2 Hats, 2 Cowls, 1 Pair of Socks, and Some Triple-Thick Mittens

We’re having a snowy day today. I awoke early to send off my hubby who had to work and then started the thing where I find random things to do to mark time until it’s a slightly more respectable hour when the kiddos, pup, and I can go outside without waking up the whole neighborhood. We were out by about 8am, the kids playing and I shoveling (sometimes I make them help, but today I let them play) and found a lovely 5 or so inches on the ground. The snow was heavier than I expected, but really no bother. Ever since I splurged on a slightly nicer shovel a couple years ago, I don’t really mind the chore unless the snow is really, really slushy and, you know, then it weighs 7000lbs and only He-Man can lift it. That can be rough. Thankfully, today’s wasn’t bad at all.

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but February is the time of year when people around here can really start to tire of winter. The cold, short days begin to wear our hearty souls down. I’m no different. It affects me, too. I try very hard, though, to not complain about the weather. If I had to drive like my husband does, I might think differently, but for the most part I am happy to take whatever comes my way. I know I’ll miss the quiet of winter nights, the noble austerity of the bare trees, and the way the North wind howls on days like today when spring finds its way here.

IMG_7994So in a very carpe diem mood, after lunch and some cocoa and a bit of housekeeping the kids and I suited up for some sledding. We all chose our handknits of choice…

IMG_7990My daughter was decked out in her finest — her Spud & Chloe Chill Chaser sweater, her Blue Sky Alpacas Fox Hat & matching cowl, and some mittens I knit a while back in Spud & Chloe Outer paired with an inner mitten knit with Malabrigo Worsted. Completely mismatched and completely toasty warm! I threw on 2 hats, 2 cowls, a pair of sport-weight socks, and some lined colorwork mittens. My son chose his handknit socks and a double-thick worsted hat — the rest of his outerwear is more ‘technical’ — he gets that from his dad.

Unfortunately, the temps had already started to drop a bit and the wind had really picked up by the time we started for the sledding hill. As we made our way, I could tell the winds were easily gusting up in the 30mph range putting the wind chill easily below zero, probably closer to double digits below zero. When you live where I do and you pay even a bit of attention, you become a connoisseur of such things. I knew we wouldn’t last long.

IMG_7993And sure enough, as the wind blew hard across the land and the snow continued to fall the kids took a handful of trips down the sledding hill, but they spent most of their time chasing down their sleds which kept blowing away. My daughter declared that her nose had fallen off (she meant her face mask of fallen off her nose, but we had a good laugh at how she put it) and her pink cheeks and my son’s frost-crusted eyelashes signaled that it was already time to go. We got home and I shoveled again since I was already bundled up.

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It’s hard to tell how heavily it’s snowing as so much of the snow I see out the window is just blowing on that howling North wind. And now, this snowy afternoon which required 2 hats, 2 cowls, a pair of sport-weight socks, and some triple-thick mittens finds us happily tucked snug in our little house. The kids are writing and drawing in the next room. And me? I think I’ll wrap up some chores, brew up a hot cup of tea, and enjoy a bit of knitting. After all, I can’t forget that I’ll miss these wintry evenings when spring finds its way here.

The Blue Sky Alpacas Bulky Hat KAL

It’s no secret that Blue Sky Alpacas produce some of the most luxurious yarns out there. From their Skinny & Worsted Cottons to their infamous staple, Sport Weight to their newest addition, Extra which I got to try out this summer (and am currently addicted to the Fractal Cowl I made with it as we freeze away here in our early winter) to their super bulky beauty, the aptly named Bulky. Blue Sky Alpacas makes beautiful, high quality yarns in a classic palette for which I think is hard not to be overwhelmingly smitten.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was excited to join the Blue Sky Alpacas Bulky Hat KAL, which runs from November 15 to December 15. This is perhaps one of the simplest KALs I’ve seen since the projects literally take just a couple hours to complete and you need only complete one to be entered to win this fantastic prize…

And let me tell you, since getting some serious wear out of my Fractal Cowl in Extra, this looks pretty darn amazing to me. It was all I could do not to just pick up the yarn and pattern and knit it up right away!

