Thursday, December 21, 2006

Last Minute Hat

Right. Despite my dire warnings, or intended dire warnings, to avoid all knitting for Christmas gifts during the month of December, you’re still insistent on making something.

List of things it really shouldn’t be:

1. Anything with fancy stitches – you’ll make a mistake and wind up compromising or feeling like poo because you left a mistake in just to finish in time.

2. A sweater. It’s too late, and the Fates will make sure that it does something awkward somewhere, like have really long arms, pinch in the pits, or droop at the neck. Plus, you’ll run out of yarn somewhere vital.

3. An afghan. No. You weren’t really thinking of this, were you?

4. A real scarf, “real” being defined as “something long enough to go around the neck and stay there, plus it looks OK.” There just isn’t time to knit that fast unless you’re using bulky or super bulky yarn, and I have news from the consumer front that pretty much everyone is sick to death of bulky and super bulky knitwear, so it won’t be appreciated anyway. Use it to make a bathmat for the New Year.

5. Gloves. Too many fingers, hence, too many potential gaps and ends to weave in.

List of possibilities:

1. A pair of ankle socks or slippers in an average (defined as “standard on the printed pattern you already have”) size. You’ll need to be speedy to get both of them done in time. HINT: Work down past the first five heel gusset decreases on each sock first, then finish them one at a time. That way, you get the tricky part out of the way sooner and have only mindless knitting left for the stress-monkey days.

2. Wrist warmers: generally mindless knitting, which makes it possible to put them down and pick them up again without freaking out over where you were.

3. Mittens: fast and easy

4. My favorite: a hat, a simple watch cap style hat. It’s almost completely mindless knitting except for the casting on and the final decreasing, and neither of those parts takes very long. You can use virtually any weight yarn you have on hand, and one skein is almost always enough for a head-fitting cap. And, for so very little effort, it could very well wind up being the most used, lovingly worn item you make all year. And, hats, like socks, need negative ease (about 10% smaller than the projected head size) because they need to stretch to fit, and unless your knitting is rock hard, if you knit to size, the hat will be too large – which means fewer stitches and less time required.

So, the Last Minute Hat pattern:

Fits teen through adult (stretches to about 22”, but will fit down to a 16” head)

1 50 g ball of heavy sock yarn or DK
1 set size 4 dpns (or 16” circ)
1 set size 2 or 3 (depending on whether or not you are a loose or tight knitter) dpns or circ

Using larger needles, CAST ON 90 stitches. Rib (your choice, I like k2p2 or k3p3 for hats) for 3 inches. Change to smaller needles and in stockinette stitch, knit straight for 5 inches.

DECREASE for top as follows:

Row 1: (Insert marker to identify beginning) K2tog, k13 6 times (84 stitches)
Row 2 and all even rows: K even around
Row 3: K2tog, k12 6 times (78 sts)
Row 5: K2tog, k11 6 times (72 sts)
Row 6: K2tog, k10 6 times (66 sts)

You get the idea. Continue decreasing 6 sts every other row until you have 12 stitches left. You can even stop at 18 stitches, if you want. Pull yarn through, pull tight, knot. Pull knot to inside, weave in two ends. Done.

I can make one in a day, if I’ve got the time. Otherwise, it takes me a couple of days of early morning knitting (about ½ hour) and maybe an hour after dinner one night to finish it off. Could be a little more, but it’s mindless, so I don’t really monitor the time that closely.

For changes in size – to go to a larger head, add 12 stitches to the cast on and the first decrease row will be k2tog, k15, etc. For a small, early teen or late kid years hat, cast on 78, and the first decrease row will be k2tog, k11.

As I said, you can do this with any weight yarn. You will need to adjust the number of stitches to fit your gauge. The most important factor is to keep it divisible by 6, for a smoothly rounded top. And, if you gauge comes out not quite on the 6, round up, rather than down.

I’d post a picture of the latest one I made, but my daughter took my camera to school to take a picture of a cute exchange student today!

Happy knitting!

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