Chase My Blues Away…

“Clock strikes upon the hour and the sun begins to fade. Still enough time to figure out how to chase my blues away…“- I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Whitney Houston

I have been singing the knitting blues, yessuh. No inspiration. No self motivation. Lacking all desire to create. Perhaps the nice weather? Perhaps a spring slump. For certain, I just couldn’t knit. Until today…

On a day that screams green, I’m screaming “blue”. Not the knitting blues, ya’ll, the hat Blue. My friend Lexie contacted me said Kristin, for whom “Blue” was designed, had accidentally found her hat tumbled up in the drier! Any guess what “blue” looks like now? And so, I was asked if I might be able to replace “blue” with another. Of course! A silly question, really. 

Blue #2 won’t be an exact copy. I just so happened to have a hank of Malabrigo Worsted in Continental, a gorgeous yarn still in the blue family. For once in a long while, I wanted to knit immediately. No time to venture to Ewetopia and search for a different color. This “blue” screams personality, and I can’t wait for it to find Kristin.

Kristin isn’t the only one who has faced laundering nightmares. And it brings up an important point: read labels! I love the idea of superwash fibers, for a mother’s ease when laundering, but they always seem to disappoint. I have yet to find a superwash fiber that knits up with great definition, feels good on the skin, AND doesn’t loose its integrity by the end of the project. Anyone have a superwash they love? In theory, it’s wonderful; in practice, I steer clear. Maybe I should reconsider? Perhaps then I won’t have as many people calling me with their laundering nightmares…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Time for reubens and shamrock shakes. This Irish family screams green, orange and white.

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Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful…

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! – Michael Bublé

I have to admit, the melting snow and warm sun lately has had me thinking of anything but knitting winter-wear. I’ve been planning my summer knit tank and perhaps a skirt, all while endlessly trying to forget about the winter project I have yet to finish for my mom. I’m thinking she’ll have a great shrug NEXT winter! Nothing in my being has wanted to touch anything warm. Today, however, with 4+ inches of snow, and what will hopefully be our last school snow day, I thought I’d welcome March with a new hat pattern! Moxie has arrived. Soon to find its way to Ravelry

  

This pattern began with my husband in mind; being he rarely finds himself the recipient of any of my knitting adventures. I wanted to gift him with a hat to pair with his new Bean jacket, and be certain he could finally enjoy the goodness of Malabrigo Worsted. I’m ecstatic with how the pattern compliments the yarn colors. I hoped for a “fair aisle inspired” look without all the color work. I chose a slip stitch cable pattern which ended up mixing the color order just perfectly while still highlighting contrasting colors. I’m pretty pleased.

The end of January into February brought enormous amounts of snow, strep throat, other illnesses, and now more snow. I’m hoping the illnesses are over, the snow will melt and tulips will once again adorn my table while the warmth of the sun shines it’s rays through the window panes. Bring on spring!

These Are The Days…

“These are the days we’ll remember…” – 10,000 Maniacs

10+ inches of the softest white powder, untouched for only moments before small feet make their presence known. Cecelia and Eleanor race for the 12 foot summit in our backyard. Liam puts all effort into swimming in the snow, only to lift his head and lick the white from his lips. How quickly I’m transformed to younger years, and immediately honor  the challenge to race all competitors to the top.

Snow seems to liven a forgotten youthfulness. In just me? Or is this a truth for others too? 

Just minutes after returning inside from a family snowman building session, topped with a modest snowball fight, I witnessed something similar across the street. Our neighbors’ shoveling was quickly interrupted by the slinging of snowballs back and forth. A mom and her son. In the snow…

A “knitting kick”. My current kick is hats. I hadn’t knit a hat in over a year and after this most recent adventure with The Kristin Collection, I want to knit more. And so hats it is. First stop: beefing up my “hunky husband designs”. He rarely seems to be the recipient of any of my knitting. And with him sporting a new Bean jacket, I figured a new knit hat was a must. Requests from the hunky husband:

