This first post of this new month is… a knitting one!
That’s right folks – I’m a knitter as well as a sewist, if you didn’t know. I’ve been meaning for a while to bring knitting to my little corner of the interwebs, but its only been recently – really recently – that I’ve actually got back into it. Knitting takes SO. MUCH. LONGER. than sewing, but y’know what? I actually don’t mind that. The motion of knitting is kinda therapeutic, and I love that I can curl up on the sofa with a doggo and a blanket and enjoy a few hours relaxing and creating with nothing more than yarn and needles.
I could knit waaaay before I could sew. The jumpers and things that I’ve knitted in the past have (mostly) only been mildly successful, for the same reasons that my first sewing projects weren’t that great – wrong colours, wrong styles. Cheap yarns as well. Horrible, plastic-y acrylic yarns. 🤢
I’m definitely a winter person more than a summer person, and this probably goes some way to fuel my love for knitting cosy sweaters, hats and scarves (and socks, too, when I actually get around to knitting my first pair). The idea of a summer holiday – especially a beach holiday – gives me the shudders. But get me a cottage in remote Scotland/Finland/Norway/other cold country during the winter, with a log fire, and I’m happier than a seagull with a stolen chip.
I remember being at high school – about 13-14 years old maybe – and wanting to knit myself a scarf. This required help from a grown-up who knew what they were doing – cue Mother. My mum was a knitter, and when I was younger she used to knit me the most amazeballs intarsia jumpers – my clearest memory is of a sky blue jumper with The Snowman on it (something I’ll still watch now at Christmas, if I manage to catch it).
I don’t remember everything she helped me to knit, but I know it almost always required her to cast on for me. It wasn’t until much later that I actually managed to do that myself – along with increases, decreases and cables. I’ve never quite managed to get the hang of intarsia knitting myself (yet – this is gonna change in 2019 though, fo sho), but she did lay the foundations for my not-too-shabby knitting skills.
It’s been a bit hit and miss over the years with my knitting, while I figured out my personal style. My two most successful projects are a cardigan I made for the husbeast (which I may actually do a blog post about one day) and a sweater I made for myself with Brooklyn Tweed Shelter yarn – it was god damn expensive but the finished item is literally my favourite sweater and I would buy more of the yarn in a heartbeat. I’ve recently bought some of their Peerie and Arbor yarns to make a hat and gloves set, but no more Shelter has come into my hands – yet. I’m working on that.
The favourite sweater is the Peabody by Leila Raabe:
The dog also got treated to a knitted-square-blanket for the winter a few years back (that she chewed a hole in) which has since been gifted to the cat, and my favourite winter hat is made with yarn I picked up in South Korea from the Dongdaemun mega-market, which I’m sure a few of you will have visited/heard of. If you haven’t, in a nutshell, it’s described as ‘about 26 malls, 30,000 stores and 50,000 manufacturers, all spread over 10 city blocks. The area is open for 18-½ hours a day from 10:30 am to 5:00 am’. I kid you not.
Every year, as summer tails off, I start to look at my Ravelry favourites list and realise that unless I plan to quit my job and figure out how to make money out of thin air (or indeed from knitting), I’m never gonna make everything I would like. I don’t even think I’ll ever make 10% of what I’ve bookmarked. Most years, my procrastination around which should be the single lucky design to be knitted means I end up knitting nothing.
Well, NOT ANY MORE. I am getting my flabby ass in gear. By sitting on it. And knitting. This year, I’ve put some knitted things in my Make Nine, so that they don’t get forgotten (full deets here, if you missed that post).
Here’s just a small portion of the Ravelry faves:
(Yes, there’s a lot of shawls – I was trying to find a pattern for me. You’ll have to wait to find out which one of these got chosen!)
This year marks the start of change, though. There will be more knitting. I promise. For starters, I’ve actually made the hats you see here. AND, since these I’ve also made matching gloves. And I’ve so nearly finished a shawl for the husband. (Let’s ignore the fact that it might be ever-so-slightly too warm to actually wear a scarf now, but I STILL MADE IT). And the queue of sweaters to knit is slowly – but surely – growing. Which I’m excited about.
So – these hats!
I bought the pattern for both the hat and the mitts, as the husbeast was grumbling he’d been wearing the same knitted hat for several years now (that I’d knitted him previously) and that he couldn’t use his phone with his gloves on 🙄
The hat in question, which he was whinging about, is the Cambridge Watchcap:
(which I personally don’t think is too shabby, even after all these years 🤷🏻♀️)
So now that we had the hat pattern, then came the not-so-small task of choosing the yarn.
