The Start of Something Special: Colorwork and the Knitted Hat


It's my maiden voyage into colorwork!  I have been absolutely obsessed with Kate Davies Peerie Flooers hat pattern since the first time I laid eyes on it.  But I've always felt it was beyond my skill level.

With a coupon at hand, I was able to inexpensively pick up a smorgasbord of Rowan Fine Tweed colors for practice.  My goal is to learn to knit fair isle style, with both hands.  This is new for me, so I was quite slow in completing what you see above, the border of the hat.  Just above the point I've completed, the hat will burst into a multi-colored garden of stranded knitting.

image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com

© Ophelie

This is Ophelie's beautiful, completed version, which was my inspiration.  Ophelie teaches colorwork in Australia, so her version is beyond incredible.  And, since she has been very sweet about giving me advice, I feel like I'm getting a wee bit of the benefit of her teaching, without going to Australia. But, wouldn't that make for a fun knitters' retreat?

My goal is to use my test version to work out the technique and learn the pattern, before committing to knit with the beautiful Plucky Knitter's Oxford base yarn I've been collecting for this project.

A few early observations:

  • I'm concerned that my cast on edge is not stretchy enough to be a very effective hat.  I used a longtail cast on, something that I often do for hats with a nice result, but here it seems loose and flabby.  I wonder if the fact that one jumps immediately from the cast on into a stranded 2×2 rib impacts on the stretchiness.  Or perhaps it's just because I'm a loose knitter, and may need to go down a couple sizes for the cast on (although that would sadly put me at size 0  needles). Either way, I need to seek some advice from the experts on Ravelry in this regard. 
  • I've managed to learn to knit a bit with my left hand (I've been a thrower since I learned to knit and I don't think that's likely to change at this point), so I can manage two-handed knitting for this project.  It keeps the yarn from tangling, and I like that.  One piece of early info I gleaned from some experienced fair isle knitters, is that the strand of yarn held in your right hand will be dominant if you are knitting with two hands.  Since I can't yet purl with my left hand, this means that that the purl stitches in the border were knit with the yarn in my right hand, and they are dominant, rather than retreating as the purl stitches normally would in a ribbed border.  I wonder if this contributes to the stretchiness issue?  Whether it does or not, I see the need to figure out how to purl with my left hand before I go much further. 
  • I had an abortive effort at simple color work six years ago.  I knit a hat that was meant for my 18 year old, but was too small for anyone except the six year old when it was done.  I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to pull the color that wasn't being used tightly when starting a new color, so I ended up with a teensy, tiny hat.  With this project, I'm making the effort to stretch out the stitches along the right hand needle every little bit in order to keep those floats of yarn nice and loose.  I'll only know if I've succeeded when I'm done.  But I'm optimistic.  At least I have some understanding of what I need to do here to produce an adult-sized hat.

And looking ahead to the next row, there is the issue of catching floats.  The pattern repeat often goes 7 or 8 stitches, so I'm going to check out a few resources on catching floats to make sure the back side of my knitting stays nice and neat.

Now that I'm twelve rows in, I'm reflecting on why it took me so long to give this a try.  It's surprisingly easy and very addictive – I've had great difficulty putting this project down to go to sleep at night since I cast on a few days ago.  So jump right in and join me!  I'd love to have company, particularly now that I'm getting to what may prove to be a more difficult part of the hat.


Cats Knit Sleeves

I am getting so much knitting help from the kittens.  First this from Wingus:


And then more help from his brother Dingus:


Despite their ahem, attentions, which have caused me to weave in a few extra ends thanks to sharp kitten teeth, I've managed to pick up stitches and start both sleeves on Vodka Lemonade.  It's slow going because I'm alternating skeins, but ever so worth it.  


Here's hoping to a bit of progress over the long weekend.  I'm really looking forward to wearing this one!



Here's the sneak peak I promised you yesterday at progress on Drachenfels, which for those of you who haven't seen it, is a large, asymmetric shawl, knit side to side.


