Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Richard's hat

This was a Christmas present for our friend Richard.
Richard's hat.
Richard likes hats. Indeed I read Hamilton's Hats by Martine Oborne to him and he spent some time pointing out the hats he shares in common with Hamilton from the book's flysheet. Eventually though, Richard was forced to concede that Hamilton has more hats than he does. I suspect it is only a matter of time before poor Hamilton is outstripped as Richard's hat collection grows.

I have made hats for Richard in the past, including a Victorian gentleman's sleeping cap on teeny, tiny needles. He is a big chap, with a large head (as far making hats are concerned) and with time being short before Christmas, I decided to think big. Big yarn plus big hook or needles, meant a fast project which was important if Richard was to receive this hat for this Christmas rather than next!

With time being short, I decided I had to work from my stash with hook or needles I already owned. I didn't have time to trawl through my many pattern books or Ravelry, trying to match up my available yarns with potential hats, so I decided to wing it. I had an image in my head, did a little swatching to see if it worked and get an idea of gauge. I did a bit of maths and I was off.

Richard's hat is a pointy, cone shaped hat following a medieval styling but worked in crochet rather than knit. It is worked from the crown down to the brim. front post stitches run down the increase lines forming vertical lines and stopping at the brim. A turn up brim has been added complete with a contrast stripe with spike stitches in the stitch that would have held the front post.
Richard's hat being modelled by Richard.
Ravelry Link - http://www.ravelry.com/projects/jules101uk/richards-hat
  • Worked on a 6mm hook for a 60cm head.
  • Hat length, from point to brim = 26cm.
  • Brim turn up = 8.5cm.
  • Gauge 10cm = 10.5 stitches x 7 rows.
I used Palette Collection 073 (Hobbycraft) from my stash. This is a listed as a bulky weight yarn, but it is not particularly fluffy or lofty and consists of three fairly tight plies, so I found it worked up nicely on a 6mm hook. I used a denim colour, but added burgundy for a contrast stripe.


Round 1: using magic ring to start, ch 3 then work 5 tr into loop. ss into 3rd ch to close loop (6st).

Round 2: ch 3, 1 FPtr into same stitch. Work 1 tr, 1 FPtr into  each tr from previous round and join with ss. (12 st).

Round 3; ch 3, *work 1 tr , 1 FPtr into next the st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into the last stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (18 st).

Round 4: ch 3, *work 1 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (24 st).

Round 5: ch 3, *work 2 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (30 st).

Round 6: ch 3, *work 3 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (36 st).

Round 7: ch 3, *work 4 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (42 st).

Round 8: ch 3, *work 5 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (48 st).

Round 9: ch 3, *work 6 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (54 st).

Round 10: ch 3, *work 7 tr, 1 FPtr, 1 tr.* Repeat between  *’s around. At last FPtr do not follow it with a tr, just join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (54 st).

Round 11 - 21: Repeat R10.

A brim can add a lot of variance in sizing, making it a useful feature in a gift where you don’t have a head to measure.

Work brim as follows.

Round 22 and 23: ch 3, work 1 tr in each stitch, joining with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch. (54 st).

Round 24: In contrast yarn, ch 3 then *work 7 tr, 1 spike tr, 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. After last spike, do not follow with a tr, but join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (54 st).

Round 25: Still working in contrast yarn, ch 3 then work 1 tr in each stitch, joining with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch. (54 st).

Round 26: In original working yarn, ch 2 then work 1 dc in each stitch, joining with ss into 2nd chain of starting ch. (54 st).

Cut yarn and weave in all ends.

Magic ring - this is a loop of yarn which is crocheted over and pulled tight to close the hole that would otherwise be left at the crown of the hat. Start by laying the working yarn over your left index finger and looping the yarn around your finger twice. Pinch the yarn together to hold the loops in place, then poke the hook through the double loops. YO, pull back through the loops, YO again (giving 2 loops on the hook) and slip the first YO over the second to form the first chain. Work the remaining stitches in the starting chain, then work the first proper stitch (in this case a treble) into the double loop.Work remaining stitches for the first round into the double loop of yarn, then pull gently on the yarn end to close the loop. Work the join to close the first round, then crochet as normal.

