Thursday, November 26, 2015

Today is Thanksgiving, and for the past few days I've been preparing for an open studio sale in my shop.  (look at the Graceful Arts Fiber Studio Facebook page to see a photo of that).  But in thinking about all the gifts we want to give, I was thinking once again about the ones that go to people we don't know, because we can offer a gift of warmth to someone who really needs it.  If you've read the blog for a while, you know I crochet a lot of warm hats.  My gift to you today is to detail how I do it - and I hope at least some people will be inspired to share their gifts with others, as time and opportunity and resources permit.

Many of us stockpile and stash bits of yarn that cross our paths, no matter how large or small those piles are...  and I have not only my own stash but it's often augmented by other peoples' as well.  For this weekend I'll spend in the shop, I put together two baskets of the smallest balls of yarn, the ones too little on their own to make a hat or a pair of mittens.

First thing I do is sort through them for inspiration.  I like to use at least two strands together for warmth.  Sometimes, if one or two of the strands is a bit finer than knitting worsted, I'll use three together, though the colors need to be somewhat related.  These are children's hats, and many children are surprisingly conservative about what they'll wear!  So on the left in the photo above, a fingering yarn - the close observer will see it was already knitted into part of something else before being abandoned - picks up at least one of the colors of a multi-colored yarn and on the right, various shades of green with a blue and a lavender.  The ball of thread at the lower end of the right side was part of what must have been a 50 gram ball of dk acrylic.

Taking up my trusty size L hook, my standard beginning is to leave a 4-inch tail and make a very loose slip knot and one ordinary CH.  (This is called a magic something-or-other beginning, but I had been doing it for decades before I knew it was called anything at all.)  Then crochet about 8 sc into that first loose CH and tighten it so there's no visible central hole.  Give it another yank, and then as you continue around in a spiral, work that end in so it's anchored (by making at least part of one stitch with that end, then crocheting over the tail).  You'll make two sc into every sc of the center, then continuing around and around, adding a stitch now and then until it looks about big enough.  By the time I added the blue yarn on the left, the hat looked large enough for a child.  If you make the crown too small, you'll have to increase later and the hat might look stocking-hattish or simply pointy - and honesty compels us all to admit this is not currently in style.  Make it too large and you'll need decreases down the road and the hat will be slouchy-looking, which DOES seem to be in style.  How much yarn you've got is one deciding factor.  Around and around you crochet.  Variegated yarns offer the dim entertainment of looking for the next change of color; working with small amounts of yarn offers the equally dim excitement of wondering when you'll be forced to change colors next.  It takes me about an hour to make one hat.  Tonight I spent two hours and made two.

I like to add something special to each one.  The bottom one got some sideways crocheting at the brim and a button.  The upper one got a stitch variation to make the blue stripe, which would go over the ears, just a little thicker.  Reverse single crochet is a good finish.   The church where I teach an exercise class (and also sing) put out a call for warm gloves, hats and mittens to put on the tree going up this Sunday, so I'm challenging myself to see how many I can make, and how many scrappy balls can be used up in the process before the end of Saturday. 

Most communities collect hats and mittens, and sometimes scarves and other warm attire.  These are given out to food pantry patrons, head-start students, to the school nurse, to the Red Cross, to the homeless, to battered-women's shelters, to anyone in need.

May I invite you to give yourself the gift of giving things away to people who can never say thank you?

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