I Brioched and I Loved It

Photo of two-color brioche knitting

I made my dad a hat for his birthday.  He is not into bright colors and energetic motifs.  I could have knit him a very plain watch cap, but I settled on an idea to spice it up, for my own sanity (?).  What might appear to the untrained eye, a very simple hat, is, in fact, two color brioche in the round.  Wheeeeee!

Photo of two-color brioche knitting

I knit it in two colors of Happy Fuzzy Yarn American Worsted, “Shadow” and “Moss.”

Dad is not a cold-weather kind of person so gifts of warm clothes are always appreciated.

Picture of a man in a hat

OMG, I love this hat so much!

I need to make one for myself.  Doncha think?

Picture of a brioche hat

I used the Brioche Hat pattern from Weekend Knitting and sadly the directions for the crown decreases are confusing.  And this is NOT a reversible pattern, although you will be tempted to think it is until near the end.  That, I can live with, but I want to find a pattern with clearer directions for the crown.

So what’s a girl to do?  Nancy Marchant, the living expert, doesn’t appear to have a published pattern for a straight-forward two-color brioche watch cap.  Anyone have a pattern they’ve used to recommend?

What do you have a craving to cast on?

Surprise, Baby!

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

The Baby Surprise Jacket was the most fun thing I knit all year.  Bold statement considering we have three more months to go, but I’m sticking by it.

This is probably one of the world’s most famous knitting patterns, first published by Elizabeth Zimmermann in 1968. The knitter just knits along, tracking some not-complicated increases and decreases, and when you bind off, you are left with an odd blob, but with a quick fold here and there, the garment’s shape is revealed. A couple quick seams later and you have a really cute jacket.

This pattern has spawn child and adult versions and is a favorite for those who want to use scraps and handspun because the geometry of this pattern shows off stripes and multicolored yarns to great effect.

I was able to see all this for myself in Ravelry under the projects tab for this pattern. Armed with that knowledge, I chose a gender-neutral green and yellow multicolor from Happy Fuzzy Yarn called “Colorado River” in the Superwash Sport base. This yarn is incredibly squishy and dyes up vibrantly thanks to the superwash quality.

It knit up quickly and when I was near the end, I puzzled out the folding just to see what it look like.

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

It took my breath away, it was soooo adorable. I think the Baby Surprise Jacket, done up in a sportweight yarn, makes a sweater that fits a 3-6 month old — well, based on standard clothing sizes for babies. YMMV.

If the pattern weren’t awesome enough by itself, my son FINALLY learned to knit one night on a weekend trip by working a couple rows on this sweater.  Yes, I left them in.  His stitches were fine! (Those are his hands in the action shot above.)

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

This sweater was a gift for our newest nephew, born at the end of August.  He’s a little bean now; we can’t wait to play with him when he gets a little older!

I can’t recommend this pattern highly enough. It kind of makes me want to go on an EZ pattern bender. Have you made any of her patterns? I’ve knit a few and enjoyed them also; I think it’s time to discover others by her.

Dressing Up the Holidays

Close-up of Abby's stocking

My brother, Noah, was the catalyst for the other holiday gift knitting experience.

Last summer Noah asked me if I could secretly knit a pair of Christmas stockings for himself and his fiancée, Abby.  He likes the set of handknit colorwork stockings I made for my house.

My family's handknit Christmas stockings

 

These stockings are knit from Nancy Bush‘s pattern, Christmas in Tallinn, published several places, but the only souce that matters is her excellent book Knitting on the Road.  I made the first one, the red one, in 2005 for my infant son; Matt’s green stocking was made in 2006; my blue one was made in 2007; and then I had a year reprieve until our daughter came along in 2009.  She got a purple stocking.  I substituted the yarn Bush’s pattern calls for, Dalegarn Tiur, for Dalegarn Heilo simply because I liked the Heilo palette better.  (This was, by the way, the first time I was bit in the ass by yarn substitution.  Tiur is 109 yards.  Heilo is 126 yards.)

E's Christmas stocking

Noah left me in full creative control, so I of course immediate sought out ways to make this project as difficult as possible.  First, I had to design my own.  Second, if one design was fun, then two new designs were twice as fun!  (Right?!)  Third, the yarn (O!  The yarn!).

Abby's Christmas stocking, designed by me

I really enjoyed picking out colorwork patterns for these designs.  I found everything I wanted, and pretty quickly, in Sheila McGregor’s Traditional Scandinavian Knitting.  For the top of Abby’s stocking (green), I chose a boy-and-girl motif; for Noah’s stocking (orange), I chose reindeer.  The body patterns on each of their stockings come from the same 19th-century sweater: one was the pattern on the back and the other was the pattern on the front.

Noah's Christmas stocking

Can you imagine knitting that sweater?  Maybe…

There was some math to work out to make these motifs go together, resulting in Noah’s stocking being noticeably larger.  Noah has no problem with this.

As for the yarn, Cascade 220 Superwash Sport, it wasn’t my favorite.  Noah and I chose it based on wide color palette and affordable price, but it has just about put me off superwash yarn for the rest of my life.  It did not hold up well to repeated ripping and reknitting, coming un-plied and… for lack of a better descriptor, flacid.

Of course then my friend pointed out that many of the high-end end indie yarns, like Mashtosh and Tanis and Plucky Knitter, are superwash now so never say die.

The Gift of Gift Knitting

It’s really no fun to read about how crummy someone’s vacation was so we won’t dwell on it.  I’ve only just recovered, psychologically, this week.  Farewell, 2013!  Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out!

