These Are The Days…

“These are the days we’ll remember…” – 10,000 Maniacs

10+ inches of the softest white powder, untouched for only moments before small feet make their presence known. Cecelia and Eleanor race for the 12 foot summit in our backyard. Liam puts all effort into swimming in the snow, only to lift his head and lick the white from his lips. How quickly I’m transformed to younger years, and immediately honor  the challenge to race all competitors to the top.

Snow seems to liven a forgotten youthfulness. In just me? Or is this a truth for others too? 

Just minutes after returning inside from a family snowman building session, topped with a modest snowball fight, I witnessed something similar across the street. Our neighbors’ shoveling was quickly interrupted by the slinging of snowballs back and forth. A mom and her son. In the snow…

A “knitting kick”. My current kick is hats. I hadn’t knit a hat in over a year and after this most recent adventure with The Kristin Collection, I want to knit more. And so hats it is. First stop: beefing up my “hunky husband designs”. He rarely seems to be the recipient of any of my knitting. And with him sporting a new Bean jacket, I figured a new knit hat was a must. Requests from the hunky husband:

  • Densely knit (his ever fading hair leaves an often chilly head)
  • Soft (not itchy, please)

Other than that, it’s free game. With yarn  in mind (Malabrigo Worsted, of course), here’s my recipe:

  1. Determine your hat pattern/Set your gauge. With yarn in mind, and needles in hand start knitting in stockinette stitch so you have roughly a 4-5 inch sample. If this is your first time designing a hat, go with stockinette stitch –  it will make all things easier. Unsure of what size needles to use? Yarn labels often indicate a gauge and they suggest a general needle size to obtain that gauge.  If you’re a loose knitter, you may want to use the smaller suggested needle. If you knit tightly, go for the larger. Also, if you intend a pattern such as cables, which typically pulls the fabric tighter and results in less “give/stretch/ease”, then you’ll want to go to a larger needle as well. Be sure to find your gauge in whatever pattern you intend for the hat. (or in my case, just start knitting, knowing you’ll have to start over as first time is rarely the charm). Once you have your 4″ x 4″ gauge swatch knit, measure how many stitches are in 4 inches of your sample. Divide that total number of stitches by 4 and that’s how many stitches you knit per inch. I would suggest doing it this way, rather than measuring just a single inch sample, as you will have a more accurate gauge count. My gauge is 5.5 stitches per inch.
  2. Measure head circumference. There are several online resources that will give you general average head sizes for newborns through adults if you don’t have the actual head to measure. I want this to fit roughly a 22 3/4″ head.
  3. Determine the type of ribbing. All my winter hats have a ribbing, and my favorite is usually a 2 stitch repeating pattern: [K1tbl, P1]. Other popular ribbings are [K2,P2], [K2, P1], [K1, P2]. 
  4. Calculate the CO (cast on) stitches. A nice fitting stocking hat typically has some “ease” or stretch. I calculate about 2 inches of ease for my hats. Meaning, If my total head circumference is 22 3/4 inches, I want the actual hat circumference to be about 22 inches, maybe just slightly over. Multiply your number of stitches per inch by the intended final hat circumference. In my case: 5.5 sts/inch x 20 inches = 110 stitches. This is a great even number, and works wonderfully for a 2 stitch ribbing pattern (my favorite is K1tbl, P1) Make sure your CO stitch count accommodates your ribbing pattern.
  5. Knit ribbing. Some people use less stitches for the brim of the hat and then increase once they get to the hat body to make for a tighter fitting ribbing.  I typically use the same number of stitches for the hat ribbing as I do for the body IF my pattern stitch has a decent amount of stretch. I ALWAYS use a smaller needle (typically 2 sizes smaller) for the brim in order to ensure a tighter fit around the ears. My [K1tbl,P1] has quite a bit of stretch. In my case, I am going to CO 110 stitches with US 6 needles and begin my [K1tbl, P1] ribbing. My hats usually have a 1 1/2 inch – 2 inch brim. And so, I am going to knit in this pattern until the brim reaches roughly 2 inches from  my CO edge.
  6. Set up the hat body pattern/stitches. SWITCH TO YOUR LARGER NEEDLES and if you’re knitting a classic stockinette stitch hat, start knitting! I’m not. My pattern is going to be a 4 stitch repeated pattern. (This means my number of stitches needs to be divisible by 4 – 110 is not) AND my pattern doesn’t have the stretch that I’m wanting. In fact, it only has about 1 inch of stretch. This means my finished hat circumference needs to be closer to 21.75 inches, rather than 20 inches. 5.5 sts x 21.75 inches = 119.6 Round up to 120 and that’s divisible by 4! Magic! (it doesn’t always work out that closely. In which case round up or down to the closes divisible number) At this point, I am going to switch to US 8 needles, and knit one round adding 10 stitches so that at the end of the round, I have a total of 120 stitches.
  7. Knit the hat body.  Again, online resources have average lengths of hats. Think about whether you want it to be more fitted, or do you want a slouchier hat? Keep in mind, slouchier means an overall longer hat. I typically knit until the total length from the CO edge is somewhere between 7-8 1/2 inches before beginning the decrease.
  8. Determine the decrease for the hat top. There’s a nice site here that gives some general decrease calculations. It’s pretty generic and seems to be a good formula. Something to think about: do you prefer a flatter topped hat, or a more conical shaped top? Flatter top = a more rapid decrease (decrease quicker over a lesser number of rows) Conical top = a more gradual decrease (decrease more slowly over a greater number of rows) What am I going to do with Trevor’s hat? Good question. This is a great topic for another post!

Today we are inside. Sun shinning and snow still sparkling, but strep throat successfully invaded our mighty fortress. And so we work on puzzles, play more games, eat unnecessary snacks and dance in our jammies. Funny how snow actually isn’t the only thing that livens this youthful spirit…

Slow down, dance with the kiddos, enjoy a warm beverage, knit a little and remember a lot! These are the days…

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