Two New Cast-Ons

When I first started knitting, documenting every stage of the project and its progress was almost as important to me as the actual stitches. As life grew more complex, I became complacent about knit-blogging (perhaps you’ve noticed) and considered it quite a feat if I got the cursory details slapped up on Ravelry, let alone took a photo. I’d like for that tendency to change, and I’m giving myself permission to enjoy this part of the process again too.



During a lengthy stay at my parents’ house this winter, I was buying new yarn for a pair of socks I’m knitting for my brother when I had an irresistible hankering to knit a sweater. Drawn in by the allure of free shipping and a Valentine’s Day sale that made this yarn shockingly affordable, I found a pattern for the Olwen Sweater, a beautiful seamless cabled pullover with a lovely yoked raglan-sleeve construction. In a cushy worsted-weight yarn, with this delectable purply-magenta color, it has been an absolute delight.

When I got back to my apartment in April, I found a few places where I’d flubbed the pattern (I started it when I had a fever, after all), so I ripped back to the ribbing, and it’s been smooth sailing since. I’m now past yoking the sleeves to the body, which was way easier than I’ve always imagined it would be, and I’m cruising toward the finish just in time for what promises to be a sweltering hot summer. Fortunately, this sweater is in a style, color, and quality I foresee myself enjoying for many years to come, so it will keep.



As I was returning to the shore this Memorial Day weekend, it seemed impractical to try to squeeze a nearly-finished wool sweater into the already overstuffed backpack I was bringing, so I tried to think of a good traveling project. I landed on a new cast-on for Kieran Foley’s Seascape Stole, a gorgeous undulating pattern that’s been tempting me since it was published in the summer 2008 Knitty, and for which I’ve had this yarn earmarked since June of 2009 (yikes – that feels like it just happened).

As I am working it on a 16-inch circular needle and only using one page of the chart from the 2015 revised version, this project currently fits in a small sandwich bag, making it ultra portable and quite a pleasure to knit on the go.

I hope to share a lot more this summer, as I am coming back to the surface in many areas of my life.

FO: Tweed Hat for Knit Aid

This past spring I really enjoyed getting into charity knitting.



Pattern: Improvised. My project page is here.
Size: Adult, approximately 22″ diameter
Yarn: Regia 6-f├Ądig Tweed (discontinued) DK weight, 70% wool / 25% nylon-polyamide / 5% rayon-viscose, in colorway 70; I used about 1 skein, approximately 50 grams, 136 yards/ 124.4 meters
Needles: Size 7 (4.50mm) circular and DPNs
Modifications: n/a

Started: April 24, 2017
Finished: May 10, 2017

I started this hat right after finishing the neckwarmer I made last April, and I worked on it at the first Knit Collective meeting.



I finished it while overlooking the Statue of Liberty, which felt somehow fitting and symbolic for a gesture of solidarity and love for refugees.



I kept within Knit Aid‘s requirements of dark, gender-neutral colors, but I thought it would be nice to use a soft, luxurious-feeling washable tweed. I had originally bought this yarn with the intent to make either slippers or gloves as a gift, so I knew it was squishy and nice against the skin.



The pattern was improvised after working out the gauge and trying it on a few times to figure out where to start the decreases. I worked the crown in quadrants, which gave it a neat, tidy fit.



I recently saw Ai Weiwei’s incredibly moving documentary Human Flow at a screening in Manhattan (trailer below). It was such a heartbreaking, profoundly emotional film that showed the refugee camps and the spirit of the people living in them at the scope and scale of crisis it truly is.



I already felt strongly that I wanted to do something to help, but after seeing the stories and experiences shared in the film, I am more committed than ever to bringing some warmth and love to people’s lives. I donated this hat in May, and I hope that it has found an owner who it is warming and protecting by now, or that it will soon. And I especially hope that whoever owns this hat will feel the love and concern that went into every stitch.

