Second chances

This is my Swarf, half scarf half cowl. It’s an interesting Cecelia Compochiaro design included in Modern Daily Knitters Field Guide#19.  A lot of knitters–possibly recalling the “dickies” of yesteryear–have enjoyed the knitting and the wearing of Swarf. Swarf is sort of a dickie on steroids.

Swarf was my first formal venture into marling, the technique where a knitter combines two strands of different colors that evolve in sequence as the garment evolves.

That’s ribbing on Swarf’s back including where it looks like a mixture of Kraft Spaghettios and Kraft Macaroni. Compochiaro gives lots of hints about how to decide what colors will look good marled together. I guess I fell asleep during that part. That dark gray and yellow wasn’t helping out the overall look either.

I was disappointed. My beautiful Camp Colors Fingering Weight yarn set had turned into a mess. More of a Scowl (half scarf half cowl) than a Swarf.

Before:

After:

Except for the Spagettios section, it didn’t look too bad worn. But the wearing of Swarf was a pain. I had a lot of trouble getting the back to lay flat and unruffled and to stay that way. I’m sure the rounding of my upper back wasn’t helping. It also moved around some in the front. And anyway, I was mourning for my beautiful yarn and those deep saturated colors.

Time to frog. Even though the yarn spent only a few days in my Swarf, it was tightly kinked. I was defeated by the thought of soaking the yarn to relax the kinks and daunted by the thought of drying it. Ernestine, one of my guildmates, suggested that I wind the yarn onto my swift, tie it in a few places, and steam it. That turned out to be an excellent idea. It didn’t release every stinkin’ kink, mostly because I was concerned that too much steam might damage the yarn. But the technique worked really well. I could watch the yarn relax as I steamed.

My yarn was ready for its second chance. Samantha West’s excellent freebie, Diagonal Lines Hat, looked like a good candidate.

Pretty nifty. And a fun knit. The diagonal lines section is easy peasy stranded work, with no long floats to catch. The only modification I made was in the ribbing section. I separated the ribbed stripes by one round of all knitted stitches. That eliminated those half-one-color-half-the -other purl stitches and kept the stripes crisply defined.

Nicely behaved crown decreases. No pointy hat syndrome.

While knitting Diagonal Lines, I discovered that the almost-black dark gray was bleeding like crazy. It dyed my stitch markers and my white Bryspun needles. And my hands and fingers, of course. Unfortunate. I decided to steam the hat rather than do a wet block. Dollars to donuts the dark dye will bleed all over the other colors at the first washing. “Color Catcher” will hopefully come to the rescue.

I’ll need to not give this hat to Steve. Sweating might make it look like he’s tattooed a skullcap on his bald head. With that, I decided that my 50 grams of black (yet unused) and the remaining dark gray would be relegated to my stash for sewing facial feature on stuffies.

The remaining colors, light gray, medium gray, yellow, and burnt orange, were still looking to claim their second chance.

Next up is another Samantha West freebie: A Little Alien Hat.

Steve is my test for whether non-knitters will be able to make out a knitted motif. He earned that role after I asked him whether he could see what picture was knitted (at a very tight gauge) into a hat. He looked and said he saw skeletons dancing on gravestones. It was actually a castle with pennants flying from turrets. Steve looked at my completed hat and quickly said it was the Roswell Alien.

Success!

I added stripes to the ribbing and changed colors about an inch before the crown decreases started just because, well, because I had lots of colors. I planned to knit the aliens in yellow rather than burnt orange but there wasn’t enough contrast between the yellow and the gray to make the motif pop. I added one extra round of salt ‘n pepper bands to frame the alien section. I also shortened the hat to eliminate the folded ribbing, starting the crown decreases 6.5 inches from the cast-on edge (as in Diagonal Lines).

West uses the same crown decreases here as in Diagonal Lines.

I had smallish amounts of yellow and orange left in my Camp Colors’ stash and the medium gray. I’ve knit Melinda Vermeer’s Bayfront Cap nine times before and thought it would be a good choice for the yarn.

Bayfront didn’t disappoint. At first it just looks like an interesting take on a ribbed hat, with 3 by 3 ribbing that widens out to 3 by 9 in the body of the hat. Then you get to the crown decrease section.

Gulp. Every time I knit this very organic-looking crown I’m reminded again about how much I love to knit hats.

Knitting comfort food

I believe it’s true that most long-term knitters have certain patterns they return to over and over. You just know that you’ll be satisfied when you cast off. You know it will fit. You know there aren’t any errors in the pattern. You can put your knitting brain into gear and just cruise.

