General, knitting patterns

Silly Hat Season (or what to do about lockdown hair)


Silly Hat Season (1)

Lockdown Hair Issues

I’m writing this post seven weeks into the UK Covid-19 lockdown and in our household I am relieved to say that so far we are fit and well. As an artist and designer, an excuse to sit around in my PJs all day making stuff and drinking wine was kinda my dream job so I adapted quite quickly to the new way.

However, a month in to social distancing and a few weeks past my regular hair cut appointment, a minor problem arose and some choices needed to be made:

  • wear a hat (yep, always!)
  • let it grow and use elastic bands (least favourable as most annoying and time consuming)
  • shave it off (and we have a winner!)

Wear a Hat

I did, with the help of Mr B, clipper it all off in the end.

But I do like a hat. I have an assortment of knitted beanies, baseball caps, boonies, a tweed flat cap, and a fedora.

And as the lockdown hair crisis options, listed above, are not mutually exclusive, and in my opinion you can never have too many hats, a bit of knitting was in order.

1940s Humour

I am a huge fan of 1940s knitwear and have an ever growing collection of books from that era. I am particularly interested in the innovative use of stitch type to create garment shape, and the economical use and reuse of yarns. While I was flicking through one of my favourite books the other evening (the hand written dedication in the front was dated 1943) I came across a section on hats. While the beautifully styled black and white photos showed dewy faced models in tailored outfits and serious expressions, the hats themselves were pure comedy.

It’s foolish but it’s fun

I was particularly drawn to the “Three-cornered Hat” described in the title as “It’s foolish but it’s fun” and had to have a go. Not least because the three styling options presented in the book (and notated as “there are three angles to every triangle you may remember; so there are three angles from which to consider this enchanting trifle of a triangular hat”) looked like some serious photo shoot fun.

I knitted my hat striping odds and ends of sock yarn (4ply) on 3.25mm needles. The instructions were simple (particularly when I had translated them to modern knitspeak):

CO 286sts, placing a marker to highlight the half way point (143sts), and work thus:

Row 1 and every row thereafter: *K2tog, work to 2 sts before the marker, k2tog, SM, k2tog, work to last 2 sts, k2tog. This is repeated until 6sts remain.

Nxt row: K2tog three times. 3sts.

Nxt row: K3tog.

Once finished the fun began in constructing the hat.

Folding the edges

The CO edges were folded in half and sewn together (the original pattern suggested crocheting them together). I then used a 3mm circular needle to pick up and knit 138 sts around the head opening and worked 7 rows of garter stitch before BO. (Again the original pattern suggested working a crochet border).

The result was indeed a foolish but fun hat.

When I showed it to my Mum she laughed out loud as apparently her Mum used to make her and her sisters this type of hat when they were children.

I can throughly recommend taking some time at the moment to create something whimsical and foolish. If the knitters of the early 1940s could maintain their sense of humour during a World War, then I think we can too.

I hope you are staying safe and well, wherever in the world you are.

Until next time…..


General, Knitting Know How, knitting patterns

Two handed Fair Isle (stranded colourwork) technique

Nicky barfoot presents (2)

Stranding with two hands

I thought it might be helpful to create a post to act as an aide-memoire to you lovely folks who have attended my introduction to fair isle workshops. So here it is.

No right or wrong with knitting, just what’s best for you

Of course there is no right or wrong with knitting. There are many ways of holding the needles and manipulating the yarns. Comfort and tension are always your main measures of success. However, learning to hold the yarns in both hands makes life a lot easier. Less tangle, less puckering and hopefully a smoother tension.

My apologies to left handers as what follows below is a right handed version (mine).

A right handed example

holding the background colour in the RH and contrast in the LH

The first photo shows how to knit from the left hand in the contrast colour (pink). I hold the contrast over my forefinger and use this finger actively to create the desired tension on this yarn. I also use this finger to push down on the RH needle, if needed, to help the catch and pull through of the contrast yarn to complete the knit stitch.

catching the contrast yarn and pulling it through

The second picture shows how I have taken my right needle over the top of the contrast yarn, hooked under it and pulled it through the stitch on the row below.

and repeat

The third picture shows a second stitch created in the contrast yarn in the same way.

back to the background

This final picture shows how I have carried the background yarn across the two contrast stitches I have created, to knit the next stitch from the right hand needle.

