Santa Cruz Hat Pattern on MagKnits

Whee! My Santa Cruz Hat Pattern is out on this month’s issue of MagKnits! I hadn’t expected it until next month, so this comes as a lovely surprise. I expect I’ll be doing a little happy dance for the rest of the day—perhaps the rest of the week.

I went on a hat-pattern-writing binge last summer and the Santa Cruz Hat is one of the results. At the time, I wanted to play with different lace stitches to make hats that would be suitable for the weather here where I live on the central California coast—that would add a touch of warmth and keep the wind from blowing one’s hair in one’s eyes, but without bringing on hyperthermia.

I’d love to hear what you think of it—and to see photos of any version of it you knit up. Please do share!

P.S. The model is my former student, Maryam, who’s now preparing for law school.

Is Anyone Besides Me…

… going crazy because the Yarn Harlot hasn’t posted since 1/25?

Last night I continued working on the bag in Malabrigo worsted, falling more and more in love with each stitch. I want, I need a sweater in this yarn. Exactly this yarn. The Col China colorway: sweet, sweet cranberry richness with occasional bursts of vivid, tangy green. I want to cover my entire body with it. (I am not alone in this. The Malabrigo folder at Knitter’s Review is currently on fire.)

I am thinking of something like Erica Alexander’s Diamond-Weave Baby Jacket from Interweave Knits, Winter 2004, but in my size. Texture, but not too much texture. Moss stitch borders (every sweater in the world could be knit with moss stitch borders and I wound’t weary of them). A few buttons up near the top and the rest left to drape comfortably. Today’s All Tangled Up has a lovely photo of one of these (baby-sized) in progress and links to several more renditions of it. I am thinking that the bag I’m knitting now will give my a nice sense of my gauge with this yarn (particularly when I work with a mix of Ks and Ps), which should allow me to do some fairly accurate estimating when I got to work on a sweater for myself.

Meanwhile, the bag brings me great satisfaction. I worked on it last night while I indulged first in reruns of CSI, then in the new episode of House. Originally, I’d been picturing this project as a textured bag in a narrow, rectangular shape, with a triangular flap and long shoulder straps. But while I knit, I kept envisioning different versions of it, including the possibility of just forgetting the whole bag thing and making it into a needle roll. The current vision is of a round-bottomed, drawstring bag—I like how the work looks on the circular needles and just want to keep that shape. So, I now appear to be knitting top down instead of bottom up. I expect I’ll need to buy one more skein before I’m through and am considering switching to a solid color for some contrast.

I just need to measure carefully to see what my unfelted gauge is before I start felting or my sweater dreams will be delayed.

I Can See That I Will Have to Buy My Own Camera

I have been using Melissa‘s camera on the weekends to take photos for my blog. (Actually, Melissa has been using her own camera to take the pictures for me. I just ask, “will you take a picture of this?,” and “how about this?,” and “this too?,” after which I say “and will you post them here?,” and “that one goes there,” and on and on.) So in the interest of eating up less of Melissa’s art time and of having a blog with some visual interest on week days, as well as weekends, I can see that a digital camera for me is quickly becoming inevitable. If anyone out there has recommendations, I’d be glad to hear them.

Meanwhile, you will be forced to bear with my photo-less weekday ramblings.

The first of my brightly colored kids’ wear projects was a prototype hat, which I finished up last night. Sadly, it is less a hat and more a very vivid yarmulke with a brim. At least I got the brim right. I used two strands of yarn, then switched to one for the hat itself, so the brim has a nice bit of body to it and doesn’t go all floppy. I will mail version 1.0 off to my niece for use as a doll hat and move along to version 2.0 once I get a bit more of the yarn.

To get my mind off that project, I pulled out a skein of Malabrigo Worsted in the Col China colorway that I’d purchased back at the beginning of the month. This yarn was a new offering at The Golden Fleece, one of my local yarn shops (I’m lucky enough to have four of them). It reminded me of Manos del Uruguay, only a) a few dollars less expensive, b) in larger skeins (210 yds), and c) in somewhat simpler colorways. A and B were positives; C was a negative, but the skein I did buy is lovely.