Chrysanthemums

Every year around mid-October when I catch the first briskness in the air and realize autumn is properly settling in, I get a hankering to knit like mad. I am super behind on knit-blogging (literally – there are multiple, elaborate sweaters I have finished but haven’t photographed yet!) but I will be working through the catch-up pile soon. Meanwhile, as I finished a pair of socks and had some size 1 needles free, I decided there was no time like the present to have another crack at colorwork


As I started working on the Chrysanthemums mittens from Knitty, it occurred to me that chrysanthemums are the birth flower for November, so these would make an excellent birthday present to myself (November 1).



In the first pass I made the background of the main section yellow and the chrysanthemums this purplish fuchsia, but it looked drab and I really disliked how much the strands in the back showed through with the tension issues I was having. I also realized that if my intent is to (ultimately) have these mittens go with a Selbu Modern beret as planned, they wouldn’t coordinate well in reversed colors.



Much better.

I ripped back to the cuff but decided to keep the picot trim and wrist section with a yellow background for contrast. I’m much happier with the color combination now and excited to see how these come out!

FO: Neckwarmer for Knit Aid

It’s funny how the universe puts things in your path right when you are looking for them. I’m not sure what prompted me to search for a knitting group on the day I did, but it happened I found a wonderful one that was just about to have its first meetup. The Knit Collective is a new New York-based group that partners with established non-profits to donated hand-knitted items to those in need.



Pattern: based on Knit Aid’s Snood. My project page is here.
Size: A tube approximately 9 inches high and 23 inches in circumference
Yarn: Classic Elite Alaska (discontinued) super bulky weight, 50% wool / 50% alpaca, in 1581 Tree Grove; I used every bit of 2 skeins, approximately 100 grams, 50 yards/ 46 meters
Needles: Size 17 (12.75mm) straights
Modifications: Worked with a provisional cast-on and grafted the finished seam, slipped edge stitches, reduced width (discussed below)

Started: April 23, 2017
Finished: April 24, 2017

The first project is working with Knit Aid, an organization based out of the UK that is bringing hand-knit hats, gloves, neckwarmers, blankets, hot water bottle covers, and other warming items to refugees in camps. When I read about the conditions in these camps and imagine people in already tenuous and frightening situations shivering through the night in below-freezing temperatures, my heart can’t take it anymore.

A hand-knit item is a small gesture, but an important thing. Taking the bitter edge off the cold so a person can sleep is huge for anyone, but I hope it gives extra comfort to those most in need to know other people in the world care about them and are trying to make their lives a little better.



I had some squishy wool and alpaca super bulky yarn in my stash that I bought years ago to make a boyfriend a hat. I was delighted it fit the criteria for fiber content and was suitably dark and gender-neutral to comply with Knit Aid’s requests.

Though I based my neckwarmer, which for some reason they call a “snood,” on their pattern, I decided to use a provisional cast-on to eliminate a bulky seam at the back of the neck. Working with size 17 needles, I joked, was like knitting prop comedy, and I was amazed at how quickly it took off.



So quickly, in fact, that I had zero qualms about frogging the whole thing and starting over when my first version was too tall (chin to chest) and too tight, due to having slightly thicker yarn than the pattern called for and a bit less of it than would have been ideal.



As lovely as Classic Elite Alaska is, I am mystified about why it was put up in measly 25 yard skeins. Most of the hats I saw (only after buying 2 skeins per color) used at least 3. I reduced the amount of stitches and ended up with a neckwarmer that is still snug, but can comfortably slide over my gigantic head. I expect it will be huge on a normal-sized woman or child.



I slipped the edge stitches to give a braided look that should be soft where it touches the skin. I grafted the last row to the cast-on edge to make a fairly seamless tube, which will be comfortable if worn lying down.



I was initially concerned that the snugness looked like a Victorian collar (also, please forgive the frowny and poorly-lit modeled shots – I was running late and rushing). Not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s not as unisex as I’d envisioned.



When tucked into my hoodie, though, it just became a super warm base layer that could be pulled up to cover the lower face or over most of the head and neck if needed.



