Monday, July 8, 2013

The train hat (finally)

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a busy day, so I'm posting A DAY EARLY!  Woo hoo!  If all goes will with tomorrow's stuff, next week I'll fill you in.  Suffice it to say for the moment that it's soft and sharp all at the same time.

Last week I discussed my knitting adventures and finished up talking about a Sockie which is knit in the round with DPNs (Double Pointed Needles).

I've been teasing you for a while now about this train hat, and now it's departure time.  Take your seats and have your tickets ready.  If you're in a sleeper car, keep your clothes on until after your tickets have been punched, thankyouverymuch.  We don't want a repeat of last month's incident.

I mentioned last week that Steve's coworkers keep getting their wives pregnant.  No, I don't think they've taken a bunch of train rides in sleeper cars, but those folks at Model Railroader are all big train buffs, so you never know.  That could be what happened.

Every year they go to a bunch of houses of Model Railroader employees and friends to see their layouts.  They make a day of it with breakfast and lunch out in area restaurants, and there's lots of driving from house to house because they're all scattered.  I usually don't go to any of the other houses, but I'd been to lunch before because it's relatively close.  Milwaukee folks: they go to Saz's.  If you haven't been, go - it's good food!  This year our stop was one stop away from lunch.  I stayed home and baked cookies and set out drinks and snacks and stuff (because I like being a hostess that way), and after our stop was over I rode with Steve to the next stop then to lunch.  After lunch I went to the remaining stop, but after a big, tasty Saz's lunch I kinda wish I'd gone back home to take a nap.  It was a very long drive there and back.

Anyway.  At lunch I got wind of the imminent pregnancy.  She had about three months left, and this was February, I think.  Three months really isn't a lot of time to determine a gift and to knit it, especially with someone who is as slow as I am.  Everything lately takes me a long time to do.  I blame Fibromyalgia and insomnia.  So that night (after the nap that we both just had to take), I went onto Ravelry's website to look for patterns.  That's easier than combing through my books, and there are a LOT more there.  Ravelry has thousands upon thousands of patterns that are either references to items in magazines or books or are downloadable for free or for a fee.

To give you an idea on what this is like, I just typed "baby" into the pattern search bar.  There are 21,400 crochet patterns and 38,892 knit patterns.  That's pretty overwhelming, right?  Fortunately for any search there are refinements:
  • With or without photo.  This is big - why would you try a pattern you haven't seen before unless you're having fun?
  • Craft - Crochet, knit, machine knitting, or loom knitting
  • Availability - Free, purchase online, purchase in print, Ravelry download, or in my library (what you've already downloaded).  So if you only want to see free patterns - one click turns over 60,000 patterns down to just over 17,000.  Nice feature!
  • Category - Clothing, accessories, and stuff like that.  Also very helpful.  If I want to knit a garment, I don't want to look through a bunch of afghans.
  • Attributes - Colorwork, construction, crochet techniques, and stuff like th...wait... "Mature content" has 28 for a search for "baby".  Must investigate.  brb.  Okay - a few baby blue risque items (lingerie and a flogger of all things) and baby doll nighties, but most of the rest of them are breast baby hats that promote breastfeeding.  So when the baby is wearing the hat and breastfeeding, you see a boob.  That's brilliant!  Not appropriate for a coworker's wife you barely know, though.
  • Gender/Age/Size/Fit.  There's also an "Ease" option in this box.
  • Weight of yarn.  This is good if you're looking for a project to do with a particular yarn in your stash.
  • Yardage.  Also good for that stash yarn.  You'd hate to be in the middle of a breast cancer awareness pillow and find out you don't have enough pink.  You'd never find the exact same shade (dye lots are a pain), and then one boob would be a different color than another, and everyone looking at the pillow would suggest you go get a mammogram.
  • Meterage.  I'm American.  We don't use the stinkin' metric system.  (Actually, I do when it comes to beads, but not with yarn.)
  • My notebook.  That's a personalized thing for patterns you've saved to your notebook.
  • Pattern source type - Book, magazine, website, etc.
  • Hook size for crochet.  I guess this would be if you only had one or two hooks or had a favorite you're itching to use.
  • Fiber - Acrylic, alpaca, bamboo, wool... Well, now we're just getting picky.  There's not a lot populated in this box for my search, so I don't think many patterns have this labeled.
  • Needle size for knitting.  Same as for the hook size, I guess.
  • Rating - What other Ravelry people have rated.  Only a few patterns in this search are rated, and I find that surprising.
  • Difficulty.  What fun is that?  :)
  • Ravelry designer - Yes/No are your only options.
  • Language.  This is great if you don't speak other languages, but again, this field must not be entered much, as there's one Danish pattern and 25 English patterns out of over 60,000.
  • Other search options I'm not going to list.  They're all in one box.
Wow.  I never looked down that far before.  If I had known that before I started typing them all out, I would have reconsidered my approach.  Once I got to "Yardage", I felt I was committed.  Look before you leap, my friends.