  • Densely knit (his ever fading hair leaves an often chilly head)
  • Soft (not itchy, please)

Other than that, it’s free game. With yarn  in mind (Malabrigo Worsted, of course), here’s my recipe:

  1. Determine your hat pattern/Set your gauge. With yarn in mind, and needles in hand start knitting in stockinette stitch so you have roughly a 4-5 inch sample. If this is your first time designing a hat, go with stockinette stitch –  it will make all things easier. Unsure of what size needles to use? Yarn labels often indicate a gauge and they suggest a general needle size to obtain that gauge.  If you’re a loose knitter, you may want to use the smaller suggested needle. If you knit tightly, go for the larger. Also, if you intend a pattern such as cables, which typically pulls the fabric tighter and results in less “give/stretch/ease”, then you’ll want to go to a larger needle as well. Be sure to find your gauge in whatever pattern you intend for the hat. (or in my case, just start knitting, knowing you’ll have to start over as first time is rarely the charm). Once you have your 4″ x 4″ gauge swatch knit, measure how many stitches are in 4 inches of your sample. Divide that total number of stitches by 4 and that’s how many stitches you knit per inch. I would suggest doing it this way, rather than measuring just a single inch sample, as you will have a more accurate gauge count. My gauge is 5.5 stitches per inch.
  2. Measure head circumference. There are several online resources that will give you general average head sizes for newborns through adults if you don’t have the actual head to measure. I want this to fit roughly a 22 3/4″ head.
  3. Determine the type of ribbing. All my winter hats have a ribbing, and my favorite is usually a 2 stitch repeating pattern: [K1tbl, P1]. Other popular ribbings are [K2,P2], [K2, P1], [K1, P2]. 
  4. Calculate the CO (cast on) stitches. A nice fitting stocking hat typically has some “ease” or stretch. I calculate about 2 inches of ease for my hats. Meaning, If my total head circumference is 22 3/4 inches, I want the actual hat circumference to be about 22 inches, maybe just slightly over. Multiply your number of stitches per inch by the intended final hat circumference. In my case: 5.5 sts/inch x 20 inches = 110 stitches. This is a great even number, and works wonderfully for a 2 stitch ribbing pattern (my favorite is K1tbl, P1) Make sure your CO stitch count accommodates your ribbing pattern.
  5. Knit ribbing. Some people use less stitches for the brim of the hat and then increase once they get to the hat body to make for a tighter fitting ribbing.  I typically use the same number of stitches for the hat ribbing as I do for the body IF my pattern stitch has a decent amount of stretch. I ALWAYS use a smaller needle (typically 2 sizes smaller) for the brim in order to ensure a tighter fit around the ears. My [K1tbl,P1] has quite a bit of stretch. In my case, I am going to CO 110 stitches with US 6 needles and begin my [K1tbl, P1] ribbing. My hats usually have a 1 1/2 inch – 2 inch brim. And so, I am going to knit in this pattern until the brim reaches roughly 2 inches from  my CO edge.
  6. Set up the hat body pattern/stitches. SWITCH TO YOUR LARGER NEEDLES and if you’re knitting a classic stockinette stitch hat, start knitting! I’m not. My pattern is going to be a 4 stitch repeated pattern. (This means my number of stitches needs to be divisible by 4 – 110 is not) AND my pattern doesn’t have the stretch that I’m wanting. In fact, it only has about 1 inch of stretch. This means my finished hat circumference needs to be closer to 21.75 inches, rather than 20 inches. 5.5 sts x 21.75 inches = 119.6 Round up to 120 and that’s divisible by 4! Magic! (it doesn’t always work out that closely. In which case round up or down to the closes divisible number) At this point, I am going to switch to US 8 needles, and knit one round adding 10 stitches so that at the end of the round, I have a total of 120 stitches.
  7. Knit the hat body.  Again, online resources have average lengths of hats. Think about whether you want it to be more fitted, or do you want a slouchier hat? Keep in mind, slouchier means an overall longer hat. I typically knit until the total length from the CO edge is somewhere between 7-8 1/2 inches before beginning the decrease.
  8. Determine the decrease for the hat top. There’s a nice site here that gives some general decrease calculations. It’s pretty generic and seems to be a good formula. Something to think about: do you prefer a flatter topped hat, or a more conical shaped top? Flatter top = a more rapid decrease (decrease quicker over a lesser number of rows) Conical top = a more gradual decrease (decrease more slowly over a greater number of rows) What am I going to do with Trevor’s hat? Good question. This is a great topic for another post!

