Making Stuff

Tales of a Feather Hat . . . Part 2

So. In last Wednesday's post, I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger. . .

Would the Feather Hat turn out to be a simple-yet-charming hat knit up with some gimmick-y yarn in a whimsical stitch pattern???
Would the Feather Hat end up a Major Disappointment, relegated to complete unraveling?

Turns out the answer is . . . rather a mixed bag!


On the one hand, it's finished.
And it fits.

On the other hand, it had its Moments. (Trust me, blocking improved the hat immensely.)


I think there just might be. . .  too many "feathers" (for my liking, at least; Erin loves them and - to my delight - wants the hat).

It's the pooling that's getting me here, I think. I am not a fan of pooling, generally. Somehow, I thought this particular pattern and this particular yarn (specifically designed to work together with something called "planned pooling") would . . . be less pool-y. But, as you can see in my photos, I was wrong. It's VERY pool-y, and all the "feathers" clumped up on one side of the hat . . . with very few on the other side.



On the good side of the Feather Hat experience . . . It was a fun and quick knit (once I got the hang of the "feathers"). The yarn is gorgeous. I love the way the colors fade in and out (you can really see this in the middle photo, above). And it's really good to try a strange, new stitch pattern once in a while.

And on the bad side of the Feather Hat experience . . . The pattern itself is TOO much (too many words, too many pages, too many useless charts for "everyday" knitting things). Pooling is pooling, even when it's "planned." And I just think there are too many feathers.

I'm not displeased, but I'm not thrilled, either. I do have a couple more skeins of this yarn . . . and I also have two other ideas to try to make it with fewer feathers. But not right now.*

(What do you think?)

Ravelry details here.


*So, now what?
Big brown blob, that's what!
It is All Big Brown Blob All The Time here, let me tell you.
(I've reached the point where I knit and knit and knit and it feels like I'm not getting anywhere.)
(But I must be. Surely I must be. . . )

Tales of a Feather Hat . . . Part 1

Before I get started on today's Unraveled post (and, indeed, there was some unraveling), I do want to celebrate reaching Divide For Sleeves status with Tom's sweater. There was a bit of Disappointment initially, as I discovered I needed to go up a size after our first "try on." But that's the benefit of knitting a top-down sweater, after all. So it was a Good Thing. Although More Stitches is never something a knitter wants to face when knitting a sweater for a man, y'know? But. Success all the same. (I'll spare you a photo at this point, because Big Brown Blob . . . that you can easily picture in your mind's eye.)


Once reaching that Momentous Step, I decided to dip my toe into the "feather hat" pool and treat myself to (what appeared to be) . . . a simple-yet-charming hat knit up with some gimmick-y yarn in a whimsical stitch pattern. And I'll stand by that: It IS a simple hat. With charm and whimsy. And gimmick-y yarn that will (in the end, I'm sure) do all the heavy lifting.

But ohmygod . . . first I needed to crack the code of one of the most overwrought patterns I've ever seen!


This is a HAT. A basic, stockinette hat with a few options for the brim and the crown. The tricky bit? It's the "feather stitch." And I knew that would be the tricky-bit going in. I expected detailed explanations (and probably some practice) for that part.

What I didn't expect . . . was an overly complicated (24 PAGES, people) pattern that skips around in distracting ways and includes CHARTS for (among other things that don't actually need charts) 2x2 ribbing for the brim. (Oh, don't let me get started on my quibbles with this pattern.) Anyway. The most irritating part of this whole adventure . . . is the need to carefully swatch to even figure out where to begin. (I mean, it's nice to be able to use ANY weight yarn and knit a hat to fit ANY size head, but this is just a bit more work than I want to go through for what is basically a plain, old hat. Y'know?)

So. Once I bought in to the fact that I was going to have to swatch, swatch I did. Which also gave me a chance to practice the feather stitches. And . . . it's a good thing I did practice because my first one? It looked like this . . .