I've completed just about the first third of it here.  It's rather lovely just as it is, but I want the full large shawl to use on cold airplanes and winter nights.

This thought made me curious about the final dimensions, so I did a quick download of the pattern to check.  Apparently I was a little bit too quick, as I downloaded the French version, which tells me:

            Dimensions finales

            Châle triangulaire légèrement asymétrique de 83“ [210 cm] par 25.5“ [65 cm] (voir le schéma) 

It sounds so charming!  And I'm guessing, since I speak no French, that it's indicating my final version should be around 83" in length and 25.5" as the maximum height of the triangle.

One note about color placement.  If I were following the pattern as written, I would have only used the pink (The Plucky Knitter's Decorum Dictates) and the gray (The Plucky Knitter's Medieval).  The yellow/green (The Plucky Knitter's Good 'Ole Days) would have only come into play in the midsection stripes.  I wanted a bit more of a uniform feel, so I tucked two of the green stripes into this side, and will balance that with two stripes of the pink on the far side. 


Vodka Lemonade

image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com

No, it's not an alien mutant or a sweater for a small elf in Santa's workshop.  It's the adolescent phase of my Vodka Lemonade.  It looks a bit wonky, with the collar unblocked, the sleeves partially done for later pick up, and only a couple of inches worked on the body.  But it's P-R-O-G-R-E-S-S and I'm really happy with it.  I'm hoping that it will blossom as I get a bit more work done and become the sweater of my dreams.

On the plus side, this color, The Plucky Knitter's Fiona on Crew, is everything I could have hoped for!

My decision to alternate two skeins was a good one.  The yarn has just enough variation that not alternating would have been an issue.  I think it might have been even better with three skeins in the rotation.  It has been relatively easy to get a nice, clean, edge, carefully bringing the alternating skeins up the side of the project.  And the color looks lovely knit up like this!



The Zissou Hat

If you know someone who loves Wes Anderson movies, then this is the perfect Father's Day (or any day) gift.


Anderson's movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a comedic take on Jacques Cousteau, sea explorer and icon of my childhood (oh the Sunday afternoons spent watching Jacques take on creatures in exciting underwater locales!) And this hat, the classic Cousteau/Zissou hat, is a lovely reminder that even guys with no fashion sense whatsoever can sometimes start a trend.

Since "guy with no fashion sense" is pretty much the guy I married, this hat should be perfect for him (she said lovingly).  Modeled here by one of our boys, it's sweet and charming, and just a little bit silly.  Everything a good hat should be.

Hold your breath along with me — he's notoriously picky about presents.  I'm hoping this one will make the cut!


A New Start & A Near Finish. And Something in Between.

In this week's knitting:

A new start.  The Forest Park Cowl in The Plucky Knitter's Primo Aran in Heirloom Green.  With all of its bonny cables, this pattern feels like it fell right off the pages of Outlander.  I've started this as an easy project to carry around, but plan on finishing a few in-the-works projects before I get serious about it.

image from images4.ravelrycache.com

An "almost there." Frostline is all done and just awaiting its lace edging.  And I'm in love!


Vodka Lemonade.  Will it ever end?


Just kidding Vodka Lemonade.  I really do love you.  The 7" of seed stitch in the collar on all 300+ stitches was sort of a bummer.  And then keeping the various columns of seed stitch and ribbing straight, along with the right side increases, as I worked from the top of the shoulders shoulders down to the point where the sleeve stitches can go on a holder and the body be worked alone was a bit of a challenge for me.  But I'm almost to that point, and it should be quite simple from here on out.  I'm looking forward to the lace bits at the bottom.

Fit is still a challenge for me with sweaters.  But I'm going to work on that.  In September I'm going to a knitting retreat and taking "Knit to Flatter" with Amy Herzog.  In the meantime, I'll give Vodka Lemonade my best effort, because I love the pattern, the yarn, and the color.