FPtr - Front post treble stitch - YO, insert hook from front to back between the posts of the current and next stitch from the previous row. Push the hook from back to front, between the posts of the next stitch and one after, so the post for the next stitch from the previous row is lying across the hook. YO, pull yarn back through the post giving 3 loops on the hook. Work the rest of the treble stitch as normal.

Spike treble - Work a treble stitch into the top of the stitch two rounds below the current working round, creating an elongated or spike stitch.

Richard's hat - from the back.
The pattern as listed will give a very big hat to fit a large head (60 - 62 cm) complete with a wide contrast stripe. Fit is not exact and increasing the turn up at the brim allows the hat to be worn on a smaller head, including my 56 cm head but I found it very bulky. If making this hat for a smaller head, the following modifications work well:-
  • Stop the increases at round 8, giving you a working stitch count of 48 which at this gauge should fit a 54 to 58 cm head.
  • Alternatively for 58cm head, use 7 as your repeat count and stop increasing when you have 49 stitches at the brim, be warned though, this will give a slightly more rounded hat.
  • Work 11 rows from last increase to start of brim.
  • On the brim, only work a single row (including spike stitches) in contrast yarn.
I was very pleased with how the hat turned out and I think it went down well with Richard. Dave liked it too and asked if I could make one for him, hence stopping to work out how to make a smaller version. I'll have to update with pictures of Dave once I've had a chance to block the smaller hat.

Copyright 2014 Julie Spriddle. All rights reserved.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Of carols and alpacas

This is the weekend before Christmas and this month seems to have flown by. We've done most of our gift shopping online this year and are still waiting for a few of them to arrive, but this is in the hands of couriers or the postal service so there isn't much we can do about it. Instead, we're settling in to enjoying the festive season proper and that means lots of family time.

Today started slowly as usual, but with plans for some carol singing this morning. We are in the habit of being out of the house fairly promptly on Saturday mornings for M's dance class, even so we were maybe 10 minutes later than I'd have liked for heading out. We were greeted at the local common by the pastor from across the road who was bearing a tray of extremely cold 'hot' non-alcoholic mulled wine and mince pies.

M didn't recognise the mince pies for what they were and helped herself, while I took one sip of the cold mulled wine before handing it over to Dave to finish off. Dave left us too it, so M and I made small talk. I finished M's pie when she discovered the filling was not to her liking and M found a biscuit to eat instead.

Dave still hadn't returned when the singing started, so we muddled through as best we could. M was asked which carol she'd like and duly suggested Jingle Bells, which everyone agreed was a good choice for such a frigid morning. And boy, oh boy was it cold today! We sang along and M joined in, obviously very pleased her suggestion had been taken seriously. M's next suggestion was Away In A Manger, which went well too.

After a while we made our apologies and said thank you, before heading back to the car to try to warm up. Dave was standing by the car, having walked to a local supermarket in search of quiche for our lunch.

We bundled into the car to drive over to Toft Alpaca Farm who were having an open day today. We've been before so knew the format, but excitement was in the air as M anticipated seeing alpacas.

Alpacas outside the cafe and visitor centre at Toft.
We arrived much later than I'd hoped, so decided against going on a walk about the farm, instead choosing to stay close to the cafe. M played outside on the lawn or near the pond, with one of us in close attendance as she did so. Friends of ours showed up. We chatted. Had lunch. I bought some knitting needles. Father Christmas showed up on a tractor which amused M no end, especially when he dropped his bucket of sweets!

And then we walked an alpaca, the highlight of the visit.

We've done this before, so I'd already primed M with the do's and don'ts. The introductory talk was much the same as usual.

