In gratitude for your company in this space and for the league of knitters worldwide whose generosity invites newcomers into the fold, I’ve added a new free pattern to the Whistling Girl collection today! Meet Kulshan.
She’s definitely the coziest hat I’ve ever made, and just the ticket for the blustery wet outdoors. I used a heavy worsted farm yarn that my friend Betsy sent from Bridge Farm in Maine, but the construction makes it simple to use lighter or bulkier yarns and to tailor the fit to the recipient’s head size. (Brooklyn Tweed Shelter would be a great substitute if you wanted less heft without sacrificing warmth; The Fibre Company Terra would make an amazing silky version…) The cabled band is knit sideways, then stitches are picked up for a crown in slouchy fisherman’s rib. The oversize crown traps heat and allows versatility in styling. Those buttons? Not just for decoration:
Now it’s… a snow bonnet? I’m not sure what this shape of headgear would rightly be called, but it’s useful if you need to guard the back of your neck against drafts or if you don’t wish to flatten the front of your coiffure. As for the giant pompon…well, why not? It was a bit of fun I couldn’t resist.
The contrast color in the pompon was a happy accident. I wanted to use every last inch of my 250-yard skein, but it’s really a large hat and a wimpy pompon simply wasn’t going to suffice. So I mixed in some Madeline Tosh from the stash that exactly matched the buttons from Jenny the Potter, and I quite like the balancing effect it gives.
I want to tell you about the stitch pattern on the brim. I’m calling it single honeycomb because it’s like the classic Aran honeycomb, except a single stitch is traveling rather than a pair. I spied it on a friend’s cardigan, a wonderful garment knit by her great-aunt in Ireland. (Let’s all pause for a moment to indulge in a bit of envy, shall we?) Every woman in their family has a sweater featuring panels of this motif, which they think of as the family cable. I cast on my Kulshan hat in part to swatch the single honeycomb for use on a little jacket for my new nephew (that pattern is probably next in the development queue once Winter Garden is out), and it turned out to be a perfect match for this yarn.
Koma Kulshan, or simply Kulshan, is the original name for Mt. Baker, the snowy peak that stands sentinel over the islands where I grew up. It’s only the fifth highest mountain in the Cascades, but it’s one of the snowiest places on the planet. The Mt. Baker Ski Area recorded 1,140 inches (2,900 cm) of snowfall in a single season in 1999, which set a world record. That’s worth an eponymous hat, I’d say.
I think you’ll find Kulshan knits up quickly enough that it’s not a completely unreasonable late addition to your holiday gift knitting roster, should it catch your fancy. But you may want to queue it up for decompression knitting once you’ve survived the frenzy, too. I’m told it’s going to be a long winter. Mr. G’s cousin in Arkansas says the oak trees hurled down bushels of fat acorns like shot this fall, and the last time that happened it was a granddaddy of a winter. My neighbor says there are birds coming in from the hills that never venture into the city—a brown creeper here on our very street, if you can believe it!—so there’s sure to be thick weather. So bundle up!
That walk I wished I could take? I didn’t get to make it a reality, but a scroll through my camera photos let me send my mind to the right place. Here’s a quick dip into the woods with October at her finest. It was the briefest of walks, a quick invigorating plunge between rehearsals of Poulenc and Pinkham at last month’s choir retreat.
I let the details snare me: the crisp air suffused with the heady sugar of maples, the glow of their sunstruck leaves, a natty row of little mushrooms standing at attention on a fallen log, the tracery of weathered remnants as the trees return to the soil.
Only in the woods, I think—oh, and at the beach—does decay seem so refreshing. There is no separating what is currently alive from what used to be, and I find something comforting and whole in that tangle.
The memories tided me over until the sun could come out again. And I have been seeking ways to puncture the shell of daily routine, to let some air in. Last night: a friend invited me to join her at Ann Patchett’s talk for the Literary Arts series. As invigorating as Ms. Patchett’s lively storytelling and passion for books was our decision to ride our bikes downtown. The temperature was nosing toward freezing, but why not? The pavement was dry, the night was clear, I had warm gear* and my friend had an extra headlight. It was the right decision. I may have raised some eyebrows hastily stripping off my layers of windproof waterproof fashionproof cycling kit in the swanky lobby of the Schnitzer (or perhaps not… this is Portland), but it was worth it. Oh, the exhilaration of zooming through the dark, muscles working, lungs burning, all senses heightened to the dangers of cars and potholes lurking in the shadows! Night cycling reminds me of night skiing, of weekends with the high school ski team when we’d tumble onto the bus on Friday evenings and drive up to the mountain to set gates under the lights for practice before the next morning’s meet. How the world seems to constrict as you race alone down the slope, how the scrape of your edges and the thwack of your mittened wrist on the gate are the only sounds anyone has ever made, how the ground falls away and you hang in the night air like one of the stars for a breathless span before the mountain catches you again on its cold white tongue.
