July 9, 2007
Perhaps I tempted fate just a little to much when I said I couldn’t wait to see what problems I’d run into when I tried a hat pattern from Modular Knits. Perhaps I was just being realistic. Regardless, this Bull’s-Eye Hat gave me fits. I briefly, but more than once, considered whether putting out my own eyes would be less painful than continuing to try and make this hat. (I also weighed the merits of using Addi Turbos or KnitPicks Options to do the putting out. The former feel better in my hand but the latter are pointier.) But I kept knitting and unknitting and experimenting with other approaches when I’d given the directions as written more than a fair shot, and now I have a hat. More of a skullcap, really, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it was supposed to turn out.
With this pattern, I got into trouble from almost the very beginning, on the step before Step 1. The directions called for a cast on of 60 stitches with worsted weight yarn onto a 16-inch circular needle. Dandy, I did that. Join and work in the round, the directions said next. Wha…? I have successfully worked in the round plenty of times, but no way no how could I make those 60 stitches cover 16 inches, not if I wanted to then work them. I pulled and pushed and tugged and struggled, but it just wasn’t happening. I thought I could knit the first triangle in Step 1 and then join, since that would give me more stitches to spread out, but that didn’t really work out, either. I appealed to the Yahoo!Group for help and got suggestions like cast on more loosely, use a bulkier yarn, or try DPNs. I didn’t think I could cast on loosely enough to make those stitches cover the space, and I wanted to use this yarn so I’d have a scarf and hat set, so the first two were out. I could have gone the DPN route, but my size 8s aren’t that nice to work with (I bought them before I knew what I liked in a DPN) and I sure didn’t want to buy some new ones for a pattern I thought I might abandon before too long anyway. So I experimented. I knew from the introduction to the chapter that triangles like the ones in Step 1 could be made one after the other, using the knitted cast on to form the base of the next triangle and join it to the one before. I could see from the pattern that until all of Step 1 was done, it wasn’t really necessary to be working in the round. So instead of casting on 60, I cast on 12–enough for one triangle. I made that one, then the next, and soon I had five, and plenty of stitches to go around the needle. At that point, it was no problem to join and work in the round.
After the trials of Step 1, Step 2 went pretty well. As I’d done for Step 1, I added markers the pattern didn’t call for and wrote row-by-row notes about how many stitches I should have and on which needle. Step 1 did have numbers of stitches listed at each row, but they weren’t the total on the needles or the number between markers but instead the count between two gaps that I’m not (yet) able to recognize reliably. Step 2 didn’t even have that much. It helped not at all that the diagram in the book is wrong for this part–it shows mitered squares instead of bull’s-eye ones. (It’s wrong again for Step 3, too.) The second half of Step 2 was a bit of a mess, mostly because when I worked it as written, I ended up with unsightly gaps. Again, the reading the introduction to the chapter provided a solution; in the practice shape there, the gaps were closed by doing a make 1, knit one the appropriate spots. The hat pattern didn’t call for these. Was I just supposed to know to do them? That seems a bit much, really. I ended up ripping back that first half square and working the m1k1’s then things looked better.
I don’t recall having any particular issues with Step 3, but perhaps they’re just blotted out by the awful time I had with Step 4, the top of the hat. The diagram shows the top is six wedges but gives no indication what direction the rows should be going within those wedges, and the pictures of the finished hat weren’t clear. There’s a good shot of a hat with a similar top earlier in the book, but that still gave me no clue which wedge came first so I had no starting point to latch onto. That almost didn’t matter, though, since it took me a good long time just to make the first triangle. I tried following the directions exactly as written, but something kept going wrong; I was making shapes that were most definitely not wedges. The only way I managed to get past this was to ignore the marker placement called for in the directions and apply what I’d learned from making a practice wedge. Finally, I made my first wedge. I would have gotten stuck again, except I’d come across some posts on the Yahoo!Group when I was looking for help with the 60 stitches in the round problem that clued me in to how hard it was to complete the top with just the circular needle. I grabbed a DPN and moved on. I am pretty sure my wedges aren’t quite right, since by this point I didn’t trust the pattern and instead did what made sense to me. I did end up with six sections and had no stitches leftover other than the ones I used to close the top of the hat, so I’m declaring it a success.