The Molly Hat is a joyous combination of pattern and color. Watch cheerful zig-zags appear when you pair bold variegated yarn with a ripple stitch knitting pattern. It uses several easy-to-master knitting techniques and is well within the reach of beginning knitters willing to try something new. You can’t help but be happy with your cheery chevrons!
One Skein Love
I love love love one-skein projects, especially ones that use one-of-a-kind yarns or colorways. This design was a happy coincidence. I was preparing a new knitting class, Re-Imagining Ripples, and needed to make some class samples. I had just been gifted a “Crazy Hat Skein” of MollyGirl yarn in bright blues and greens: colorway Stutter. It really worked, and as you can see in the photos, it looks great on my friend Sarah.
Learn (or Teach) a New Skill
Knit the hat in the round on circular and double-point needles, or use your choice of alternative in-the-round methods like two circulars or Magic Loop.
For beginners who are comfortable with the knit stitch, this is the perfect next-step project. You’ll learn to knit in the round—a vital skill—and you’ll learn 3 types of decreases and two types of increases. Intermediate and advanced knitters will love the rhythm of the stitching and the portability of the project.
Knitting teachers, this one’s for you, too. Incorporate all those techniques into a class for your students. They’ll master those skills in just a couple of weeks, and you’ll all be proud!
The Crazy Hat Skein I used is less than a full skein of MollyGirl Rock Star worsted weight yarn, but I call for a full skein in the pattern because I’m not sure that the Crazy Hat Skeins are readily available. It took me all of the 150 yards [137 m] I had available, so be sure to check your gauge carefully.
You could use any worsted weight yarn with good results. The pattern is available from Ravelry and Craftsy.
What will your Molly Hat look like? Share your photos on my Facebook page.
How old should a child be before they can learn to knit with knitting needles? Is six too young? What do you do when your four-year-old asks to learn to knit? How do you successfully teach a young child to knit? That was the dilemma facing me 20+ years ago.
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Past experience trying to teach a seven-year-old niece made me wary of introducing knitting too soon. I was trying to figure out how to say, “Sorry, you’re too young to learn” without squashing her dreams when her dad chimed in with, “When you learn to tie your shoes, Mommy will teach you to knit.”
A perfect answer! Tying shoes requires manual dexterity and is a great pre-requisite for knitting. Whew! This was going to buy me some time, or so I thought.
For kids, success in learning to knit has more to do with the student than the teacher. Knitting or crocheting takes a combination of (1) interest, (2) manual dexterity and (3) concentration—the ability to sit still and pay attention. Those things are going to happen at entirely different times for different children. There’s no point in trying to teach a child who doesn’t want to learn; it will just frustrate the teacher and the student.
An Historical Perspective
In days of yore, children learned to knit at a much younger age then they do today. In some cultures children as young as four knit socks, both to sell and to keep the family warm. During the World Wars, children knit for the troops. Take a look at the work of Swiss artist Albert Anker for adorable paintings of young people knitting.
Of course, modern children don’t have to knit socks out of necessity, but does that mean they can’t, if they want to?
The First Lesson
At home, said pre-schooler went off to school and returned three hours later with the news that she had learned to tie her shoes. Prove it, I said. She did. She had prevailed on a classmate—the youngest of eight—to teach her. Apparently when you have seven older siblings you learn life skills early.
A promise is a promise; now I had to deliver a knitting lesson. Armed with a couple of size 10 Brittany double-pointed needles with rubber bands wrapped around the ends, a partial ball of Lopi—the only bulky wool I had at the time—and six stitches cast on, we got started. Using the “In through the front door” mantra, I demonstrated, then gave her the needles and guided her hands. After a couple of rows, she took over, and I was amazed at how quickly she got it. Having her say the mantra every time really helped.
What I didn’t remember until recently was that I made a videotape that afternoon! It’s not high quality, but here’s little Margaret knitting her first project—a doll scarf. Some of it is captioned. Note that with barely-3-year-old Little Brother chiming in at 1:04 with “Out of the…” (in response to “In through the front door”) and at 1:56 with “Once around the…”, he was on his way to learning the basics, as well.
Does It Last?
You might wonder if learning to knit at a young age means the child will continue knitting. My best advice here is not to worry about that. If the child is interested, they may keep going, but chances are the interest will be fleeting, and they’ll move on to learning other skills. After all, it’s a child’s job to gather experiences and explore as much as they can. They may even take a long hiatus and come back to the fiber arts in one way or another years later. Your job as a teacher is to encourage the exploration.
Did little Margaret stick with knitting? The answer is no and yes. She finished the first project to her satisfaction, and then knitted one or two things over the next few years, but nothing that you’d call a Real Project.
Fast forward to college life. Knitting and crocheting was popular and knowing how to do both meant an immediate way to bond with a new group of people. Fiber skills eventually got her a job at Red Heart*. so that early knitting lesson did pay off in the long run!
*She’s no longer with the company, but she’s still knitting and crocheting.
Tips for Teaching Kids
Keep the lessons short, relaxed, and focused on what they want to make.
Plan for immediate success. 5-6 stitches per row allows the work to grow quickly. You’ll have a belt, a headband, a doll scarf, a coin purse or a friendship bracelet without worrying about gauge.
Kids aren’t interested in perfection; they just want to explore new skills. Unlike adults, they are used to being in a learning mode all the time, and they will be happy to be making something even if it has holes and wobbly edges.
If the child loses interest, don’t push it. They’ll learn when they are ready.
If handling needles is too intimidating, try finger knitting until dexterity matures.
F+W/Interweave provided a copy of Alterknit Stitch Dictionary for my review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own. This page may contain affiliate links, which help support me, but don’t cost you anything extra.
