So I've decided that my heroine's brother is a Firefly fan, the type of guy who would go to Comic-Con if he could afford the airfare, and that my heroine is going to make her brother a Jayne Cobb hat. It's the perfect project for a new knitter - the worse it looks, the better, as Ma Cobb was not an expert with the yarn and needles. That's perfectly fine for Jayne, after all, as Wash said when Jayne first put on the hat, "A man walks down the street in that hat, people know he's not afraid of anything."
I hied myself to Michael's the other day, to get me some Red Heart Super Saver. All I can say is: wow. I am not anti-acrylic. I used it often for baby sweaters, and only last year I used it to make mittens for my LA-based nephews, who don't need wool, but I've always bought it at my LYS, Needlework Unlimited, which has very reasonably priced acrylic yarn and best of all, the stuff they carry is soft and the colors look good, not garish.
Not so the Red Heart, which is kind of the point, I guess, when it comes to making a Jayne Cobb hat, although I wonder if Ma Cobb would have used wool, possibly sheared from her own sheep?
I looked through several existing patterns for Jayne's hat, and compared them to what I saw in the clips.
Most of the patterns call for working 4 or more rounds of ribbing (some k2p2, some k1p1) before switching to stockinette. It's clear from photos and screen shots that there is not that much ribbing, at least around the front of the hat.
I think the reason none of the Jayne hats I've seen look quite right (aside from the fact that most knitters have appallingly even tension) is that Ma Cobb may have been doing some stealth short rows. The front of the hat has only about 6 or 7 rows of orange, and one row of k1p1 above a long tail cast on that is done in k1p1 pattern, but over the ear flaps, the orange stripe is wider, as is the ribbing. (59 seconds in to the video, you can see the side of the hat more clearly.) The hat looks like it's actually shaped to curve around Jayne's face. Cunning, indeed.
So now I have to decide if I want to make a Jayne Cobb hat that a beginner could actually make, or do I want to replicate the actual hat, which was clearly made by a very good knitter who was only pretending to be bad.
I may do both. When I fired out an email to my writer friends, asking who was a Firefly fan, three of them replied. One said, "Shiny!" and other mentioned she loved "Captain Tight Pants," and the other, when I revealed that there might be a terrible hat giveaway, raised her hand and said something to the effect of "Me! Me! Pick me!!!"