haute and homemade

The perfect hat.

The Perfect Hat 1

The Perfect Hat 2

The Perfect Hat 3

The Perfect Hat 4

The Perfect Hat 5

The Perfect Hat 6

The Perfect Hat 7

Have you ever come across one of those hat patterns that promises it looks good on everybody? You know the ones I mean…the kind that offers hope to those of us who never try on hats when out shopping with friends for fear that we’ll look like total freaks? And then, when you knit one of these said hats and finally try it on in the privacy of your own home and it actually looks terrible, you end up feeling worse than when you try on a pair of jeans that are too small because:

1. Does this mean that you have a genetically mutated skull or something? After all, the pattern promised that this hat  would look good on the entire human race.

2. You spent all that time and effort making something that you can’t even wear. Of course, you could give it to a friend, but you will just feel jealous of their normally shaped head whenever you see them wearing it.

Well, if you’ve ever gone through this traumatic experience, fear not, for I have found a hat that truly looks good on everybody. The Pinch Hat by Cecily Glowik MacDonald can actually be worn three different ways, tripling your chances right off the bat. My favorite way to wear this hat is with the scrunchy part in the back, but you can also position the gathers in the front for a turban-like look or off to the side. You can even add a brooch or buttons for extra drama.

The other great thing about this hat is that it is really easy to make–as in it can be made in about the amount of time it takes to watch a movie (barring any major catastrophes). Although this hat is simply knit on straight needles, sewn together, then gathered to create the scrunch effect, I managed to mess things up. The first time I knit this hat (yes, I’ve made this hat multiple times), I failed to leave a long enough yarn tail, then broke my yarn in an attempt to gather the hat. To remedy this situation, I ended up redoing quite a few rows so I would have a long and securely attached yarn tail. If you make this hat, my advice to you is to leave a very long yarn tail at the end, triple or quadruple the length recommended in the pattern.

In the end, I’ve worn this hat more than any other item I’ve ever knitted. It’s perfect for walking the dog on cold days since the gathers conform the hat to the shape of your head and it covers your ears. It is also perfect for bad hair days (or in my case, days when you don’t even feel like attempting to do your hair) since it is knit in soft alpaca yarn and can be worn all day without your head getting itchy. If you ask me, this just might be the perfect hat.

Pattern: Pinch Hat by Cecily Glowik MacDonald

Source: Interweave Online Store

Yarn: Frog Tree Alpaca Chunky

Fashion Credits:

Hat: homemade

Coat: MSGM

Scarf: Garnet Hill

Jeans: True Religion

Boots: Hunter

The ugly Christmas sweater: An annual holiday tradition.

Christmas 1

Christmas 2

Christmas 3

Christmas 4

Christmas 5

Christmas 6

Christmas 7

Christmas 8

Everyone has their own holiday traditions. For some, it’s going caroling and for others it’s baking cookies. A couple of years ago, I inadvertently started a new tradition: knitting this sweater.

Last fall, I ambitiously cast on the first stitches with a goal of finishing this sweater for Christmas (you can read about it in this ugly sweater party post…oh how optimistic I was). I must admit that I was slightly intimidated when I started, seeing as this was the first  time I’d be using Fair Isle and intarsia colorwork techniques. Plus, I refused to even read the directions for the pleated sleeves until it was time to sew the sweater together because they looked so complicated.

Surprisingly, the knitting process went very smoothly. The hardest part was keeping my yarn untangled as I changed colors. Watching the tree and reindeer patterns emerge before my very eyes was addictive. I couldn’t put my knitting down until I’d finished a pattern repeat, so before I knew it, the sweater front was complete.

As I worked on the sweater back, I noticed something odd: I was running out of yarn. How was this possible? To start with, I had ordered an extra skein of yarn, plus I still had two sleeves to knit. I ordered another skein of red yarn and continued on my merry way. But as I kept working, I found myself ordering another skein, then another. It wasn’t until I attached the front and back and tried the sweater on that I realized something was wrong…very wrong.

Looking in the mirror, I didn’t see the cute, short-waisted, fitted sweater I was expecting. Instead, I saw a giant, ugly Christmas sweater staring back at me. I was totally shocked. I had used the exact yarn suggested in the pattern and knit on the recommended size 4 needles. I glanced down at my needles in total disbelief. That’s when I saw that I wasn’t using size 4 needles like I thought…I was actually using 4 mm needles, which are the equivalent of a size 6. No wonder I kept running out of yarn–my needles were two sizes too big!

In utter frustration and with no hope of finishing in time for Christmas, I stuffed the sweater into a bag and banished it out of sight.

