This set has been a Knitting Event in my life (which probably sounds strange to those of you who aren't knitters). It was complex, original, and produces something that I love wearing. I'm going to slap a warning right here: This post is full of knitting, with very little reference to kids or my life outside of knitting. Really, if you're not down with steeks, this may be a yawner for you.
The Polar Bear Chullo is the first twist collective pattern that I've ever tried - I just don't like the pay by pdf system. But, the combination of bears, intense colorwork, and a hat that might just fit over my bun won me over. If you'll remember, the first was too small and became Little Dude's winter hat. As I was knitting, I loved it, but knew I wanted one for myself that had grizzly bears, to remind me of home, and green, because its my favorite color.
Now, the pattern starts with back and forth colorwork in the earflaps. On top of that, they are my least favorite part of the color interplay. I grabbed my new colors (greens, blue, brown, and grey) and tried the earflaps two at a time on 2 circs, with a steek planned for the back. That was a disaster. Steeks are not for me; they violate one thing I adore about knitting. If it sucks, you can always pull it out. Luckily, I didn't like the way the celadon heather played out, and those earflaps went in the trash bin. I tried one or two more color combinations and got really tired of messing around with earflap design and colorswatching at the same time. I wanted to invert the colors (use dark colors for the light areas in the pattern and vice versa) but, frankly, I didn't want to knit those earflaps until I was in love with the color combination.
So I made matching mittens. They're 60 st diameter on the same 2.5 mm needles I used for the hat. I worked the charts in the same order as the hat and started a gusset at the beginning of the first bear chart. I used a patterned gusset to carry the yarn across, and it was just k1 in light color, k1 in dark color and I love the way it came out. For the top of the thumb, I found a star pattern from Selbuvotter Mittens that worked well with the stars in the chullo pattern. I had to fudge the colorwork slightly to get things to line up on 60 sts, but mostly just on the cuff. The only other change to the patterns was to shift the bear over, so that the bears in both rows were aligned with each other, rather than being offset. I hardly wanted a grizzly with a thumb gusset sprouting out of his back!
While I was working through the thumb gusset, I got a great idea for the earflaps. I had toyed with the idea of lining the hat, and decided I could knit the lining and the earflap together, making them a circular project (and thus avoiding the wrong side colorwork). The earflaps now feature a lining in the same pattern as the thumb gusset. When I switched to the body of the hat, I just put the live earflap lining stitches on a holder. After finishing the body of the hat, I picked these back up and picked up stitches from the inside of the bottom rim of the hat. I worked up a couple inches of lining, then sewed it down.
Honestly, I've worn the hat many times, and still haven't had a chance to block it. It fits perfectly over my bun, and is exactly what I wanted. The hat is 435 yds, and the mittens are 236 yards.