  • Do not get near the hind quarters or put your hand up the alpaca's bottom. While not aggressive, if surprised alpacas will kick and although unlikely to result in broken bones, it will hurt.
  • If your alpaca tries to break free, let go of the lead. Do not try to hold on or you may be dragged off your feet. The area the alpaca is being walked in is fenced in, there is nowhere for the alpaca to go and a staff member will retrieve it for you.
  • Do not wave your hand towards the alpaca's head, they don't like it and will shy away. Instead, bring your hand in from the side and under the head to stroke the neck or shoulder. Alpacas like fuss and cuddles, taking lots of them providing you don't startle them.
M chose a small, white alpaca this time; previously she has chosen feisty animals so it was a bit of a relief to get a rather placid one today. We walked and other than stopping to stare at its friends every time we passed the neighbouring field we did OK. When the alpaca froze, I'd give it some fuss and make encouraging sounds which would get it moving again.
Walking an alpaca is the highlight of a visit to one of Toft's open days.
M was ecstatic. Even her hat falling off didn't dampen her spirits, although the poor girl looked frozen after fifteen minutes of leading an alpaca around a field.

We led the way inside towards warmth and a hot chocolate, much to M's approval.

It seems we were not the only home educators present, as we were recognised by one family and I spotted another one, nodding a greeting.

M was very enamoured of the stripy paper straws that came with our hot chocolates, which it has to be said were not that hot but went down very well regardless. The straws reminded M of Humphrey's ("Watch out, watch out, there's a Humphrey about!") and she insisted on taking a straw home with her. The straw was used in a project to build a Humphrey later this afternoon.

We sat and drank our chocolate, making room for another family at our table where we talked about knitting, toys, dinosaurs, Christmas and how much fun we'd had on the farm. M played with some toy horses she'd been carrying in her backpack all day, the horses gaining some admiring comments from the folks we were sharing a table with.

I did a few rows of crochet. It was nice.

At home, an exhausted but mentally buzzing M designed her Humphrey while we brewed tea, then we all finished the afternoon with a piece of home made gingerbread cake that M and I had made yesterday. The cake was yummy, hitting the spot with all of us.

In all, a good if very cold day.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Some Christmas treats

In addition to writing Christmas cards and making paper chains, Sunday was a day for making sweets.

My mother and aunt are in town this week and will be visiting us, which calls for us to have something sweet on hand to offer our guests. It is also my last week at work before breaking for Christmas, meaning I need to take in some sort of confection.

I chose peppermint creams for the latter because they are so easy to make.
Peppermint creams, intended for work colleagues.
These are a tried and tested recipe based on this one, but I decided to do star shapes this time around.
Two egg whites and about a box and a half of icing sugar yielded a lot of mints.

Supermarkets do not sell suitable peppermint extract only heavily diluted 'essence', so we bought ours from Holland and Barratt.

No baking required here, but the mints need to be either refrigerated or put in the freezer to set both the fondant and chocolate.

M helped with rolling, cutting and placing on trays.

I made festive rice krispie treats in readiness for our visitors.
Festive rice krispie treats.
I melted 320g of marshmallows together with 150g of butter and 3 tablespoons of cocoa. The marshmallow mixture is added to 7 mugs of rice pops and mixed with a wooden spoon.

The krispie mix is shaped into balls, then a teaspoon of melted white chocolate is poured over the top. The krispie treat is finished with a red M&M.

M helped here as well, but not as much as she'd have liked as I was well aware how much chocolate and sugar she'd consumed by this point!

Friday, 5 December 2014

C is for Candle

Christmas preparations are in full swing in our house as we throw ourselves into the festive season. Following on from looking at angels and baubles we moved onto candles.

In addition to talking about the significance of the advent wreath, M had a go at making her own candle wreath from a paper plate.
A candle wreath.
This was made with cutting help from Daddy, but the sticking and colouring was all M.

In the meantime I'd had this idea that it would be fun to somehow imprint M's artwork onto a candle. My thinking was that it would make a good Christmas gift for the grandparent types in our respective families.

I took to Pinterest to look for an appropriate method for getting M's artwork transferred onto the surface of a candle and eventually settled on this 'tutorial'.

From the pictures it looked so easy.

Ahem, lets just say pictures can be deceiving as this one was harder than it looked!

