Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Snowy Realm

Snow on top of snow. It's been quite a winter. Beautiful to look out upon, though a little challenging to keep cleared.

And when you're snowed in, there's lots and lots of time for indoor hobbies like knitting. I took a little blizzard break and knit myself a new handspun hat!

When there's a good deep snow on the ground, it's fun to bundle up in hats and boots and go out stomping around. When the novelty of shoveling wears off, there's plenty of entertainment to be had in watching the plows, taking pictures, or just playing.

Somewhere along the way, I noticed that, for an enthusiastic knitter, I have a distinct shortage of hand-knit hats. In fact, only one: a petite little beret with a coordinating ruffled scarf. But everywhere lately, I've been seeing oversized, slouchy berets. And though big hats are sometimes not a good look for me, I thought I might not look so much like a mushroom in one that droops down. I suddenly wanted one.

I decided on a heavily cabled slouchy hat that I'd been admiring in the Fall/Winter 2008 issue of knit.1 magazine. It's called the Relm tam and was designed by Jared Flood. On top of liking its tweedy good looks , I thought it would make a good handspun project for one of the smaller quantities of spinning fiber I have on hand.

I settled on the fiber from Puff the Magic Rabbit that I bought last fall at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. When I visited Puff's site just now to make sure of the link, I got a surprise. While I thought -- and said in my last post -- that the fiber was her Electra Blue colorway in merino and mohair, from the photos on her site it's pretty unmistakably For Erika, instead. So what I have here is actually natural dark gray Border Leicester with a little silky mohair in pale blue and lavender!

It's beautiful stuff, either way. I spun it into a light worsted weight two-ply, trying for a decent amount of twist. It's not quite as twisty as I was aiming for, but I didn't do too badly. This was my first time attempting to spin exactly the yarn I wanted for a particular pattern. Up until now, I had just spun the fiber however it seemed to work best and then figured out what to knit it into.

The pattern calls for 100 grams of a yarn that adds up to about 300 yards. I thought I would be safe, since I had more than 150 grams of fiber. Well, I must have spun a much denser yarn than the one called for, because I ended up with only 230 yards of handspun. I crossed my fingers, hoping for the best, and pressed on. It was a big slouchy hat, after all, and if I ran short I could always regroup and make it into a smaller, less slouchy version.

The handspun yarn worked well in the pattern. The fiber's color variation gave it a heathery look that suited the cable pattern, and the mohair in the mix gave it some drape. The cable-work doesn't show up very clearly, because of the fuzzy bloom of the yarn, but it looks thick and furrowed and handsome nonetheless.

The pattern is elegantly designed, showing the signs of a perfectionist in the careful choice and placement of decreases as the cables narrow into the center. But it is big. As the knitting progressed, I did end up making it smaller. It wasn't for lack of yarn (though I actually do think I would have run out). No, it was because the way it was shaping up, it would have made a really giant hat. Enormous. Beyond slouchy. I think it would have been lounging on my shoulders.

I ended up leaving out two repeats of the cable pattern to shorten it up considerably. And it's slouchy, warm, and big without being overwhelming. I am all set now to venture back out, find a cafe, and park myself at a table with a book and a steaming double espresso.

Snow? What snow?


Anonymous said...

Awesome! Fantastic spinning and knitting. That blend does spin up very dense- mohair is such a heavy fiber.

Erika was my friend and pet/farm sitter. She was dealing with her 2nd bout of pancreatic cancer when I named this color- i was making her a shawl with it- her husband said her favorite colors were light blue and lavender. Unfortunately, the shawl wasn't finished in time. This is the only color not named for a goatie. It's almost gone, I think I'll make it again this spring.

You made it look absolutely fantastic!

Knittin' Diva said...

What a beautiful hat! I eye balled that pattern too, but couldn't decide which yarn to use (really wanted to use stash!). The grey is a good choice for you :-)

Funny, I had the same moment this winter, realizing with all the knitting I do, I don't have many hats, scarves, and only 1 pair of mittens. 2010 will be the year to accessorize!

cathy said...

Puff, what a lot of memories those two color names hold for you. Thank you for sharing their meaning. They are beautiful tributes.

Knittin' Diva, yes, I think we've got a bit of a shoemaker's children effect going on here. I was lucky I had a perfect fiber for this hat in my spinning stash. It will be fun for you to pick out patterns for your yarn stash; bet there's some great stuff in there.