That was the month that was

At this time of year, it’s traditional for friends, families and strangers at bus stops to tsk at each other and ask where the year went. Seems like only yesterday we were getting used to writing 13 instead of 12 for the date, and in a few weeks we’ll be writing 14. Not to mention Christmas. For me, it’s the rather odd experience of turning around and realising that November went somewhere, without my noticing and definitely without my permission. What happened?

Well, okay, I know what happened. The clocks went back and my brain checked out. It happens most years, when the dip in the light levels more or less shuts my brain down. I have a light box which I use, and various strategies to keep myself functioning, but anything above survival level has to be put to one side for a while, and that included blogging, despite my best intentions. On the plus side, I got a lot of crafting done, some of which I can talk about, and which I can link up to WIP Wednesday for the first time in ages.

I have what seems like a never-ending shawl on the go, of which more soon, but today, I’ve got my new hat with me.

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(as always when trying to photograph something vaguely purple/blue, the colours never quite come out right, but adjusting them only made it worse!)

Yes, okay, it doesn’t look much like a hat at the moment. It’s made flat and seamed at the end. The pattern is Phoenix by Aoibhe Ni, who designs using a technique she calls Tunisian Lace.

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If you’ve ever done Tunisian crochet, the basics are similar, in that you pull a load of loops onto your hook, then work them off again. The clever thing is that instead of the massively long rows that you usually get in Tunisian, these rows are turned through 90 degrees and regarded as stitches instead. It’s hard to describe, so Aoibhe has made a video explaining how it work, which is a must watch if you want to make her patterns:

I actually have a scarf that I received in a mystery swap made from her free pattern, Pax (this is my scarf – isn’t it awesome?) and I’ve been meaning to try the technique for myself for ages. So when I wanted a new winter hat that would keep my ears warm without making me look bald (which beanies always do), I decided to try it out. To my relief and delight, I can make the Tunisian-style stitches on my Etimo hooks, although the taller ones in the last row are a bit of a tight fit. But it’s much nicer than using a Tunisian hook, or even a regular crochet hook – once you get used to Etimos, it’s hard to use anything else!

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One thing I did have trouble with was counting. That’s not uncommon for me when I’m crocheting, as I’m easily distracted and so lose track of where I am. After having to rip out the first row twice, I decided that stitch markers were the best solution. As it’s a six stitch repeat, I put a marker every six stitches – that way, if I got to the sixth stitch but not the marker, I’d know I’d gone wrong! By the time I’d done three rows, I’d got the hang of it, and instead just marked the first stitch in each repeat and counted back when I needed to know where I was.

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The yarn is actually a pair of colourways by The Knitting Goddess, where the two half-skeins are mirror images of each other. They’re meant for socks, and in my hat, you can’t really tell where I switched from one skein to the other, but the stripes and the pattern have combined to give a rather lovely checkerboard effect. Normally stripes in yarn that’s meant for knitting has streaks of colour that are too short for crochet – you end up with blobs rather than stripes (see Friday’s FO for more on that!). But because the stitches for this are effectively very short rows, it’s created this rather neat checkerboard effect that I really like.

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It wouldn’t have happened with any other type of crochet, and it will definitely affect my choice of yarn when I make a Tunisian Lace pattern again – if I don’t want this effect, I need something semi-solid or solid rather than striped. The things you learn! My main concern at the moment is whether or not the hat will be as slouchy as I want – my gauge swatch was a bit of a quick and sloppy job, and I think it’s come out smaller than intended. On the other hand, the brim is just about perfect, which leaves me wondering whether I can block the body of the hat without stretching the brim too far. I’m thinking selective soaking and a few hundred pins might just work…

To see what others have been up to this week, have a look over at Tami’s Amis or click the picture below.

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16 thoughts on “That was the month that was

  1. All of your yarn colors are beautiful! I also have a never-ending shawl…I am hoping to “finish” it by Christmas so that I can gift it like I’m supposed to. We shall see!

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    1. Thank you! The actual thing is very lovely, I just wish I could capture it in a picture!

      Heh, I think we all have ‘must be done before Christmas’ projects. There’s frantic stitching going on all over the world at the moment πŸ™‚

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    1. There are definite similarities in the look of knit and tunisian fabrics, although I’d say tunisian is quite a bit thicker.

      The colours definitely make me smile πŸ™‚

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  2. What I do when I block hats is sew a length of waste yarn around the top of the brim in a running stitch first. Then I soak the hat and put it over a plate to block, and pull the waste yarn tight so the brim is drawn in underneath the plate (I always balance them on top of a vase) and doesn’t get stretched.

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    1. Ooh, cunning. My current plan is to block this flat, before sewing it up, but the same principle applies, I think. And I think I’ll try to keep the brim as dry as possible to keep the springiness! Thanks πŸ™‚

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  3. Interesting pattern. I started a Pax once, wonder where that went? I love the faux cable, might have to try and figure that one out. I’ve done normal cables in Tunisian, but these must be different, based on increases and decreases? But I have a project I ought to finish first… πŸ™‚

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    1. It’s sort of increases and decreases, and also Yarn Overs – the video’s the best way of seeing it. I haven’t don’t much actual Tunisian beyond the basic stitches, but I have to say that I really like this style of stitching – I might find normal Tunisian a bit of a strain now!

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