Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Little Hats, Big Hearts

If you knit or crochet, you’ve probably seen posts on social media about Little Hats, Big Hearts. It’s a program that joins the American Heart Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation in raising awareness about congenital heart defects and providing resources to encourage family heart health. During the month of February, which is American Heart Month, babies who are born at participating hospitals in the U.S. will each receive a red hat that was made and donated by a volunteer.

Top View of Red Crochet Preemie Hat

When I heard about the program, my first step was to contact the office in my state to learn whether they still need hats. I know that knitters and crocheters are often so enthusiastic that organizations end up overwhelmed. I was told that the program is expanding to more hospitals this year, so they still need hats.

The hats should be made from red cotton or acrylic yarn. Red is the signature color for heart health, while cotton and acrylic can withstand machine washing and drying. I had some Red Heart Shimmer in colorway 1929 Red leftover from a previous project; it’s a (discontinued) worsted weight acrylic yarn with a little bit of sparkle. I was also able to find Lion Brand Landscapes, an Aran weight acrylic yarn, in the color Ruby at a local big box store. Both yarns are incredibly soft, which makes them ideal for baby hats.

The Little Hats, Big Hearts webpage offers pattern suggestions, although any pattern may be used. The hats should be made without extras such as pompoms, buttons and bows because they can be dangerous to babies. I made hats from two of the suggested patterns.

Creative Preemie Hat by Laura Reavis is a crochet hat with two variations. I made one of the main hat, one of the brimless version, and three of the girlie version. For reference, the preemie hats pictured below are on drinking glasses that are about 9 1/2 inches (24 cm) in circumference.

Two Red Crochet Preemie Hats
In Landscapes yarn, the brimless version of the Creative Preemie Hat is on the left and the main pattern is on the right.

Red Crochet Preemie Hats for Girls
The girlie version in Shimmer on the left and Landscapes on the right. The hat in the front is a combination of both yarns.

The Baby Hearts Hat, listed as Knitted Hat Pattern 2, by Heidi Gustad is a knit pattern that features heart shapes around the sides of the hat. I made the hat with the Shimmer yarn and skipped the pompom. It is shown below on a balloon that has a circumference of about nineteen inches (48 cm).

Red Knit Hat with Heart Details

The hat patterns that I tried were all easy to make, and at such small sizes they worked up quickly. I’ll pick up more red yarn the next time I have a chance.

Please click here to visit the Little Hats, Big Hearts website. You’ll find all of the information you need, including suggested patterns, how to donate yarn or money if you don’t knit or crochet, and how to participate if you live outside the U.S.

I’m not affiliated with the American Heart Association or The Children’s Heart Foundation, but I am an advocate for heart health. I hope this program continues to grow and helps little ones grow with healthy hearts.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

La Grasse Matinée

While I was spinning my Purple Llama yarn, I envisioned knitting it into a flowing, lacey top. I wanted the stitches to be open to highlight the fuzziness of the yarn.

The lacey top didn’t turn out as I imagined it would. It happens sometimes in the world of making that the idea we originally think is the best ends up — well, not the best.

I set aside the top-turned-dress, and used a bit of the leftover yarn to add a block to my scrap sock yarn blanket. Something unexpected happened:

Handspun Yarn Knit into a Garter Stitch Block on a Scrap Blanket

I fell in love with the more tightly knit version of the yarn.

In this yarn’s journey, I had already tried knitting it on US-5 (3.75 mm) needles. The result was fabric that looked both fuzzy and matted. I moved up to US-7 (4.5 mm) then finally US-9 (5.5 mm) needles in order to achieve an airy fuzziness.

I hadn’t thought to try smaller needles until I pulled out the US-1 (2.25 mm) needles that I use on my scrap blanket. I expected a tight, matted fabric but the smaller stitches kept the fuzziness in check for beautiful results.

I set off to find a new pattern for the yarn that called for smaller needles, and decided on La Grasse Matinée by Anna Johanna.  It’s a loose top that is knit with US-1 1/2 (2.5 mm) and US-2 1/2 (3.0 mm) needles. And it only uses about 1,000 yards of yarn, which is about all I had.

I decided to knit size L (96 cm bust) on US-2 (2.75 mm) and US-3 (3.25 mm) circular needles, which are the closest needle sizes I have to the pattern directions. The pattern knit up smoothly without any problems, and was surprisingly not boring given how much of the top is plain stockinette stitch.

Eyelet Knitting Detail on a Shirt in Handspun Yarn
There is an eyelet detail on the lower edges of the body and sleeves, and garter stitch minimizes curling.

