Sunday, October 31, 2010

Current status on hats for U.S.S. Decatur

I just received an acknowledgement note that my package has been received and for those who are interested in this project, the newest blog post... with photos... from Adventures in Paradise is linked here.

My apologies for not posting more lately. I've had many not-good days of late. Several days when I was doing better, I worked on some front yard gardening... planting bulbs for spring and moving some roses from the back and side yard to the front yard. I can't wait until spring now! I feel like that old Mervyn's store commercial... I stand at the living room window and say, "spring! spring! spring!"

My BearMan has provided some hardscaping in the front yard which will be filled with flowers in the spring & summer...

There will be peonies, roses, a few iris, and tons of spring bulbs in the oval planter. I'm not certain what else will go there, but another climbing rose will be trained up the arbor on the driveway side when I find the "perfect" rose. The peonies and two of the roses were already on the property when we moved here. Surrounding the basement egress under the living room, more spring bulbs including daffodils, tulips and crocus, as well as cyclamen, bleeding heart, astilbe, and columbine have been planted. Except for the front corner where the existing azaleas remain... for now... very little sun falls in this area, so these are almost entirely all shade plants. The interior of the basement egress walls will be painted to help reflect more light into the basement, later this spring. Also later in the spring, after they have flowered and been pruned, the azaleas along the driveway, and those in the planter in front, will be moved to the property line, behind and to the left of the rose planter.

A second egress access is being constructed around the basement window on the other side of the front since I took these photos. When that is done, the other side of the front of the house will be prepared for more shade plants this spring & summer.

The hydrangea will have a new home as it was planted directly in front of the basement window, which had to be severely excavated to eventually install an egress window. By the front door is an "ancient" rhododendren. After it flowers this spring, it will be at least a third shorter. I've been "taming" it for a couple of years now. I still need to dig up the hostas and divide them. The area that is largely brown between the rhodie and the hydrangea now has been covered with a wild variety of bleeding heart so lush you cannot see anything but green and the little purple-red flowers through spring and summer. I'll keep some of it, but the entire area will likely be replanted with new shade plants once the planting area has been installed.

In addition to the gardening, on "better days," I've also been working on "behind" the scenes projects. But, I will try to do better posting... I'm working on getting all my photos backed up to a different drive, but I then have to export photos to a different folder to share them here...

It is hard to see in the front yard, but in the back yard, our neighbor has a maple tree that is almost in full fall color. The temps and weather have finally seemed to recognize that it is time to be cool and rain... I love this time of year!

Joy in the journey,


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hats sailing away...

I shipped off the hats this morning... along with a DVD of "Robin Hood: men in tights" and "Blind Side." Wish I could do more. If you've made hats or would like to send something else, and need the mailing address, please let me know. I'll be happy to send you the mailing address.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sailor Hats 1 & 2

I finished my hats for the U.S.S. Decatur sailors! They were both very fast knits... one day each! I was able to use yarn already in my stash for both projects: Knit Picks Swish Bulky in Tidepool (discontinued color) for the hat on the left, and Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Truffle for the hat on the right.

The first hat I completed is the "Waffle Hat" from the KnitHats website. I just wasn't confident after swatching that the hat would be of adequate size, so I cast-on 88 sts rather than the 76 the pattern calls for. I tend to knit tightly, but even after obtaining gauge with the suggested needle size... doing the math for the finished size of the pattern, based on the st/in measurement, just seemed on the small side. I have a 22.5 inch noggin, though, and was also concerned that "big head" guys might not have enough hats to choose from. Better too large than too small. You can fold the bottom up more to make the hat shorter, and the stitch pattern is basically a 2x2 rib, so it has plenty of stretch to fit pretty much everyone.

Still, I hate a hat so tight repairing "hat head" requires electro shock. When a hat feels like a tourniquet I simply will not wear it. I don't want it so loose it won't stay on or permits wind to blow up inside, but I don't want to require the millinery version of a shoehorn to get it on my head either. And I want a watchcap style hat to cover my ears easily, thank you, so I added an inch to the height.

My finished Waffle Hat measures 10" tall by 16" diameter and is very stretchy. It would easily fit a 24" diameter head. One full skein, and a portion of a second skein... less than half... on 5mm (#8) needles got the job done nicely.