The BEST part of winter break, for me, this year was seeing how genuinely happy my husband and children were upon opening their handknit gifts.  Does that sound too cute and saccharine?  It’s true.  There were big Os of surprise, there were smiles, thanks, hugs, and kisses from four through thirty-six.  GO ME!

boot socks

(It does help that I have made it clear that the best way to get on the handknit list is to appreciate the things I make, sincerely and loudly.  This elf is making her own kind of list and checking it twice.)

For the past few years — in my efforts to enjoy the winter holiday season rather than just survive it — I’ve stepped way back from trying to make something for EVERYONE (that’s 11+ people).  It seems like a good idea in the planning stage (I looooove the planning stage), but the execution of the plan goes on too long for my available knitting time.  There’s the amount of knitting time I actually have and what I wish I had or sometimes just think I have.

Full disclosure: I was on the crazy holiday knitting train at times this season.  And then I got off.  Got on. Off.

red scarf

I try to have a pair of socks on the needle for one of the four of us at all times.  So when Z’s latest pair came off the needles in mid-November, I decided it was serendipity and tossed it in the gift knits basket.  Then I saw, in that basket, a lovely, drapey, moss stitch scarf in heathered burgundy Paton’s Classic Wool.  Guess who likes burgundy?  Not me.  But Matt does.  (Like me, his favorite color is green, so this really wasn’t obvious to me or him while I was knitting this scarf, off and on, for a couple, um, years.)

purple mittens

That only left my four-year-old, who could use a handknit pair of mittens.  Something to balance out all the pink and leopard print.  I finished on Christmas Eve, after tucking my puking children and husband into bed.

She, by the way, wins at appreciating my work.  She reminds me almost daily how much she loves her mittens. Aw! Her savvy father, in between appreciations, has already put in his request for a Purl Soho Shawl Collar Cowl.

I wish I had better pictures to share, but here I am, working at home, and my family and all their handknits are out of the house.  The dark purple of those mittens is especially difficult to capture at this gloomy time of year, while attached to a four-year-old.  More information and photos are available on their Ravelry project pages, linked above.  An account on Ravelry is required to view.

How did your handknit holidays go?

First thoughts

I didn’t plan a six month hiatus and I’ve just realized that my absence here coincides with a big project I was working on that involved me reading about a novel a week.  Intense but can’t complain.

My garden was a joke this year. The worst it has been since I took it up in a serious way about six years ago.  It has grown every year, even with moving three times. Helps that we moved to places with more land I could work.  But this year, the combination of big work project starting in late June, high energy toddler, and no fence around my yard meant that I could not be outside working in the garden for more than ten minutes before she ran off and I had to follow.  Very frustrating.  There was talk about the house of making it more of a family effort but that came to naught.  And really, I just spent all my free time and some of theirs reading and writing.

The seed catalogs are starting to arrive and I am baffled.  Do I even bother?  I am trying to project forward to next summer.  I wonder if the small one will even be napping anymore.  I can’t not do a garden.  So it becomes a matter of how. And how much. Soil fertility is down so I think I may focus on feeding the soil over growing veg.  I’ll grow food but I need to learn how to feed my soil without pouring buckets of expensive fish emulsion into the ground.  Starting with all those friends who got chickens recently. 🙂

Finally sitting down to read my past six months of Organic Gardening helps my motivation.  And still in time to do some yard cleanup, given our warmer autumn.

The knitting never stopped, of course.  In fact this morning I woke with a fire in my head about dying a huge hank of yellow worsted weight handspun alpaca/wool which was–I am not kidding–my first piece of stash yarn.  I saw it, loved it, it was only $8 and I knew I did not know what I was going to do with it. (In fact, at the time of purchase, I think my only plan was to pet it.)  The hank has moved with me three times.  A few days ago I realized my problem is that I need to dye it.  Being soft, it begs to be worn next to the skin, but this pale lemony yellow is just about the worst color I could wear. This morning, my very first thought upon waking was to overdye it with blue or green.

I love my first thoughts of the day.  It is always something interesting.

Hard upon that I remembered that I have 2 skeins of Cascade Pastaza in a dark teal that would make a fantastic cowl.  Because walking my son to school is starting to get really cold and I am much more interested in knitting myself five complete sets of hat-scarf-mittens than holiday gift knitting.

Holiday gift knitting is minimal.  I am making armwarmers for my niece, mitts for my husband, and… that’s it!  I was going to make my children bears and then I tried to start them the other night and remembered how much I HATE knitting toys. So I freed myself of that obligation.

Anyway, after I woke up and had my first thoughts, I had to actually touch the yellow handspun and the Pastaza. In the same basket–the Alpaca Basket–were two skeins of Knit Picks Panache.  YUMMO!  Why is this not on my body?

Simultaneously my brain was trying to figure out how to make another cowl out of the handspun Jenny has gifted me (some of which is alpaca!).  I have three skeins, ranging worsted to bulky, in light green, dark emerald green, and purples.  Although the colors look nice together, I am not sure the yarns belong together.  So I am thinking thoughts of how to get the most out of small skeins of handspun.  Which are, of course, so beautiful I could just leave them as art to look at but I’ve been doing that for a while already.  Currently I am thinking of a Cat Bordhi Moebius Cowl because one can just keep knitting until the yarn runs out.  But I think I want to change it up from her simple lace pattern to garter stitch.

Well, all this typing is cutting into my knitting time.  Hah!  Time to go make something warm.