A college friend and I once challenged each other to weekly skinny dipping in a Maine pond. I don’t know why we did it—the friendship was entirely sexless, so it wasn’t for the thrill of joint nudity, and we were never so close that we felt the urge to brand the fact of us on the universe forever by some unforgettable experience. It was a whim, a dare, a lark. We made it to November. But a good bracing plunge of some kind is powerful medicine. I’m kindling myself into a mood for adventure. What’s out there?
*Except for the gloves. I thought I’d be fine with lightly insulated biking gloves, and I was so wrong. My friend reported her hands were almost too warm in her twined colorwork lobster-claw mitts. Wool wins again.
I wrote previously that I’d had to revise my plans for Ada’s version of Winter Garden. When I loaded the Halloween photos, I found that I’d had the sense to document my blindered beginnings before I ripped them out to begin again. Now you, too, can appreciate how far astray I’d gone and marvel at the willful self-deception that drove me to persist through 28 two-color rounds on 256 stitches before throwing in the towel. Yes, friends, this photo is no sensible swatch:
… and out it all had to come. That Sap yellow-green on the brown is redolent of the ’70s—and not in a good way. The red is YOUD, as my small son would say, with his hands clapped to his ears and his face battening down for a gale. The purple is so dark it looks like some sort of ominous leaf blight. Rip, rip, rip. Here’s the replacement progression:
…and it’s making me so very much happier. In fact, this Nest brown I chose for the main color of the dress is so friendly and soothing that knitting the stockinet desert of the upper skirt was not at all the slog I feared it might be. Now and then I look down at it reclining in my lap and almost get a lump in my throat, like when a friend gives you a hug you didn’t know you badly needed.
Truth be told, the seasonal change caught me in the teeth this year. The most beautiful October anyone can remember has given way to a November lumping in dreary as can be, bitterly coupled with the end of Daylight Saving Time. I pride myself on being suited to my native climate and latitude, on not minding the short, dim, damp days. But this year only a concerted effort to think of lovely cozy things like wool and tea with friends and Advent calendars and Christmas stockings (oooh, must knit some for the children… fancy my chances? What if I use the fat leftovers from the sheep hoods?) and waddling babes in snowsuits and the scent of fir and cider and molasses cookies is lifting me above the gloom. I expect a good brisk walk would help me find my ley lines, whatever the weather. I’d like to step out my back door and hike a grass track up a high hill. Much as I esteem Portland, I do not have a city heart.
Even so, there is cause for cheer. Winter Garden is swimming along smartly on schedule. The first one not knit by me is winging its wild way toward a beloved granddaughter, courtesy of my fabulous test knitter Leslie. If you’re following this pattern’s journey to publication, make sure you check out Leslie’s bodice variation—she worked the fluted rib “wrong side” out, which looks entirely different but very handsome. Also, I’ve got a free pattern in the works! More on that as soon as I can rope my husband into pointing a camera at it…
I wonder how many years you have to spend knitting colorwork before your instincts are really worth trusting? I’ve had to make a course correction on my new Winter Garden after it forced me to admit that my initial sense of how to shift between reds, purples, and greens was just flat-out Not Going to Work.
From the moment I knit the first Winter Garden, I had a vision of an alternate colorway for my Ada: a friendly brown dress with the flowers done in greens and reds with purple accents. I had the yarn in hand. But then I started lining up the colors I’d chosen and doubting my wisdom. Artifact had too much black and too much yellow. Homemade Jam looked oddly dull against the other colors in anything less than full sunlight. I swapped them out and still there were problems. Birdbook didn’t contrast with Nest sufficiently, while Long Johns was too potent against Woodsmoke, and Plume bisecting anything was as disruptive as ants scurrying over your picnic cloth in the direction of the cake. Argh. Of course, I only admitted to myself that it had all gone awry after I’d cast on a few hundred stitches and stubbornly knit four fifths of the chart in the hopes that it would somehow all come together. Rrrrrrrrrip!
