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As part of my involvement in the 2014 Ravellenic Games, I set myself the challenge of knitting an Eliza Day Tam to enter into the Hat Halfpipe event.

I’ve wanted to knit this for aaaaaaages. Firstly, it’s named after a song by Nick Cave featuring Kylie Minogue.

I am a long time Kylie fan, but have never found the opportunity to knit something inspired by her before; as I imagine knitted hotpants would either sag or chafe. Secondly, it really is just a bee-oot-iful pattern, and very well presented. Thirdly and finally, I am really trying to nail this colourwork thing.

I’ve done a few stranded/fairisle pieces, and although I love the look of it in other people’s finished projects, I’ve always been ambivalent about my own efforts. Even my blocked work never looks that good, and as a ‘thrower’ the whole process always seems to take too long. I did try intarsia once, but I can’t talk about it without reopening the wound. I still have dreams where I’m caught up in a mass of tangled bobbins *shudder*

I’ve been around long enough on the Rav scene to pick up tips about colourwork; some through targeted reading/Youtube videos, and some just through general exposure, or ‘craftosis’ as I’ve just decided to call it. I know that it’s quicker to knit with a yarn in each hand, knitting English AND Continental. And I know, specifically from this lovely blog post, that the yarn carried underneath will appear more dominant in the finished work.

So I set out on this project with the intention of employing the above two methods.

The twohanded knitting thing
Reader, it is a REVELATION! This hat took less than 48 hours to make, it just whizzed along. Continental knitting was fairly new to me, and I felt a little cack-handed at first, but once it clicked it was great! In fact, I’m planning to do a little more practice on this style. When I am teaching I often get asked about hand placing and technique, and I’d like to be able to demonstrate different methods more proficiently. And I will always do it this way when working with different colours in the future. I do think it messed with my tension a little. One should always keep a relaxed tension with colourwork, to stop the floats pulling on the finished fabric, but I’m worried I was just downright slack in parts. I’m relying on the Magic of Wool to sort itself out over time. It’s on of the main reasons I love natural fibres so much; their ability to settle into something regular looking, no matter how dodgy my tension.

The dominant yarn thing

Erm…….yeah.

Well, I did try, but I think the main thing working against me here was the yarn choice. I used Noro Kureyon Sock as my contrast colour, which is the recommended yarn. I entered into this with a healthy measure of scepticism. I know what people say about Noro. About it’s erroneous vegetable matter, the long repeats of undesirable sludge colours, and most importantly considering this project; its thick and thin nature. But I figured I should be fine. I’m fan of Noro’s rusticity, even if I do rip out lengths of those canal water hues, and besides, the pattern images of the hat were so GORGEOUS (a few people have finished projects on Ravelry), it must be fine.

It was not fine.

When this yarn is thin, it is SO thin that you just can’t bloody see it. And it goes thin a lot. To the point where it just broke a couple of times. My main yarn was Rowan 4ply, not the Debbie Bliss Rialto suggested, but surely its not that far out? It drowned the Noro, despite being the subservient (possible not the appropriate antonym of dominant here) yarn.

So, in a move reflective of my general ‘Let’s Not Fret and Just Have a Bash’ life philosophy, I wondered if I was doing something wrong and swapped hands. It didn’t look any better so I swapped back. After that, every time I returned from a coffee/loo/work and parental duties break I just picked up the yarns in any order, a bit despondent and keen to finish.
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The finished object is just alright. I will wear it happily, its just not the masterpiece I was hoping for. The colours don’t ‘pop’, and the fabric itself isn’t sitting as smoothly as I’d like. I could do with pulling the centre finishing a little tighter too. It’s been a useful experience though…….
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Things I have learned
– the continental knitting thing. Just Wow.
– Blocking makes a HUGE difference. Check out this before pic
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I recently blocked a lace shawl pretty successfully too (my blocking skills have been a long time coming on). Watch out for that post soon.
– I’m not sure I LOVE colourwork. I thought I did, but even with my new technique its fairly finicky. I think I will incorporate patches of it into future projects, but my plans for an complete fairisle cardigan are currently shelved.
– Don’t use Noro sock for colourwork.
– Green and Brown are SO my colours.
– Knit more Patricia Martin patterns

So there we are. Entered for the aforementioned Ravellenic event, and double dipped for my Knitting Goddess Movie Star KAL. February was Audrey Hepburn, so I went for the Eliza/My Fair Lady link.

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