Wonderful Wallaby by Carol A. Anderson of Cottage Creations is a pattern like that. Comfort food. This pattern is so retro that you won’t find it available for download anywhere. Head to your local yarn shop. Or buy it direct from Cottage Creations and they will m-a-i-l it to you. Yes, mail as in an envelope with a stamp. That still works!

I knit this one in Plymouth Encore. Easy-care works better for the young ones. I’m a big fan of the garter stitch hood. And I love the kangaroo pouch. Everyone can use a sweatshirt. My pattern booklet includes sizes for a two year old to the very portly. It looks like the newer booklets include one for kid sizes 2-12 and another for adults.

Bayfront Cap by Melinda VerMeer is more comfort food for me. I’ve knit at least six in the last few years. This yarn has some issues with thick and thin that didn’t quite do the pattern justice. As you can see, you knit miles of ribbing. And about when you are beginning to think maybe this is a tad too much ribbing,

…you get to this beautiful crown decrease. So pretty. So well thought out. So not suffering from PHS (Pointy Hat Syndrome.) Bayfront Cap is a wonderful knit.

Here’s another knitting recipe that always works up right: Katharina Nopp’s Wurm.

Mine is knit in Stonedge Fiber Mills Crazy. Crazy is basically a DK weight that’s constructed of a number of colorways. No knots, just spun together. No two skeins are the same.

I call this my Earth Wurm. Wurm is a yarn eater.  I always need more than the 175 yards of sportweight the pattern calls for. I guess I like extravagantly slouchy Wurms.

And then there’s what some now apparently call the Dairy Queen Hat. But it’s no Dairy Queen Hat. It’s Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Snail Hat. I’ve knit mine in exactly what the pattern calls for: Sheepsdown, sold by Schoolhouse Press.

I use size 10 needles. And I’ve made several over the years. You need to be very brave (or very cold) to wear the snail hat.

I very much enjoy knitting it. Just because no one eats the jello salad anymore–you know the one, with all the colorful layers–doesn’t mean you don’t make it anyway. (I still sort of like that salad, by the way.)

Melinda VerMeer’s Bayfront Cap

bayfrontMany knitters have favorite patterns that they knit many times over. For me, those patterns are often hats. Melinda VerMeer’s Bayfront Cap, available for download on Ravelry at the very reasonable price of $2.99, is so far the only sockweight yarn hat that keeps me coming back for “just one more.”

I like to knit it extra long, so that it can be cuffed over the ears. But it’s wonderful without the cuff as well. Here it is knitted in Lorna’s Laces Solemate, an interesting yarn of 55% superwash merino wool, 15% nylon, and 30% of some Rayon concoction that goes by the trade name “Outlast.” Outlast is supposed to “interact with the body’s microclimate to moderate temperature from being too hot or too cold.” I’m not sure about that. But the yarn has a nice soft bounce to it.

The very best part of Bayfront is this knock-your-socks off crown section:

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Here are various versions I’ve knit in recent years. Click on the thumbnails to get a more clear view.

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One more Bayfront Cap

Any regular reader is probably getting tired of hearing how much I like Melinda VerMeer’s Bayfront Cap. But it really is a way cool pattern. I’ve modified it just to add a cuff. You cast on 168 stitches, with fingering weight yarn on about a size two circular needle, and you’re off to the races. Granted it’s a bit longer race than most hats, but it’s well worth the extra effort.

Knitted here in two drab colors to complement my son’s drably colored winter coat during a winter of drab dull weather. A perfect combination. But I’m happy to knit it. I still want to steam it some. This 10% nylon, 90% merino Aussie Oasis sock yarn is a bit uneven and steaming will improve the appearance of the hat.

VerMeer’s pattern is available as a Ravelry download. For my “investment”–the price of the pattern is now 2.99 US– this will be the 4th Bayfront I’ve gifted.

The ribbing can get a bit tedious. But the interesting crown decreases keep a knitter motivated to move forward.

Here’s a slideshow recap of my earlier Bayfronts:

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Bay(front) watch cap

Bayfront Cap, by Melinda VerMeer, gets my 2011 award for best crown decreases. The hat looks great on all size heads and fits well. You will get it off your needles and be sure that it won’t fit anyone, but it stretches to fit even the pumpkin heads among us. It’s such a fun knit, and has been so well-received, that this is the third one I’ve made in the last few months.

The pattern is available on Ravelry for $2.99. It is so so worth it. This Bayfront is knitted in Oasis Yarn’s Aussie Sock, in the cherry tomato colorway. 90% merino, 10% nylon.

Casting on 168 stitches and knitting a cap in fingering weight yarn would not have been my cup ‘o tea in years past. Quick knits are still fun, but so are slower knits. If we like to knit, just doing it is the pleasure. A knitter doesn’t always have to be in a hurry.