A Winter Hat

Just before Christmas I lost one of my two knitted hats, leaving me with the one I never wore because it was itchy on my skin. Since it was cold, I made a fleece hat this January, but I still missed having a knitted hat. I was worried about what yarn to use, since a continuous use of my wool socks caused some temporary itches on some parts of my feet.

One day rummaging through my stash I found that I still had around a skin and a half left from Artesano Aran, the yarn used at my last owls sweater. I made it a bit more than a year ago, and I wore it non-stop during the coldest months of the year (okay, it’s March and I’m still wearing it). It’s warm, cozy and quite soft. I should seriously consider making one in each color so that it doesn’t look like I’m wearing a uniform all the time.

I rubbed repeatedly this sweater and the new skin against my forehead, and it seemed okay. I just needed a pattern that would allow me to use this yarn.

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I like my hats warm. I am mostly a practical person, and despite I like beautiful clothes, the main thing I need for them to be is functional. An issue I have with knitted clothes is the wind. Unless I have several layers of them or an extra wind-stopping element, I will get cold anyway on windy days. So using a thick yarn was not enough. I needed a pattern that would allow me to fold the rim to protect my forehead and ears from the very cold winds. Colorwork would have worked too, but usually it doesn’t include the ribbing, and my ears get cold.

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I found this Hat Most Likely to Succeed and it was all I needed from a hat. A simple design, with a folded rim and suitable for my yarn.

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I had to reknit this one, due to my lose gauge and my very small head. The pattern instructs you to cast on 100 stitches and then increase to 120, making 8 repeats (15 stitches each). I thought that 7 repeats would be just enough for my tiny head, so I cast on 84 stitches, to increase to 105. I also omitted one of the vertical repeats, but in hindsight I think it could have worked with the pattern as it originally was. I did it like this for fear the hat would stretch after being washed (which I still didn’t).

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The hat is warm and cozy, and I have worn it for a couple of weeks during the coldest days. It doesn’t feel as soft as the one made of fleece but it’s good enough for my very sensitive skin. Now my biggest fear is losing it.

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My Ravelry project page.

 

Never underestimate the gauge

The Easter break is a bit longer here in Spain than in other countries, with Thursday and Friday off. I spent those two days and Saturday morning with a light migraine, but I was still able to do some useful things, and one of them was swatching. I am not sure if you remember, but I failed at knitting Penelope some time ago. I knitted the smallest size and just before the waistband ribbing I tried it out and it was like a sack of potatoes. I was horrified that my gauge had transformed so much in the last months that I could no longer knit successful sweaters after being able to test knit for Andi Satterlund several times in the past. What was happening to me? Was my current relaxed lifestyle affecting my knitting?

I saw that the pattern called for 4.5 mm knitting needles, and as usual, I used Cascade 220 wool since, this yarn goes well with this needle size, and in making many of Andi’s designs it has worked very well. Since I often knit with this wool I didn’t swatch, and this was one of the causes of the problem.

After the disaster I decided to swatch and see what I got, just for reference, to check how my gauge had transformed over the years. With 4.5 mm needles I got 18 st x 24 rows (4in x 4 in) before blocking, much different from the required 21 st x 26 rows. Wow, my gauge has definitely gone to hell, I thought, while I almost through a crying fit.

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I reswatched with 4 mm needles and my horizontal gauge was 19.5 st / 4 inch. Still not good enough. I tried then with 3.75 mm and got 20 st / 4 inch. Since the smallest size is 76 inches and my bust is 83, I could live with this, since the desired ease is a negative 0 – 3 inches.

It felt kind of lame to knit this yarn with this needle size, so I decided to check exactly how much my gauge had changed, and rescued an old swatch that I made for Émilien.

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This swatch is blocked, and the gauge is 19 st x 28 rows. Interesting. This means that my tension has indeed relaxed but not as much as I had thought. I went and saw then the required gauges for Émilien and some of Andi’s designs and I would have been fine with my gauge. Why not with Penelope? Now I saw that the required 21 st / 4 inches was not a typical gauge for a worsted yarn. And you know what? The recommended yarn for Penelope is Sincere Sheep Luminous DK. Yes, DK! Checking the Ravelry page for this yarn I see that the recommended needle size for this yarn is 2.75 – 3.75mm, and not 4.5 mm like Andi used. I wonder how she got gauge with this needle size. A tight knitter perhaps?

The conclusion of this is that my gauge has slightly changed, and I blame my efforts to live a more relaxed life, but not as much as I thought, and there is still hope for me to knit more sweaters. The other very important conclusion is that we have to be careful when substituting yarns, and never trust the recommended needle size if the recommended yarn is unknown to us. Swatching before would have saved me some months of frustration.