My second hat was inspired by "Ed's Hat" from the Lion Brand Yarn website. However, that pattern was designed to be used with Wool-Ease Thick & Quick yarn... a super bulky. The yarn I had to use was Knit Picks Swish Bulky, not super bulky, so this was gonna require math to make it work. I despise math. I'd rather be shot than do math. Since I would have to swatch anyway to make my yarn work with this pattern, I decided to design my own. I've been toying with some ideas for "tutorial knits," using a project to teach skills, so I decided to make this a "sampler hat."

It is worked in the round, using the Magic Loop technique, my preferred in-the-round knitting technique. It could just as easily be made using DPNs (double point needles or "pins," as they are charmingly referenced in Euro parlance), or two circulars, if preferred. When I get the pattern worked up, there will be a tutorial version and a simple pattern version. If one already knows how to knit in the round, or how to do Magic Loop, they can simply follow the traditional pattern.

However, if one is a "knitting newbie," ready to progress from scarves and baby blankets to a hat and other "circle" projects, everything one needs to successfully complete this hat using the Magic Loop technique will be in the tutorial version. (Less the enthusiasm & motivation the knitter must bring to the project, of course.) If you've been looking for a small, fast, project to learn the Magic Loop technique, this tutorial will hold your hand through that process. After you've used the tutorial, I'd love any feedback you might have that you feel would have provided additional support to your success, or simply to make it even easier for you.

Because time is of the essence due to the mailing deadline necessary to get donations to their destination in a timely manner, it is necessary to delay the final edition of the pattern. I'd like to consider whether to add some photos and if I do, that will necessitate a second knit of the hat. Which is fine because I'm planning on making another for myself anyway.

The tutorial version will be written for "newbie" knitters, assuming nothing. Using larger needles and yarn will cause the project to go quickly, and no more than ten rounds of any stitch pattern comprises any part of the design. All based on variations of knit and purl stitches, it is only the sequencing of the knit and purl stitches that modifies the various textures of the stitch patterns in this design. Most are based on a "rib" type stitch pattern to provide maximum stretch to the design, which will make the FO (finished object) a great gift pattern. Two types of decreases are included, k2tog (knit two together) and p2tog (purl two together), and the design encourages the use of the Cable Cast-on while offering justifications for learning this skill.

I've decided to call the pattern, "Sampler Skills Watchcap," because it is a sampler of several skills and stitch patterns. Once the first hat is completed, additional hats can easily be customized using one of the stitch patterns through the body of the hat or any other multiple-of-four-stitch patterns that equally divides eight. Maintain the 2x2 ribbing at the top and the bottom, along with the stockinette and garter stitch section, but knit the section in-between in one or a combination of the stitch patterns of the original Sampler version. Or continue in stockinette or garter stitch or use an "any number of stitches" stitch pattern. Lots of variations for a weekend knit gift hat!

With the brim rolled up, this hat measures 18" in diameter and 8" deep. It has tons of stretch though, so it will comfortably fit a head at least 24" in diameter.

Might I also say... Knit Picks Swish Bulky is a dream to work with! SO soft, it works up quickly, "frogs" and "tinks" nicely, (there is no designing without a good supply of each), is superwash... which means it can be gently washed by machine... is one of the softest 100% wools I've felt, (love Merino), and with the textured stitch patterns, will be very snuggly and warm on cold windy days and nights. This hat takes a single skein to complete. I'm not sure why, or how, the bulky version is softer than the worsted version, but it sure feels like it is.

Okay. I'm off to request the mailing address to send my hats in. :-) 
(Lynne @ if you need to get the address too.)

Joy in the journey,


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Of ships, hats, & holidays

Elianastar: My stepdad was a career U.S. Navy man and I spent a fair amount of time on or near Naval Bases growing up. A goodly portion of my 8-10 year-old years were spent on the U.S. Territory Island of Guam, and my 13-16 year-old years were spent on the main island of Oahu, Hawaii. (The main island, not the Big Island.) The rest of my 7 to 17 years were spent within driving distance of a U.S. Naval base. My stepdad retired from the Navy my senior year, weeks before my graduation. As a result, I have a soft spot for those in the U.S. Navy. I hasten to add however, that my brother was U.S. Army Airborne, my husband was in the U.S. Air Force when I met him, my son-in-love is in the Oregon National Guard, and you don't spend any time near a U.S. Navy base without meeting your share of Marines... so I've got a broad support for the U.S. Military as a whole.