The idea is to get your small person to draw onto a piece of tissue paper, which is wrapped around the candle. The tissue is covered with greaseproof paper and heat is applied via a hair dryer. Remove the paper and voila! The image should be imprinted on the candle.

What the tutorial doesn't make clear is that the image is not transferred from the tissue paper onto the candle. What actually happens is the melted wax seeps through the tissue paper, so that when the wax hardens the tissue is held against the candle under a thin layer of wax.

Believe me, both Dave and I did quite a bit of head scratching trying to figure that out before I had the 'Aha!' moment.

To be absolutely clear for my own benefit should I decide to do this again, what you need:-

  • Tissue paper
  • Felt tip pens
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Church candles
  • Tape
  • A piece of normal paper
  • A hair dryer
  • A mug that you don't mind getting wax on
  • A cork mat to protect your work surface
  • A teaspoon (optional)
  • A combination of persistence and patience
To allow your child to create their masterpiece, firstly cut a piece of flat, uncrumpled tissue paper to size based on the candle. Make the tissue slightly shorter than the candle and try to minimise overlap.

Tape the tissue to a normal piece of paper, then ask your small person to draw a suitable Christmas scene using felt tips. The paper is to protect your table as the ink from the pens will leak through as your child draws.

M excelled herself here and drew the following:-

  • Some Christmas trees
  • Father Christmas and his elves
  • Baby Jesus with his Mummy and Daddy
  • Dancing snowmen, wearing leotards
  • An angel visiting the shepherds who are so scared their clothes fall off
Needless to say, M she was chortling away by the time she had finished, as she is greatly amused by the plight of the angels who have messages to deliver, but have to stop folks running away before they can do so. Every. Single. Time. The angels find this very frustrating. Or at least they do in our version of the Nativity story.

I asked M to draw one more picture, explaining this was the one we'd use for our first try with the candle. M drew a cat and declared it her favourite, so was delighted when the first candle was a success.

Once you have an image to transfer, wrap it tightly around the candle then lay the it onto a piece of greaseproof paper, with the overlap in the tissue on the underside to hold it in place. Align the base of the candle with the edge of the greaseproof paper. Wrap the greaseproof layer as tightly as you can, covering the tissue and secure with tape.

The grease proof paper should be slightly bigger than the candle, it needs to wrap around the candle with an overlap of about 3cm. It should also be taller than the candle once the candle is standing up.

Put an upended cup onto a heat resistant mat (I used a cork backed place mat) and stand the covered candle on top of it. Use a hair dryer on its highest heat setting to  melt the wax under the paper. Keep the dryer moving and it should take a few seconds for the design to start showing clearly through the paper, which is a sign the wax is softening.

Rotate the cup (with the candle on top), applying heat to the entire candle. Once the greaseproof paper starts to look shiny all over, the task should be done and you can stop.

In reality I found that the transfer was patchy. Some of the tissue paper had sunk into the candle wax, but in other places the tissue would be unaffected. Since M's designs didn't cover all of the tissue paper, it was hard to see where I'd missed through the greaseproof outer layer.

At this point I applied the heat directly to the candle and pushed the bits of tissue I'd missed earlier into the wax as it melted. Initially I used the back of a spoon to do this, but switched to using my fingers as I found it easier. The heat from my hair dryer wasn't sufficient to do more than make the wax uncomfortably hot, but I'd advise caution here.
Applying heat to any patches of tissue that hadn't been absorbed into the wax.
The wax cooled quickly, allowing the candles to be moved aside. I used a kitchen knife to trim any dribbled wax, neatening up the base and finishing the candle.
The finished candles.
M was surprised at how her pictures had changed, taking on the circular nature of the candle, with figures that had been on opposite sides of the paper now standing next to each other. She decided she like the effect, but confirmed the cat candle was still her favourite.
M with her favourite candle, which now has a cat on it.
I was pleased with the effect too, but found it difficult getting an even finish on how much wax was absorbed into the tissue. It was also very fiddly trying to get the tissue tightly wrapped around the candle. Nonetheless, for a first attempt I think it worked well and it is a technique I might try again.