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History of a Hat

Today's post is going to be almost entirely of interest to knitters, so take that non-knitters who foolishly persist in reading my blog for the occasional humour! I'll be using terms like "short rows" and "decreases" and I'm not even going to explain them in the Glossary. I'm in that kind of mood. Ha!

So yesterday I finished a hat, for the most part (I have a pom pom to add to it. If we're lucky, I'll get the pom pom in the mail (or, possibly, the pom pom maker, I ordered both) before I finish writing and posting this entry. You'll know which way it worked out in the end because I will either have a photo of the hat with a pom pom, or sans pom pom, as the last photo of the post. Oh, the suspense!

The Glimpse Across the Crowded Room

As with any good relationship, it begins (at least, it did in my day) with seeing one another (nowadays people chat on Instagram or tweet on Tinder or message on Pinterest or some combination of that, and then later find out what they look like). Sometimes a friend is wearing the sweater ("What sweater is that?") or knitting that scarf ("What pattern are you working on?" or you're perusing the latest magazine from KnitPicks, or you're deliberately searching the Ravelry database, but eventually, you see it. The one. (Or one of many, I'm a promiscuous knitter). For me, it was a Ravelry search, and I stumbled across this hat, and I loved it (aside from the colour, too loud and warm for my delicate complexion):

Do anything jump out at you? It did for me: 2nd from the right, top row. It's the pattern called Vairisle (A Hat) by Dan Lee. It has earflaps (I'm into ear flap hats now, as, surprise surprise, that style of hat also keeps my ears warm rather than just the rest of my head).

Getting To Know You

Of course, you can't plunge into a relationship with anyone (or a hat pattern) just because they're good looking. You have to get to know them first. With a person, you might meet for coffee and a pastry ($5 to $10 depending on your order), and with a hat pattern, you should probably just buy it and read the darned thing (£3.50 GBP, in this case). If the pattern starts sounding like Urdu (assuming you don't speak Urdu), or says outrageously terse things like "CO 79sts, k 2rounds rev.stk. place 15sts on st holder" etc, then you gently walk away from it (or away for now, until you gain confidence). If it sounds cheerful and like a good match, e.g. "CO 112 stitches in your main colour (MC), using a long-tail cast on (I like theGerman twisted long tail)" then it's probably worth dating for a while, and by the time you're tired of it, you'll likely have finished the project anyway—it is, after all, just a hat.

The Commitment

If you're ready to commit, then you're ready to assign yarn to the project, or (if you like having excuses to buy more yarn), you get to buy more yarn! I bought mine at Stitches West from Fidalgo Yarns and Twisted Fiber Arts. And then there was a bit of a wait because my contrasting colour (from Twisted Fiber Arts) was a special order that they delivered to me. Fairly promptly, really, but by then I was already seeing other people (I mean, knitting other projects). But eventually the timing was right.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

If everything goes according to plan, there's not really much to write about—you can, after all, read the pattern yourself (for £3.50 GBP), and you'll learn exactly what it feels like to knit it perfectly. The pattern is by definition the platonic ideal of what the project should be, except in very rare cases of improvisatory knitting where you knit as your mood (or the colour changes in the yarn) take you.

I'm not perfect, so things rarely go according to plan.

Shadow Wraps: My first venturing off the path and closer to the wolves (Red Riding Hood analogy, keep up) was to alter the kind of Short Rows the pattern called for. Pattern wants wrap & turn, but I wanted to try our Shadow Wraps because I hadn't done 'em before and I was curious. So I did Shadow Wraps. I suspect for this project regular old wrap & turn would have been better (e.g. less distractingly visible) because the band of the hat was in garter stitch. On the plus side, I did learn how to do Shadow Wraps. You can see, on the edged of the short row sections there are large, ungainly stitches that I don't care for (more so on the left than the right):

Flip It: I tried so hard to get rid of these lumpy, ugly, giant loops of excess yarn. I stuck tapestry needles in hither and thither and tried to disperse the excess, but ultimately to little avail (and remember, you're looking at the "after" shot, not the "before," which looked much, much worse!) Fortunately I noticed that the inside of the hat didn't look as unsightly ... and the hat was garter stitch to this point, so reversable, so voila! I declared the outside was now the inside, the inside was now the outside, and ended up with a less visibly distracting edge to my short row section:

The bottom edge isn't quite as sexy (because now it's only two rows instead of three before you hit the contrast colour), but I prefer it overall this way. You've probably already noticed that I'm alternating the contrasting colour with the main colour, and (because of the short rows) in the ear flap sections the contrasting colour predominates.

Darkness Descends: Once the band is complete, we move out of the garter stitch section, and in to the stockinette and the Fair Isle (stranded knitting) section. My lovely contrasting colour has begun to lose some of its contrast (it's a gradient yarn, that cuningly travels from white, through rose, through brick, and into almost exactly the same colour as my main colour, dark grey with a hint of navy).

I tell myself that this is not a problem. I will appreciate the subtleties of the pattern of very dark slightly blueish grey, against not-quite-the-same very dark slightly blueish grey:

But who are we kidding? It's clearly a good 18-20 rounds before anything vaguely resembling a charted stitch pattern begins to emerge. In hindsight I clearly should have just cut out the large chunk of variegated, virtually identical yarn, and begun knitting from where it was visibly different from my main colour. Oh well. I have the most subtle hat ever knit in all the annals of knitted-hat history, and that's an achievement!

Things get a bit better further along, and a pattern does emerge eventually from the darkness:

I like both yarns (they're nice to hold and touch) so the knitting is pleasant. And I don't make any significant mistakes (i.e. mistakes that I don't notice until it's too late—I make oodles of mistakes along the way, but I catch 'em and unknit and carry on again), so that's nice. And I think my strands, on the inside of the hat, are quite tidy:

Then some decreases to the top of the hat, and I'm almost done. By the way, I'm watching The Great Australian Spelling Bee Season One while I'm knitting this. It has the least suspense in the world. The Pronouncer will give a word like "lumbago" and then a child will either say L U M B A G O (and be safe!) or something like L U M B A Y G O (and be out!), and no amount of tense music or close-ups of concerned faces will make me wonder if the child is safe or not when it's Completely Obvious. If you are a terrible speller, you will enjoy it more, and gasp along with the host when you discover if the child succeeded or not. So far they have only assigned one word that I wasn't sure about ("desiccated" ... I suspect I would have doubled the s and not the c) but for the other 1,000 or so words, no suspense, none, zero. I have no idea why I'm watching.

Here's the crown:

At the end it's a quick weaving in of the ends, and your hat is complete (unless you add a pom pom):

(I've got to add a pom pom! It's crying out for a pom pom!) But sadly, as of press time, I have not yet received the pom pom or pom pom maker. Cliffhanger!

Off the Needles:

  • Vairisle Hat, as discussed above.

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Buster (my first stuffie)

  • Another 1898 hat (it's just such good airplane knitting, I had to do it again. I've finished the band)

  • The second Sophie's Universe blanket (Round 50)

  • Itineris Shawl (I'll pretend it's a scarf. I'm 2/3 through the fourth repeat)

  • A swatch of stockinette in white worsted (third of three needle sizes) for my Master Knitting Course

  • Caldwell Vest (halfway through armhole shaping on the back)

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 6 of Hexagon 9)

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