Friday, 6 January 2012

The hat that (almost) wouldn't be

After all my gift knitting was done, I decided it was time to make myself something special, and the project that I decided on was a hat.  This was a hat that I'd been planning for awhile.  I'd bought the yarn when I was on Vancouver Island back in October, three skeins of madelinetosh dk in the forestry colourway.  Gorgeous.  I was waiting for the perfect project for this yarn and was pretty thrilled when I came across the Snapdragon Tam and Flip Top Mittens patterns by Ysolda Teague.  Intricate cables and a cute matching set were the perfect thing to show off this unique yarn, and wouldn't you know it, each pattern called for just one skein of the exact yarn I had already!  I knew it was meant to be.

I finally cast on about a week before Christmas and had some doubts about my gauge, but it seemed to be okay so I kept going.  I had decided to knit the medium size of hat and went down a needle size because my gauge is always looser than what patterns generally call for.  I also have a big head so I trusted that it would all work out.  And anyway, this hat is supposed to be a slouchy tam style hat (although if you look at the project gallery on ravelry, a number of the hats shown look like tiny beanies.  Weird).  I had the brim and a few inches of the cabled section done by the time the Enabler and I went to visit my parents on Christmas Eve.  I knitted furiously while rooted in the armchair at my parents house and managed to finish it in the evening on Christmas Day, after we'd already come back home.  The size seemed fine, unblocked it was like a loose toque that kind of stuck out in the back.  This was a hat that definitely needed blocking to open up the cables.

The only problem was that I didn't have any plates that were the right size.  My plates are all either 8 inches or 12 inches in diameter.  The solution was to head over to my local thrift store and searched through all the dishes until I finally found one that was 10 inches.  Perfect.  It was even 25% off (because obviously $1.00 is too much to pay for a plate but $0.75 is just right). 

The hat sat unblocked for a week until I finally got around to it this past Monday.  Not that I wasn't excited about it, trust me.  I was super excited about this hat because it was finally something beautiful for me, and I don't have any hats that I like.  I should also mention that while I've blocked a few things before (like shawls, cowls, and mittens), I am not an experienced blocker and had never before blocked a hat.  I filled up the sink, added the soap, dunked the hat, and waited 30 minutes to really get some optimum soaking happening.  All was well.  Or so I thought.

After 30 minutes I drained the sink and picked up my hat with ecstatic anticipation... and immediately realized that all was most definitely not well.  It was HUGE.  I mean, this thing would have been slouchy on a basketball.  And my head is big, but it's not THAT big (shut up no it's not I swear).  I tried not to panic, I thought maybe the weight of the water was just stretching it out a lot.  So I laid it on a towel and rolled up and squeezed it to get as much of the water out as possible, and it was a lot drier after I did that, but no smaller.  I thought maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me.  I put it on and looked at myself in the mirror.  It was the slouchiest hat I had ever seen.  Even super slouchy hats weren't this slouchy.  The middle of it was resting on the back of my neck, and the rest of it was on my back.  Now I started to worry, but I still wasn't giving up on it.  I got my plate and put the hat around the plate.  The hat completely engulfed the plate and the plate looked like it was going to have no effect on the hat whatsoever.  But I am stubborn, and was determined to make it work.

I arranged the hat around the plate as best I could and left it to dry, but I was starting to lose hope.  I started thinking that it was a good thing that I still had two skeins of this yarn left... I could try again and instead of blocking it by soaking I could steam it or spritz it instead... but ultimately I decided to just wait and see what happens.

Two days later (yeah yeah I know I'm supposed to wait longer than that but I just couldn't) I decided to check on it and see if any miracles had occurred.  And this is where my inexperience in blocking is probably obvious, because even though I KNOW that wool is weaker when it's wet, and I KNOW that the fibres will set after drying and time, I didn't really believe it that a seemingly giant hat could actually get smaller.  But it did.  It's at least small enough that I can wear it and it doesn't fall off my head, and no part of it touches my back (and hardly even my neck).  So now I have a cute (but still quite slouchy) hat.  Yay!

Photo angle on the last picture courtesy of the Enabler, who supposedly likes my (giant) nose.


  1. Sorry Amy - have to admit I had a laugh while reading that but was very happy to read (and see) the happy ending - it's beautiful - well done

    - Kelly

  2. giant head: courtesy of yours truly
    giant nose: not my fault (who had you last?)

  3. I am so glad it turned out OK - looking at the picture of your gorgeous hat on Ravelry, I had no idea such a story would be behind it!