Saturday, May 17, 2014

Colorwork Hats Tutorial

Since I've been making so many hats without full patterns I thought I'd write out my process. I've also included links to other helpful websites and tutorials. I will also go over the basic anatomy of a hat to refer to when I discuss specific sections. You can find all of this as a more printer friendly PDF here. If you just want a pattern for the Circle Chain hat, you can find a PDF here and the Fox hat PDF here.

Creating a Hat
So you have found a colorwork chart that you love and want to put onto a hat. That's great! Hats look great with a wide or thin band of colorwork. If you're a more advanced knitter, you can even continue the chart up into the decreases. I will be using these two charts to demonstrate throughout the tutorial.

Circle Chain
Fox Chart
The Circle Chain chart has 2 repeats of the pattern shown, the pattern repeat is inside the red lines. It is an 8 stitch and 5 row repeat. The Fox chart has only one repeat shown, and is a 7 stitch and 6 row repeat.

A hat is comprised of three basic parts, the brim, the body, and the decreases. I am going to talk about how to modify each of these sections to fit with whatever colorwork chart you have chosen. The most important section to modify is the body, where the chart you've chosen will actually end up.

Gauge Measurements
The first thing to do once you have picked out a colorwork chart is to knit the chart once or twice in the yarn you intend to use. You need to measure your gauge in the colorwork, as it can differ from your regular stockinette gauge. I'm using worsted weight yarn and size 7 needles.

I personally get 5 stitches per inch when doing stranded colorwork with the intended yarn. I know this from all of the other hats I've made with the same yarn. Though the stranding patterns aren't all the same, my tension has been pretty regular so I am confident enough in it. If you don't know what gauge you get, I strongly recommend a gauge swatch if you want your hat to fit a specific person or match a general size. (Here's a video tutorial on an easy way to swatch in the round without using DPNs.)

Since I'm making child sized hats, I'm aiming to fit a head that's 20" around. (Here's my favorite chart for head sizes from the great Woolly Wormhead.) Hats usually have negative ease, which is just a fancy way of saying the hat is smaller than the head it's supposed to fit. This is so that the knitting has to stretch to stay on the head and won't fall off. Almost all hats have negative ease around the brim and body, though some styles (e.g. berets, slouchy hats) increase stitches for a looser fit in the body of the hat. In general 1"-2" is a good guideline for negative ease in hats. For these beanie style hats I am going to take 20" and subtract 2" for negative ease, therefore I will be aiming for 18" finished circumference.

The row gauge is also important, though less vital. I get 6 rows per inch. Referring back to the Woolly Wormhead chart, I know I want the hats to be about 7.25" at the longest point. Of course, the colorwork is generally only on the body of the hat (and sometimes the crown decreases, but that is more advanced work). I know that the decreases I always use (more about this further down) are around 12 rows long, or 2 inches long. I also try for at least 1.5" of ribbing, with more for larger hats. So in reality, there is only around 3.75" for the pattern to fit into (7.25” - 2” for decreases - 1.5” for ribbing = 3.75").

Cast on Number
To calculate this we will focus on stitches per inch and finished circumference of the hat. For me, I get 5 stitches per inch and want a hat with a finished circumference of 18" as discussed above. I simply multiply the two, 5 x 18 = 90. This means I need to cast on around 90 stitches to attain the size I'm aiming for. The exact number might change based on the colorwork pattern you choose, but it needs to end up pretty close. To recap:

Stitches per inch x Circumference = Preliminary Cast on Number

I start by looking at the factors for 90.  (Here's a calculator to make finding factors easy.) 90 has a lot of factors: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 15, 18, 30, 45, and 90. If there is a chart you like that fits into one of these stitch counts, perfect! You're all set.

The Fox chart is a 7 stitch repeat, which is not a factor of 90. To find a cast on number that will work with my stitch repeat of 7, I divide 90 by 7 to get 12.8. This is the number of fox repeats that would fit in 90 stitches. Since that is very close to 13 full repeats, I round up. So 13 repeats of 7 stitches (or 13*7) is 91 stitches. That will be my cast on number.

The Circle Chain chart is an 8 stitch repeat, also not a factor of 90. I'll do the same thing. 90 divide by 8 is 11.25. This time I will round down to 11 repeats of the 8 stitches (or 11*8) which gives me 88 stitches for my cast on number.

I'd go up to about 1" larger, or 5 stitches more, and sacrifice a little bit of negative ease. In the other direction I would probably only go about .5", or 2-3 stitches less. A hat that's too tight won't be worn, and stranded colorwork stretches less than stockinette.

Modifying a Chart
Sometimes you can't get a cast on number that works well with your chart. There are a few things you can do to fix this, so don't abandon the chart just yet.

These charts represent two kinds of colorwork charts, attached and detached (Note: these are my own terms, I have never come across anyone else differentiating charts like this). The Circle Chain chart is an attached pattern. Attached patterns are charts which are intended to touch at either side for a contiguous pattern around the hat. If you have an attached pattern, there isn't much you can do without interrupting the pattern if you need to change the stitch pattern. If it's something very basic, you might be able to modify it so that it's the right number of stitches, but anything complex will probably be adversely affected by altering the chart to fit.

An attached pattern
Detached patterns, on the other hand, are complete motifs by themselves and do not touch at either end such as the Fox chart. These are much easier to adjust. You can add a blank stitch or two in between the motifs to get to a specific stitch number without harming anything. In the squirrels below, I added 3 stitches in the dark brown between each squirrel to make the hat wide enough.

