Monday, December 31, 2012

Charity Hat Pattern for 2013

Hello!  My goal of making at least one hat for charity each month in 2013 was listed in this blog a couple of months ago, and it was very popular.  It led me to starting a group on Ravelry with the same goal, and I was thrilled to see that it passed 100 members in the first week, and is now at 146! 

The idea is that every month I'll try to provide an original hat pattern for folks to make as their charity hat for that month.  Some of these hat patterns will become paid patterns after the free month, and others will remain free.  Some will be by me, some will be by others who have been kind enough to offer.  (Offers still being accepted, by the way!  If you submit a pattern to me, please email me directly -  Other features of the Ravelry group include moral support, and a listing of dozens of charities accepting donations of hand knits.  Here is the first pattern, which will remain free.  It can also be found, with charting, at Ravelry.

January 2013 Knit Along Hat
Liz Marino

Materials: US 5 needles (this hat was made on double circs)

Tapestry Needle

1 skein Sport weight yarn (12-13 wpi) such as Cascade 220 sport

This hat is worked in the round. The chart represents one repeat. The hat is 5 repeats in total.
Cast on 140 stitches in cable cast on. Join the round, being careful not to twist.

Round 1 - 14: (k2, p2) around
Round 15 - 34: (p13, k15) 5 times

Round 35: (ssp, p9, p2tog,k15) 5 times
Round 36 - 39: (p11, k15) 5 times

Round 40: (ssp, p7, p2tog, k15) 5 times
Round 41 - 45: (p9, k15) 5 times

Round 46: (ssp, p5, p2tog, k15) 5 times
Round 47 - 55: (p7, k15) 5 times

Round 56: (ssp, p3, p2tog, k15) 5 times
Round 57 - 59: (p5, k15) 5 times

Round 60: (ssp, p, p2tog, k15) 5 times

Round 61: (p3, k15) 5 times

Round 62: (cdd, k15) 5 times

Round 63: (ssk, k 14) 5 times

Round 64: (k6, cdd, k7) 5 times

Round 65: k around

Round 66: (k5, cdd, k5) 5 times

Round 67: K around

Round 68: (k4, cdd, k4) 5 times

Round 69: K around

Round 70: (k3, cdd, k3) 5 times

Round 71: k around

Round 72: (k2, cdd, k2) 5 times

Round 73: k around

Round 74: (k, cdd, k) 5 times

Round 75: k around

Round 76: cdd 5 times

Break yarn leaving 8 inch tail. Thread tapestry needle, and weave tail through remaining 5 stitches twice. Draw top of hat tightly closed. Weave in all ends.
If you choose to make it, please do me the favor of submitting a photo!  We'd love to see it!  If you have any charities you'd like us to feature, please share that info, too.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012


I was listening to classical music as I ran errands this morning.  Although I'd love to pretend I'm educated enough to have recognized the music, I'm not and I didn't.  It was lovely, though, and hauntingly sad.

My daughter turns 18 today, a wonderful moment, which was also in the mix.  She has Asperger's, and is naive and capable, overwhelmed and overwhelming at turns.  And now she's 18.

With all of this in my head, I had a mental picture that became a poem.  How strangely romantic, to express music and emotion in a poem.  But it wants out, so here it is.

The vase is ancient,
The lines graceful.

Color shifts along its length
From a breath to a flame.

I love to see it on the mantle.
The crack is thinner than a hair.

No flowers.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Knitting for Charity

If you read the last post, you can probably understand my desire to help those who have fallen on hard times.  I started a group on Raverly committed to making at least on hat for charity in 2013 (click here).

As I've talked to people about making hats for charity, I've received a lot of interesting feedback.  "That's what I do with all my crappy yarn," I was told by one woman.  Why would you do that?!   "Can we start early?" Yes, of course!  Please do.  "Do we have to donate to a specific charity?" No, any charity that accepts hats is great!  "Is there a specific pattern we need to use?" No!  Use any pattern you like.  All of this feedback made me really happy (ok, all but the first one) because it was clear that people wanted to participate "following the rules." 

Since it's almost 2013, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some links to some terrific hat patterns.  Since it's a charity thing, I'm showing free patterns, but if you have hat patterns in books or magazines that you want to knit, have at it.  And if there are some free patterns you want me to feature that I missed, let me know!