Which brings me to the point of this particular blog. I follow Wendy Knits blog and she posted a couple of days ago about a blog that she follows, Adventures in Paradise. The author of Adventures in Paradise has a daughter who is in the U.S. Navy. She will be taking command of the U.S.S. Decatur sometime in December of this year. It is her goal to demonstrate support for each sailor on the ship with individual gift boxes. Central to these gift boxes, she'd like to include at least one warm, knit or crochet cap, in Superwash Wool, but she has included a list of additional items that will be greatly appreciated by the crew during off hours. There are 278 sailors on board and any overflow of gifts will be passed on to other ships in the area. 

If you have kids or are a teacher, these sailors would love letters from kids! This makes a great writing/English exercise for students and will make the day of any sailor who receives the letters!

If you have the heart and will to participate, you can get all the details @ Adventures in Paradise. You do not need to be able to knit or crochet to participate... there are lots of other things that are requested, in addition to cash which will be pooled to purchase a number of things in bulk from Costco, particularly those things that do not arrive in sufficient quantity. However, if you do knit or crochet, or know someone who does, warm hats on a ship at sea will be profoundly appreciated!

Please note: All donations must be received no later than November 1, 2010, so time is of the essence!

If you need pattern ideas, Wendy Knits wrote a second blog that includes some optional pattern ideas. If you don't have a Ravelry membership, (and if you don't, that's easily fixed), here is a Google search of potential knit & crochet patterns to consider. If you are a member of Ravelry, here is a search of free patterns &/or patterns that can be downloaded via Ravelry.

When you are deciding on a pattern, keep in mind the conditions under which these hats will be worn: at sea, on the deck of a ship, often under very windy conditions. They either need to be of a design that will hug the head fairly well (don't make them too shallow so they can be pulled down over the ears and stay put), or have some sort of ties to secure them under adverse conditions. There are no color specifications, so unlike on the battle field, you can be a lot more creative with these hats than you can with those who must remain under camouflage conditions. 

Whatever hat you end up making, it must be made ONLY in 100% washable wool... no blends, no acrylic... only 100% washable wool. This means it will be labeled as either "washable" or "Superwash" and include the word "wool" and no other fiber content. This may be merino wool, peruvian highland wool, a nondescript wool... any wool of any kind that is washable/superwash and can pass the "burn test." If you have any questions about whether any particular washable wool is acceptable, perform a "burn test" on a small scrap of the wool. (Do this outdoors and have copious amounts of water nearby... just in case.) Basically, if it is very difficult to ignite, if it smells like burning hair, it it does not "bead up" or appear to "melt" rather than burn, and if it turns to black and hollow ash, it will pass inspection by the military. Include one yarn band for each hat and tape a scrap of yarn to the label in case it needs to be tested for suitability.

If you are at a loss or unsure, these are some safe yarns you can consider:
Cascade 220 Superwash
Lamb's Pride Superwash Worsted
Mission Falls 1824 Wool
Also check out the offerings from other vendors in the right sidebar under the heading "Gathering Fleece..."

You can also do a search on Ravelry for Superwash Wool... just make sure whatever you choose is 100% wool, no blend of any other fiber content. From there, you can check with your LYS (Local Yarn Shops) or do an internet search for resources that fit your budget.

If you've got any spare Greeting Cards, toss a few in with anything else you send... and toss in a book of stamps if you can. Or maybe consider grabbing an All Occasion greeting card assortment at your local department store.

Please keep in mind that there is very limited storage space on a military ship and factor that into your choices. If you'd like to add some of the other items to your donation, you might consider some of these:
Skip-Bo Card Game (my husband and I adore this game and it is more fun with more players)
If you choose to order from any of these links, you could have them delivered directly to Lynne... no extra shipping costs for you and no hassle getting them out for delivery. Just obtain her mailing address before placing your order.

If you can find your way clear to participate in this, in any way, let us extend our gratitude to you here and now. You will be making a huge difference in the lives of people who have voluntarily chosen to leave their friends and family in service to their Nation. We appreciate your generosity almost as much as they will.

Thank you for your generosity. If you aren't able to participate, please consider sharing this with someone you know who might.

Joy in the journey!