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Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 127

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Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
Let's see how many co-workers I can get to pose in tams for me!

Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 127

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is the tam, unblocked.

After I had spun for a few weeks, I was making something that resembled yarn. It still isn't perfect yarn, but it is much more consistent than what I made right at first.

I bought several eight-ounce bags of Corriedale roving, a kind spinning friend also gave me small amounts of fiber to try out, and my sister sent me some beautiful Romney from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. That has my spinning stash pretty much full for now, even though I couldn't resist adding a little more in the middle of May.

But, I hadn't really found a project to knit with my handspun. I bought a digital copy of Interweave's eBook Knit and Spin, 2011, which had ton of project ideas. I also bought The Intentional Spinner, which isn't really aimed at beginners, but gave me a lot more confidence and a slew of ideas on how to spin different styles of yarns.

I settled on trying to make several tam-style hats. I need to create about a dozen of something before the end of the year. I like hats because they don't take a lot of yarn and there is no second hat syndrome.

The plan is working pretty well. So far, I've made three of them, with different gauges and types of yarn. I'm excited about making the designs more complex as my yarn becomes more straightforward. Right now, I'm embracing the unique texture of each hat.

Another spinning friend gave me a wraps per inch tool. I suspect I'm pulling on the yarn too hard when I use it, because the numbers I'm getting don't correspond to the needle size I need to get a fabric that can't practically stand on its own. So, that will take a little practice.

I'll give you as much information as I can about each yarn, so that you can substitute commercial yarns or your own handspun for these projects. I'm still learning how to measure, weigh, and wrap with confidence, so please bear with me. Yarn amounts are very approximate, so be ready to stripe in a new yarn or have some extra on hand in case the amount of yarn you need is slightly different from mine.

Take needle sizes as approximate, too. Use whatever size of needle gives you the fabric you want. This is pretty subjective, really. You don't want the fabric to be too stiff, but it can vary in hand between what you might normally want for a sweater and what you would use for a sock. Just make sure, with a swatch, that working a double decrease with your yarn and needle combination doesn't hurt your hands or make you want to weep.

The basic tam shape looks terrible when you are making it, but really comes into its own after blocking. I start with about one and a half inches of ribbing, then increase by 30% for the body of the tam. That is then worked for about 5 inches. Then, the top is decreased about twice as fast as usual for a hat. I don't use a turning round (a round of all purl stitches) because I want to be able to fudge on the size, if I need to.

If I'm not confident about having enough yarn, I'll start the tam right above where the ribbing would be, then come back later and add the ribbing. This way, I could have two yarns. The top of the hat would match the ribbing, with the first yarn I used appearing as a deep stripe in-between. I also have a few other tricks up my sleeve for when I just don't have enough yarn. I might tell you when I use them, or I might see if you can tell.

The result looks baggy, lumpy and, usually, too small. But, washed and stretched over a plate or pie tin, the tam really takes on its character. I'll try to include photos of before and after blocking for each hat, so that you can see what a big difference it makes.

Some people store tams on cardboard rounds, so that they don't lose their shape. I am not a big fan of cutting up cardboard boxes, but I have found a way out of it in the cake-decorating aisle. Apparently, people use cardboard rounds to support cakes, and they come in all kinds of sizes. I bought a dozen during a Memorial Day sale at a local big box crafts store for less than five dollars. I feel like that was a good bargain.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is the same tam, blocked out.


I have an unusual chat this week. As I was waiting for my custom-blended batt at my local fiber festival to be ready for me, I took some video of Kenya Habegger as she showed me, and talked about, her antique sock-knitting machine.

The video is short but sweet, just like knitting a pair of socks on one of those machines.


Antique Sock Machine, in Action

- I bought my custom batt from The Big Red Barn.

- Cardboard Rounds can be purchased from Amazon.