Monday, April 11, 2016

Louise Walker's Wolf Headdress

Louise Walker's Wolf Headdress
link: Ravelry page
[ In Esperanto ]

At the request of the Next Generation, I've been working on this project from Louise Walker's book, Faux Taxidermy Knits.

You've got the book in hand.

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front)
The work is rated "intermediate", and I think that between the Fair Isle multi-color knitting and the final construction, that's about right.

The book contains some typos, or what I think are probably typos:
  1. Materials list: calls for a set of US 11 (8mm) straight needles.  In the "Boucle Falls" section, the instructions call for you to knit using US 10 (7mm) needles.  I did it with the US 10 needles and that's what I'd recommend.
  2. "Top Wolf Piece", row 56: it should be "p20b, k5b, p24a, k5b, p20b."
  3. "Boucle Falls": after you've obtained 6.5 inches of knitting, you're instructed to knit 22 stitches and put the remaining 23 on a stitch holder.  This is the new row 1, but then you're given instructions for rows 2, 4, and 5.  There is no row 3.  I recommend that you simply knit all stitches for row 3.
  4. Then, in the next section of "Boucle Falls", it tells you to knit the other section, referencing rows 1 through 4.  Then it tells you to repeat rows 4 and 5.  Repeat rows 3 and 4 instead.  Knit until the entire piece measures 16" (not 8" as instructed) -- in essence, so that the second fall is the same length as the first.
  5. "Front Ears", row 4: it should be "p7a, p4c, p7a".
Hat Base / Bottom of Snout
In the "hat base" section, round 4 tells you to "place 20 sts onto scrap yarn, k1, p1 across the remaining 6 sts."  Then on the next row, you're supposed to "[knit] over the scrap yarn."  This part confused me greatly.  I think that it would be a lot easier if you did it like this.

First, don't place 20 stitches onto scrap yarn.  Knit 20 stitches using the scrap yarn and make sure it's a contrasting color and texture.  Leave a long tail and don't tie it.  On the next row, k1, p1 using the original yarn all the way through.  Finish the hat base pattern.
Knitting using scrap yarn

Knitting over the scrap yarn
Now for the "Bottom of Snout" part, what you're going to do is pick up the stitches on either side of the scrap yarn.  Louise recommends using US 6 needles to do this, because it's easier, and I'd recommend it too.  You'll end up with 20 stitches on either needle, and they'll be slightly offset: if you've got the top of the hat facing away from you, the top needle will have the left-hand-most stitch (look at the picture on page 46 to see what I'm talking about).
Stiches picked up
So now you can pull out the scrap yarn and you'll have a big hole in the hat as per the picture on page 46. 

The gap
Turn the piece around so that the top of it is facing you and follow the instructions (put the right-hand-most stitch that's on what is now the bottom needle onto the top needle and then purl it and the next stitch on the top needle together).  You'll end up with this:

Gap purled together
And you can continue with the rest of the pattern as indicated.

Lessons Learned
The biggest issue for me (as a high-level beginner) besides the hat base/bottom-of-snout situation was the Fair Isle knitting.  I used the yarns for which the pattern called, which were Rowen yarns - mostly an Alpaca cotton mix, but also a Boucle yarn that was British sheep wool.  Side note: the Alpaca yarn is amazing.  Soooooo soft.  I don't usually work with high-end yarns like this.  It was expensive, but worth it.

At any rate, the yarn likes to cling to itself.  So the primary thing I learned was that when it came time to twist the yarns behind the work, that I needed to stretch out the work flat on the working needle and make sure I twisted very loosely.  The first piece I made was the hat/underjaw, and because I didn't twist loosely, the jaw ended up being puckered.  I was able to smooth it out with blocking, as I did with the ear that ended up being smaller than the other ear (but be careful with that iron: I ended up burning the one ear a little).

I haven't made up the final headdress, including the stuffing, yet.  I'll finish up this adventure with another blog post, provided that it turns out to be educational, which I am absolutely sure it will, because I've only ever knitted one other stuffed item (a bear) and it was terrible. Onward!

Sunday, April 10, 2016



Okay, so it's been a while again.  The problem with blog posts is that they take a long time to do properly, and I just don't have the time.  But I've got a little while on a day off to talk about something I don't think I've talked about here: knitting.

It's fun.  It's not too terribly hard and yet is complex enough (depending on what you do) that you're always learning something.  And a lot of the time, it requires intense concentration.

I like this, because when I'm intensely concentrating on something, it means that I am not thinking about work.

In Esperanto green, of course!
If you hadn't heard about it, there was a terrific campaign, "25 000 Tuques", to knit hats for Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada in winter.  I can only imagine what it would be like coming from Syria and stepping off of the plane in Quebec in winter.  What a shock!

Generally speaking, this campaign was organized around local groups who'd knit and then take hats to drop-off points, but as you can imagine, there were a lot of international knitters, so there was an address to which people (like me) or groups not in Quebec could mail hats.  It got crazy; the lady in charge, Danielle L├ętourneau, had to go to the post office every day to clear out all of the boxes.  I sent eleven hats.  It would have been twelve, but the Next Generation wanted one of them, which will come in handy if we ever leave Hawai'i.

The campaign's closed out now for the season (the first group of refugees finished arriving in March), but if you're interested, check out the website above (or the Facebook page).

Cable-knitted Easter Egg
Next project: Easter.  I saw a Facebook link about Arne and Carlos, who are two fantastic textile designers in Scandinavia. They posted a blog post (complete with embedded YouTube tutorial) on how to knit easter eggs.  I love this idea: I (and eventually we) could knit one or two each year and eventually have a basket full.  Instead of a standard row-by-row description of what to do, they posted a chart, which I liked a lot.  It involves Fair Isle knitting, which requires some gentleness, so my first egg turned out pretty puckered (in short, you're switching between colors, and to keep the yarn from drooping or catching in the back, you occasionally twist the yarns together, but if you do it too tightly, it puckers the cloth.  I knitted a couple of those, then thought, "hey, I just did a cabled hat for 25000 Tuques, what if I did a cabled egg?" and ended up adapting their chart to make a pattern to knit a cabled egg for my husband as an Easter gift.

Well, next up: I bought Louise Walker's book Faux Taxidermy Knits because, of course, how could I resist a book with "taxidermy" and "knit" in the titled?  As expected, the Next Generation paged through the book and immediately requested a wolf headdress, which is one of the intermediate patterns.  "Well," thought I.  "I'm probably an intermediate knitter by now."  Well, I'm not, but I'll blog about that separately, because Ravelry doesn't have a blog function, and I've got a lot to write about this pattern and what I've learned from it.  Onward!