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.

Thinking nautical thoughts

Working for a jewelry company, I frequently encounter charming, beautiful things that I’d love to own and will probably never be able to afford.

Like this 1930s bracelet I came across last year that uses nautical flags to spell out “I LOVE YOU.” Lacking a spare $14,000 for this one, however many thousand a Cartier “DEAREST” would cost, or even the several hundred dollars that contemporary charm versions run, I had temporarily disregarded my vision of a nautical bracelet spelling out my name.

For a lark, I read The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach today. I was feeling a little homesick for the super preppy town where I grew up, and on a rainy Smarch day, I could all but taste salt water and feel the sun on my face while sailing.

One of the recurring references was to needlepoint belts and accessories, which I had all but forgotten from my childhood. There was also a cute quip about how the only acceptable “monogramming” of one’s car was perhaps to put small nautical flag decals of initials under the driver’s side door handle.

It all came together in my mind. Nautical flags totally lend themselves to grids! I charted out my full name and more commonly used nickname.



VICTORIA


VICKI

(Definitely prefer the way “Victoria” looks.)

And then I remembered the symmetry of my first, middle, and last names, with 8, 4, and 8 characters respectively. I compiled a 20-flag grid and voilĂ , an afghan pattern has all but written itself:

I thought surely someone would have already written a nautical flag afghan pattern, but a quick trip through Ravelry only brought up a crochet pattern. I am confident that with some graph paper and/or knitPro, I can come up with what I want and make myself a super-preppy afghan.

As for the bracelet, I have a few ideas I want to try, maybe including an entirely new craft. I’m psyched.

Behavioral Analysis

I’m obsessed with data and finding ways to quantify and analyze behaviors. I also have a fairly torrid love affair going with Excel, so I finally answered a question that had been rolling around in my mind for a while:

What projects do I actually finish?

I looked at the 70 projects I’ve completed over time, and I broke them down into types.

Percentage-wise (rounding up and down) it’s approximately:

Accessories 3%
Baby 3%
Hats 17%
Scarf / Wrap 16%
Shrug / Bolero 13%
Socks 35%
Sweaters 10%
Tops / Tees / Vests 4%

I found this breakdown fairly interesting, as one of the main reasons I wanted to learn to knit was so I could make sweaters and shrugs to wear over dresses, yet combined they comprise less than a quarter of my knitting output. Of course it can be argued that counting each pair of socks as a project is disproportionate with the arduousness of creating a whole sweater, but math-wise, I seem much more likely to finish a pair of socks than anything else.

Next I considered whether I am as selfish a knitter as I think I am, and if that has any influence on the types of projects I finish.

11 gifts and 59 projects for myself. Yes, I am knitting about as selfishly as possible.

I am most likely to make you a hat or a scarf / wrap if I’m knitting you a gift.

And I am most likely to make myself socks or wintry accessories (hats and scarves). Even though I really want sweaters.

So without further sorting the data and filling in a bit of subjectivity, I seem more likely to finish smaller or easier projects (hats, scarves, socks) whether they’re for myself or others. Not a huge surprise there. And while I didn’t compile data on it, I know that I almost never wear any of the non-sweater tops I’ve made, whereas I wear the sweaters and shrugs quite frequently. They may be a larger time investment and a higher degree of difficulty, but I get a lot more enjoyment and use out of them, so that’s time and energy sometimes better spent.

Then I turned to pattern sources, to answer a secondary question inspired by the amount of money I’ve spent on magazine subscriptions and books over the years.

What pattern sources yield the most finished projects?

I would have guessed that I knit the most projects from knitting magazines, but I would have been quite wrong.

I knit about 39% from independent or self-publishing designers, 17% from online magazines (Knitty, the late MagKnits, Knit on the Net, and so forth), 14% from patterns I made up, 13% from magazines, 11% from yarn company patterns, and only about 6% from books.

I was quite surprised because of these sources, the books tend to be the most expensive, followed by magazines, yet my habits tend to be inversely proportionate to the cost. Whoops. I was also surprised by how many projects came from patterns that I had devised, but these were obviously quite a bit simpler (scarves, bags – essentially big rectangles that may or may not have had lace patterns incorporated).

And, I can’t forget, I’ve started a lot more projects than I’ve actually finished. But that was exactly the intent of this analysis. My hypothesis was that I’d be much more likely to finish patterns from paid sources, since I was literally more invested in them, but surprisingly, the split was 80% free patterns, only 20% paid.

