Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Designing a Hat

I've finished my Level III swatches and I'm moving on to other parts.  I designed the Aran sweater this past summer and knit the back, without knowing for sure what the requirements were. I had a fairly good idea of what they were, plus I've knit several Aran sweaters, but I put it aside to rest after finishing the back, just in case there was a problem. 

I've been doing research on the two traditional knitting styles I'll write about for one of my reports, and since one of those is an Aran sweater, I thought I would let the sweater marinate a little longer while I dig into the history and traditions of the Aran sweater.

Meanwhile, I've been pondering my Fair Isle hat design.  Originally, I intended to knit a tam, but I do like to make projects for the MHK program that can be used later, if at all possible, so when Sophia mentioned she would like a hat with ear flaps, I reconsidered my hat style choice.

In my mind I could see a Chullu-esqe hat, with earflaps that were double-sided, to be warmer and to lie flat. (Either knit in the round, or double knit, although with double knitting I would have to contend with a difference in gauge and also, I kind of hate my selvedges in double knitting.)  I want the transition from main body of hat down to the flap to be continuous, and I don't want to have to sew anything.  I wasn't sure what to do about the hat cuff: ribbed, or hemmed, or straight stockinette with applied i-cord around the edges of the cuff and earflaps...

First, though, I needed some measurements.  That's not what I did first, but it is what I needed to do first.  No, first what I did was to wing it. 

I searched around online and found that ear flaps are not centered at the 1/4 and 3/4 points of the round (assuming the round begins at the back of the head).  They are actually set further back, so that one flap sits entirely within the first 1/4 of the round and the other entirely within the last 1/4 of the round.  Someone mentioned that the midpoint of one ear flap, running around the back of the head to the other flap midpoint was about 1/3 of the circumference. 

Knowing Sophia's head size, I calculated the flap positions and decided a 3 1/2" flap would be good.  I "knew" that my gauge on size 5 needles using worsted weight yarn would be 5.5 sts/in, so I calculated stitch counts, and cast on. 

After several problems with third grade arithmetic in which I decided that 37+37+56=110 (Hint: it does not), which was followed by deciding that the ear flaps needed to be moved even further back (Hint: they did not), I took the incredible step of actually measuring Sophia's head to find out where her actual ears were situated on her actual head, and then to take a second measurement in which I determined the correct ear flap width would actually be better at 3" and THEN I measured my stitch gauge and discovered I was knitting a bit looser than I anticipated, which meant that in addition to placing the too-large earflaps too far back on the hat, the hat was too big.

You can see now how it is that I am this close to becoming a master knitter!

Here's my revised plan for ear flap placement and stitch counts.
Circled numbers on right indicate stitch counts
While struggling with arithmetic, I did manage to come up with a good idea for how to work the ear flaps into the hemmed edge.

It occurred to me I could use a trick I thought of a few years ago, when making mittens with peasant thumbs.  There are a couple of techniques typically used in that scenario.  One is to knit the stitches where the thumb will be with waste yarn, return the waste yarn knit sts back to the left needle, then knit them again with the main yarn.  Later, the stitches above and below the waste yarn can be put on dpns, the waste yarn can be removed and the thumb can be worked in the round, using those live sts.

Another technique is to bind off the stitches where the thumb will occur, and then on the next round, cast on that same number, basically creating a button hole.  Stitches are picked up around the hole and the thumb is knit.  This creates an edge inside the thumb where the cast on and bind off sts were, but having the hole there as the mitten is knit allows the mitten to be tried on, so that you can be sure of how it is fitting and when to do the top decreases.

A third technique is a hybrid, which is to place the sts on waste yarn (threading waste yarn through the sts, rather than knitting them with waste yarn), and then casting on over these stitches on the same round.  When picking up sts later, you have a ridge only along the cast on edge.

My method, I think, gives the best of both worlds: it provides the thumb hole, so the mitten can be tried on as it's knit, but it leaves no edge inside the thumb when stitches are picked up.

It goes like this: slip the stitches onto waste yarn, and leave an extra long tail at the end of the held sts where the working yarn is hanging.  Now cast on with the LT cast on, using the waste yarn tail as the thumb yarn and the working yarn for the index finger yarn.  This creates a provisional cast on edge.  When it's time to put the stitches back on needles, the cast on edge has to be picked out, but you're left with live stitches.

So that's my idea for the hemmed hat as well.  On the purled turning round, when I get to the stitches where the ear flap will be, I put the number of stitches the ear flap will span on waste yarn, and then I cast on that number of sts, using the waste yarn tail and the working yarn, then I continue purling the round until I get to the next ear flap location.

Waste yarn holds sts resting on thumb and is used to cast on new sts.

Round is complete. That hole will become the live sts needed to knit the earflaps top down.
Hem is fused.  Earflap holes are ready.