I’d like to work on some designs for practical, but not boring, felted bags, so figured I’d start with the Malabrigo. After fretting a bit about size, I cast 120 stitches onto a circular needle and began working in 2 stitch x 2 stitch alternating squares of knit and purl. My main “what if?” question on this project regards the percent shrinkage I’ll get when I felt the bag. Once I know that, I can start playing with more complex designs. Whether knitted on I-cord straps will hold up well is a secondary “what if” question I’ll have to answer over time.

At any rate, I just want to say—this yarn feels wonderful in my hands. Soft, soft, soft, much softer than other single-ply wools I’ve worked with. I can’t tell you anything about the bag I’m knitting yet, as I’m only a few inches into it, but the knitting itself is going to be a delight.

3 Free Patterns

Let me begin by saying that none of these are mine—oh, how I wish they were. I found them while poking about the net in between finalizing tomorrow’s class plan and (it’s endless, I tell you) reading student essays.

Dipsy’s Cable Lace Scarf The small photo doesn’t do this piece justice. Click on it to get the larger view, then swoon. The blog featuring this pattern is a fun read with lots of details about actual knitting, as well as chattier entries.

Sleepytime Wrapper I wish the pattern for this baby robe came in my size. (Of course, I can always start “what-iffing” about the possibilities of designing my own adult version.) It’s knit on US 2 needles with sport weight yarn. (I bet I could get it up to a child’s size just by using knitting worsted and US 7 needles, hmm?) This is one of many patterns avaiable at Free Vintage Knitting, a site that posts older patterns that have entered the public domain.

Dr. Monttville’s Double Helix Seaman Scarf is an offering from Twosheep, which presents a very eclectic mix of topics, knitting and non. (The latest entry describes a Charo concert.) I will be knitting many of these scarves between now and next December to give as gifts to the various scientists in my life.

I finished the Urban Trekker hat last night and added my own finishing touches to it—twisted cords and tassels, rather than braids and pom-pons. Now I’m playing with Shine, Knit Picks‘ cotton/modal sport-weight blend and thinking about colorful summer wear for kids. While admittedly stiff to knit with, as many cottons are, boy does Shine ever make a soft, tempting-to-touch fabric.


This weekend, I’m reading a set of student essays, so I can’t spend as much time as I’d like thinking and writing about knitting. But with Melissa‘s help, I am going to get some pictures posted so you can see what I have been/am doing in those moments I can squeeze out for myself.

I’ve completed two of my bulky tams in Cache. (Pattern adapted from One-Skein Wonders.)
Two tams!
As you can see the mossy colorway (“Smartie”) knits up into much clearer stripes than does the more neutral colorway (“Serengeti”). I’ve still got two skeins of the “Siren” colorway to play with—I’ll post info on its stripe-ability (or lack thereof) when I get some results.

This is Sparky, our aspiring yarn reviewer.
Sparky in the yard
He feels he should have been asked to test the Serengeti Cache, since it compliments his personal colorway so well. He would have made something very interesting out of it—maybe a free-form bathtub liner.

Here are the wrist warmers with the new matching hat.
Wristwarmers and a hat - all for $3.99
All that from one $3.99 ball of yarn!

Last of all, Here’s my current work in progress—
My current work in progress
—the “Urban Trekker” from Lion Brand Yarn‘s Just Hats (it’s the cover project). I’m knitting it in Cherry Tree Hill‘s potluck bulky wool in the “Earthtones” colorway. (Note that contrary to my claims of seldom using patterns, I am using a pattern—perhaps I’ll have to rethink my self-concept a bit.) I chose this pattern because a) I think it’s darling and b) I wanted to practice top-down hat knitting using a substantial yarn in order to minimize the wiggliness of the first few rounds.

Now, I’m back to the land of student essays. Melissa will add the photos and post this when she finishes playing with her new etching press. Whee!

