Saturday, January 25, 2014

And Then There Was a Hat

The Knitter in his favorite winter
hat in Malabrigo Worsted

Newsflash. It's January in the northern hemisphere and it's cold. Cold with a capital Polar Vortex. I don't think it's been this cold since last winter! Crazy how seasons work sometimes.

Wool hats. Alpaca hats. Any-kind-of-warm hats. Now's the time to dig 'em out and get 'em on your heads.

"So Steven," people ask me, "what is your favorite hat pattern?" (Well, of course, they ask me that in my head. Usually, it's just people looking at my hat jealously.)

I have one hat I wear more than any other. It's Malabrigo Worsted and has a wide hemmed brim, so it's two layers of wonderfully warm and soft merino right on my ears. I love it.

We've established many times that I'm a fan of provisional cast on and a hemmed brim is a perfect time to dig out your provisional cast on skills and go to town.

Sneaky picture of The Knitter's
mother in her favorite new hat
I whipped out another hemmed brim hat a couple weeks ago for my mother. She requested a slouchy hat. So many hats give a person that dreaded "pinhead" look and she hates that. I'm not a big fan either. But big slouchy hats can also be too much. I think the hat I knit for her is the best of both worlds.

For mom's hat, I dug out a discontinued yarn that I've been wanting to use and hadn't found the right project yet. It's The Fibre Company Khroma DK (50% alpaca, 50% merino). Instead of a plain hat, I added stripes to the brim with stranded cables over top in a diamond pattern. As you can see in the covert picture, mom loves it and it has just the right amount of slouch.

I think I'll make one for me since I have plenty of this yarn left over and it feels so nice. A great substitute yarn would be Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light.

I'm not very specific when I knits hats. In my opinion, hats are very forgiving projects. Approximately enough stitches is the right amount for a hat that basically fits. It just needs to fit enough that it doesn't fall down over your eyes or fly off if you bend over.

Here's the basics for my favorite hemmed brim hats in a not-very-professional-pattern-writer way:

Unglamorous flat-on-the-table picture of the
new hat using discontinued awesome yarn
Step One: find your gauge. But only basically - cast on 20 stitches, work in stockinette for about two inches and then measure your stitches per inch.

Step Two: find your head size. But again, only basically. You can get perfectionist and measure your head with a tape measure. I usually just assume that a head is somewhere between 20" and 22".

Step Three: multiple your stitch-per-inch by the size of your head. I multiple by 21" so that if I need to go up or down for stitch counts, it works for 20" to 22".

Step Four: provisionally cast on with waste yarn the number of stitches you need and join in the round. I do one of two things here:
  1. Cast on 90% less stitches (multiple the number from Step Three by .90) and work with the needle you used to check gauge, or
  2. Cast on with a needle a size or two smaller than you used for gauge and work the brim in the smaller needle.
Step Five: knit every round until the inner brim is as tall as you want it. I knit anywhere from 2" to 4".

Step Six: purl one round. This makes a ridge on your hat that makes it fold perfectly. Also on this round, either increase 10% (up to the number from Step Three) or switch to your regular needle.

Step Seven: knit every round until the distance from turning ridge to the needle matches the height of the inner brim.

Step Eight: join the inner brim to the outer hat. Magic. Pick up all stitches from the provisional cast on with a spare needle. Holding it behind your working needle, knit one stitch from your working needle together with one stitch from your spare needle. Super special side note: if you cast on fewer stitches from the inner brim and increased on Step Six, you need to skip the spare needle at the same rate as you increased in Step Six. For example, if you had "knit 9, increase 1, etc", on the joining row, you need to "knit from working needle and spare needle together 9 times, knit from working needle only once, etc." I hope that makes sense.

Step Nine: keep knitting around and around and around until the hat is as tall as you want it. I make hats for me about 9" from the turning ridge.

Step Ten: close up the top of your hat. I don't panic about this. I like a fast decrease and gathered top. I think it lessens the "pinhead" look by putting extra fabric on top.
  1. Decrease round one: knit 3, k2tog, repeat all the way around
  2. Knit one round plain
  3. Decrease round two: knit 2, k2tog, repeat all the way around
  4. Knit one round plain
  5. Decrease round three: knit 1, k2tog, repeat all the way around
  6. Knit one round plain
  7. Decrease rounds four, five, six, etc: k2tog around and around and around until you have a few stitches left, probably 6 or 8 or even 15.
  8. Break yarn and pass through all of the remaining stitches twice and pull tight to close.
Step Eleven: make all of your friends jealous because your hat is so much better than theirs.

I would love to see the hats you're making and hear what makes your hats special.