Sunday, October 08, 2006

Finishing the Hat

Until just recently there was serious gap in my fiber education. Cables. I knew what they were in theory, since somebody had the good sense to explain to me early on that a cable is nothing but a particular set of stitches worked out of order on a particular row. Yet I hadn't put them into a project.

This was in part a reaction to the unfortunate tendency of so many knitwear designers to heap cabling into patterns for men. I suppose it's meant to look butch. Alas, cables in profusion make a sweater very bulky, very heavy, very hot, and very busy. No, thank you.

But after taking Beth Brown-Reinsel's class at Stitches Midwest, and studying that nice Mrs. Thompson's book with all the handsome stitch patterns in it, and seeing what balanced, appealing pieces some knitters have made for themselves, I got curious. Not curious enough to cast on a whole sweater, but curious.

So I made this.

Cabled Hat

I was going to call it the "Cable Curiosity Hat," but that sounds twee, so I've settled on the "Fear of Cabling Hat." It's an oblique tribute to my parents, who taught me to tackle anything I didn't understand by jumping in and just doing it until it became (you should pardon the expression) old hat. This is a small object, but there are 16 cables in it and collectively they twist 96 times. A fellow would have to be an unredeemed idiot to do something 96 times and still be not quite sure of it.

The pattern, if you even want to call it that, is puerile. Experienced knitters will know what I did just by looking at the picture. For the rest of us, here's a rough sketch.

1. Go get your copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. If you don't have a copy yet, buy one. It's standard equipment. In fact, if you simply keep knitting long enough it's possible that a copy will materialize on your shelf.

2. Locate the ribbed cable chart in the January chapter. You'll have to hunt carefully, as it's all of seven stitches tall and five stitches wide. Five stitches plus two purl stitches (to separate the cables from each other) is seven stitches. That's your basic motif.

3. I think I'm supposed to tell you to swatch but here's the unvarnished truth: nobody swatches for hats. Not after their first one, anyhow. If you're knitting a standard adult hat with worsted or DK weight yarn on needles that aren't freakishly huge or small, you need somewhere in the area of 100 stitches for a snug fit. Cables pull in a lot, so cast on an extra set of stitches or two.

4. This cable itself is a form of ribbing, so don't rib the brim. Just start the pattern. Instant gratification.

5. Knit and knit and knit. And knit. Cable cable cable cable cable. To figure out on the fly how much you ought to knit before you start the head shaping, go get Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Knitting Rules! and read the hat chapter.

6. For the head shaping, I wasn't exactly sure what to do so I decided to figure out a rule and apply it ruthlessly and see what happened. That's all a stitch pattern is anyway, right? So I decided to start the decreases in the purl separations between the cables, and to decrease using P2tog instead of K2tog because I'd never seen it done before. I settled on eight decrease points, since most hats I've encountered use 6-8 decreases and 8 fit perfectly into my stitch count.

And so my final decrease rule became:

First decrease round: knit one seven-stitch pattern complete, knit cable stitches of second pattern, P2tog.
Subsequent decrease rounds: knit to within one stitch of established decrease point, P2tog.

By one of those coincidences that abound in knitting, the hat ended exactly as the final knit stitches were eaten by the purl decreases, and this is what I got.

Cabled Hat, Top

Quite serviceable. And when worn, it has been pronounced "sexy" by a gentleman whose opinions in these matters I trust.

So there you are. Not by any means an original pattern, but it taught me what I wanted to learn and it yielded a hat that fits.

Now I have to go tackle the housework, as it presently looks as though I suffer from a Fear of Doing Dishes, Fear of Making the Bed, and Fear of Sorting Through All the Crap on the Kitchen Table.

But First...

A quick shout out to the 40+ folks who are now on the invite list for the Chicagoland Dulaan Knit-In. Yes, you can still ask for an invite (which doesn't mean you're promising to come, it just means you're interested). Great Sainted Mary Thomas, I was hoping I might get 10 responses. And now we even have people coming in from out of state. Knitters, need I say it, are amazing.

And another shout to the nearly two dozen folks who have offered some really terrific prizes. It's going to be better than Christmas the sacred or secular gift-identified festival of your choice. I'll get to contacting all the donors either today or tomorrow, as my schedule allows. Or maybe I'll make Dolores do it, once she gets home.


schrodinger said...

