All the Hats I Knit Are Weird

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I mean, why bother to knit a normal hat? You can buy those at the store. This baby you won’t find at any store.

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It’s Roisin by Ysolda Teague, a hood with awkward little ties at the bottom. But I kind of love it. I knit it in Malabrigo Sock in the Candombe colorway. I knit it for desert dance parties, where it looks less weird than in my kitchen, I promise.

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Here’s another hat I knit for cold desert nights:

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This is Capucine by Adela Illichmanova, and I love it to pieces. The yarn is Serenity Chunky from Zen Yarn Garden, in a colorway called “It Came Out Great!”. Both these hats were situations where the yarn immediately told me what it wanted to be — the mushroom-colored yarn that I used for the hat above immediately cried out to be Roisin, and when I saw this gorgeous chunky yarn, the Capucine pattern immediately leapt to mind, so I ordered two skeins and went to town. I knocked this hat out in, like, two hours tops.

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The giant pom-poms are the bessssst, guys.

Lastly and least weird, I knit about a million Pussy Hats for the Women’s March in January.

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I didn’t jump on the pussy hat train until about three weeks before the march, so the first thing I did was raid my stash for all the pink yarn I could find. Mine and Pat’s were made with a recycled sari silk yarn held double with some crappy acrylic sock yarn I had on hand. All my pussy hats were knit at a fairly large gauge to enable me to knock them out quickly. All in all I knit about 15, about 10 knit before the march & mailed to various friends who were marching, and about 5 knit afterwards for friends who just wanted them. Many, like this one, were knit in Lambs Pride Bulky, which I stocked up on when I ran out of pink stash yarn:

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Some were knit with the Lambs’ Pride held double with a strand of Luna by Trendsetter Yarns in the Silver Multi colorway to make them sparkly, like this mother-child pair that I still have kicking around and keep forgetting to put in the mail:

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(Sorry, Amanda! You’ll get them soon!)

It was pretty cool to see how very stocked up on Barbie-corvette pink yarn my local yarn store was in January. When I was browsing in that area of the store, a nice old saleslady came up to me and delicately asked if I was planning to knit the “P hat” — so cute! And of course it was amazing to be at the march, in a sea of pink hats, feeling like maybe my country was still mine — weird hats and all.

Post-Holiday Roundup

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Hello and happy 2013! Now I can finally reveal to you all of my holiday knitting. What you see here is the reversible cabled scarf I knit for Pat. Unfortunately I didn’t finish this in time for him to wear it when he was visiting my family on the east coast — it still needs washing and blocking — but it’s so gorgeous that I felt compelled to lead off with it anyway. The pattern is Deliah by Bobbi Padgett, and the yarn is Alpenglow Sporty Rambo (rambouillet wool) in the colorway “Deep Space Blue.” I hope to do another photoshoot once it’s washed and blocked!

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These here are Mysterious Mittens made for my dad, who is allergic to wool — so they’re knit in Wendy Peter Pan DK New Soft Blend, a pretty decent acrylic. He requested “lightweight mittens,” so this DK-weight pattern seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I also figured this pattern in this color would match the Koolhaas Hat I knit my dad a few Christmases ago!

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This is a 3AM Cable Hat knit for my brother to match the Palindrome Scarf I knit him last year. Both are knit in Classic Elite Portland Tweed, in colorway “Folkestone”– this is literally made of the leftovers from last year’s scarf. I finished that scarf on the 23rd, so I didn’t have time to knit the hat last year! Both these patterns are riffs on the classic “Irish Hiking Scarf” pattern, but the Palindrome Scarf is reversible (it was my first experience with reversible cables), and the 3AM Cable Hat is, well, a hat. There are several “Irish Hiking Hats” out there, but after careful scrutiny I decided this pattern was the best of the lot.

And last but not least — as in, it took me much longer than my dad’s and brother’s gifts combined — an Issey Scarf for my mom:

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Pat and I had hoped to get modeled shots of it on me before he left, but we didn’t have time — it really looks fabulous on a person; it’s so wide and squishy and luscious. It’s my first Olga Buraya-Kefelian pattern, though I’ve been a fan of her innovative designs for awhile. This is knit from the leftover Madelinetosh Pashmina in “Composition Book Grey” (which is quite purple!) from my Leaving Cardigan. I knit this on size 4s rather than 5s as the pattern specifies because it looked like the pleats were holding their shape better on 4s. I was a little worried, though, that the resulting scarf was too dense and stiff — until I blocked it, and it relaxed beautifully. I love this so much that I really might knit another one for myself despite how tedious the knitting is — I’ll have to keep my eyes open for more Pashmina!

