A stealth project crept in last night; nothing I “should” have been working on (i.e. neither a gift, an existing WIP, nor an original design), but I had gotten this Malabrigo from the WhitKnits sale, and really wanted to try it out because it’s one of those yarns everyone seems to be madly passionate about. So I cast on for a hat, knit for about 5 hours between watching a movie last night and waiting for files to process today, and suddenly, miraculously, I had a beret with a beautiful spirally flower design on top.

Even though I didn’t really accomplish anything with it, at least it’s red(dish), so it makes a good Project Spectrum entry.

Pattern: The Sunflower Tam, by Norah Gaughan, from Knitting Nature
Size: Child’s, with mods (see below). Finished size is about 20″ around the ribbing. The tam is about 12″ in diameter at its widest.
Yarn used: Malabrigo Merino Worsted from WhitKnits, about 3/4 of a skein, color #610, “Red Mahogany”
Needle size: US size 6/4.0 mm 16″ circular for the ribbing, US size 9/5.5 mm 16″ circular for most of the top, size 8 DPNs once the stitches wouldn’t stretch to fit on the 16″ circ anymore
Date started: 2/18/08
Date finished: 2/19/08
Mods: I started out the ribbing by using the Italian tubular cast-on, working k1 sl1 for 4 rows, then joining into the round for the 1×1 ribbing. Isn’t the edge pretty?

The pattern in the book makes a sort of weird, fez-like hat, with a purled turning row making the top into a crisp, flat, round flowerpot shape. I wanted a slouchy beret/classic Benjamin Bunny tam shape instead. To achieve this, I worked the ribbing on smaller needles–I knew my gauge would be slightly looser than specified, and indeed I ended up with a hat that is 20″ around the ribbing instead of 18″–then switched to larger needles right after the ribbing to help create the poofy shape. I rearranged the order of the increase rounds: I stacked up all the increase rounds immediately after the ribbing to create a sudden flare, and then knit 17 rounds even. Since I didn’t want the fez shape, I omitted the purled turning rounds. I worked the top pattern exactly as specified in the pattern, but instead of working the i-cord tie at the top, I just ran the yarn through the last 4 sts a couple of times and pulled tight to close. I’m quite happy with the resulting shape at the moment, but I suspect the Malabrigo may grow (especially if I let it touch water!) and then I may need to run some elastic through it or something to keep it fitting.

Notes: I’m not quite sure what all the fuss is about with this yarn. The Malabrigo is definitely soft and cuddly, but knitting with it was not, in my opinion, the kind of experience that defines a generation and changes lives. You’d think this yarn was the second coming, from the way everyone talks about it.

The Red Mahogany color didn’t really photograph right. It came out too washed out and looks far too pale and purple in most of these photos. I tweaked the colors a bit on one of the pictures, and came up with this version, which is closer, but still not great–too warm and bright.

The true color is a sort of semi-solid wine color, a noncommittal brownish-purplish-red, with deep almost-black spots where the yarn sucked up the dye. It looks, if I may be so pretentious, the way a soft Merlot tastes.

The pattern is gorgeous and very well written: the twisted stitch pattern on top is inspired by the phyllotaxis spirals of sunflower seeds, and I think it’s just beautiful and brilliantly done. In my opinion, the phyllotaxis section of the book contains the most beautiful and wearable designs–this opinion evidenced by the fact that I’ve made two designs out of the book so far, both of them from the phyllotaxis section.

The other one, if you’re wondering, was the Phyllo Yoked Pullover. I was thrilled to have my version chosen by Norah Gaughan herself as the “face” of the design in Ravelry–the first picture below, the yoke close-up, is the little icon you see in search results or when you queue the pattern.