Posted on December 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm
Henry, my eldest step child, lives in Brooklyn. When I visited him a few weeks ago, we had a chat about the challenge of finding an appropriately masculine yoga mat (no ohm lotus flower stencils, please) for less that a hundred bucks (seriously), Williamsburg-style shirts with hemlines long enough (oh, we’re a tall lot), and a large enough hat that was warm, soft, and suitable in its sartorial signifiers for the L train.
I took that last bit as a hint.
So I raided the discontinued bin at Classic Elite for the last black skeins of their fantastic yarn, Princess. It makes me very sad this yarn has gone away since it is utterly perfect for this kind of thing: a hat soft, warm, and macho (in spite of the name of the yarn).
It took me two days of part time knitting to whip this hat up. It’s a simple thing, just perfect for a guy who doesn’t want cables or tricks about his ears. I could write the recipe for you on the back of a business card, really. And so I shall, at the end of this post.
So here’s the recipe and all its logic: Given a gauge swatch (which in this case worked out to 4.5 sts to the inch in twisted rib), I cast on 104 sts (a multiple of 8) to give me a head measurement in the vicinity of 23″ (big brain case, this one).
What I mean by that is I want a hat to fit a 23″ head. I multiply my target measurement by the stitch number (23 x 4.5), and I get 103.5. I round that up to the nearest multiple of 8, and I get 104. Were I working on a 21″ hat, I’d cast on 96 sts (21 x 4.5 = 94.5, rounded to 96).
To work in the round, I generally use a single long circular needle in the magic loop method, but you can use two circs, or a set of dpns, anything that is comfortable and handy. I worked a half twisted rib, which means that I knit through the back loop and did a regular purl, so only half the stitches were twisted. I threw a single row stripe in after a few rows, then another one a few after that, just to make the hat identifiable if it fell on the floor in the coat room at a club (I made this very hat for him a few years ago, and its fate is undetermined, which I chalk up to the anonymity of a plain black watch cap, hand knit or not).
I made it deep enough to fold a generous brim (10″ in this case, try yours on periodically to see for yourself), and then I started the decreases. Decreases are the heart and soul of any good hat, and these are worked out in one of two ways, depending on your stitch count. If you have a multiple of 8 where the multiplier is an even number (like 96, which is 8 x 12, and 12 is an even number), work 8 sets of decreases – starting with the beginning of the round marker, place seven additional markers separated by a number of stitches equal to the Cast On stitch count divided by 8. At the beginning of the round, ssk, work to the next marker, slip the marker and repeat. Work this decrease after every marker every other row until you have 24 sts on the needles. Work the decreases every round until you have 8 stitches left – this final quickening in the rate of decreases helps avoid the dreaded “nipple” effect – then fasten the live stitches off in the usual manner – which is to say, cut the yarn about a foot long, use a large eyed needle to draw the yarn through all the live stitches twice, pull it closed nice and snug, then weave the end in, and cut off the extra bit.
If the multiplier of 8 is an odd number (like 104, which is 8 x 13, and 13 is an odd number), work 4 sets of decreases – starting with the beginning of the round marker, place three additional markers separated by a number of stitches equal to the Cast On stitch count divided by 4. At the beginning of the round, ssk, work to the next marker, slip the marker and repeat. Work this decrease after every marker EVERY row until you have 12 stitches left, fasten off, and you’re done.
The reason for the shift for an odd multiple of 8 is to keep the decreases on the knitted stitches. If you worked 8 sets of decreases every 13 stitches, for example, every other decrease would end up on the purl stitch, and it wouldn’t look as nice when you were finished.
Decreasing 8 times every other row gives you the same rate of change as you get by decreasing 4 times every row. Neat, huh? Why bother with the multiple of 8 then, and just stick with 4? Because I love the way 8 sets of decreases look, so if you can hit that even multiple of 8, I say go for it. But four looks smart in its own right:
On the back of a business card in shorthand, the L-Train Hat looks like this:
CO 8x. *ktbl, p repeat from * for 10″. Decs: if x = even –>*ssk work x, repeat 8 times, every other row to 8 sts. Fasten off. If x = odd–>*ssk work CO/4, repeat 4 times every row to 12 sts. Fasten off.
That’s pretty much it: once you grasp the concept, it’s a simple recipe. Hope it comes in handy for you someday.