A Headful of Hats…

A cursory glance at my finished projects on Ravelry (I’m Tessvintageknits there), shows quite a collection of hats completed over the last few months.

Completed Ravelry projects since August 2018

In my last post I mentioned that we’re moving to Italy and as a result we’ve been busy since last summer implementing that plan. Since then the date for the final move was brought forward by a year thanks to a rather sudden turn of events, and I’ve found that as a result I’ve had less and less ‘headspace’ for knitting.

Design work has been completely put on hold. Well there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, the ideas keep coming, but I’ve been lacking to focus to get things over the line. You know, having the time and focus to sit with a pattern and be sure all the details are just how you want them to be. Moreover, I certainty doubt that I’ll have any time to promote patterns even if I was confident they were completely ready for release. I am also working full time in my ‘day job’ (I’m a freelance researcher), so that has to take full priority.

As a result, I decided to take the any pressure off by granting myself the ‘permission’ to knit what I want when I have the time and space to do so.

Hats seem to be the perfect projects for where I am right now. The speed at which they knit up creates a sense of achievement and progress way beyond the scale of the project itself. The repetitive action of making stitches continues to soothe. Plus, aren’t hats just the perfect take along project if you’re on the move?

I also have a favourite hat designer Woolly Wormhead who designs interestingly constructed hats with straightforward instructions.

The charts for these 2 hats Toph and Korra both from the Elemental Collection are presented on a single page each. If you print out that page, make a note of your stitch count and the number of repeats, that’s all you need to take with you.

Toph hat by Woolly Wormhead, Knited sideways in vintage Jaeger Spiral Spun 100% wool (50g) and an oddment of Manos de Uruguay Silk Blend (34g).
Toph by Woolly Wormhead, Knitted sideways with vintage Patons Buccaneer 100% wool yarn, hand dyed by me using food colouring and a microwave oven.

 

 

 

The fact that these hats are knit sideways also means you can knit the whole hat with one pair/or a circular needle, you don’t need to swap to dpns or change needle size from brim to body of the hat. This means once you’ve set up the provisional cast on, you just knit to the end and then slip the provisional cast on stitches onto another needle and graft it together.

Korra by Woolly Wormhead, knit in 50g of Hayfield pure wool DK, and an oddment of Malabrigo silky merino
Misura By Woolly Wormhead knit sideways in a lambswool/angora blend reclaimed from a commercial sweater bought in a charity shop, unravelled and dyed using food colouring in my kitchen. Just look at that crown.

 

 

 

If the garter graft is putting you off, don’t let it, it’s so easy, you do exactly the same on both front and back needle. If you’ve ever tried the more common stocking stitch (stockinette) kitchener and found it challenging, this is much easier. Woolly also has fabulous tutorials for all the techniques used in her hats, so again, if anything is new to you, there’s support there, most often included in the pattern itself.

If you’re not sure about trying sideways construction and short row colour work (used to make the shaped motifs in the hats above) all in one go, why not try a Kelvinside or a Sideways Bobble hat first as a gentle introduction?

Kelvinside by Woolly Wormhead: Child size knitted using leftovers, or unknown grey brown and white yarn striped with a a plain grey, and an oddments of pin variegated Patons Smoothie
Sideways Bobble Hat, by Woolly Wormhead: Knitted wth oddments of chunky yarns reclaimed from other projects. I left off the bobble – those crowns are too good to hide.

You don’t have combine colours. I did so on my first because I was using up scraps and wasn’t sure I had enough of each for a full hat. As I was going along though I realised it makes it so easy to see exactly where you are in the pattern that I kept doing it that way. Not having to keep getting the pattern out to check where you are is a perfect bonus for crowded train knitting and let’s face it, here in the UK, or the North West at least, trains and overcrowding is very much a ‘thing’. I do also think it the striped versions look rather cool though, especially at the crown. It’s also perfect for stretching small amounts of lovely yarn – I only had a very small amount of the variegated boucle yarn used in the bottom left Sideways bobble so used it every other section. I think it really elevated what would otherwise be a less interetsing beige hat.

In terms of longer distance travel planning, the Elemental Hats, Kelvinside and the new Inversion collection are all knit from DK yarns which makes it so easy to pack efficiently for knitting while on the  move. On my latest trip my knitting bag had yarn for 3 hats, 3 x 3.25mm circular needles (this allowed me to have 2 knits on the go at once and a spare needle ready for grafting), a crochet hook and small butterfly of waste cotton yarn for the provisional cast on, a tapestry needle and the tiniest scissors that can get through airport security.

