Crochet simple ribbed hat in Malabrigo Rios: yarn review

Why would I make a winter hat when it’s April and the next cold day is months away around here? Simple: I finally got my hands on a beautiful hank of Malabrigo Rios, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Malabrigo refers to Rios, a worsted weight 100% superwash merino, as their “workhorse yarn”. Once I started my project, it was easy to see why. This is a smooth, even yarn that rolls easily into a ball, doesn’t tangle, has a marvelous stitch definition, and slides through your fingers nicely as you work with it. If you make a mistake and need to rip out a few rows, you can do that easily. And, of course, being a Malabrigo and superwash yarn to boot, it comes in a beautiful range of variegated and solid colors.

Now let’s talk a bit about the drawbacks – or, I should rather say, the specs that make a specific type of yarn more suited to one project than another.

I wanted to make a hat for my son. What I had in mind was an interesting cabled pattern with tons of texture. However, about midway through my project, I realized that, a) my chosen colorway, Playa, looked a tad too busy with cables, and b) the cables seemed a little flat. I wish I had taken pictures, but since I hadn’t, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I did not achieve the satisfying bouncy, squishy cables I got in my other hat projects.

It turned out I wasn’t alone. Another crafter who had made beautiful hats in Malabrigo Rios complained of the cables not holding up too well. Her project was knitted and mine was crochet, but it still prompted me to seek more feedback.

This was my first time working with superwash merino. After reading up a bit, I realized that superwash merino yarns have their strengths and weaknesses. In a nutshell: the superwash treatment removes some of the scales on the fiber surface. This results in a sleek, smooth yarn that offers more drape than body.

I switched gears and decided to rework my hat into the simplest pattern I could find. It’s literally nothing but a crochet rectangle, all worked in single crochet in the back loop and then seamed and cinched at the top. It came out very simple and neat, and the all-ribbing structure gives it a nice stretch.

So would I recommend Malabrigo Rios? Working with it was a treat. However, if I purchase more Rios (or Malabrigo Arroyo, its sport weight version), I will probably earmark it for a project where drape matters more than bounce, such as a cardigan or a shawl.

Happy Passover (my least favorite holiday)

Pure loveliness

At this time of the year, I always wish I had the means to reach whomever set up the counterproductive tradition of combining the Passover chametz hunt with spring cleaning. That, and the founders of the waaaaaay overboard chumrot (unnecessarily tricky practices) like covering all the kitchen surfaces. Hello, aluminum foil, how nice to see you – NOT.

I’d file a collective lawsuit against them or something. Because when I toll the accumulated stress, chaos, frustration, exhaustion, and pangs of hunger of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children unable to get a proper meal in a disordered pre-Passover home, the mental damage is just unimaginable.

Jezreel Valley in spring

If my children grow up and decide to part ways with Jewish tradition, I’m laying the charge at Passover’s door. Yes, it’s that bad. I envy the rich people with holiday homes they can use just during this week.

But, on the up side, this year I managed to lower the level of insanity a tiny bit. I left ALL the bookcases and closets alone (other people in this house who are unhappy about it can roll up their sleeves and get busy – I never told them not to), and in the week before the holiday, I peeled off my scrubbing gloves and went with the kids on a hike through the woods.

Such lovely weather. So many different kinds of vegetation, especially lush after a generously rainy winter. This most beautiful time of the year, totally wasted on cleaning.

Chickens on a stroll

And here is just a random pic of the backyard flock roaming while I was cleaning out their coop. The rooster just showed up out of the blue over a week ago. Isn’t he a handsome boy?

Super simple headbands

This season, I’m challenging myself to use up the yarn I have in my stash rather than keep drooling over delightful new yarn I’d love to order. So far, I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m fitting my stash into a compact storage space, I’m making useful things, and I’m being creative.