On Second Thought (And a Question)

I probably shouldn’t post the tam pattern because it might violate copyright, even though it bears little resemblance to the original at this point, but I’ll definitely have pics up by the weekend. And I’ll see if I can track down the author to ask permission. I did start a second tam out of Cache, in the “Serengeti” coloway, so I’ll have two versions to photograph this weekend.

One-Skein Wonders (source of the original, sport-weight tam pattern) is a great book, and I highly recommend it. I love leafing through it with a skein from my stash in hand and thinking about what I might want to try.

The only comparable book I’ve found is One Skein, which is nice, but which I think comes in second to One-Skein Wonders because a) it has fewer patterns (63 counting generously v. 101), b) more of the patterns are for odd little knick-knacks I know I’ll never knit (a knit cupcake, for example), and c) it calls for some exceptionally large skeins of yarn, which is sort of a sneaky way around the one-skein rule.

Still, I did like One Skein enough to buy it, the photos are lovely, and pretty much everyone will find something to try in it.

Question: Yesterday, while I was in my LYS picking up a circular 16″ size 6 Addi Turbo that I needed, I found a skein of yarn that I also “needed”: KidLin Worsted in the “Tropical Mango” colorway. It’s 53% kid mohair, 24% linen, 23% nylon, comes 120 yards to a skein, and is a marl made of four strands twisted together—three mohair in spring green, orange, and purple, one linen in orange. Have any of you worked with this yarn? Do you have any genius ideas for what I might want to knit out of it? It would make a gorgeous shwl, but I’m not sure I want to sink the money into buying several more skeins. (Of course, if I did get more, I could use it to play with the copy of Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Today that I got for Christmas. The used book buyer just stopped by my office and paid me $25 for two old texts—maybe it’s a sign.)

Tam (Pics and Pattern to Follow)

Last night, I finished up my bulky-weight reworking of the basic tam pattern in One-Skein Wonders. I’d left the book up at Melissa‘s apartment and she was very patient about dropping what she was doing to read various bits of it to me. (We had variations on, “It’s a tam. The pattern is after the photo section in the middle of the book.” “Is it X [insert name of the wrong pattern here]?” “No.” “Is it XX?” “No.” Once Melissa located the pattern, we moved on to things like, “Just before it says ‘decreases’ does it say how many inches are knit?” Bless her a thousand times over for her generosity of spirit.)

Of course, I wasn’t actually following the pattern, per se, but I was using it to help with my “guestimations.” I used Moda Dea Cache, which I’d found on sale for $2 a ball—can’t resist a bargain! I’m snowed under at work just now, but in the next few days, I’ll post the pattern and the “formula” I’m planning to play with to continue trying this pattern in other yarns.

I’d worked with Cache once before on a scarf and had mixed feelings about it then. There didn’t seen to be any real pattern to the color changes and the yarn itself is rather coarse: essentially two strands of roving with a metallic thread thrown in. (Again, pictures of yarn, hat, etc. to follow.) The tam pattern was much better for this yarn: I got nice, narrow stripes around the hat of variegated peacock and rose, with wider bands of the main color, moss.

I also picked this yarn up in two other colorways—one pinks and yellows, the other silvers and beiges. Although I’d be risking another round of same-hat despondency, I’m tempted to knit these up into tams, too, so I can look at them side by side.

BTW—Melissa sent me a mock-up of the postcard with the hat pattern. It’s going to be great! I’ll put that up here too once it’s ready. I am so stoked that I’ll have something to share with the folks I meet at Stitches West.

Also BTW—Our kitten Spartacus (Sparky) has nominated himself to be a guest yarn reviewer for this blog. He feels I’m leaving out all sorts of important things, like kick-ability and bite-ability and how many laps you have to run around the house to use up an entire skein.

One more BTW—I just figured out that I have to approve comments before they appear on this blog (oh, brave new world!). So if you commented and felt tragically excluded from the conversation because your contribution never showed up, that situation has been remedied.