You may have noticed that this site’s appearance has slightly changed — I “upgraded” it to a newer version of the WordPress theme I had been using. I basically like the new look better, but one thing that’s weird about it is that all parts of it, including the pictures, look washed out until you mouse over them. It’s apparently supposed to look like things are “rising out of the mist,” but it’s not great for a photo-oriented blog. Bleh. Anyway, please do mouse over the pictures to see them at their full saturation!

I have more to share with you, but I’m going to wait until next time to show you what I’ve been working on since the holidays. Cheers!

Experiments

If this hat looks familiar to you, that’s because it’s the third one of these that I’ve knit — though you never saw the second, which I knit just last week and is already in the hands of its intended recipient. I knit the first one in 2009 as a replacement for a beloved non-handknit hat that a friend of mine had lost. As you can see in this post, it’s not at all the same as the original hat, but I took inspiration from it. Now he’s gone and lost the hat I originally knit for him, and was upset enough about it to commission two identical hats from me in case he loses another one. I was flattered, but when I went back to my Ravelry notes about the first hat, I found them a little mysterious. The pattern is Ysolda’s Cairn, and according to my notes I knit the first hat using size 8 needles despite the fact that the pattern called for 6s. Was this a choice I made because my gauge was off, or was I just being stubborn about the fact that I had a hat-sized needle in size 8 and not in size 6? In the end I decided to trust my notes, especially since John had liked the hat the way it came out, and once I had a finished hat I was pretty sure it fit the same way the other one did. The yarn is Koigu Kersti in colors K2420 and K2392. The first of this new pair is already in his hands, and this one will be soon. I hope to get modeled shots for you when Pat & I visit San Francisco over our spring break in a few weeks!

In addition to experimenting with trusting my own peculiar Ravelry notes, I have also suddenly and inexplicably been hit with the desire to learn how to steek. For those who don’t know, steeking is the act of deliberately cutting your knitting with scissors — it hurts my heart to even type that! — to achieve a variety of effects. It’s often used with colorwork, which is much easier to knit in the round than back-and-forth — so if you want to knit a colorwork cardigan, you knit it in the round and then you cut it open (carefully, after having made some preparations that you should definitely read about before you try it). I still haven’t really gotten on the colorwork train, since it makes such dense fabric and I live in such a warm climate, but I’ve gotten started on two projects that use steeks to make fringe:

This is the ultra-simple Bad Oyster by Alexandra Tinsley, whose designs and blog I have been enjoying lately. Right now it’s a cone-shaped thing that I’m knitting using the Magic Loop method (though as you can see, I’m getting close to being able to knit it in the round regular-like), but once I’m done with the knitting I’ll cut it open along the lefthand side there and unravel that part into fringe along the edges of a triangular shawl. Theoretically. Unless I mess it up. The yarn is Malabrigo Sock in the “Persia” colorway.

Aaaand instead of waiting to see whether I mess up such a simple steeking project so I can learn from my mistakes, I’ve gone ahead and cast on a much more complicated one:

This is Natsu by Angela Button. The steeking part is actually no more difficult than the other project; it’s just everything else that’s more complicated. The area of plain stockinette that you see in the foreground here will be the fringe; it will be cut down the middle and unraveled. And then this circular thing should become a lovely lace scarf with fringe at the ends! This project has already given me a lot of grief, though — I cast on for the “scarf” size, and after getting through 4 of the 5 repeats that the pattern called for, I realized that I wasn’t using up nearly as much yarn as I ought to and that the whole scarf seemed pretty short. I did go down a needle size because I’m using fingering rather than sport-weight yarn, but I think the scarf size in the pattern is just ludicrously short. I ripped the whole thing out and cast on the number of stitches for the wrap size, and am now much more satisfied with its length — I’m just going to knit it to scarf-width. But that’s not where my problems ended — about two weeks ago, I noticed that 10 long rows back, I had dropped a p2tog, which resulted in a big obvious hole in my work. I pouted about it and knit those two hats, and then I finally (wo)manned up and ripped out those rows, working painstakingly with a tapestry needle and a crochet hook to pick up the dropped stitches. It’s not easy to pick up stitches after ripping a lace pattern, let me tell you! It was about two hours work in total, but that’s much less time than it would have been to rip the whole thing out and start from scratch. The yarn has been standing up to all this ripping like a champ: it’s Sundara’s Fingering Silky Merino, in the colorway “Monet’s Basilica.” I’m a sucker for a nice purple-gray, and I like Monet a lot, so when Sundara’s Monet colors came out a few months ago I was powerless against this one.

