Thursday, January 04, 2007

super secret project

Sage's hat and mitten set - modeled by me

I finished the hat (and mittens!) for Sage (in return for the gorgeous crocheted beret), and have assurances that she won't peek here until she gets them. So I am free to share them with you, which I'm very excited about. The project has been finished since Monday, and was photographed on Tuesday, and it would have been difficult to wait another week or so to write about any of it.

The project started out as just a hat. I decided I wanted to use one of the charts from Charlene Schurch's Knitting Marvelous Mittens as the basis for the hat, and as I was flipping through the book for my inspiration, thought that I might as well knit the mittens, too. In a sport weight yarn, they'd take no time, in comparison to the fingering weight mittens I was working on. I suppose "no time" is all relative, but in the end it was actually a fairly fast project, for something with so many pieces.

Sage's hat and mitten set - mittens

I used pattern #29 for the mittens. Mittens #29 in the book are in two shades of pink, so I thought this would be a funny one to base my project on, since the one hat request was no pink. More importantly, I liked the pattern, it worked with the weight of yarn I had available, and I thought it would expand well into something larger, for the hat. If you have the book, you'll see that the one obvious change I made to the pattern was on the cuff. Instead of corrugated ribbing, I used plain 2x2 ribbing, with that bit of red at the bottom for some visual interest. As you'll soon see, the red also coordinates with part of the hat.

Another less visible modification is that instead of grafting together the stitches at the top of the thumb, I simply pulled the yarn through, like at the top of a hat. I was concerned that grafting would make the top of the thumb too wide, and this method produced a thumb that looks and fits very nicely. I usually enjoy kitchener stitch, but liked this method so much for these mittens that I'm using it on my own Komi mittens. I did graft the tops of the hands, which I think was necessary in terms of both form and function.

On my list of things to come in 2007 was the story of 4 thumbs. I ended up knitting almost 4 full thumbs for these mittens, though obviously only 2 survived. The first thumb had stitch evenness issues, as I found it quite difficult to do stranded knitting well on such a small number of stitches. The second attempt was better in that department, but humongous. I don't know if it was my knitting or again the challenges of doing colorwork on such a fiddly, small number of stitches, but my gauge had drastically changed. I figured this out after the second thumb was almost completely knit, so then picked up the other mitten, and started its first thumb on size 1 needles. (I knit the mittens on size 2.) That did the trick nicely, and I went back and knit that first mitten thumb for the third time. It was a pain, but each thumb only took a couple of hours to knit, and it was completely worth the effort in the end. (Unless Sage has mutant, lightbulb-like thumbs, in which case she better be reading this, and warn me before I mail them out in a few hours.)

I knit the set with Brown Sheep Naturespun Sport, leftover from Ingeborg and Elizabeth I. I still have a lot of leftovers, but this was a great way to use up a chunk of them. It's the same yarn (in different colors) used for most or all of the sportweight patterns in the book.

Sage's hat and mitten set - hat

I simply expanded on the mitten chart (fun with Excel) to create the hat chart. I pretty much knew that I would get gauge on the mittens, as my Nordic Mittens were also knit with Naturespun Sport (my first experience with the lovely stuff), on size 2 needles. But it's been a while since I knit those, so in some sense the mittens were an extended gauge swatch for the hat. It turns out that my gauge with that yarn/needle combo hadn't changed, but it was nice to be able to use such a fun project for a swatch. Using my gauge info, I calculated the stitch and row count I'd need for the hat, and adjusted my chart accordingly, to get things nicely centered in the horizontal and vertical. Here is what the jog looks like, on the back of the hat:

Sage's hat and mitten set - back of hat (jog)

I toyed with the idea of putting in a faux-seamline there, like on the sides of the mittens. I eventually decided against it because I think it looks better this way. Obviously, the jog and partial pattern repeats can be seen if you are looking for them. But that spot is a lot less obvious without a big solid line running through it, don't you think? Plus, I like that XX marks the spot. (The spot being the part of the hat that should be at the back of the head, though that preference is obviously up to the wearer.)

