Holiday Knits & Crafts

Three colorwork men’s hats

*Mild Warning—the Reindeer hat is slightly NSFW!*

This is a quick post to share some knit and crochet hats I’ve made. Some of them are things I made a long time ago but never shared (in those cases, sorry about the crappy quality of the old photos!). They all have three things in common—they are hats, they were made gifts, and they involved colorwork. They were all things I made for guys as well, but they don’t have to be for men only—I would wear any one of these hats.

Hats make great holiday gifts—they don’t take as much time or require as much fitting as other projects do, they are super practical, and you can probably make them with yarn in your stash. This patterns, as usually, are all available on the internet for free.

To the hats!

The Striped Beanie (Crochet)

The fastest way for me to make a hat is to crochet one. And the easiest way to make said hat more interesting is to add stripes.

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I made this beanie in a few hours using blue, gray, and black worsted weight wool from my stash. I placed stripes of blue and gray two rounds tall between stripes of black that were one round tall so no one color dominated.

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I do not actually have a pattern for this hat—I have done versions of it several times, and I adjust it to the recipient. But I would suggest using this free beanie pattern if you want to make something similar.

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Here’s a version I made seven (!) years ago, this time out of two colors of bulky weight wool blend, with one stripe 5 rounds tall in the middle:

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(side note—look at how long my hair was then!)

The Swell Earflap (Knit)

Want something a little more challenging and with more ear coverage? Try Swell:

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This earflap hat has a basic repeating chart to form the wave pattern. You need to be comfortable with colorwork in the round, but once you get the hang of the pattern it’s not too difficult.

I will say that this pattern runs small! I am a loose knitter and I made the medium—it just fit him. Also, it looks best on very short or very long hair, but not so great on my medium-short curly bob:

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That’s me trying to keep my hair under the earflaps without success.

In my version, I omitted the peace sign on the earflap and joined the flaps to the hat with knit stitches in stead of purls to make it more seamless.

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Originally I did include the tassels, but the recipient preferred it without, and was able to remove them without difficulty.

The Procreating Ungulant (Knit)

Looking to make a hat with more complicated colorwork and a slightly NSFW motif? The Fornicating Deer is probably what you want:

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This is hat is the full package—it’s seasonal, it’s intricate, and it features two deer in the process of making another deer. It also runs really small. Confession—the first time I made it, I got 3/4 of the way through a size small and had to rip it back. It was awful. But the final product (made with gray and black wool, worsted weight) turned great.

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My version was a weird size—I actually used Swell as a basis for it, sort of. Since the medium sized Swell hat had 88 stitches and did not divide by the 32 stitch chart, I actually started knitting at the beginning of the second tree and ended at the end of the first tree, then did this all over again (total of two times). This gave me a total of 90 stitches, which was close enough to the original swell pattern (I just increased twice before beginning the chart and decreased twice before starting the top decreases). It worked.

Surprisingly, with the colors I chose, the exact activities of said reindeer are not apparent until you really examine it closely. Heh.

Tweaks & Alterations

First Attempt at Felting!

I made a gray felted cap—check it out!

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I’ve been putting off the final seaming on my latest knitting project (The Huntress Cowl worn by Katniss in the second Hunger Games movie), so instead I’m going to share my first ever felted item with you. Doing so requires me to reveal the kind of project I never thought I would share on this blog: a bad finished object. That’s right—I’m going to show you a total flop, and how I turned it into a perfect fit.

Confessions of a Loose Knitter

Way back in the summer of 2009, while I was on a research trip in Southern California, I pulled out a ball of gray yarn, size 9 needles, and knit up  Couvercle, a brimmed hat from the summer 2008 issue of Knitty. It turned out way too big:

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It stretched out even further after these photos were taken. Some of my errors were those many novice knitters might make—for example, I used a heavy worsted weight wool yarn instead of a bulky cotton yarn like the pattern called for, because I was away from home and wanted to use the yarn I’d brought. Rookie mistake. But even if I’d used the appropriate weight and fiber of yarn, my hat would have still turned out too big —because, as I have since learned, I Am A Loose Knitter.

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While I hear a lot more about people who are Tight Knitters, I know there are some of us out there who knit loosely. I was a Loose Knitter for quite some time before I figured out that I needed to make some significant adjustments to get the right fit on things. The easiest solutions for me are to go down a needle size or two (or three), always do a gauge swatch, and pick the smaller of two options when I’m in between sizes.These aren’t failsafes of course—I can’t tell you how many gauge swatches I’ve done that seemed like they fit the pattern specs, only to knit the thing and find it stretching out quite a bit over time. But at least I have learned!

The thing is, I still have some finished objects from the early Loose Knitting days. like this Couvercle hat. And since I hated to see it go to waste, I decided it was the perfect chance to try out felting.

