Knit hat with swirls

One reason I knit is to challenge myself. I come up with my own patterns and every project I do utilizes a number of new skills. This time I was overly ambitious. It was my first time making a hat, knitting in the round (with circular and double pointed needles), doing k2,p2 ribbing, and stranded colorwork.

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I started this project almost two years ago, and didn’t touch it again until I finished it over Thanksgiving break last year. I ran into several setbacks along the way, so what you see in the photo here is actually my fifth attempt (not counting all the failed cast ons when I ran out of yarn, and the starts when I forgot to properly join the ends when knitting the the round and it ended up loose and sloppy. Including those might have made it 30, but I didn’t count.) I eventually figured out that when doing long tail cast on, the strand in back uses twice as much yarn as the one in front.

I don’t think I prefer one over the other, but there are certain advantages of circular needles over double pointed needles. One is that you don’t have to worry about your work sliding off the ends of the needle. Casting on is also more straightforward with circular needles. I started the hat with double pointed needles because my circular needles were too long. I switched to circular needles after adding the second color, because the fabric had gotten thicker and was threatening to slide off. I still had to pull the extra length of cable out between two stitches, and adjust it as I went along.

When I first attempted k2,p2 ribbing months earlier, it looked messed up, so I scrapped that idea. This time, I kept at it and realized that it always looks messed up for the first three rows or so, and then it starts to look like k2,p2 ribbing.

This hat was based on the one shown in the Learn to Knit Fair Isle videos by VeryPink Knits, but I wanted to come up with my own stranded colorwork pattern. It’s actually pretty straightforward; just make your design on a grid. Each square corresponds to a stitch. The problem I ran into was getting it to fit with the total number stitches, when repeated. (K2,p2 requires a multiple of 4.) It hadn’t occurred to me that I could do a decrease and reduce the number of stitches to an odd number. I ended up making a different design, which is the swirl that you see now.

Since I wasn’t following a pattern and didn’t bother with gauge, I made it harder for myself. At first, I thought 84 stitches would be big enough for me, but it wasn’t, so I took it apart and tried 108 stitches, which ended up far too large. This was after I had knit several rows of ribbing. That’s why gauge is important!

A lot of knit hats look longer than they are wide. The length isn’t so much a problem, since you can always fold up the extra. I was more concerned about the width, because I wanted my hat to feel comfortable when worn. I figured if it was too wide, I could make the rest shorter so it would be stopped by my head before it could cover my eyes. I settled at 100 stitches, but I think 96 stitches would have been fine. I now wish I had made it 3 rows longer, since I like having my ears completely covered.

Here’s a note on measurement. (Pardon my weird drawings.)

It’s common to see instructions for measuring the circumference of the head like this: Going by that measurement would yield a hat that ends up too tight, because most people wear a knit hat like this:
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I haven’t decided what to make for my next project, but now that I’ve done stranded colorwork, I’d like to tackle intarsia.

Knit dress for stuffed animal or doll

The reason I made this dress for Claire was that I had bought some yarn from Daiso. The skein was wrapped in plastic so I didn’t feel it until after I got home. That’s when I realized buying it was a mistake. I use acrylic yarn because it’s cheaper than wool or cotton, and it’s soft enough for me. Unfortunately, this acrylic yarn felt rather rough. I realized it would be uncomfortable to wear against skin, making it unsuitable for humans. On the other hand, a stuffed animal wouldn’t be bothered by it.

I don’t recommend this yarn for anything other than children’s crafts, such as for hanging things with. If you’re looking for low cost yarn to knit or crochet items to be worn, you’re better off buying it at a craft store because when there are discounts, you could get better quality yarn for a better deal than $1.50 for 45 grams.

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Claire in her dress.

Like my other knit projects, I did not use a pattern for this dress. I did not want to follow a pattern because there was little chance of finding a pattern that would fit this bear. Instead, I browsed free patterns for doll dresses, trying to figure out the general approach to knitting a dress. I didn’t have much luck, since they all showed different approaches and none had a ruffled skirt. There was one that was knit from bottom up, with the front and back sides done separately and then sewn together. That gave me some ideas. If you’re looking for a general approach to knitting a dress like this, I’ve included mine below.

