Saturday, October 18, 2014


I've been making bags and giving them away for a while now, and I've decided to take things a little further. I will be starting my own Etsy shop soon! For now, here's a sneak peak at some of the things that will be up when it opens.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Colorwork Hats Tutorial

Since I've been making so many hats without full patterns I thought I'd write out my process. I've also included links to other helpful websites and tutorials. I will also go over the basic anatomy of a hat to refer to when I discuss specific sections. You can find all of this as a more printer friendly PDF here. If you just want a pattern for the Circle Chain hat, you can find a PDF here and the Fox hat PDF here.

Creating a Hat
So you have found a colorwork chart that you love and want to put onto a hat. That's great! Hats look great with a wide or thin band of colorwork. If you're a more advanced knitter, you can even continue the chart up into the decreases. I will be using these two charts to demonstrate throughout the tutorial.

Circle Chain
Fox Chart
The Circle Chain chart has 2 repeats of the pattern shown, the pattern repeat is inside the red lines. It is an 8 stitch and 5 row repeat. The Fox chart has only one repeat shown, and is a 7 stitch and 6 row repeat.

A hat is comprised of three basic parts, the brim, the body, and the decreases. I am going to talk about how to modify each of these sections to fit with whatever colorwork chart you have chosen. The most important section to modify is the body, where the chart you've chosen will actually end up.

Gauge Measurements
The first thing to do once you have picked out a colorwork chart is to knit the chart once or twice in the yarn you intend to use. You need to measure your gauge in the colorwork, as it can differ from your regular stockinette gauge. I'm using worsted weight yarn and size 7 needles.

I personally get 5 stitches per inch when doing stranded colorwork with the intended yarn. I know this from all of the other hats I've made with the same yarn. Though the stranding patterns aren't all the same, my tension has been pretty regular so I am confident enough in it. If you don't know what gauge you get, I strongly recommend a gauge swatch if you want your hat to fit a specific person or match a general size. (Here's a video tutorial on an easy way to swatch in the round without using DPNs.)

Since I'm making child sized hats, I'm aiming to fit a head that's 20" around. (Here's my favorite chart for head sizes from the great Woolly Wormhead.) Hats usually have negative ease, which is just a fancy way of saying the hat is smaller than the head it's supposed to fit. This is so that the knitting has to stretch to stay on the head and won't fall off. Almost all hats have negative ease around the brim and body, though some styles (e.g. berets, slouchy hats) increase stitches for a looser fit in the body of the hat. In general 1"-2" is a good guideline for negative ease in hats. For these beanie style hats I am going to take 20" and subtract 2" for negative ease, therefore I will be aiming for 18" finished circumference.

The row gauge is also important, though less vital. I get 6 rows per inch. Referring back to the Woolly Wormhead chart, I know I want the hats to be about 7.25" at the longest point. Of course, the colorwork is generally only on the body of the hat (and sometimes the crown decreases, but that is more advanced work). I know that the decreases I always use (more about this further down) are around 12 rows long, or 2 inches long. I also try for at least 1.5" of ribbing, with more for larger hats. So in reality, there is only around 3.75" for the pattern to fit into (7.25” - 2” for decreases - 1.5” for ribbing = 3.75").

Cast on Number
To calculate this we will focus on stitches per inch and finished circumference of the hat. For me, I get 5 stitches per inch and want a hat with a finished circumference of 18" as discussed above. I simply multiply the two, 5 x 18 = 90. This means I need to cast on around 90 stitches to attain the size I'm aiming for. The exact number might change based on the colorwork pattern you choose, but it needs to end up pretty close. To recap:

Stitches per inch x Circumference = Preliminary Cast on Number

I start by looking at the factors for 90.  (Here's a calculator to make finding factors easy.) 90 has a lot of factors: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 15, 18, 30, 45, and 90. If there is a chart you like that fits into one of these stitch counts, perfect! You're all set.

The Fox chart is a 7 stitch repeat, which is not a factor of 90. To find a cast on number that will work with my stitch repeat of 7, I divide 90 by 7 to get 12.8. This is the number of fox repeats that would fit in 90 stitches. Since that is very close to 13 full repeats, I round up. So 13 repeats of 7 stitches (or 13*7) is 91 stitches. That will be my cast on number.

