Knitting Tips

Yarn - fingering weight yarn is required for my hats.  I love Jagger Spun 2/8 Maine Line wool, and use that in my kits. Knit Picks also makes a great fingering weight wool called Palette.  Left-over bits of sock yarn do the job, and make a washable hat, if you can find the right solid colors.

Cast on -- I start each hat with 160 stitches and a rolled hem, using a long-tail cast-on.  This cast-on takes about 3 yards of yarn or slightly less. Sometimes I haven't pulled out enough yarn for the long-tail cast on, but if I can at least cast on 140 stitches, I can increase the extra 20 before I start the corrugated ribbing and get away with that.  

Who doesn't love a good fudge!?  

Corrugated rib - people usually find it easier to purl with the right hand rather than the left, so I suggest doing the purls right-handed (throwing) and the knits left-handed (picking).  

Increases - I prefer the method of increasing where you lift a stitch from a stitch below - a "lifted increase".  When increasing from 160 stitches to 180, *knit 8 stitches, lift a stitch from below the 8th stitch and knit it, repeat from *.  

Stranding - It is important to remember to weave in your floats in order to keep the work from puckering.  I never knit more than 3 stitches without weaving in, as I learned from Ann & Eugene Bourgeois, in "Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified".

Stagger your lock-ins… if you stack all your woven-in floats on top of each other, this will create a "corduroy" effect on the right side of your work.  For a smoother finish, avoid stacking.  

Never switch hands!  Always take note of which color you are carrying in which hand, so that when you have to set your work down and come back to it later, it doesn't change.  It DOES make a difference in the finished work.  The color carried in the left hand will stand out slightly more than the one in the right hand.  

Needles - Though I personally prefer to use 16" circular needles and then double-pointed needles to close the tops, this is only a personal preference.  You may choose to use 40" circulars and the "Magic Loop" method.  This will eliminate the need for dons.  

Gauge - if you want the hat to fit differently you can use different sized needles.  If stranded work tends to work up loosely in your hands, use smaller needles.  More often people find that stranded work tends to get tighter, so they will want larger needles.  If your "hipster" would like a floppier hat, try size 4 needles.  

Sizing - feel free to play around, but I have successfully worked a child-sized hat by casting on 140 stitches for the ribbing, and then increase enough stitches to work one less repeat than originally intended.  So long as this is slightly more than 140, it should make a nice hat.  You may also want to work out a way to make the hat shorter to fit your child.  Get out some graph paper and play around with the design a little - and send me a picture!! 

Bibliography of favorite books on Color Knitting:  

  • Hats On!  by Charlene Schurch,  Down East Books
  • The Mitten Book by Inger Gottfridsson, Lark Books
  • Knitted Tams by Mary Rowe, Interweave Press
  • Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified by Ann & Eugene Bourgeois, Martingale/Fiber Studio Press
  • 200 Fair Isle Motifs, a Knitter's Directory by Mary Jane Mucklestone, Interweave Press
  • The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, History, Technique, Color & Patterns by Ann Feitelson, Interweave Press
  • Mostly Mittens, Traditional Knitting Patterns from Russia's Komi People by Charlene Schurch, Lark Books
  • Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis, Schoolhouse Press
  • Magnificent Mittens by Anna Zilboorg, XRX
  • Norwegian Mittens and Gloves, by Annemore Sundbo, Trafalgar Square
  • Fancy Feet, Traditional Knitting Patterns of Turkey by Anna Zilboorg, Lark Books
  • Sweaters from Camp by Amy Detjen, Meg Swanson, Joyce Williams, Schoolhouse Press
  • Alice Starmore's Charts for Color Knitting, Dover
  • Traditional Fair Isle Knitting by Sheila McGregor, Dover

Happy Knitting!  

Mrs Knitter Designs / Donna Frost Ritchie