I’ve also been spinning that blue merino fiber from Weaving Works in Seattle:

It’s kind of hijacked my previous spinning plans — I had been spinning a bunch of gray Jacobs wool from my friends’ farm to stripe with the blue Jacobs wool that I finished spinning recently, but this fabulously multitonal colorway was impossible to keep my hands off of!

And the last thing I have to show you is that I finally finished the front of one of those linen-stitch pillow-covers I’ve been working on:

I love the way it came out! I’m now working on the second one, and they’ll both get plain blue garter-stitch backings. There’s no pattern here; I’m just knitting them to fit my ugly, ugly throw pillows. Eventually you’ll get before-and-after pictures, I promise!

Mission Accomplished

I have officially finished my Christmas knitting, and well before Thanksgiving, too! I feel like I deserve a medal. That medal might be for “Most Realistic Expectations,” though — I could never have done it this fast if I hadn’t been aiming low, making hats for my male family members (which take less than a week each) and a scarf for my mom (which took 2 or 3 weeks). This here is a Koolhaas Hat for my dad, modeled by my very patient boyfriend. It is knit from Caron Simply Soft, because my dad is allergic to wool, and I’ve found Caron to be one of the softest, least objectionable acrylic yarns around. The pattern is wildly popular on Ravelry, with over 3800 projects — in fact, it’s the most popular hat on Ravelry if you don’t count Calorimetry, which is really more of a headband. This baffled me a little at first, since it’s not an easy hat by any means — there are an awful lot of pain-in-the-butt rounds where you have to use a cable needle every four stitches — but I figure its popularity must be due to the fact that it’s one of the few truly gender-neutral patterns that is still complicated enough to be giftworthy. The problem with male hats, as I discovered this holiday season, is that they’re either too plain to make very good gifts &/or to be worth knitting at all (depending on how well you can tolerate boring knitting), or they’re trying to pass off cables as “manly,” which only really works if you’re knitting for a J Crew model. But the Koolhaas hat really can be worn by a man or a woman equally well, and its intricacy shows the kind of care we’d like our knitted gifts to show. So I figure what’s going on across the knitting world is exactly what went on in my head: “okay, so this hat will be a pain in the butt, but it will look good and since it’s a hat it will be over soon.”

How cute is this picture? My one gripe with this otherwise exceptionally well-written pattern is that it doesn’t provide a stockinette gauge measurement. The gauge is only given in the lattice pattern, which is only charted in the round, so the only real way to check your gauge is just to start knitting the hat and pray, and check your gauge once you’ve knitted the whole bottom band and once through the lattice chart — aka, once you’re like 1/4 of the way through the hat. It helps that the stitch pattern makes the hat pretty stretchy, though, so when your gauge is off and you decide “fuck it, I’m gonna keep knitting,” your hat comes out pretty okay anyway. Ask me how I know. 😉

So yeah, in the absence of a gauge swatch, knitting this hat was a giant leap of faith. My dad has a pretty enormous head, and the pattern was only written in one size for men and one size for women (both of which have the same diameter; the only difference is depth), so I decided to go ahead and cast on an extra 8 stitches to do one extra repeat of the lattice pattern, figuring that my dad’s freakishly large head would need the accomodation. My first clue that my gauge was significantly off was when I got to the recommended measurement for the ribbing only about 80% through the recommended number of rounds for the ribbing, and when I had knit enough of the lattice pattern to check I got pretty worried. But I soldiered on, and ended up knitting the hat the number of rounds recommended for women rather than for men, because my row gauge was so much bigger than the pattern’s. And it’s come out just fine; the lattice is stretchy enough that even I can wear it with my normal-lady-sized head and it doesn’t feel too big, but it’s clearly got enough room for my dad’s head. (Pat’s head is slightly smaller than my dad’s, fyi.)

