The next project in the S.E.P. project is a hat that challenged me in several ways.
The main body of the hat is originally worked in the round in a subtle cabled pattern. The lower edge is worked on a simple 1×1 ribbing with twisted knit stitches. The yarn used is a sport weight fuzzy yarn in a blend of merino, suri alpaca and cotton. It has a black core on which bright grey fibers are trapped/spun together.
The construction and fuzziness in this yarn have the effect of hiding any stitch definition. As you can see from the pictures, the cables are not visible at all and even the ribbing is barely visible. When holding it in your hand it’s a bit easier to see the texture due to shadows and movement, but really the only way to make sure of how this fabric was made was to hold the hat against the light. This how I figured that there are cabled lines.
Of course, this kind of “hiding” visual effect is not always undesirable: depending on the type of project, the chosen stitch pattern and the desired final effect, this yarn can be useful. Such a yarn is mostly suitable in the case when stitch definition is not important, because the stitch pattern is not the focus of the finished object.
In this hat, I found it a bit counterproductive to work cables, however simple: you can’t see them. Simpler stitch patterns such as stockinette, garter and moss stitch probably make more sense for this yarn as a regular application.
I also noticed that this yarn has minimal-to-no elasticity. The ribbing of the hat does not “gather in” when not in use, but stays stretched. This is a bit problematic because it hinders the practical functionality of ribbing: ribbing is worked to a) avoid curled edges (a tendency knitted fabric tends to have) and b) to provide an elasticated edge that can stretch when necessary but ultimately shrink again to fit the area it should cover. A hat with zero elasticity in the ribbing will mostly likely not fit well, the overstretched fabric would lead to the hat falling off the head.
A lack of elasticity can sometimes be corrected by adjusting the stitch pattern (there are various options for ribbing patterns) and/or the stitch count in relation to the main stitch pattern/knitted body. The solution of course depends on the qualities of the material and the tension of the knitter. Some experimentation is necessary to find the right fit. And there are so many different variations on materials on the market today, so many options to play with! 🙂
The observations above also defined my ideas on how to work with this hat. First, I had to pick a yarn. Since the yarn is already grey and black, I chose to stick to the existing colorway and look for a suitable grey or black yarn. There were not many shades that would match and ended up with a worsted weight wool black yarn and a dark grey silk mohair lace yarn.
My first goal was to emphasize the cables. I used the black yarn to embroider them and highlight their placement. To achieve this, I used a simple stem stitch. Initially I thought I would do the whole hat, but I quickly noticed that the embroidered result was quite stark and bold, and for fear of making it too loud, I worked only a certain section.
My second goal was to narrow the ribbing edge a bit. For that I used two techniques.
The first one was to embroider a section in an unusual way. I worked through each half stitch of adjacent knit columns (and over the in-between purl stitches) from right to left and in a slightly slanted orientation. I pulled the thread only slightly. This resulted in bringing the knit stitch columns closer together and make the purl stitch columns disappear behind the stitching. Tension here was critical and there was significant trial and error to make it work.
The second technique was much simpler and easier to work. I crocheted a single crochet border, making sure to increase evenly from the second round onwards. This resulted in a brim that is more fitted, stable and does not overstretch with use.
The idea to embroider around cables in order to highlight them comes from the book Splendid Apparel: A handbook of Embroidered Knits by Anna Zilboorg. Anna presents various stitches and methods on how to work on textured, cabled or lace stitch patterns. There’s plenty visual examples to either choose from or be inspired by. Her methods inspired much of the work done in this and other projects.
The modifications were at times a bit frustrating to work with. Since the stitches are not easy to see, embroidering this fabric was difficult and I had to re-do several sections. The fuzziness also at times created slight felting with the black yarn and removing stitches was challenging. But with some patience (and a strong light overhead) in end it worked.
The result is a strong geometric and somehow graphic design. I had doubts initially if I actually liked it or not, but I figured that this probably has to do with the colors. I almost never work with grey or black colors. I find black impossible for the eyes!
In the end, I am glad I got to work with something totally different and out of my comfort zone. I learned quite a lot. 🙂
The Black Arrow Hat is now available for purchase in my e-shop. 🙂