Monday, 24 November 2008

A Hat So Easy It Should Be Called Your Momma

Every year I say to myself 'This is the year I will make gifts for people, for handmade gifts are the bestest'. Unfortunately I say this every year around mid-December, when I have neither time nor money to spend on such endeavour, and anyway entering any retail outlet in December involves donning thick armor plating, a crash helmet & kneepads (what? You seriously think you can walk to the cashiers? Crawling on your hands & knees, clutching your purchases to your chest & praying to Cthulhu is the only way you're getting out of there*).
Well, for some reason (the planets were in alignment? A white buffalo was born? Pushing Daisies. Oh, yeah. That was it), this year the thought occurred a month earlier.
Huzzah. Thank you, Emerson Cod.
So this Christmas, every one's getting a scarf. Or a hat. Or fingerless gloves if I can fathom how to do them (don't hold your breath, Mike!)

Here's how to make a really easy roll-brim hat. Not only is it easy, it's also fast (insert appropriate 'Your Momma' joke here), and only takes an evening to make (this particular hat took me a Sunday double bill of Columbo). It also has the magic power of fitting comfortably on different sized heads, from my own 21" scalp to Mikeyfox's Mekonesque 24" cranium. Fancy that.

You will be needing a 41cm/16" 8mm circular needle (the 8mm is the needle thickness, the 41cm/16" is the length of the circular needle). Don't be afraid of the circular needle, it's more scared of you than you are of it.

You'll also need 4 dpns (double pointed needles). Yes, they are scary looking, and if you don't keep an eye on them they'll slip down the back of the sofa & perform acupuncture on you when you're watching Gilmore Girls.

You'll need a ball of wool too, the chunkier the better. A single 100g ball should do the job (though you won't have anything left over. If you're worried, get more, it'll get used for something eventually). I used King Cole Homespun super chunky yarn in green, which is a nice thick wool/acrylic mix. You could use any chunky wool suitable for an 8mm needle, Sirdar Super Nova Tweed wool works really well too. (If you're really worried about the finished hat size, then knit yourself a gauge & work out the stitches per inch)

Cast 60 stitches onto your circular needles. Yes, it looks far too small right now, but have I ever steered you wrong before? Now comes the fun part, 'knitting in the round'. Yup, you're going to be going around in circles. Before that, straighten out all your stitches & make sure that they are all pointing inwards (or down, if that's your thing). You don't want to get your stitches twisted up, or you'll end up knitting a Mobius strip. A surface with only one side it may be, a hat it isn't. You'll need a stitch marker (you can buy stitch markers, and they come in different colours & styles. For this I'm using an Ankh ring sent to me by the lovely Cynthia as my stitch marker. Just slip it onto the needle next to the last cast on stitch. The stitch marker is just there to show you where the end of the row is. When you knit your row & get to it, you just slip it from one needle to the other & carry on knitting. It doesn't get knitted into the hat, just goes round & round the needles.
Hold the needle with the last cast on stitch in your right hand & the needle with the first cast on stitch in your left hand and knit into that first cast on stitch, pulling the yarn firmly to prevent getting a gap in the join between the two stitches (though this being a roll brim hat, no one will actually notice if the joint is a bit shoddy).
Sensible folk will recommend that you knit with the needles facing towards you, rather than away from you (like in regular knitting). I can't wrap my head around such things, so knit with needles towards me, which has the bizarre effect of turning the hat inside out. But that's fine, just turn it right way round when you're finished. Work whatever method suits you best.

Another magic power of the circular needle is it turns a Garter stitch into a Stockinette. Yes, hot snow falls upwards. Why does it do this? Because you're knitting in a spiral, rather than the back & forth of regular needles. So if you want to make a garter stitch hat, you'll need to knit 1 round, purl 1 round & keep repeating. Or you can knit an inside-out, garter-that-becomes-stockinette magic-hat instead.
Keep knitting until you have 6" or 7" or so of knitting (a little less if you're making a Beanie style hat, a little more if you want a big chunky brim). Now comes the decreasing. Just relax. get yourself a cup of tea. Or a glass of wine. Some Malbec would go down well. Knit 8 stitches, then knit 2 stitches together. Repeat until the end of the row. Now knit 7 stitches, and knit 2 together, and repeat until the end of the row. Now knit 7 stitches, and knit 2 together, repeat to the end of the row. At this point you & the circular needles will have to part ways. yes, it's been a whirlwind romance, but you'll meet again soon. Time to meet the dpns, the double pointed needles -discovered by a the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred in the ruins of Babylon & used to knit a cabled tote bag for his early draft of the Necronomicon. Wield them and despair!

Okay, so they're not that bad. But look, they make an Anarchy symbol when used to knit a hat. Coincidence? Probably, yeah.
Moving on...
You can just slip your stitches onto 3 of the dpns, spread them out equally & continue knitting the rounds of decreases. Or you can knit straight onto them, whatever works best for you. With the 4th needle knit off the dpns (it sounds complicated, but it isn't. Just take your empty needle in your right hand & the dpn with the stitches you need to decrease next in your left. Knit & decrease from left to right, and use the now empty left hand dpn to do the same again to the next one). Knit & decrease for as long as you can stand to (I keep going until I have 3 or 4 stitches, but I'm Peculiar), cut your yarn, leaving a tail of several inches, and thread through the remaining stitches. Tie off & weave in any loose yarn left (don't forget the bit at the brim where you cast on). Turn it right way around (if you've been knitting it inside out)

There you have it. A very fine hat.

*Oh, mighty cephalopod, get your lazy arse out of bed and smite mine enemies with your flailing tentacles, so that your humble servant may purchase gaudy, overpriced tat...


Mary said...

I may be all googly-eyed here, but isn't that MY HAT that you are demonstrating your top notch knitting skills?? I CAN'T WAIT to have my own private knitting lesson!! Whoo-hoo!!

littleblackfox said...

Yes, that is your hat! Heheheh, yes, there will be private knitting lessons! And lots of yarn buying! And lots of tea drinking!