In other news, I have made two new knitting friends in the past two weeks! The first was “Fishnet,” of My Cup of Tea. She posted to a Cornell alumni board on Ravelry looking for a Cornell alum in Orange County who knits, and I raised my virtual hand. I’m probably the only other one of those in these parts, so I was happy to meet her. We went out for lunch, which was lovely, and it sounds like she’ll be coming to my knitting circle on Thursday to meet other academically-minded knitters. The other knitting friend is one who I “made” in the active sense of the word — I took my friend Katherine on a trip to Yarn Lady in Laguna Hills on Saturday to buy her very first yarn & needles. She was impressed by the friendliness of the people there and their willingness to provide help, so I’m hopeful that she’ll be joining the fold. We’ll be teaching her on Thursday, but I think I’m going to step back and have one of the knitters I taught last fall do the teaching. For one thing, I think someone closer to the beginner experience might actually be a better teacher — and for another thing, I’d like to give these new knitters the opportunity to experience the joy of teaching the craft!

Another crafty thing I’ve been up to that I keep forgetting to share with you is a beading project I did a few weeks ago. When I went to Michael’s to get supplies for my Halloween costume, I noticed that they were having a big sale on beads, and I got seduced by some pretty jasper. So I made these:

Beading is basically a tertiary hobby of mine — I’m inspired to make something maybe once or twice a year — but I’m beyond pleased with how this set came out. All of those stones are jasper; it just naturally comes in that range of greens, purples, and browns that I love so much and that matches so much of my wardrobe. And I’m also pretty pleased with my choice of spacers; I couldn’t decide between the smaller smoother ones or the larger knobbly ones, so I bought some of both and think that the combination is much better than either would have been on its own. Swoon!

Next time on Doublepointed: Some socks get resurrected, and I begin a quixotic quest to knit an enormous blanket before what passes for winter here in southern California comes to an end!

Botanic Prophecies Fulfilled

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I finished my brother’s hat at least a week ago — I think it was the day after my last post — but it’s taken me awhile to get around to weaving in the ends & photographing it. The Botanic Hat is reversible, and this is the side I prefer, since the ribs offer visual interest. I’m pretty happy with how it came out! My brother is the variety of 25-year-old male who started his own company with his friends because he hated working in an office and who goes rock climbing in his spare time, so I think this hat will be right up his alley. Here’s the other side:

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Overall I definitely recommend this pattern; it’s easy, and it’s cleverly designed. I didn’t have a 16″ circular needle in the right size, so I knit the whole thing on double-pointed needles, and that turned out to be a great choice. The stitch count is evenly divisible by 4, and there are ribs right at the ends of the needles which prevents laddering. Plus the crown decreases are spaced out so that they happen at the beginning and the end of your DPNs, so there’s no need to use stitch markers. Brilliant!

You may recall that last time, I showed you my sunflower sprouts and said that I was thinking about getting some more plants. Well, that prophecy has been fulfilled.  I was driving home from work on Saturday, and a little miffed about having to go to work on a Saturday in the first place (for one lousy appointment!), when I saw a sign for a plant sale at my university’s arboretum. It’s funny how putting an idea in writing can turn it into a reality — I don’t think I would have instantly decided to go to the sale if I hadn’t written that blog entry last week. I came home with these:

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A Plectranthus verticillatus, and

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A “Dark Dancer” Plectranthus hybrid. They’re both hardy plants and well-suited to the dry weather here, so hopefully I won’t kill them quite as quickly as I did my last batch of leafy friends. Here they’re in the little pots they came from the arboretum in, but I’ve since transplanted them into some of the large ceramic pots that my last roommate left here when she moved — you can see one of those in the background of this second picture. But I don’t have any good pictures of these plants in their new pots, and I’m scheming to get little stands for them so they’re not quite as shaded by the sides of the balcony, so I’ll show you them again when they’re in a more permanent arrangement.

