A Bousta Beanie for a Big Head

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Big heads make hats difficult. Well, they make buying ready to wear hats difficult anyway. With the biggest head in my family, hand knitted hats have been the only solution for years and I’ve actually got a great collection thanks to the London Knitter. So great in fact that I’ve rarely knitted hats for myself but when I saw the Bousta Beanie pattern for Shetland Wool Week 2017, I got rather excited.

Each year, the patron of Shetland Wool Week designs an official hat for the festival. They have a history of producing some pretty awesome designs too, like Donna Smith’s legendary Baa-ble Hat and Ella Gordon’s fantastic Crofthoose Hat. For 2017, Gudrun Johnson is the Wool Week patron and she has designed the Bousta Beanie.

When I saw the pattern, there were quite a few things that made me pretty desperate to cast it on now. Chief among them was the beautiful contrast edge to the hat which is just such a great idea. I also really loved the wavy Fair Isle design and then loved it twice as much when I realised that because of the small scale design repeats, there would be no need to catch big floats when doing the colour work. Hurrah!

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The wool to make the hat with was an easy choice since Shetland wool is probably my favourite to work with and the most readily available up here! For this hat I used 3 shades of Jamieson and Smith‘s 2 ply jumper weight in the shades 82 (green), 72 (pink) and 203 (grey – my absolute all time favourite yarn!). The green and pink have lovely heathery tones to them and overall, I’m pretty happy with how my colour choices worked out. There is just something about green and pink together that really appeals to me, even when my mother tells me it’s a terrible idea!

Due to my big head, I did some (poor) maths to increase the pattern size and still make it work with the pattern and crown repeats. This wasn’t terribly successful in that a) I forgot that you increase after the ribbing so I had some fudging to do then to get a stitch count that worked with the pattern and crown repeats and b) I’ve made it slightly too big. It still fits and I properly love it but even I have to admit that it’s definitely on the slouchier side of slouchy. Any suggestions about how to shrink is just a wee bit would be very welcome!

This was a super enjoyable knit and the way the pattern knits up always seems to be encouraging you to just finish this little bit more before doing the dishes and so on! I also really enjoyed having the chance to practice knitting with one yarn in each hand as I’ve not done a lot of that and I can’t say it comes naturally to me.

This pattern would be great for people who want to try colour work as the pattern is really well written and the floats are all nice and short. My favourite bit about this knit: that the inside is just as beautiful as the outside.

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Helpful Information

Pattern – Bousta Beanie by Gudrun Johnson
Modifications – I cast on 152 stitches which wasn’t great as it meant I needed to do some fudging at the increase row in order to get a stitch count of 180 stitches which would work with the pattern and crown repeats. This is too big for me with my 22.5″ head so I reckon the next time I cast on I’ll try to have 156 stitches after the increasing row
Cast on – long tail cast on. I use this video by Wool and the Gang whenever I need a reminder.
Cast off – followed the instructions in the pattern for crown decreases and cast off
Colour dominance – I did a night class with Donna Smith last year and that really got me thinking about colour dominance. This tutorial from Ysolda Teague has a really good explanation and examples about how to work out which colours should be dominant. For this hat, I made the green the background colour and the  pink/grey the dominant colours.

Materials

Needles – 3mm Addi Turbo’s for the cast on and changed to 3.5mm needles as instructed by the pattern at the start of chart A
Wool – all colours are Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight. I used 2 x 25g balls of the shade 82 (green) and one each of the shades 72 (pink) and 203 (grey). I used all the rest of the pink for the pom pom but I’ve still got a good bit left of the grey and the second ball of green.

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Blanket Policy

I have learnt from experience there are a few things a knitter should take into account when making things for babies.

  1. They grow really, really fast. If you want them to get good use out of a garment knit it big.
  2. They are messy. Pick a wool that is easily washable, preferably by a machine.
  3. They can’t tell you if something is itchy, they will just scream, so for the wellbeing of all involved you should try and use the softest wool you can possibly find.
  4. It’s a good idea to keep the due date in mind. Even when you’re knitting big it really turns up the pressure when the tiny human being arrives sooner than you expected….which I learnt…the hard way…last week.
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Early days on 15cm 5mm Addi Bamboo DPNs

I’ve been working on the Vivid Blanket from Tin Can Knits for a cousin’s new arrival. It’s a great pattern and I was really excited to cast on. I was confident my cousin’s due date was in May so I had ages to kick back and enjoy the knit. Except her due wasn’t May, she was due last week…and (hurrah!) her daughter has arrived. Now fortunately a blanket isn’t something particularly time sensitive but when you’re two squares in to a twelve square baby blanket and you find out the baby is already here you do feel a little bit surprised.

With the long Easter weekend and a couple of nights in I’ve actually got nine squares ready to go now and I think I’m going to leave it at that – it’s already a decent sized play/cot blanket. I used 5mm needles so it’s knitted up fairly big and frankly I’m too excited to make it up to knit any more.

Vivid Blanket on 20cm 5mm DPNs
Migrated to 20cm 5mm Addi DPNs as it grew

It’s a great pattern which I’ve loved making, even better, it knits really quickly. I used all white yarn (well ‘Champagne white’ if you will) which is maybe a little ironic given the pattern name is Vivid but it looks lovely. Haven’t sewn them up yet, I read the Tin Can Knits blog about the pattern and it’s made me think that blocking is probably the way to go so, reluctantly, I shall do that this evening. Patience is a virtue and all. So next week when they’re all blocked I shall spend an evening sewing them together and hopefully it will be excellent.