Knit Aid encourages you to write a message on their cards to include with your items, to communicate good wishes and let refugees know that people all over the world are thinking about them, praying for them, and putting their hands and hearts into this little gesture. (Of course, it is also important to contact your representatives and work at these issues on all fronts). As I knit, I thought about the person who would receive this neckwarmer, and I hoped with all my heart it would give comfort, warmth, and love to someone who needs it.

I am so happy to have found a group of like-minded, truly lovely knitters in the city, and I’m excited about upcoming plans for fundraisers and more knitting meetups.

FO: Pink Cat Protest Hats

I realize I am terribly remiss in the usual year-end blog housekeeping, like posting the Christmas gifts I knit for my family this year, a summary of the projects I knit in 2016, or even taking pictures of the things I knit and have been wearing for months now.

2017 Knitting Resolution: get back on track with photographing my projects.

I did have occasion to photograph a very special project, the pair of pink hats I knit for the Women’s March on NYC, a sister protest of the Women’s March on Washington that the NYC Mayor’s office estimated at 400,000 strong.



Pattern: Official Kittyville Hat by Kitty Schmidt, published in Stitch n’ Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook and archived online. My project page is here.
Size: Hat size, for larger adult heads
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Solids, Aran weight, 100% acrylic, in Rubine Red; I used less than 1 skein for both hats, approximately 144 grams, 267.8 yards/ 244.8 meters.
Needles: Size 7 (4.50 mm) 16-inch circular and DPNs
Modifications: Omitted ear flaps, ties, and pom-poms; increased stitch count overall (see notes below).

Started: January 16, 2017
Finished: January 18, 2017


Still / again fighting for what's right #WomensMarchNYC #WhyIMarch @nycwomensmarch

When discussing our plans to march, my mother and I were each initially hesitant to wear pink cat-eared hats because we worried they could be infantilizing or too cutesy for such serious issues. The more I read about the Pussyhat Project, the better I understood the real power of the hats as a unifying symbol. This article discusses it from an interesting perspective. I was particular drawn to the idea that these hats were nearly all hand-made, individualized, creative expressions of solidarity, an important antidote to red hats mass-produced in China. I loved the idea of knitters and crocheters making practical hats donated for other marchers, and I wish I’d made time to knit more than the two hats I did.



I have knit this pattern before when making a Hello Kitty hat, so I knew it made a comfortable, cute hat. I also knew that if we wanted to, we could unravel the ears and have a “normal” hot pink beanie to wear or donate to charity after the march. Although in truth, we’re both so fond of our hats I don’t see us parting with them anytime soon.



We both have fairly gigantic heads. I joke that it’s an Irish thing, but it’s also possible we have quite average-sized heads and are abnormally sensitive about the way hats fit around our ears. Either way, I wanted a slightly looser-fitting hat, so I cast on 100 stitches and knit a little longer than the pattern calls for before beginning the crown decreases. It resulted in a slightly slouchy fit, which made them very comfortable, and I just placed the ears at the bottom of the decreases so they’d sit nicely on the top of the head.




My sign, quoting Hillary Clinton: Women’s Rights Are Human Rights

In addition to our hats, we had a little pizza and painting party at my apartment the night before to make our signs. This too was an equally cathartic and therapeutic focusing of our energy into good intents and wishes for the future that we could carry out into the world. A surprising amount of people commented on how much they liked our hats and signs and asked to take photos, so I was pleased that we’d put the effort into making them as engaging and attractive as possible.




My mother’s sign: Complacent Is Complicit / Strong Women Stand Together

I was reminded yet again of why I knit, as an extension of why I am an artist. Making things with your hands gives you the chance to make something so unique it is the only one of its kind in the world. The vast diversity of pink protest hats that I saw echoed the individuality and particular expressions of all the knitters and crocheters who put their hearts and souls into them, each choosing a slightly different yarn, gauge, or style that reflected their personalities.



Just as each stitch is essential for creating a knit fabric, so too is each individual’s experiences and contributions essential to the fabric of society and democracy. Looking at the seas of pink hats like ours in march photos from around the world, I felt more connected with humanity than I ever have before, just by doing something small with my two hands. I am so grateful I could be a part of that.