Some Knitting Fun: Slouchy Cable Hat and the Irish Hiking Scarf

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sometimes when you are so busy getting ready for Christmas, you realize some horrifying things last minute.  In my case, it was Christmas Eve morning, as I was busy doing the final clean of the house in preparation for my mother coming up later that morning, and I realized a tiny detail.  I didn't have something handmade for my mother - and I really believe that she deserved something wonderful made by her favorite (and only) daughter for the holiday.  My Mom does so much for Suburb Husband and I - she is the most unflinchingly generous person that the least I could do would be to give her something made with love.

(In case you were wondering, we gave up on the "surprise me" quality of Christmas years ago.  I buy my own present from Suburb Husband and he tells me what he'd like to get.  With Mom, she did some major saves regarding paying for some plumbing systems work that would have been impossible to us to spring for, so we feel she wishes us "Merry Christmas" every time we turn on the water!  She still surprised me with some Talbots clothes I had fallen in love with, because she's an amazing Mom.  Have you not caught on yet?)

Stuck between rock and hard place with my limited time frame, I did what any self-respecting knitter would do, I hopped onto Ravelry and began crusing possible patterns.  I hadn't knitted her some nice hat/scarf combination for way too long, and with all the freezing cold weather we have been experiencing, I determined this was the time to bring out some of the seriously luxe yarn in my stash, in this case Cascade Yarns' Baby Alpaca Chunky.  It's 100% Baby Alpaca (so super soft and squishy) and since it was from their Paints line (color 9824 Forest Paints), I knew the various shades of green would look amazing with her pretty green eyes and the content would keep her warm in the prevailing cold and winds.

I found a lovely free pattern by searching on what hats other people had made with my yarn, and came across the perfect hat that I could whip out quickly - The Quick Cable Slouch Hat from Azure Knits.  I loved the nice fat cables in it, and it claimed to use two skeins (I had four).  The final clincher was that I was armed with the necessary needles - #7 and #10 circular needles with #10 double points for the final decreases.  In retrospect, I wish I had used a #8 and #11 since it would have been slouchier, but I was waved off by the warning that some people had found the hat too slouchy, and I had the horrific image of some kind of alpaca deflated balloon on my mother's head!  She and I would have liked it being bigger though since she actually wears hats the right way, namely with the headband across the forehead above the eyes, so it was just a natty little beret for her, albeit a very warm one.  I was done by the time we went to bed on Christmas Eve, so it's super fast!

But I had to block this puppy and all the knitting gurus use plates to block beret patterns.  (At least it seemed like that to me, reading blogs like Brooklyn Tweed, Jared Flood's stunning knitting blog.)  I quickly realized that this hat was definitely smaller than my Crate and Barrel dinner plates and bigger than my salad plates, so what could I do?  Swooping in to have the day was my grandmother's Franciscan Ware (the Desert Rose pattern which I think every family has a couple pieces of in the cupboard).  There are some really funky plate sizes in the older patterns I have a few plates between the dinner and dessert sizes (were they just small eaters?).  This was the perfect size for the hat - yay, Grandma Lorraine!

I did an immersion blocking technique (and it did release a decent amount of green, so it was good to do this technique) with some Soak no-rinse detergent.  It dried beautifully and I realized that I needed to find a good scarf pattern to use up those final three skeins!  I found an exclusive Ravelry free pattern, the Irish Hiking Scarf, that used the exact same cable as those in the hat.  Perfect! 

This also knitted up quickly, and I appreciated that the eight line pattern repeat was easy to memorize, so by the third cable I wasn't referring to the print-out any more.  With three skeins (and the final scarf length was about 54" which was fine for my more diminutive mother), I still need a decent amount of knitting time, but hey, this was our vacation and it was FREEZING out, so we made nonstop fires in the fireplace and watched Bones marathons with British BBC breaks for Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle on DVD and Masterpiece Contemporary on the DVR.  A nice immersion blocking for this one, and my model was ready to head outside (during a thankful balmy spell of around 45 degrees).  Wasn't it so convenient that she wore this nice teal sweater to go with her Christmas present??
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