The Circle Chain chart is an 8 stitch repeat, also not a factor of 90. I'll do the same thing. 90 divide by 8 is 11.25. This time I will round down to 11 repeats of the 8 stitches (or 11*8) which gives me 88 stitches for my cast on number.

I'd go up to about 1" larger, or 5 stitches more, and sacrifice a little bit of negative ease. In the other direction I would probably only go about .5", or 2-3 stitches less. A hat that's too tight won't be worn, and stranded colorwork stretches less than stockinette.

Modifying a Chart
Sometimes you can't get a cast on number that works well with your chart. There are a few things you can do to fix this, so don't abandon the chart just yet.

These charts represent two kinds of colorwork charts, attached and detached (Note: these are my own terms, I have never come across anyone else differentiating charts like this). The Circle Chain chart is an attached pattern. Attached patterns are charts which are intended to touch at either side for a contiguous pattern around the hat. If you have an attached pattern, there isn't much you can do without interrupting the pattern if you need to change the stitch pattern. If it's something very basic, you might be able to modify it so that it's the right number of stitches, but anything complex will probably be adversely affected by altering the chart to fit.

An attached pattern
Detached patterns, on the other hand, are complete motifs by themselves and do not touch at either end such as the Fox chart. These are much easier to adjust. You can add a blank stitch or two in between the motifs to get to a specific stitch number without harming anything. In the squirrels below, I added 3 stitches in the dark brown between each squirrel to make the hat wide enough.

A detached pattern

Rows Available
The important numbers to calculate what height chart you can accommodate are the row gauge, the length of the hat, and how long your crown decreases and ribbing will be. For me, I know that I have 6 rows per inch and 3.5 inches for the chart in the body of the hat, as discussed above. I multiply 6 rows x 3.5 inches = 21 rows. This means there are 21 rows in the body of the hat available for me to work a chart on. It is important that the chart you choose is not bigger than this, or your hat will be too long. To recap:

Rows per Inch x [Total Length - (Crown Decrease Length + Brim Length)] = Rows Available

Luckily for me, the patterns I have picked will only be about 1 inch tall, but if you have picked a pattern that is larger than around 20 stitches tall, you may want to use a smaller weight of yarn. Sport or fingering would give you many more stitches/rows to play with and allow more detailed colorwork.

The brim is not absolutely necessary to take into account when picking a chart, but I have a few helpful tips.

Ribbing can be made to accommodate different stitch patterns. If you have an even number, 1x1 ribbing is great. If it's a multiple of 4, 2x2 ribbing works well and is one of my favorites to knit. If you've got an odd number, don't fret! You can knit a ribbing that will fit. For example 2x1 (aka k2, p1 around) will work with any multiple of 3. For multiples of 5, you could use 3x2 ribbing and have slightly wider knit columns than  purl columns and add a bit of interest to the hat.

Also consider options besides ribbing. If you need to cast on an odd number of stitches, that's perfect for seed stitch in the round. An odd number means you don't have to pay attention to the beginning of the round while working the brim, just do (k1, p1) around and they will automatically line up. I'll be using seed stitch for my 91 stitch fox chart hat.

For maximum warmth and available length for a chart, consider a sewn hem. There are many ways to do this, which I have outlined here. There are also instructions for a picot brim, which I've used to great effect on a hat with very tall penguins. Their feet start almost from the bottom of the hat, meaning I had 5" to work with, or 30 rows.

A final note on brims, you can cast on a stitch or two less than your calculated cast on edge, knit the brim you like, then increase back to the calculated cast on edge as you're knitting the first body row of the hat. I wouldn't go crazy with the size difference (unless you're going for a beret, then that's exactly how they're shaped) but a couple of stitches difference won't matter.

It's important to have an exit strategy! Decreases aren't too difficult to figure out, and are also based on the factors of your cast on number. You're going to decrease something like this: (k8, k2tog) around, k 1 row, (k7, k2tog), k1 row, (k6, k2tog), k1 row, (k5, k2tog), k1 row, (k4, k2tog), k1 row, (k3, k2tog), k1 row, (k2, k2tog), k1 row, (k1, k2tog), (k2tog). Notice the pattern? The number you knit before you decrease goes down by one each time. In this example, the decreases start with 10 stitches when you k8, k2tog. Any pattern with a cast on number that is a multiple of 10 will work with this decrease.

