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.

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