So welcome pawb to the third instalment of Christmas reveals. The one you’ve all (probably) been waiting for.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love hats. I rarely leave the house without one on my head in some shape or form. It’s not surprising that I decided to make so many hats as presents. If anyone reading is new to this crafting business, I would highly recommend hats as a good easy project to start with. Enough work to keep you occupied, but not so much that it’s a huge job.
Lets start with one of my favourites.
I’ve been banging on about this pattern for so long so I’m so happy I can finally write about it properly. For me, this is the perfect hat pattern. For so many reasons. It’s exactly the type of hat I like to wear. Big and slouchy, and looks good even when the rest of you is a mess.
The pattern is Erika Knight and here I’ve used Stylecraft Special XL in Charcoal with my favourite 10mm rosewood needles. It’s incredibly quick and easy to work up. So much so that when I was making this one I had to stop myself. I was having too much fun and it was going too quickly. I wanted to make it last. It’s just basic ribbing then stockinette with a simple decrease, but I’ve looked a long time for the right combination of these stitches and I’m so happy to have found them.
This one was for a good friend of mine who has recently returned from living in Australia. He’s been away for the longest time. But as he’s here for the moment, and it’s been bloody cold recently, I thought he’d need something to warm him up. I always imagine him with a hat on. Always. Even in pictures while he was still in Australia there was always a hat. This one seemed like a perfect fit for him.
I enjoyed making this one so much that a thought occurred to me. I haven’t had any new hats in ages! Realistically it was probably only 2015, but it was enough for me to put some of this lovely yarn on my wish list. (See this update for details) I’ve tried this hat with various different brands, including the Erika Knight braded stuff, but this stuff has been the best by far. It swaps perfectly for what is recommended, comes in lots of nice colours, is easily washable, comes in 200g balls so you can increase the size if you need to and is so so soft. Especially in Graphite. I have no idea why, and it may just be me going mad, but the Graphite colour in any of the Stylecraft Special weights is softer than the rest. I’m positive. Try it for yourself.
On to the next one..
This beauty was for The Father. I always try to get him a comedy hat for Christmas, and seen as this was my year of making, it had to be done. I originally found this pattern when I was looking for ideas for The Sisters-in-law (here’s what I ended up with) before I twigged that it would be their summer so woolly hats wouldn’t be appropriate. The pattern is from Make and Do Crew and you can find it here. It was the ears that sold me. How good are they?!?
Unsurprisingly I substituted for Stylecraft using a mix of chunky and DK. The pattern calls for chunky, but some of the colours I needed weren’t available. No matter I thought. I’ll use this handy video that I’ve just seen. I’m sorry to tell you folks but it didn’t work. I was hoping this would be the tip that vastly improved my life, so I was bitterly disappointed. Maybe it was just the yarn, so try it for yourselves, but 3 strands of DK came out too thick for the chunky. It is a very good idea though if you can get it to work, and very easy to do. In the end, I got it about right with two strands, pulling from the middle and the outer end. Not too fiddly as it was only a few rows a time, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do a full project like that.
But another fun project all in all. The pattern is the same for a baby and an adult for the first half, so the tip starts very small. But it grows out nicely to make it nice and snuggly around the head. In actual fact, it probably turned out slightly large.
All adds to the comedy value though.
Now. Last one. And the most difficult of all.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a tale of fun, more of frustration and discovery.
I’ve written and rewritten this section so many times, so I’m deciding to keep it as short as possible. I’ve been trying to get it finished for over a week, hence my unusually long period of quiet. I cant seem to get it to sound like I don’t hate it. I had lots of hiccups with this project, so everything I’d written came out quite negative, which is probably why I was struggling to write it – I don’t like writing negative things. So simplicity. Here we go.
For anyone who doesn’t know, this is nalbinding. For anyone looking for a brief history, try here. Nalbinding predates knitting and crochet and is often called Viking Knitting. It’s done by knotting the yarn together rather than looping it about itself – if that makes sense. Have a look at the stitch.
Interesting isn’t it. This is the Oslo stitch, which I’m told is the basic beginner stitch. It’s relatively simple once you get going, however there are some stitched out there which look hugely complicated. Or maybe they just look complicated? One needle is used and the yarn is knotted through itself, using your thumb to hold the working stitch. Unlike other crafts, a short length of yarn is used, then more is added as you go along. If you are interested in the basics, try this video. Unfortunately, its rather thin on the ground as far as information goes, but this is the best video I’ve found.
Once you get your head around the actual stitch, it’s incredibly simple. Quite therapeutic too. It was nice to have the simplicity of just some yarn and a needle, just passing it through your fingers. Especially before I had to do any decreasing or counting, it was just rounds and rounds of mindfulness, with nothing to concentrate on, save getting the stitches the right size. If you look at it in those terms, it was probably one of the easiest presents.
One of my favourite things about this project was its portability. Seen as you’re not always burdened with a ball of wool to carry, you can take it anywhere. I could quite often be found nalbinding by the stove, or while waiting for the microwave to finish. Then while it was still small I could stuff it back into my pocket, continue what I was doing or move around the house. You didn’t have to worry about setting up, or worry that your ball would roll away. Luckily for me, hats are a small project, so it was light too. Easy to do while standing up, which on a busy train packed full of commuters and Christmas shoppers was a real bonus. It’s the most frustrating thing when a train is busy, not that I haven’t got a seat, but that I feel that its wasted time because I cant get anything done. Nalbinding was perfect for this.