Travel Kelvinside 1 Jaeger Matchmaker DK and hand dyed 4 ply lambswool reclaimed from a charity shop sweater, dyed using food colourings and knitted held double
Travel Kelvinside 2 Jaeger Spiral Spun DK and hand dyed 4 ply lambswool reclaimed from a charity shop sweater, dyed using food colourings and knitted held double

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternatively, if you’re really not sure about sideways knit hats, you can go for a more traditional construction and knit hats in the round. These are from a previous trip and were knit on the train, plane and train platform. I love the simplicity of these patterns where the crown shaping really shines. Again, I tried to make it a little more interesting as I was making multiples of the same pattern, with some striping and contrast cast ons etc. This lifts an otherwise plain hat and allows you to use up every last bit of yarn.

Classic Beanie by Woolly Wormhead, Knitted in unknown synthetic aran/chunky yarns
Father and Son Beanie by Woolly Wormhead variations knitted in unknown synthetic aran/chunky yarns

 

So I have knit rather a lot of hats in the last few months, begging the question, what to do with them all.

Well most of them, I think 64, have gone to the Greek Island of Lesvos to the Hope Project which supports refugees at the Moria camp. The conditions there are truly awful. The cold during the winter months has been a key concern, in fact life threatening.

Through a local yarn swap I was alerted to the 60M(illion) T(rebles) group on Facebook and through that came into contact with a member who organises shipments to the Hope Project and my donations went via her. As well as my hats, hats from Ravelry friends, 16 hand knitted blankets from our knitting group and a range of other knitted items also went.

From this link to the Hope Project Facebook page, you can see what they currently need and how to help if you’re in a position to do so. They are now looking to spring and not accepting winter clothing such as hats, so the hats I’m knitting now will go to Hand in Hand for Aid and Development via the 60MT group. So there may be some more hats in the future, and I have lots of knitted squares to turn into blankets, and it’s a while since I knit a shawl…

 

Some reflections on current debates in the fibre industry

There have been a number of discussions in social media, originating on Instagram*, around the nature of the fibre community recently, specifically highlighting the racism** that many black, indigenous, people of colour (BIPoC) crafters have experienced and the elitism inherent in designers using more expensive yarns in their design leaving those unable to afford it feeling there is no place for them in the community. Both of these debates have hit home hard and resonated strongly with me. As I have participated in these debates I have been working through what more I can do to act positively to support change on these fronts. For me these debates have a served as an incredibly timely reminder of at least 2 things regarding engagement in online spaces:

  1. However limited we may feel our online visibility to be, we are still visible;
  2. Despite how ‘exposing’ it may feel, we (or here I) have a responsibility stand up in this ‘virtual’ space for the values I try to live to by ‘in real life’. Trying to, or thinking one can, separate these two worlds is perhaps an indicator of my age but also frankly, somewhat cowardly.

There are all sorts of threats to my understanding of the a concept or expression of ‘the social’ or ‘community’ that I can identify with and support at the moment, be that in the fibre world, locally or globally.

The rise of the far right is deeply disturbing, moreso because in my work I also see an increasing expression of racism within our geographical communities. I equate this partly with the outcome of the Brexit referendum which appears to have emboldened these voices. Furthermore, the impact of economic austerity has had a huge impact on socio-economically marginalised communities. Again this is something I see on a regular basis through my work.

As a result I have come to the conclusion that I certainly need to rediscover the bravery of my youth and speak out, and stand up, for things that I believe in across all the spaces I occupy. As I have started to do so I’m loving the conversations I’ve been having, a true reward for engaging more effectively with others, especially younger people who are shaping and articulating a meaningful activism for their generation.

These discussions are reminding me of the needs for clarity and intentionality and I want to be clear about my motivation for knitting for The Hope Project and Hand in Hand for Aid and Development. For me it is one way in which I can enact my political sentiments; both a statement and an act of opposition to the absolute inhumanity of the conditions and the response of national governments to the plight of refuges in Europe and those affected by conflict in Syria and Yemen. It is a way of turning my anger into something constructive, and in doing so, I want to feed the hope of those who risk everything for a better life for themselves and their families, a basic human instinct that should be recognised as such not quashed. I am a person of privilege, I live comfortably in a wealthy country and I refuse accept that we cannot, or should not, aspire and work towards a more effective management and equitable distribution of global resources.

And in relation to elitism and inclusion I’ve captioned the hats I’ve knitted with information on the yarns used. I think there are some gorgeous hats here, and firmly belief it is the design (some of which are available for free and some of which are paid for patterns) that is responsible for this, not the cost of the yarn.

Take care,

see you soon,

Tess

Absolute Slouch by Woolly Wormhead knitting in vintage Patons Husky wool from the 1970s.

Top: Bibbob by Woolly Wormhead in vintage Patons Doublet and leftovers of Manos de Uruguay Wool Classica
Bottom: Cirro by Woolly Wormhead in Jaeger Natural Fleece (I think – they were charity shop finds and the ball bands were long gone)

*If this debate is new to you and/or you don’t use instagram, this article provides a useful summary of how this conversation started and developed.

**My Instagram story “not silent‘ has links to some great resources shared by others as part of this online debate on racism in the fibre community.

 


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