The Easy Way to Line a Hat

I could knit hats all day, but ask me to line a hat and chances are I'll never do it. Something about measuring a head, cutting out fabric and sewing it into a hat seems like way too much work.

I was recently deconstructing a cashmere turtleneck for another project and was trying to figure out how to use the turtleneck tube. Headband? Too ugly. Hat lining? Perfect.

Here's how to line a hat with minimal effort. Just some scissors, pinning and whip stitches.

What you'll need:
An old turtleneck
Fabric scissors
A person's head (not yours)
Straight or safety pins
Needle and thread

Cut the tube of the neck away from the body of the sweater. I cut below the seam so it wouldn't unravel over time.

Turn the tube inside out and put it on a head with the seam in the back.

Put the hat over the tube and line it up the way you'd like it (if there's a seam to the hat, it should also be in back). Let the hat overhang the tube by 1/4 inch.

Pin the tube to the hat all the way around. This way it will remain stretched out as you sew it and won't cause the hat to pucker.

Remove the tube and hat from the head and thank your head for its assistance.

With thread matching the color of the hat, whip stitch the lining to the inside of the hat, trying to sew into the inside knitted stitches so as not to reveal the thread on the outside of the hat. The following photos are from a different hat and turtleneck.

Inside-out view

That's it! Now your hat is warmer and cozier.


Baby Candy Cane Stocking Cap -- Free Pattern

My photographer friend commissioned me to make a cute stocking cap for her holiday baby photo shoots.

I've never made anything so tall and pointy, but I think the effect is perfect. Could a baby look more like an adorable naked Christmas elf?

Photo by Laura Stennett Photography

This pattern is for a 3-6 month head. It's also a great introduction to knitting stripes.

Ho ho hope you enjoy it!

Baby Candy Cane Stocking Cap

One skein of red worsted weight yarn
One skein of cream worsted weight yarn (I used Red Heart soft)
Size 9 circular needles
Set of 9 double-point needles
darning needle
pom pom maker or large fork

Abbreviation: K2tog = knit two stitches together

With the red yarn cast on 64 stitches on your circular needle. Join with first stitch being careful not to twist the stitches. Begin ribbing in k1, p1 for six rounds.

Switch to white yarn and knit 2 rounds. There is no need to cut the red yarn as the rows are so narrow you can easily bring up the other yarn when you need it.

Continue knitting in stockinette stitch for 25 more rounds changing colors every 2 rounds. Transfer stitches to double pointed needles and begin decreasing as follows (while continuing to switch colors every 2 rounds):

*K2tog, k6, repeat * till end of round
knit 3 rounds
*K2tog, k5, repeat * till end of round
knit 4 rounds
*K2tog, k4, repeat * till end of round
knit 6 rounds
*K2tog, k3, repeat * till end of round
knit 15 rounds
*K2tog, k2, repeat * till end of round
knit 16 rounds
*K2tog, k1, repeat * till end of round
knit 5 rounds
*K2tog, repeat * till end of round
k 4 rounds. Cut yarn leaving a 12-inch tail. Using a darning needle, draw up remaining stitches and weave in all ends.

Make your pom pom and sew it to the top.

Happy Holidays from Alaska Knit Nat!


Chicken in a Sherry Mushroom Sauce with Baconated Collard Greens

Being a working mom can often leave me beat at the end of the day. I always try and throw something together, but once in a while it's nice to make something fancy.

The dish I made tonight was again inspired by an NPR show. Today on Fresh Air the chefs from America's Test Kitchen were talking turkey and mentioned a collard greens side dish that sounded pretty tasty. I wasn't able to find the recipe on Fresh Air's website, so I winged it.

I'm not too familiar with cooking collards, but what I came up with was bright, slightly smoky and delicious.

The chicken, coincidentally enough, was inspired by an America's Test Kitchen recipe for chicken piccata. This was healthy meal and was enjoyed by all (even our son liked the collards!)

Serves 3, prep/cooking time: 45 mins.

Ingredients for the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms (such as button, crimini and baby portobello)
1/4 cup sherry or white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbs. capers (optional)
squeeze of lemon

Ingredients for the collards:
1 bunch collard greens
3 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper


With a fork, stab the chicken all over. Place in a large Ziploc bag with 3 Tbs. olive oil, the soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, 3 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper. Marinate chicken in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the collards and remove the stalks. Roughly chop the collards. In a dutch oven, brown the bacon and set aside. Add 1 Tbs. olive oil and sauté the onions till soft, about 5 minutes. Add the collards and stir till they are wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, cover and let steam for 30 minutes, adding more stock if needed. There should be very little liquid in the pot toward the end, so partially cover and let liquid evaporate if needs be.

While the collards cook, pat dry the chicken and dredge in flour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. olive oil. When pan is hot, add the chicken and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Set chicken aside.