Congratulations on doing your first cabled item. It looks bloody great, I love the way you did the top of the hat too, nice job.

Anonymous said...

Very nice, Franklin. I really like how strong the visual lines are in the top shaping.

Word verification for me is "gisio", which is what I feel like today anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadian readers.

Anonymous said...

Great cables and hat! The decreasing works very well and looks very cool. Good job!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the hat! Good for you...overcoming your fear of cables...part of some knitters 12 step program, isn't it!?!

I showed my husband the hat. You've inspired him to overcome his own fear of cables. Did you ever think you'd be an inspiration to so many!?!

Coming to your neck of the woods next weekend; in the vicinity of Knit1. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Oh god PLEASE don't tell me that the way to get over fear of doing dishes, fear of making the bed and fear of sorting through stuff on the kitchen table is to do it 96 times.....

Nice hat! The decrease worked out really nicely.

Sean said...

How wonderful, another knitting milestone! And the manner in which you kept the pattern interesting and structurally sound! To think this is your first cable project?

Very sexy, indeed! When do we see a photo of it on you?

LaurieM said...

Nicely done. Beats the hell out of another Irish Hiking Scarf!

The Fall Cable KAL 2006 seems to include a lot of beginners with "Fear of Being Original."

Elizabeth said...

Cool and hot all at the same time! Great work Franklin!

When I first did cables I remember thinking, "Wow, that's all there is to it?" It seemed like the results looked so much more impressive than the effort I actually expended.

Anonymous said...

The hat looks great, you should wear it to the Dulaan party. Grats on all the cables, I have been addicted for a long time and am always happy to see more converts.

Anonymous said...

Verrah nice, laddie! Nothing is too difficult when you have the brains to break it down like you did.

Anonymous said...

I really like that ribbed decrease shaping at the top of the hat. Quite lovely. Congrats on the cables, now you can do all kinds of twisty interlocking things!

Emy said...

*Make* Dolores do it? HAHAHAHAHAHA! ;)

(I know, I know, but it's still funny...)

junior_goddess said...

Good going! It'll come in handy in about two months, maybe sooner.

I've been knitting for a while, I am still waiting for that particular EZ to materialize on the shelf. Maybe I need to work on my "fear of cleaning up my workroom" and I will FIND the shelf!

Good going on your Dulann party!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the hat, Franklin! (And your parents sound like mine. Only their version was, "Find a book about it." [g]) Very cool hat, looks elegant, and equally elegant solution! Hats are fun. Cables are moreso. Enjoy!

'kjooawmb'?? Oooookayyy... I swear, a collection of Blogger verifications could make up an alien language.

Anonymous said...

And where is our photo of the sexiness of the worn hat then?


Anonymous said...

Cables--now they weren't so difficult after all were they?

A cable sweater truely doesn't have to look like one's been interrupted whilst undoing theGordian knot. Sean's is an excellent example.

Jude in obscureknitty

Anonymous said...

Great looking hat! I love cables. They look so tricky, but they're so basic. I find they dazzle the non-knitter.

erin said...

I love the crown shaping.

Mel said...

How very fetching. May need to have a go at that myself one of these days. I've got a Fair Isle hat-as-swatch to do first, among other projects.

doloreshaze said...

You big music theater queen.
Lisa, the fellow Sondheim enjoyer

the fiddlin' fool said...

If you haven't tried already, cabling without the crutch of a cabling needle is quite satisfying. I guess that's step 2 of the addiction...

Anonymous said...

This is very much what I've been trying to puzzle out on my own, too. Does the brim need to turn up? If so, then what does the underside look like? Photos, man, photos!

Anonymous said...

Is that a Daruma that the hat is posed on? Cool! I have the same one from Japan.....

Anonymous said...

Very nice hat! "Son with the Big Head" might like it. I'll have to show him. Thanks for the inspiration. I've been making cables since I was a wee one but never on a hat for the son! Knit on! From Sara in WI where we are supposed to get snow Wednesday night! (Not ready!)

Anonymous said...

your hat looks great? about how many yds. of yarn did it take?

