Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gentlemen Wear Plaid Hats: Bluestone

If you poked around in my closet a couple years ago, you'd find hanger after hanger of plaid shirts. Okay, I'll be honest, my closet is still fairly full of plaid shirts. (Eddie Bauer and I have had a long, unhealthy-for-my-wallet relationship.)

Plaids and tartans have been a mainstay of knitting patterns for a long time but they're often clunky or, in my opinion, not really effective. I think part of the problem may be that plaid doesn't necessarily translate well from woven fabric to a knitted fabric. Knitted fabric can be too thick and bulky and when you add in colorwork and stranded yarns, it gets thicker and bulkier.

Plaid hat in process
Plaid hat in process
adding vertical stripes
Because of my affinity to plaids, I tried it over and over again but I was never happy with the results. Then, about a year and a half ago, Webs Yarn Store posted a blog with a new-to-me technique for easy knitted plaid. Go read about it. I'll wait.

I swatched a few different times to practice this plaid technique and I really love it. It has limitations, of course. The plaid is narrow/fine and lacks the "drama" of a wide tartan. But the fabric retains nearly the same drape as plain stockinette.

Finally planning a project, I grabbed three skeins of Quince and Co. Chickadee (love it!) and cast on

for a hat. The first part of the knitting, a ribbed hem, and then the around-and-around of stockinette with several single-round stripes of contrasting yarn was a breeze. Very exciting. And then...

You knew there was going to be an "and then...", didn't you? I started to add the vertical stripes with a crochet hook and, uh oh, it's hard to get the slip stitches in the fabric when I'm wrestling inside and outside the hat. It just got so frustrating. I will admit that maybe I'm not the best with a crochet hook but I think this easy plaid technique just isn't great for hats.

But I'm not stymied. I learned that a smaller and narrower plaid is more what I want in a finished fabric. Mixing a little stranded knitting with some plain stripes and I came up with the Bluestone Hat.

Bluestone Hat
Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light
I've got plans to make a lot more of these hats, especially in random team colors for all of my sports fan friends. And because you use relatively little of the accent colors, I could make three hats without having to buy extra yarn. Each hat will have a different main color, so they'll all be related but different, also perfect if I'm knitting hats for a family/group.

A little hint about knitting Bluestone Hat: resist the urge to wind the strands of yarn for the vertical stripes onto bobbins or into butterflies. Leaving the strands loose will make it easier to untangle everything when it inevitably twists around and together. Running your fingers through the strands a few times will straighten all the yarn out.

The Indie Designer Giftalong discount continues through the end of the day Friday. Don't forget to use code giftalong2014 to get 25% off. Buy now!