Add the mushrooms and onions and sauté till onions are soft. Add 2 cloves of garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in 2 Tbs. flour and cook for another minute. Pour in the sherry and stock and bring to a simmer, scraping up all the yummy burnt bits from the bottom of the pan.

When the sauce has thickened, place the chicken back in the pan. Cover the pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Set the chicken on your serving plates and add parsley and capers to the sauce in the pan. Stir and spoon over the chicken. Add a fresh squeeze of lemon juice to each plate.

To finish the collards, stir in the bacon bits and vinegar. Add salt and vinegar to taste.

Serve with brown rice or farro.


Pink Elephant Scarf

A few years back I got hooked on a pattern from Pickles.no called the Simple Luxury Scarf. It was indeed simple and I must have made five or six of them.

The pattern calls for two different high-quality yarns to be knitted at once. Each scarf was setting me back about $28.

Now that I'm not able to splurge on every yarn desire I decided to try the pattern with an inexpensive yarn. It turned out great and totally gift worthy. Patons Divine Yarn contains a little wool and mohair so you still achieve the fluffy, luxurious look and feel. I call it scrumptious. And at $4 after a JoAnn's coupon, I call it a great deal.

I didn't refer to Pickles' pattern this time around and it turns out I made it slightly differently, which is why I'm providing my pattern below; but I want to be clear that it originated from Pickles' pattern.

This pattern is for any level of knitter. It's a great way to pass winter weekend where it's -3 degrees outside.

1, 100-gram ball of Patons Divine Yarn (I used the Chantilly Rose color)
a long size 15 circular needle
darning needle

M1FB = Make 1 stitch in the front and 1 in the back of the same stitch, thus increasing your work by one stitch.
M1 = make 1 stitch

Special note: You'll be using a circular needle only to easily hold a large number of stitches required for this scarf. You will not be joining the work in the round.

Cast on 4 stitches.
M1FB into the first stitch. Knit to end of row.
Repeat previous row until you have used most of the yarn.

Final row: M1FB, K1, M1 *K3, M1. Repeat * to end of row. It's ok if you have a few extra stitches at the end. Just knit those. Cast off final row. Using darning needle, weave in ends.


Ice Cream Sundae Hat -- Free Pattern

During my bedtime Pinterest bingeing (I like to call it "pingeing") I came across a lovely knitted hat from http://muitaihania.blogspot.dk/.

I don't know Finnish, but I'm pretty sure the blogger didn't post a pattern for it. *Correction: After 30 seconds of browsing the site, I did find the pattern. Oh well!

So here's my version. It's called the Ice Cream Sundae Hat and it's lovely. I made it up as I went along and the pattern is simple enough that I don't think I need to provide a chart as long as you follow the instructions.

3 colors of bulky yarn such as Lamb's Pride Bulky, (Color A, Color B, and Color C)
Size 9 circular needles
Size 9 double-pointed needles
darning needle
pom-pom maker or giant fork

K = knit
P = purl
k2tog = Knit two stitches together

Special notes: You'll be knitting a basic fair isle pattern, so carry the unworked yarn across the back of the stitches you're working, being VERY CAREFUL not to pull the unworked yarn too tightly. Your hat will shrink significantly in diameter if you don't pay attention to the unworked yarn. I intentionally made my pattern bigger than my normal hats to account for my habit of pulling too tightly.

On your circular needle, cast on 80 stitches with Color A. Place marker on needle. Knit into the first stitch, being careful the stitches aren't twisted. K2, P2 for five rounds. Knit 3 rounds regularly. 

Round 9: With Color A, Knit 3 stitches. *With Color B, knit 4 stitches. With Color A, knit 6 stitches.* Repeat ** till end of round (you'll end by knitting 3 stitches with color A).
Round 10: With Color A, Knit 2 stitches. *With Color B, knit 6 stitches. With Color A, knit 4 stitches.* Repeat ** till end of round, ending with 2 stitches of Color A.
Round 11: With Color A, Knit 1 stitch. *With Color B, knit 8 stitches. With Color A, knit 2 stitches.* Repeat ** till end of round, ending with 1 stitch of Color A.
Rounds 12 & 13: With Color A, knit 1 stitch. *With Color B, knit 9 stitches. With Color A, knit 1 stitch.* Repeat ** till end of round. Cut Color A leaving a six-inch tail.
Knit 5 rounds with Color B.
Repeat rounds 9-13 with Colors B & C.
Knit 6 rounds with Color C.

Decrease as follows:
Round 1: Knit two together, knit 6. Repeat for one round.
Round 2 (and all even rounds): Knit
Round 3: K2tog, K 5 for one round
Round 5: K2tog, K 4 for one round (this is where you should probably switch to the double points).
Round 7: K2tog, K 3
Round 9: K2tog, K 2
Round 11: K2tog, K 1
Round 12: K2tog
Cut yarn leaving a 12-inch tail. Gather remaining stitches with a darning needle and fasten off. Weave in all tails.