Just as I spend hours poring over fabric, the same applies to yarn. Yarn is really hard to buy online, because the colours and textures vary SO MUCH MORE on the screen vs IRL than with fabric (and of course, there’s the all important itchiness factor). With variegated yarn, I find it really hard to translate what the hank looks like to what the knitted fabric looks like – there’s been many a hank I’ve looked at a photo of and liked the mix of colours, but when I’ve searched for images of finished garments, I hate it because it looks muddy. Then there’s the addtional dramas of: does it stripe? How do the colours pool on smaller items vs larger, eg socks vs a sweater?
I tend to Google image the yarn to see photos from all different sources in different lighting, just to try to get an idea of the actual colour. If I’m happy with that, then I’ll go onto Ravelry to look at finished projects using that yarn, to see if it passes THAT test. If it does, I may buy 🤑
You’ll probably be surprised to hear it, but yarn shops in London are very few and far between. And my criteria for a ‘yarn shop’ is NOT John Lewis (it’s a department store, for those of you not in the UK, and pretty much all they sell is Rowan yarn 😒). So for any real amount of choice, especially with independent yarn brands/dyers, you’re forced to buy online.
The Kindred hats use aran weight yarn, with Malabrigo Chunky and Malabrigo Twist being the recommended ranges. I couldn’t find Twist for sale in the UK – apart from a few sites that just stocked a handful of colours – so began looking at Malabrigo’s other aran yarns and discovered Rios, which was much more widely available.
I’ve previously used Deramores (who still have a really good range or yarns at good prices) but they didn’t have the Malabrigo yarn that this pattern called for. I literally couldn’t find a single stockist in London that I could go to in real-life and look at colours. A quick google search threw up Love Knitting, an online store who I know I’ve bought from many years ago because I have a pen that must have been included with an order that has their company details on it. Amazingly, that pen actually still works… not sure what kind of ink they are using in it but it must be at least ten years old 🤔
I spent a fair while browsing the shades I liked on the Love Knitting website, and then did the delving in google images and Ravelry. As much as I was drawn to the pinks and purples, I just can’t have that in a winter hat because it’s gonna blend in with my hair 😖 So what do you do when you can’t have your favourite colours, and your second choice would have been red but you’ve already made two red hats so can’t really make any more? I went with the next best autumn colour – orange. But as this hat is a striped pattern, I needed another colour to go with it… Couldn’t have black, because then it would just look like a Halloween hat – NOT the look I was after. Red? Maybe, though quite similar to orange, and see previous comment re red hats. Reallllly dark purple? Yah, that could work… added to basket.
For the husband (whose current hat is ALSO red 🤷🏻♀️🤣), I chose some muted, earthy colours. A slate grey for the brim, and then a lighter variegated shade of purples and greens.
The exact yarns I chose were:
My hat: Malabrigo Worsted ‘Red Mahogany’ (610) and Rios in ‘Volcan’ (227)
The husbeasts hat: Malabrigo Worsted ‘Black Forest’ (179) and Rios ‘Illusion’ (842)
I was properly impressed with the delivery from Love Knitting. My order qualified for free delivery – I ordered on the Saturday and it came on the Monday. It defo brightened up the start of my week. I was especially happy with the real-life shades of the husbeasts – mine… not so much. The purple and the orange were… okay…. but I didn’t feel they gelled as well as the husbands combo did. I think the reasons were:
- Because the purple is unexpectedly variegated (and I’ve therefore ended up with two variegated colours, rather than the main colour being more of a solid like in the husbeasts hat)
- There’s some REALLY orange bits in the orange. Like You’ve-Been-Tangoed orange. I was expecting more of a muted, autumnal orange rather than ‘tangerine dream’.
I guess that’s the disadvantage of buying online 😕
In my world, you can never have enough knitted items, and when you’re flying somewhere or going on holiday – such as we were heading to NYC last October – that equals some prime knitting time for me. I can’t take my sewing machine with me, so the oh-so-portable knitting gets it’s moment. I’ve knitted sweaters in the Peak District, the aforementioned Peabody sweater in Slovenia, and a baby blanket on a previous flight to NYC ✈️
I was a little bit edgy about getting my pouch of knitting supplies through security, despite reading online that you can indeed take a sewing needle, knitting needles and scissors with blades under 5cm. I deliberately packed an old pair of scissors so that if they got a bit arsey, they could just take them and I wouldn’t be sad about losing them – but it turns out no one bat an eyelid and we got through without drama. Which is just as well because if they’d tried to take my beloved needles off me there would have been much drama.