Two quick additions to my last two postings:

• I got a great “what if?” question about the Louisa Harding Fauve yarn. What if, instead of being frustrated about the way it contracts into a very small, very stretchy fabric, I used this to my advantage? I’m imagining it would make snug, but elastic cuffs on a sweater, for instance, or a nice waist inset to shape a sweater.

• That wonderful/evil Soft Delight Extremes acrylic yarn? I knitted a nice little double moss stitch hat out of it, using the same skein I’d used for the wrist warmers. Not bad: wrist warmers and a hat (both of which could be mistaken for Noro at a distance) for just under $4.

5 Yarns, 5 Hats

I’m working on what I hope will be an eye-catching postcard to publicize whatifknits, like the postcards artists send out before a show. The front will have pictures of a hat I’ve designed, knit up in a variety of yarns. The back will have the pattern and information on this web site. Melissa and I spent part of yesterday morning photographing the hats in various urban settings, drawing inquiries and encouragement from passing drivers. (And, sinice it was Saturday, avoiding questions from security personnel who might mistake a couple of knitting loons for a terrorist threat.)

Knitting these hats in rapid succession has been a real test of my stamina as a knitter. The changes in yarn helped, but two weeks solid of the same pattern had me a bit desperate. I like asking my “what if?” questions as I knit, planning the next project while one is still on the needles, so it got rather disheartening when the “what if?” question was reduced to “what if I do the same damn thing over and over again?” (The answer to that questions is: I get crabby and despondent.)

But now the hats are done and the *FREE* pattern will be going to press in a week or so (I’ll also post it here) ready for me to pass out at Stitches West and other knitting venues. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my observations about the yarns I used.

5 different versions of the Point Lobos hat
Yarns (clockwise from top): Quatro by Cascade Yarns; Iris by Bertagna Filati; Fauve by Louisa Harding Yarns; Manos Cotton Stria by Manos del Uruguay;Merino Frappe by Crystal Palace Yarns.

Quatro by Cascade Yarns
Label Information: 100% Peruvian highland wool, 100 grams/3.5 oz, 220 yards, needle size 7-8 U.S., 4.5-5 stitches per 1″.
Approximate Price: $7 per skein.
Yummy, yummy wool marl. This yarn was a pleasure to work with: rich in color, bouncy enough to make the k2togs easy. I love marls—all the richness of a variegated yarn, without any worries about color pooling. Many of you have no doubt used this yarn already, but if you haven’t, its reasonable price and high quality make it well worth trying out.

Iris by Bertagna Filati
Label Information: 60% cotton, 40% nylon, 50 grams, 90 meters, needle size 5-6mm, 18 stitches and 24 rows per 10 cm.
Approximate price: $7 per ball.
This is a yarn I found in the “Four Buck Bucket” at my favorite local yarn shop, The Swift Stitch. I was seduced by the contrast between the matte cotton strand (reminding me of the days when we tied up packages to mail in cotton string) and the shiny variegated rayon. This yarn is substantial enough to use on a project that will get regular wear, but light enough that you’ll keep using the garment well into the spring, perhaps even on cooler summer days. Unlike some double-stranded yarns I’ve worked with, this one has very even tensioning, so you don’t find one of the two strands bunching up around the other. The yarn has a surprising amount of give to it, so repeated k2togs didn’t result in the hand cramps they sometimes produce. Besides working well for hats, this yarn would make beautiful cardigans or knit t-tops.