It is wise to keep your background yarns consistently in one hand (e.g. right) and the contrast (motif) yarns in the other. This greatly assists with creating a smooth tension and does help stop the yarns tangling.

Practice makes perfect 

If you are new to knitting with two hands I do advise you persevere with this technique. You may find it slow and cumbersome at first as your fingers get used to manipulating the needles and yarns in a different way. However, once you get a few hours of practice in to them you’ll find it becomes much smoother and does speed up.

Remember also if you are new to stranding and the results are not looking terribly even, a good blocking/washing helps the stitches and strands to settle. Also using a wool rich yarn such as a Shetland yarn will make your initial projects look much more pleasing (particularly after washing when they can bloom a little). Smooth, slippy and non stretchy yarns (some acrylics, cottons, merino) are unforgiving and are probably best avoided until you have practiced a bit first.

Some patterns to help you practice your technique

Kitty Beanie

Kitty Beanie

I have just published the pattern for this playful beanie in my Etsy shop. It is knitted using the stranding technique described above, in the round (no purl stitches to worry about!). More information on the pattern can be found by clicking here.

Hill Head Mitts

Hill Head Mitts

Inspired by my favourite coastal haunt, these practical mitts are also knitted in the round using stranded colour work. The pattern can be found by clicking here.

Happy stranding folks. Until next time…….



General, knitting patterns

How to make a knitted crown (and rock your inner May Queen)

As Spring has now sprung on UK shores (and we do have a royal wedding coming up) I thought it was about time I had my own flower crown. So I spent May Day embracing my inner May Queen by knitting an appropriate head piece. My idea was to adorn it with some wild flowers (weeds to some) not realising that most people were spending their bank holiday manicuring their lawns and verges. Thankfully I was able to find a few unkempt patches to gather a few daisies and buttercups which had managed to avoid the Big Mow only to end up in my fairy photoshoot!

Knit a crown
Yes, your majesty?

This crown is easy to make and involves a small amount of a double knit yarn (mine is shown in Sirdar cotton DK). You will also need a 3.25mm circular needle (or alternative to achieve the required tension) and a couple of stitch markers. I decorated the tips of my crown spikes, of which there are seven, with a metal bead. With a tension of 22sts to 10cm, the crown has a 48cm circumference and is shown on an average sized adult female head of 55.5cm/22in.

Working the rim

Cast on 105sts on to a 3.25mm circular needle and join to work in the round, placing marker to indicate the start of the round.

Work 20 rounds of garter stitch (alternating a knit round with a purl round).

Working the spikes

Now change from working in the round to working back and forth on each spike in turn while leaving the remaining stitches on the circular needle until needed. The spikes require a double centred decrease, an s2kp, which is worked as follows: slip nxt 2 sts together knitwise, k1, pass slipped sts over. 2 sts decreased. Please note that you will need to develop a suitable marker replacement tactic as the central stitch gets absorbed into the stitch in front and the stitch behind with this decrease.

Spike 1 is worked over the next 15sts:

Row 21 (RS): K7, place marker to mark the next stitch as the centre stitch, k8. 15sts. Turn work.

Nxt row (WS): Knit to marker, slip marker, knit to end.

Nxt row (RS): Knit to one stitch before marker, s2kp (rearranging marker to indicate the new centre stitch), knit to end of spike. 13sts.

Nxt row: As previous WS row.

Repeat the last two rows, decreasing two sts centrally on each RS row until 3 sts remain.

Nxt row (WS): Sl1, k2tog, psso. 1 st.

Cut yarn and pull through to fasten.

With RS facing, rejoin yarn to rim and knit next 15 sts repeating the instructions for Spike 1 to create the next and subsequent spikes.

When all seven spikes are complete, sew in ends and decorate as desired.

I threaded through some daisies and buttercups but the crown would look equally fabulous adorned with beads, buttons or embroidery. And for those of you who make your own Christmas crackers……..

knitted crown flatlay low res
How many ways can you decorate a crown?

I’d love to see what you come up with. Please feel free to tag me @nickybarfoot on instagram or post to my facebook page.

Happy knitting!