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Monday, February 14, 2011

Project Yarnway: Flower Fez (Hat 1)

As usual, it is high time for me to get started on my entries for the final challenge of Project Yarnway. Even though I didn't physically knit anything yet, my mind and pencil have been busy with coming up with design ideas for the 5-piece challenge.

It has been very educational to research slip stitch techniques and patterns (see previous post about my theme) and I found out, that I actually know the author of the book: "Slip-Stitch Knitting - Color Patterns the Easy Way"! I am in her charity knitting group that meets once a month! Who would have thunked that?

So, here is my first, not quite yet complete, project: a Fez or pillbox hat worked in a slip stitch pattern called "Linen Stitch":

Flower Fez: Linen Stitch Pillbox Hat

Lots of different things had to be considered here:
  1. What yarn did I have in my stash because I didn't want to buy more yarn? How long should the color sections of the variegated yarn be?
    => I chose a solid colored (Lion Brand Alpine Wool) and a variegated yarn (Patons SWS (Soy Wool Stripes)) with long color sections (~10 yards per color) to put the claim that slip stitch patterns are a great choice for variegated yarns to the test.
  2. The linen stitch pattern will be pretty solid so that I most likely will have to go up in needle size.
  3. The stiffness of the fabric could be used to its advantage by turning it into a design that benefits from its "standing" qualities
    => that led to my selection of a pillbox design.
  4. Some additional design element had to be added to break up/support the small linen stitch pattern and to add some visual interest
    => I chose a braided cast on (never done that before)
 So last Friday, at my KnitWits' monthly knitting group, I started with my swatching and quickly noticed the dramatic gauge difference when I switched from Stockinette st to linen stitch! Wow! I tried to change the needle size which made for a softer fabric but still couldn't make up for all the difference. At least it gave me a good idea of the ratio that I needed to increase when I was switching from the ribbing to the main body of the hat.

The night before, I had been studying a braided trim cast-on on YouTube that I really liked and wanted to use for my pillbox hat. And as usual when you go surfing the web, there are always many more things you come across that are interesting -- and suddenly a lot of time has disappeared... ! :)

The swatch also gave me a good idea of how the variegated yarn would look and a mistake I made while I was chit-chatting too much with my fellow knitters (I lost track of my round repeats), turned out to be a pattern that I preferred to the one I set out with! Ha, neat. :)

That evening, I just had to start with the hat.

Braided trim cast-on
I patiently worked my way through the braided trim cast-on and continued with the ribbing. But something just wasn't quite right.

First of all, my gauge was off, and I needed to do my cast-on over with a smaller number of stitches.

That just shows you that being off by 1/2 or 1/4 stitch in your gauge measurement can really multiply into a large error for a hat.

Alright, 2nd attempt: circumference was correct now but I didn't like the color combination for the braid - it was too little contrast for my taste. Why do all the work of a braided trim if you don't get the bang for the buck?

3rd attempt: So I unraveled it again, pulled out the variegated yarn until a darker color showed up and went at it again. Aha! That was worth it.

Knitting the hat body was straight forward although I had to consider what to do at the row transition because every other row I would end up with 2 slipped sts in a row instead of just the one. A k1 "seam" st would make for a nice solution to that problem. And around and around I went.

Then came the time for the crown, well a flat top. I have never knit a flat top before...! But it should follow the same principal of a doily, right? I've knit and crochet doilies before... for my 1st attempt, I worked the flat top in the variegated yarn, thinking that it would add some interesting concentric circles to the top. But the color sections were too long to really shine and it was actually distracting from the classic look of the pillbox body.
So for my 2nd attempt, I went with the solid color and decided to try a spiral pattern to add some interest that way. Well, 8 spirals was too many and my bulky yarn didn't behave with the classic decrease every 2nd row - it formed a little dome (which could be a design feature, but not for this hat).
So finally on my 3rd attempt, I got the decreases down and my flat top was finished. Yeah!

Hm, nice hat but it's missing some character.

First, I added a braided tassel - nah, too small. Then I added a bunch of them - nah, looked like a bird's nest. Then I thought of crocheting some simple flowers each in a different color of the variegated yarn - yes, that will work!
 Crochet flower "tassels"

Hm, this hat is still missing some shape. It just doesn't look like a pillbox to me. After some mulling over and trying out some ideas, I finally settled on a simple top edging my crocheting one round of chain sts right along the color change where the body meet the flat top. Ahhh, that was the missing piece to make this design complete. :D

Boy, after 3 days of trial and error I finally got a design that I liked. Now that was a learning experience and a journey for a single hat! I hope my other 4 hats will be a bit faster or I will run out of time...

Off to write up the pattern and take some modeled pictures... gotta find a willing victim!

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