I had to shorten the length of the sleeves because I was running out of yarn, but otherwise I didn’t make any modifications to the pattern. The fit is great, and I would knit La Grasse Matinée again.

Side View of Top Knit with Handspun Yarn

One of my initial concerns with the yarn was that it would feel scratchy against my skin. I’m happy to say that the scratchiness is minimal. The llama is technically hair and, sure enough, that’s what it feels like. As someone with long hair, I’m already used to a certain amount of hair pokes and random strands getting caught up in clothing fabric; wearing this top felt like more of the usual.

It can be easy to get caught up in thinking the first idea is the best idea, but my journey with this yarn has been a great reminder not to shy away from experimenting. Letting go of preconceived ideas can be difficult, but so worthwhile!

Front View of Top Knit from Handspun Yarn

Have you made any recent projects that ended up completely different from what you originally planned?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Santa Is Here

When we moved earlier this year, I found a drawer full of forgotten kits. One of my new goals is to complete all of the kits — or at least move them along one way or another.

After sorting through the contents of my great-grandmother’s treadle sewing machine cabinet, I’m more mindful of how random our materials and supplies can appear to others, even other makers. I’ve found myself asking repeatedly why she was keeping certain items. Were they important, or did they just end up forgotten in a drawer?

First up is a plastic canvas needlework kit from the Canvas Capers line by Leisure Arts, #427 Shimmer-Ring Santa Claus. To give you an idea of just how forgotten these kits are, this one has a copyright date of 1982. Even after being packed away from sunlight for so long, you can see that the lower half of the instruction sheet has discolored.

Canvas Capers Santa Needlework Kit by Leisure Arts

Over the years, I’ve made projects in a wide range of media — from blown glass to underwater basket weaving — but I’ve never worked with plastic canvas. I discovered that plastic canvas needlework is relatively easy to learn; the entire project took only a few hours to make. The beard stitches presented a challenge to ensure that no extra strands of yarn would show through from the back to ruin the design.

Santa Claus Decoration from Canvas Capers Kit by Leisure Arts

This decoration is on the large side for a tree ornament with the outer ring at five inches (12.7 cm) in diameter. The length from the top of the hat to the bottom of the ring is 6 1/2 inches (16.5 cm). The thread length for the hanging ring is up to the maker; mine is about three inches (7.6 cm).

I haven’t decided yet where to hang this Santa; we haven’t begun to decorate yet, so I have time. I’m sure it’ll brighten up any area of our home. I mean, look at that face:

Detail of Santa Decoration from Canvas Capers Kit by Leisure Arts

It makes me smile. And that’s something it would have never done from the bottom of a drawer.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Irma Hat

When I spin, I rarely have a project in mind for the resulting yarn. Although I’ve been a spindler since 2010, I still consider myself a beginner. I have the techniques down pretty well, but am still getting a feel how I want to spin different fibers. One fiber might result in a few very different skeins of yarn as I experiment and play. Sometimes I mix fibers together in different ways, and other times I make a small amount of consistently spun yarn.

In 2012, I took a Spinning Samples class with Celia Quinn. Over three full days, we spun samples of 84 different types of fiber. Each sample was spun in both worsted and woolen styles where practical, then finished as both a single and a 2-ply yarn. Rather than continually starting and stopping, it was suggested that we bring some brightly colored fiber to separate the samples along the way.

The fiber that I used to separate my samples was four ounces (113 grams) of 100% wool Kraemer Yarns Mauch Chunky Roving in the colorway Kiwi; I didn’t come anywhere close to using all of the roving. In 2013, I spun it into about 175 yards (160 m) of DK weight 2-ply yarn.

And that brings us to this past week. I was poking around in Ravelry and happened upon the free Irma Hat pattern by Aneta Gasiorowska. I was drawn in by the way the raised zigzag pattern in the body of the hat comes together and interlocks at the top of the crown. The yarn weight from my Kraemer handspun was just right, and I actually had a little more than the amount called for in the pattern.

Knitted Irma Hat in Green Handspun Wool Yarn

The pattern was easy to knit and worked up quickly. Although the pattern is written for one size, there is a note on how to adjust the sizing up or down. I don’t have a big head (ahem), but I do have a lot of hair so I added one repeat of the pattern to make the hat a little bigger.

Wearing Knitted Irma Hat in Green Handspun Wool Yarn

I’m looking forward to brightening up a dreary winter day by wearing this hat. And I’m happy to have found just the right project for one of my handspun yarns.