I’ve discovered headbands as a terrific way to use up half a skein of yarn (or less) when you don’t have enough for a hat. Headbands are cool accessories, work up quickly, and can function as earwarmers. They make great gifts or items for a craft booth when you need to make something quick.

My girls love their headbands and keep asking for more, although personally I’m ready to move on to more interesting stuff. These are literally simple rectangles, done in SC in the back loop, and sewed using the Simple Twist Headband method (look it up on YouTube).

Mini Cable crochet winter beanie

Latest creation

If you don’t know what to crochet, a beanie is always a good idea. Hats are practical, work up quickly, are very forgiving of mistakes, and allow much room for creativity.

This hat is very similar to my Winter Sun crochet beanie – worked from the brim up – but done in the mini cable stitch with spaces of one back post double crochet. I used some old anonymous yarn from eBay, similar to this one – single ply in DK weight and 3 mm crochet hook.

I loved making it and the little recipient enjoys wearing it!

The art of affordable living

I often think that the most helpful thing for staying financially afloat is not cutting a few dollars here and there – not clipping some coupons, or saving on electricity, or squeezing out the last bit of toothpaste – but what I call the art of affordable living; an attitude that helps countless people with moderate to low incomes live well and stay out of debt.

It’s genuinely preferring a nature walk to a shopping mall; homemade gifts to the latest order from Amazon; restored old furniture to an IKEA assembly; a quiet get-together on the beach with a few friends to a glitzy event. It’s the satisfaction of being able to step back and say, “I don’t really need that much.”

It has always amazed me, during our house moves, how well the family has coped with 90% of the clothes and utensils packed away for weeks. 10% of our belongings were quite enough to keep us dressed, fed, and entertained. There were moments, while I unpacked, when I wished I could just chuck some boxes away unopened (don’t worry, I never did that. I love my books, yarn, and fluffy pajamas too much).

At this time, I also feel that the habits of simplicity are serving me and my family amazingly well. Lockdowns, restrictions, green passes, and the rest of the paraphernalia the past two years have brought are a lot easier to take when your happiness doesn’t hinge on eating out, going to live shows, or staying in hotels.

I’ll just finish with a great quote from here:

“Living a simple life means there is no need to chase the extra buck. You don’t need the cash to buy the bigger living space to put all your stuff in that you would need more money to buy. Instead, you see that you can live on less and get rid of stuff to create more space.”

COVID and Food Security

After a rather lengthier silence than I had planned, I have a new post up on Mother Earth News. Like some of my previous posts, this one, too, explores food security in the pandemic era.

“Most authoritative sources agree: food prices are rising, and the trend isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. Many of the reasons have to do with the pandemic in some way or other, including production and supply chain disruptions, increased shipping costs, and the dollar’s deprecation.”

Key insights from the post:

~ In years to come, we will likely pay for our convenience in outsourcing most of our food production

~ Prices are only going to climb higher and higher in the foreseeable future

~ The next months and years will try our resilience and ability to get by on less and less

I know that if someone had told me two years ago, “you’ll walk into a grocery store two years later and you’ll see such and such prices on fruit, vegetables, and basic staples”, I’d probably think it was a joke. Filling a supermarket cart is turning more and more expensive.

There is no better time than now to learn sustainability skills, stockpile, grow some of your own food, and explore still-affordable meal options. To make and mend clothes and furniture, swap goods, and develop strong community ties that make every crisis easier.

The perfect escape

We have lived through a hellish week and a half, with everyone sick and me having just enough energy to feed the poultry, make tea, and make sure everyone has their antibiotics.

After this nightmare, yesterday I realized there’s no more perfect opportunity than now for a little escape trip to the beach.

Perfection, every time

We arrived in the late afternoon, my favorite time of the day, and stayed until sunset. The sky was still red when we caught the train home.

Love it.

I always kind of wish we lived closer to the beach, but then maybe it wouldn’t be as special.

I sure hope we won’t be as sick again this summer – or, ideally, ever.

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