FO – Hello Kitty Hat

My labmate and dear friend Penelope is fairly obsessed with Hello Kitty. When I was brainstorming her Christmas gift, I thought something playful and well, adorable, was in order, and so I made her a Hello Kitty hat.

Pattern: Official Kittyville Hat (Ravelry link) by Kitty Schmidt, free pattern on Kittyville
Size: adult size hat
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft 10-ply aran weight, colors White and Raspberry, 100% acrylic; I used about half a skein of the white, which was approximately 165 yards/ 151 meters and a small amount of the raspberry
Needles: Susan Bates size 7 (4.5 mm) 16″ circular and Knit Picks nickel-plated double-pointed needles, set of 5 size 7 (4.5 mm)
Modifications: Knit hat as written; added bow from the Hello Kitty Hat pattern (Ravelry)

Started: January 12, 2010
Finished: January 13, 2010

I saw a number of almost unbearably cute Hello Kitty hats on Ravelry, but I decided to go with just the bow and ears attached to an otherwise serviceable white hat, as a kind of homage to Hello Kitty, a hat in the spirit without being a literal depiction. Also, this way Penelope could actually be Hello Kitty, and that is way, way more fun.

The pattern was great: straightforward, fast, and easy, making for a very satisfying and enjoyable project. I loved the I-cord and had to refrain from making 3-foot long tassles. The pom-poms look sweet now, but they were quite a hassle to make. I’ve read before that acrylic makes lousy pom-poms, and I think it was only through sheer obsession that I got these to a state I am happy with.

I love the way the ears are constructed from picked-up stitches, knit in two layers that are sewn together for stability and structure. Having the seed stitch echo the lower band and ear flaps was a nice touch. I really like the way the seed stitch looks on this hat, and it didn’t occur to me until I was almost done with it that it’s really no more work than K1, P1 ribbing.

Of course, what makes this project is the bow. My goodness, am I smitten with this bow. It’s such a simple construction (garter stitch rectangle with a smaller rectangle cinching it in at the middle and sewn together), but it comes out utterly adorable. I sewed it down at a coquettish angle, and the hat came alive.

I had so much fun making this hat, and I loved giving it as a gift. Penelope was totally thrilled and looked ridiculously cute. I’m so happy!

A Hat Saga

Much like the sock sagas of days gone by, I am not having an easy time coming up with a basic hat for my brother’s birthday.

His request was simple. He sent me a photo of a hat he wanted, and we brainstormed. The original was wool, but he is a fishing boat captain, so I knew this hat would get damp and need to be washed frequently. We picked Cotton-Ease to make it machine washable, and I suggested gray, black and blue. I found a simple hat pattern online and thought I could whip it out in a few days for his birthday on November 3rd.

The first hat did indeed zip along (you must see where we’re going with the “first” thing, right?). I figured out how to strand my knitting to make a diamond pattern that I thought was pretty spiffy.

The trouble was, the band of stranded stitches made this hat tight. Before blocking, it fit snugly on my head, and my brother has a much bigger head, with thick curly hair to boot.

I tried to maintain hope, soaking it and stretching it like crazy while it was wet, then periodically throughout blocking. Because there were so very many ends, I decided I’d have my brother try it on before I finished it completely, and as I feared, it was much too tight. It also seemed too long, so I made mental notes on modifications and resigned myself to knitting a second hat.

At his suggestion, I changed the pattern a bit, though I prefer the first. I moved up a needle size and knit it flat so that I could do proper intarsia, thinking it would all stretch uniformly. I resisted casting on extra stitches, as this pattern was supposed to fit a man’s head and I was sure it was just the stranded bits making it too tight.

With many, many more ends to weave in, I stretched it around my brother’s head before I even sewed it up, and it barely went all the way around. He looked at me grimly and said “Better get going on a third.”

I am still hopeful that once it’s seamed, it can stretch more than it did in that cursory fitting, but I worry that it’s still going to be too small. I don’t think I have enough gray yarn left and because I cut so many pieces for the intarsia bits, I don’t think I can reuse hat #2’s yarn.

Technique-wise, I have no idea what I would do differently besides casting on more stitches. I preferred stranding to intarsia, but I didn’t exactly love either one.

Sigh. Good thing hats go quickly, right?

FO – Butterfly Hat

The crazy cold weather lately persuaded me that I needed a new hat. I decided it should be as green as I could make it.

I absolutely love this hat!

Pattern: Butterfly Hat by Sofiya Cremin, free pattern posted at Alice in Dilbertland.
Size: adult 20-22″ circumference
Yarn: Debbie Mumm Traditions by JoAnn, 75% acrylic 23% wool 2% other, worsted weight, color 08 Pine Needle
Needles: Knit Picks 8″ nickel-plated DPNs, size 5 (3.75mm) and size 7 (4.50mm)
Modifications: none

Started: February 14, 2008
Finished: February 20, 2008

As written, this pattern came out perfectly. The fit is cozy and snug to my ears, without being tight at all, so it won’t leave marks in my forehead or mess up my hair like a lot of my other hats do.

