Back in November when I had started my Christmas gift knitting I was hemming and hawing over whether or not if I should knit teacher appreciations gifts or take a different crafty route (like sewing or weaving) and save the knits for the end of year. While contemplating on what I was going to do I figured I might as well cast on a cowl that was destined to eventually become a teacher gift anyways. A few weeks later I decided that I was nuts and why did I even need to think this over when it just made sense to gift the knits during the wintertime - when they would be appreciated much more than had I gifted them at the end of the school year, when summer was just starting. A complete no-brainer, right?
So I continued on with the aforementioned cowl, taking breaks here and there to knit on other projects and while I figured out what I was going to knit for the other teacher appreciation gifts. I had two teachers and the Kiddo's Education Assistant to knit for. One of the teachers I knew from last school year, the other I barely know as she's new to the school, and the EA has been with the Kiddo since kindergarten and has received a hand knit from me in the past. I was aiming for knits that seemed equal to the eye (if that makes any sense) as I didn't want anyone to think we (the royal "we", cause in reality the Kiddo doesn't think about small details like this) were playing favourites. But I also had limited time. So what to do?
I took notes on what colours the teachers wore the most, tried to find out what their winter coats looked like and what they wore with it, and most importantly, kept an eagle eye out for any hints of them wearing anything remotely knitted. I had scoured Ravelry for ideas, went though my pattern library to see if there was anything I really wanted to knit, and tossed the stash for colours. In the end I decided on two cowls and a matching hat/mittens set.
Unfortunately, unlike previous gifts, I didn't get to take photos of two of the finished knits. I didn't even get to take in-progress photos of one of them. The grains of time were falling way too fast and the last week of school before the winter break had arrived before I was ready. I was a knitting maniac and had managed to block and wrap the gifts just in time to pick up the Kiddo on the last day of school. It was crazy!
The knit gift that I didn't take a single photo of was for the Friday teacher. She wore a lot of black and grey with pops of cream, and to my delight I saw that she was wearing a knitted shawl and cowl. Because the time when the school day ends is mayhem, I never got around to asking her if she was a knitter. After much consideration I opted to knit her a Zuzu's Petal by Carina Spencer using a skein of Madelinetosh Vintage in Dirty Panther (a charcoal-y black) that I just happened to have in the stash. I wanted something elegant but not fussy. Something that she wouldn't have to constantly re-adjust every time she had to lean down to talk to a student. The pattern is quite clever in how it knits up and I was super happy that it was a quick knit. If my hands weren't feeling a bit crampy, I think I could have churned it out within two days. Maybe even a day? I had started it super late on a Wednesday night (re: it was 1:30am and I felt compelled to start watching a crime documentary) and had bound off early on the Saturday morning (early as in sometime between 7-8am when the Kiddo wouldn't stop harassing me about wanting to watch Ninjago cartoons). I did worry quite a bit that the colour I chose wasn't a good match for the pattern as you really couldn't see the lace unless you were close. I tried to take a photo of it to get a friend's opinion but my camera couldn't pick up anything other than the fact that the project was black. Even though it was a pain in the arse to block, I liked how it turned out in the end and hope the Friday teacher likes it as well.
For the Kiddo's main teacher I decided to knit what I thought would be an easy peasy and quick cowl. The easy peasy part is right, but quick? Not so much. I wanted to knit something easy but still looked impressive. To me that means a fancy stitch pattern that's easy to execute and that could be mastered after a few rows. Brioche totally fit the bill. I've always wanted to try brioche so I thought I would give Purl Soho's Brioche Cowl a try. Aside from being super excited to finally have a project that I could use up my balls of Knit Picks Chroma Worsted with, the main teacher just happen to always wear a palette of blues and greens with neutrals. It's like this project was destined to happen!
I did take a fair amount of progress photos of this cowl (posted on Instagram), as you can see in the collage above, because I absolutely loved how it was knitting up and I couldn't get enough of the colours. This pattern is really easy once you get the hang of brioche but it's far from being a quick knit. I think I had to tink back the first few rounds of the brioche part about four times before I realized that I was getting my rounds and colours mixed up. Once I got it figured out that the brown yarn was for knit rounds and the blue/green was for the purl rounds, the project finally became mindless and I was able to pick it up with ease and put it down without worrying about where I was at.
Two-colour brioche is so easy to knit up and I really enjoyed knitting this cowl, but I have to say, brioche kicked my butt. I'm not sure if it's because I was on a deadline and had other knits to whip up or if it was because each round consisted of over 200 stitches and I needed to knit the cowl to the height of 9.5", but I felt like I was stuck in a knitting black hole. I used a locking stitch marker as a progress marker to avoid the urge to constantly measure my work. I swear, it didn't matter how many inches I had knit, the cowl refused to get past the 5" mark. Luckily the Mister and I were engaged in a The Walking Dead marathon during this time and after what felt like forever (but really, it was the episodes leading up to the mid-season finale) I finally hit the 9".
I couldn't be more pleased with how the cowl turned out. Yes, I think I could have gone up a needle size or two; and yes, I was a little concerned that the cowl looked smaller in length than I had anticipated. After trying it on I concluded that the length was just fine, it was cozy and sat nicely with no floppy gaps at the neck. The way it doubled around the neck showed off the reversibility of the cowl beautifully. I enjoyed everything about this project (ok, so not the black hole knitting part) so much that I would like to knit myself a cowl. I'm happy to report that this gift was very well received and has even been worn in the classroom when the kids returned to school after the winter break! Success!!
