06 August 2009

the llama hat

I woke up this morning feeling like I'm coming down with a cold. Headache, achy joints, more congestion than is usually triggered by my allergies. I get a lot of colds, so this really shouldn't be too alarming, but my last cold turned into pneumonia, so I'm trying to be extra careful this time around. But that's not why I'm writing. I have made my most spectacular knitting goof-up so far. There was the hat that turned out too large and looks like a mushroom on my head. There was the tank top that doesn't fit quite right. There was the red horror that was knit in awful yarn from a not-so-great pattern. I've made some mistakes, and I've learned my lessons from them. This mistake, however, is pretty impressive, given that I thought I'd done everything right.

Several years ago, before I learned how to knit, I rashly promised my boyfriend a poncho similar to the one Pacha wears in The Emperor's New Groove. I told him when I learned to knit or crochet, I would make him one.

Flash forward to about two and a half years later. That boyfriend is now my husband, and I have learnt to knit. He is over six feet tall, and I realize that there is no way that I would want to knit him a poncho. It wouldn't look good on him, and it would take a very long time. So, we compromise. He has this hat that he wears constantly in the winter. It is falling apart. I will knit him a new one over the summer, with llamas on it. I do some sketching and make some charts, pick the yarns, swatch a bit, and start the hat. This would be my first project using stranding, or fair isle. I soon discover that I don't like fair isle very much. It's okay, but I don't love it. So, I knit away at the hat, thinking how nice it will be to finish it. There's a Celtic key pattern on the band, and then the llamas on the body of the hat. See the picture? That's the hat, about halfway done. I'm going to knit a lining and earflaps as well. The lining is to make more durable, and the earflaps are because he likes hats with earflaps.

It looks pretty good, doesn't it? For my first time at fair isle, it's not half bad, especially considering that I designed the whole darn thing. However, there's something about fair isle that I sort of knew, but since I hadn't ever knit it, it was something I knew in theory, but not in practice. Now, there are a number of things I have learned about knitting in the last year that I know in practice. Lace is stretchy. Lace will grow much, much bigger when it is blocked. Garter stitch is also stretchy, but not as stretchy as lace. Ribbing and cables pull in, and ribbing is stretchier than cables. Pair lace and cables together, and you get something that will stretch, but will also pull in, so if the fit's a little off, it's not that noticeable. I have learned how to get away with not swatching, and how to knit swatches and see how they compare to the finished product. All of these things I have learned, first in theory, then in practice.

Now I have learned that swatches lie, and that fair isle isn't nearly as stretchy as other types of knitting. I knew this. In theory. When I cast on for this hat, the 88 stitches I cast on seemed enormous, but my husband's head is pretty big (really, it is: I measured and it's about 62 cm around). I was knitting with a sport-weight yarn, the Mission Falls 136. It's soft, the colours are great, it pills and splits a little bit, but not too badly, and it's superwash. Should be perfect for him. I've nearly finished the llamas when an awful thought strikes me. It's looking a little small. In fact, so small, that I think it's not going to fit him.

Now, I am inexperienced with fair isle, and to be fair, I may have stranded the yarn a little too tightly on the llama section. This pulls it in a bit. However, looser stranding probably wouldn't have fixed this problem. Fair isle may not be all that stretchy, but the real problem lies in the the very beginning of the hat. This is a gauge problem. I'm getting about 7, 7.5 stitches to the inch/2.5 cm. This means that the hat's circumference, being 88 stitches around, is somewhere between 30 and 40 cm. I'm not quite sure how much I stretched it when I measured. It looked huge when I cast-on, but I didn't measure properly. My husband's head is large. Over 20 cm larger than the hat. This isn't an inch or so too small, where it can stretch to fit. There is no freaking way that this hat can be made to fit him. It looks like a Dr. Seuss hat.

The horrible realization finally dawned: I have knit a hat suitable for a toddler for my husband.

My options are these:

1. Frog the hat. Swatch again, adjust the numbers and the repeats of the fair isle patterns, and knit it again with the same yarn.

2. Finish the hat to figure out how to do the lining and earflaps, adjust the proportions based on the gauge of this hat, buy more of the same yarn, and knit it again. This would also involve more repeats of the fair isle.

3. Finish the hat, as per option 2, then buy more Mission Falls yarn in the aran weight instead of the sport weight, and then reknit the hat using the same numbers, adjusting if necessary.

Faced with these options, I don't want to do the first one. I've never knit a lining for a hat before and I want to try it. And it's not a bad hat. It's actually a pretty cool hat. Just because it's too small for J doesn't mean that it deserves frogging. Frogging it will only exacerbate the pilling and splitting. I also don't want to knit it in yarn of this weight again. It's the fair isle. It bugs me.

So, option number 3 it is. Thicker yarn. Bigger needles. And looser floats on the wrong side.

What should I do with the small hat when it's done?

I could keep it for when I have children. Then we could have father and child matching hats. I could mail it to my friend April. She has a son who should be about the right size for this hat. Or I could donate it to one of the many charities out there that accepts handknits. I haven't decided yet. Donating it is probably a good option. It's bound to fit some kid's head.

So I'm picking up stitches around the brim for the lining now. I'll finish this and then go get more yarn for the big one. Mission Falls 1824 seems to split less than the 136, which is an advantage for me. I need some sort of advantage over this hat. It's already outsmarted me a couple times.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave a comment and I'll make sure it gets posted as soon as possible. I currently get so few comments that I moderate to avoid spamming.