Basic Striped Hat
The Basic Striped Hat by Shiri Designs at left is very easy, and great-looking.  You can make all the stripes the same color, as shown, or use up odds and ends of yarns in the same weight.  It's shown in the adult size (it comes in adult, child, and baby), and in an acrylic yarn.  Remember you may want to attach a label indicating the size and material of your hat so that it will fit the recipient, and avoid any allergic reactions.

Alpaca Earflap Hat

The Alpaca Earflap Hat by OzYarn is a classic style chullo hat.  It was originally knit in a yarn that is now discontinued, but it can be replaced with any 12 wpi sport weight yarn.  Try Frog Tree Yarns Alpaca Sport Weight.  It's a fun knit, and can be made in as many colors as you're moved to use.  Different textured yarns might make an interesting look, too.  Maybe boucle in place of one of the colors, tape yarn for another, and a simple 5 ply for the the third...  It's an adult size, and made in alpaca it's very  cozy!
Baby Jester Hat

Wooly Wormhead brings us the wonderful Baby Jester Hat.  I love this hat so much!   I've seen it in person on a few occasions, including two different versions of it at Rhinebeck this year.  It's very quick to knit in worsted on US 7s, and it has very easy shaping.   The recommended yarn is 50/50 wool and silk, but unfortunately the exact yarn is discontinued.  Remember, you can use any yarn with the same wpi (in this case 9) and get the right gauge and effect.  Try Crystal Palace Yarns Mendocino. 

Hesper Tam

Last but not least, enjoy the Hesper Tam by Wendy Poush.  The mohair in the yarn is what gives it the wonderful halo.  The pattern itself reminds me of church windows, and other beautiful Gothic things.  This would also look lovely in angora, or brushed cotton.   I'm thinking this could make a lovely chemo cap, too.  And wouldn't it be striking in a rich navy blue?

If you need more ideas for hats, check, the website of your favorite yarn manufacturer or distributor, or, of course, Ravelry.  There are several free pattern links on my Ravelry Charity Hats group.  I can't wait to see what you make in the next year! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One of Those Years

Well, it's time to look back at the year and assess the achievements and failures.  This has been a very strange year.

As the year dawned, I had just learned that one of my local yarn shops had been destroyed by fire.  Then I was invited to write a post for the British Campaign for Wool, which was a wonderful honor.  There seemed to be some balance to the universe, however slight.  My Gift Knits Kit Club was just kicking off, and the members were very happy with the first pattern and kit I sent them.  Then I severely injured my elbow moving furniture.  More balance.

Well, the universe wasn't done with me.  I learned I would teach at Rhinebeck this year!  In April I published 8 new patterns.  I was spending lots of time at the doctor's for the tummy, but happily living in the land of yarn. 

I had a few very uncomfortable tummy tests.  But in May, June and July, I maintained my teaching schedule and kept up my design schedule.  If I stuck to a liquid diet, I was well enough to travel.  August 1 my FIL Lou was hospitalized with extreme pain.  By the time he was discharged a week later, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer metastasized to his bones.  6 weeks later he was gone.

October was spent entirely on the road teaching, and culminated in a wonderful time at Rhinebeck.  Colleen and I met the Savvy Girls from the podcast, and shared a hug and a few moments with Kerri Steinmetz of KnitPurlGurl.  In a Toronto teaching gig, I physically crashed into Kaffe Fassett.

In November I initiated a group on Ravelry to knit at least one hat for charity each month in 2013.  I had surgery to solve my tummy trouble, and spent much of the month wishing pain pills were better at their job.  And then, right at the end of the month, the world lost Kerrie Steinmetz.

Now it's December, and I'm back on my feet.  The tummy is good, and solid food is amazing.  I think about Lou, I think about Kerrie, and I've been knitting charity hats.  My daughter, who has Asperger's, has been escalating in violence and aggression, was brought to the hospital by the police for evaluation.  And her frequent tantrums have gotten us thrown our of our apartment. 

She's back on her meds now, and things have calmed down.  We've found a new place, and we'll be moving after the first of the year.  I still can't make myself knit Lou's blanket, but someone is going to enjoy these hats.  I'm ready for a happy new year. 

