Knitting Blog: Felted Cat Hat, From Idea to Object

It started with an idea: Ana wanted a felted hat with cat ears to wear on the bitter cold days in Montreal. She made this sketch of what she wanted:



It was my job to figure out how to make this idea into something real.

The first thing needed was a basic pattern for the shape. A search of different hats on Ravelry yielded Sarah Bradberry's book The Any Yarn, Any Size Hat Book. What a find! It's not a book of patterns as much as a book of formulas. You knit a gauge swatch in the yarn you have on hand to determine what size needles yield the nicest fabric, and measure how many stitches make up an inch. Then, you measure the head you are knitting for to determine the circumference. You plug this data into Bradberry's formulas, and you have a custom pattern. I downloaded the book through Ravelry, and Ana and I chose the basic shape: the Slice of Pi Pillbox. We also found an earflap hat with proportions for adding earflaps.

By the way, the selection of hat templates in this book is extensive and whimsical - it includes a felted wizard cap and a felted witch's hat.

The next step was to figure out how to resize the hat for felting. And Bradberry came through here as well! Her basic formula is to first of all knit a swatch of your yarn in a gauge that would be pleasing if the hat was not being felted. You take measurements from that swatch, and use it to determine your hat pattern. Then, you knit your yarn on needles 3 to 5 sizes larger than used to create your swatch. This scales up the entire pattern to a larger size, while keeping everything in proportion.

Ana and I went to the stash, and found yarn for the project. The basic hat would be knit in two strands of a handspun, sport-weight, natural brown yarn that was spun by a friend. I would add an I-cord edging in a gray handspun yarn, to finish and pull in the edges. Ana would embroider the cat face. Ana drew a pattern for cat ears on knitting graph paper (which is different from regular graph paper - the blocks are rectangular, to account for stitch width being greater than stitch heigth). I knit the swatch on size 7 needles, and did the math. And I cast on, using size 11 needles.

The hat was knit in six vertical wedges, rather than around-and-around from the bottom or top. Here is the first wedge:



The pale yarn is a crocheted chain used for a provisional cast-on, so that you start the project with a series of open loops rather than a finished edge. This means you can graft the end to the beginning, creating a seamless project. The wedge shape is created by progressively knitting fewer and fewer of the stitches as you knit up and down the rows, a technique called short-rowing. Once the wedge is created, you knit from the bottom to the top and back again, and start short-rowing the next wedge.

Here are all six wedges, before grafting, plus the hind legs of Lucky the cat.



I'm removing the crocheted chain at the cast-on edge, and putting the stitches on another needle. Next step is grafting the end to the beginning.



Grafted together, earflaps attached, and edging being attached. I picked up stitches at the bottom of the hat for the earflaps, so they are knit on, not sewn on. The edging is I-cord, or idiot cord, from the ideas of the great knitting thinker Elizabeth Zimmerman. It's a variant of the knitting that the Lego knitting machine is doing, and creates a little knit tube at the edge of your work.

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Basic hat is done!



The hat is done and ready for felting. The ears have been knit and attached by me, and Ana has embroidered face details.



This gives a better idea of the oversize proportions of the hat before felting.



The hat felted successfully. Everything worked. I had to try it on.



Here it is on its owner. It fits her perfectly.

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Eight days from cast-on to finish (though there was planning time before the yarn went on the needles). That's probably as close as I have ever gotten to instant gratification with a knitting project.

Comments

  1. Wow - that turned out GREAT! I dont think I would have the patience to work out all the formulas though. :) I am much more into instant gratification than that. :)

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  2. That is TOO cute! Excellent job.

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  3. Fantastic! Great description of the process of design and construction, too.

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  4. Wow! It was so huge pre-felting, which just adds to the felting magic.
    It is so adorable.

    I see you have a set of pink Denise needles. I have the classic blue. But I covet the rainbow set.

    ReplyDelete

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