Anonymous said...

now how did that first question mark get in there??? it was an exclamation point!!! guess i shoulda previewed my comment...

Cheryl:) said...

I am glad to hear I am not the only one with crap on the kitchen table.

Bevin said...

I think a lot of fear of knitting is fear of math. Sexy use of math, Franklin. Those decreases look awesome. Also, perhaps this is a tip you've gotten before, but when I knit cables on a subway I use a bobby pin as a cable needle. I only had to lose one cable needle on a crowded subway to figure that out.

FiberQat said...

I believe Saint EZ said that a hat was a good way to swatch cables. Now to get Colorado Jon to make one.

Well done!

Sneaksleep said...

Lovely decreases! Still, the hat doesn't look nearly as sexy on an inanimate object as it would if you showed it to us on your own head...

Anonymous said...

Try using gwfgwf (promounced gwiff-gwiff) - generic winter festive gathering with food. It covers all holidays.

MandellaUK said...

Nice crown!

Sean said...

OH, I forgot to ask if I get a special prize for catching the musical theatre reference in the posts' title...from Sunday in the Park With George?

Unknown said...

Very nice hat. Cables are a grand thing and when done correctly (with the correct weight yarn) do not need to be bulky, hot things but wonderfully warm things that retain the wearers body heat . . . or at least that was what my Gram told me.

I like the top. It is a very nice finish.

Anonymous said...

Great hat, love the top. What's "twee"?

Anonymous said...

Where is Dolores?

I'm not even going to mention where my brain went, as I scrolled, down, and down, and down, until I got to the hat brim.
d2 (gone to clean out brain)

doloreshaze said...

Beat you to it, Sean--see above.

Norskybear said...

I love hats because they only use up one skein and I get to try different techniques with some gorgeous yarns that are so expensive, I can't afford to buy enough for a whole sweater.

I love the decreasing rounds; that is what I need to work on!

denny Mcmillan said...

I too wanted an all over cable sweater without looking like I was about to go out whale hunting. I like a aran sweater, but not for me .Me wants sexy cables please.
Me found Teva Durham. MMMM sexy cables. Why is Teva's cables so sexy? She shapes the body with decreases between the cables.Go now and see her Cabled Riding Jacket in her loop de loop book. Mmmm sexy cables.Now we gots to get her to do some sexy man cable goodness too. Eh? ( I 'm allowed to say "eh" cause I'm from the great white north)

Anonymous said...

Dear Franklin,
I just read your cable post.
I used to have bobble phobia. Mind you, I have been knitting since the 2nd grade, am now 43, so I can knit with the best of them etc. Lots of practice, at any rate. Yet bobbles...never touched 'em. Why? In high school, there was a girl sitting in front of me in physics class, who was knitting a green and orange acrylic sweater, covered with bobbles. That scared me away from bobbles, until I met Melissa Leapman a couple of years ago. That woman sat me right down, the night before her edgings class, and said: Karin, you can do this. I never stood a chance, neither did the bobbles. I still won't incorporate them in everything I make, if you know what I mean. But it was worth getting cured.
All the Best, and Happy Cabling,

Anonymous said...

Hi Franklin!
Love your blog, and I adore Delores. If you'd like to try a good project to learn cabling sans cable needle, I love the Natalya gauntlet/wristwarmers.

Also, if you liked the Baby Surprise Jacket, you might like EZ's Ribwarmer pattern. I love it. I got the "Ribwarmer Revisited" pattern from Schoolhouse Press, an updated version. Easy knit, amazing design, wonderful to wear.

xoxo, Deb

Anonymous said...

Great job Franklin! The architecture of the decreases is excellent.

You know, I don't want to add to your burden, but Christmas is coming…

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Very good, franklin. I really like how strong visual line is at the top of the model.
The word for me is verification "gisio", this is what I think today anyway.
Happy Thanksgiving, all Canadian readers.
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Anonymous said...

Love this hat. I arrived here by an image search because it was exactly what I'm looking for, however, not to knit, to buy.

I used to knit, now have splits and cracks in my fingertips almost always, and that worsened by yarns.

But if I was knitting this would be the one. Lovely finishing and shaped top.

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