Today we are inside. Sun shinning and snow still sparkling, but strep throat successfully invaded our mighty fortress. And so we work on puzzles, play more games, eat unnecessary snacks and dance in our jammies. Funny how snow actually isn’t the only thing that livens this youthful spirit…

Slow down, dance with the kiddos, enjoy a warm beverage, knit a little and remember a lot! These are the days…

Here’s To You…

“Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. Jesus loves you more than you will know. God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson…” – Simon & Garfunkel

Excited to welcome Wisteria to The Kristin Collection. Previous posts talk about how this collection of hats was born, but here’s a brief recap:

  • The collection is inspired by an amazing woman named Kristin (ironically we’ve never met but have a mutual friend who told me of Kristin’s story)
  • Kristin is from Chicago and an avid ironman finisher (she’s currently training for her 15th!)
  • Kristin has cancer and has been living with Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN – possibly the most painful human condition)
  • Kristin has raised over $150,000 for cancer research and now, as she prepares for her 12th brain surgery in February, it’s time we raise money for Kristin. 

Because she used her disability eligibility on her previous brain surgery this past fall, and maxed out her PTO, Kristin doesn’t have the anticipated finances needed during her recovery. Her friends and family have started a Gofundme site to raise money for Kristin. Feel compelled to give? I do! Click Here to give to a much deserved woman who has strength and courage beyond what I can imagine. Or, if you purchase either pattern from The Kristin Collection I will personally donate all pattern proceeds to her. Click Here to purchase the pattern.

  
In a world full of enormous problems and horrendous disasters that often seem “untouchable” and too far away, here’s something close to home; A cause we can so easily support and confidently make a difference. Here’s to you, Ms. McQueen!

It’s A Story Of A Lovely Lady…

I’m sure you can guess the inspiring tune for this blog title. Great title, but perhaps this tune rings more appropriately. Although the Brady Bunch is an iconic television family, I have a feeling the lovely lady in this story will be even more…

  • Her name IS Kristin McQueen and she does live outside Chicago.
  • She IS having a brain surgery in February. This will be her 12th brain surgery, in fact!
  • Kristin has cancer and has suffered from Trigeminal Neuralgia for the past 9 years. Possibly the most excruciating pain a human can know.
  • Kristin is an ironwoman. She is training to compete in her 15th ironman in Madison, WI this coming September!
  • Kristin is a giver. Single-handedly, she has raised over $150,000 for cancer research.

I am confident this list of amazing attributes, and incomprehensible life circumstances continues on. Anyone who knows her personally, I’m certain, could add and add to this brief bio. I learned more about Kristin just minutes after posting my previous blog. I stumbled upon this link that my friend Lexie had posted on Facebook. My jaw dropped and all I could think is, This is THE KRISTIN! The same Kristin, who for the past week has been on my mind, inspiring me to design and create. The same Kristin, about whom I knew vey little, and yet for whom I felt called to begin The Kristin Collection. The same Kristin that has been, unbeknownst to me and hundreds of thousands of others, journeying an extraordinarily courageous life.

I feel honored to create something for someone so special, so strong, so humble. And if any of you also feel compelled to give, please do so here. And my part? I will donate all proceeds made from the sales of this pattern to Kristin. Want the pattern? Want to give to an amazingly lovely woman? Buy the pattern now! All pattern proceeds are going her way. Here’s to you, Krstin! Fight the fight. Win this race!