:: The Deets on the Cowl ::
Pattern: Brioche Cowl by Purl Soho
Yarn: Knit Picks Chroma Worsted
Colours: Fossil and Pool Party
Needles: HiyaHiya Sharps Interchangeables in 4.0mm (US 6)
Ravelry Link: MisoCraftyKnits Chroma Brioche
The last gift I made was a two-fer for the EA, who we've known since kindergarten (and is seriously SO awesome!). I've knit her a shawl before so I wanted to gift her something different. I've noticed that when she's at the school she's very simple in her accessories, probably because she's more physically active with the kids and is one of the playground monitors. My immediate thought was a super bulky weight cowl. But something in the back of my mind kept telling me not to go that route. Ok. How about a hat? The EA has complimented my Here and There hat (designed by Veera Välimäki) several times in the past and I thought about knitting one for her. But the hat is slouchy and her head seems a little on the smaller side...compared to my basketball sized head. What if the hat was too big and ends up in the back of a closet somewhere? Yeah, not good. Yet my thoughts kept going back to a hat. So I went searching on Ravelry.
The criteria: the hat had to be knit in worsted weight or bigger and had to have some kind of interest to it. When I saw The Vermonter I knew I had a winner. Thing is, was that enough of a gift compared to the other two? Hmm...what if I knit it in something really luxurious? Nah. I wouldn't want the EA to have to bend over backwards just to wash it. Then a friend suggested I knit mittens (the island was having quite the cold snap at the time). Ooohhh...yes. Everyone loves having warm hands. Mittens it is!
I tossed the stash for chunky/bulky weight yarns but nothing stood out. I went to my LYS with specific yarns in mind but didn't see them in any colours that I could picture the EA wearing. Not to mention that I couldn't justify using a single ply yarn for a knit that could get manhandled from normal, every day use. As a last resort I headed over to Michaels, thinking I could always get a skein of the ever trusty (and machine washable!) Thick & Quick in my favourite colourway. To my utter dismay this Michaels location was completely out of Grey Marble. The shelves were overflowing with every other colourway except for Grey Marble. I even ransacked the overstock bins below the shelves and flagged down an employee. I was out of luck. Feeling defeated and somewhat desperate, I quickly eyed the other colours knowing I most likely will have to settle. That's when my eyes fell upon a stack of yarn that appeared to be inspired by the Hudson Bay colours. What's this?? The second I picked up a skein I just knew I had to have it. I snatched a second skein and didn't look back.
Once I got home I had a new game plan. The Vermonter hat was back on the table. I was going to make the hat AND mittens. Who can resist a matching set?? Who?? The very next morning I cast on the hat. If I had sat down and concentrated on working on just the hat, I'm sure I could have produced it within half an hour, an hour tops. Instead, to make it easier on my hands, I worked on the hat sporadically through the day. I still managed to finish the hat before the day was over and proceeded to make three pom poms in different sizes - for comparison sakes...and because the first one was so darn pretty.
I immediate cast on the mittens with the second skein before heading to bed. I had accomplished a mitten a day and was SO incredibly pleased that I didn't have put in any effort to get the mittens to match. I think I had to cut out a foot or two of yarn to get to the colour needed, but that's it. As for the pattern used, I looked through a lot of mitten patterns that used bulky/super bulky weight yarns to get a ballpark for the number of stitches used for each section. My friend Rebecca had also passed along the notes she uses for the mittens she knits for her markets, which was awesome as my hands are abnormally small and stubby and I couldn't use my size as any indication of what a typical hand length was. I had no idea how long I should knit these mittens. I kept second guessing the length and thought they were too big. Yeah, no. When I showed a few knitter friends the finished mittens they confirmed that the size was just right.
I didn't realize the put-up for this colourway was less than the Grey Marble (80 m/87 yds vs the 97 m/106 yds that I'm used to) and so I finished the mittens with literally a metre and a bit leftover. I absolutely love how this set turned out, so much so that I had to get more of this yarn to make myself a pair of mittens. Imagine my surprise when I found out that my Michaels was sold out already!! Luckily a friend managed to score me a skein at the location closest to her. Now if only I can find the time to knit myself that pair...
I'm really happy to report that this set was extremely well received and I've seen the EA wear the hat all of last week (minus the pom pom though, her kitty attacked it but she kept the pieces of yarn just in case it could be salvaged. It couldn't). I'm definitely putting this set as a possible go-to for future gifts. I've had a few acquaintances contact me about making them some mittens in this colourway, which I was happy to do. You'd think that after an additional two pairs of mittens I would be sick of them. Nope! I'm still in awe over the results. Which is good. I'll need that feeling for when I get around to casting on a pair for myself!
:: The Bay Set Details ::
Patterns: The Vermonter by Abi Gregorio and mittens were made up by going over several basic mitten patterns and notes from friends
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Stripes
Colour: Hudson Bay (610)
Needles: Knit Picks Rainbow Wood Interchangeables in 8mm (US 11) for the hat, 6.5mm (US 10.5) for the mittens
Ravelry Links: MisoCraftyKnits The Bay Hat and MisoCraftyKnits The Bay Mittens