Fast forward 10 months to this past fall. As the department stores started decorating for the holidays and Christmas commercials started airing on TV, I started thinking about my ugly Christmas sweater again. Full of determination, I unraveled the giant sweater, took a deep breath, and started again (using the correct needles this time).

After reading other knitters’ notes online, I decided to add an extra inch to the length of the sweater; otherwise, I knit according to the instructions.

When I tried the sweater on this time around, I was much closer to the look I was going for…but not quite there yet. With the additional inch, the sweater was the perfect length, but the body and sleeves were not as fitted as I hoped. Plus, the shoulders were too big. I knew the pleats would emphasize the shoulders, but I looked like a football player. There was no way I was starting over. I simply refused to let another Christmas pass without completing this project, so I came up with a Plan B: make it work.

It was heartbreaking to see all of my beautifully invisible mattress stitch seaming go to waste, but I ended up backstitching the sleeve, side, and shoulder seams, taking deep seam allowances to achieve the desired fit. Once I finally got the fit right, I spent the afternoon of Christmas Eve weaving in the sweater’s seemingly thousands of yarn ends as I watched Christmas movies and baked cookies.

I was so proud of myself for meeting my Christmas deadline, but to be perfectly honest, I was so sick of working on this sweater that I just didn’t feel like wearing it!

Today, on the last day of December and with such a beautiful winter landscape as a backdrop, I couldn’t resist throwing on the sweater and snapping a few photos. Now, I’m happy to say that I will be starting a new tradition: wearing this sweater every Christmas!

Pattern: The Perfect Christmas Jumper

Source: Vintage Gifts to Knit

Yarn: Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight

Fashion Credits:

Sweater: homemade

Jeans: Notify

Hats, hats, hats.

Hat 1

Hat 2

Hat 3

Hat 4

Hat 5

Hat 6

Today, I was lucky enough to spend a gloomy December morning at the Peabody Essex Museum’s stunning Hats exhibit. The exhibit’s assortment of vibrantly colored, uniquely shaped, sometimes outlandish hats were the perfect antidote to today’s gray skies and biting wind. In addition to providing an opportunity to view one-of-a-kind pieces worn by royalty, celebrities, and historic figures, this exhibit showcased the important role hats have played throughout the history of fashion. While watching vintage film clips from the 1940s that served to introduce the seasons’ newest hat styles, I was inspired to wear hats more often. After all, the right hat can complement your features and add an air of sophistication to any outfit.

After purchasing a beautiful red coat earlier this year, I began searching for a great hat pattern so I could complete my winter look. Then, while browsing at a yarn shop, I happened upon a great deal on some angora yarn and decided to purchase a few skeins without a particular pattern in mind. After some online research, I discovered a free pattern for a fun beret. This hat was very easy to make and work up quickly…all the more so since I skipped one pattern repeat (I have an abnormally small head) and decided to forgo the pattern’s characteristic bow.

This little beret may not rival the amazing toppers on display at the Peabody Essex Museum, but its cheerful color and fuzzy texture can brighten up a dull winter day and put a smile on my face.

Pattern: a beret with a bow

Source: forty percent fringe and sixty percent face

Yarn: Plymouth Angora

Fashion Credits:

Hat: homemade

Coat: MSGM

Buyer’s remorse.

© Veronik Avery

I’m not an impulse shopper. In fact, I’m the exact opposite. When I’m considering a purchase, I agonize over it until I’m absolutely certain I’m ready to commit to buying…a habit which often leads to an item being sold out by the time I’ve made my decision, effectively making all the stress pointless.

So when I came across an amazing deal on Cascade 220 yarn, I did something totally out of character and bought it on the spot. In full disclosure, this wasn’t a completely spontaneous act. I had been planning to make this Veronik Avery skirt which only requires three skeins of yarn. I loved the olive shade the designer features in her book Knitting 24/7; however, the store didn’t have that color in stock, so I opted for a similar shade. I walked out of the store feeling elated–the grand total to make this skirt was under $20, which is a nearly impossible feat when knitting with a natural fiber like wool.

It wasn’t until I got home that the doubt started creeping in. The more I looked at the pattern, the more I wished my yarn was olive. I started imagining pairing the skirt with a hand-embroidered floral print blouse similar to the one modeled in the book. My yarn, which had appeared to be a lovely dark green speckled with flecks of brown was morphing into a dully, muddy color before my very eyes. That’s when I realized that buyer’s remorse had set in.

I’m planning on buying more yarn in olive, but I haven’t purchased it yet…that would be too rash for me after all. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the brown-hued yarn…maybe I’ll try to sell it online (now that I’ve made it sound so appealing to prospective buyers). It sounds like I’ll be tacking an extra $20 onto the cost of the skirt, but it’s still a great deal and I know I’ll be much happier with the results.

