Summer of Socks, vol. 3 – Barbecue Casual & Pool Socks, the exciting finale

Hooray!

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If you’ve made it all the way here, you’ve done an amazing feat! You’ve read through an unprecedented three-day-long streak of blog posts all about…socks.

Woo!

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In our first installment, we saw socks for my mom and dad. In the second, for my brother and sister-in-law. Now? Well, no Christmas would be complete without a secret surprise gift for my boyfriend, Dan, plus an extra pair of socks for myself (because I couldn’t let everyone have warm feet without me).

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The truth is, this whole project started with this little skein of yarn. This beautiful yarn cake is Satchel from Mrs. Crosby Loves to Play (the most hilariously weirdly named yarn company ever, which also happens to make some truly stunning stuff, please do check them out), in the colorway Rueppell’s Griffon. Dan and I noticed it when we were browsing in McNeedles, a not-so-local LYS that we enjoy, and the staff there told me that the colorway was meant to be a dupe for the Lorna’s Laces colorway named “Zombie BBQ.”

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We were delighted. If you thought that they had to say anything else to get me to buy that skein of sock yarn, you would be mistaken. However, I knew that if I bought it in front of Dan, he would put it together rather quickly that a secret pair of socks was in his future, so I instead headed out to Lacombe, a 40-ish minute drive from here, by myself while he was working in order to buy it later and hid it away, biding my time for the perfect secret sock moment.

That moment came this summer, when Dan went out of town for a few days for his sister’s wedding, and I was already deep into the Summer of Socks. He was only gone for a few days, which meant that I had to knit and block the pair in that short amount of time. At this point, I had already knit 4 pairs of socks in quick succession, so my fingers were up to the task.

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But what pattern would do this glorious yarn justice? Business Casual by Tanis Lavallee was an utter joy to knit. I had no problem flying through it, even though it involved cabling and a bit of fussiness, due to the fact that it is so incredibly well-written and clear. Other sock pattern writers should take notes, because it’s that good.

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Also, those tiny delicate lattice cable crosses kill me. They just look so good.

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That’s it really. I tried to find a more clever way to say it, but that’s all. They just look so good. Especially how they peel off from the ribbing on the cuff.

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I just really like looking at them, guys.

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I wasn’t the only one.

Both socks were knitted up quickly, and I had such a good time with them that I was kind of sad that they were over so fast. However, there was a strict deadline here, so blocking commenced and the socks stayed hidden away and secret for 4 more months while I waited for Christmas.

With the combination of yarn and pattern coming together so perfectly here, I knew that there was only thing that I could call them: Barbecue Casual. When I presented them to Dan, wrapped up inside a very silly elephant mug (he’s a fan of elephants and silly mugs, so double-bonus), he was so happy.  It’s going to be so hard to not steal them.

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For my socks, I used another treasure that I had squirreled away from McNeedles for a while. This is Lorna’s Laces Solemate, which is a very cool blend of superwash merino, nylon, and Outlast, a proprietary blend of microfiber that helps keep your socks from making your feet get too hot. It’s pretty interesting stuff that results in a sort of silky-soft, light sock that stays nice and warm without horrible sweaty toes.

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I got it in the colorway Bayou McNeedles, the special colorway created especially for and only available at McNeedles. It looks like really cheerful school colors to me, or a painting of a calm pool of water with plants and greenery around it. Hence the name, Pool Socks. I know, it’s not super great, but I can’t be expected to be clever all the time.

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Again, I went with the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. I just wanted some simple and plain anklets to show off those colors, and I knew that there was high potential for flashing in a space-dyed yarn like this, which could ruin any all over stitch patterns.

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Normally, I am not a fan of flashing, but that big blue zag across the whole thing really did it for me this time. If it’s in the right colors and the right place, flashing can be quite an interesting thing.

And there we have it, the exciting conclusion to….the Suuuuuuummmmmmmer of Sooooooooocks. In reality, it just looked like me knitting something small while listening to my Advanced Assessment class online lectures or watching Midsomer Murders on Netflix…so just like I normally look, with perhaps a bit more urgency. I just hope that everyone enjoys their new socks.

And I hope that all of you have warm feet throughout the winter and into the new year. If not, just let me know. I’ll make you some socks.