A detached pattern

Rows Available
The important numbers to calculate what height chart you can accommodate are the row gauge, the length of the hat, and how long your crown decreases and ribbing will be. For me, I know that I have 6 rows per inch and 3.5 inches for the chart in the body of the hat, as discussed above. I multiply 6 rows x 3.5 inches = 21 rows. This means there are 21 rows in the body of the hat available for me to work a chart on. It is important that the chart you choose is not bigger than this, or your hat will be too long. To recap:

Rows per Inch x [Total Length - (Crown Decrease Length + Brim Length)] = Rows Available

Luckily for me, the patterns I have picked will only be about 1 inch tall, but if you have picked a pattern that is larger than around 20 stitches tall, you may want to use a smaller weight of yarn. Sport or fingering would give you many more stitches/rows to play with and allow more detailed colorwork.

The brim is not absolutely necessary to take into account when picking a chart, but I have a few helpful tips.

Ribbing can be made to accommodate different stitch patterns. If you have an even number, 1x1 ribbing is great. If it's a multiple of 4, 2x2 ribbing works well and is one of my favorites to knit. If you've got an odd number, don't fret! You can knit a ribbing that will fit. For example 2x1 (aka k2, p1 around) will work with any multiple of 3. For multiples of 5, you could use 3x2 ribbing and have slightly wider knit columns than  purl columns and add a bit of interest to the hat.

Also consider options besides ribbing. If you need to cast on an odd number of stitches, that's perfect for seed stitch in the round. An odd number means you don't have to pay attention to the beginning of the round while working the brim, just do (k1, p1) around and they will automatically line up. I'll be using seed stitch for my 91 stitch fox chart hat.

For maximum warmth and available length for a chart, consider a sewn hem. There are many ways to do this, which I have outlined here. There are also instructions for a picot brim, which I've used to great effect on a hat with very tall penguins. Their feet start almost from the bottom of the hat, meaning I had 5" to work with, or 30 rows.

A final note on brims, you can cast on a stitch or two less than your calculated cast on edge, knit the brim you like, then increase back to the calculated cast on edge as you're knitting the first body row of the hat. I wouldn't go crazy with the size difference (unless you're going for a beret, then that's exactly how they're shaped) but a couple of stitches difference won't matter.

It's important to have an exit strategy! Decreases aren't too difficult to figure out, and are also based on the factors of your cast on number. You're going to decrease something like this: (k8, k2tog) around, k 1 row, (k7, k2tog), k1 row, (k6, k2tog), k1 row, (k5, k2tog), k1 row, (k4, k2tog), k1 row, (k3, k2tog), k1 row, (k2, k2tog), k1 row, (k1, k2tog), (k2tog). Notice the pattern? The number you knit before you decrease goes down by one each time. In this example, the decreases start with 10 stitches when you k8, k2tog. Any pattern with a cast on number that is a multiple of 10 will work with this decrease.

I find that 10 stitches is about the maximum for this, any more and I get a pointy hat. I'd use the exact same system for 9 or 8 stitches. Those would start with (k7, k2tog) and (k6, k2tog) respectively. If you work this decrease pattern with less than 8 stitches, the decreases are too rapid and it scrunches together. After going through all the trouble to make a pretty colorwork hat, I don't want it all scrunched up!

The best work around I've found is you can decrease evenly around until you have a multiple of 10 (or 9 or 8, if you like). For example, if you have 93 stitches, you could knit one row while decreasing 3 stitches evenly around. Then you would be able to start with (k8, k2tog) and progress through the rest of the decreases.

Putting it all Together
Now that you've got your cast on number, brim type, and colorwork chart, you're ready to begin! The generic version of a pattern looks like this:

Cast on [your cast on number]. Knit the [brim of your choice] for [brim length]. Knit 1 row plain (you can do a couple more if your chart isn't tall, this just gives it a little separation from the brim). 
Work the chart. 
Once chart is finished, knit until 2" less than desired length. Work decreases, then cut yarn, run end through remaining stitches, and weave in ends.

For the Fox chart hat I've been calculating, here's the pattern:

Cast on 91. Work in seed stitch for 1.5 inches. Knit 3 rows plain, then work the chart below 13 times around the hat. I used a slightly thicker, but still worsted weight, white to make extra fluffy cheeks.

Knit until hat measures 5.25" long, or 2" less than desired length. Knit the last two stitches of the last plain row togther, 90 stitches remain. Work decreases as follows:
Rnd 1: K7, k2tog around
Rnd 2: Knit around
Rnd 3: K6, k2tog around
Rnd 4: Knit around
Rnd 5: K5, k2tog around
Rnd 6: Knit around
Rnd 7: K4, k2tog around
Rnd 8: Knit around
Rnd 9: K3, k2tog around
Rnd 10: Knit around
Rnd 11: K2, k2tog around
Rnd 12: Knit around
Rnd 13: K1, k2tog around
Rnd 14: K2tog around

The finished hat:

For the Circle Chains hat, things are slightly different.

Cast on 88. Work in 2x2 ribbing for 1.5 inches. Knit 4 rows plain, then work the pattern repeat (remember, that's in between the red sections) below 11 times around the hat.

Knit until hat measures 5.25" long, or 2" less than desired length. Work decreases as follows:
Rnd 1: K6, k2tog around
Rnd 2: Knit around
Rnd 3: K5, k2tog around
Rnd 4: Knit around
Rnd 5: K4, k2tog around
Rnd 6: Knit around
Rnd 7: K3, k2tog around
Rnd 8: Knit around
Rnd 9: K2, k2tog around
Rnd 10: Knit around
Rnd 11: K1, k2tog around
Rnd 12: K2tog around

Here is the finished version of this hat:

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic, thank you! You've been making such beautiful hats, and this is everything I need to make my own. Great info that I will definitely use! Thanks for all your hard work for us.