I actually started this project back in April but set it aside because until recently, I thought of knitting as a cold weather craft. In July I acquired a bunch of yarn from my mom, and was motivated to learn how to crochet because she had some unfinished pieces. Just like how I learned to knit, I learned to crochet from watching videos. (The people who make the videos are much better at instructing than my mom, who expects me to pick it up simply by watching her silently crochet at full speed.)

After learning to crochet a simple flower and rose, I wanted to crochet another project using the white yarn. The only problem was that it was held up by this project, so even though it was the middle of July, I picked up my needles again and started to knit.

Since it had been three months since I last knitted, I had forgotten where I was, but thankfully I had taken good notes at the time so I was able to pick up where I had left off. I had the rest already planned, so I was able to follow the pattern without having to figure it out all over again. I was concerned that I had forgotten how to knit, but to my surprise, I still remembered. I was a bit slow when it came to a slip, slip, knit, but still knew how to do it.

I was hesitant to have a white bear wear a white top, so I hoped to add a red trim around the neckline even though I wasn’t sure how to when I first started this project. I also thought of making red cap sleeves, but that appeared too challenging, so I was content with keeping the dress sleeveless. Since I had just learned to crochet, I decided to crochet a border around the neckline. I wasn’t sure if I had enough red yarn to also add a trim around the armholes, so I thought I would have to leave them plain.

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Without the trim around the armscyes.

After adding a border to one armscye, I knew for certain that I didn’t have enough yarn to do both. Then I got the idea to only add the trim to the front, since that’s the side you’re more likely to see.

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The backside

When I first started this project, I wasn’t sure how far up to sew both sides of the back together. I hadn’t thought of casting on some more stitches to make a buttonhole band, although later I learned that I can pick up stitches to make one. I figured it would be okay to sew hooks to the back because the wearer is a stuffed animal, so it’s okay if it doesn’t close all the way. Having it secure enough is also fine, since it’s not likely that she’ll be moving around vigorously. Now, if this were for a toy that a child plays with regularly, having a proper closure would be important.

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I used hooks to fasten the back. They don’t keep it closed as well as I’d like.  I might try to add a button closure in the future.

How to make it: the general idea

Since dolls and stuffed animals come in different sizes, I’m not sure how useful this particular pattern will be. Instead, I’ll give you the general idea, and you can adapt it for your own doll or stuffed animal.

  • This dress was made from the bottom up, then sewn together in the back.
  • First, I figured out how many stitches go around the bear’s waist. (The widest part.)
  • In order to make ruffles, you need to start with twice as many stitches as you want, then decrease them in pairs. I multiplied the number of stitches by 2, and then added two more for sewing the ends together. I knitted until I reached a satisfactory length for the skirt, then decreased the stitches, and then knitted a few more rows before switching to the white yarn.
  • I kept knitting with the white yarn, until I reached the bottom of the armholes (armpit area?). That’s when I divided the top into the right backside, front, and left backside.
  • Decrease as appropriate to make the armholes. I did the front and right backside, leaving the left backside alone for now. (After completing the right backside, I did the opposite of that on the left backside.) You’ll want to keep it wide enough for the straps.
  • Then I made the neckline according to this video, except I decreased in each row, on both sides starting from where I had cast off, to make the neckline curve.
  • After completing both sides of the neckline, I sewed the front and back straps together at the top.
  • Then I sewed the back of the skirt together, and sewed hooks to the back. If you want, you can sew on buttons and pick up stitches to knit a buttonhole band.
  • Lastly, I added a crochet border to the neckline and armholes.

I hoped that was helpful if you were looking for the general idea of how to knit a dress. If you have any questions about the project, please leave a comment and I will try to answer it.

Hat with bear ears

After buying the lavender yarn, I thought of making Lee Bay another sweater. I was planning to make the bottom edge ribbed, and give stockinette stitch another try. I wondered if I should make it a hoodie, but then decided to make the hat separate, and that’s what I ended up making. It took me at least four tries before I got it to work.

The hat does make him top heavy.

He looks so adorable with the big ears! The hat makes him top heavy, so he falls over easily when wearing it. 😀

I first made the ears, by making a smaller version of the ears in this pattern. Then I was inspired to make the hooded part by this pattern for a hooded scarf with cat ears. Since Lee Bay’s ears are on the top of his head, I needed to make room for them in the hat. Otherwise, it would just look lumpy. That’s when I looked up how to make holes in knitting, and came across vertical button holes. That was just what I needed!