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Summer of Socks, vol. 1 – Retro Rib & Osean

The wait is over!

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I know that you were all on pins and needles, just frantically wondering what all of my super-secret sock hinting was about. You barely got any sleep, with all of that uncertainty. Your work suffered. Your personal life suffered. It really took a toll that neither of us anticipated. And for that, I am truly sorry.

Oh wait, I forgot! There’s like, maybe 2 people who read this. What a relief. I’m glad to know that thousands of lives have not been ruined over some Christmas socks.

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That’s right! Christmas socks! I spent my summer, in-between working night shift and studying during the day, knitting socks for each member of my family, each one personalized to their likes and dislikes and relative foot sizes, as one would hope. They were then packaged up with hot cocoa and monogram marshmallows into a new mug, all perfect for enjoying on chilly winter nights.

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And dang if they didn’t come out cute.

First up, the socks that I made for my parents, Retro Rib and Osean.  (Those are the sock pattern names, not my parents’ names, just for clarity.)

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My dad is a hard person to knit for. He often loudly declares not having a need for any things at all, at any time at all. He pretends that he thinks that people waste time on hobbies, but secretly loves receiving anything handmade. He’ll insult your present by saying he has no need for it, but then tell you exactly how he’ll use it in the same sentence.

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It’s a bit of a complicated relationship.

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He’s a fan of green things, especially when they’re vaguely camo- or military-esque, so I figured that the Mt. Tabor colorway of Knit Picks Hawthorne would be perfect.

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It’s a lovely tonal mix of greens and grays that has a sort of nice silvery-sheen to it. It’s rustic and homey without being drab.

I chose the pattern Retro Rib by Evelyn A. Clark out of the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave, which is a wonderful book for anyone who’s an avid sock knitter. It’s got all kinds of gorgeous patterns with a range of complexity levels, plus lots of size options for most of the socks, which is great when your brother and father have really big feet.

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I did make one important pattern modification here, which I think really ties the sock together. The original pattern calls for a regular slip-stitch heel, where every other stitch is slipped on the RS rows, to make a visually-interesting and sturdy fabric on that part of the sock. It’s fairly standard and makes sense usually, but it made absolutely no sense to me here, considering that the sock has a mistake rib pattern that prominently features long columns of twisted stitches.

Instead, I only slipped the stitches that lined up with these columns, continuing that pattern (except for the purling) all the way down to the bottom. I feel like it makes for a much more elegant solution than just slapping any old heel on there. I also remember (keep in mind I made these months ago) that the directions for starting the heel flap didn’t really make the flap centered in a way that made sense to me, so just make sure that you’re keeping a eye out for that, if you’d like to knit a pair yourself. There are errata listed on Interweave’s website, so there might be a fix there already. Do yourself a favor and check, instead of just flying off half-cocked, like I always seem to do.

Anywho, my dad did just as expected when he received these. He said, “What made you think to make these? For me? What am I going to do with these?” and “Oh, these are just too big!” and “Okay, well they fit but they’re not going to fit under my shoes,” and “I guess I can wear these when it’s cold,” and “Oh look, they fit with my slippers! These will be great when it’s chilly outside.” And in a matter of hours, they were suddenly an acceptable gift.

Mission accomplished.

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Making things for my mother is not nearly so much of a challenge. She loves receiving gifts, especially handmade ones, and she’s a very good gift-giver herself. I have knit more things for her than anyone else in my family, except for Dan. She knows how to receive a gift with grace and delight and takes pleasure in taking care of and displaying these objects as they are intended. She also knows that knitted items are meant to be worn, not just looked at, and she uses them faithfully. It’s real cute.

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When I visited my best friend and his wife in San Rafael, CA, this summer, we stopped by a small yarn store/custom fabric dying shop called Dharma Trading Company that appears to have a lively and thriving online business of which I was unaware. I asked the person working there if they had anything local, because I enjoy buying hand-dyed local yarns when I’m travelling, and she showed me Invictus Yarns, an Etsy seller from Sacramento who does absolutely beautiful work. This particular skein is Beyond, which is a really soft and wonderful merino, nylon, and cashmere blend, in the colorway Tranquility. What better way to pamper the feet of someone who really deserves it than with cashmere?

