How do you welcome the first week of spring in Virginia? With about 4″ of snow and making a pair of the warmest hats on the planet, of course!
All winter long I’ve been picking up this double knit beanie that I’ve been working on for a friend. He saw this one that I made for my brother last summer and requested one of his own. It took me forever because the method I uses for double knit actually hurts my hands. I hold both yarns in the left hand and alternate which one I pick up. I would knit about a dozen stitches, then set it down in favor of something easier and vow to pick it up for a few minutes the next time I sat down to knit. It went that way from the beginning of December through two weeks ago when, I was spurred to the finish line by my friend’s hospitalization for a couple days. I knew he needed something to lift his spirits and finishing his hat would be just the ticket. That and I promised him I’d have it finished before the weather turned warm. Good thing for me this winter seems to be eternal. There’s a phrase I never thought I’d utter!
So I pressed on and finished up the top decreases in one evening so my friend could enjoy his double layer alpaca and wool hat for a few weeks before tucking it away for the warmer months ahead. Happily, he reports it’s one of the greatest thing he’s ever owned. I feel honored 🙂 Either that or he just has some really crappy stuff. (Just kidding! Haha! I know he reads the blog and he really has a lovely home!)
Considering the physical pain I put myself through to do the double knit, I determined myself to learn how to knit carrying the yarn with both hands. I actually tried this once in the midst of the double knit beanie but failed miserably, pulled out the terrible row, and resigned to doing it my old way, figuring it would be faster.
I usually knit Continental or German style (picking the yarn off the left hand) which is actually a faster and more efficient method. This meant I needed to learn how to knit English style (throwing the yarn from the right hand). I didn’t bother trying to learn English style in isolation. I just dove right into fair isle with both hands. A few YouTube videos later, I was sitting at my computer desk knitting with a yarn in each hand working a fair isle pattern with some scrap yarn. It took a little bit of fiddling to get my floats loose enough to allow the fabric to stretch, but that’s inherent in learning fair isle. It was also a great reminder of how far I’ve come in knitting from those first frustrating months of throwing my needles and yarn across the room because it didn’t come easily to me like every other art and craft I’ve tried.
I browsed patterns on Ravelry for inspiration and fair isle charts. I wanted an ear flap hat that would be big enough for my freakishly large head – 22.5″ whereas the average woman’s head is 20″. I looked at some free earflap hat patterns for construction methods but didn’t actually use any of the patterns for my hat. I found a link to this chart (the blue one) which wasn’t actually in the ravelry database, though the other one on the page is. Details on the hat construction on my Ravelry page.
I used the remaining Berocco Ultra Alpaca yarn from both my brother’s beanie and my friend’s beanie to knit this one up. I started with the dark background and light contrast while modifying the chart. I foolishly didn’t measure the height of my gauge and ended up with the snowflakes way to high up and the hat too deep.
I knew I would make a lining of the lighter color and stitch the two layers together so when it came time to work it up, I just worked a new fair isle with the light background and dark contrast, again modifying the chart. I ended up liking the second version better so I’ll wear it as the outside.
Just as I was finishing the second layer, my neighbor suggested I do a button for the flaps instead of ties like I had planned. I was thrilled by the idea and quickly looked up how to do I-cord to make a button loop since I hadn’t made a button hole. Did you know the “I” in I-cord actually stands for “idiot”. No joke. Really. It’s so super simple, too.
I used a blanket stitch to finish the two layers together and attach the loop.
Then I added a button on both inside and outside of the left flap so I can reverse it if I choose.
Now that I have the warmest hat ever created with the double thickness of the fair isle on both layers – that’s 4 layers of alpaca/wool yarn – spring may come for real instead of just a teasing little mark on the calendar date while snowballs are falling from the sky.