Not QUITE what I was going for. (LOL)

I ripped. I re-tried. The second one was even worse, but in a different way. I didn't take a picture. I ripped again. And then . . . something clicked (plus I got out a crochet hook, which helped), and my third feather was definitely more . . . feather-like.


And after a few more "practice feathers," I declared myself ready to move on to the actual hat.


Doing the gauge swatch helped me figure out my sizing. (Because, yeah. I know. That's why we swatch.) (I just don't usually swatch for hats. A hat IS a swatch, y'know?) For the record, my swatch is 5 stitches/inch on size 5 needles. And I want to knit a hat with a 21.75" circumference. So according to the VERY detailed sizing chart (some might say unnecessarily detailed AND get an eye twitch just looking at it), I cast on 96 stitches. Which seems about right for me, based on my previous hat knitting experience. For the record, I'm knitting a 2x2 ribbing for the brim on size 4s (because I always go down a size for my brims). And I don't feel I need to refer to the chart (just sayin).

The yarn is beautiful. I love the feel and sheen of it (although it is a little splitty). But the pattern? WAY too many words. (And useless charts.) (But maybe that's just me.) I'm sure that, in the end, this will be . . . a simple-yet-charming hat knit up with some gimmick-y yarn in a whimsical stitch pattern.

Even though it's taking a while to actually get to that.

Stay tuned!


How about you? What are you making this week?

A Plain Brown Wrapper

Many, many years ago . . . at least three decades ago now, but maybe four . . . my mom gave Tom a sweater for Christmas. It was one of those workhorse kinds of sweaters . . . nothing fancy. But it was . . . 

Very basic.
And a heathered maroon color that Tom, being color blind, probably couldn't actually see accurately, but that he really liked.

He wore it all the time. While fishing. While snow-blowing. At probably every one of Brian's hockey games. Whenever he was cold and needed a light layer, you'd find that sweater in the picture.

Until . . . he lost it.
(And that is a story unto itself, but not for the blog.)

Anyway, the sweater has been gone for a very long time. Maybe even another decade? And Tom still grieves it.

It also turns out to be the kind of sweater that is hard to replace. 

Unless you're a knitter.

So, after years of Tom talking about his lost-sweater-that-he-wishes-he-still-had. And years of my trying to find a replacement that I could purchase . . . to avoid knitting a man-sized, plain-no-frills 100% wool sweater . . . I'm knitting a man-sized, plain-no-frills 100% wool sweater.

In brown.
(Because when you're color blind, you always choose brown.)
(He may actually have thought the heathered maroon sweater was . . . brown. Just sayin.)


It took us awhile to decide on a pattern. Tom wanted . . . very basic. Plain. No frills. I was hoping for . . . a few frills? Maybe a basic gansey? But it's not my sweater, and he wants plain, so we're going with this one (which is as basic as one can get when knitting a sweater). And I'm knitting it with Shelter (in the Meteorite colorway; brown, to be sure . . . but with interesting flecks of color in there for some excitement).

I'm afraid the knitting content here is going to be a bit dull for a while.

(Until, of course, I get my Gauge Dye Works yarn for the soon-to-be-released Hunter Hammersen "feather hat." That will spice things up for me and provide a little reprieve.) (Please note . . . it is not actually called the "feather hat," but it will always BE the "feather hat" to me. Thanks, Bonny!)


In the meantime, I'm knitting a man-sized, plain-no-frills 100% wool sweater.
It's a plain brown wrapper!


How about you? What are you making this week?

An Entirely Different Kind of Making

For Christmas, Brian and Lauren gave me a soup cookbook from Zingerman's Deli and Bakehouse (a Michigan treasure; be sure to check it out if you're ever in Ann Arbor). Each soup recipe includes a suggested "bread pairing" -- which is great if you happen to have quick, local access to Zingerman's bread (I do, but selection is very limited). Without access, those pairings are just wishful thinking . . . (And that link up there? That's to Zingerman's online store. Trust me . . . their shipped goods are almost as fabulous as what you'll find fresh in their Ann Arbor bakehouse. If you have a hankerin' for some FINE bread or bakery goods, give 'em a try.)

