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That Which We Can Control

May 28, 2020
Beloved Bonnet Pattern

This pandemic is hurting people all over the world right now. When it comes to weathering this storm, Alexa and I are among the most privileged, and we know that many people are suffering more severe hardships and losses. It was this knowledge that inspired us to donate some of our sales to local charities last month, and we are grateful for the ability to help where we can.

While I work to remain aware of my privilege, I must admit to feeling waves of stress and anxiety wash over me these past months. Life’s uncertainties have come into sharp focus, and the sense of control I had has completely evaporated. My family’s usual routine has been upended altogether, and we’re all a bit off balance.

Terraced flats and a leafless tree

With my routine turned on its head, the constants I previously assumed are no longer reliable. The future has lost its trustworthiness. I know that trustworthiness was an illusion, but frankly, it was a comfortable one. It allowed me to feel comfortable taking risks, making plans, and working creatively.

Beyond that, I miss some simple things that brought me joy before. I miss seeing my friends in the flesh. I miss dreaming up new designs in the myriad of excellent coffee shops within 10 minutes of my apartment. I miss feeling the hum and excitement of Edinburgh.

With many aspects of my life uncertain, I am yearning for some stability. These are not easy times to be sure, but knitting is easy, right? I know how to do that – and that’s a little something I can control.

Finding Comfort in Simplicity

Usually I’m more of a designer than a knitter. It’s the challenging side of the craft – the stitch-by-stitch hunt for new ideas, motifs, and methods – that excites me. But now that I’m ankle-deep in a rising tide of uncertainty, I feel like I’ve become a knitter once again. With my mind, body, and emotions processing so many changes, I’ve been reaching for knits that are simple. For me, it’s comforting to work on a project that I can see the end of –something I know will come out beautifully.

Beloved bonnet pattern
This Beloved bonnet is knit in Qing Fiber Merino Single in ‘bone’ . Project details here.

With that in mind, a Beloved bonnet for a new baby in the family was a perfect starting point.

This project reminds me of a cherished children’s book you are happy to read over and over again. You begin with an i-cord, increase following an easy-to-memorize pattern, reach the turning point before you know it, and then decrease back to end with the other i-cord. The second half of the knit seems to accelerate as the rows become ever shorter, culminating in a sweet conclusion with only two little ends to weave in. You can find all the techniques for this bonnet in our in-depth Beloved tutorial.

Beloved Bonnet Pattern
This rainbow of Beloved bonnets was a joy to make. Find all the yarn details on our Ravelry project page.

Once I finished the first bonnet, I couldn’t bring myself to stop. I used leftover sock-weight yarns, held doubled to get gauge. Beloved is designed in DK weight yarn, but if you work in worsted, aran weight (or holding sock-weight doubled as I have), it comes out just a little bit bigger.

Beloved Bonnet Pattern

After I had my fill of bonnets, I knit a couple pairs of The World’s Simplest Mittens. With Scotland’s on-again/off-again spring weather, my kids often wear their mittens well into May, and I was happy to have more on hand.

The World's Simplest Mittens Pattern
Max’s mittens were made using a vivid and difficult-to-photograph combination of neons!
The World's Simplest Mittens Patterns
Neve’s little mittens were made using our free pattern, The World’s Simplest Mittens. For yarn details, see our Ravelry project page.

With these mittens done, I pulled out some beautiful handspun yarn and got started on a simple, striped Flax sweater for Neve.

Flax Sweater Pattern

While everything seems more out-of-control and out-of-the-ordinary than I am used to – and while I’m on the phone with loved ones half a world away – these kinds of simple, trusted projects bring me comfort and help me bear my fears a bit more bravely.

Are You Reaching for Your Needles?

Are you finding comfort in needles and yarn these days?

What projects are you most drawn to for stress relief in a sea of uncertainty?

~ Emily

Simple Tin Can Knits patterns:
Snap Hat Pattern Antler Pullover Pattern Wheat Scarf Pattern

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Debi permalink
    September 29, 2021 8:49 pm

    I love making hats, cowls, &fingerless mitts

  2. Parrot permalink
    August 27, 2021 4:51 am

    I wish I could find a pattern for such a bonnet which would fit an adult. Crochet or knit.

  3. Cheryl permalink
    October 13, 2020 9:21 am

    The Beloved bonnet is one of my favorite de-stressor knits—that and dish cloths. 😄 Thank you for designing such a great comforting pattern.

  4. June 19, 2020 4:29 am

    A lovely post and your knitting designs are the best. Yes, I reach for my needles and am grateful for knitting in my life.

  5. Siobhan permalink
    June 1, 2020 9:44 am

    Your thoughtful words are very welcome. As a fellow Edinburgh resident I miss our city too, and am especially mourning the loss of those activities where I connect with my friends in person, classes at DanceBase, cinema at the Filmhouse, my writing group. For the first time since I moved here a decade, I don’t have half a dozen films to see at the Film Festival this June. I watched Sunshine on Leith again recently and it was lovely to see Edinburgh (even with the film’s topsy-turvy geography) full of people, happy and enjoying life together.

    And while I watch films, I’ve also found comfort in knitting, and I hope it is a comfort to you and Alexa to know how much solace I’ve found in knitting patterns from tincanknits. So clear, colourful and with lovely stories behind each design. I’ve been knitting a lot from Mad Colour, Undertone cowls for my nephews, stash swatches to turn into rainbow bunting and if in doubt, the Vivid blanket squares are my Beloved bonnet! I’m about to start on my first shawl and I’m trying to decide between the cosy simpler Grain or whether I should venture back to lace and go big with a Slice! Whatever I end up knitting, I know it will be a respite from the challenges of work, and the outside world, so thank you, and take care of yourselves.