There’s a lot to be said trying and learning something new. I’m always trying to expand my brain and learn something new. Last year I managed to finally get into crochet – about a year nowish actually – and while I’m still very much a beginner, I managed to grasp the basics of nalbinding. Again out of all the Christmas projects, I probably felt the biggest sense of achievement with this one.
The best thing about this project was that I made a new friend. I was so very lucky to have the wonderful Jenean on hand to listen to all my woes and help where I was being daft. We went through the basics in a windy re-enactment tent on a freezing November day – I’m not sure how we got our fingers to work – and then helped through the wonders of technology after that. I couldn’t have done it without her help. I had a couple of failed attempts by myself, but it seems you need an actual person to teach you this sort of thing.
As I was making this hat for re-enactment purposes, I had to use 100% wool. After some research – and an interesting conversation with the Deramores chat facility – I’d gone ahead and bought my yarn in a couple of shades ready to start. I bought 3 shades of the Alafosslopi from the Icelandic Lopi company. I’m sorry to say that I hated it. For the purposes of this sort of craft, its perfect and I would recommend it, but just the feel of it made me scowl. I know I should love working with all these interesting yarns, but I just love acrylic. I know, I feel like a traitor to crafters everywhere. But wool cuts my hands to pieces.
The other problem with this wool was that it kept splitting. Due to the technique of nalbinding, the yarn goes through a fair bit of pressure. As it was such a loose weave, it was constantly coming apart in the middle. There was the awful feeling when you pulled a stitch through and you could feel it come away from the rest. This meant you needed to splice it back together quite a lot. It would have been far more difficult to do this with another blend, but it was still a pain to twist it together, wet it all, rub furiously to give it heat and pray that it holds. Especially on the train! Jenean advised that I used the traditional method and used spit to wet the yarn. I have to admit that my mouth wasn’t up to the job. I found water worked just as well as it meant that I could completely submerge the yarn and get it wet enough. Have a look here for more info on spit splicing. I’m not sure if you’ll see, but the picture below shows the slight inconsistencies after splicing.
Its very easy nowadays to forget how lucky we are with online tutorials and patterns. Its so easy to be able to search for something, be given almost unlimited results and take our pick. Unfortunately the same cant be said for nalbinding. I looked at a lot of videos for guidance, but didn’t feel satisfied with any of them. You can find the best one I found above, but the majority were were in a different language or bilingual – which wasn’t the biggest problem – and nearly all were shaky and out of focus. Well meaning souls who were trying to be helpful, but nothing professionally done. It seems you really do need someone to sit you down and teach you the craft. Again, I was so lucky to have someone to hand. There also don’t seem to be any patterns available. Jenean had to listen to me rant.. ‘Why doesn’t someone just write a pattern?!?’ I don’t think there’s an answer, they just don’t. All I wanted was a simple this many stitches, for this many rounds until it gets to this point. Nothing. It meant I had to keep testing the size and going from there. I needed to check this every round because…
..oh my how I got my sizing wrong. If I could any advice, it would be to make it bigger! Without knowing how many stitches to do, I had to just measure it around the head of Himself. I thought I’d left enough space, but it was getting increasingly snug. Some of it is just the way the way it works, but a lot of it was my stitches. Remember when I posted this picture?
This is what remains of my 4th and 5th round. Himself wanted the green with a band of blue. No problem says I. Apart from I inexplicably made my blue stitches a lot tighter. So much so that it didn’t fit on my head any more. Not without cutting off blood flow to my brain anyway. I had no choice, I had to frog it. Usually this is easy to do, just annoying, but because nalbinding is knotted, you have to actually unweave everything. I tried this on a couple of my testers and knew that I didn’t have the patience for that. Because I was using proper wool, the fibers had started to felt together, making it even more difficult to untangle. In my hour of frustration, I decided just to cut them off. It took 5 mins instead of an hour. If I knew that I could use the yarn again, I’d have persevered, but I knew I’d have to throw it out anyway. Sigh. Have a look at the before picture below. Its not meant to curve like that!
Still more sizing problems to come! It was all going so well and I was managing to keep my stitches the right size. All until I came to the decrease. I was advised to do stitch 2 together every 10, then 7 etc. But it was clear that this was too much too soon. My daily trying on sessions with Himself were becoming increasingly worrying. I turned to Jenean in despair. Thankfully she had an answer. Originally the blue strip was meant to be on the 4th row, but you can see that the blue strip is a lot higher.
In the end, I had to attach extra rows to the bottom of the hat to make it longer and give it a better fit. I was so happy when we’d actually managed to get it how Himself wanted. I don’t like having that many problems in a project, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons at least!
Only one more reveal to go for now, but if you’d like to look at the other projects have a look here.
A1 – Complete!
A2 – Complete!
B1 – Complete!
B2 – Complete!
C1 – Complete!
C2 – Complete!
C3 – Complete!
C4 – Complete!
C5 – Complete!
C6 – Complete!
C7 – Complete!
D1 – Still unfinished
D3 – Complete!
D4 – Complete!
Well I didn’t mean for this to be the essay that it turned out to be. This one was a struggle. Hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of things soon!
PS If anyone is wondering about the hat stands? They belong to Himself. They usually are displaying helmets and other manly things. I nearly had a fit when he brought them into the house. ‘Where are we going to put those?!?’ I was quite glad I allowed them in the house when it came to taking pictures! 🙂
Much love xx