Anyway, last weekend, with Tom in Detroit, I decided to try another Zingerman's soup recipe (I'd already tried one - with great results - right after Christmas) . . . AND I decided I'd up my game by also baking the suggested bread for my given soup: focaccia. Now, I'm not exactly a newbie bread baker. I used to bake bread on the regular -- years before the pandemic sourdough craze hit. But . . . I'd never baked focaccia before. No worries, though! I dusted off my trusty bread book and found a recipe for focaccia.

It was a bit fussier than I anticipated.

My recipe began with biga (Italian bread starter; kinda like sourdough starter), so that was my first step. My biga started out looking a bit sad . . . but it perked up and did just what it was supposed to do by the time I needed it, 12 hours later.


The next day, focaccia baking began in earnest. Let me tell you, focaccia dough is . . . sticky. It doesn't really behave like most bread doughs I've worked with in the past. But it was doing just what my recipe told me it should be doing, so I proceeded, fully bought in by this point.


I really like my bread cookbook (it's this one in case you're interested), but I'll tell you . . . more photos would have been really helpful as I struggled to "fold" my very sticky bread dough into thirds, then halves, then again with a quarter turn. I had to trust my instincts and read carefully. And, eventually, I had 3 focaccia loaves rolling right along.




I'm sure Paul Hollywood would have much to say about the air bubbles I managed to bake in (I'm sure that's the result of my questionable "folding" skills, see above), but it really did turn out to be very tasty!


And it was a perfect pairing with the soup, too! (I'm thinking . . . not bad for a first attempt.)


And in the meantime, my knitting jag continues . . . 


How about YOU? Are you make anything interesting this week? 




Right On Time


I'm right on time with my annual January knitting "jag." It seems to happen to me every year . . . After the holidays are over, I just start knitting one thing over and over and over. One year it was little gnomes. Another year it was dishcloths. Last year it was little hearts.

This year? I've got a Musselburgh jag going.


Once I finished my own Musselburgh hat, I immediately cast on another -- this time for Tom. And I gotta tell ya . . . despite essentially knitting two-hats-in-one, these things fly off the needles! They are endlessly entertaining - especially after a busy December.  You don't have to think (once you get started, that is). Just knit. It's also a pleasure to use up some lovely skeins I have tucked away deep in my stash.

IMG_7432 3

Like this one from Kim at Woolen Rabbit, which had been "marinating" in my stash for a very long time. It's Opal in the Speakeasy colorway. Very luxurious with a touch of cashmere, although I'm not sure Kim is offering this yarn anymore.

Anyway. According to Tom, it's his New Best Hat.

IMG_7463 3

And now . . . well. I'm clipping right along on another one!
This one's for my sister . . . 


I can see myself churning these out for a while yet. . .
January jag, indeed!

How about you?
What are you making these days?


Don't forget to check out other Unravled posts over at Kat's today!



Putting an Accent on the Holiday

I haven't been knitting much lately. Oh, I have another Musselburgh hat on the needles (for Tom, but not for Christmas) that I work on while watching TV. But lately I've been sewing (Christmas gifts) and doing some embroidery (because I'm smitten) and . . . well . . . poking fiber into linen with a needle.


I made a needle felted poinsettia pillow.

I bought this kit last year (oops . . . . tried to link, but the shop's website is closed for the holidays and restocking; sorry), but I was too busy cranking out gifts so I put it away (true to form) and tried not to feel too guilty about it. Anyway. I pulled the kit out at Thanksgiving and decided to give it a go this year.

I really love needle felting. There's something therapeutic about handling that fleece and then poking at it with a sharp needle. Repeatedly. It's good for stress; kind of mindful.

