Friday, January 17, 2014

A handspun hat trio

Last week, I unexpectedly knit some hats.

Three, to be exact.

Here's the story:

Remember that green handspun hat I knit up just before Christmas so I'd have something festive to keep me from freezing on my way to and from holiday concerts?  The one I didn't post any pictures of on my head because it looks like a giant green Yorkshire pudding up there?  Yeah, the one I've been wearing every day out in public anyway, because it's so warm and super soft and the weather here has truly been appalling - I mean, so bad that putting on my soft warm ugly hat is the bright spot of my day.

Well, I'm starting to think that hat is not ugly.

Evidence: when I'm outside with friends and chatting, they suddenly stop and sort of stare and say in a strange, depressingly amazed voice, Hey, that's a really nice hat!

That never happens with my other hats, even though there are a lot of them, so I think I must have missed something about my Christmas hat last time I looked in the mirror.

Meanwhile, as I think I mentioned, when I was spinning bulky yarn for next year's Christmas gifts I had a terrible idea for how to use up the three lots of really bright stuff.  Here is that idea: I have three close friends from my university days, and I thought I would knit them each a cowl. I could tell when I was spinning that yarn that each of the three was perfect for a particular one of those friends, and I didn't even want to wait till next Christmas to surprise them, so I was just going to go for it and pop three cowls into the mail.  I mean: it might not be Christmas any more, but it sure is winter.

Then I met them for lunch and there it was again - they were all looking at my hat and saying Wow!  and then they all started chatting about how they'd really like to have a hat that didn't look stupid on them, or was actually big enough, or warm enough, or ideally all three.

It wasn't quite a Please Mary, Make Us Hats... it just really made me think those three skeins of yarn should not be cowls, but instead be knit up into berets as close to my Yorkshire Pud hat as possible.

And pre-blocking, even the first hat did not disappoint.

Blocking tamed down Friend #1's hat beautifully,

and in the meantime I started the hat for Friend #2.

Oddly, even though each skein of handspun came out in a different place on the Bulky scale, they all knit up to much the same size on the same needles.  The slight variations were - and maybe this is because I was thinking of each friend as I spun - in favour of the size of the intended recipient's head.  All that definitely helped make the hats go faster... or would have, if I hadn't first tried to knit the the finest of the three yarns with a smaller needle only to discover it was producing a fabric like reinforced cardboard.  Le. Sigh.

Another thing that did actually help was a joining trick that's super easy when you're using handspun, and which saved me from running in more ends than necessary.  When you get to the end of one cake, you just lay out the start of the next one like so:

and then tug on the unspun-by-this-time ends to make the fiber longer and thinner,

and then twist them together by hand so you can go merrily on your way.

Looks terrible en route, but the end result doesn't look any different than the rest of the hat.  Yay!

The hat for Friend #3 was finished before I had time to block its predecessor - honestly, each (successful) hat took about 3 hours to knit - so it doesn't get an in-progress photo.  Just the painful pre-blocking shot, where the design looks like an overpuffed bun.

After they've had a bath and sat to dry on an elevated plate (or in this case, a luncheon sized plate elevated on a stack of hockey tape) they look much better.

One thing I don't like about drying hats on a plate is that you get an awful ridgey line across the curve and if the fabric is stiff enough, the hat in use looks a lot like an anvil. Not a good look off the catwalk.  So I like to tug them sort of sideways-flat again after they're dry.

I don't know what you think of these bows on the top... frankly, I don't know what I think of them either, but it seemed the most wash-friendly way to manage the boring flatness of the top and also the little hole left when you draw the tail through a lot of live stitches knit from bulky yarn.

In pictures though, I found them too adorable not to take a couple of closeups.

You know, just so I'd remember the striping effect at the top of each of these two less subtle colourways after they were gone to their new homes.

Anyway: three hats, one week.  In a pinch I could even spin the yarn for three hats and knit them, all in one week, because it took 90 minutes for the initial spinning and maybe another 30 for the plying, plus, being generous, an hour for the skeining and blocking and caking.  Six hours to a homespun gift?  Sign me up.

In fact I feel a little nervous that I've become as obsessed with this hat as I was with the drop stitch cowl... only it's harder to gift a hat, because you have to know the recipient so well.  It's not like a cowl you can bring along as a hostess gift (which I did at New Year's, to great effect.)  H'mmmm.

About the pattern: it's one I improvised specifically for this sort of handspun, so I haven't written it up to share.  It's just a pretty basic beret really, with that key element of really bulky yarn and really big needles that makes the whole thing Wow.

It's Friday morning as I post this and I'm looking forward to a wonderful, easy weekend - hope yours is wonderful too in any form, and I'll see you again on Monday!


Marianne said...

I'm hoping that you will find time to write up this pattern. I absolutely love the bow on the top! Our winters are normally not this cold so I have only knitted lighter weight hats, but with the wind chills in the negative numbers, I am in search of a bulky weight hat pattern that is advanced beginner friendly!! (I have made several hats, just never a beret style)
Love your works as always, never disappoint with your beautiful colorways!

Mary Keenan said...

Marianne, I'm going to try it with a commercial yarn in the next week or so, so I have something matchy for some other winter accessories I want to wear. I have a terrible feeling it's a yarn that has been discontinued since I got it but if it works, I'm sure I can find another similar one! Writing up the instructions won't be too bad if I can just pin down a yarn :^)

Anonymous said...

Oh Mary-I love your yarn and your hats too! I do hope you get to write the pattern. I don't usually use bulky yarn but this hat is SO cute and I love the bow.

Mary Keenan said...

Jan, I saw one of those friends on the weekend and her hat was SO CUTE on her. I do need to write up this pattern... still hunting for yarn though!