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Lee Bay is all snug and warm now, except for his bottom. His shape isn’t quite right for pants. Maybe the next thing I should knit for him is a onesie? 😛

It took me a few tries before I got an adequate number of decreases, so that the hat fit around his ears without extra bulk. Even though it was advised to use the tails to reinforce the button hole, I ended up not doing that, because it made the hole too tight for his ear. Besides, I wasn’t going to actually use it for a button, so it wasn’t going to be subjected to lots of wear. The hole also became tighter after I sewed the ears on.

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The ears often like to get pointy on their own, giving him cat ears (or horns). 😛

Lastly, I used mattress stitch to sew both halves of the hat together. It is a bit snug, so if I were to make another one for Lee Bay, I would add another stitch to both halves.

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There is a visible line where I had taken it apart but put the stitches back on the needle in the wrong orientation. I’m learning.

I had actually finished making this three weeks ago, but for the past two weeks I have been extremely tired, which is why I haven’t gotten around to posting this until now.

My Third Knit Project: Bow Knot Scarf

DSCF7567qI had never seen a bow knot scarf until I came across a video tutorial for one on YouTube. Immediately, I knew I wanted one. I ended up watching five videos, which all showed it slightly differently. What made things trickier was that they all used different sized needles and yarn from what I had, so I had to come up with my own pattern. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the style of the scarf in the two English speaking videos. Luckily, the video in Arabic showed it quite clearly, so I understood how it was done even though I don’t know Arabic. I also watched a video in Spanish, which I can sort of understand, which demonstrated a much more elaborate version of the scarf.

My favorite scarf was the one in the Russian video. I noticed that she always slipped the first stitch, and did a different kind of stitch for the last stitch of each row. Since I don’t understand Russian, I had no idea how the last stitch should be done, or even what it’s called. I did a Google search for variations on a different last stitch in each row, and slipping the first stitch, and after more searching, I came across slip stitch selvedge edges. Sure enough, the edges of her scarf looked nice and neat, as opposed to bumpy, so I figured she was doing some kind of selvedge. However, it didn’t look like any of the styles I found. It appeared closest to the French style, but still not quite the same. (Maybe there’s a Russian style?) If any of you understand Russian and/or knitting and can tell me what she’s doing at the last stitch in each row, I would appreciate it.

DSCF7570qFor my scarf, I decided to just slip the first stitch purlwise, and knit the last stitch of each row. At first I wanted to make the narrow part in seed stitch for a different look, since many of the videos had that part ribbed, but didn’t feel comfortable doing so because of the selvedge, so I continued it in garter stitch. If I make another one, I will give seed stitch a try.

Since I didn’t have a pattern, I had to improvise as I went along. I often wasn’t sure if something was the right size or not. I ended up making it 24 stitches wide (using medium yarn weight #4 and size 8 needles), which works for me. If I were to make another one, I might add another two rows to the narrow (split) part. If I’m happy with the result, I might post the pattern.

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Here’s how it looks worn. (The photographer did not tell me it was on crooked or that there were wrinkles on my shirt. :/ But he had a cold, so I don’t blame him.)

For the first split part, I didn’t have another set of knitting needles or a stitch holder, so I used some disposable chopsticks (that I had sharpened using a pencil sharpener) to hold the stitches. It worked well enough. Since the chopsticks weren’t perfectly smooth, I didn’t have to worry about them sliding out of the stitches, but that made it not easy to get them in and out from the stitches. I also had to transfer the stitches back onto the needle when I was ready to knit that part again. Meanwhile, with double pointed or circular needles, I could start knitting right away. I bought more needles before I got to the second split part.

All in all, I’m quite satisfied with what I’ve made, but I would like to knit another one. Since making this scarf I have learned different increases and decreases, so I would like to try them and see if they look better than what I’ve done here.

My Second Knit Project: Stuffed Animal Vest

For my second knitting project, I decided to make a vest for my dear old plush bear, Lee Bay. I chose a vest because Lee Bay has stubby little arms that don’t really need sleeves.

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I started by casting on 30 stitches and making a rectangle for the backside of the vest. Since Lee Bay is proportioned like a gummy bear, his backside requires more material to cover than his front.