My knitting to-do list.

All Images © Rowan Yarns, 2012

It’s highly possible that I spend more  time on the computer planning everything I want to knit than I actually do knitting. You must admit that it’s hard not to with sites like Ravelry, Pinterest, and all the amazing blogs out there which provide us with wonderful sources of creativity along with a limitless supply of procrastination.

I am constantly surfing the web and adding to my never-ending to-do list of projects. With this in mind, I decided to share some of the incredible designs that I’ve come across. Maybe this will motivate me to get started on some of them . . . or maybe it will inspire another knitter out there to give one a try. Seeing as my calculations suggest it will take me about 80 years to make everything on my list, I may need to live vicariously through other knitters and admire their creations.

When I recently discovered these stunning designs from a new book called “Parisian Nights,” I had to share them right away. I want to make everything in this book. This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise to me, seeing as I am drawn to everything Rowan does like a moth is drawn to a wool sweater!

I just love the elegance and sophistication of these pieces. All of the designs above are crafted in fluffy Rowan Kidsilk Haze and contain feminine details like beading and lacework. I’m not usually one for beading or anything too sparkly, but the beadwork here is subtle and adds a bit of shine to the yarn, inviting the eye to take a closer look. Overall, the effect is both glamorous and romantic.

I better get started right away–the Sauvignon pattern calls for almost 2000 glass beads. It may take me those 80 years just to knit this one sweater!

Back to school.

Like every kid on the planet, I was always sad to see summer vacation come to an end, yet there was one thing that made the prospect of writing books reports and solving math problems slightly easier to bear: the idea that I’d be wearing new clothes.

Every year, I’d hope for a sudden cold spell in early September, just to be able to wear my new sweater and corduroys on the first day of school. Half of the time, we’d be hit with a heat wave and end up sweating in air condition-less classrooms. Although it is actually perfect weather for wooly sweaters, tights, and boots here already.

There is just something about this time of year that is so naturally linked with new beginnings, promise, and hope. With that spirit in mind, I resolve to more studiously apply myself to knitting and blogging this year.

This fun Kim Hargreaves sweater was a great way to start. Knit with bulky yarn using enormous needles (size 17!), this sweater worked up very quickly. I must admit, I was a little nervous that I’d look like a lumberjack when I tried it on, but the boxy shape and textured design are actually flattering. This was one of the few projects that I’ve knit recently that didn’t need to be altered (or completely unraveled for that matter).

Now that I’m on a roll, I think I’ll buy myself some #2 pencils and a new notebook and get to work on my next project!

Pattern: Nan

Source: Thrown Together

Yarn: Rowan Big Wool

Fashion Credits:

Sweater: homemade

Shorts: Elizabeth and James

Shirt: Majestic

Tights: Hue

Shoes: Madewell

Ring: local jewelry designer from Austin, TX

Earrings: Vintage

WIP Wednesday: Knitting with toothpicks and dental floss.

© Kim Hargreaves

© Kim Hargreaves

© Kim Hargreaves

I’ve never posted work in progress photos before . . . probably due to the fact that I’m known for making messes. You don’t want to see my kitchen when I’m cooking (seriously, there’s currently a stain on my ceiling due to a blender incident that occurred this afternoon when I was making tomato soup). But after noticing some great work in progress photos on other blogs, I realized how much I enjoy following the evolution of a little ball of yarn into an amazing finished object that can actually be worn. Plus, there’s sort of an exciting, behind-the-scenes element to these type of pictures.

So in this spirit, I decided to post a few photos of the sweater currently on my needles. I’ve also posted photos from the sweater’s designer, Kim Hargreaves–they were so beautiful, I couldn’t resist.

I’m almost done with the left front and have the entire back of the sweater done and waiting to be ripped out . . . that’s right, ripped out. For once, I actually made a gauge swatch before casting on my stitches. I was able to get the right number of stitches using size 2 needles as the pattern recommended, but no matter what size needles I tried, I couldn’t get the right number of rows. Considering the fact that I’m pretty tall and everything is usually too short for me, I figured ending up with a bit of extra length wouldn’t be such a bad thing and I boldly knit the back of the sweater with a knowingly incorrect gauge.

As the back neared completion, I realized that it was starting to look more like a dress than a sweater, so I consulted Ravelry. I came across Laura, an extremely helpful fellow knitter with a blog of her own, who suggested I try using size 1 needles. I never imagined I would need to use a smaller needle, but when I made a swatch on size 1 needles, the gauge was spot on perfect. I love Lauren’s analogy that knitting this sweater is like working with toothpicks and dental floss (and have therefore borrowed it for the title of this post). Despite the truly tiny needles and thin yarn, this sweater is working up pretty quickly. Plus, the fun pattern keeps things interesting.