It actually stretches large enough to fit my boyfriend’s head, but I think if I were to knit him one I would add a sequence of butterflies to get a better length. He said how much he wanted one until I referred to them that way, then he recoiled in horror and asked if he could have beetles or scarabs instead. I suggested we call them Mothra, and he was happy. Such a boy.

I did the ribbing for it on Valentine’s Day (immediately after casting off my Hedera socks), but I actually knit it all in a few hours yesterday, as I started feeling progressively sicker. I should note, by way of excuse for my appearance, that I am home sick today after staying up most of the night with something gross (you don’t want to know). That I could still genuinely love knitting this hat while sick is a testament to what a fun, easy, and charming little project it is.

What really makes this hat for me is the butterflies. As I showed yesterday, this little butterfly stitch is made by a series of floats, which are then picked up and transformed into a charming detail.

As an added bonus, they kind of pull the fabric around them a little snugger like smocking, which makes cute puffs. When strategically placed at the edges of the DPNs where I usually get ladders, they remedy it beautifully.

The math in this pattern is intuitive and elegant, which of course I love. It has perfect symmetry all around, and it’s addictive knitting at its best. I got really lucky with the way the colors blended to the crown, and I love the star shape of the bright green decreases.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a little bit about the yarn. The initial reviews I read about it were that it has gorgeous blending colors, but that knitters hated working with it. It got panned on Ravelry, and I noticed very few people were making projects with it. (I actually found this hat pattern because I saw the designer had made a hat in this yarn, and I loved it so much I just needed one of my own.)

It completely surpassed my expectations in terms of color. It is so rich, saturated, and vibrant that I am instantly happy just looking at it. The color transitions are nice and gradual, forming subtle bands.

Where I think people have a problem with this yarn is in its structure. It is essentially a tube of loosely spun wool (hence its crazy softness), wrapped around a black acrylic core (which gives it strength and integrity). The reviews I read complained of its tendency to spin and bunch up on itself, revealing the black core. I checked it out and resorted to my primary reaction to most things in life: “It is what it is.”

Recognizing that this was just its unique structure, I had to adjust my tension, hold it very gently, and work at a slightly looser gauge than I usually knit. This actually ended up being very good for my hands, as well as preserving the design elements of this hat.

I found that if I worked from the center of the ball and gently pulled about an arm’s length or two of yarn out at a time, very loosely, I could knit without straining the yarn. As soon as an obstacle got in the way or I started holding it too tightly, I saw the effect others got, but it was easy enough to redistribute the wool and keep happily knitting. Once knit, the stitches were firm and well-defined, yet wonderfully soft against the skin. I had no trouble with splitting or snagging.

I would definitely encourage others to try this yarn and enjoy its beauty without stressing about its handling properties. In the end, I think that its structure is what makes it such a pleasure to wear. I definitely would not wind it on a ball-winder or over-handle it, and sharply-pointed metal needles are definitely the way to go. The way it is packaged will tell you everything you need to know about how it wants to be handled.

It is possible that the care and gentleness I exhibited toward the yarn is part of why I feel such endearing tenderness toward this hat. I am almost certain I will knit this pattern again – I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I also like the yarn so much I’m going to make matching mitts with my second ball of it.

Previous Entries on this Project:
You’re my butterfly, sugar, baby…

Zig-Zag Thud

I try not to be superstitious, but I can’t help wondering if maybe this yarn just doesn’t want to be a hat.

To be fair, I’ve never designed a hat before, and I have extremely limited experience in knitting hats. As in, I made one baby hat and one way-too-small Unoriginal Hat.

Looking at this yarn, I thought it would stripe nicely in zig-zags. I was toying with this idea when an episode of Ghost Whisperer came on, where Jennifer Love-Hewitt’s character Melinda was wearing this hat:

I knew I had to give it a try.

Not having that reference photo on hand, I resorted to the only zig-zags I knew, from the Jaywalker sock pattern. It just happened that when I calculated my gauge and measured my head, I’d have the exact number of stitches that the larger size of the Jaywalkers called for. I thought it was fate.

I struggled a bit with how to do the decreases, but a Ravelry user very cleverly worked out a system of dropping the side increases while continuing the center double decreases.

Everything went as planned, but unfortunately it looks kind of like a helmet, with these weird scallops dipping into my eyes and leaving an opening that elongates my forehead.

Seriously, my forehead is not this long!

I tried to tell myself it looked like a cloche style, that it was actually very cute… but this delusion could not persist.

I think there is potential in this idea. Twice or three times as many zig-zags and a snugger fit would probably reduce the amount it dips down into the eyes. Also less ribbing would probably be a good idea.

The upside is, I still love this yarn and it’s really comfortable as a hat. I’m planning to frog this one and do something fool-proof like an easy roll-brim hat, this time from a pattern and being honest with myself if I try it on and, once again, look a fool.

Third time’s a charm, right?