Happy Halloween

Halloween was a big deal during my 1960’s childhood. The candy was a draw for sure. Getting dressed up in costumes and walking around at night was special. We didn’t wear our costumes around the house or at any time except Halloween. And we did not otherwise often walk the neighborhood at night. It was a safe neighborhood. It just wasn’t something we did. The rule was “be home when the street lights come on.”

This year Halloween on my blog is all dishcloths. In fact, they are all cloths by Amy Marie Vold, the talented mosaic stitch designer whose work I frequently knit. She calls this design Along Came a Spider.

I knit my spider set in Knitpicks Dishie. Dishie’s vibrant colors and not-too-rustic 100% cotton yarn both work well for mosaic work. “Creepy, crawly, creepy, crawly, creepy-creepy, crawly-crawly.” So say Bori the spiders.

This next creepy cloth is Clean to the Bone. I knit it in Paintbox Cotton Aran. Skull and crossbows dude is fine with a more rustic kitchen cotton. More down to earth.

I was raised on the East Side of Detroit. East Side kids came to your door on Halloween and yelled “Help the poor.” Just “Help the poor.” That’s what (and all) we yelled. I was an adult, and living on the West Side, before I heard kids yell the rest: “Help the poor, my pants are tore, gimme some money and I’ll buy s’more.” I was shocked to learn the rest of the chant. We kids on the East Side were in a hurry for the candy. Standing out in the cold shouting more than just a few words was so not going to happen.

And this last cloth? It’s Bone Dry Bar Mop knit in Paintbox Yarns Cotton DK. I knit almost all cloths in worsted weight kitchen cotton. But this larger pattern needs more “presentation” space. A DK weight works well too. It may even sop up a little better than worsted after a few washes because it seems to resist shrinkage a little better.

East Side kids also did not ever yell “trick or treat.” It has the benefit of being quick to say, like “help the poor.” But “trick or treat” was for the ill-mannered (just kidding) West Side kids. We Eastsiders presented as waifs not bullies.

Putting leftovers to use

This is Aimee Alexander’s Kicking Horse cowl, knit in DK-weight Malabrigo Silky Merino. Excellent yarn. Excellent pattern. The pattern is easy to work and clearly written. Just be careful not to forget a yarn over in the mesh sections. And be sure to not add a yarn over at the end of the right-leaning mesh section. ‘Cuz if you do that the diagonal leaning mesh gets scrambled and you’re toast. You probably already guessed how I know that.

I made the largest circumference cowl. Blocked it’s 9 inches by 52 inches. I soaked it, blotted out the excess water in a towel, and then dried it flat without pinning it.

Our beloved Malabrigo, with its frequent color differences between skeins, can bedevil us knitters. The gnashing of teeth here resulted from shopping online, though truthfully it often simply can’t be prevented. Here’s what arrived from Lovecrafts.

It was immediately obvious, upon unpacking my yarn, that one skein had much more blue in it than the other two.

Kicking Horse didn’t need much yardage from a third skein. And like Gaul (which would have been a better name for this cowl) it’s divided into three parts. Once I realized that I didn’t need much of the 3rd skein, I figured that the solution was to knit the center left-leaning mesh section (only) in the more-blue skein. That worked nicely.

Sometimes I work hard to figure out what’s to be done with leftover yarn from a project. I work even harder if the yarn is something I especially like. Malabrigo Silky Merino qualifies on that score. Sue Brady’s freebie pattern, Basic Fingerless Mitts, was perfect for my leftover Silky Merino. These mitts took just under 90 yards, even with a few modifications that increased the yardage.

I worked 8 extra rounds before starting the thumb gusset. I also lengthened the mitt beyond the gusset stitches by 4 rounds. And I decided to pick up 4 rather than 2 stitches for the thumb to better close the gap. Plus I lengthened the thumb by 2 rounds. It’s a great fit, both for my hands and the yarn.

Next up is yet another pair of Kris Basta’s excellent freebie slippers Better Dorm Boots for Men. This is the 6th pair I’ve knit in the last few years. Of course there’s nothing that says these need to be for men, though it’s true that Steve’s feet already claimed this pair. I always make two modifications. I knit them in chunky or bulky yarn, rather than worsted weight doubled. This time I used King Cole Shadow Chunky. And I add a generous cuff.