Blue…

“If I know only one thing, it’s that everything that I see Of the world outside is so inconceivable often I barely can speak. Yeah I’m tongue-tied and dizzy and I can’t keep it to myself. What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?” – Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues

Blue” is completed, and is the first of a group of hats I’m inspired to design called The Kristin Collection. I know very little about Kristin. What I do know is:

  • She lives in a suburb of Chicago
  • She’s facing a major surgery and needing to shave her head in preparation for the surgery
  • We are connected by a mutual friend; Lexie, a dear from my undergraduate years

My little knowledge of Kristin; however, has brought big design ideas. And this is just the beginning of what I anticipate being a special collection of very special hats, all designed with a special Kristin in mind…

   
 

Maybe…

“Maybe far away, or maybe real nearby. He’s sittin’ pouring her coffee, she may be straightening his tie…” – from Annie

One year deserves an anniversary tribute, dontcha think? How I remember…

The bright red lettering contrasting the white LP cover. I don’t recall the lyrics being written on the glossy sleeve insert. What I do remember, though, is playing this song (and the entire album, really) over and over and over again; starting and stopping just long enough to jot the next phrase in my notebook. Once the entire song was dictated, there I stood, toes crunching in the dirtied white shag carpet, staring into my full length mirror and somehow seeing Annie’s tight red curls staring back rather than the dirty blonde haired girl with a mouthful of tangled teeth. And the singing began…

Maybe blue yarn, maybe purple? Maybe cables, maybe not. Maybe fitted, maybe slouchy? The design process for me is simple and yet incredibly of the moment. I recently saw a page from a designer’s inspiration book, and some people just put way more intention into their designs. Perhaps that’s why they get paid the good money. For me, my likes tend to be classic and simple, nothing overly ornate, nothing too complicated. I tend to be quite intuitive in nature, and I feel my designing follows in a similar manner. An idea pops into my head and it either sits well with me and excites me, or I wrestle with the idea, changing my mind over and over again, until I realize if it’s that much of a struggle, I should just put the idea way far away into the depths of my “never think of that idea again” pile! 

This week I’ve been charged with the task of designing some hats for a friend-of-a-friend going through a brain surgery. She wants to gift her with one-of-a-kind, post-surgery, warm and comfy hats. And so my simple design process began…

  • Color: this is usually part of my initial inspiration. Often color evokes particular stitch patterns and fibers for me. In this case she wanted blues or purples. 
  • Texture/stitch: I imagined an extremely soft, almost chunkier looking stitch. She lives in Chicago and I keep seeing the blue waves of Lake Michigan. Some sort of weaving, large scale cable.
  • Yarn: I wanted to stick with something soft for her sensitive skin. I anticipated exploring some new fibers, and after lots of consideration I went back to an all-time favorite, Malabrigo Worsted. Love the stitch definition and the color is just perfect for crashing waves.

Once the details are decided upon the knitting begins. I knew my gauge (sweet) as I’ve worked with this previously. No fuss, so I thought. Until I got halfway through and just didn’t like the outcome. Because the cables were so large, it really pulled and the body had very little ease. So, I took out and went up to US 8. Nope. US 9. Nope. US 10. Finally!! (I hope). 

This process brought about a question: At what point do you just stop increasing the needle size and increase your stitches? I feel it’s a question of how you intend the fiber to act. I’m wanting a slightly slouchy hat; one that has some give and isn’t super fitting (less restricting so as not to bother the incision scars). I’m hoping for very slight drape and that’s why I kept increasing my needle size. It’s not that I necessarily needed a significantly larger hat; just wanted the body to be less stiff with more ease. Hoping third time is the charm… 

Funny how quickly time passes. The top is a picture taken today. Liam snuggled up with me while I try to figure out this hat. I was immediately transported back to a time, not long ago, when he would curl up with me on a daily basis and knit with me. (Bottom photo) It definitely doesn’t happen as frequently these days, and so today, I just had to stop, put the needles down and indulge myself with this mid-morning snuggle. Maybe it just might happen again tomorrow. Maybe not. Either way, the memory’s mine.