February 2, 2015

Totoro Fair Isle

With all the bad Christmas sweaters around I thought maybe I could make one for myself. Perhaps it could be "nerdy" instead of "bad" though. I have ambitious plans to make a full tunic length sweater with a wide neck and sleeves, but as that is a bit daunting, I thought I might first do a proof-of-concept hat instead.

I decided I would use a basic single crochet beanie hat pattern. The width of a sc beanie hat is 66 stitches around at the widest part, so I knew how wide my design area could be. I assumed 20 rows of 66 stitches not counting the increase rows for the top of the hat. That gave me a field on which I could map out the pattern.

For this project I picked out three colors, a white a gray and a blue, all a bit dusty looking colors. All are Cascade 220 Heathers which is 100% Wool; the white is Aspen, the gray is Charcoal, and the blue is Sapphire.

I started working the hat following my design above in single crochet rounds, joining the rows at the end to the first and chaining up one to the next row. I figured I would start the waistcoat look once I got to row 12 after the increasing. The increasing made me realize that the shell pattern at the top was not laid out right. I decided to scrap the shell "clouds" and instead just try to get white pips of snow scattered around. Realizing that nothing would line up right on those rows meant that I also needed to move Totoro's ears down a row and remove some the higher-up snowflakes. I reworked the pattern as I went along and finished the hat up to row 11.

Once here I tried to start the waistcoat stitch for the knit look and realized two things. 1) The 5.00 mm hook I was using had a very wide return making completing a waistcoat stitch almost impossible and 2) that because I had started at the crown, the V's were actually upside down and instead would look like A's when worn. Since I was unhappy with both of these outcomes, I knew I had to start over.

Take 2: Learning what I had, I figured that attempt number 2 would need to start at the bottom and work up. I added two rows to the bottom of the design and left them solid white to create a foundation row and a starter single crochet row to work the waistcoat design into. I figured I might want to add a band to the hat, but I didn't want to create it and work the design only for the hat as a whole to be too long. So starting with a foundation single crochet row meant that I could come back later and add a brim if needed.

I also decided to start this second attempt with a new hook. I found an I (5.5mm) hook that had a nice pointy return to it and hoped that the larger size might also help create stretchier waistcoat fabric, since we learned from the Autumn Diamond Gloves that it does not have any give to it. After the foundation row, and base row of sc, I got about two rows into the pattern. It was a bit tricky working three yarns at once, and I needed to carry all of them along with me though the stretches of single color areas so to not have long strings crisscrossing inside the hat. I stopped once I had those rows done, to test the fit. It was very tight as I suspected it might be.
Take 2...
The reason 66 stitches is ok in single crochet is because that stitch has stretch to it. Like I said before, waistcoat stitch basically locks the stitch into place with no give to it. Part of me wanted to rip it out right now, before I got too far in and expand it to 72 stitches. But the other part that had already done this twice did not. I put it down, watched some tv and had dinner, and decided to start over.

Take 3: Expanding the pattern to 72 stitches... basically means adding one more expansion row to the top of a regular single crochet beanie hat. So I redid my pattern adding extra rows to both sides, also taking the opportunity to add more snow pips to break up some of the longer stretches of color.
Take 3
Got three rows into the design after the foundation rows and decided to try it on again. Not sure if because I had made it larger that I slipped into working tighter again, but 72 stitches did not feel any less vice-like on my skull.

Take 4: Expanded again to 78 stitches. I am starting to think that this is gonna be a bit of a slouchy hat. I also am starting to think that i need to stretch the design vertically a bit since the design is looking a lot wider than on my pattern chart. After redoing the chart, and getting 5 rows in... It fit!
Updated chart of the design. Removed the top since planning it is too complicated.
I could get about three rows done in an hour, so I did a few rows each night for a couple of weeks. Once I finished row 22, I cut off the gray, since I would no longer need it. Just as a note to myself, I don't think the four white pip clusters came out in the actual design like I wanted them to. Thought they would read as snowflakes, not sure they do.
Totoro and chibi totoro came out good. Trees and shu totoro... well ok I guess.
The rest of the rows are as follows:
Row 23: *decrease, 11 stitches* (72)
Row 24: *decrease, 10 stitches* (66)
Row 25: *decrease, 9 stitches* (60)
Row 26: *decrease, 8 stitches* (54)
Row 27: *decrease, 7 stitches* (48)
Row 28: *decrease, 6 stitches* (42)
Row 29: *decrease, 5 stitches* (36)
Row 30: *decrease, 4 stitches* (30)
Row 31: *decrease, 3 stitches* (24)
Row 32: *decrease, 2 stitches* (18)
Row 33: *decrease, 1 stitches* (12)
Row 34: *decrease around * (6)
Hat after closing, before brim and pom.
I added white pips of snow as I felt was needed as I went around. Usually right after the decrease and a few stitches along on each side. Once I reached row 31, I just let it be blue all the way. After that I felt the hat needed a brim to cover my ears and make it easier to wear. I used the left over white and went back to the brim. I decided to go long way around for 4 rows of single crochets with a 5.00 mm hook to keep the brim tight. Since I had more white left over, I thought it might be cute to add a pom to the top.
Just as an aside, I have probably half a skein of both gray and white left over, and less of the blue, so I will have to figure out another pattern to use the rest with!

As for if this is an actually viable way to make a sweater I might have to say that, no, it won't work. I would need to make flat pieces and sew them together; this waistcoat stitch only works in the round. Maybe I could make the sleeves this way, but since the body would not be doable, that wouldn't work. One of my next projects will be learning Tunisian crochet, which could be a solution... we shall see.

Difficulty: Hard
Time to compete: guessing about 40 hours

PS: Please do not sell this chart as your own or sell finished items on the internet. You can make and sell these locally, if you like. Please link back to this post if re-sharing online. And share pictures with me if you make one!