11 September 2006

FO - Hat!

Thanks in large part to the wonderful advice in the comments on my last post, I now have a finished hat!!

I thought about felting the first version into submission, as Dharmafey and the Purloined Letter suggested, but the problem was that I had knit it so tightly - it was practically as dense as felt already! So I feared that Beth would be right, and I'd end up with something that wasn't small enough to fit, but too felted to unravel.

Then the comment left by Domestic Bliss changed my thinking altogether - top-down! Of course! I have the Barbara Walker book, but somehow I was so mesmerized by the sweaters that I never even got to the chapter about hats. There aren't any berets or tams there, but what I did find gave me some food for thought, and I decided I could figure the thing out (I know, breaking my rule, but when the version that went according to instructions was so awful...?) But I wanted to start with Emily Ocker's cast-on for the beginning, so I went over to look at my copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac...and found that there's a tam pattern in there! Whaddya know? I guess I never thought I'd make a tam, last time I read that chapter. Anyway, hers is a very original three-cornered tam, with six decrease lines divided between the three corners, knit from the bottom-up, and at a different gauge than my yarn. But she helpfully pointed out that decreasing 8 sts every other round would make a flat thingie, so I decided to put in 8 shaping lines, evenly spaced around the hat so it would be round or at least octagonal. I liked that her hat was shaped in a way that made sense to me, and looked just like the tam that inspired this whole project - the one Harriet Vane wears at the beginning of the TV version of Dorothy Sayers' Have His Carcase. I'm a sucker for British yarn porn. Anyway. The EZ hat, like Harriet's, had spiral shaping lines up from the brim all the way to the widest part of the tam, and then down again to the center. This is what you'd expect from a tam, no? In the Handy Book of Patterns, you increase a lot all at once when you change from the brim to the main part of the hat, than you knit straight for what seems a ridiculously long time, and then you decrease very quickly across only about 3-3.5 inches. I guess you're supposed to block it into a tam shape from there. This seemed silly to me from the start, but I was trying to follow other people's directions, for once, and I hadn't yet seen the wonderful instructions in EZ's book.

Anyway. Following the EZ method but doing it from the top down, the hat knit up like a dream in one evening! First, I knit it this time on US8 instead of US4, deciding that I really didn't need a hat so weatherproof that it would deflect bullets, if it meant that my hands would cramp up knitting it. And the shaping worked - I swear - just like magic! When I had increased up to the number of stitches I wanted, I had exactly the length I wanted! Then the same again, when I decreased down to the brim! It was truly as if all the planets were aligned and were guiding my knitting. I used a commercial felted beret that I'd bought on the street and have had since at least college, if not high school, as a model, since once I dragged it out and tried it on I realized that it, unlike the options offered in the Handy Book of Patterns, was absolutely a perfect fit for me. And apparently it's some sort of magic size for tams, since the shaping to fit it came out so exactly right.

I also was able to use this hat as an opportunity to perfect one of those little techniques I've been wanting to practice - increasing by knitting into the back of the stitch in the row below the next stitch on the left needle. And I love it - it's much less fussy, for me anyway, than any kind of twisted M1, it looks very neat with no hole at all, and it's quick. I'm not entirely sure I'm doing it "right" or how other people do it, but I really like what I'm doing! Here's what they look like close-up:

This is still before blocking. I'm totally pleased with everything about the hat, and it looks just like the one that inspired it.

And, clearly, we've managed to establish that the Handy Book of Patterns is far from foolproof. At least with the tams, the shaping seems to be a sort of least-common-denominator style that can be best adapted to multiple sizes without having to print too much text, but is not necessarily the best kind of shaping for the item itself. Also, I think the big problem with it is row gauge. The two things I tried unsuccessfully to make from that book were both with slightly unusual yarns - a loosely spun llama one-play in the case of the mittens, and in this last case, the Peace Fleece, which has a slightly homespun quality to it and is definitely on the thicker side of worsted weight. I think those patterns may only work if you're - without having any way of know it - matching row as well as stitch gauge. Which you'd be more likely to do with a very basic, run-of-the-mill wool or cotton yarn, commercially spun to a fairly standardized weight (like the ones in the FOs pictured in the book). And even then, you have to exactly match one of the five gauges available, and in this case at least I had a lot of trouble getting it. I don't particularly relish having to knit five different gauge swatches before I can start, and then having to choose one that isn't necessarily my favorite fabric, but at least fits into one of those slots. But, that said, I don't think the book is useless. A few of you mentioned having some success with it, and I think I'll still refer to it if only as a reference for the standard techniques used to make the most basic shapes, which I can still use as inspiration and reference to go off in my own directions. But I'm certainly going to double-check anything in there that seems funny, next time! And for sweaters...my god, why bother, when you can follow the EZ or Barbara Walker methods to make anything, and have more fun in the process?? That's my feeling, anyway...