I find that 10 stitches is about the maximum for this, any more and I get a pointy hat. I'd use the exact same system for 9 or 8 stitches. Those would start with (k7, k2tog) and (k6, k2tog) respectively. If you work this decrease pattern with less than 8 stitches, the decreases are too rapid and it scrunches together. After going through all the trouble to make a pretty colorwork hat, I don't want it all scrunched up!

The best work around I've found is you can decrease evenly around until you have a multiple of 10 (or 9 or 8, if you like). For example, if you have 93 stitches, you could knit one row while decreasing 3 stitches evenly around. Then you would be able to start with (k8, k2tog) and progress through the rest of the decreases.

Putting it all Together
Now that you've got your cast on number, brim type, and colorwork chart, you're ready to begin! The generic version of a pattern looks like this:

Cast on [your cast on number]. Knit the [brim of your choice] for [brim length]. Knit 1 row plain (you can do a couple more if your chart isn't tall, this just gives it a little separation from the brim). 
Work the chart. 
Once chart is finished, knit until 2" less than desired length. Work decreases, then cut yarn, run end through remaining stitches, and weave in ends.

For the Fox chart hat I've been calculating, here's the pattern:

Cast on 91. Work in seed stitch for 1.5 inches. Knit 3 rows plain, then work the chart below 13 times around the hat. I used a slightly thicker, but still worsted weight, white to make extra fluffy cheeks.

Knit until hat measures 5.25" long, or 2" less than desired length. Knit the last two stitches of the last plain row togther, 90 stitches remain. Work decreases as follows:
Rnd 1: K7, k2tog around
Rnd 2: Knit around
Rnd 3: K6, k2tog around
Rnd 4: Knit around
Rnd 5: K5, k2tog around
Rnd 6: Knit around
Rnd 7: K4, k2tog around
Rnd 8: Knit around
Rnd 9: K3, k2tog around
Rnd 10: Knit around
Rnd 11: K2, k2tog around
Rnd 12: Knit around
Rnd 13: K1, k2tog around
Rnd 14: K2tog around

The finished hat:

For the Circle Chains hat, things are slightly different.

Cast on 88. Work in 2x2 ribbing for 1.5 inches. Knit 4 rows plain, then work the pattern repeat (remember, that's in between the red sections) below 11 times around the hat.

Knit until hat measures 5.25" long, or 2" less than desired length. Work decreases as follows:
Rnd 1: K6, k2tog around
Rnd 2: Knit around
Rnd 3: K5, k2tog around
Rnd 4: Knit around
Rnd 5: K4, k2tog around
Rnd 6: Knit around
Rnd 7: K3, k2tog around
Rnd 8: Knit around
Rnd 9: K2, k2tog around
Rnd 10: Knit around
Rnd 11: K1, k2tog around
Rnd 12: K2tog around

Here is the finished version of this hat:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Colorwork Obsessed

Lately I have been crazy for colorwork. Almost all of my projects currently on the needles and planned have some degree of colorwork in them. It makes plain stockinette so much more interesting, and is so pretty when you're finished. I've made a bazillion hats:

Today I finished up the first part of a new project. This is one half of the front of a jacket! It was made on the machine, and it turns out I love colorwork on it. I think I'm going to have to find another project so I can do it some more. I'm not sure what it will be yet, but I am shooting for awesome.

Right now, though? Right now I'm working on a tutorial on how to make a hat with any colorwork chart you see or make up. It's pretty thorough, I don't want to miss anything. Once it's been proofread and I get notes back to fix any problems, it'll be here. I'm excited!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hat Brims: Sewn Hem

I work a lot of ribbed brims with hats because they are most stretch and accommodating to different sizes, but that's not the only way to start the bottom of a hat. A sewn (or otherwise attached) brim is a good option for a hat that needs to keep someone really warm. There are several different ways to make one. I will cover a sewn brim, knit together brim with provisional cast on, knit together brim without provisional cast on, and picot brim. For all of these hats I am using worsted weight yarn and size US 7 needles, but you can use any combination of yarn and needles you like.

