Around Here - November 2019

Two feet standing on a handwoven rag rug with labels attached.  Around Here ||

There’s been lots of small great things happening around here. Let’s catch up!

Last weekend, I packed up the family and headed up to the Boulder Handweavers Guild and Sale. It’s always interesting walking around and seeing what all the different fiber artists in the area are getting up too. There were knitted items of all kinds from tiny baby booties to giant shawls. There were beautiful woven clothes, hand dyed silk scarves, felted bowls, as well as yarn and fiber. I also saw some really cool crocheted t-shirt yarn baskets which made me want to give crochet another try.

Beams of sunlight falling on a handwoven rag rug.  Around Here ||

We spotted a beautiful handwoven rag rug that had to come home with us too. The rug is cushy to stand on, a good size, and has great colors. Said rug is also the first thing we bought for our new place! I’m looking forward to having more room to spread out, and plenty of space for the kiddo to play.

A half-finished sweater for a toddler sitting next to a ball of yarn.  Around Here ||

Much progress has been made on kiddo’s Fall sweater. It’s taken a back seat the last few days to other overdue projects, but the sweater has still come a long way in the past week. The yoke is finished, the sleeves are bound off, and now I’m working through the body. It’s been great autopilot knitting to pick up at random moments throughout the day. Still looking for buttons though.

The first and second attempt at making the Cattywampus Hat look like the flag of Trinidad and Tobago. #knitting The second attempt is going much better, and in the right direction.  Around Here ||

Remember the hat I was trying to make in the likeness of the Trinidad and Tobago flag? I finally figured out how to make the stripes slope in the correct direction! Charting out the rewrites really helped. Now I’m past the spot where I stopped on the first attempt and quickly moving towards the grafting. Who knew I’d be so excited about kitchener stitch.

Two skeins of Berroco Vintage DK in Cracked Pepper and Smoke. #knitting  Around Here ||

I decided to take on a project for a friend that sounded so fun I couldn’t resist. That grey and dark grey yarn above? That’s the yarn I’m using, and I don’t think I’ve even been so excited to knit with so much grey. More details on that later.

Sideways Swatching

I don’t always swatch for hats which means I sometimes end up ripping out the first few inches because the hat is comically too big. It’s not a big deal because I know it’s an easy fix to rip out and start over with a few less stitches. The hat I’m knitting this time though is a little different. Instead of working in the round from the bottom up, Cattywampus is worked sideways, on the bias, with short rows. Ripping out because it’s too big or too tall is not an easy task. You better believe I swatched.

A close up view of a red, white, and black knitted swatch soaking in the sink.  Sideways Swatching ||  #knitswatch #darkmatterknits

The reason for working side-to-side is that I’m making a hat that resembles the flag of Trinidad and Tobago for a friend. I’m not keen on working intarsia, especially intarsia with cotton/linen blends, and working sideways was the easiest way to pull off the diagonal stripes. I worked two sections of the short row crown shaping with all three colors. My gauge was right on the money, and I’m really hoping the swatch wasn’t lying to me.

Red, white, and black swatch dry with ends hanging out.  Sideways Swatching ||  #knitswatch #darkmatterknits

The other reason I swatched was to see if the colors would bleed. I only have enough yarn to make one hat and it would be really aggravating if the red and black dye bled on the white stripes. After 20+ minutes in a warm soak with Eucalan, the water was still clear without the faintest tint of red. The problem came when I squeezed water out of the swatch. You can just see the the barest pits of pink where the red and white yarn got squished together. Hmmm…

My hope is that if I squeeze out the water in a different way that the colors won’t bleed. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Do you have any tips or recommendations for soap that would stop the excess dye in its tracks?

A partially knit hat in red and white with short row crown shaping and a provisional cast on.  Sideways Swatching ||  #knitswatch #darkmatterknits

I did start the hat, and worked several repeats. I was almost done with the black stripe that I added after taking this photo. Yarns had been cut and most of the ends woven in. Then I noticed a rather aggravating issue. The short rows slope in the opposite direction of the flag’s diagonal stripes. The only fix is ripping out, reworking the pattern to slope in the opposite direction, and casting on again. Ugh. Looks like I get to restart this hat despite my best efforts.

How To Block A Slouchy Hat

How to block a slouchy knitted hat the easy way! |

Sometimes the hardest part of finishing a knitting project is figuring out how to wash and block it so that it looks its best, especially hats and slouchy hats. I stalled while trying to figure out how to block my Owl In The Thicket hat after not being able to put it down because the cables were so addicting to knit. How could I block it so that the cables and fabric relaxed evenly?  