I had two skeins. The slippers used only 1.3 of the 166 yard skeins. What to do with the rest was a bit of a challenge. The new Ravelry freebie by Svart Lamb, Little Fisherman’s Beanie, worked out well. I didn’t want to knit this hat with 3 strands of yarn as the pattern calls for– fingering plus fingering plus Aran–so I simply used a chunky weight. The hat is knit on only 60 stitches. Even though it’s mostly all rib and very stretchy, my modification means that it will have to be a little fisherman who wears this. It’s basically an adult small which, in my experience means that kids can wear it just fine.

When I joined the caston round with the working round to create that distinctive edge ridge, I goofed.  I missed the import of the designer’s instructions at the join stage to “fold these 8 rows so purl stitches would stay inside.” I didn’t have any purl stitches, just ribbing, so I didn’t understand that. What I did to create the error, which would have ended up with the ragged side facing outward when the cuff was folded, is I joined a stitch from the live stitches with the caston edge by reaching inside to pick up the stitch-to-be-joined. That put the smoother edge on the outside of the tube–which isn’t where you want it. What I should have done was folded the work so that the caston edge was on the outside of the tube, picked up a caston stitch first, and then joined those stitches to the working stitches. To fix my mistake, in case others make it too, I turned my work at the first stockinette round and then pushed the work through the center to switch the direction of the knitting. This maneuver created a bit of a hole. But that filled in as I continued to knit.

For a chunky-weight hat, the crown decreases worked out well. 

This is yet another free Ravelry pattern: Finlandia, designed by Paige Buursma. I had one skein of Malabrigo Rios left in a favorite colorway: Archangel. As it turned out, Finlandia is a very dainty hat when it comes to yarn-eating. It used only 50 grams, 105 yards.

I thought I might not be up to knitting a lacy hat. It required a bit of concentration. But this is very easy lace so I gave it a go. I’m so glad I did. It’s an excellent hat.

Finlandia even has a nice set of pinwheel crown decreases.

So, 50 grams of beautiful Rios left. Jessica Ays Narragansett Fingerless Mitts fit my yarn and my yardage perfectly. My friend Harriet has knit 6 pair of these mitts in recent weeks. I decided to join in on the fun.

I confess I almost decided against giving them a try after I purchased the pattern and learned that the beautifully textured top of the mitt is created by knitting in the round below. I last knit in the round below on a small sweater for my baby son. My baby son turned 35 in June. I’d worked the sweater in what I now (think) I know as a form of brioche ribbing. When I made a mistake I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I must have restarted that little sweater a million times.

But it turns out that knitting in the round below is easy peasy because, in this pattern, every other round is all purl stitches on the tops of the mitts. So if you do goof, all it takes is ripping out one round to get back to what amounts to a lifeline of well-behaving purl stitches. Whether just knowing a fix would be easy relaxed me, who knows, but I made no mistakes and the knitting was easy.

These mitts proved the perfect way to use up my Rios skein. I knit the mitts with no modifications and used only 48 grams (101 yards).

It’s a fun challenge to try to keep smallish amounts of yarn out of my leftovers bag.

Strong solid color hats

Brace yourself for a hatapalooza. The theme is hats in solid colors. Gloriously pretty and deep clear colors. And even dull and boring colors. But all solids. No speckles. No variegateds.

This first hat is Kathy Zimmerman’s Back Seat Driver Hat, a Ravelry freebie. I knit mine in Sugar Bush Yarn’s Crisp, a DK weight. The colorway is Good Gold. The pattern is an easy, quick knit. The solid color is busy doing what solids often do: showcasing texture.

I have a giant pumpkin head and so do many in my neck of the woods. So I knit the largest size. A 120-stitch cast-on is a very large hat, even in DK. But I love the generous feel of this hat and that the ribbing isn’t stretched while someone wears it.

I’d like this hat more if the crown decreases were a little less fluffy. That can be solved by flipping the ribbing up to pull the hat down at the crown. But I sort of prefer an uncuffed ribbing in this one.

Next up is a classic balaclava: Easy Balaclava by Nanette Blanchard. It’s also a freebie, but you’ll have to step into the Wayback Machine, here, for the pattern.

I knit my helmet in Berroco Ultra Wool. Worked in a solid black there’s no busy yarn to obscure the simple lines of the ribbing.

And the crown decreases are nicely well-behaved too.

I made almost no modifications to the pattern. But instead of using a backward loop cast-on above the bind-off (as the pattern directs), I used a cable cast-on. And to strengthen the opening, on both sides where the cast-on met the body of the helmet, I knit 2 together. In the final decrease round, I substituted knit 2 together for the pattern’s knit 3 together. Then I closed the hat with 6 stitches instead of 4.