So you can get that list of patterns whittled down to a manageable size in no time.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to knit, so I looked around for a while.  I found some very cute animal hats, but Steve wasn't too keen on them.  He said, "Is there anything with a train on it?"  I was able to find a few things that weren't too cutesy or Thomas the Tank Engine, but I didn't want to do a full sweater or an afghan, since there were multiple colors used in the cutest ones.  I hadn't done colorwork yet, and I was pretty afraid of it.  In the book "Sweater Quest" by Adrienne Martini that I still want to review, she talked about working with color and holding one color in each hand, and I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to figure it out.

I settled on the Choo Choo Child hat by Deborah Tomasello.  I ordered the yarn online because I couldn't find Fingering weight yarn in enough solid colors at Michaels.  I figured it'd be easier and probably cheaper to order online.  The recommended yarn is wool, but I didn't want to use that just in case the baby had allergies.  I've had some wool allergies in the past, and I was concerned about my own itchiness as well.  I found a good alternative, but there was no sky blue.  Seafoam looked pretty close, but when it was delivered I was a bit dubious.  We decided to try anyway, as I wanted all the yarn to be the same brand to make sure that if something went wrong it'd be me, not the yarn.

Then it was time to actually knit.  This made me very nervous.  Apart from cuffs and neckline of the sweater I showed you last week, I hadn't worked with different colors in knitting.  That sweater actually doesn't count because the whole row was done in the same color, and this hat has different colors in the same round!

A while ago I bought the Knitting Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face, Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask for the Kindle.  I downloaded it onto my iPad, and it's been very useful.  I'm rarely far away from my Pad.  I did a lot of reading on colorwork and weaving the unused color in while knitting, and I knit a small test piece with larger yarn and bigger needles.

However, I couldn't put it off forever, so I finally got started.  The bottom of the hat is ribbing (K2P2)  with the knits in one color and the purls in another.  I didn't have to worry about weaving the unused yarn in for these rows, and it went surprisingly well.  The yarn kept twisting, so I turned to the Knitting Answer Book.  Unfortunately the solution was to NOT twist the yarn.  Ha ha ha.  Well, I tried it, keeping one yarn to the left and one to the right and paid attention to where I put things down, and it actually worked.  Color me surprised.

The next few rounds were just one color.  Yay!  I flew through those.  I was a bit surprised that I didn't have many problems with the thinner yarn and the smaller needles.  There are only 4 needles for smaller in-the-round projects, and I guess I was elated that there was less to juggle.  I did have to be careful of leaving the loops in the middle of the needles, though, instead of near the edge.  I had a few drop off.  Fortunately I was able to scoop them back up.

The actual colorwork started with the train wheels.  As I suspected, I had a bit of trouble weaving the unused yarn in as I worked.  You need to do this so there are no big loops on the inside of your piece that can pull during wear.  I guess that can mess things up.  The difficult part is "catching" the unused yarn in the working yarn so it's trapped between two stitches.  It can show through a little, and if you pull too tightly on the unused yarn it can cause misshaping in the piece.  I think I didn't pull TOO tightly, but I should have been a little looser because the hat doesn't stretch much.

Unfortunately the "don't twist the yarn" advice doesn't work with weaving unused yarn in.  You have to twist it to get it to catch.  Eventually I realized that I needed to untwist it manually at the end of each needle or I would go crazy.

I had a bit of a problem figuring out the decreasing at the top of the hat, but fortunately the designer, Deborah Tomasello, was just a Ravelry message away and provided help.  She's very nice!  The top looked very cute.

One final thing was needed - filling in some of the details with the duplicate stitch.  I could have done three or more colors while knitting the top part of the train, but the pattern suggested not doing that because it would make that part too bulky.  So I grabbed the iPad and looked through the Knitting Answer Book and learned how to do duplicate stitch!  It was a little tricky because the light blue (seafoam) showed through the black, but I improvised and did long stitches down the length of the smoke stacks where necessary.

You're either on the edge of your seat waiting for the pictures, or you've wandered off by now.  Hopefully you're still with me.  One of these days I'll be able to explain things concisely, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Before I show you the pictures, I do want to say that I changed the colors of the train a little.  We wanted it to have colors more realistic to "prototype" trains (that's what they call the full-sized ones).  Also, the green was a bit close to the seafoam for comfort.  At the top it looks nice, but the cab was just thin lines that might not work with colors that are too similar.

Taaaaa daaaah:

All done up the seafoam doesn't look too green.  Yay!

I sure hope that was worth the wait and that it will fit this child's head.  :)  It's supposed to be for 6-month-olds.  I asked my cousin Dawn how big her baby's head is since she was about the same age (or a bit older) than 6 months, and it seems like it would fit.

So now that I've done the "reveal", here's a link to Deborah's pattern so you can knit your own Choo Choo Child Hat:  It's only $3, and (once you know what you're doing), it's not that hard.


  1. LOVE THIS!! Great Job!! -- Abby

  2. Mama of the hat's recipient here...Goodness! I had no idea how much strategy went into the hat. That makes me appreciate it all the more! It really is a cute hat and I can't wait for The Sprout's melon to get big enough to fit into it! I never would've guessed that this was your first foray into multi-colored knitting - you did a great job!

  3. I love your sense of humor and all of the asides in your writing. The hat is adorable!


  4. What a beautiful little hat! You are so talented.
    Love, Sewsoon

  5. This post almost gives me enough courage to try this hat! Soon I hope!