Friday, February 23, 2007

Parade of Bad Hats

"Hats are easy!" Everyone told me that. Want to learn how to use dpns or circs? Try a hat. Nobody can screw up a hat. Hats are bulletproof knitting for the nervous novice knitter.

You think? I can screw up any hat, anytime, anywhere. I can screw up a hat with one needle tied behind my back. I present the following exhibits in defense of my position. (They are all circa 2003.)

See that pathetic grey pancake over there? That's a sad, sad attempt at making a hat from Berroco's (happily) discontinued X-Press, ten hideously splitty plies of wool blend yarn that knitted up into a dead pile of fiber. No spring. No sproing. No nothin'. And don't you love that garter stitch cuff? That was one bad idea. No stretch. Poor Goldisox put it on and--well, it wasn't pretty. I tried crocheting an edging around it so it would hang on a little better but let's face it: this is the kind of hat you pray blows away in a stiff wind.

But I am The World's Most Stubborn Knitter. If it doesn't work, I do it again. Even if it's clear to everyone with a brain that it will never work. Fortunately I ran out of X-Press before I could do myself permanent damage.

Then I moved onto Berroco Uxbridge Tweed. A nice simple watch cap. There was absolutely no way I could screw up a watch cap?

Watch me!

There wasn't enough wool in the blend of fibers to provide any elasticity at al. Even with an overall 1/1 ribbing. Way too much cotton and other inert fibers. This hat became the place where Uxbridge Tweed went to die.

So what did I do? I tried again. Same needles. Same pattern. Same yarn. Same result. And yes I was surprised. (The definition of insanity, right?)

And my last attempt: Uxbridge Tweed Bad hat and X-Press bad scarf. Hey, if why not go out in a blaze of Bad Hat glory?

Why, I ask you, did I keep beating my head against the same brick wall? Is this a normal part of the learning process or did I go temporarily insane there for awhile? Goldisox said he figured I was high on acrylic fumes from the stash of Red Heart in the basement . . .

The Berroco Chinchilla chemo caps turned out a little better but I still wasn't terribly thrilled with them. I tried knitting hats. I tried crocheting hats. I swear to you I couldn't make a normal, decently fitting hat if my life depended on it. I scoured the web for patterns, printed out a binder of them. Other people made them with great success. Me? I destroyed every hat my needles came in contact with. (I know some of them don't look so bad in the photos but trust me. On a human head, they were complete disasters.)

Things improved when I discovered a Sally Melville pattern in (I think) her Purl book. I must have made eight of these for Christmas 2005 and tortured those nearest and dearest to me with the results. It's supposed to have a flattish crown and deep -- what would you call it? My hat vocabulary isn't all it could be.

After that I retired from millinery and moved on to socks where I stayed happily knitting for a long time. The hat bug, however, reemerged last week after I finished the Top Down Raglan for Goldisox. (Pictures soon as he takes it off long enough for me to block it.) I had leftover Elann Peruvian Highland Chunky and my Denise Interchangeables at the ready so I cast on 80 stitches and started knitting a K1P1 ribbing. I knitted up 11 inches, did the requisite decreases for the crown and ended up with A Good Hat! A simple hat, yes. A beginner's hat. A baby knitter's hat. But a good warm attractive hat that Goldisox might actually wear on the one day a year when he actually wears/needs a hat.

Yes, I'm aware that it's a crappy photo. But trust me, it's a completely functional and attractive (within the limitations of a watch cap which really makes us all look . . . well, not all that terrific) on the human head. I tried to get Goldisox to pose for me but dignity won out. (Don't you hate when that happens?)

So what did this long miserable knitting nightmare of mine teach me? Mostly that I am an unreasonably stubborn knitter when it comes to everything but knitting lace. If something stinks the first time around, I will make it stink two or three or even four more times before I give up the ghost. (This is not necessarily a good or wise character trait. It might border on a form of knitting dementia.) It taught me that wool makes a difference, that gauge makes a difference, and that ribbing is your hat's best friend. I learned that hats are deceptive projects, fraught with hidden dangers. I learned to respect a good, warm, serviceable hat as the crafty work of art it is.

And I wouldn't be caught dead wearing one of mine!

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Blogger Fran Baker said...

That last hat's not bad, Barbara, but the others ...

I've got a couple foolproof hat patterns. One, for women, is a rolled brim and very flattering to the face. Made with one strand of Splash and one strand of Paton's wool. The other is a unisex hat like your last one.

Did I say foolproof? Perhaps I should say fairly easy and leave it at that. LOL!

9:20 PM  
Blogger kshotz said...

You brave, brave woman.......

Is this some sort of therapy or something?

I started out thinking I'd comment about only making hats for babies which always look cute do to the wearer of said cap...

....but then I remembered I inflicted serious pain upon 2 nephews and an uncle just this past Christmas.....not pretty....
now I need some therapy!


11:36 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

Sizing on hats is crucial. It took several attempts to try to get my hats together. (My knitting guild knits "Caps for Kids" for the Salvation Army.) Eventually I learned that for my knitting, size 6 or 7 needles, worsted weight acrylic (because they must be washable), and somewhere between 65-75 stitches. I usually do a simple, mindless roll-brim hat. In the most eye-blinding colors I can find. I remember loving those colors when I was little....

9:50 AM  
Blogger kozmic said...

Barbara - I've just finished firefly's New York hat and as a hat knitter of several decades I have to say this is one of the nicest patterns I've tried. It sits nicely on the head with a flatish top, and I like the way she's done the decreases .Pattern is here;

8:57 PM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

We all have our Waterloos. Mine is socks, yours is hats.

5:01 PM  

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