Anyway. This is a really simple kit (I really wish I could share a link. . . ). Very straightforward. Kind of like paint-by-numbers, only with fiber instead of paint. It started out looking like this . . . 


The design is printed onto the (pre-sewn!) linen pillow cover, and you just apply the fiber - by poking - as drawn out for you.


Felted Sky kits are very well put together. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, there are links to videos if you want to see the steps along the way, and all the materials are included. (Again, wish I could share a link.) This is considered an "easy" or "beginner" level kit, and I would agree . . . although it is a bigger project and still takes some time to complete. (Poking fiber with a needle is not necessarily a fast process. . . )

I did veer off the instructions a bit, though. I decided to spice things up a bit . . . 


(I wanted to add a little "depth" to the piece, so I added some "shadows." But the pillow doesn't really need that.

When I was finished with the needle felting, I just gave it a good steam press and popped it over a pillow form.

A lovely Christmas accent!


It makes me smile every time I walk into the room.


(Here's a link to the Felted Sky Studios Instagram account if you want to check out some of their products/designs.)


How about you?
What are you making these days?



Inside Out . . . and Round and Round

(Soundtrack for today's post . . . click here.)

Just before I left for my Mayo visit last week, I cast on for what is probably The Perfect Travel Knit . . . 


Because after a sorta tricky cast on (easily sorted with Emily Ocker's magic cast on) (I need to watch this You Tube video every time, btw), it's just knit-knit-knit for miles.

And the result?

Best. Hat. Ever.


Seriously perfect!

It's . . . Warm. Comfortable. Easy to wear.
I've already cast on for another one.
(I'm completely smitten.)
(This could easily be my next "knitting jag." Because I'm pretty sure everyone in my family needs one. . . )


Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
You can find the details on Ravelry, here.

Air Travel . . . These Days: When Plans Unravel

So . . . when I got the notice of my appointment at Mayo, I had a few decisions to make. Number one being . . . how to get there. Now, the last two times I visited Mayo, I was incredibly stressed, under duress -- and sick. Tom handled everything. He drove me. (For us, it's an 8-hour drive. But not an easy 8-hour drive -- because of the lake and driving through Chicago.) But this time, I knew I could handle the journey as a solo trip -- but driving that far in December in the north is potentially . . . challenging.

I decided to fly.

It was a highly considered decision, you know . . . with Covid and all.


But I decided to go for the air option, and I scheduled my travel to keep myself as separated from others as possible. I even upgraded myself to First Class so I could be in a less populated (and less crowded) part of the plane. (I have many, many "miles" built up. . . ) I chose seats that were "singles" so I'd have no "neighbors." I gave myself connecting flights with enough time to comfortably move between gates without having to crush in with other people on "trams." I felt . . . fairly comfortable about everything. After all, my flights were short. My time in the airports would be minimal, and my time in the air would be brief (about 2 hours, total, flying time). I had arranged for a car/driver to retrieve me from the airport to my hotel. I was . . . good to go.

Until it all fell to shit.


I am a veteran traveler. I know better than to count on things going as planned. But, oh boy. Things really went off the rails on my trip out! That's me . . . ready to (finally) board my outgoing flight . . . after what turned out to be a four hour delay. My entire plan unraveled at the first step! What I had planned as a short stint in airports . . . turned out to be eight hours in airports. By the time I arrived in Rochester - at midnight! - I was exhausted, stressed, and generally not a happy camper. (And I ended up sharing my car with other shell-shocked Mayo patients who had no waiting car at the airport. At midnight. During a wind storm. With windchills below zero. Because it was the right thing to do.)

Best laid plans. And all that.
(And, yeah. Driving would have been faster.)

Coming home yesterday was much smoother. (Although it's never fun to get to the airport at 4am only to find that your first flight has already been delayed. Sigh.) I will say that the First Class thing did work out brilliantly (and comfortably). I was first in/first out on that plane, and I had no one breathing near me (although I know . . . circulating air . . . ). Best thing I did, upgrading to First Class.

