For the love of chickens. And wool. And eucalypts.

In the latest issue of Knitty, there is a stranded colourwork hat featuring a Rhode Island Red chicken design by Pam Sluter. I don’t know Pam, but clearly we share a love of chickens, wool and knitting.  In short, I had one of those moments, and decided to cast on RIGHT AWAY!  Because, I have these handspun yarns.  Mmmm.  Polwarth, my friends.  Soft as anything. Perfect for a little hat.

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I had an early period of doubt, because provisional cast on, and then three circular needles in play for a while.  I held my nerve.  I consulted a  book on cast ons and bind offs.  I love a good book.

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I tried to talk myself out of taking it on the bus.  Because charted patterns are not really ideal for bus knitting and I have a perfectly charming sock on the go.  No hope of resistance.  I kept wondering if the woman on the other side of the aisle could really be staring at me as intently as she seemed to be from the corner of my eye.  How can my eye possibly be following the chart, keeping track of two yarns on the needles, and still noticing a total stranger?  Eventually as we neared our destination I looked over.  Yes!  She was utterly intent.  It appeared we didn’t share much common language so I showed her the picture. She grinned.

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Here is the finished hat, being blocked over a big jar.  But you know, not a jar as big as my head.

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I did not do a gauge swatch.  Risk taking knitting, I tell you!  I went up a needle size as even when not using two colours, I tend to be on the tight side with knitting, and stranded colourwork has a tendency to mysteriously come out smaller than planned.  Especially in the hands of a novice.  Especially with long floats.  Well.  Not truly a mystery, then!  This is the medium size and I have to say, nowhere near fitting on my head.  I didn’t swatch because I was quite prepared to give this hat to whomever might like it and fit into it… and I am thinking of starting out with one of my very small friends.  Who would look cuter than any button in this…

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “For the love of chickens. And wool. And eucalypts.

  1. purplejulian

    do you twist in the yarns at the back of the work? looks lovely – will be absolutely gorgeous on a little friend …. I used to design and produce fairisle knitting using shetland 4ply from brora in the late 70’s/early 80’s, nightmare getting the knitters to get the tension right 🙂 handknitted fairisle is so beautiful, fairisle made on a machine is just flat and rather unpleasant. that’s a lovely design, but you will have to start drafting your own! would love to see some patterns all around your plantings and dyeings and things! so much richness to draw on …..

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  2. Purplejulian, by all means offer your advice! Where the floats are long, I did twist the yarns over one another every 3-4 stitches. But like so much else in knitting, I am largely self taught and there is no doubt I still have a lot to learn. It seems to me tension is the bugbear of every kind of colour knitting. And like just about every craft, a person can acquire the basic skills simply enough but really achieving mastery and high quality judgment is a much longer thing. I figure I am still practising!

    You’re right, I’ll have to draft my own. Knitsonik’s sourcebook is a great encouragement too. I have a pile of batts in different colours piling up on the piano in an effort to start creating colours I could use to do this. Fibre prep done, now for spinning, design and knitting! Combining different thicknesses and breeds and grists of yarn is probably not ideal for colourwork success…

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    • purplejulian

      by the way, in case you didn’t reaalise i am the same jane wheeler that was commenting before 😀 wordpress wouldn’t allow me to log in on that name any more, grrrrrrrr. well for tension when knitting fairisle the main thing is to keep spreading the 2 or 4 stitches each side of the stitches you are knitting to a wider distance. I am not sure if this is so easy when you have on yarn coming from the right and one from the left. but that is the only way to stop fairisle knitting tightening up, apart from allowing the yarns to pass through your fingers without too much restriction. I just looked at some old stuff of mine, as I’m staying with my daughter – the chief repository of the archive – and I note that all my designs, and most of the traditional fairisle ones don’t have distances of more than three stitches between change of colour, so there’s no twisting to do, and there’s no tendancy of the colour that is looped along the back to “grin through” where it is twisted in, and it doesn’t tighten up as much. but of course some thing like that chicken design is so charming it is worth the effort. so practice makes perfect, I would say keep spreading out those stitches as much as possible. as for mixing different qualities, you could make that a feature of course! and when drafting your own, plan to have little one stitch spots of the other colour coming through as much as possible. wish I could post some photos, but the comments box doesn’t allow it.

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      • Hello again Jane! It does seem as though short floats are the beginner’s friend! Sorry the comments box doesn’t allow pictures. Thanks for your encouragement… I am eyeing off my pile of batts but also managing to get some knitting done. Difficult choices 😉

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  3. Oh I love colourwork in knitting…My favourite was the Caspian Sea Socks. Loved the pattern. Have you seen them? Its a free pattern on the ‘net somewhere 🙂

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  4. OH MY I LOVE THAT HAT!!! The colours and the pattern are sumptuous 🙂

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  5. too adorable. Lucky recipient!

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