And now I see where my apparent love and support of independent designers is not actually what it seems. Most of the self-published patterns I’ve finished were free. Otherwise, the free patterns came from online magazines and yarn companies (Cascade, Berroco, and Lion Brand, specifically).

And of the paid patterns, I was right, that I mostly finish those from magazines (almost exclusively Interweave Knits) followed by books and every once in a while I support an indie designer financially as well as in spirit.

So while there has been an excess of pie charts, I actually learned a lot about myself as a knitter. I may have a library full of magazines and books, but I am much more likely to finish free patterns I dig up from self-published sources and independent designers online.

I knit way more socks than anything else, although what I really want to knit are sweaters and shrugs.

And I could really stand to finish a few more gifts and pay to support all these independent designers whose work I obviously adore.

The Respite of Knitting

I’ve had some challenging things going on in my life lately, like leaving school, starting a new full-time job, breaking up with my boyfriend, and losing a dearly loved aunt to cancer. When my father called to ask if I wanted to spend the weekend at the shore, I barely let him finish his question before I said I was packing my bag and on my way.

I realized recently that none of my knits were portable, so I scrambled through my queue to find something with a minimum of materials or complexity. One skein of lovely laceweight yarn, an easy-to-memorize lace pattern, and one little needle thrown into my bag, and I’m well on my way to a fluttery, beautiful scarf.

Obviously I was knitting at the beach, and no, I’m still not sure I pull off that flopsy beach hat look. I’ve also knit a little here and there during train rides and ferry rides. i like having a simple, soothing project to contain whatever is currently going on in my mind in an orderly, gentle form.

Thinking about lace

This summer I am taking intensive courses in Organic Chemistry, which as you can imagine, takes up an enormous amount of time and energy. I’m doing things a lot differently than I did the last time I attempted summer classes, though, taking great care to be much more organized and live in a better balance. I’m making time to enjoy the gorgeous weather, to see friends and attend events in my beloved city, and to be a happier, calmer version of myself than I think I’ve ever been.

I draw almost every day in my sketchbook (on ferry rides to and from Manhattan, mostly). I notice it is making me much more attuned to organic shapes, curves, the forms and substance of nature, growth, and the magical little processes happening unassumingly all around us.


(Shadows like lace, on Water Street, in lower Manhattan)

I’m currently working on a second bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, a subject I find intensely inspiring and fascinating in elaborate and wonderful ways. A lot of the study of chemistry is recognizing patterns of behavior, which are based on the underlying structural tendencies of molecules that give rise to functionality. In essence, things act the way they do because they are what they are. I find that incredibly beautiful.

I also decided I’m going to minor in Mathematics, in part because my degree already requires all but one or two of the courses for the minor, but also because, like chemistry, I feel like math is this extraordinary way of unraveling the mysteries and intricacies of the universe, as a means to discover even more incredible ones.

The combination of these fields has me finding and accepting this system of order that governs the way things work, and it’s so effortless and elegant that it would be easy to miss entirely. Systems seek balance, but not homogeneity. Functions have inverses that aren’t opposites. And on and on, it’s just exquisite.

When I think about knitting, it’s a fantastic binary system. Knit or purl, basically, though I am inclined to also include yarn-overs, increases, and decreases as one’s knitting alphabet. Even these five elements seem totally manageable, if math can wrap itself around integers, fractions, positives/negatives, exponents, negative exponents, imaginary numbers, trigonometric functions, infinities… you get the idea.

When you put these elements together, you form much bigger and more ornate systems that have their own properties (similar to molecular functional groups comprised of only protons, neutrons, and electrons). Even very simple combinations (2 hydrogens and an oxygen, say) make a significant impact in a design. This is to say nothing of the properties of fibers, color, the way the yarn is spun, and so on and so forth, which expand in this seemingly infinite array of combinations and possibilities.

I’m knitting the Upstairs wrap/scarf, which I am finding extremely pleasurable. As a pattern, it demonstrates such satisfying elegance: each patterning section is constructed with a decrease, a yarn-over, and a combination of knit stitches that add up to 7. The yarn-overs move sequentially back and forth across the section, a perfectly-balanced little staircase. Can it get lovelier?

And yet the swooping, gorgeous shapes it creates as you knit are so much more evocative and organic than what are essentially zig-zagged lines. The delicate colors in this hand-painted yarn dance about in intriguing combinations that remind me of Monet’s paintings of sedge grass under rippling water. I am utterly, intrinsically enthralled with this project.