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My mother and I share a love of the color blue and a preference for anklets, so when I saw Osean by Trudy Hertaas while searching on Ravelry, I knew it would be perfect.

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It has a wide lace panel in the center that mimics ocean waves, flanked by rope cables on either side. It was just enough fanciness to show off the blues and greens of the yarn without getting too crazy.

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The whole thing came together so nicely, it was like the yarn and pattern were made for each other. After she opened her gift, she put them on right away and wore them for the whole rest of the night. I hope that she wears them so much that she wears a hole through all that cashmere and I’m forced to make her another pair. That would be great.

Stay tuned for two more installments of…bum bum bum…the Summer of Socks! In the middle of winter. It made more sense a few months ago, I promise.

Lace and Cables and Elephants

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For my last baby blanket of the year (I was about to say there’s been a bunch, but really only two others. But seriously three baby blankets in a year plus working and grad school? That’s a lot. I’m super proud of those beautiful things, so please do go look at them here and here.), I present this lovely piece of lace and mock-cabling.

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Uuuunnghh. So pretty.

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This gorgeous thing was made for my friend and former nursing school group partner extraordinaire, Bonnie. Bonnie is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She has never been anything but welcoming and sweet to me, even though I can be sort of a prickly person to get to know (especially when I was in nursing school…sorry everybody). She is full of smiles and encouragement, and I am always happy to see her.

We work in the same hospital, except she’s in the NICU, being one of those superheroes that takes care of all of the tiniest, most fragile patients that there are. I get pulled there occasionally, to my general terror, because I am always scared to death that I am going to break a baby. When she’s there, I know that there’s a wonderful friendly face alongside me, ready to answer questions and make me feel comfortable.

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A girl like that deserves something really lovely for her new baby, and I’m more than honored that I got to make it for her. She wanted something sort of simple and classic, and I think that SweaterBabe‘s Fancy Stitch Baby Blanket was just the perfect choice. I tried to come up with a better project title than “Fancy Stitch,” but really…”fancy” describes this pretty aptly.

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I used Blue Sky Cotton for this, because it is the most perfect yarn for baby projects, in my humble opinion, and that gives the lace and curves a really wonderful squishiness. It’s a long-wearing, good, strong cotton, but it feels absolutely luxurious here.  I want an entire adult-sized blanket made out of it.

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The whole thing came out so elegant. Perfect for a soon-to-be sweet wonderful baby.

I had to make a little squishable buddy to go with this blanket, and the grayish-lavender color (number 644, if you really needed to know) just screamed “elephant” to me.

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This little guy was made using leftovers of the lavender, plus some of the white left over from the chevron blanket. The pattern? Elefante by Susan B. Anderson, who has so many more patterns for some of the cutest plushies I’ve ever seen.

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He is so plump and adorable. Plus, I love the little ridges for the edges of the footpads and trunk. Good stuff. When I sent a picture of him over to Dan, he declared that he looks like an anteater, so we’re calling him Arthur.

There is only one issue. If Arthur’s left unsupported…

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…he looks a little…depressed. In the original pattern, this is more of a design feature with his trunk supporting his head and acting a bit like a fifth foot. However, when I adjusted his eyes to be more muppet-y (just like I like them), I felt like I needed to push up his ears to make his face more open and friendly. Which ended up just making him look like he’s Eeyore, staring at the ground sort of sadly.

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But he’s just perfect if you hold him and play with him and squish him, which is exactly what the best stuffed animals are for.

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Arthur also looks super cute just sort of resting on things, like he’s intently watching everyone else walk around. I’m choosing to think of it as a design feature.

I did make one other tiny change, due to the fact that crocheting the ears as written with their tiny, tiny stitches and multiple crocheted increases caused me physical pain. Instead, I knitted up some circles and whip-stitched them together after folding them in half. The little whipped stitches really make it feel homey and handmade to me. For those who are inclined to make some tiny elephant ears, here’s the instructions:

Ears (make two):
CO 3 sts, and distribute them evenly across 3 double-pointed needles.
Knit 1 round.
Kfb across all sts (6 sts total).
Knit 1 round.
Kfb across all sts (12 sts total).
Knit 1 round.
Kfb across all sts (24 sts total).
Knit 2 rounds.
Kfb across all sts (48 sts total).
Knit 3 rounds.
Bind-off all sts.
Fold each circle in half, with the right-side facing out, and whip-stitch the edges together.

