Saturday, January 11, 2014

Experimenting with Design

I recently completed a warm hat for a friend who is going through chemo and needs as many hats as she can get with these extremely cold temperatures we have been having in the Midwest. I had already made her a simple cotton chemo cap for indoors, so this time I thought I would make her something that was beautiful and really warm for outdoor wear. I started searching for patterns, but then I got the idea that I should design one of my own. I have created a few of my own garments over the years (mostly hats and one sweater). I always enjoy the process of searching through stitch guides and choosing colors. This time, though, I wanted to get more practice with Fair Isle knitting since it is something I have tried on and off, but that I don't feel I have mastered yet. Watching Elizabeth Zimmerman's incredible Knitting Workshop DVD (a Christmas present) had inspired me since she was encouraging beginning knitters to design their own two-color hats; I have been knitting for twenty years -- surely I could do this! Here is what I came up with:

I had a lot of fun choosing the motifs and deciding which colors to use for each motif and in each round. Since I wanted to be sure the hat was easily washable for my friend, I used some left-over acrylic that I had from a baby afghan (I would definitely advise using wool, though, if you can). The yarn was worsted weight. The motifs come from Mary Smith and Maggie Liddle's A Shetland Pattern Book (a great little book with easy to use Fair Isle patterns). I choose the central motif of the crosses so that I could knit some "prayers" into her cap. The other motifs were chosen since they had repeats that were divisible into the main pattern repeat and into the total number of stitches on the hat. I am happy with the results overall, but here are a few things I would change if I made another cap using this design:

  • I would use a different green. The one that I had in my stash was a bit two light and doesn't pop well enough against the cream yarn. The pattern color really should be dark if the background color is light and vice versa.
  • I would use Eunny Jang's technique from her Introduction to Fair Isle video where she recommends knitting all the stitches on the color-change row of corrugated ribbing instead of purling any of them in order to avoid the visible line in the color-change row. Of course, I saw her tip after I had completed the hat. The visible line doesn't bother me too much, though, since it is something I have seen in a lot of corrugated rib, but Eunny's technique is definitely something I will try next time.
  • I might substitute different pattern motifs above and/or below the crosses
This project was a lot of fun since I really liked making so many choices and having everything under my control. It meant that I had to knit by the seat of my pants at times and there was some ripping and re-knitting, but it gave me a real sense of why E.Z. always had the mantra of "be the boss of your knitting." It is a great feeling. If anyone is interested in the pattern directions, I would be happy to write them up and post them to the blog. Just let me know by replying to this entry in the comments section below. (Click on the spot where it says "no comments" or if someone else has commented, click on where it says "comments" with a number before it.)

Now that I have completed this hat fairly successfully, I think it is time to pick up some of the other hibernating Fair Isle projects I have started over the years:

Beth Brown-Reinsel's Nordic Mittens

 Eunny Jang's Ivy League Vest

As you all know from the title of my blog, I am an Aran knitter at heart, but I still like experimenting with two-color knitting. Now if I could just finish something bigger than a hat!

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