Fauve by Louisa Harding Yarns
Label Information: 100% nylon, 50 grams, 127 yards/116 meters, needle size US 6/7 UK, 5.5 stitches per 1″.
Approximate Price: $9.50 per ball.
I love this yarn, but I’m also frustrated by it. I bought it after trying it out at a yarn tasting at Article Pract because it felt so good in my hands: very bouncy and supple, almost suede-like. The labelling’s a bit confusing, however. The strands we got at the yarn tasting were from a ball that recommended size 10.5 US needles, but the balls on the shelves mostly had labels recommending size 6 US needles. The bit I knit up at the tasting (I used US 11 needles) came out quite nicely, flat, smooth, and sleek. When I knit the hat, I used US 7 needles (as I did for all the hats) and the yarn really scrunched up, resulting in a very thick, stretchy fabric that had a much tighter guage than the label suggested it would. My hat pattern requires about 100 yards of yarn in pretty much every yarn I’ve used for it, but I ran out of Fauve near the end of the project, even though the balls are 127 yards. (I did manage to finish the hat by unravelling my swatch from the yarn tasting and reusing it on the crown of the hat.) Final assessment: you’ll love the feel of this yarn as you work with it, but be very, very careful about gauge—and buy substantially more than logic tells you you’ll need to finish your project.

Manos Cotton Stria by Manos del Uruguay
Label Information:100% Peruvian cotton, 1.75 oz/50 grams, 116 yards/106 meters, needle size 4-6 US/3.5-4 mm, 18-20 stitches and 24 rows per 4″/10cm.
Approximate Price: $9 per skein.
I bought this yarn from Patternworks a few years ago because I couldn’t resist the color. Since I didn’t have any specific ideas about what I’d knit with it, I just ordered a single skein, and it’s been calling to me teasingly from my stash since then, while I wondered what to do with 116 yards of cotton. Since this is a slightly finer yarn that some of the ones I worked with on this project, I was worried that the hat would come out small and even considered moving up to US 8 needles, but I’m glad I stuck with the size 7 (still one size larger than the range recommended on the label). If I hadn’t the hat would probably have come out big enough to use as a toaster cover. Not surprisingly, the hat wound up a bit loosely knit, so it doesn’t have as much stretch as the other versions, but it fits comfortably. Of the five yarns I used, Stria had the least give. It wasn’t uncomfortable to use on the larger needles, but I think it would feel rather stiff on the recommended size US 4. The texture of the yarn (not exactly a boucle, but more of a ripple) is retained in the finished piece, making it interesting without distorting the pattern stitch too much. I’m not sure how well it will wear, so I’d work with it again on a small project, but don’t think I’d want to use it for anything substantial.

Merino Frappe by Crystal Palace Yarns
Label Information: 80% merino wool, 20% polyamide, 50 grams, 140 yards, needle size 7-9 US, 3.5-4 stitches per 1″.
Approximate Price: $8 per ball.
The first time I bought this yarn, I picked it for its color (a rich purple). I’d enjoyed working with it, so thought it would make a good hat yarn, but I was forced to buy a different color because there wasn’t purple on the shelf. The black binder didn’t show on the purple yarn. On the mustard-colored yarn it does show through, giving the yarn a certain haziness. Merino Frappe knits up very comfortably, and the 140 yard skeins seem to go a long way: I always have more yarn left than I expect after finishing a project. The only drawback to this yarn is that its texture makes it difficult to unravel, so it’s not a good candidate for experimental knitting or particularly complicated patterns. On the other hand, since it has a furry texture, even if you do unravel a lot the yarn won’t wind up looking particularly shopworn.

Would I work with these yarns again? Yes for all of them. The Quatro and the Merino Frappe would be my first choices, just for their vesatility and reliability (does it make sesne to call a yarn reliable?). I’m sure I’ll also pick up more of the Iris if I can find it, though I suspect it’s being discontinued, which would explain its being marked down. I don’t know that I’ll get more Stria, but it may turn out to be exactly the right thing for a warm-weather project someday. I have one more ball of Fauve at home, but doubt I’ll buy more. I love, love, love to touch it it, but I don’t trust it in terms of guage or total yardage called for.

Forbidden Love

I know it’s not the sort of thing we talk about in polite society, but I’ve fallen in love with an acrylic yarn—a cheap acrylic yarn ($3.99 for a 218-yard skein). Soft Delight Extremes by Yarn Bee, which is the house brand for Hobby Lobby. I picked it up when I was in the midwest last summer visiting my sister. It looked like any number of other yarns on the skein: kind of hairy, but definitely not an eyelash, some color variegation, but nothing that cried out “I will be your new obsession! You will succumb to my powers and become helpless like a child!” Still, the price was right, so I bought a skein.

