Saturday, April 2, 2011

YARN - the perfect hat.

I love knitted winter hats. They are cozy and warm and there is something very delightfully wintery about them that seems almost festive. Living in San Francisco also means that unlike a city like say New York - hats are never required to avoid frostbite on the way to the subway but are just nice to wear to feel and look bundled up. I lost my favorite North Face beanie a few years ago while visiting New York and immediately replaced it with the same one - then lost the replacement somehow. I guess it was just not meant to be. This past fall - I started my hunt for the perfect hat. A hat that was super soft, not the least bit itchy (my forehead turns red immediately with itchy hats), looked casual and (holy grail) could be taken on and off all day without any negative hair ramifications. Why not a beret do you ask? This was the suggestion of my mother and two different yarn store staffers. Well - the answer to that is that despite my sometimes unhealthy love of stinky cheeses, croissants, baguettes and red wine - I am not French and certainly not old or eccentric enough to pull off a beret as a statement piece. Plus - I think they are dumb looking - like a yarn mushroom fell from the sky and landed on your head. Plop plop. 
the inspiration hat from purlbee.

I found my perfect hat on my all time favorite knitting/sewing blog the purl bee and is called - aptly enough - the simple pleasures hat. It is made with silk and cashmere and is divine.

Can we stop for a moment and just give an appreciative contented sigh for cashmere?? How is it that yarn spun from the underbelly of some special goat can be so scrumptiously soft and warm and light and silky? Anytime I am feeling meh and don't want to go out to the grocery store or to work or to anywhere besides on my couch with my sweet puppy - I'll wrap myself up in a cashmere scarf. Living in San Francisco - I can pretty much do this all year round without giving myself a heat rash or looking like a crazy person.

Back to the hat...what totally sold me on the pattern was the first photo on the post. In the photo - the hat is obviously very casual and soft but it is also perfectly loose in the crown, making it unable to smoosh hair! I made a special post-work trip to my local boutique yarn store - Greenwich Yarns and picked up some wonderfully silky smokey gray yarn to make the hat. Given that I was flying to New York that week it was going to be a great plane project - something portable that did not require too much counting. Besides running out of yarn less than an inch from the top (arrggghhh!!) meaning I could not finish until I got back home - the pattern was super simple and the hat turned out great. For awhile this winter - I was wearing it close to 50% of the time I went outdoors. It was really obsessive but I loved it so...
my much used and loved (and stretched out) hat.

I got a lot of compliments on the hat. My favorite one being "Where did you get it?" This means it did not scream HOMEMADE which I am always afraid of. I want things to look unique and hand crafted but not like some sort of shoddy home-ec project. I think it is one of the many many reasons I splurge on the better materials (Irish linen, cashmere, alpaca etc.) and stay away from anything acrylic. My mom loved the hat - despite it not being a beret - so I made one for her for Christmas to replace the one I made last year that she destroyed through overuse and love. Here she is below wearing it proudly with a great coat I got for her 10 years ago when I worked at Gap. It has lime green silk lining (the coat, not the hat). I always regret not having purchased one for myself...

my mom wearing her christmas hat.
Anyhoo - there are a few things to note about this project in case you want to try one on your own. Here it goes --
1. splurge on the materials noted in the pattern - cashmere and mohair with silk. It really makes all the difference - especially if it is going to be your winter staple.
2. If you are even a slightly loose knitter - you will need to go down a needle size or two. The first hat I made was straight to the pattern and it is super loose now. If I shake my head - the hat falls down over my eyes.
3. While you are knitting the pattern will seem odd. While 6 inches is usually half a hat with most patterns - with this one - it's just the ribbed brim. Then the crown seems to go on forever. But do not worry - it will all come together and make sense in the end.

Happy knitting.


p.s. - I'm making a navy cashmere version now too! It will probably be my stand-in for the gray one now that it is so stretched out. The gray one will become part of the always gorgeous dog walking uniform.