The Start of Something Special: Colorwork and the Knitted Hat

Start

It's my maiden voyage into colorwork!  I have been absolutely obsessed with Kate Davies Peerie Flooers hat pattern since the first time I laid eyes on it.  But I've always felt it was beyond my skill level.

With a coupon at hand, I was able to inexpensively pick up a smorgasbord of Rowan Fine Tweed colors for practice.  My goal is to learn to knit fair isle style, with both hands.  This is new for me, so I was quite slow in completing what you see above, the border of the hat.  Just above the point I've completed, the hat will burst into a multi-colored garden of stranded knitting.

image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com

© Ophelie

This is Ophelie's beautiful, completed version, which was my inspiration.  Ophelie teaches colorwork in Australia, so her version is beyond incredible.  And, since she has been very sweet about giving me advice, I feel like I'm getting a wee bit of the benefit of her teaching, without going to Australia. But, wouldn't that make for a fun knitters' retreat?

My goal is to use my test version to work out the technique and learn the pattern, before committing to knit with the beautiful Plucky Knitter's Oxford base yarn I've been collecting for this project.

A few early observations:

  • I'm concerned that my cast on edge is not stretchy enough to be a very effective hat.  I used a longtail cast on, something that I often do for hats with a nice result, but here it seems loose and flabby.  I wonder if the fact that one jumps immediately from the cast on into a stranded 2×2 rib impacts on the stretchiness.  Or perhaps it's just because I'm a loose knitter, and may need to go down a couple sizes for the cast on (although that would sadly put me at size 0  needles). Either way, I need to seek some advice from the experts on Ravelry in this regard. 
  • I've managed to learn to knit a bit with my left hand (I've been a thrower since I learned to knit and I don't think that's likely to change at this point), so I can manage two-handed knitting for this project.  It keeps the yarn from tangling, and I like that.  One piece of early info I gleaned from some experienced fair isle knitters, is that the strand of yarn held in your right hand will be dominant if you are knitting with two hands.  Since I can't yet purl with my left hand, this means that that the purl stitches in the border were knit with the yarn in my right hand, and they are dominant, rather than retreating as the purl stitches normally would in a ribbed border.  I wonder if this contributes to the stretchiness issue?  Whether it does or not, I see the need to figure out how to purl with my left hand before I go much further. 
  • I had an abortive effort at simple color work six years ago.  I knit a hat that was meant for my 18 year old, but was too small for anyone except the six year old when it was done.  I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to pull the color that wasn't being used tightly when starting a new color, so I ended up with a teensy, tiny hat.  With this project, I'm making the effort to stretch out the stitches along the right hand needle every little bit in order to keep those floats of yarn nice and loose.  I'll only know if I've succeeded when I'm done.  But I'm optimistic.  At least I have some understanding of what I need to do here to produce an adult-sized hat.

And looking ahead to the next row, there is the issue of catching floats.  The pattern repeat often goes 7 or 8 stitches, so I'm going to check out a few resources on catching floats to make sure the back side of my knitting stays nice and neat.

Now that I'm twelve rows in, I'm reflecting on why it took me so long to give this a try.  It's surprisingly easy and very addictive – I've had great difficulty putting this project down to go to sleep at night since I cast on a few days ago.  So jump right in and join me!  I'd love to have company, particularly now that I'm getting to what may prove to be a more difficult part of the hat.

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