Now that my gauge is finally correct, I have my work cut out for me!

The blues…and a few more colors.

Sundays are usually my favorite day of the week. Since Sunday is my day off, I try to reserve this day for my favorite activities, like solving crossword puzzles, running, and knitting (of course). With a day devoted to my favorite things, how could I not enjoy  it? But for some reason, I woke up in a funk today. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t shake it off.

That afternoon, I was out doing a little shopping with my sister when she pulled into the bank parking lot. I was about to issue a complaint about running errands when I looked out the window and saw something totally unexpected . . . something that changed everything.

“Yarn bombing!” I yelled in pure amazement.

“What?” asked my sister (needless to say, she’s not a knitter).

I’ve seen photos of yarn bombing in cities like New York and London where the knitters are a bit edgier and a bit more brazen, but in my wildest dreams, I never expected to come across this fiber phenomenon so close to home.

I hopped out of the car, dashed across the street, and snapped a few photos. I love the mismatched, frenetic nature of this knitting–from the granny squares to the stripes, all of the stitches run together in a rainbow of color and texture. I can just imagine the excitement and teamwork this project entailed. As I made my way back to the car with a big smile on my face, I realized that I found the perfect cure for any bad mood.

It’s easy being green.

Somedays, when nothing seems to be going right, I have this fantasy about moving to the middle of nowhere and starting a farm with just a few sheep to keep me company (and provide an endless supply of yarn). I’m sure this sounds like absolute torture to most people, but to me, it would be a dream come true.

I recently completed my first project designed by Quince and Co., a truly cool company founded by a team of self-proclaimed “yarnophiles” living out their dreams. Quince and Co. has created a line of “thoughtfully conceived yarns spun from American wool or sourced from overseas suppliers who grow plants, raise animals, or manufacture yarn in as earth- and labor-friendly a way as possible.” All of their beautiful wool is sourced from the U.S. and spun in a historical New England mill, which minimizes the company’s carbon footprint and supports the local economy. For yarns with fibers that aren’t readily available in the U.S., the company only works with suppliers that meet their high sustainability standards.

In additional to producing gorgeous, high-quality yarns, Quince and Co. also designs fashionable knitwear with easy-to-follow instructions. The directions for this sweater are probably the most well-written of anything I’ve ever knit. Barring the few rows I had to take out when I got distracted watching an old movie and lost count of my decreases, I had no major mistakes or moments of utter confusion. Plus, the sweater was complete the moment I took it off the needles due to its ingenious seamless design. Not only, was it complete, it fit perfectly . . . talk about a dream come true!

Pattern: Danforth Pullover

Source: Quince and Co.

Yarn: Quince and Co. Lark in marsh

Fashion Credits:

Sweater: homemade

T-Shirt: Majestic

Jeans: Notify

Shoes: TOMS

Ring: Citrine by the Stones

Earrings: Vintage

Shortcuts.

I may be one of the few people around who doesn’t like shortcuts. Chalk it up to the fact that I’m not good with change. It just seems like whenever I try a shortcut, it ends up taking more time than if I had stuck with the tried and true old-fashioned method. Case in point, I attempted to cut through the hospital parking lot to get around a blocked off accident scene on my way to work the other morning. Needless to say, I forgot to take a left turn and ended up trapped in the patient drop-off zone.

But when it comes to knitting, I think it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and experiment with new techniques in order to grow. With this philosophy in mind, I recently tackled two sweaters that use shortcuts and had such great luck that I only wish I’d made them sooner.

This pink sweater, modeled by my beautiful sister (and my adorable new dog Frankie), contained two shortcut techniques that were new to me. First, the sleeve cuffs and bottom band are made with a mock cable pattern. Believe it or not, I actually now prefer this design, since it adds interesting texture without the often unflattering bulk associated with traditional cables. Second, this sweater is knit in one piece, then joined together along the sides with just two seams. To me, sewing a sweater’s many components together can be an odious task (I’ve been known to leave a sweater lying around in pieces for months before finally forcing myself to finish it), so I was thrilled at how quickly and painlessly this sweater came together.

After my recent good fortune with time-saving techniques, my confidence as a knitter has greatly increased and I am looking forward to facing new challenges. Now if only I could get to work on time!

Pattern: Side to Side Cable Top

Source: Vogue Knitting, Fall 2007

Yarn:

Louisa Harding Grace Silk and Wool in tan

Louisa Harding La Salute in pink

Fashion Credits:

Sweater: homemade

Pants: Model’s own

Shoes: Té Casan

Bag: Anthropologie

Earrings: Vintage

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