Then follow the rest of the pattern as written!

This project was the cap on a really great knitting year, most of which I haven’t posted about yet, due to its super-secret-ness. Don’t worry though, that’ll all be coming soon. For now, just enjoy that lacy squishy elephant goodness and go make your own.

Drachenschwingen is the greatest name for a pattern. Maybe ever.

Seriously, if you are knitting something called “Drachenschwingen,” all you want is for people to ask you what you are making so that you get to say “Drachenschwingen” as many times as possible.

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I don’t know why I didn’t end up taking German in high school, because German and German-sounding words are the most fun to say, especially when they are completely out of context. (Everyone remember extra strapazierfähig? How could we forget?)

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These awesome dragon-y socks first made an appearance on the blog waaaay back in July as my plane-knitting project as I made my way to Los Angeles to be super fancy, meet LeVar Burton, and go to the Emmys. I know, I know, but trust me, my life is not normally that exciting. Usually I am sitting on the couch knitting while watching Gilmore Girls and eating crackers.

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Pictured: knitting and Gilmore Girls in the background (the episode in season 2 where Rory tries to win Dean back, btw). Not pictured: crackers, but trust me, they are there.

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Do your best and try not to fall in love with those awesome tiny finicky one-stitch cabled loops! You won’t be able to. All of Scarlet Plume‘s amazing sock patterns are stunning, and she’s definitely a huge fan of the twisted one-stitch cable. I think that she and Cookie A. would be fast friends.

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Part of the charm of knitting these socks lies in the sheer joy of using Pagewood Farm‘s Denali to make them. Every single skein of everything Pagewood Farm makes is so gorgeous that I have to take a breath and compose myself when I’m trying to make a decision. Denali in particular is a superwash merino and nylon blend that’s perfect for hard-wearing socks and making those tiny little twisted stitches pop.

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And the color! My knees get weak.

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From far away (and in the in-progress pictures taken in my extremely dark hobbit-hole living room), the colors in the Woodsey colorway blend together into a sort of greenish-olive-goldish-brown, but up close…little bits of blue, purple, white, emerald…heck, there’s even some little hints of pink in there. I can’t think of a better color to evoke the glittery iridescence of dragon scales. That is, if dragons were real, as we all wish they were.

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Quick side story:  Once at the B&N, a woman was browsing the kids’ science and nature section with a frown on her face for several minutes. I went up to her and asked her if she needed any help, and she told me that she couldn’t find any books on dragons. I directed her over to some picture books and the folklore and mythology section, and she looked at me like I was a crazy person and asked me why none of the books had any photographs of dragons. That was the day that I had to explain to a grown person that dragons weren’t real.

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Back to the socks. My very favorite part of the cable pattern on these socks is how the twisted stitches on the sides sort of “peel off” in layers to travel and form the loops in the center. Really beautiful stuff.

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There is one thing that threw me off a little bit about this pattern, and I’m not sure if it comes from a difference in pattern-writing conventions in different countries, but there’s a little bit of weirdness in the decreasing for the gusset area that might make things difficult for those new to knitting socks. Most patterns start the rows in the middle of the bottom of the foot, keeping the decreases together in one round. This pattern starts each round at the beginning of the cable-patterned top of the foot, giving each round a decrease rather than alternating plain and decrease rows. After I figured out what was going on, it totally made sense. However, if I came across something like that again, I’d probably rewrite the rows for the section, just to spare myself the mental gymnastics.

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That said, I am so excited to have finally finished these so that I can wear them around. I need to get myself a pair of those clear Chuck Taylors so that everyone can ask me about them. Then I’ll get to say “Drachenschwingen” over and over again and delight in these socks all over again.

A Study in Subtlety – Stone Molly

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About a month ago, I saw a beautiful skein of Malabrigo Rios sitting in a basket in a yarn shop in New Orleans. (The Quarter Stitch in the French Quarter. And yes, before you ask, of course you should go. It is small and colorful and packed with amazing things and friendly, helpful people.)