This winter, when I was experimenting with tam patterns, I pulled it out, figuring it might make a rawther interesting tam. The tam itself came out rawther more interesting than I’d planned. I was following a pattern, which I rarely do (see my previous entry), but I failed to notice that at one point the decreases increased from every other row to every row. As a result of my lapse, I wound up with a hat that began something like a tam, but then collapsed a bit in the middle, and finally rose up to an odd little point. Sort of like the fancier kind of mathematical bracket { or an onion dome. I convinced myself the hat had “flair” and left it as it was, naming it “Czarina”—though it did not have enough flair for me to knit another like it.

But my point here is the yarn, not the hat suitable for smuggling large gourds and other oddly-shaped vegetables. I immediately phoned my (non-knitting) sister and begged her to get me another six skeins, which she did. (I have THE BEST sister in the world. Don’t even try telling me that many other sisters are just as wonderful. I will not believe you.)

Soft Delights yarn
The yarn was gorgeous: gorgeous to touch, gorgeous to look at. It’s actually two separate strands twisted together. The main one is a fuzzy, acrylic-as-mohair ranging from a sweet, sweet cream to an almost-black brown and back again, with longer sojourns at the darker end of the run. The second strand is thin and shiny, with very fine threads coming off it every quarter inch or so, and this is variegated in a spring green to pink to bright red-violet range. When it knits up, it’s positively Noro-esque—if it’s not blasphemy to say that about a $3.99 acrylic.

So Wednesday, when I was crabby as all get-out because I’d been knitting the same darn hat (subject of a future posting) repeatedly for the better part of two weeks, I dramatically swore off kniiting, at least briefly. “I can’t knit another stitch,” I told Melissa. “That hat has frozen my brain to the point that I’m incapable of thinking an original thought. I’ll just have to stop for twenty-four hours to clear my mind, then start a completely new project.”

That resolution, of course, lasted long enough for me to walk upstairs and see the winter issue of Interweave Knits on the bedroom floor. I’d been lusting after the Wine and Roses mitts since I’d seen them worked up in a lovely rose (what else) shade on All Tangled Up. I looked at the pattern and lusted some more, but knew I wasn’t ready to take on something quite that fiddley given my tenuous state.

So then I asked myself a what-if question. What if I knit up some simpler wrist warmers using some of that nice yarn from my sister?

I knit a quick swatch to figure out what my gauge was, measured my forearm and hand and cast on. The crabbiness fled, contentment set in. I was knitting. I was knitting something that was not a hat. In three hours I had wrist warmer #1. The next evening I knit wrist warmer #2. Joy! Right now I’m only taking them off to eat and bathe.

Basic wrist warmers and a cup of tea
See what I mean about Noro-esque? (And the identical color variation on each one—complete luck.)

If you like them, you’re welcome to knit your own pair:

Yarn: Yarn Bee Soft Delights Extreme or ~175 yards of any heavy worsted-weight yarn that gets ~4.5 stitches to the inch.
Needles: U.S. #8 double points.
[Note that I originally omitted two lines of the pattern. They have been added here in bold.]

Cast on 45 stitches, distributing them evenly among three double-points. Place a marker and close the circle.

Work 4 rounds of k2, p1 rib.
Knit 6 rounds.
(K1, K2tog, K12) 3 times. (=42 stitches)
Knit 6 rounds.

(K1, k2tog, k11) 3 times. (=39 stitches)
Knit 6 rounds.
(K1, k2tog, k10) 3 times. (=36 stitches)
Knit 12 rounds.
(K1, k2tog, k9) 3 times. (= 33 stitches)
Knit 15 rounds.
K 1, bind off 4, k28.
K1, cast on 4, k28.
Knit 8 rounds.
Work 4 rounds k2, p1 rib.
Cast off and weave in ends.