For the pom pom:
I recommend a pom pom maker, which you can buy for about $6 at any big-box crafts store. Another super technique I found on Pinterest, where you use a serving fork. It's pretty great if you're feeling lazy.

Secure your pom pom to the hat using yarn and a darning needle. Run the yarn through the pom pom a couple of times and tie on the inside of the hat. I always try and leave a little length in case the pom pom loosens so I can easily refasten it.

Thanks again to Muita Ihania for the pretty design. 

Please contact me if there are any errors in the pattern. I've already given the hat away so I wasn't able to look at it as I was writing the pattern.


Quick Craft: DIY Heart Shirt

Shirts with big hearts are big right now, but despite the fad I actually think they are pretty cool.

I've had a few old cashmere sweaters awaiting crafting and this was the perfect short-attention-span craft: cut out a heart, sew it on a shirt.

My husband had the idea of sewing on the heart with contrasting embroidery thread. It not only gives it some "pop," but it also adds more of a homemade touch.

Here's what you'll need:

An old sweater
A plain shirt
A large piece of paper or newspaper
Thin, double-sided fusible interfacing or Stitch Witchery
Embroidery thread
large needle

1. Make a heart template to your liking. I just folded an 11 x 17 piece of paper in half and cut out a heart shape.

2. Place your heart template on the sweater and use chalk to trace the shape. Cut your shape out of the sweater.

3. Figure out where you'd like the heart to be placed on your shirt. Cut strips of interfacing or Stitch Witchery and place them on the shirt. Lay your heart, right side up, on top of the strips and fiddle around to get everything centered and flat. The photo below just shows where I placed the Stitch Witchery. In reality, the strips should not be facing up.

4. Iron the heart according to interfacing instructions, so it fuses to the shirt. This way it won't slip around when you're sewing and you won't have to worry about pins sticking you as you sew.

5. Cut a long piece of embroidery thread and straight stitch around the edge of the heart. Secure thread with a couple of knots on the inside when finished.



Mushroom Risotto with Parsnip Purée

Yesterday on my way to work I was listening to a story on NPR's Morning Edition about Mediterranean cooking and a chef was talking about a mushroom risotto with parsnip purée. They didn't provide a recipe, so I patched my own together from several different recipes I found online.

As usual, the photo falls flat (it's dark when I eat dinner!) but trust me, if you like mushrooms, this is a great meal and can easily be made vegetarian if you sub veggie stock for chicken stock.

I technically didn't use Arborio rice for last night's meal. I used farro, which is an ancient grain that's supposedly really healthy and can be found at health food stores. Use whatever grain you desire, you'll still have a flavorful dish.

I've not really cooked parsnips before, and purée sounds fancy, but is really just cooked parsnips put in the blender. Simple, creamy, flavorful and a great topping to the risotto.

I served this with chicken piccata -- cutlets in a white wine lemon sauce with capers.

Ingredients for risotto:
1/2 onion, finely chopped
olive oil
3/4 lb. crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
3/4 cup dried Arborio rice, farro or brown rice
1/4 cup dry white wine or sherry
2-3 cans chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

For the parsnips:
1/2 lb. parsnips, peeled and largely diced
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 Tbs. butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a small microwave safe bowl, place the porcini mushrooms with 1/4 cup stock and 1/4 cup water. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and heat for two minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes. Reserve the liquid and finely chop the porcini mushrooms.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Sauté the crimini and porcini mushrooms for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Set mushrooms and any liquid aside. Add another small swig of olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent, about five minutes. Add the dry rice and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the white wine and simmer until liquid is absorbed. Add half the mushroom water and cook till absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining mushroom water. Continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time letting rice absorb the liquid before adding more, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 minutes when rice becomes tender.

Meanwhile, add the milk and parsnips to a small saucepan and simmer till parsnips are tender, about 20 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the milk as it can easily boil over if heat is too high. While parsnips are cooking, heat the butter in a small frying pan. Add the 1/2 cup onion and sauté till soft, about five minutes.

Add milk, parsnips and onions to a blender and blend till completely puréed. Transfer to a small serving bowl, season with salt and pepper, cover and set aside.

When the rice is tender and ready to eat, turn off the heat. Stir in the mushrooms, butter and cheese till well combined. Serve risotto with dollops of parsnip purée.


Creamy Tomato Soup with Tortellini and Sausage

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 button mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 tbs. flour
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1.5 cans chicken stock
2 cans condensed tomato soup
1 tsp. dried porcini powder (optional)
2 Tbs. dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 package frozen tortellini
1 lb. Italian sausage
3/4 cup whole milk or half and half
grated parmesan cheese


Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium high flame. Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook till onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook another couple of minutes. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, tomato soup and seasonings and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, cook your sausages and brown them all over. Slice into rounds and brown those too. Add the sausage and tortellini to the soup. When tortellini is cooked, stir in the milk. Remove bay leaf. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and slices of buttered rustic bread.


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