And I did have time to knit yesterday. (I was actually too stressed on the way out to knit. It was bad.)


Any guesses what I've got on the needles?
(Hint: it was perfect travel knitting.)

Now. I just keep my fingers crossed that I didn't pick up Covid during my travels. (Sigh.)


How about you? What are you making this week?

Revisiting the FrankenCowl

Okay. So a couple of weeks ago, I showed you my disappointing "FrankenCowl" . . . whining a lot about how unhappy I was . . . and going on and on about the ways the colors were (not) working out . . . and blah blah blah. But not really willing to do anything about it.

Later that same morning, I jumped on a Zoom call, intending to cast the monster off and be done with it. But, suddenly inspired, I ended up ripping it right back to the "scene of the crime" instead! (I knew I'd never be happy.) (And even though I never want to do it, I'm always happier when I take the time to rip back and re-do.) (Sigh.) I sat through my Zoom meeting ripping . . . and rolling little balls of yarn.


I ended up doing a lot of rolling and cutting and re-rolling the balls of yarn . . . so I could plan how I wanted to work them into the rest of the knitting, hoping to wrangle those oddball colors into a more pleasing configuration. I got out my postal scale and I started weighing.

And then I jumped back in.

My goal . . . was to carry that darker reddish color all the way through the cowl (because it was such a contrast to the other 2 skeins). I almost made it, too -- thescale was getting quite a workout toward the end. (If you want to see the "before" shot, click here.) It's really kind of funny . . . because this is such a nice, easy, rhythmic knit. And I made it all complicated with my color-working. Oh, well. I love playing with color, so it was a good kind of knitting adventure for me. (If I were doing this again, though, with this same yarn, I would have changed things up with that darker color earlier in the process . . . so it could have been more of a "theme" throughout the project. But I didn't want to rip THAT far back for this one.)


And in the end, it's no longer a FrankenCowl!


I just needed to . . . break up. . . to make up!

Break up to make up, that's all we do
Yeah, first you love me then you hate me
That's a game for fools


You can find the details here, on Ravelry.
(And my crazy jumpsuit? It's from Conscious Clothing and it is THE MOST comfortable "pants" I own. Perfect for post-Thanksgiving, y'know???)


How about you? What are you working on this week?




From the Sewing Department

I did a little sewing over the weekend. Nothing fancy or special. Just a plain, long sleeve, v-neck t-shirt.



(And, yes. The lighting in my closet is . . . not great.) (Tom was away this weekend, so you'll see that all of the photos from today's post are rather . . . lacking.) (Oh well. You'll get the gist of it.)

This is the Tabor V-Neck from one of my favorite indie sewing pattern companies, Sew House Seven. I really love their patterns. (I've made several different designs from their portfolio - some multiple times.) They always have clear directions and plenty of helpful tips. This shirt, for example, includes a little trick for lining up a perfect v-neck. I'm thrilled! (This old dog is always up for learning new tricks.)

Anyway, this shirt is a wardrobe basic that I'll wear over and over. The fit is great, it's super comfortable to wear, and it didn't take long to put together either. I'm already plotting my next version(s).


I know a lot of people avoid working with knits . . . either because they think it'll be "too hard" to work with them, or because they don't have a serger. I'm here to tell you  . . . you don't need a serger to sew knits! I don't have one. (In fact, I've never even used one!) And unless they're "slippery" knits, they aren't hard to work with either. You just need to pay attention to what you're doing, and be careful not to stretch things out while you stitch. 


I love finding basic patterns that are easy to sew and easy to wear. 
(And, my. Sewing is so much faster than knitting, y'know?)


How about you? What are you making this week?


If you're looking to sew up a quick and useful holiday gift (or maybe even 4 of them?), Helen's Closet (another of my favorite indie pattern designers) just released the Sam Apron. It's even a freebie! All you have to do is sign up for the Helen's Closet newsletter. I'm planning to give this pattern a try . . . really soon!