Stitch dictionaries are catnip for knitting designers, and Andrea Rangel’s new Alterknit Stitch Dictionary: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs is no exception. The book contains 200 stranded colorwork motifs with a decidedly contemporary flair. You won’t find mosaic or intarsia or texture patterns, but you will find a wealth of stranded patterns to choose from.
The Stitch Patterns
Let’s start with the good stuff: the stitch patterns. The patterns were designed by Andrea’s husband Sean, who used his artistic mind to come up with non-traditional motifs, all of which work amazingly well for knitting. As I glanced through the patterns, a mixed tag cloud formed in my head: geometrical, whimsical, optical, tiled, interconnected, Greek, humorous, nature. There is bound to be something here to tickle your fancy—everything from Escher Bats and stranded zombies to the eye-popping Broken Shield. That one is sure to show up in one of my future designs!
Few of the stitch patterns would be considered “easy”, although once you understand the stranded knitting technique, it’s simply a matter of following the charts. Quite a few of the designs are symmetrical enough that you won’t have to be a slave to the chart, but others are complex and are probably best suited to times where you can concentrate on the knitting.
The swatches are stitched with highly-contrasting colors to show up the patterns perfectly. With clear charts and only two patterns per page, the patterns are easy on the eyes. An index indicates stitch and row counts by stitch pattern, which is a huge help when searching for that perfect pattern to fit your project..
While the focus of the book is on the swatches, you’ll find plenty of supporting material to help you manage the stranded work. You can refresh your knowledge about choosing yarn and colors, including the importance of color value. You’ll find instruction on holding the yarn, manipulating multiple colors, managing floats, and color dominance, Chart reading, the importance of swatching (YES!) and steeking are also covered in detail. I found Tips for Better Colorwork particularly helpful, although I already knew a lot of the other techniques.
If you are itching to start a project using the motifs, but don’t quite know where to start, the third section of the book sets you on the right path. In Stitch Motifs in Projects and Designs, Andrea provides an easy-to-understand explanation of how to fit motifs into hats, cowls, pullovers and other projects.
Don’t want to design your own? Complete patterns for a pair of mittens, a couple of hats, a cowl, a round-yoke pullover and a cardigan allow you to practice what you’ve learned.
Pros: Original, appealing patterns, variety of styles to suit every taste and project, easy-to-read layout and photography
Cons: Sean Rangel didn’t get author credit! I want more patterns, but I don’t have enough time to explore all these. Seriously, I don’t have any cons on this one.
Looking for more information on stranded knitting techniques? Check out my free Creativebug video on stranded knitting. Want to knit along with me on a stranded project to get your feet wet with the technique? Join my Creativebug class Fair Isle Mitts or Mittens, and make a mitten (or fingerless mitts) with me.
Double knitting is one of those techniques that may seem out-of-reach to the average knitter. After all, how can you possibly knit two fabrics at once with only two needles? And adding a second color and patternwork surely must require a magic wand in addition to knitting needles. Fortunately for us Muggles, no magic is required; you just need yarn, two needles and two hands. In my new Double Knitting Workshop from Creativebug, I’ll give you all the skills you need to get started with double knitting.
What is Double Knitting?
Double knitting is a technique that creates a double-sided fabric by simply knitting back and forth across a row. Yes, that’s TWO right sides and NO wrong sides! (The trick is in the slip stitches, but you’ll have to learn the technique to figure out how it works.)
Double knitting creates nice spongy fabric that makes great scarves, coasters, hats, blankets…any kind of item that you’d like to be fully reversible. When worked in two colors, you can add patterns that show up as positive/negative images on either side of the fabric.
Why Double Knit?
It’s fascinating to watch the fabric take shape as you knit. Once you get the hang of the technique, you’ll start to understand a lot more about the structure of a knitted fabric. I always say that the more you understand about the path of the yarn and how it creates a whole fabric, the better knitter you’ll be. In other words, you don’t have to do double knitting all the time, but learning the skill helps you in your regular knitting, as well. Of course, you may decide you love it, and want to explore it in more detail!
The techniques I cover in class include everything you need to know to create the scarf pictured above, including the pattern and charts. The yarn I used is Hikoo Sueño, an 80% superwash merino wool/20% viscose blend that knits up like an absolute dream, and made such a cushy scarf that I didn’t want to stop knitting. I even shed a little tear when I had to leave the scarf at the Creativebug studios.
Learning Double Knitting
Double knitting does require a bit of concentration, at least in the beginning. (Sorry about that, but I do try to make it as painless as possible!) This is one technique in which I think video learning is particularly helpful. In Double Knitting Workshop, I’ll show you your choice of two methods of casting on; long tail and tubular. I’ll show you how to handle two colors of yarn and how to twist the yarns at the ends of rows to prevent holes in the edges. I’ll also demonstrate two ways to finish: the condensed bind off, and a grafted bind off. I’ll show you what to do to fix common mistakes (I got very good at this) and how to read a chart for double knitting.
When I started to prepare for this class, it had been quite a few years since I had done any double knitting, and I had to re-teach myself a few of the associated techniques. This means that I had the opportunity to really examine what was going on in my head as I knit. As I re-acquainted myself with the process, I made notes of where it seemed likely that a novice would get stuck, I hope that my own journey of (re)discovery helps make yours easier, as I hold your hand and point out potential pitfalls as you learn.
Behind the Scenes at Creativebug
Of all the classes I’ve shot in a studio, I think this shoot was the most fun. I’d been to Creativebug’s San Francisco studios several times before, and I already knew the crew. I was working with Eric, Devin and Christine, a team of professionals who not only know what they are doing, but make it so much fun to work together. The studio was filled with natural light, and it was a delight to spend the day with them. Just for fun, here’s a look at what we did when the cameras weren’t rolling (but the foam rollers were). That’s Charlie, one of several office dogs, who spent the day on set with us.