaucoup, Madame Lapin! J'adore mon chapeau nouveau!

NOTE: If you want to see another version of this bucket, and the original source of knitting inspiraton for me, you should also check out Becky's swanky black version. It was she who discovered how wonderfully well these yarns went together and made the original fuzzy top and brim version which I thought really looked like it had a texture like velvet.

The Cat in the Hat


I'm sorely tempted to try to rhyme about bucket hats. But I think that would end up being painful for all concerned. Instead, I'll just give you the progression of development of what should have become a Bucket-o-Chic, but instead, became something not entirely unlike a Bucket-o-Chic (with apologies to Douglas Adams).

Here's the starting point -- a whole lot of Cascade 220 in color 9323. I think it goes smashingly well with my cotton Gap Fair Isle (an ancient sweater), and Angel skinny scarf. Don't you just love that 3-needle bind off?

Not Quite a Hat

Here it is after one full cycle through my washing machine. I like to let my felted goods go through the spin cycle, because by the time they finish they are not so wet any more -- but damp enough so that the fabric can be manipulated. Gotta love that flowery floppy brim. I'm not so sure it's a good idea to do a doubled thickness of yarn in the brim... I've done enough felting to know better -- the brim felted slower than the rest of the hat. Thus, something that should have been proportional came out having a lot more extra fabric than it should have. I think if I do another of these, I'll only do a single thickness of yarn for the brim.

Damp and Silly

After playing with it for a while, and being pretty disappointed that it was not going to be a chic fabulastic hat, I set it down on my desk. Hmmm... the brim flattened out like magic. What, I thought, if I let it dry that way? Maybe the brim at least won't be all fluttery.

After a Night of Rest

After an overnight rest on my desk, the brim has developed a little bit more poise and conformation. But it's not very buckety. It makes me feel like I should be reading "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" and "Green Eggs and Ham" while Thing 1 and Thing 2 run around and demolish my house.

Still Pretty Silly

I'm fortunate in that I get to chat with the Divine Miss Burns on a semi regular basis. I read the FAQ... I even blocked that brim. I'm hoping that maybe she has some other pointers to keep in mind. Maybe I'll try to knit one without going the felted route. I'm very into Becky's awesome bucket that looks like it has a velvet brim and top. Since I don't think this hat is going to win any prizes, maybe I'll have to work out a trade for some of that fabulous French fiber that made for the perfect hat.

I have to start a little count down today. Some people are counting down to Christmas. I'm counting down to Columbus. I've got a trip to Indiana planned this weekend. Only 4 days to go until I'm giving myself permission to fall off the de-stashing wagon for a while.