Sewn Brim
To make a brim that you will sew together later, simply cast on, leaving a long tail, and knit for however long you want your brim to be. For an adult sized hat, I'd suggest 2" or so. Once it's long enough, purl 1 row.

Now knit the hat as usual and with whatever pattern you've chosen, measuring length from the purl row, not the cast on row. The rolling is normal because it's all stockinette.

Once you're finished, turn the hat inside out. Fold the brim back, making sure the fold is on the purl row. Use the long tail to sew the hem to the hat. I like to go through the front v only, and then one reverse stockinette bump from the other side of the hat. They make their own little v once you get them both on the needle. I go through every other one, sometimes every third one if I'm using a smaller yarn.

Bottom stitch on needle is front v of cast on, top stitch is purl bump from body of hat
When you finish, your hat looks like this! The purl ridge forms the bottom hem of the hat, and it's double thick below the colorwork.

Variation: Knit Together Brim with Provisional Cast On
This brim will look exactly like the sewn brim, without requiring any sewing. Instead, cast on using a provisional method (I like either the crochet provisional cast on or the invisible provisional cast on.)

Once you've cast on provisionally, knit 2" and keep track of how many rows you knit, purl 1 row, then knit the same number of rows as before the purl row.

Place the provisional cast on onto a needle (doesn't have to be the same size, mine is a US 6) and fold it up inside the hat so that wrong sides are together.

Knit one stitch from the working needle and one stitch from the provisional cast on needle together. Continue doing this all the way around, sealing the brim.

Due to the way I picked up the cast on stitches, I am ktbl because the left leg is in front
The hem, fully attached
Now work the hat as usual, measuring from the purl row, which will be at the bottom of the hem.

Variation: Knit Together Brim without Provisional Cast On
This brim is similar to the previous brim, with one important distinction. Just cast on as usual. Knit 2" and keep track of how many rows you knit, purl 1 row, then knit the same number of rows as before the purl row.

Tuck the end of the hat up so that the wrong sides are together, and find the first stitch you cast on. Insert your left needle tip into that stitch and knit 2 together. Again, I like to only pick up the loop that will be on the outside, as I find it neater and more comfortable on the forehead.

The cast on is a little curled up, just uncurl and look for the long cast on loop
Find the second stitch and pick it up with the left needle, then knit 2 together again. Continue doing this all the way around, sealing the brim.

Now work the hat as usual, measuring from the purl row, which will be at the bottom of the hem.

Variation: Picot Brim
You can work this with either a provisional cast on or without. You can even just sew it up after you finish the hat, so any of the methods listed above work! In this case, I did not use a provisional cast on even though I probably should have because black is difficult to see when picking up stitches. I usually make these smaller than the sewn or knit together brims, you can change the number of rows knit to whatever you like. Knit 4 rows. Work one row of (yo, k2tog) around. Knit 4 rows.

See the eyelet circles?
Fold the brim with wrong sides together and knit one stitch from working brim with one stitch from cast on. Work the hat as usual, measuring from the yarn over holes.

Voila! Several different ways to get that sewn hem look.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I am a Machine

I am a machine! Or at least, I own one. I bought a very basic knitting machine.

I have successfully knit several swatches and this lovely hat. You can see it being knit above, and modeled on the ever patient Chatham below.

I also knit the back of a vest. Unfortunately, I misread my swatch information and used the wrong size plate, so the vest is...rather too long. I'm pretty sure I could wear it as a dress. A dress with gigantic arm holes. Since I don't think I can pull off the sideboob showing dress vest look (can anyone?), I'm going to rip it all out and try again.

Before I do, though, I needed better weights. My machine came with a cast on comb, the black thing at the bottom of the hat hem and s hooks/rubber bands to hold the edge stitches on. I kinda hate that method, and didn't want to wait to order expensive claw weights for the machine. Instead, I broke out the scrap fabric bag and visited the gun section of Wal-Mart. I was carded to make sure I was over 16 too. Yeah. I turned 25 like a week ago.