The Felting Process

Technically, since that hat was already knitted, the technique I used here is called “fulling.” There are lots of tutorials out there on this process, but the ones I used for reference here are this one from Knitty and this one from Luscious Gracious Studios. I decided to do the washing machine method as opposed to the hand felting process, which worked well because it took quite a while. As per the instructions, I used the hottest water and the lowest water level setting, an old pair of jeans, and a small amount of liquid soap (Method brand in my case). I put the hat in a pillow case and safety pinned it shut to keep the extra fibers from escaping and clogging the washer (fold the top over at least twice before you do this!). And then I put on a timer and checked the hat every 5 minutes until it was how I wanted it, resetting the washer to the beginning of the cycle as needed it to keep it from going through the spin cycle. Here’s what it looked like at each stage:

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I forgot to take a photo at the first check (5 minutes) but believe me, the hat was even bigger than you see here. This can be disconcerting  when you’re trying to shrink something, but rest assured that in the beginning of the process, it is normal!

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So the hat was still huge at this point, but the spaces between the stitches were getting smaller. A good sign. Also, I should mention that at every check in I pulled any errant bits of wool out of the washer—just be careful as the water is quite hot.

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The hat was getting noticeable smaller and thicker at this point, and it was also trying really hard to escape its pillowcase. I was also worried it would felt to itself and not leave an opening for my head, as I’ve heard can occasionally happen. So at this point I pinned the top center of the hat to the inside of the pillowcase. It worked! Though it did have an unintended consequence, as you shall see.

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Still shrinking very slowly here, where I got a nice shot of the brim. If I had it to do over again, I would have added some more length to the brim because I really like that feature of the hat and it shrunk too.

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Finally getting close! By this point the hat was thick and fuzzy, it just needed to be a little bit smaller. I let it go through the last  five minutes, then allowed the washer to go through the rinse cycle and a little bit of the spin cycle before I pulled it out.

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Here was the end result! The thickness and the size were now exactly what I wanted. I had a little bit of trouble removing the safety pin however, as the hat had begun to felt around it! That’s why, in the first photo of this post, you can see a little nubbin at the top—that’s where I finally pulled out the safety pin.

To make sure that the hat retained its proper hat shape, I put it over a bowl to roughly mimic my head shape and let it dry that way. I didn’t time the drying process but it was definitely dry in 48 hours.

The Finished Cap

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This hat is actually closer to the intended size of the pattern than my loosely knit one. Since it is a little bit smaller and doesn’t have the stretch of knitting, I usually use a bobby pin or two to keep it in place.

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I count this project as a successful retooling of an unsuccessful knit, as I only wore the original hat out once in 4 years, but I’ve already worn this felted version several times.

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I had to do this project at a friend’s house, since the washing machines in my complex are expensive and do not have the best settings for getting hot water and low water levels. I will definitely be doing this again though— I already have another felting project in mind. I’m excited to potentially reclaim more of the stretched out finished objects of my earlier Loose Knitting days.

Holiday Knits & Crafts, Nerdy Knits & Crafts, Quick Knits & Crafts

Procrastiknits! Quick knitting projects to keep or gift

After my last post, you may have the impression that I am a big-intense-project kind of knitter. It’s actually the opposite! In the great debate of process knitter vs. product knitter, I often fall into the latter category. I like to have a regular supply of finished objects. And when I am slogging through a long-term-commitment pattern (like a sweater), I have to have a small project (or two) on the side just so I can finish something.

I’ve collected eight knitting projects that I have completed in the last three months, all of which take a minimum amount of yarn and less-than-average amount of time to complete. Some of them follow a specific pattern, some of them are my modifications of other patterns, and a few of them are my own original work.  I wasn’t the best at getting quality photos of everything, but you can at least get the gist of how they look. Enjoy.

Washcloths, dishtowels, pot holders

In a category that could alternately be called “small square things knit with cotton,” I made the following Christmas gifts.

Adventure Time washcloth

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For my brother, I made an Adventure Time washcloth of Finn (I was going to do Jake too, but I used up all my yellow yarn on the potholder…) I used this fingerless mitts pattern as a starting point, but obviously I changed many things. I used size 3 needles and both ribbing and garter stitch for the edging. I knit from both ends of the white yarn so that there would be no stranding on the reverse side. I honestly didn’t write down the number of stitches I cast on, it was probably 32 or 36. I had to improvise with Finn’s face, not having a skin color, but I think it still worked ok! I knit the entire thing while my mom and grandma were wrapping presents, so it went pretty quick.