Next up is Rafa’s Hat, a freebie by Joji Locatelli. She says it’s “a very easy manly hat worked in worsted weight yarn…designed for a friend who (like every man) had very little requirements.”

This time I knit Rafa’s Hat in Berroco’s Ultra Wool in the “Green” colorway. Don’t you love the shade name? Not “Pond Scum in the Moonlight” or “Moss Lurking under a Wet Rock.” Just, “Green.” A no-nonsense yarn for a no-nonsense hat.

My round gauge is always way off when I knit this hat. This time, I knit the largest size but stopped the ribbing in each section at 15 rounds. After 3 repeats, I worked only 4 rounds of ribbing before starting the crown decreases. That worked well. Otherwise the hat would have been too long.

Wouldn’t this hat be cool with that perfect circle of crown decreases knit in a bright yellow?

This next hat is a frequent visitor to the blog: Aimee Alexander’s Boon Island. Not a freebie, but worth every penny. This is the 5th time I’ve knit this pattern and this time I decided to use Plymouth Yarn Worsted Merino Superwash Solid in the “Gold” colorway. Here’s Boon Island as a slouchy.

Here’s the hat cuffed and showing off its underside. If you work this hat with care, in terms of weaving in ends, it’s almost a reversible.

Here’s the tidy crown decreases.

The next pattern and yarn are both new to me: Susan B. Anderson’s Baker’s Hat and Louett’s Gem’s Fingering weight.

I used a cable cast-on, alternating between knit and purl stitches. It worked out well and made for a very neat edge. My stitch gauge was correct. My row gauge was off. At the end of the twisted-rib stitches, I was already 8 inches from the cast-on (rather than 7.5). I eliminated the extra rounds (5 for my size) and just started decreasing at the end of the twisted-rib rounds. Whether because of the yarn or the pattern, I’m not sure, but I needed to sternly wet-block this hat to tame the ruffle that formed just after the ribbing, as the hat moves into its stockinette section.

The Baker’s Hat crown is a bunch of organized elongated puffy folds. Normally that wouldn’t sit well with me. But for some reason I feel like it works here. Maybe the audacity of how exaggerated they are makes those puffs more acceptable. And, once again, the simple twisted-rib section shows to good advantage in a simple solid yarn.

This last hat is Smith’s Hat, a Ravelry freebie designed by Sanne Kalmbacher. From my first look at the design I imagined Smith’s Hat in a solid, mostly to show off the unusual structure with its twists of ribbing. I knit mine in Plymouth Yarn’s DK Merino Superwash. The colorway is Copper Heather. I see you rolling your eyes already. OK. Heathers are not solids. All I can say is that this “heather” isn’t a heather. It’s a solid. Nice yarn, too.

‘Tis a very strange knit. Which is what drew me to it. It’s given some folks fits to knit. It did for me too but then I found some assistance from other Raveler’s project pages.

The puzzler is how to get that slanted rib panel to slice its way across the hat.

The M1L and M1LP are worked typically, though the abbreviation key sets out the directions in a way I’ve not seen before.

For the M1L, I picked up the horizontal bar from the front, put it on the left needle point, and knit it through the back loop.

For the M1LP, I picked up the horizontal bar from the front, put it on the left needle point, and purled it through the back loop. Purling through the back is an unpleasant maneuver. Sharp needle points make it easier. Purling through the back closes up a little hole that will otherwise appear in a rather prominent place.

There is a horizontal bar to pick up on every round. Especially at the beginning, it’s a little hard to see. It’s a bit tucked to the nonpublic side, maybe because there’s some pulling going on from all this stitch manipulation.

My fairy godmother on this project is Raveler ESB4. Ethel has line-by-line instructions on her Ravelry Smith’s Hat project page for rounds 6-11 as you leave the twist and form the M1Ls. They work perfectly. Basically, Rounds 6-8 create 3 stitches as you exit the twist, and 3 disappear just before you enter the twist as a result of knit 2 togethers. Same for rounds 9-11. The first trio of rounds creates a set of 3 knits, while the last trio creates a set of 3 purls. As those trios “grow” they become a full 3-stitch vertical rib. I know that if you haven’t already knit this it’s probably not making much sense. But it all works out.


I’m not thrilled with the crown decreases, especially at the start. But that very prominent line of decreases mostly fades into the background once it’s on a head. Felted Head says the hat is quite cozy.

I’ve been doing a good bit of knitting with solids partly because I’ve been gravitating to lots of texture in my knits. Both are good trends. Comforting. Soothing. With nothing to hurt your eyeballs.