Best wishes to you and yours.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ugly Hand-knits, or Halloween in December

Recently I went out to breakfast with my DH, and was slightly horrified to note 4 different hideous handknits within my view at the restaurant.  4:0 to the bad knitting.  Usually when I see hand-knitted pieces in public, I'm delighted.  And there was nothing to like about these pieces, so I started paying very close attention. 

There was a man walking a Black Lab mix in obviously hand-knit gloves in stunning yarn that appeared to be hand-dyed.  Not spectacular, but attractive enough to have caught my attention.  One in the good column.

Horrific cowl, knit in very pilled extra bulky acrylic, with impressive numbers of mistakes and inadvertent dropped stitches.  1:1

Puke-green scarf on a passerby that appears to be someone's first knitting project.  Every row was of a different length, and every stitch was a different size and shape.  2:1 on the bad side.  This was paired with a floppy hat in multiple mismatched yarns of approximately the same color, but different weights and fibers.  3:1 since I left the restaurant, and 7:1 for the morning.  Wake me from the nightmare!  What's going on?

It makes you wonder if there is a way to go back in time in knitting to find out what the story is.  When you're renovating an apartment, as you peel back layers of wallpaper, or pull up the floor, you see some of the history of the place, and see the choices made by previous owners.  You can see what the architect or previous interior designer had going on.  Where did the onslaught of ugly knits come from?  What were they thinking?  I'll never know what happened, but I'll hazard a few guesses.

1) People don't realize that sometimes a piece of knitwear needs to retire.  If it's pilled and misshapen, and blocking it and shaving it don't help, retire it.  You don't want to turn heads in a bad way.

2) Colors that are pretty in the store don't necessarily coordinate with your wardrobe, and a piece that looks good with a black pea coat may not look good with a plaid sport jacket.  It's fine to have a favorite scarf, but think about coordinating it with the rest of your outerwear.

3) If you're going to knit a small object in a fat yarn, like a cowl in super bulky, realize that every individual stitch is a huge percentage of the whole.  Mistakes will scream at you up close, and still be visible at a social distance.  These are not the mistakes to ignore!  Fix 'em when you see 'em.

4) Unless a pattern specifically calls for you to change fiber size and fiber type in the middle of a garment, don't do it without swatching, or at least looking at the different yarns in natural light.  Things look very different in the daylight than they do indoors.

The good news is that day was an aberration.  Life has returned to normal, and handmade knits that are lovely once again are the norm.  I'm glad you didn't see it.  It was frightening!

Monday, December 10, 2012

What to Give a Knitter for the Holidays

It happens every year: your loved one with a knitting hobby is the last one on your list, and you can't think of what to give them.  Why?  Maybe you're not a knitter.  Or maybe there's just too much knitting in the world to choose from.  What's a sure-fire gift for a knitter to cherish?
Never fear!  There are knitting gifts galore if you know where to look!  Start here.  As always, I recommend shopping locally as much as possible.  Our local knitting stores are the backbone of most area knitting communities, and the knitter in your life is probably well known to the staff of at least one of these establishments.  (They may even have a wish list on file!)

Knitting All the Day
The Savvy Girls Podcast is a knitting podcast by sisters Deborah and Melanie Gall.  Melanie is also a gifted singer, and has recorded a wonderful CD (click the link below the pic) of knitting songs from the WWI era.  It makes a great gift!  Colleen, my intrepid and magical assistant, gave me a copy during Rhinebeck this year, and I'm completely in love!  There's little chance your knitter already has one, and they're sure to enjoy it.

For the book lover on your list, The Vogue Knitting Knitopedia from Sixth&Spring Books is an extraordinary volume.  It has a little of everything a knitter needs - patterns, history, techniques, biographies, and more - all packed in one volume.  Every knitter will find things to love, and ideas to delight them.  The color photos, articles, maps and information will enhance the work of the most beginner and the most advanced knitters. Try your local bookstore, yarn shop, or favorite online bookseller to collect a copy.
Lantern Moon Ebony Knitting Needles
Every knitter loves to have beautiful tools that do the job well.  Few companies produce tools as beautiful and functional as Lantern Moon.  The needles at left are made of ebony, and are spectacularly beautiful.  The wood warms to the temperature of your hands, and the finish has wonderful action.  These needles, and most of their other tools, are not priced for bargain shoppers (the needles at left retail for around $24.)  They are fairly priced for high-end hand-made tools.  On the other hand, if they were cheap, they wouldn't be special enough to count as wonderful gift.  Lantern Moon makes a wide variety of knitting and crochet tools, widely available at local yarn stores.  You can also find their products at a variety of online needlework outlets.  Check out the complete line on