I went back to the original colorway (which had fitted itself together as neatly as you please) …
… and lifted half of it. You can always do something with green and purple, I believe. I upended my progression to keep the greens on the lighter background (Woodsmoke). And as a final touch, I restricted the red to the peerie bands and related the purple half to the green half by lifting Sap to divide the purples, Thistle to divide the greens. And then it worked. Oh, it’s not very traditional, and you could argue that Sap really is a bit jarring and ought to be darker to pair well with Birdbook, but it makes me smile.
I’m still not giving up on the dream of a colorway featuring Birdbook and Homemade Jam. Tent-Birdbook-Homemade Jam-Camper might be the way to go, maybe on Fossil and Postcard with Blanket Fort accents? Here’s the Loft color range so you can see what I mean. What progressions would you try?
Thank you to everyone who’s signed on to test Winter Garden! I’m very excited to see some versions of this little dress take shape out in the world.
I still don’t have anyone firmly committed to the largest (6/7) size, so if you’d like to take a whack at it, please let me know. After all the hours I logged last week coaxing the draft to life, it was a pure pleasure to close the computer and head for the woods this weekend.
We piled into the new family wagon and drove up the Columbia Gorge to hike Wahclella Falls with friends. The drive itself is one of the most beautiful stretches of interstate in the country — in fact I feel a twinge of guilt as a human being for having plowed a highway right up the middle of that splendor each time I travel that way. And this was a prime Oregon autumn day: maple leaves beginning to splotch yellow and brown, southbound sun casting the grasses in platinum, river licking chilly at the shaking alders, waterfalls in every trajectory from leap to piddle down the fir-clad cliffs.
And then the hike itself, the perfect scale for adventurous three-year-olds.
Jolly wore his new jacket.
Ada climbed everything. She is suddenly fearless, though not reckless.
(When in doubt, help your friend into the cave first.)
(And don’t attempt family portraits before lunch.)
First woolly bears of the season!
And now back to the rain. Nothing wrong with some knitting weather, though. I’ve got a mountain to scale with this 4/5 sample of Winter Garden for Ada. I’d love to have it ready by Thanksgiving…
Almost two years ago, I designed a little woolen jumper for my niece, Lucy, in Brooklyn Tweed Loft. Ada obligingly modeled Winter Garden back in January of 2012. (It doesn’t sound all that long ago, given that this is only 2013, but oh my heart, look how little she was!)
(This expression has endured, I’m happy to say. 100% Ada Lillian right there.)
Close-ups of the Fluted Rib bodice and the colorwork:
I had every intention of getting the pattern done soon after these photos were taken. But the sizing and, oh yes, the growing baby on board scuppered that plan. I’m happy to say I’ve finally righted the ship and Winter Garden is now ready for testing in sizes 12-18 months, 2/3, 4/5, and 6/7. I’ve altered the fit a little so it’s more of a bell skirt than a bubble, and it’s a longer length in the upper sizes. If you’re game for a project at
8 7 sts/” with some techniques that are probably new to you, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch! UPDATE: I’ve got folks willing to be formal testers for all sizes now. Thanks, everyone!
This title is not, I am happy to report, a description of my nasal passages. My timely application of tea, wool, and Richard Armitage seems to have done the trick and the cold is at bay. No, I’m talking about what the itsy bitsy spider climbed up. That song was Ada’s favorite as soon as she could talk, and now it is also part of her favorite dress. She obliged me by posing for some pictures, so today I can show you one of my crafty triumphs of the summer:
Can I tell you how much I love the Geranium dress pattern? I eyed the lovely versions appearing on Rae’s blog all winter and spring. Then I stumbled across the Heather Ross Nursery Versery fabric (psst… it’s on sale at that link!) at Cool Cottons and I knew what I had to do.
For me, the cutting out of the pattern and the fabric is the big hurdle to sewing. Once I get to sit down at the machine, I can steam along, but I need a push to get past that initial block. So I set myself the task of making not one but two of these dresses and finishing them before we went to New York for my niece’s birthday. Lucy got the really special treatment: Nani Iro Little Letter cotton lawn. My own child is not nearly pretty enough for this fabric. Don’t get me wrong; I think my girl is gorgeous. But Ada’s is a vigorous, uncurried beauty. Single gauze, ruffles, and daintiness in general are not for her. Lucy, on the other hand, has an impeccably curated wardrobe and submits gladly to hygiene and adornment. If ever a three-year-old could wear beautiful Japanese cotton lawn, she’s the one. This stuff was so lovely I could hardly bear to begin with it. I pictured it slurped into the guts of my sewing machine and mangled irretrievably. But fear has no place at the workbench and it does no good to make anything too precious. I held my breath and stitched. And it went beautifully.
