I can't stop knitting Downton hats! I would say I need help, but I just don't want to. I am beginning to think that I have some sort of OCD when it come to knitting certain patterns. I find one I really enjoy making and I knit it over and over again. That is the case with this wonderful hat.
I saw this behavioral pattern emerging for the first time when I started making socks (see my posts beginning September 8, 2013). I spent about two months straight knitting socks. I made about 20 pairs before I was done. I have enough socks to last the rest of my life as well as enough sock yarn to make 20+ pairs in the future. I have an entire basket of sock yarn to prove it. Yet when I see another cute sock pattern, there I am downloading the page, checking my inventory to see if I have the right yarn to make that pair, and checking my bank account to see if I can buy another skein of sock yarn.
After a month or two of knitting socks, I will suddenly change to a specific scarf or cowl pattern and do the same thing. Right now, I am back to hats -- one specific hat. So far I have made three Downton hats -- and winter is almost over. The funny part is that I have a purple coat, so I will need to make another to match it. I am fighting the urge to run over to my local yarn store with my coat to match the color. Or maybe I should just buy another coat. I bet they are on sale now. See my problem? I will probably solve my problem by buying both yarn and new coat.
The red hat is made with Cascade Yarns Eco Alpaca which is the same type of yarn as the gray and black one (Pattern link available on the February 11, 2014 post). This alpaca yarn is incredibly warm too, almost self-heating, so if you are suffering from a cold bitter winter, this might be the yarn for you. The blue one is made with yarn from Brooks Farm that I bought at a wool festival a few years ago. I think I had originally intended to make a shawl with this yarn, but I also have dozens of shawls as well (due to my knitting OCD), so I don't need another right now. But after finishing three hats, I am not done with this pattern. I need to make another.
Neko is not an especially playful kitty, but when he does, he certainly has some preferences. It appears that only a specific person can play a certain game with him. Cases in point:
The only person who can play chase the laser light with Neko is my son. Neko will run across the carpet after that little red light like a running back cutting across the field to avoid being tackled. In fact, his claws dig into the carpet as if he were wearing cleats! His favorite place to chase the laser is up and down the carpeted steps. However, if Ken or I were to pick up the laser to continue the game, it's game over. The little red light can dance across the floor, jiggle in front of his paws, or peek around a corner, and Neko will plop down on his side with no interest in what is going on.
Is this my toy? What am I supposed to do with it?
Last night though, Neko jumped up on the coffee table to play one of his favorite games with me. He nudges an empty plastic cup until it falls onto the floor. I pick up the cup and it back on the table. He pushes it off again. We played this game for a solid 10 minutes until Ken came into the room. He tried it. He picked up the cup and put it on the table in the exact way I did it. Neko walked to the end of the table and started grooming himself. Obviously, Ken was not playing this game correctly.
What is weird about this is that Neko plays more games with Ken than anyone. He will shoot crumpled paper across the room and Neko will chase and attack it. I will pick up one of these papers and do the same thing, and he will completely ignore me. Ken can pick up the same piece of paper and Neko will start to play again.
We all know that cats are the masters of control, and I see it every time it is playtime. And we put up with it. And he knows we will.
My knitting accessories have grown by another item. I purchased a beautiful little knitting bowl that will sit on my side table while I knit watching TV or listening to books on tape.
Although I have a swift and a yarn winder, I usually wind my yarn by hand in a ball. I like yarn balls better than a yarn cakes because cakes will collapse in on themselves. Then I get a lot of tangled yarn toward the end. Then I end up winding the tangled mess into ball anyway. However, a ball just gets smaller and smaller.
Not that there isn't a downside to a ball of yarn. I cannot count how many times while knitting away, my ball escapes onto the floor and rolls under the coffee table, only to be batted and chased by a little black paw to the other side of the room. Then it becomes a game for Neko as he continues to jump on it and wrap himself in the yarn. Then I have to crawl out from under my warm afghan to rescue my poor little yarn, rewinding it as I reverse the path of the yarn across the room, under the coffee table, and unwrap it from the legs of the side table. And the yarn is usually snagged by kitty teeth with a slobber of kitty spit. There might even be blood if I had to entangle the yarn from little old Paws and Claws.
So the solution is a knitting bowl. I went onto Etsy to look around and came across the perfect knitting bowl and of course, it has a kitty on it. What is even cuter is that the tail of the cat silhouette is the tail of your yarn. And the best part is that Neko has no interest in the kitty on the side of the pottery.
If you remember, I made an adorable sweater in blue and orange for my kitty Neko to celebrate the Super Bowl. For some reason, Neko just didn't like it. I took a couple of pictures before he got too nasty, and never managed to get a picture or two with his hood up. Maybe a sweater is just too warm for a long-haired cat.
So I gave the sweater to Leo, my lion. Leo is must happier with the sweater than Neko. If you look closely, there is a gleam in his eyes. He doesn't even seem to mind if the hood is up or down. And keep in mind, Leo has a full mane as well.
It just seems to me that if Leo is okay with the Bronco sweater, Neko should be happy as well. After all, wouldn't Leo be more of a Detroit Lion fan instead?
I have attended the Estes Park Wool Festival almost every year and I have purchased yarn at every one of them. This yarn is one of them from years ago. I think I originally thought I would make a shawl from it, but it sits year after year on my shelf.
Just after finishing my gray and black Downton hat (Feb. 16, 2013), I had to do another one right away. Before I purchase any more yarn, I owed it to my stash to see if there was anything I should use instead. It was also late on a Saturday night and I wouldn't be able to go and buy another until Monday lunchtime. I just couldn't wait. My fingers were itching to cast on the next hat. After looking over some of the options, a unwound skein of blue yarn with random strands of a rusty brown appearing every now and then. It was calling to me. The reason I never used this yarn to make a shawl is because it was waiting to be used in a Downton hat. Never mind that I purchased this yarn several years before Downton was even a fledgling idea in the writer's brain; this is the project this yarn was destined to be.
So last Saturday night, I grabbed my needles and started this pattern again. No I didn't do a swatch. The yarn is similar to the last yarn I used, so I am just going to wind it. Besides there is some natural stretch in the pattern. So my blue yarn is happy and I am burning up my needles again.
I bet I have made over 300 hats in the past 20 years, maybe more. But I have to admit that this is one of the most fun hats I have ever made. I made this hat in an alpaca wool double knit and basically followed the pattern as written. (If you have read my blog, you know that is not always easy for me).
It took several days because I used 2.75 mm needles. With such little needles and as many as 136 stitches in one round, you just seem to knit and knit without making any progress. So this is one of those patterns that are easy to take along when you are riding in the car, waiting in the doctor's office, on your lunch hour, etc. I even knit during my women's circle meetings. Gradually, the hat grows in length, and you see the beauty of the yarn and the stitch pattern emerge. Finally, the hat is done, and you try it on. It fits beautifully and it is incredibly warm!
Like the rest of the country, we have had some very, very cold weather in Colorado with the coldest temperatures that we have had in 20 years. Usually I don't like to wear really warm clothing (yes, I am the rare creature that loves the cold weather), but this hat is perfect for some of those below-zero days and nights.
I am now going down to my yarn room to see what yarn I will use to make another Downton Hat. Stay tuned!
If you make this pattern, I would like to see your final hat, so be sure to sent it to me! My email is email@example.com. I look forward to seeing them.