Readers, it’s been over a year since I declared my inability to finish knitting a hat in 1977 – The Hat from Hell
Forty years on I’m overjoyed to share the news that the Great Hat Knitting Demon has been defeated and banished forever from the Kingdom of Dana. Let me share my quest with you.
Hat 1 – The Beginning
Uist Wool: Beòthach (Beast) Chunky – a bit hardcore but has a super spring to it and is really satisfying to knit with as a beginner. The stitches are big and forgiving if, like me, your technique needs honing. I could have gone for Cànan Chunky that has the same qualities just a bit darker.
Pattern: Furrow by Linda Johnson – designed as an easy knitting project during our training period back in 2014, Furrow hasn’t made it online yet but I might stage an internal campaign to change this soon.
There were a couple of techniques I needed to master with Furrow – shaping and the Magic Loop, which I thought at first was a special type of knitting needle. I had to Google it to discover that it was a technique, not a needle. “You fool”, I thought. Armed with a 6mm/100cm circular needle and the big & robust Beòthach I crossed that wonderful golden bridge of knowledge, magic looped my heart out and succeeded in finishing the entire project in a weekend.
I immediately told everyone I thought would care, “I’ve managed to knit a hat!” I proudly declared to my power-knitting sister, colleagues, friends and the family tradition-bearer Auntie JB, in her mid 80’s and still knitting six days a week. Everyone made encouraging noises to me, with the exception of JB who gave a ‘Huh,’ and the regulation eye roll that I know translates as unimpressed. To her, I should’ve been knitting whilst emerging from the womb (ouch) and my 50 years of plain and purl inaction were unforgiveable.
But I was on a roll now and spurred on by my novice enthusiasm I quickly embarked on the next hat.
Hat 2 – The Cable One
Uist Wool: Luan (Moon) Aran – I loved the colour of this blend from the moment it was carded. It’s a warm bronze/ light grey that perfectly matched the super moon at the time of production. An easy one to name. Very similar in colour and handle to Siaban (Aran)
Pattern: Ripple by Linda Johnson
Learning by repeat, repeat, repeat is the only way a technique will imprint on my memory. Ripple brought new skills to my fingertips – cabling. Another golden bridge was crossed. Wow! At this rate I’ll be able to hold my own with the glitterati of the cool wool world. Nodding with wisdom and sagely understanding about where and when to insert that kinky cable needle. I knitted Hat 2 longer than the pattern suggested but I was beginning to understand that instructions can be tweaked to suit your style. Perhaps I got carried away doing the cabling but this hat is my go-to garment when full ear coverage is needed in gale force 9 and above. Also, if you have long hair it’s good to have extra space to cram in the unruly thatch.
Now my confidence was taking off and I started a third hat…
Hat 3 – The Birthday One
Uist Wool: Sgòrr (Cliff) Aran – a rare Mill blend & ply, sadly not available now.
Pattern: Ripple by Linda Johnson – I didn’t need the pattern this time and it felt liberating to knit without following instructions.
Sgòrr caught my eye when only 15 x 100g skeins of Aran weight appeared in the shop at the end of 2017. In a quiet moment I would wander out of the office and stare at them whilst trying to summon up the creative courage to select a sweater pattern on Ravelry. After being on holiday for a few days I came back to work and passing through the shop I automatically glanced towards my batch of Sgòrr….or the empty space where they’d been. There was one lonely skein rattling around the shelf. My dilly-dallying had resulted in another lucky soul nabbing Sgòrr. On the up-side it turned out to be a regular visitor to Uist Wool who has created a handsome cardigan from my yar….sorry, her yarn.
What about the hat Dana? A-ha…my smart colleagues knew I’d been lusting after the dark, broody marl of Sgòrr and had kept 2 skeins back as a gift for my 50th birthday. I went to my comfort zone and out popped another Ripple Hat to celebrate that milestone marker of age. Another generous gift landed in my lap at the Uist Wool staff Christmas lunch – a Snishival Headband Kit which I couldn’t wait to start….
Hat 4 – The Christmas One
Uist Wool: Conntraigh (Neap-tide) DK
Pattern: Snishival Headband by Hazel Smith@ Uist Wool
You might spot two important differences with this project.
1). It’s not a Ripple hat. 2). It’s not a headband either.
Picking up the pace on my hat-knitting marathon I went free range on the Headband/Hat 4 design and applied my knowledge from the previous hats to close the top. It was Winter, I needed the coverage. Using Conntraigh DK with a couple of Fras rows gave me a different look to the final hat and the ombre shading is a perfect reminder of Hebridean skies hung with rain.
Hat 4.5 – I confess this was another Ripple hat made from Canach Breac Aran (another Mill shop special) and was a gift for an old pal who works as a landscape gardener/designer/builder in the Highlands. I failed to take a photo and you’ll have to take my word for it, Hat 4.5 was a beaut, I look after my friends.
Hat 5 – The Beach Hat
Uist Wool: Solas DK
Pattern: I Made It Up – but influenced by Snishival a little bit
All the hats up till now had been darker or blended tones. I just fancied a change and chose the classic natural white of Solas for the sunny, windy days in Uist. I don’t do bobbles or pompoms on hats. In fact I may lose the goodwill of a few readers here by saying I loathe them. The exception being on cute toddler hats where they might come in useful for teething mouths to suck? I endured the worst excess of pompoms in the 1970’s. I opted to crown The Beach Hat with a small porcelain button in Baleshare Blue made by Shoreline Stoneware in North Uist. Every time I see the flash of colour on the button against the creamy white of the hat I picture the shell sand beaches and turquoise Atlantic water-world just 5 minutes from our home.
Have you all been counting? I’ve shared my official Top 5 in the Hat Parade but I’ve just finished another one! A big twisted rib using Sàl Aran, a new Uist Wool yarn specially for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival (15-17 March 2018). Altogether I’ve completed the Magnificent Seven of Hats and I will reach double figures soon, growing a bit bolder and experimental with each hat. Dare I say, actually design a simple pattern? Now that’s really going beyond my safety zone but I can confidently claim that the Hat from Hell has now become a Hatty Ending!