Oh yeah. Gonna help me knit.

First, I weighed out about 4 oz of BBs. Be careful, they bounce!

BBs and Bumbles, obviously related.
I cut out a piece of fabric about 4 x 5 inches. I wasn't too careful about being straight, I didn't even iron the fabric. I did make sure to put right sides facing, at least. Then I sewed down one side and across the bottom. To reinforce it, I turned around and went back over it. If you use heavy duty thread, that might not be necessary.

Turn it right side out and put the BBs in. I recommend a funnel. Chatham said he always used a spoon, but that sounded like it would take forever.

I cut a second strip of fabric, about an inch wide and a little longer than the opening of the bag. I folded it in half and sewed them together. I wasn't very careful about staying near the edge and I didn't turn it so there weren't raw edges. Because I wasn't turning it, I used a decorative stitch, but it's not particularly important either way.

Finally, I folded down the edge of the bag and placed the handle inside it. Then I sewed it shut.

And voila!

A weight that can hang. I had some drapery hook things (I'm not sure why, I don't even know what they're actually called, why did I buy them??) and thought they'd work pretty well for now. This is hung on the completed vest, so there's no weight on the bottom. If there were, that little dimple under the hooks wouldn't exist.

The last step was to make a few more. I even made one in a more horizontal shape. That was...interesting, to say the least. I cut it too small, which resulted in BBs escaping the first couple tries at sewing the handle in and the bag shut. I eventually sewed half of it shut before I added the BBs, so I only had to wrestle with one side.

So there you have it! Homemade claw weights. I feel ready to take on short rows now, and hopefully I'll have a lovely pair of slippers to show for it in the near future.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lizarding Along

I've worked on a few more hats. They both turned out the size I expected and was aiming for. This has left me a little mystified as to what happened with the duck hat, and I'm considering trying again to experiment. First, I made a hat with squirrels on it. I also did a contrast color seed stitch brim and a little icord at the top to make it look like an acorn. I think it turned out amazing, and I will have to revisit the pattern soon.

Then, I picked out a pattern with penguins. I was worried about how big the chart would be, so I did a less traditional brim. It has a little picot brim, and the colorwork begins before I even finished it. It worked out really well, and I love the way the brim flares just a little.

The final thing I've been working on isn't a hat. It will eventually be a project bag, but right now it's just an unfinished stockinette square with a pair of legs duplicate stitched on. The rest of the dragon's body will be joining it eventually, but duplicate stitch takes quite a bit longer than stranded colorwork.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tap Dancing Lizard?

A coupe evenings ago, after going out for dinner with Chatham and his parents, I stopped by the used bookstore just to see if they had any new knitting books. While I was looking, I saw a book called The Tap Dancing Lizard. I thought maybe it had been shelved in the wrong area, so I pulled out out to see better.

It was decidedly not in the wrong section, and as soon as I saw the cover I was in love. It says it's for "Adventurous Knitters" and that pretty well describes me. Plus, I mean c'mon, tap dancing! So I flipped through it and realized just how goofy some of the pictures in it were. I think my favorite is the "Bicycat" sweater. It's so bad it's good, right?

In with the goofy cat motifs (some of which I actually like, but I'll never admit it in person) are some really awesome ones. Inspired, I decided to make a project bag out of at least one of the charts. Of course, I don't have any of the colors I'd prefer, so I decided to do some swatches with the yarn I intend to use, if not the color. I picked out a cool chart of a chameleon, and cast on a hat.

I think it's super adorable, but it was smaller than I expected. It will maybe fit a 6-12 month old. Glad I swatched, I decided to make another swatch hat. I wanted the hat to be bigger, so I cast on more stitches and used the same brand of yarn, just different colors. This time I let Chatham pick out the colors and the chart. I cast on the number of stitches I thought would get me a kid/teen sized hat.

Yeah, that hat? That's on Chatham's head. He has stolen it, and apparently really likes it. I'm a little stuck on what to do, though. Same brand, same needles, same techniques, different gauges. Now I'm left not having any idea how big the chart for this bag is going to turn out. At this point, I'm tempted to just start the darn thing.