It’s been two months since we began our informal Balaclava Kal after becoming obsessed with this vintage accessory and its modern comeback. We finished them just in time for, well, the warm, spring weather apparently!
Whilst they might not get the most wear for the next several months, we’re still loving our winter accessory knits and wanted to show them off to you.
Eugenie’s Intarsia Balaclava
My heart was set on the Intarsia Balaclava by Anna Husemann as soon as I saw it. The way she applies colours is really striking and I’ve said it before (and I’ll say it again), this is a very cleverly designed pattern. I had some scraps of Sandnes Garn Alpakka left from my Grunge & Glory cowl so I decided to use them instead of pairing a 4ply with two strands of mohair as Anna did in her own version. Although I am really loving the way it looks I can see how using mohair would help hiding irregularities and make everything look a bit more polished and even – especially at the junctions in between colour blocks.
I particularly enjoyed the way Anna Husemann makes you work the ribbing around the neck and the face. Intarsia requires to knit flat while the ribbing has to be knitted in the round to follow the seamless construction of the balaclava. This pattern offers a clever solution to combine both techniques. Once you joined the round she makes you knit back and forth from one side of the BOR to the other. Exactly as if you were working short rows but instead you’re knitting the entire length of the round. A change of colour at the BOR allows the round to remain joined – twisting the two strands of yarn creates a secure connection in between both ends. Again maybe that sounds very obvious to someone who has knitted intarsia before but for me it was totally mind blowing.
I was a bit sceptical about the practicality of wearing a balaclava – what to do with all the hair? – but I really enjoy the fact that it warms up your neck, ears and head all at once. I naturally run quite cold so this is a most welcome addition to my winter paraphernalia.
Charlee’s Ronja Balaclava
I have really been enjoying stranded knitting recently and so, when we decided to run this balaclava kal I thought it would be the perfect time to get some more practice with this technique. I chose the Ronja balaclava by Arne & Carlos mainly for it’s construction but I did like the addition of colourwork even if it wasn’t 100% my style and so I decided to make some alternations to the pattern.
I used DK scraps from my stash to create random stripes across the work, keeping these to the bottom section of the ribbing so that when the hat is rolled up the visible rim is solid black. To the crown I added in a cute ghost motif from Valorie Wibbens Happy Haunts Socks pattern – although I did have to modify this slightly and take out three rows in order to make the ghosts fit.
I love the versatility of this balaclava as you can roll up the ribbed portion so that it becomes an extra thick brimmed hat which is perfect for me as I tend to get headaches in winter when my ears get cold. Plus the multipurpose design makes the accessory much more wearable as I’m not 100% sure how much I would wear a balaclava in the warmer than average Brighton winters.
Kate’s November Balaclava
I have strong memories of being a child and being put in itchy woollen balaclavas at my Grandparent’s house in Edinburgh when it snowed unexpectantly. They were probably ones that had been made for my mum and her siblings in the 60s. They’re not exactly fond memories so I wasn’t sure it was going to be a trend that I’d jump on. However, I also hate the bulk you get at the meeting of scarf and hat. Maybe I have an odd shaped head but when wearing both the hat always rides up my head. So, I do like the idea of a hat and scarf attached being a solution. A trend maybe, but also practical.
I chose to make the Petiteknit November Balaclava in Sandnes Garn Alpakka which was a breeze to knit up. I chose this pattern because of the shaping around the face – I didn’t fancy the porthole look – and this one sits quite far back on the head so quite a bit of hair is visible. The fisherman’s rib is really squishy and the double thread makes the fabric lovely and thick. Perhaps a bit overkill for a Brighton winter as it never gets that cold but what Brighton does have is wind wind and more wind. So that will be a good test. No nooks and crannies for wind to get through!
The only thing I changed from the pattern was the final bind off of the face ribbing. I had already bound off the neck ribbing using the Italian bind off technique as recommended which is a type of tubular bind off. It’s not stretchy at all and I can just get it over my head. Whenever I have done any tubular bind off, I’ve regretted it. Maybe I’m doing something fundamentally wrong but I just don’t think they’re stretchy. They might make a neat finish but that isn’t helpful when you can’t get something over your head. This sent me down a rabbit hole of alternatives and I found a new one to me called the invisible bind off. It’s a sewn bind off so not quick but it is nice and stretchy and the thing that really sold it to me, it has no flare. It looks just like a tubular bind of, there are no edge stitches, but it’s even better because you don’t have to do any set up rows and there is no bulge you can get with a tubular bind off. I would highly recommend it.
Until Next Time… Happy Knitting!