Lab Hat

I manage a neuroscience centre.  We have a host of neuroimaging facilities including MRI and EEG.  Electroencephalography (EEG) is a technique that measures the electrocortical activity of the brain.  (Bear with me knitters, I have a knitterly point to make here.)

When doing an EEG recording, electrodes which detect the electrical activity generated by the brain are arrayed across the scalp. The electrodes are embedded onto a cap, sort of like a swimming cap, which comes in many different sizes to reflect head sizes. (For the geeks out there, these are 64 channel EasyCaps, supplied  by Brain Products GmbH.)

EEG caps are extremely expensive pieces of high tech equipment.  They are fragile and must be treated with care.  The conductive gel which is used to guarantee a good connection between the electrodes and the scalp is sticky and grainy.  After using the caps, they must be very carefully washed, dried and stored.  The caps are gently scrubbed using a soft  toothbrush and baby shampoo.  They are then left to dry.   In the lab, we have a series of glass heads, in different head sizes, which are used for drying and storing the caps.  The washed cap is stretched over the appropriate size glass head and left to air dry.

I was intrigued when finishing my Peerie Flooers hat by the suggestions knitters made for the best way to block a hat.  Some people found a vaguely head sized bowl to dry the hat on; some (rather ingenious) people blew up balloons to the right size and dried the hat on the balloon; many people, I suspect, put the wet hat upon their heads and let it air dry.  I, however, have a laboratory full of glass drying heads in every imaginable head size…….

Capping off the year

I’ve capped off the year….with a cap.  This morning I finished the Peerie Flooers hat, designed by the extremely talented Kate Davies.  This hat was a departure for me.  While I consider myself to be a pretty good knitter, there are many knitting skills which I have managed to neglect in my decades long knitting odyssey.  One of these is the ability to do stranded knitting, or Fair Isle, in which you make beautiful colour garments while knitting simultaneously with two strands of wool.  One strand is held in the left hand and knit in the continental style and the other is held in the right and knit in the English style.  This is my very first item knitted using this technique, and I admit to appalling speed and awkwardness.  But….I am definitely getting better at it!  Here is a photo of my hands while knitting the hat; notice the strand in each hand.

In an earlier post, I showed the half-finished Peerie Flooers hat modelled by my daughter Leah.   Unfortunately, the finished hat is too big for Leah, in fact, it is almost too big for me!  In retrospect, I should have left off the fourth row of flowers or, even better, have used a 3mm needle instead of a 3.25mm (my gauge was 8 st/inch instead of the called for 8.5).  In these photos I am wearing the hat with a hand knit sweater; this is the Leyfi sweater designed by Romi Hill, which I knit in the fall of 2010.  I have lost weight since knitting it and it is a bit big, but I love it and as you can see, it goes very well with the Peerie Flooers colours.

I finished knitting this morning and then had to weave in all the loose ends of yarn.  Emma took a photo of the hat inside out with all of the loose ends waving in the wind.  Doesn’t it look like a jelly fish?  Weaving in ends has to be done in good light and must be accompanied by good coffee.  It is a nice relaxing way to spend the last morning of the year.

And of course a nosy knitter always wants to see the reverse side of your stranded knitting.  The difficulty with this type of knitting is to keep your tension even while carrying the extra strand of wool across the back; too loose and the garment will look messy and the ends will catch, too tight and the fabric will buckle.  I am rather pleased with this first attempt.

Here is the crown of the hat, which shows off the lovely design.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Autumn Colours

I’ve been fascinated by the progression  of colours in the Brick pullover.  It alternates stripes of Poppy red, Cerise, and Dark brick red, worked in a mosaic stitch with Charcoal. It is very hard to photograph and looks very different depending on the light.  While knitting it in the house in the evening, I can scarcely tell the difference between the cerise and brick colours.  Today – a foggy, misty autumn day – brought out all of the colours.

The above shot not only shows how lovely the colours and stitch pattern work together, but also is a good progress shot.  This represents one week of work; it is very nearly half of the back.  Brick is knit from side-to-side in one piece starting at the left side seam.  Afterwards, the sleeves are picked up and knit down in rib, and the neck band and bottom rib are also picked up and knit.  (Note that the blue yarn is not part of the sweater; it is holding the stitches live so that I can knit the two sides together when I’ve finished the body of the sweater.)  This next photo really captures the colours and vibrancy of the pattern.

I haven’t put much work into the Peerie Flooers hat since becoming obsessed with Brick this week, but I have made some progress since the last time I posted about it.  Here you can clearly see the flowers:

Aren’t they pretty?  My daughter Leah was raking leaves in the back yard when we pulled the half-finished hat on her head, in order to get a modelled shot. She didn’t want to take it off.

We are just about at the end of the autumn colours here.  We went for a walk yesterday afternoon in the countryside around Turville (where they filmed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and countless English murder mysteries).  It was picture perfect; the paths were strewn with leaves which made a lovely crunchy sound as we walked.  We could tell that it was the last weekend to see the colours, however; the leaves are all on the ground and no longer on the trees.  I will let the fall settle on my knitting needles.  I will pour a glass of Beaujolais, and watch the reds march across my lap.

Peerie Flooers

Here is a little preview of the gorgeous Peerie Flooers hat so you can see how beautifully these colours work together.

I have wanted for a long time to teach myself how to do two-handed knitting.  For those unfamiliar with this technique, here is a long aside. There are two major styles of knitting.  In continental knitting, you wrap the yarn around the left hand and use the right needle to “pick” or draw the thread through the stitch; in English knitting, you hold the yarn in the right hand and “throw” the yarn to make the stitch.  I use the latter method, which my grandmother taught me when I was a child.  When working with two colours, as in Fair Isle knitting, you hold one colour in your left hand and one in the right, and you knit continental style when knitting with the yarn in the left hand, and English knitting when using the yarn in your right hand.

I have tried this technique in the past and am hopeless at it.  Despite being left-handed, I feel as if my left hand is completely useless, and I am so slow it feels as if I am just learning to knit.  I never manage to stick with it long enough to work up any speed or proficiency.  I have had my eye out for a small colourwork project that is so perfect that I can’t possibly cast it aside.  As soon as I saw Peerie Flooers, I knew this was it.  I have read that many knitters are choosing this as their first colourwork project, which is a testament to Kate Davies‘ genius.


I stopped at John Lewis last week to pick up some Fine Tweed, a new yarn release from Rowan, and couldn’t believe how gorgeous this yarn is.  I bought seven colours, to make the beautiful Peerie Flooers hat by Kate Davies, but had to restrain myself from buying out the lot.  The colours are so beautiful you have to see them in person to really appreciate them.

I asked Emma to try to capture the colours in a photo.  Every day, I would say “Have you taken the photos yet?”  And she would say “I’m waiting for the right light.”  Well today the light was right.

Doesn’t it make you want to sit and knit?