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.

Everyone Loves Fingerless Mitts

Photo of handknit fingerless mitts
There’s been a craze ‘round these parts.  Young and old alike, male and female, everyone’s gotta have a pair of fingerless mitts.
It started with the Pageturner Mitts, which was barely a pattern, but gave me a jumping off point. I had a lone and lovely skein of Noro Silk Garden, aching to be knit. I enjoy wearing my fingerless mitts in my chilly basement office:
Photo of Noro fingerless mitts
Then I made a pair in teal blue as a gift:
Photo of handknit teal fingerless mitts
My daughter, fashionista that she is, immediately demanded a pair.  In pumpkin orange:
Photo of orange fingerless mitts
My mom wanted cranberry red (modeled by Matt):
Photo of red fingerless mitts
At the same time I was making my mom’s pair, I was also designing the Fabulous Fingerless Mitts as a free pattern for Happy Fuzzy Yarn (I also did the photography). They use one skein of DK Silk yarn.  Special consideration was taken to not only use the entire skein — no more, no less — but also to knit them at a tighter gauge because silk does not have the bounce back that wool does:
Photo of handknit silk fingerless mitts
Matt needed a pair of fingerless mitts too.  He loves warm accessories and has a desk in the basement office too, which he was using daily last fall and winter.  Somehow I don’t have finished picture of these, but I used a beautiful sea blue-green-grey color of Shepherd’s wool left over from making myself a sweater.  I should get a picture of them now because it’s great — he has worn them a lot and it shows. The only thing better than knitting for loved ones is having them use and use and use your handknit gifts.
My neighbor Amy wanted a neutral-colored pair of fingerless mitts.  For these I bust out a deep stash ball of Rowan DK Tweed in grey that I bought at a tiny wool shop in York, England.  I love the nubby texture of these:
Photo of grey handknit fingerless mitts
Meanwhile, Ellie gave her orange mitts (which were really too big) to her brother, and asked me to make her another pair, one blue and one lime green. I think they represent sky and earth:
Photo of handknit fingerless mitts
(No, I didn’t ask her to pose like this.  Yes, she is a ham.)
All the random single skeins in my stash suddenly have definite purpose.  But still I bought this beauty — DK Silk in Granite — and have plans to make myself another pair of Fabulous Fingerless Mitts:
Happy Fuzzy Yarn DK Silk in "Granite"
Fingerless mitts are great for in-between weather, when it’s not hot or cold and a chill can creep up on you suddenly. They’re also a little punk, a little grunge, a little counter-culture.  Fun for kids, practical for adults. Quick to knit and a great way to use single skeins and leftovers.  What’s not to love?

When Your Space Heater Dies in May, Knit Up Some Fingerless Mitts

Feels a little bit like I’m living in a Dickens novel, but I am stubborn enough to wait until fall when space heaters are available again at the corner hardware store.

Photo of a fingerless mitt.

Meanwhile, in this cold spring, after working for an hour or two in my basement office, my hands ache from the cold.

It probably goes without saying, but taciturn I am not: it is really hard to take pictures of your own hands when one is using a cell phone.  Do I have a fancy camera that attaches to a tripod and has a timer?  Yes.  It is a DSLR hand-me-down (oh, but we paid for it) from my fancy brother.  I wish I knew how to use it better.  I also wish there were 25 hours in the day, but my tiny tyrant is home in an hour and I need to get this posted, pronto.

Photo of a fingerless mitt.

I take breaks from grousing to admire my lovely Pageturner Mitts knit out of Noro Silk Garden.  The yarn was a random lone skein I had and lone skeins, especially those that are beautiful, are so hard to do something with.  Maybe that’s just me.  Now I want to make myself a pair of mitts for every day of the week.  The pattern is the classic and elegant, yet simple Pageturner Mitts by Sarah Jo Burch.  I cast on 40 stitches instead of 30 because I wanted some extra coverage.  I knit each block of garter 6.5″ before sewing up, which gives a nice amount of negative ease.

Pageturner Mitts would make a great quick gift if you use a beautiful yarn, like Noro Silk Garden, or something tonal or handpainted.

I finished these on Mother’s Day weekend and haven’t even worn them out of the house, but they are getting noticed.  My five-year-old thinks they’re the bees knees and keeps stealing them so I am making her a pair.  She is normally into pink, as our species demands of these young females, and when I pulled out pink yarn for her she said, “No, I want orange.”  Okay darling, I will make you orange ones.  And I am.

Matt laughed to see me wandering the house in May, wearing wooly-silky fingerless mitts and all I have to say to that is: polar vortex.  It is still happening, my friends, even if it is only in my mind.  It may not be snowing, but damn this weather continues to be weird.

 

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 yarns, like Mashtosh and Tanis and Plucky Knitter, are superwash now so never say die.