Just one more Christmas present to go! Stay tuned.

Botanicals

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What you are looking at is hydrangea flowers above Kawaguchiko, in the the foothills of Mt. Fuji. I took this picture in July 2003, the summer I spent living in a Buddhist monastery in Japan. All the books about Buddhism that I’d read for my religious studies classes in college said that you needed to practice meditation seriously in order to really understand what it was about, so I decided to go do that for awhile. The monks and nuns gave us western acolytes one day off a week to explore the surrounding countryside, and on one of those days my friend Naberay and I took the bus to the nearest town, which was Kawaguchiko.

I’m showing you this because I’ve just finished knitting my mother’s Christmas present, and the colors of the yarn reminded me of nothing so much as those Kawaguchiko hydrangeas. Observe:

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The hydrangeas were literally everywhere. Naberay and I took a gondola to the top of a small mountain in the shadow of Mt. Fuji and hiked back down, among hundreds and hundreds of these flowers. The picture below will give you a sense of the scope, but blue predominates in this particular patch in a way that doesn’t match this scarf quite as exactly:

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That’s me down there, surrounded on all sides by hydrangeas. So you can understand why they have been burned into my brain, and why this particular range of blues and purples would bring them instantly to mind.

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Here’s a shot where you can see the stitch pattern of the scarf more clearly. The yarn is Malabrigo Silky Merino, a 51% silk, 49% merino wool yarn. The folks at Malabrigo call this colorway “atardecer,” which is Spanish for “dusk,” which certainly makes sense, but I’m going to call this project “Hydrangea Scarf” on Ravelry for obvious reasons. It’s a La Novia scarf — yet another pattern by Anne Hanson, whose work I cannot get enough of. The pattern is a little tricky, partially because there is patterning on both right- and wrong-side rows (so I had to remember how to read a chart backwards for the wrong side), and partially because it contains the dreaded p2tog tbl stitch — but after the first couple of times through the pattern repeat, I got the hang of it. For the first night or two I needed to do a lot of looking at the chart, which is annoying because I do all my knitting in front of the TV, but once I got used to it, this pattern just flew by. I was a little worried that the Silky Merino yarn would be too slippery to hold the shape of the pattern, but it turned out perfectly. The scarf is not even blocked in these photos, and I’m not sure that I’m going to block it at all — I think my mom will like the density that it’s got now, and she’s not really in the market for a particularly open, airy scarf anyway.

I’ve also gotten started on this hat for my brother:

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It’s a reversible Botanic Hat by Stephen West, an up-and-coming designer of knitwear at least theoretically aimed at men. I say “theoretically” because not too many guys I know are eager to wear shawls, no matter how manly the color choices are. But I like this hat a lot, and I like the reverse side even more (which you’ll get to see next time), and I think it’s exactly the sort of thing my brother will like. The yarn is Malabrigo Merino Worsted, in the “marron oscuro” and “vaa” colorways.

Co-starring in this picture are Sprouty and Sprouty Jr, two baby sunflowers that I am currently trying to grow from a “grow-your-own-sunflower” kit that Pat won in a game of dominoes about three years ago. Pat is preternaturally good at dominoes; my friends and I more or less all learned the game at the same time (about three years ago), and from that very first day Pat has won about 90% of our games. Now, dominoes is not a very complicated game, and the strategy seems pretty straightforward to me, but the sheer number of his victories indicates that Pat must be operating on a strategic level far beyond my comprehension. This sunflower kit had been sitting on our kitchen table for several months, having resurfaced when Pat moved in with me in April, and finally one day last week I decided to plant the suckers. I had a streak of bad luck with plants when I first moved to southern California after having a pretty green thumb back east; I chalked it up to the dry climate and my inability to remember to water them as much as they needed, but I gave up on plants altogether back then. About three years ago I inherited a peace lily from my ex who was moving away, and I’ve managed to keep it alive since then only because it’s a very hardy and very forgiving plant. Like Holly Golightly and her cat without a name, I’ve been reluctant to name this peace lily partially because I feel like it’s just a stray that I happen to be looking after and partially because I’m afraid that if I do, it’ll up and die on me. But back east I was a big plant-namer, and I’ve already gone and named the Sprouty brothers, and watching them grow is starting to remind me of the joys of gardening, so there may soon be more green friends in my life. We’ll see.