For many knitters, a yarn swift and ball winder are a pair of tools they would definitely use, but wouldn't buy for themselves due to the expense.  This pair of tools works together, with the swift holding large hanks of yarn and the ball winder spinning the yarn into balls without tediously hand-winding the balls.  Knitters who by their yarn at yarn shops and online outlets instead of craft stores often purchase yarns that are still in the hanks, and not yet wound into skeins or balls.  The photo at right is of a pair for sale on eBay.  Often you can find them in yarn shops and online outlets. Prices for the combination run from approximately $60-$175.  If you're not a knitter, you may want to ask for help in choosing a pair that are right for the knitter in your life.

If none of these ideas work for you don't despair; visit your local knitting store, and describe the knitter in your life.  Maybe you know they love to knit socks.  Maybe you know they knit for children.  After a short conversation, the staff at the knitting store will be able to guide your towards a gift that will delight the knitter in your life. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hitting the Knitting Wall

As many runners and other athletes will tell you, there comes a point in a long workout when your body refuses to comply with your commands.  Your legs feel heavy, your brain seems sluggish, and your coordination is a little off.  They call this moment "hitting the wall".  It's as if, while running, you ran into a wall.  Your forward progress is suddenly in jeopardy.

Well, my friends, I've hit the knitting wall.  Maybe it's the holiday baking, or the other prep for the holidays...  I've been fighting with some socks that are beautiful in my head, and even beautiful on the needles, but they won't come out to fit a human foot.  I'm sure there's a creature out there they will fit, but it's not a person.  Even if they would fit, they're kind of a pain in the but to knit.

My 2012 Rhinebeck sweater (yep, never finished) stares dolefully from the bottom of the knitting pile.  I've finished the back, the front, and 3/4 of the first sleeve.  It's lusciously soft, and I think it's beautiful.  Why isn't it finished?  I have no excuse.  It's a bit like when the dog comes to you with his leash in his mouth, and you still can't make yourself go for that walk around the block.  Sorry.  Maybe tomorrow.

I have hats to design for the charity hat knits of the month for 2013, and keep putting it off.  A nice woman sent in a hat pattern that she had written, and I haven't edited it, knitted it and taken a photo of it for the charity project. 

I have a blanket square that I'm supposed to knit, and I received the yarn, needles, and directions third-hand.  I hate the project, and the directions stink.  I have to rewrite the instructions to make a pattern I can use.  All told, this is maybe 90 minutes worth of work.  Not even started.

I find myself sitting down with my knitting and my coffee and staring into space.  The coffee disappears, and the knitting remains the same.  I promise myself a minimum number of rows, and that's all that gets done. 

The husband's slippers from last holiday that I've gotten 65% of the way through are still lingering at 65%.  They're in stunning yarns, and I just don't feel like it.

I don't know why I've hit a wall.  I just have.  Maybe it's just that none of these projects is fun for me right now.  All of them represent "getting it over with" even though in general I'll be thrilled with them when they're done.  Time to get over the hump.  Find some motivation.  Grow a set.  Or maybe take a nap, and start again later...

Sunday, December 2, 2012


This has been a very sad week for me as I learned of the passing of Karrie Steinmetz, better known as KnitPurlGurl.  Karrie blogged, podcasted, Tweeted, taught, and lived positive knitting support.  She also had a family she adored, hobbies, and was a tireless advocate for Autism and Asperger's Syndrome tolerance and understanding.  She died far too young, with school age children.  My heart breaks for her family.

To say we were close friends would be to overstate the relationship.   We Tweeted about knitting and Autism.  We emailed about knitting and blogging.  We smiled and hugged and talked at Rhinebeck, and we read each other's blogs.  But as an avid knitting professional and blogger, and the mom of a teen with Asperger's, she was an important voice in my life.  I will miss her on a variety of levels. 

If you're not familiar with her work, please visit her blog here.  Her patterns and podcast are still available, too.