Cylon dishcloth

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Clean your toaster with a toaster! For my friend Sarah, who introduced me to Battlestar Galactica, I made this Cylon dishcloth.  I love it, even though it came out a little squished because I went too small on the needles (size 2—I knit so loose usually). I followed this cylon potholder pattern but when it became clear that my gauge was too small, I added a new detail to the top. It’s hard to see, but if you look you can just make out the word FRACK. And then of course, I couldn’t resist cutting off the top corners (wish I’d thought of this at the bottom corners!) and adding some duplicate stitch in a reddish yarn to get that eerie Centurion look. These details meant that this took a bit longer than the washcloth, but because of the small size it was still a pretty quick knit.

bright yellow potholder

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This was a gift for my grandma, and while in appearance it is the most simple, it actually took about the same amount of time as the others. I noticed that my grandmother preferred hand knitted and crocheted potholders above all other kinds, but that they were getting worn out and too thin. I used this pattern for mitered hot pads because it was double the thickness. It basically requires knitting a tube on circular needles, stitching up the top in one direction and stitching up the bottom in a perpendicular direction. Worked great for me!

Kitty toys

Pinky and the Brain

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Ok, I’ve already posted about the first pirate mouse I made for my own kitty, which is pictured above on the right. But I’ve made three more as gifts, so I’m going to show you what variations on the orignal pattern I have come up with. The first is the “improved” pirate mouse on the left, which has fully pink ears, a pink tail, and is stuffed with a sock as opposed to batting. The weight of the sock is better and doesn’t bounce too much. I think it looks like the “pinky” to my original “brain” version above. Sewing the little bits on is by far the most time consuming part of the whole thing. Here are the other variants:

blue fuzzy

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I wanted to see what the pattern would look like with a super fuzzy yarn for the body and a contrasting yarn for everything else. The answer is this little guy, who reminds me of nothing so much as a muppet mouse. This mouse went to Leah, who is notoriously picky with her kitty toys, but she seems to have taken to it quite well:

Gryffindor lion mouse

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I made this one as a gift for a couchsurfing host during a research trip. She had two adorable cats, brothers, named Harry and Neville. I decided that as a thank you gift I would make her a Harry Potter pirate mouse in the gryffindor colors of scarlet and gold. (Don’t ask why I had this yarn with me on a trip, I just did!) I also added a mane and a shaggy tail end by adding some crochet loops, using more or less this technique. I forgot to add a nose or whiskers but it didn’t bother Mr. Potter one bit:

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Wrist things

[both of the following are my original patterns, so please respect this and do not use them for profit or republish them without my written permission!]

knitted bangle bracelet

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I’m sure there are many tutorials for making this kind of bracelet out there, but as since this bracelet was just for me, I decided to wing it. I love the results. I used a plastic ring that originally held a scarf on a rack at a store, if that makes sense…I just swatched until I figured out how many stitches it would take to cover the bracelet without being too tight or too lose, knitted for the appropriate length, and stitched it onto the ring. I used kitchener stitch to connect the two ends together, but since I chose a color changing yarn, the seam is still obvious (see smaller photo). I love how this shows off a tiny leftover remnant of an amazing yarn so well.

Madonna Mountain wristcuff

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This is more of a true pattern that I came up with over Christmas. It’s a small version of the Madonna Mountain located in San Luis Obispo, complete with the big white “M” on the face. I made this for my friend Phil specifically, because he has a clothing company in that town and makes t-shirts with unique line drawings of the local scenery. 

I wish I had written down the details for this pattern! I came up with it while playing board games with my family, and it just kind of flowed. I believe I cast on 32 stitches in green, and then after the ribbing I started decreasing the green on one stitch per side, and adding the dark blue at the same rate, knitting from both sides of the dark blue yarn so as not to have stranding in the back. Then I did the mountain in duplicate stitch using white yarn. I originally intended this to be a drink cozy, but he immediately wanted it to be a wrist cuff and I was not about to argue with a guy who sells apparel for a living.

Hat and collar

the ugly urchin

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I named this hat poorly because I ended up liking it way more than I thought I would. I used the urchin hat pattern from Knitty with size 9 needles. I wanted a new hat for myself that was quick and easy and could use up some crappy thickish acrylic yarn I had lying around. Much to my surprise, this short row hat looked lovely even in this kind of yarn. I recommend plenty of stitch markers for the short rows, because not losing track of where you are is key for these kinds of patterns. The shape of this hat is a bit hard to capture in photos, but it is beret like without being too much of a beret if that makes sense. I wear it a lot when my hair isn’t quite dry, as in the picture below.

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not quite blue collar

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The aquamarine yarn from my custom sweater is back again! Since I had leftovers, I went looking for a way to use them up and found this lovely peter pan collar pattern. This was probably the fastest project of the whole bunch!

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My only real modification was more of an accident, which you can kind of see above: my button for the back is off center. I made the collar the same length of the pattern one at first, but I decided that I needed it to be a bit longer. Laziness won out and I only extended one side. It doesn’t show from the front, however. I have another collar in a different color as well, but since that is one gift I haven’t given yet, I’m not going to post it yet so it can remain a surprise for the recipient.