The thread of knitting puts you back in touch with who you are…[Knitting] makes life more livable. It makes you happy to be in your own company.
– Kaffe Fassett
Knitting and other forms of hand-crafting are, to me, apprenticeships in living well – they’re tutors in patience, (self-)care, focus, commitment, reciprocity, and pleasurable flow. Sharing knitting with others shares a little bit of these good things. Double the happiness if you happen to be knitting or crafting something special for yourself this week (’tis the season!).
That said, my holiday knits recently included a new hat for a very good friend, my partner’s cousin, J. This project was a good lesson in knitting for others. When he first requested ‘a hat,’ I did what perhaps most enthusiastic knitters would do: I took to Ravelry to feed my eyes with ideas. Maybe I’d try an interesting stitch pattern, or cables, or helix stripes, or (gasp!) stranded colour work… In the end, J preferred something far more simple: a classic monochrome ribbed cap.
So, I found a simple pattern, adapted the number of stitches to my gauge, cast on, ribbed (7.25″ from the edge) and resolved to navigate my way through the crown decreases on my own. As luck would have it, the Red Heart ribbed hat pattern calls for the exact number of stitches I was working with (112). Good old reliable Red Heart saved my crown from becoming a knotty knit-experiment gone bad. The capricious knit gods were smiling upon me that day.
The finished cap, worked in k2 p2 ribbing – a winter staple.
Snowy days are the cap’s new habitat.
I’ve noticed that J and my partner are regularly wearing their handmade caps. It brings me so much delight to see my handiwork doing its job out in the world (and this winter is really putting my fledgling skills to the test with Chicago’s recorded temperatures colder than Mars yesterday). Seeing people wear your knits is incredibly reinforcing, in an almost Pavlovian way; it’s a happy sequel to the days or weeks (or months) it takes to move a project off the needles. There must be a German compound word to describe the specific happiness that comes with knitting for others: if Schadenfreude is the pleasure derived at another’s misfortune, then perhaps Strickenfreude (?) might be the happiness that comes with another’s knitting-gain.
Ribbed cap learnings
2 things in particular struck me about this project:
1. Measure. This was my first hat made to measure. While my first 2 beanies took a more ‘one size fits all’ approach, it helped to have a head circumference measurement when making this more close-fitting, cuff-less cap. In tandem with swatching (revealing a gauge of 6 stitches to the inch using worsted weight yarn and size 7 circulars), I knew that the final hat ought to be around 19″ for the wearer, allowing for the rib to stretch about 4″. To find the number of stitches I needed, I did the following (I write this to jog my memory):
6 / 1 = χ / 19 (or 6 stitches per inch = χ stitches to 19″)
Solving for χ yielded a count of 114 stitches. I rounded down to 112 (only certain even numbers preserve the alternating k2 p2 pattern when joining in the round).
It was a longer wait to cast on, but I think this prep paid off, and it taught me to how to adapt a pattern to work with the materials I have on hand. I’ll be swatching, measuring, and doing the math much more carefully from here on.
2. Do ‘simple’ well. In my zeal to build my skill set, I was forgetting an important all-around principle: learning to do simple things well. Simple often gets conflated with easy, and easy is often overlooked or de-valued. The unexpected challenges of completing this seemingly simple knit taught me that attention and care go into making simple things look easy. At my skill level, I’m resolving to refine my handiwork and focus a bit more on doing simple well.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’re finding a little bit of calm, warmth, and downtime in the midst of the holiday rush.