The next question was what to do about the brim. Ribbing? Icord? I eventually settled on a folded under hem:

Sage's hat and mitten set - hat hem

I knit it on size 0 needles ( 2 sizes smaller than the rest of the hat), and sewing it down was the last thing I did. It was a bit fiddly, because of all of the floats between me and the stitches I wanted to attach the hem to. In the end, I actually ended up sewing through a few floats where it was more convenient, as I noticed that it didn't produce any ill effects on the public side of the hat. I really love this secret splash of color, and also like how the turning row reveals just a hint of the surprise inside:

Sage's hat and mitten set - hat brim

At the top of the hat, I did something a little different than my usual 8-section swirling decrease. I wanted to add some bit of texture or visual interest to that plain black section, so after a few repeats of every-other row decreases, I switched to decreasing on every row. I think it still looks neat and controlled up top, but adds a bit of movement and character.

Sage's hat and mitten set - top of hat

So that's what I was working on while I wasn't posting. I'm about halfway through the second thumb on my own Komi mittens (and, thankfully, there will only be two of those to knit), and am almost halfway through the first grey sock.

I want to apologize to anybody who got a zillion (or 25 or so) of my old posts appearing as new in their blog aggregator, after my last post. I just upgraded to the "new" Blogger, and I think that's what did it. I really cringed, because I know that the livejournal feed flooded some people with a lot of old posts, which is a lot more annoying there than it is using an aggregator like Bloglines. I promise I didn't do it on purpose, and here's hoping that it doesn't happen again.

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Blogger Glenna C said...

Gorgeous! I really like the red edge on the mittens to match the hem facing on the hat. They all look warm and comfy and are very striking.

1/04/2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

These are just gorgeous! I admire the even tension of your stitches--they look perfectly smooth. The overall effect is professional and downright stunning. Sage is very lucky to have you knitting for her.

1/04/2007 9:30 AM  
Blogger LaurieM said...

That's a great set. I really like all the details and thought you put into it. Your work is impeccable.

I want to do myself a hat and mitts set. I'll get round to it eventually, but I think the lack of snow in Southern Ontario has curbed my enthusiasm.

1/04/2007 9:53 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Wow, they're absolutely beautiful -- great job!!

1/04/2007 10:09 AM  
Blogger spajonas said...

oooh! i love them both! i've been really into fair isle lately and this set is really striking, especially in black and white. i especially adore the top of the hat. that swirliness is a lot of fun :)

1/04/2007 10:14 AM  
Blogger Sonya said...

Brilliant job! Such an interesting pattern and I learned several new things reading through your modifications. I love the modified swirl on the hat.

1/04/2007 12:33 PM  
Blogger Nanette said...

Your work is beautiful as always and I especially like the double x on the back! I also liked reading about the process you went through in designing the hat.

1/04/2007 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lightbulb-like thumbs, and I'll thank you not to mock those of us with this tragic condition.

Offense aside, the set looks great! I agree that the tiny hints of red hint at all kinds of fun just beneath the surface.

1/04/2007 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful, really beautiful! I love the peek of red in the hat brim.

I frequently switch to decrease-every-row at the very tops of my hats, it keeps them from being too pointy.

1/04/2007 11:36 PM  
Blogger doulicia said...

It's a beauty set. Excellent work. And I enjoy hearing how and why you did what you did. The red is a great touch.

1/05/2007 2:25 PM  
Blogger Lou Schiela said...

B E A U T I F U L!

Just beautiful!

1/05/2007 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great hat, great mittens, great entry. Love the red in there.

1/07/2007 9:03 AM  
Blogger Theresa said...

That's great - and thanks for walking us through your process. Love the touch of red, too.

1/07/2007 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. The mittens and hat are perfect and the description of your design process inspiring. I love when knitters take a bit from here, a bit from there, mix in their own imagination and create something truely their own.

1/08/2007 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow that hat & mittens combo is awesome. Such beautiful handiwork!

1/08/2007 8:42 PM  
Blogger vanessa said...

absolutely gorgeous!

1/09/2007 12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this one too!! Black and white -- very sharp! The red on the hat - nice and the hemming job looks great! I love the top of the hat, also.

1/10/2007 12:24 AM  
Blogger Dove Knits said...

Beee-autiful, as is all your work. I envy your colorwork skills

1/17/2007 12:42 PM  

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