Photos by Zachary Cross
It’s been a warm winter but it’s not over yet! Recent chilly mornings and evenings have been perfect for a wool hat. It’s a great project for even beginning knitters and can be made with local “ingredients!”
The three basic human needs are food, clothing, and shelter. Though we usually associate farmers markets with providing food, some of our farmers provide us with clothing items as well. Wool is an excellent fiber for all sorts of clothes.
My favorite knitting author is Elizabeth Zimmermann. In addition to being a phenomenal artist and knitter, Zimmerman was a delightful writer and her books are a pleasure to read whether or not you actually end up knitting something. Zimmermann’s preferred fiber was wool, and her essays on its virtues will convert most anyone. I assume her love of wool is at least partly because of her upbringing in England and later life in New England. Wool is warm, even when wet; yet breathable, naturally resistant to dust mites, dirt, and even fire.
But wool is also wonderful to knit with. It is elastic yet holds its shape. It feels good in your hands. It takes dyes beautifully and comes in natural colors as well.
Farmer Cheri Miller of Harvest Home raises Finnsheep in Rising Fawn Georgia. Although she also sells various cuts of lamb, she says, “fiber production is a farming activity - it isn’t always about food!” Cheri sells wool in the form of roving, yarn, dryer balls, hand knitted and woven items, and has partnered with a mill in Ft. Payne to make socks from her wool.
I especially liked a natural dark gray yarn and chose that for my project. When I say natural, it’s the color of the sheep that the wool came from, not dyed. Cheri has dyed wool as well, in a variety of colors. Her yarn is a worsted weight, making it appropriate for many different kinds of projects. She sells it by the ounce, and my hat comes in at about 2.5 ounces. Allow another ounce for a larger hat or for one with a closed top.
This winter I’ve found that I wanted a basic, neutral-colored hat for chilly days. There have been days, too, that I’ve already had my hair in a ponytail or a bun and haven’t been able to fit a hat over that. Knitters and crocheters are a creative lot, and there are patterns for hats with holes in them to accommodate ponytails and pigtails. One of the easiest ways to do this is to finish off a hat earlier than usual in the process, creating a hole in the top of the hat for a high messy bun, man bun, or ponytail. Some would argue this hole allows heat to escape, and I say this warm winter is the year to give it a try!
For the basic hat pattern I went with Viridian Hue’s basic Tweed Hat. It’s in a man’s size which suits my large head. It could be easily adapted by using a smaller needle size, thinner yarn, or fewer stitches. I ended up knitting a little tightly, coming in at about 14 stitches to 4 inches, rather than the pattern’s gauge of 13 stitches to 4 inches, which made for a slightly smaller hat.
To make this a messy bun hat I turned to Vickie Howell’s article for guidance. It’s less work to make a bun/ponytail hat, since you’re ending it sooner, but having some guidance of when to end it was helpful. She provides another basic hat pattern, in more of a women’s size, if you prefer to try that. Her technique works for any basic bottom-up hat pattern and she has instructions for crocheted hats as well.
I began my hat in a lighter gray, also a natural color, and used that for the brim. It’s a nice contrast but subtle against the similar but darker gray. I used 20 inch circular needles for most of this project. They were a bit long, and if you use 16 inch you may be able to use them all the way to casting off, if you leave the bun hole. I found I needed to switch to double pointed needles near the end, but only for a few rows. If you are comfortable with double points, certainly use them for the whole hat if you like.
Though this hat is adaptable to different sizes and designs, keep certain proportions in mind. I used a 5x5 rib on the brim. To do that you need to keep the number of cast-on stitches a product of 10 - I cast on 70. If you want you can change it to 3x3 and cast on a multiple of 6, or 2x2 and cast on a multiple of 4, etc. When you’re decreasing and figuring out the size of the bun hole there’s a little math involved, but it’s not something you’ll be graded on!
Note that Harvest Home’s yarn comes in hanks, not skeins or balls, and you’ll need to wind it into a ball before using. This is not unusual, but if it’s not something you’re used to The Spruce has instructions on winding a ball from a hank. You can also wind a center pull ball with help from a paper towel tube.
Not a knitter, yet? In addition to Zimmermann’s books (the first project in Knitting Workshop is a similar hat to mine) there are many others, as well as plenty of free tutorials online. This one on YouTube is pretty simple and straightforward for casting on. Since you’ll be knitting in the round, joining in the round is an important step. Knitting abbreviations are described here.
Adapted from Viridian Hue’s Tweed hat, altered with Vickie Howell’s Tutorial for a messy bun hatYarn: Cheri Miller’s worsted in your choice of color, 2-3 oz or depending on hat size
Needles: size 8 16” circular for the brim, size 10 16” circular and dpn for the body of the hat *or size needed to obtain gauge (I usually use a size down)
Gauge: 13sts/4” in stockinette
Size: to fit a 24” head
Cast 70 stitches on size 8 needles and join in the round.
Knit 5, Purl 5 until brim measures 2 inches from cast on edge.
Switch to larger needles and knit until hat is about 6 inches from your cast on edge.
Switch to double point needles as needed
K 8 knit 2 together (K2tog) to the end of the row (63 stitches (sts))
K 7 K2tog to the end of the row (56 sts)
K 6 K2tog to the end of the row (49 sts)
K 5 K2tog to the end of the row (42 sts)
Knit 4 K2tog to almost the end of the row. Do not knit the last two stitches together (36 sts)
Knit 1, Purl 1 for 2 rows
Bind off in K1P1 rib pattern
Block and wear!
Printable pattern here
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