In Which The Frogs & I (finally) Knit A Fine Hat

See that hat in the photo at left? This hat is mocking me. (See how it drops down low over my eyes and makes me look like I am five? It mocks me.) It's Connie Chang Chinchio's Blume Hat from Knitscene Fall 2010, and trust me, Connie has nothing to do with what is going on between that hat and myself…I measured. I checked gauge, I knit. First time I put it on my head, it turned out 3 inches too big around (the hat, not my noggin). Turns out I only did a flat gauge swatch, not one in-the-round. ::mumblegrumble::

So here I am with a really cute hat that won't fit, a hat which even refuses to be polite and block itself back into size. The hat is finished, done, finit–so done, in fact, that even the ends are neatly woven in.

But unless I want to begin putting together my portfolio for applying to Clown College, I cannot wear this hat.

I survey my options:

Find a friend with a bigger head than mine.
Pros: I like giving presents.
Cons: If I gave the hat away, I would still need a hat. Plus, the Indigodragonfly merino/cashmere/nylon yarn is to die for, and I want that yarn on my person in some socially acceptable way this winter.

Stitch it till it fits.
Pros: I can sew quite well, and the hat style is funky enough so that I could take little tucks here and there and probably make it look great. Faster than ripping out, too. And, as a couple of the commenters from last week suggested, I could run a bit of elastic thread around through the ribbing to help snug it up.
Cons: I'm allergic to whatever is in elastic, and can't have it near my skin. Besides, I just don't feel like haggling with this hat that much. It would be almost a complete re-design and sometimes, I just want THAT hat.

Make it into something else!
Pros: It would make a really cute little knitted bag if I put a drawstring through the ribbing. Easy to do, and who doesn't need another cute little bag?
Cons: Still need a hat.

Frog it, baby.
Pros: The hat itself is one huge gauge swatch and test hat, combined. I can easily figure out how many stitches to use for a smaller version, just by measuring and counting the present hat. The pattern is easy, and it's a good match for the Pretty Yarn.
Cons: Ripping. Re-Knitting.

In the end, I rip. What tips the balance for me is that if I don't rip it back and have a little do-over, I will always feel funny about the hat–it'll be one of those projects where something inside me will feel compelled to point out the stitching, or the flaws, or whatever every time someone comments on the hat. I will always feel that it is flawed, no matter how much I have "fixed" it.

And to be honest, in the very end, it's the yarn's fault, really. It's such soft, pretty yarn. I want to really show it off, and I don't mind spending another few hours with it re-knitting the hat.

Thus, I carefully picked out the woven-in end at the top of the hat with a tapestry needle, and frogged the hat nearly down to the initial cast-on. Note that I didn't touch the edging, which had been picked up along the cast-on edge and worked in the opposite direction. I just let that be, and frogged back to the joining round where the brim strip is joined into a head-sized circle. I worked the first joining round as instructed, then worked several decreases evenly spaced in order to get the stitch count to where I needed it to be to keep the hat from falling into my eyes. From there, it was just a matter of following the instructions, using mathly proportions to figure out decrease- and row- spacing now that I had fewer stitches than the pattern used.

I love the way it came out the second time (photo at right). I stuck a maple leaf in the brim at about the place where eventually, once I finish the matching gloves and know how much yarn I have leftover, I would like to put either a few small knitted flowers, or a pretty pin.

Now, on to the matching gloves! My hands are very wide, and very short, and so standard glove patterns hardly ever fit if I work them as written. Now that I have the entire hat as a gauge swatch in the round, I think I will just work out my own custom glove pattern in the matching yarn, instead of trying to constantly do the adaptation math to make the ruffled ones in the pattern.

It's good to know when to stop struggling to Make It Work, and when to try again. It's also good to figure out your options, and to be creative and fearless about exploring them.

People are always amazed at how much I rip out when I knit. I don't see ripping out as anything more serious than erasing a stray pencil mark on a sketch, or correcting a typo in an article. If your math is off when you are balancing your accounts, you have to trace your way back through the numbers to see where the correction needs to go. Computer code is never perfect, and it is constantly being updated and upgraded.

Perfection is not the point. Making mistakes is no big deal; it happens all the time. The mark of a good knitter, however, is what she or he does with the mistake: gloss over, patch up, re-purpose, or re-do?

I think this is true in the rest of our lives as well. It's not the mistakes that we make that determine what kind of people we are. It's what we do with those mistakes, how we choose to handle them that is the true mark of character.

So. Be fearless, and look those frogs straight in the eye. Leave a comment and let me know what tells you it's time to frog.

– Sandi

P.S. Next: Gloves. After that: Bettie's Lace Stockings, in a yarn sparkling with silver threads! 

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.

Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Blogs, Sandi's Needles

8 thoughts on “In Which The Frogs & I (finally) Knit A Fine Hat

  1. Sandi, I love the way you connect knitting and life. And I totally agree with your comment that it’s not the mistakes we make that determine who we are, but how we respond and what we do with them. I paint as well as knit, and the best pictures are often the ones that give the most trouble, that are layered and scraped and fought with.

  2. I have learned so much more from mistakes and how to handle them than I have ever learned from my successes. Besides, where’s the adventure in always doing everything right the first time?

  3. My sentiments exactly, Sandi. when things go wrong, they are not necessarily ‘mistakes’ which is what the world seems to imply, but merely opportunities to learn and go on – better than ever 🙂 🙂 There is even more satisfaction in the final product then!! Last winter I unpicked an entire sweater which had become stretched out and huge and wouldn’t reblock and reknit it into a sleeveless tunic with a huge cowl – I love it and am so glad I took the time to do that. ribbit, ribbit!

  4. Well, you’ve given me courage. I have a lovely top. Love the colors, the yarn, the pattern. Problem was, I knit a swatch about 6″ x 6″, washed and dried it, and it looked good. Did the math, knit accordingly, and it is acting like your purple yarn did. It slithers. (There is a lot of bamboo in it.) So it has slithered wide and slithered long, and looks like a tent instead of lovely. As in big enough for someone twice my size in both girth and height. (There’s a scary image!) So I will frog. First I will measure THIS garment as a gauge, and then frog it and recalculate and knit accordingly. Will probably have enough yarn left over to make a little purse!

  5. I love your posts, Sandi, and look forward to them with great anticipation. I frog often, partially because I have perfectionist tendencies, but I also like to look on it as a learning experience; “what went wrong and how can I keep it from happening next time?”
    I’m excited that you’ll be knitting Bettie’s Lace Stockings, it’s such a cute pattern. Maybe I’ll even try an unofficial KAL. I’ve been knitting a lot of socks lately, but more standard, easy patterns. It would be fun to try something a bit more creative.

  6. I’ve just this year discovered the actual joy of ripping! Sometimes the yarn and pattern are just not at their best together, and everything is better if said yarn and pattern are separated and paired with better choices.

    (To be honest, it’s more about doing justice to the yarn. I am definitely yarn-centric.)

    It’s taken many years to get to this point, though. Now I can rip and feel quite satisfied when I have my yarn back again, ready for its next adventure.

    How often do we get second chances or do-overs in real life?

  7. I was at the fair for only 3 hours but it was great. Some of those colors made my eyes go kookoo trying to drink them in. One woman told me she did these colors just for the fair–dozens of them. She was a chemist in her previous life so you could tell how she loved playing with the chemistry of color. And found a 10 ball bag of DROPS for only $50. What a deal–an incredible midnite blue. And finally found the perfect rust color for my new grandbaby girl along with a mix of Fall colors. Can’t wait to figure out what to make.

    Will definitely revisit the fair next year and take my cane with me!