Thursday, September 15, 2011

The perfect everyday hat

I am a hat girl. I always was, as this picture from oh, probably around 1987 illustrates:


As I grew up, I had the best series of hats. As a teenager, I had a Paul Frank hat for the wintertime that was barberpole striped in blue and red, and was topped off with a voluminous pom-pom on each corner. I also had a bucket hat made from coiled ribbon, an authentic Donegal fedora, and I stole my dad's broad-brimmed cowboy fedoras with appalling regularity.
My favorite, though, was the one I had in college. It was, frankly, pretty horrid; it was a hand-me-down from a friend, who had bought it at Wal-Mart (I know, I know). It was simple one-by-one rib, marled beige acrylic yarn, and hadn't even been knit in the round--there was a gigantic seam on it that had to be kept in the back. But it was huge, and comfy, and slouchy; I could wear it as a really long beanie, or pull it back further for some slouch. Best of all, it reminded me of my college friends. I will blushingly admit to wearing it all the time after college, too--a work colleague called it my "London slums urchin hat" at one point, which wasn't far off. (I don't have any pictures of this one, thank goodness!) I even brought it with me as a safety blanket to New Zealand, and wore it All. The. Time, especially to sleep when it the temperature in my bedroom didn't make it above 40! But, as part of the whole process of learning and growing in New Zealand, I decided that it was time to surrender it. I left it at my favorite hostel in Wellington for someone else to love.
Since that time, I haven't had a hat to truly live in. I have a Selbu Modern that I love, but it's a bit too fancy to cover up on a bad hair day, you know? So when I went back to Grinnell in June and got a request from my friend Maggie for a hat (in exchange for a kick ass wallet made from an old burlap coffee bag), I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to make my perfect hat.
Knit from one skein of Quince and Co.'s gorgeous aran-weight Osprey, the Eyen Hat was designed to have just the right amount of slouch, enough going on with the cables while knitting to keep it interesting, and the wearability for everyday.

(Quince photos, as always, by the lovely Carrie Bostick Hoge!)

This hat was also part of the downward slide into Chartreuse obsession--I LOVE this color! Quince's Honey just kills me every time. I love how it changes in every light!


All in all, I absolutely cannot wait to have one of these hats for my very own.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And finally, Delius!

When I woke up this morning, there was a gentle rain pattering down outside my window, and all I wanted was a big mug of Earl Grey tea. Even if the leaves are still green and I'm still running around in flip-flops (let's face it, those stay on until the serious frosts hit), everything around me is whispering "Fall! Fall! Fall!" So I think it's time to talk about my contribution to the wonderful Fall edition of Twist Collective. I am so, so pleased to be a part of this edition; I am an autumn girl through and through, and my design, the Delius vest, is very close to my heart.

This vest originally started as a Christmas present for my eminently knitworthy father. My knitting friends will attest to the fact that, every year in mid-October, I swear up and down that I will NOT be doing any Christmas knitting this year. And, every year in mid-November, I crumble and go buy yarn for far-too-elaborate projects that inevitably get gifted while still on the needles, or still wet from blocking, or not at all. This, um, fashionable lateness was compounded in this case by the fact that the only yarn I liked at my LYS that fit the bill for my dad (navy blue, good for a business formal vest) and mine (mostly wool and tweedy) was Rowan Felted Tweed. Which needed to be knit on size 2s to get the stitch definition I wanted. So yeah, not in time for Christmas.

(the first finished vest, modeled on its wonderful recipient. Both he and my brother, the other obliging model, were bribed with Tony's Donuts for this photoshoot. Thanks, guys!)

However, acknowledging to myself that this was not going to be neatly wrapped up with a bow under the Christmas tree also meant that I could really think about the details of the vest. Dad and I took a trip to Ireland together when I was a teenager, and since then, have shared a love of the cables of the Aran sweaters, both traditional and otherwise. Therefore I had always kept an eye on the cable sections of stitch dictionaries, and when I saw the Windblown Cables in Barbara Walker's third treasury, I had to earmark them for a sweater for him. The cables were delicious in the Felted Tweed, and, amidst a bed of 2x2 ribbing and stockinette, they were perfect.


There were a couple other moments of serendipity in the development of this vest; I spent the last weeks of the year in my family home, and Frederick Delius' gorgeous composition "Summer Night on the River" was often on in the background. This and the constant vest knitting, coupled with the gorgeous mood boards for Twist's Fall submission, came together to create my first design in Twist.

(Goofballs, the lot of them. At Bug Light in South Portland, Maine.)

Very little changed from my original prototype: the gauge (thank goodness), thanks to the substitution of the lovely Imperial Stock Ranch Columbia rather than the Felted Tweed; the shoulders widened slightly (the original was a little narrow in that area); and a design feature that I had planned in the original, but goofed up, was added--a 2x2 cable that flowed from the front cables around the back of the neck and added that little bit of extra length to keep the back from riding up.


I'd love to say that the design process was a long and arduous one with many samples and lots of little tweaks, but it was pretty smooth sailing! (I did have some fun incorporating the increases needed to balance the cable panels after the ribbing. Earth-shattering stuff!) I'm even thinking about a women's version with waist shaping named Delia (bless these Latinate nouns with their easily gendered endings)--I have my eye on the Sap or Hayloft colorways in Shelter. Whether the women's version materializes or not, it was a wonderful experience. Thanks again to Twist for their support and their wonderfully inspiring magazine. Happy knitting!