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Finished squares awaiting blocking

Helpful information

Cast on – Pin hole cast on isn’t one I’d used before so I watched this video from VeryPink Knits which showed me how it was done

Cast off – I used K2tog, slip stitch to left needle K2tog. On reflection a simpler cast off might have given me neater join (and is actually recommended in the Tin Can Knits blog – oh hindsight you beautiful thing!) but it said in the pattern to use a stretchy cast off and that’s my go to stretchy one.

I used two circulars for the first couple of rounds as that’s what I am most confident with and it was a bit fiddly but then I moved to 15cm and later 20cm DPNs. When the squares outgrew these I finished off on a circular again. I found the DPNs helped me keep track of the repeats more easily and it was easier to see where I was in the pattern.

Materials

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Needles – all mine were Addi, circular turbos and then bamboo and metal DPNs, pick your favourite!
2 x 5mm circular needles (or one long one to do magic loop)
5mm DPNs in 15cm and/or 20cm
Yarn
Painbox Yarns, Simply Aran in colour 202. Knits on 5mm needles, is machine washable at 40 on a wool cycle and is nice and soft. I’d read slightly mixed reviews of Paintbox Yarns and had never used them before but I have no compaints.

Hermione’s Everyday Socks (a.k.a. total brilliance)

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Socks have always scared me. I’ve thought a lot about making them. I’ve saved 15 patterns to my Ravelry queue. I’ve admired (and joyfully worn) the beauties made by others. But I’ve always felt the fear and avoided making my own.

When I thought about it, my sock knitting fear is based on two things. The main one is the fear of picking up stitches along edges. I will go to great lengths to avoid this and have been known to do an entire baby blanket border using intarsia to avoid having to pick up stitches at the end! In the same way, I tend to avoid knitting anything that needs two of something that look roughly the same because I have only rarely managed this feat (and even then only with a lot of blood, sweat and swearing).

So the obvious time to solve your fear of something is when doing some gift knitting against the clock, isn’t it? Way to make things easier with a bit of time pressure! My best friend’s birthday was in March so I naturally decided in the middle of February that knitting a pair of something would be a great idea.

Once I’d settled on socks, picking a pattern was really easy. Hermione’s Everyday Socks is the most knitted sock pattern on Ravelry by a considerable distance. Throw in that my best friend and I have been Harry Potter addicts since the books first came out and the choice was simple.

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This pattern is absolutely wonderful and I can’t recommend it enough. The instructions are clear and the textured stitch pattern comes up beautifully. Overall, it was a really great knit – engaging enough to keep your interest without being too overly taxing. Seeing all the stages of the sock come together from the ribbing to the toes was also pretty gratifying and helped me to just about stick to the strict row knitting schedule I’d invented!

Finding yarn was a different matter though. My best friend’s favourite colour is red but I really struggled to find a suitable strong red to knit with. In the end I went for a skein of Madeline Tosh Sock in the shade Tart. I’m really pleased with the results and I particularly love how the semi-solid red shades have worked out with the textured stitch pattern. That said, I definitely prefer to knit with more rustic wool and I found the slipperiness of the Merino a bit hard going. If anybody can tell me where to find a good strong red yarn (preferably British), please let me know!

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I followed the pattern for the ankle but shortened the number of texture repeats to 12 instead of the recommended 18 as I was a wee bit afraid I’d run out of yarn. Weighing the yarn as I went along helped me to feel a bit more confident that there would be enough for two socks and in the end, I had just under 20g spare.

The heel wasn’t too traumatic when I got down to it and was mostly just a case of following the instructions without reading too far ahead! I knitted the socks using the magic loop method and then switched to two 2.25mm circular needles when the stitches were split for turning the heel. I still wouldn’t call myself a fan of picking up stitches but I googled furiously and used the advice on this Purl Soho page to help me get the stitches picked up evenly. The socks do have a tiny ridge inside where I picked the stitches up and I’m not quite sure if/how to stop that happening again another time. Hmm, something to work on!

Fortunately, the socks have come out pretty close to each other in size and the fit is really good, although that was more luck than skill. They took about 3 weeks to knit in evenings/weekends and were just a really great knit. For now, I think the sock fear may be conquered but I should probably cast on another pair immediately to check right?!

Helpful Information

Pattern – Hermione’s Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder
Modifications – I knitted 12 pattern repeats on the ankle instead of the 18 suggested in the pattern. I also knitted the sock for a size 8 foot and mostly worked this out by making my dad try them on to see if they looked alright! Overall, the bottom of the foot measured  11 inches in length including the toes.
Cast on – long tail cast on. I use this video by Wool and the Gang whenever I need a reminder.
Cast off – grafted the toes. This Knit Witch video is the best tutorial I’ve found and I have probably watched it upwards of 100 times by now!
Heel help – I used this Purl Soho page to help me work out how to pick up the heel stitches but I’d be really interested to hear any tips about how to do this.

Materials

Needles – 2.25mm Addi Turbo’s bought from my local Jamieson and Smith wool shop
Wool – one 115g skein of Madeline Tosh Sock wool in the shade Tart purchased from Meadow Yarns. I was terrified I’d run out of wool but I ended up with just under 20g left.