Monday, December 7, 2015

I Do Like This Hat. Really.


Maybe this is one of those things that would have been better off just disappearing into the trash. It does, I have to admit, give me more than one pang of regret just to look at it. I was sitting around last week, trying to wear my striped, faux-Milano, and it was bumming me out. It was too big in every direction, and was particularly saggy at the yoke, which is my personal albatross. Ach, the yokes, how I struggle. Anyway, it was accentuating the negative, if you know what I mean. I was feeling bad about it, feeling saggy inside and out, and the feeling made me bold, and itchy to toss it in the washing machine--just for a little while, right?--because I knew a couple things were true: I didn't like the finished pullover the way it was, and I wasn't going to wear it again. I had not the heart to rip it out a third time and knit it all up again [fingering weight yarn! Very small needles! Math!] and I just believed in my heart that a tiny bit of felting would save it. Hubris? Desperation? Self-destruction? I threw all caution to the wind and chucked it into the washing machine, and as I'm sure you've predicted, "just for a minute" turned into a few too many minutes, and by the time I thought about it again, it was too late.

Economics: I keep having to remind myself not to fall victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy which in yarn-related terms means that a lot of time spent knitting something does not mean that more time must be spent continuing to knit it, and that just because I invested materials, money, and time in a project does not mean I have to keep ripping back and tinkering with something that isn't working, thus investing more, and that sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. Thus I really wanted to just throw the misshapen and felted end result of this compounding disaster into the dumpster and forget about it, but I decided to make one last-ditch effort at salvage. I had to stop thinking of the pullover in terms of the costs I had already sunk into it. I had to see it only for what it currently was: a colorful, striped, piece of felt; raw materials. Well, that's something I like!

You may be surprised to hear that I would much rather wear this goofy little hat than I would the baggy and unflattering striped pullover it used to be. Naturally I could have just knit the hat in a day or two and saved a lot of time, money and angst, but that's not the way it went, and that's okay. I could have donated the (pre-felted) garment to the thrift store, but if I don't think it's wearable, why would somebody else? I loved knitting the sweater, which of course has its own value, and I learned a few things too: I have a prodigious upper body, one not always flattered by designs using yoke construction. Controlled felting is probably possible, but I'm going to get distracted and walk away from the washing machine and regret it. My handknits are not precious, and sometimes they are better off being something else.

I cut five panels according to a flawed tutorial, machine stitched them together, didn't like the result (which looked like one of those hats made of crochet and beer cans) cut them apart again, trimmed off the seams, re-cut the panels here and there so it would be the approximate size and shape of my head, and whipstitched it all together by hand using scrap yarn. It's weird and funny and silly, and I love it. The huge pompom really saved the day, in my opinion. Listen, speaking of pompoms, you probably know this already, but in case you don't, here's how you can make them yourself without help from plastic pompom makers. Check it out:

Draw two circles in approximately your desired size onto a piece of cardboard. I traced around a glass to get 4" circles. Cut out a circle in the center. Believe me when I say perfection does not matter here; just hack a couple circles out of cardboard, and cut holes in them. Put them together and start wrapping the yarn around, until it looks like a yarn doughnut. It'll take a LOT of yarn, probably more than you think, and it takes a little while, too. I tricked the doctor into doing this for me.

I (he) used up the KnitPicks Palette "Seafaring" leftovers, leaving and cutting off a tail about 15" long. Once you have a nice, fat yarn doughnut--and the more you wrap, the fuller your pompom will be--get out your scissors and cut around the outside edge of the doughnut, between the two circles, exposing the cardboard underneath, like this:

Then use the tail (I doubled mine for extra strength) to tie all the cut ends together by slipping it between the two circles of cardboard, pulling it and tying it tightly.

Pull the cardboard circles apart and off the tied pompom. Fluff it up and trim it into a neat ball. Use the long tail ends to sew it to your project.

Sometimes, things work out, and sometimes they don't. This one is complicated. It cost me a lot, in a lot of ways. I swore a bunch. I learned things. It would require me tricking the doctor into putting together some kind of geniusy algorithm thingy in order to figure out if it was worth it, but in the end, I have to say, I do really like this hat. That's enough.