(Last Year’s) Christmas Knitting

I have made the objectively poor decision to knit for my family again for Christmas this year. I’m about 95% sure that they don’t read this blog — they know of its existence, but they think the whole concept of a knitting blog is a little nuts — but before I go blithely posting shots of their presents in progress, I thought I would regale you with tales of what I knit for them last year. Family, if you’re out there, please leave a comment or forever hold your peace. If I don’t hear from you in a week or so, I’m going to start spoiling surprises here.

Last year was the first year I attempted to knit gifts for my family members, despite having been knitting for about five years. Gift knitting, as many of you know, is risky business — you put zillions of hours into a project, and if it’s just a little bit outside of the recipient’s tastes, it never gets worn and you both feel kinda awkward about it. So last year I sent my family members a survey asking them what sort of knitted articles they would wear, what fibers they prefer, and what colors they like. Here’s what I made:

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My brother asked for a scarf, since he’d never really had one before. We were both raised more or less scarf-free, despite the freezing east-coast winters — our family just never really owned or wore them. When I went away to college in upstate New York, though, I made friends with scarves real fast. My brother had started to hear rumors that there was a way to keep the wind from freezing your neck in the winter, though, and was interested to try one. He left the color choice up to my “artistic decision,” so I figured Noro was about as artistic as you can get. This is a Noro Striped Scarf, where 2 different Noro Silk Garden colorways are striped together. One of the colorways I chose was basically shades of gray, to avoid competition with the more colorful yarn and to stay sufficiently muted so that a heterosexual man could wear the scarf and still feel reasonably heterosexual. I think I succeeded pretty well, and he seemed to like it.

My dad asked for a hat and informed me that he was allergic to wool, so I made him this:

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It’s a Catawampus Cap, but I kind of messed up the mosaic pattern — it was supposed to be more pointy. But I still think it looks fine. I knit it out of Caron Simply Soft, which is basically the only acrylic yarn I recommend — it really is soft, and not at all scratchy or plasticy like most acrylics. The hat is here modeled by Pat, who is very patient with my various knitting needs. In the background you can see my erstwhile bed, which I painted myself and referred to as my “Leafy Bower,” which is a halfassed Keats reference. When Pat moved in we needed a larger bed, so we dismantled the Leafy Bower and bought an identical unfinished bed in a larger size from Ikea and painted it together in dark blue with an array of gold stars. It’s pretty awesome, guys. In fact, I may as well show you a picture of it while we’re on the subject.

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The flash makes the blue look a little brighter than it in fact is; it’s not quite so 5-year-old-boy blue, I swear. After a lot of trial and error, we decided that the technique that was going to give us the coolest stars was spraypaint & stencils, so there you go.

Anyhow — my mom never responded to my damn gift survey, so rather than make her a garment that she might not like or ever wear, I decided to make her a thing to decorate the house.

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This is a Jameson doily. I decided to make it because I’d just taught myself to crochet a few months earlier and I wanted the practice, and I was excited about the wide word of crocheted doilies. (Shut up.) This is a pretty basic pattern as far as doilies go; it’s written for self-striping sock yarn, which makes the color changes random and wacky, but I decided I wanted control over the color changes so I used three different colors of Hemp for Knitting Allhemp 3. It worked pretty well; the hemp yarn softened up a fair bit upon washing and blocking, and it’s very sturdy. My mom was pleased with the doily, but she got scarf-envy when she saw the Noro scarf I knit for my brother, and she demanded one for herself. But when I questioned her about what she specifically wanted, she said “well, what if the yarn were all silk? And could it have a more interesting texture? And what if the colors were a bit more intermixed?” Sigh. So she footed the bill for some Artyarns Regal Silk (which is delightful, by the way), and I spent most of January making her this:

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This is a Prismatic Scarf; I liked the way the bars break up the color pooling, but I also really liked the way the colors pooled in a zig-zag. I added a crocheted scalloped edging because it looked like it needed something.

This year, however, I have decided to throw caution to the winds and just use my family members’ previously-stated preferences to come up with some surprise gifts for them. What could possibly go wrong? Find out next time!