Knit hat with swirls

One reason I knit is to challenge myself. I come up with my own patterns and every project I do utilizes a number of new skills. This time I was overly ambitious. It was my first time making a hat, knitting in the round (with circular and double pointed needles), doing k2,p2 ribbing, and stranded colorwork.

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I started this project almost two years ago, and didn’t touch it again until I finished it over Thanksgiving break last year. I ran into several setbacks along the way, so what you see in the photo here is actually my fifth attempt (not counting all the failed cast ons when I ran out of yarn, and the starts when I forgot to properly join the ends when knitting the the round and it ended up loose and sloppy. Including those might have made it 30, but I didn’t count.) I eventually figured out that when doing long tail cast on, the strand in back uses twice as much yarn as the one in front.

I don’t think I prefer one over the other, but there are certain advantages of circular needles over double pointed needles. One is that you don’t have to worry about your work sliding off the ends of the needle. Casting on is also more straightforward with circular needles. I started the hat with double pointed needles because my circular needles were too long. I switched to circular needles after adding the second color, because the fabric had gotten thicker and was threatening to slide off. I still had to pull the extra length of cable out between two stitches, and adjust it as I went along.

When I first attempted k2,p2 ribbing months earlier, it looked messed up, so I scrapped that idea. This time, I kept at it and realized that it always looks messed up for the first three rows or so, and then it starts to look like k2,p2 ribbing.

This hat was based on the one shown in the Learn to Knit Fair Isle videos by VeryPink Knits, but I wanted to come up with my own stranded colorwork pattern. It’s actually pretty straightforward; just make your design on a grid. Each square corresponds to a stitch. The problem I ran into was getting it to fit with the total number stitches, when repeated. (K2,p2 requires a multiple of 4.) It hadn’t occurred to me that I could do a decrease and reduce the number of stitches to an odd number. I ended up making a different design, which is the swirl that you see now.

Since I wasn’t following a pattern and didn’t bother with gauge, I made it harder for myself. At first, I thought 84 stitches would be big enough for me, but it wasn’t, so I took it apart and tried 108 stitches, which ended up far too large. This was after I had knit several rows of ribbing. That’s why gauge is important!

A lot of knit hats look longer than they are wide. The length isn’t so much a problem, since you can always fold up the extra. I was more concerned about the width, because I wanted my hat to feel comfortable when worn. I figured if it was too wide, I could make the rest shorter so it would be stopped by my head before it could cover my eyes. I settled at 100 stitches, but I think 96 stitches would have been fine. I now wish I had made it 3 rows longer, since I like having my ears completely covered.

Here’s a note on measurement. (Pardon my weird drawings.)

It’s common to see instructions for measuring the circumference of the head like this: Going by that measurement would yield a hat that ends up too tight, because most people wear a knit hat like this:
hathorizontal hatdiagonal

I haven’t decided what to make for my next project, but now that I’ve done stranded colorwork, I’d like to tackle intarsia.

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7 thoughts on “Knit hat with swirls

  1. You did this without a pattern? I thought it was beautiful and well done before I read that part.
    I’m not a fan of double pointed needles. I’ve attempted sock once. And now I have an attempt at mitten on a set. I think it’s going to get ripped out too. (Not just because I don’t like dpn- the yarn is scratchy and who wants scratchy mittens.)
    Pretty colors

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