Lucy got Version A, with the ruffled sleeves and the gathered skirt. (The fabric demanded it.) I wish I had a picture for you, but that didn’t happen while we were in the city. Ada got the more structured Version B, with the cap sleeves and the pleats and the pockets—definitely the pockets—which suited the cotton/linen blend of the Nursery Versery. I considered the sleeveless version, but I’m glad I went with the cap sleeves. I was afraid they might overwhelm her little shoulders, but that wild mop of hair balances out pretty much any width you might add to her silhouette lower down! Both girls got the 4T size in the hope of stretching the wear through next summer as well.
I never felt beyond my depth with this pattern and found it clear and educational. The one thing I’m left wanting to know is how the heck you’re supposed to finish a curved seam around those pockets. I opted for pinking shears because I couldn’t think of a better way to do it. But it felt so much more satisfying and professional to flat fell the skirt seams on Lucy’s dress. (Actually, I had to unvent something between a flat fell and a French seam to solve a disaster. As careful as I thought I was being with that delicate lawn, when I went to trim one seam allowance to set up the flat fell, I cut both layers for several inches. Ack! So I trimmed both allowances to 1/4″, cut a new strip of 3/4″, and stitched it on along the whole seam. Then I folded it over the original allowances, pressed them down, and edge stitched the resulting sandwich.) Help, sewists: what should I do about the pockets on the next one? Because there’s sure to be a next one.
I have a cold coming on. This is no surprise; Jolly has been snortling since last week and it’s hard to avoid catching germs from people who love to slobber affectionately all over your face and poke their fingers into your mouth. It’s another sign that fall is coming, despite the blasts of humid heat that keep interrupting the natural progression of the seasons. Here’s a story about the strange weather, tangentially:
Yesterday we had a rare—though not so rare this past month—thunderstorm. We arrived home to find a six-pound bag of epsom salts destroyed all over the bathroom. And the basement corner where we’ve piled our boxes of shelfless books looked as though it had been nested in by monster sea rats or possibly beavers of prehistoric size—boxes had been upended, corners had been gnawed off most of them, books were cascading onto the floor. We anxiously entertained the thought that, without the deterrent of the cat we lost last year, mice had moved in. A lot of mice. But Mr. G assured me that the scale of the damage was too epic to be the revenge of the little fellas I recently evicted from the garage. Maybe monster sea rats really had moved in? I mean, life at sea can’t be what it was for the rats, now that wooden tallships full of stinking bilgewater and offal are so thinly distributed around the globe. And maybe now that they’re holed up on dry land in our basement they missed the brine and that’s why they went for the salt bag? It took me an hour to connect the wanton destruction with the storm. Poor Lark hasn’t the neurological constitution to endure severe weather. Even with her family close for comfort, she’s a quivering, panting wreck if there’s thunder or even heavy rain. Home alone, she clearly tried to preserve her life by frantically burrowing for shelter, first behind the bathtub and then in the basement, shredding everything in her path. I am now seriously considering buying her a “thunder shirt,” even as I roll my eyes at the pampered pet culture that spawns such things. Maybe I could sew one myself out of Ada’s old swaddling blankets. I do feel for the dog, terrified as she must have been. And next time she could decide to take refuge in the yarn closet!
But back to my sinuses. Since this is a work-at-home day for me, I decided the best remedy for a nascent cold was a gurt big breakfast of poached eggs (from our friends’ chickens) on toasted olive bread (am I the only one who’s charmed that a slice from a good boule looks like a rabbit?) with a hillock of lovely golden chanterelles sautéed in butter and a pot of Townshend’s No. 10 Sticky Rice Pu-erh tea. Where has this tea been all my life? It doesn’t actually contain sticky rice, but the tea has been scented with nuomixiang, an herb that tastes exactly like it. It comes in little paper-wrapped “nests” that can steep forever without turning bitter. Also good for coddling yourself is a sumptuous heap of Brooklyn Tweed Loft. (Can you guess why I’m winding these up today? It’s something I meant to do about eighteen months ago…) But first I think I’m going to weave in the last three ends on my Moroccan Nights to get perfectly cozy. I’ve already queued up the BBC’s North & South on Netflix. Being under the weather isn’t all bad.