But alas, I focused on the KAL at hand…

bsa kalThe Bear Hat in Azalea for my daughter.

I’m not going to lie. This took me a week to complete, but it didn’t have to. I could have easily completed this is a night.

But that yarn…

IMG_7070That beautiful, beautiful yarn. I dragged the process out as long as I possibly could. I actually gave myself little allowances…

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Like I can do the first 3inches and then I have to stop…

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Then just to the crown decreases and then I have to stop…

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Then I can just finish up the hat…

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Then the ears. And at this point, my little lady got anxious and wanted to wear this. Oh, and somewhere along the line she informed me that she wanted the fox ears, not the bear ears. At first I was reluctant, but it’s her hat. So I went with it.

fox hatAnd it turned out about a million times cuter than I ever could have imagined.

I also had quite a bit of yarn leftover (for exact amounts, you can check my Ravelry project pages listed at the end of this post), so I decided to knit up a little matching cowl for my daughter.

foxy cowlI made a note on my project page that cowls are one of those things you don’t generally make for kids because they really shouldn’t wear them without supervision considering the inherent risk of putting a loop around a child’s neck. I opted to make this for my daughter because I know she will never be out of sight with it on — I think that’s important to point out. In any case, I used Jane Richmond’s Marian as my guide for a simple seed stitch cowl. I just adjusted the number of cast-on stitches to match the circumference I wanted for my daughter. The results are of course a wonderful squishy cowl you see above and the set?

fox hat & cowlI could never have predicted how much I would love this set on my girl. We drove to the dentist today and we always turn up the music a bit and sing and in the review mirror all I see are ears bopping along to the beat. It is just beyond adorable. I can hardly stand it!

I’d  like to also point out that I got to use some pretty fantastic needles for this KAL. Normally when I get over a US size 15 needles I end up defaulting to whatever I can find — usually some cheap plastic needles which is kind of a drag. No longer!novaplatinachunkyKnitter’s Pride actually has an Interchangeable Chunky Set in their Nova Platina line. I had no idea! It comes with US size 13, 15, & 17 needles along with a 24″ & 32″ cord. I used the 24″ cord to knit the cowl & they were awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever knit on that big of a needle that comfortably. For the start of the hat, I actually put the needles on a 16″ cord from a different Knitter’s Pride kit. I don’t know that I would recommend this as it was pretty tight. The shafts of the needles aren’t really meant to work on a cord that short (if they were, I’m pretty sure they’d include that cord in the kit) so there is stress on the cord/joins a bit, but in a pinch I thought they worked fine. Mostly I just wanted to see if it was possible and it was.

For the crown shaping, instead of magic looping I got to switch to the Knitter’s Pride Basix.

basixI don’t use a lot of non-metal needles, but when I do I definitely prefer those made from birch, the material used to make Basix. They are a bit lighter than bamboo in my hands and in my experience they’ve been a bit more durable. Plus, it’s one of those personal preference things — I just prefer the feel of birch. The Basix are great as they come in large sizes — US 11, 13, 15, 17, & 19 — just perfect for these bulky projects. As an added bonus, they save me from having to default to those cheap plastic needles that I’ve come to loath when working with super bulky yarn. This knitter is a happy knitter!

All in all, I think the Blue Sky Alpacas Bulky Hat KAL has been a huge success for me. I learned about some sweet needles, I worked with some amazingly beautiful yarn, and I have a very happy daughter to show for it. With these quick projects, there is still plenty of time to join the KAL and get a project done so you can get your chance to win that fabulous prize. For all the information you need to join, you can visit the Blue Sky Alpacas Ravelry thread here. Hope to see you over there!

For more information on my Fox Hat, head on over to my Ravelry project page here.

For more information on my Marian Spin-Off Cowl, check out my Ravelry project page here.