(In case anyone is curious – I use Knitpro Symfonie wooden interchangeable needles, and they are AMAZEBALLS. I’d never go back to metal or bamboo.)
I cast on the hats while sitting on my flight from Gatwick to JFK – when I instantly realised that in my rush not to forget to actually pack the yarn, I’d forgotten to wind it into a ball. Thankfully, the Handsome Husbeast volunteered his arms so that I could wind the yarn. It was for his hat after all – so no winding = no hat 🤷🏻♀️
I continued the hat throughout the flight – in between watching Mary Poppins (SUCH a classic amirite?! They’re doing show on London’s West End which I’ve got tickets for later on in the year and I am SUPER EXCITED 💃🏻💃🏻💃🏻) and counting down the minutes until I could be on solid ground again and making my way to Mood Fabrics.
Needle size, I went for 4.5 and 5.5mm rather than the recommended 5.5mm and 6mm – I’m quite a loose knitter so I usually have to size down. (This, I think, is due to what is apparently/maybe my absolutely shocking knitting technique). Just as I like to live dangerously and not make dressmaking toiles, I also don’t swatch 😱 Sometimes I use the recommended yarn, sometimes I substitute it for something else… but as I’m too lazy to swatch with substituted yarn I usually just save myself the time and buy the wool they say – because at least I know my gauge will be close-ish 🤣 I will admit that I don’t even check tension with the wool they recommend, I tend to just go down a needle size and dive straight in 😱🤣 (this may *may* change in the future if I start investing more time and effort into knitted garments!).
I did 1×1 rib for the brim of the hat rather than ‘twisted rib’, because by that time I was in the air and didn’t have wi-fi to confirm the correct method for twisted rib… but it worked out fine.
Overall the pattern was easy to follow once you got into it, though I did have a couple of instances where I had one more or one less stitch than I should have 🤷🏻♀️🤣 annnnd it took me a couple of rows to figure out that I had to wrap the yarns at the changeover point to avoid gaping holes. It all slowly came back to me… it had been a LONG while since I knitted anything so I think I’d forgotten all those little read-between-the lines things. I’m pleased to report I seem to be back to usual service now, but note to self : COUNT PROPERLY. DOUBLE CHECK. TRIPLE CHECK.
The hats were fun to knit, and an enjoyable project to ease me back into that wonderful world of yarn and needles that I realise I’ve missed so much.
I didn’t block the hats… I figured that there’s no need because it stretches when you put it on your head 🤷🏻♀️ (fully anticipating to be shot down by experienced knitters here as I’m sure there probably is a reason for blocking hats that I haven’t quite discovered yet). I found that when you wear the hat in the rain it kind of blocks itself anyway?! 🤣
I’m pleased with my hat, and I do wear it a lot, but I’m not totally in love with the colours. The purple and the orange together from a distance look kind of brown 😕 I love the husbeasts and think that his looks fabulous, but mine – meh. The colours don’t really coordinate with my hair, which believe me guys when you have hair like mine this most definitely becomes a factor #TheStruggleIsReal. The hats have fuzzed up quite a bit with use, but I guess that’s to be expected so I’m not too hung up on that. It redeems itself by being super soft though, which is perfect for the husbeast as he’s sensitive to itchy wools.
There’s a chance I might become slightly (very) addicted to knitting hats – I wear them for probably six months of the year (in various thicknesses depending on the weather), so I get good use out of them 🤣 The next hat patterns I’m eyeballing are the Quinn Beanie by Woolture:
And the Bray Cap by Jared Flood:
(which just so happens to be knit in the very same wool as my favourite sweater that I mentioned earlier 😍)
Just because you know it *has* to be done – here’s the obligatory matchy-matchy photo (with me telling the husbeast to ‘SMILE!’ so naturally he’s pulling the most miserable face possible 😒)
How many of you lovely readers are knitters as well as sewists? Do you find that your current craft varies depending on the time of year – as in knitting in the winter and sewing in the summer – or is it a free-for-all all year round?!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this yarn-based post 🧶 next week we’re back to sewing! 🧵
Next week on the Wanderstitch blog… I’m getting sensible in my old age and I’ve made an apron 😱✂️ Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out! 👇🏻