Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Hat for Me and Knitters' Math

You already know about the angst I experienced with the Husband Sweater this year. But you have not been privy to the shorter-lived angst that has been the Wife Hat. He found the pattern on Ravelry (Mini Mochi Fair Isle Hat, knit with Mini Mochi in blue and variegated rainbow); I helped with the color choices, since it's good to know what you're good at, and color choices and naming things are two of my acknowledged strengths in the family.
no dainty sewing scissors for trimming the tails
for THIS knitter
I will tell you that Mr. Crafty was not daunted by the tiny needle size (2-3) or the Fair Isle carrying or the number of stitches required to cover my large head circumference. The stitches are beautifully even on both the front and the backsides.
He only quailed a little when he realized that the original pattern suggested a finishing technique that wasn't what he wanted, but then concurrently understood that if he was not going to pursue that particular finish to the hat, that he would have to take out a couple of inches worth of hard-won knitting. Yes, friends, a couple of INCHES of Fair Isle, two-color knitting on tiny needles, which you cannot just tear out but have to pick out, stitch by bloody stitch, and THEN untangle your two strands of yarn. This is the finish he chose, which is lovely:
At about 200 stitches per round, this was a significant commitment from a knitter whose attitude is usually more towards "living with" mistakes and incorporating them somehow into the design. It takes all kinds of knitters to make this world go round, I say.

And my Mr. Crafty is also a Math-Teacher and has, I think, finally succeeded in explaining the principle of Inverse Proportions to me, as it applies to gauge and needle size and total number of stitches. (This was the one personal obstacle that would prevent me from ever working in a yarn store.)

Here goes: You have 10 stitches per inch on some ridiculously tiny little needles. You have 4 stitches per inch with some thick needles and bulky yarn. Even though your needles are fatter, your yarn is bigger, your fabric is thicker...wait for will have FEWER TOTAL STITCHES for your bulky project.

Taking this principle a little further, and I'm testing myself here, if your hat pattern has you casting on 200 stitches with a suggested gauge of 10 st/in, your total circumference will be 20 stitches. But what if you're getting 8 st/in? (Yes, this is the real question that would have stumped me before.) If you're getting fewer stitches per inch YOUR HAT WILL BE BIGGER than you want it to be. In this case, by a lot: FIVE whole inches! Wow. My huge head is not even that big.
on the April Fools' Day blizzard
we all wrote letters
So, if there are any gauge-doubters out there, I hope this brief entry on applied math will convince you. EZ says "Check your gauge or end in a rage." (I did both on that sweater, as you may recall.)
Mr. Crafty, you've made me a brilliant, gorgeous, rainbow hat that is executed with precision and fits me perfectly. Thank you. (And I hope I never lose it.)


  1. Wow! It's so exciting to see the finished product - such a gorgeous hat! We saw it back in the initial stages,such beautiful yarn, pattern and tiny stitches. Thanks for showing us!

  2. Now that is an amazing hat. And also a great description of an application of inverse proportions.
    North-North America sure does winter impressively! We never get snow here. Sometimes we can see it on the mountains, but never down here in the town.

  3. That is the most beautiful hat I have ever seen and I think you are a lucky, lucky lady that has a husband who both knits you beautiful hats with a giant knife on hand, AND teaches you math in what I can only imagine is a very patient way! :) Miss you guys! xoxo

  4. So it the pattern says cast on 168 stitches for a circumference of 19 3/4 inches, that would be a gauge of 8 1/2 stitches per inch?

    But if my gauge is 6 stitches per inch, then to acheive the 19 3/4 inches circumference, I would caste on only 118 stitches. Is that right?

  5. Your math looks good to me, and those are not simply numbers.