How to block a slouchy knitted hat the easy way! | How To Block A Slouchy Hat -

This is the hat after it came off the needles. Looks good, right? The cables are crisp. The shape and length are just right. So why would I need to block it?

How to block a slouchy knitted hat the easy way! | How To Block A Slouchy Hat -

This is why. The needles I chose created beautiful cables, but also a firm fabric. It looked more like a gnome hat than the loose slouch that I had in mind when I cast on. The hat wasn't a knitting failure, just unfinished. Skipping blocking was not an option. But how to do it? The cables and fabric needed to relax evenly over the entire hat, so I didn’t want to use a balloon or a ball. And stretching the hat over a plate wouldn’t help since I wasn’t trying to make a beret or tam. So what else would work?

The perfect slouchy hat blocker turned out to be a smooth foam roller. What’s a foam roller? Basically, a dense foam cylinder used to help loosen tight muscles, tendons, and knots before or after exercise. They’re easy to find and not expensive. And when you’re not using them to block hats, you can still use them to work out those pesky muscle knots. The one I have is 18” around which makes it the perfect size for blocking most child and adult hats.


Step 1: Soak the hat in cool water with a squirt of no-rinse soap for 15 to 20 minutes. I use Eucalan (<<— affiliate link!*) and love it.

Step 2: Roll the hat up in a towel and squeeze out the excess water. Remember not to wring it out which will pull the hat out of shape.

How to block a slouchy knitted hat the easy way! | How To Block A Slouchy Hat -

Step 3: Pull the hat over one end of the foam roller. Then you can move it around and make sure the hat and design details aren’t twisted. Plus, since this is foam and not a balloon, you can easily stretch and pin out any lace or crown decreases.

If you want to keep a ribbed brim as stretchy as possible, you can cut the foam to size so that the brim hangs below and un-stretched.  

Step 4: Let it dry, take it off the roller, and enjoy a perfectly slouchy hat.

How to block a slouchy knitted hat the easy way! | How To Block A Slouchy Hat -

Here’s what my hat looked like after blocking and with the addition of a giant pom-pom. It’s a definite change for the better, and the slouchy hat I wanted from the beginning. Blocking isn’t magic, but it certainly seems like it could be.

*This post contains an affiliate link which means, if you decide to buy through that link, I’ll get a small commission. My opinions are unbiased, my own, and formed after years of use. I wouldn’t recommend this soap if I didn't think it worked well. Thanks!

New (Free) Pattern: The Windbreaker Hat

The Windbreaker hat is a ridiculously stretchy cabled hat. Quick and easy to knit, the free pattern uses less than 1 skein of worsted weight yarn and is a great gift. #knitting |

The Windbreaker hat got the chance to live up to it’s name this weekend. The Bearded One and I trekked through the falling snow, wind, and 19 degree temps to run errands and grab lunch. Every minute outside, the hat kept his head warm and the wind out. No cold ears here.
Windbreaker is a ridiculously stretchy cabled hat. Seriously. It fits both me (22") and the Bearded One’s 24” noggin. The secret to this stretch is that the hat, even the cables, are based in 2x2 rib. This has the added bonus of making the hat an easy knit while the cables keep things interesting. And thanks to the long brim, Windbreaker can be worn as a slouchy hat or with the brim folded for an extra layer against the cold.

The Windbreaker hat is a ridiculously stretchy cabled hat. Quick and easy to knit, the free pattern uses less than 1 skein of worsted weight yarn and is a great gift. #knitting |
The Windbreaker hat is a ridiculously stretchy cabled hat. Quick and easy to knit, the free pattern uses less than 1 skein of worsted weight yarn and is a great gift. #knitting |

The pattern uses worsted weight yarn, and this hat is made with less than one skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca (Oceanic Mix). Both written and charted instructions are included for the cables and crown decreases. The pattern includes two sizes, medium and large, and an option to work a longer section of cables and a shorter brim.

Add it to your queue and favorites on Ravelry!

Sizes: Medium (Large) - Shown in size Large which fits a head circumference up to 24" (61 cm)

Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm) 40" circular needle (for magic loop) OR 16" circular needle and DPN's

Gauge: 13 sts and 13 rows = 2" (5 cm) in 2x2 rib, unstretched

Yarn: 130 (145) yds / 119 (133) m worsted weight yarn. Shown in Berroco Ultra Alpaca - Oceanic Mix.

Notions: Cable Needle, Tapestry Needle

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