Saturday, 20 January 2018

Tchaikovsky hat and mitts

Tchaikovsky hat and mitt samples in silver and pastel pink yarn
I appear to have had a productive start to 2018 with three finished projects including the two that I am going to talk about today.

As part of the One Skein Wonderland CAL hosted by Fay at the Crochet Circle podcast and Charlie at Love Charlie I have made the Tchaikovsky hat and mitts designed by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade. One of the reasons why I am particularly enjoying knitting at the moment is that I am learning new things all the time. In today’s post I want to share with you some of the things I learnt whilst working on both projects, as well as reviewing the patterns and the yarn.

The designs
The Tchaikovsky hat and mitts were released by Helen at the end of last year as part of her 2017 Knitvent series. I was particularly drawn to the mitts first of all because they seemed like a practical and relatively easy project to work on during Christmas - I cast them on on Christmas Eve. The simple and beautiful pattern repeat was addictive and I not long after casting-off the mitts I found myself casting-on the hat.

If you haven’t worked up one of Helen’s designs before you may not know about her pattern writing. Helen uses a table and percentage system for each of her designs which makes it really easy to know exactly where you are in the pattern and how much yarn you will have left (no yarn chicken here!). It also makes it very easy to adapt whatever you are making to get the best fit. I didn’t need to do any ‘adapting’ for the hat but I did for the mitts as I wanted to make them a little shorter. With this style of pattern writing it was really easy to do.

For both projects I used yarn that I hadn’t used before. I worked the mitts up in Hampshire DK yarn by The Little Grey Sheep and the hat in Islington DK by the Kettle Yarn Co. They were both treasured skeins so I was pleased to use them for these special projects. If you’ve read this blog before you will know that I do love yarn by Emma at Little Grey Sheep and the Hampshire DK didn’t disappoint. I hadn’t used any yarn by Linda at the Kettle Yarn Co. before and I loved the finished effect of the hat even if the knitting was slightly less enjoyable due to a slippy yarn/needle combination. The finished effect of both pieces look really lovely and so different because of the different yarn bases.

I washed and blocked both pieces. Washing softened the mitts a lot - so don’t always be put off by sheepy wool if you have sensitive skin. I thought the stitch definition on the hat was good before I washed it, but washing and blocking it set the stitches and made those purl stitches stand up proudly.

Things I’ve learnt - tips to share
There are three stand out things I have learnt in working up these projects. One of the best things about writing this blog is being able to share tips and techniques I have learnt, so here goes;

1. Magic Loop
I have blogged about learning to magic loop before but in all honesty I was still a bit wobbly about it. I was particularly concerned about ladders and distorted stitches. But I couldn't go through life always finding short circular needles or other work arounds. So I decided to be brave and knit the mitts using magic loop having had a good read around the subject in advance. The tip I want to share with you to avoid ladders and distorted stitches is actually pulling the second not the first stitch tight on each needle. Amazing! This has made all the difference to the knitted fabric and given me huge confidence with magic loop. I am not getting ladders or distorted stitches and I am actually loving magic loop so much that I am willingly knitting our little boy socks using magic loop.

2. Stretchy cast off
I knit reasonably loosely and have never considered casting-off my stitches in any other way than my Mum taught me. But with confidence from overcoming magic loop knitting, I learnt Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-Off method.  It is really fabulous - very easy and incredibly useful for a range of projects, do try it!

3. Hat blocking
I have always been slightly irritated by my hat blocking efforts in the past. I have blocked them flat and turned them repeatedly but always ended up with a 'front' and a 'back'. With this project I decided to try washing the hat, and then blocking it on a balloon.
Hand-knit hat blocking on a balloon

This was very amusing for our six year but much more effective than any of my others previous attempts.

Over-head view of hand-knit hat after blocking
Blocking the hat this way enabled the stitches around the crown to dry and set the way they should do and I don’t have a 'front' and a 'back'.

Finished projects
As you might be able to tell, I am rather pleased with my finished projects. 
Finished Tchaikovsky hat and mitts

I have worn the mitts a lot already. I have Raynaulds and it has been particularly bad this Winter but wearing these mitts has really helped. The hat is one of my makenine projects so which is a pretty good start to the year.

Wishing you a happy week of crafting x


  1. These both look really neatly made Helen! I have used the balloon method for blocking hats too - it works so well!

    A happy week ahead of crafting to you too xx

    1. Thanks Marta, I hope you’ve had a good week xx

  2. Beautiful projects Helen! You have had a good start to the year. The stitch pattern is so delicate. Great tips as well. I might have to try magic loop for my next pair of knit socks... I have yet to work out my makenine projects. I'm putting it on my to do list now!

    1. Thanks Tamara. I am searching for my perfect sock recipe and now working my socks up on magic loop. I’ll be interested to hear how you get on with your next pair of socks x

  3. These are so beautiful! I never thought about using a balloon to block a hat before! For some reason, magic loop scares me. I have no idea why?! I must give it a try though if it solves the ladder problem. I never had a problem with that on a project until I tried a pair of mitts. I ended up ripping it out and it's just sitting there now. Any resources you would recommend to learn the magic loop technique?
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Carrie, I would suggest Tin Can Knits as a good place to go for a magic loop introduction...good luck!