  6. Olivia permalink
    June 1, 2020 4:34 am

    You’re knitting is just beautiful it’s a joy to see. And your photography is also wonderful. Yes times are uncertain, Knitting can bring such peace.

  7. May 29, 2020 10:36 pm

    Bought the beloved bonnet pattern last month and have finished two already for babies due soon. It’s a comfort to be creating something useful that is not super-challenging. Thank you!
    Sally at One Family, One Planet blog

  8. Rhoda Besecker permalink
    May 29, 2020 8:07 pm

    I am a lifelong knitter, age 73 (began at 15) and find it reliably grounds and quiets me. Right now, we can all use that. I am currently knitting chemo caps because my partner starts chemotherapy soon, but after that I will go back to a Virtual Yarns intarsia accessory set I am knitting for a dear friend. The intricacy of the design is a great help.

  9. La Donna s skuza permalink
    May 29, 2020 7:03 pm

    Wish I could knit sweaters and childern hats I just know how to do the dish cloths and then straight knitting . I wish their were classes for hands on. But with this corn19 nothing as yet you do Beautiful work.

  10. RITA permalink
    May 29, 2020 2:56 pm

    Yes I went to my knitting needles and started making what I call my Quarantine scarves….nothing complex or detailed…I went to my basement and sorted through my stash…didn’t know I had so many single skeins of novelty yarn…so I decided to make a scarf with the 1 or 2 skeins…found a simple garter stitch pattern in an old Vogue Knitting book and started my journey..branched out and adapted the less than 100 yard balls into 16 scarves so far…still on my road to peace during this weird time…

  11. Carolanne Leitch permalink
    May 29, 2020 11:06 am

    I knit all the time I would love some patterns please

    • May 29, 2020 12:16 pm

      Hi Carolanne – You can find all of the Tin Can Knits patterns on our website,

  12. May 29, 2020 8:55 am

    What a beautiful, heartfelt post! I love your ability to hold and express the complexity of acknowledging vulnerability and unpredictability while also owning your privilege. That is a difficult balance, to be sure!

  13. Deborah Byrne permalink
    May 29, 2020 5:19 am

    I have,been knitting also, gives me purpose and stops mindless snacking, I found my husbands family clan aran pattern just before lockdown and have 2 finished and one on the needles, would love to share photos, they have turned out soo well, I normally just knit baby cardigans so this was a challenge

  14. Leanne (Sparkles) Bennett permalink
    May 29, 2020 12:14 am

    You write and express yourself so beautifully. I feel exactly the same way. We fool ourselves thinking we are in control but all this uncertainty has shaken us up enough to realize we were just playing some kind of game with ourselves. I have been knitting baby hats as well as fingerless mitts because one thing I do know…winter will come. Thank you for your lovely writing and stay safe and happy ☕🤗

  15. Nicole permalink
    May 28, 2020 11:11 pm

    I have also taken refuge in knitting. It gives a tangible purpose to the day with an obvious outcome. I am making hats for charity while trying to use up all my yarn. Thank you for your lovely post.

  16. Bindy permalink
    May 28, 2020 11:01 pm

    Thanks, Emily, for your honesty. I always appreciate it when intelligent, capable, successful women are willing to admit to uncertainty or struggle or fear. It takes away that sense that ‘the rest of us aren’t as good as her’ and helps to build genuine community. Thanks for being brave!

    I completely agree with the need to knit simple projects right now. I have been teaching high school and my own younger kids from home, so life has been hectic, with lots of new, new, new. I am knitting your Flax Light at present, without the garter-stitch panels, for some simple knitting. But I have new birthday yarn that will become your Penny pullover when I am ready. Thanks again!

  17. Lynn Carter permalink
    May 28, 2020 5:44 pm

    Hi ,
    I completed the purchase of the Snap beanie . I love it , being able to use up my sock yarn is so helpful . I was looking for a use of my little remnants , and being able to mix with other Yarns is the best thing ever . It’s nearly winter here in Australia , so I have plenty of little heads to cover . They will look great and no two will be the same . Also I can use it up for homeless beanies . A great easy mindful knit indeed .
    I love your patterns and it’s not the first or last of yours I will purchase . Thank you so much .

    Kind regards ,
    Lynn Carter

  18. Parrot permalink
    May 28, 2020 11:39 am

    How I wish there was an adult size bonnet pattern!

  19. May 28, 2020 7:37 am

    I have been weaving, burins through my stash. Six shawls since the beginning of March. The pink mittens above are exactly the color of the sweater I made for my youngest granddaughter. I also made several pairs of socks using your pattern, beginning last November. Thank you. I always look forward to your postings.

  20. Julie Adair permalink
    May 28, 2020 7:36 am

    Thank you for this! I have found knitting to be the one thing that keeps me calm. I like the idea of small, simple projects, even though I have just taken on two rather large complicated projects for friends! Love to you.

  21. May 28, 2020 7:27 am

    Love all these shades!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

  22. Kathleen Hess permalink
    May 28, 2020 7:12 am

    Emily, what a beautifully written essay on this extremely unsettling time! I’m a rather new knitter having picked to up just four years ago. There have been so many times that knitting has gotten me through a day filled with the anxiety of “what’s to come”. I really don’t think I could manage the uncertainty without my yarn and projects nearby! Since March, I have knit three sweaters – working on number four – a wrap and a linen market bag. Next on the list are some Beloved Bonnets…..they are my absolute favorite to knit and gift!! My Irish grandmother knit something so similar for me while I was young! :-) Thank you for putting into words what we are all feeling at this time and also thank you for all the Tin Can Knits patterns that are helping us cope! Much love, Kathleen

  23. Nan permalink
    May 28, 2020 6:39 am

    Just beautiful. Thank you for putting into words the feelings many of us are experiencing.

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