To make the front, I started with the right (his left) side. I cast on 14 stitches and decreased them as I went up to make room for his arm. On my first try, I forgot to add the button hole, inadvertently making Lee Bay a she-bear. (I’ve always thought of Lee Bay as a he, but have been uncertain about it in recent years. I’m being silly.) I ended up redoing it because even though garter stitch doesn’t have a “wrong” side, it wasn’t until afterward that I noticed that the cast on stitches looked better from one side than the other.

I didn’t watch this whole video on knitting a baby peacoat, but from the parts I saw, I was introduced to casting on additional stitches after starting the project, which is what I did for making the parts that go over his arms.

I decided to use another one of those wooden beads for the button, since it really doesn’t matter how secure the button is in this case. I learned how to knit a one row button hole from this video. I had to experiment several times to get the correct hole size, because the hole got wider as I made subsequent rows. (When I first completed it, the yarn above was still tightly wound around the needle, but after adding more rows, the fabric could stretch.) Consequently, I had to decrease the size of the hole, so that it wouldn’t be too loose for the bead.

For the left side, I did the opposite of what I had done for the right side. Then I sewed all three pieces together. I didn’t realize how much stretch the knit fabric would have, so if I were to make something like this again, I would cast on fewer stitches, since this vest doesn’t fit as snugly as I had hoped, but it’s good enough.

My First Knit Project: Headband with Flower

In all honesty, I never really had much interest in knitting, until now. My little cousin showed me how to knit (using chopsticks) about seven years ago, but I never really got it. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to take up knitting, and it was only for the sake of having something convenient to do (that doesn’t require intense concentration or many components) while I have to be somewhere that I didn’t really want to be.

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The headband was made so that the flower is worn on the right side, but it covered the bear’s eye, and I thought it looked better on her with the flower in the middle.

On that rainy flooding Thursday last December, I decided to try knitting. Prior to buying yarn, I had watched several beginning knitting videos on YouTube, so I felt ready. I was confused for a while about casting on because there were many videos showing “how to cast on,” but they each showed a different method and didn’t specify which one they were showing. That left me thinking, “I thought it looked different…???” Anyway, this was the video that made casting on the knit way clearer to me. Later, when knitting the flower, I learned the long-tail method from this video.

Since my cousin had successfully knitted a coaster using chopsticks, I thought I didn’t really need knitting needles, so I was cheap and didn’t buy any. I had bamboo chopsticks and metal ones, and I preferred the metal ones. This is what I ended up making. I learned how to do stockinette stitch from this dude. I wasn’t happy with the stockinette curl, so I took it all apart.

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My first successful attempt at knitting, using chopsticks. I took it apart.

It wasn’t until I tried making a larger project that I realized the difference between knitting needles and chopsticks. Knitting needles have a point and then remain the same width all the way to the end. Meanwhile, chopsticks are more blunt at the tip and gradually taper, so the ends are wider and the stitches made at the beginning can’t be slid down the length of the chopstick. Since it wasn’t convenient for me to go to the store, I asked my sister for knitting needles for Christmas.

I started this piece not sure what it was that I was making. I thought of it as just practice, so I cast on ten stitches. Perhaps a stuffed animal would get a scarf. I decided to do seed stitch because I thought garter stitch didn’t look that attractive. Seed stitch looks interesting, but it required intense focus, since I needed to keep track of when to knit or purl. After a while it did become more automatic and I eventually found my rhythm.

Close up of the flower.

Close-up of the flower.

When I decided the practice strip was going to be a headband, I wanted to adorn it with a flower. Unfortunately, most of the tutorials were for crocheting flowers, or the knitted ones were a lot more advanced than what I was capable of. Luckily, I came across this tutorial for knitting dogwood blossoms. It was straightforward enough for a beginner like me to follow. Although the flower is quite pretty, it was too large for my project, so I modified it to make it smaller and five petaled. When I was securing it onto the band, I playfully wondered if that wooden bead would fit, and was surprised by how good it looked in there. (I had gotten a bunch of those wooden beads many years ago in a discount bag of craft supplies, and had no idea what to do with them, so I’m happy I got to use one.)

I am happy that my first project turned out nicer than I thought it would, and it actually looks quite cute when worn.