Friday 11 March 2016

THE KNIT FILES: Repeated Cables

DIY Pink Knitted Cable Hat

One thing I don't do very often is knit the same thing more than once. I'm not sure why, perhaps a little boredom (although most knitting projects have some aspect that keep them interesting, like cabling or colour-work), but I think the real issue is that I'm always too eager to start something new. When I'm halfway through knitting one thing, I'm always thinking about what I'm going to cast on next, and possible ideas for other things I want to knit. However, recently I knit up the same hat a few times, and learnt quite a lot from the process.

DIY Pink Knitted Cable Hat

As hats go, it's quite a basic affair - knit in the flat with one larger cable at the front with gradually decreasing ones round the side. I've already broken my rule of following more patterns this year, as this one was one I just cast on impatiently and made up as I went along. I think my trouble is that I buy wool and then become frustrated trying to find a pattern to match only to find I haven't got the right needles or the right amount of wool. Aha, guess I need to become a little better at planning projects, but when I feel the urge to knit I'm fairly gung-ho about things.

Anyway, the wool is Freedom by Twilleys of Stamford - 100% wool roving, I think it's probably intended for felting purposes but it knits up lovely and soft. As a jumper I'd imagine it would pill ridiculously easy, but as a hat I think there is less opportunity for pilling. I actually discovered this in the magic wool drawer at my favourite local charity shop - you never know exactly what you're getting, but once you've been knitting for a short while you can easily tell natural wool from polyester, or at the least the nicer polyester from the cheaper stuff! The kind stranger who had donated this wool had actually included the labels at the centre of each ball, which was a nice surprise when I had got to the end of the first ball. I really recommend it if you're looking for for a basic chunky that comes in a good variety of colours for a rather reasonable price - whilst the wool for my hat came from the charity shop, brand new it costs just over £6 for enough wool for a beanie hat.

DIY Knitted Cable Hat

DIY Knitted Cable Hat

Shades used, left to right: Ice Blue, Pearl, Blossom 

After seeing my original post on Instagram, a friend asked if I'd mind knitting her up a couple of hats, and this is where the real learning curve took place. When it comes to knitting I really don't mind knitting for other people - actually I rather enjoy it, as there's only so many hats and mittens I really need myself! On another note, someone once asked if I was able to sew sofa covers, to which my response was to run a mile.

I think the photo above illustrates it best (excuse the poor lighting!) but I was far happier with the quality of the hats I'd knit for my friend rather than the one I'd knit for myself. Granted, the first hat was a bit of an experiment and I was able to improve the pattern on the subsequent hats, but also little things that I hadn't taken into consideration for myself. I grafted the back seam, as whilst I have done a little on the heel of socks, I haven't used it yet for seaming. My sewing up skills are admittedly a bit crap, so this was a nice alternative. It's still kind of bulky, but a hell of a lot tidier.

DIY Pink Knitted Cable Hat

Here's a side by side comparison where it's easier to see the difference between grafting and sewing up - safe to say I'll be doing this a lot more from now on!

So, after finishing the other two hats I frogged mine and knit it again from scratch. I also addressed a couple of other issues, like changing the width of cables to be a little larger, and also corrected the change in tone at the top of the hat, which was caused by using two different batches of the pink yarn. All together I knit this four times!! But it's only through repetition that I figured out how to keep developing my finishing techniques, so it was interesting to see how I improved with each hat.

DIY Pink Knitted Cable Hat

I also added a faux fur pompom which was a fun touch. I'd been indecisive about what colour to get, or which brand to buy when I had a happy accident. A while ago I'd ordered a faux fur pompom keyring from eBay on a whim (one of those 99p orders which takes a while to come from China), and when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see the shade I had chosen matched my hat rather perfectly. It's a couple of shades darker, but I think matching the colour perfectly would have been a tad saccharine for my taste.

Whilst I love the way it looks, I admittedly have mixed feelings about it. The wool is British, and the hat spent me a few hours to knit up, so is it copping out to use a mass produced pompom? There's no way of knowing if the factory it came from treated their workers fairly, or the effect on the environment. However, after briefly looking on the internet I realise that I'd also have no idea about these issues on pompoms specifically produced for craft purposes either, which makes the issue rather confused. The way to avoid this I guess is to make your own faux fur pompoms, but I think I'd be disappointed with the outcome compared to commercial ones. So, ho-hum it's a bit of a quandary and I'm often left feeling conflicted when I think about the effect of buying anything mass produced. Let me know if you know of anywhere that I can buy ethical faux fur pompoms though (or if you have any tips for making your own!).

DIY Pink Knitted Cable Hat

This hat winded up being a LOT bigger than expected, so it's equal parts ridiculous and cosy, but now that it's finished to a higher standard I love it a lot more than I did previously. And I'm managing to squeeze a lot of wear out of it while it's still flipping cold.

So, the big lesson here? From now on I'm going to finish things that I make for myself as if I'm making them for someone else, and to not rush the finishing stages but to enjoy every stage of a project. What are your thoughts on making the same things over and over? Tedious? Useful? Any tips for finishing knitting? Let me hear 'em!


  1. Charlotte these hats are flawless! You never fail to inspire me to pick up my needles again. I wish I was as good at managing my tension as you are; much as I love my projects, they lack the professional look yours have in abundance!

    1. Thanks Anna! From what I've seen of your knitting girl you have nothing to worry about! But of course practice makes perfect, which is a perfect excuse to cast on more projects! Hope you're well :)