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It was relatively unassuming. Just pale and brownish, a bit of a pastel rainbow going on. The color name listed is Piedras, spanish for “stones.” It reminds me of smooth river stones or collections of seashells. Items that seem drab and brown from far away but reveal rainbows of color on closer inspection.

Dan was skeptical, but I saw that it was going to knit up into something special. Something that would show off that hand-dyed splendor for which Malabrigo is known and coveted. However, it’s also some pricey stuff, so only one skein went home with me.

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While it was sitting on the swift, being wound, I noticed those beautiful rainbows even more.

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I mean, look at that! It’s not screaming out to be noticed, but it’s so pretty that I can’t even stand it. What do you do with only one skein of a yarn like that?

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If you guessed make a fabulous slouchy hat with lots o’ texture, you are right! Meet Stone Molly.

The pattern is Molly from the very talented Erin Ruth at knit me a song. I can’t pretend that the name didn’t draw me in, as this particular combination of colors plus pattern name makes me think of Molly Hooper from Sherlock. (Let’s all pretend that my post title didn’t give that away.) It doesn’t appear as though her blog is still up and running, which is a shame, because this hat is an engineering marvel.

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First off, you are working in two different stitch patterns that have two completely different row counts. The mistake ribbing (or waffle stitch, if you want to make yourself hungry while talking about your knitting) has a 3-row repeat. The cable has an 8-row repeat. Completely non-divisible and yet totally balanced. Genius.

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Secondly, the decreases in this hat are deliberately placed in order to interrupt the stitch patterns as little as possible. They only take place on knit rows so that the purl stitches in the ribbing track all the way up the crown. There are no attention-grabbing spirals or squares, just fields of purls and cable that inexplicably get smaller and dwindle towards the top. It would have never even occurred to me to do such things.

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Thirdly (and in my opinion, bestly), the cable pattern does not just unceremoniously cut off once the decreasing begins, which is something that happens often in lesser hat patterns. This cable subtly tapers down until it melts into the background, and when the hat is on, the effect is of a wide cable that evenly decreases all the way up to the top of the head. And also, just one cable element to be worn rakishly off to the side? Yes, please!

In order to make this hat with only one skein of Malabrigo Rios (which clocks in at a generous 210 yds., normally fantastic for a hat, but maybe not for one with so much texture and slouch), some modifications did have to be made, but I was sure to incorporate these as seamlessly as possible into the original pattern. I fought the good fight in trying to make the whole thing with just one skein, but I ran out of yarn with only 5 decrease rounds to go, and all that beauty was certainly not going to be sullied with the clumsy addition of another yarn for the top. I did some math, ripped things back out to the appropriate point, and soldiered on.

Now, in order to knit this as I did, you have to go and download the original pattern because it is so much genius, and you definitely want to support those designers that make these beautiful, elegant things, yes? Then take a look at my changes as follows:

The original pattern states, “Repeat Rnds (1-3) 18 times more.” Instead, I only did 15 repeats of the entire sequence, ending up with Row 2 instead of Row 3 of the cable pattern. This way, the ribbing section remains intact and only the cable crosses need to be moved around within the crown decrease section. I know this doesn’t make much sense without the pattern in front of you, but that’s why you went and downloaded it, right? Right.

Now for those decreases. Only some of the rows deviate, and this is only to offset the cable crosses so that they remain the correct proportions for the cable to decrease seamlessly into the crown. Here are the way that those rows should now read:

Row 5: P1, k12, p1, knit to end
Row 6: P1, C6F, C6B, p1, knit to end
Row 11: P1, k8, p1, knit to end
Row 12: P1, C4F, C4B, p1, knit to end
Row 15: P1, k8, p1, k2, (k2tog, k3) to last 4 sts, k2tog, k2
Row 16: P1, C4F, C4B, (p1, k1) to end
Row 19: P1, k4, (p1, k1) to end

And that’s it.

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The combination of all that texture and the subtle rainbow striping of the yarn results in a hat that looks like a rich coppery brown from afar, but reveals hidden rainbows of color close-up. Not to toot my own horn too much (but really, what else is blogging but that?) I feel like this was the perfect marriage of yarn and pattern, and I can’t wait for the fall so that I can wear it everywhere.