In other news, the lace tank is at 7 inches. I start shaping for the armholes at 14, so there's still a ways to go. The Fair Isle is really marching along, though - I should be able to finish the body quite soon! And my chapter got sent off to my professor today. I'm actually going right into work on the next chapter already (deadline is looming!), but I'm going to keep that "100% done" progress bar on the sidebar for just a little while anyway. :-)

Oh, and Brena commented to say that she made the lace tank, in brown, and isn't too happy with the results. Hrm. I'm kind of worried about this, too. The color may be part of the problem, but then, mine's orange, so I'm facing potentially the same outcome. I knew I should have held out until I found kidsilk haze in pink, which is what I really wanted (which would have been especially worth doing, since I didn't get around to casting on for the project for years anyway, but my husband loves "monk orange" and talked me into it.) We'll see. I did find a gorgeous finished tank and cowl over at whispering pine - she made it back in 2005, and it looks fantastic! So that gives me hope. I'm loving the yarn enough right now to finish it at least. Besides - Brena, maybe you should make the cowl - if the combo still doesn't work, you'll have a lovely separate cowl, and the two together might really look great, in a retro kind of way. I plan to wear mine over a pink tank top, so I think that might help the color wake up and look more up-to-date.

Oh, and one more thing (I know, I know, my posts are really loooong - you should see my chapter! muahahaha!) Anyway. I noticed that there was a big spike in visits to my blog after Yarnival came out - yay! A big, fat welcoming hug to any new readers - thanks for coming, I love to hear from you, and come back again!

I promise to show some steeks in the near future. :-)

Sigh. Okay, one more thing. It's a certain anniversary today. I don't even like to talk about it, and I'm really glad I don't have a TV, because I absolutely could not take all the crap the networks are putting out there right now. I'm in NYC, I was here five years ago, I was lucky and didn't know anyone who was killed, but nearly everyone I know knew someone, and I'm just hoping we all get through the day without anything else happening. It's a beautiful day here today, just like it was then, and that somehow makes it worse. For once, I wish it were cloudy.

EDIT: I have copied or created buttons for a few of the blogs I read most often, so I can have a pretty quick link to them in my sidebar. If anyone minds, just let me know!


Bliss said...

The tam looks fantastic. Glad I could help a bit!

I do like the Handy Book of Patterns a lot, but mostly as a reference to learn about structure and shaping. (Patterns are just suggestions anyway, right?)

Marianne said...

The tam is fabulous, congratulations! Couldn't/wouldn't want to live without EZ and Barbara...

The Purloined Letter said...

Good job on the tam! Perfect! (And clearly, EZ is a goddess.)

I LOVE the button for my blog. Can I steal it??

Wendy Dorrel said...

It was beautiful in NYC today wasn't it? I avoided TV too.

Your hat is absolutely adorable!!

Love the blog button! :)

Specs said...

Lovely tam! I can't wear them myself (I look like a pelican with a deflated balloon on its head), but I love how snappy they look on everyone else :)

Congrats again on the chapter!

Kate said...

I love the tam. I look like absolute hell in them, but I really like them.

LornaJay said...

When I've used that book, I've worked out how many stitches I need to get a hat to fit, and then follow that line, no matter what the 'official' gauge is for my size. Then I work by length rather than rows in terms of increase/deacrease spacing.

It worked for me, and I always always get 22 x 28 for DK yarn on 4mm needles, so the stated gauges don't match.