Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Heather's hat

Heather simply despises her haircut.

At least, that's what her facebook status said many months ago. A hairdresser inflicted an unflattering bob on my friend, and she was not happy. So I did what any knitter would do. I offered to make her a hat.

That was before winter. It is now spring, but the hat is finished. Well... almost finished.

We agreed on a felted grey cloche. The first wool I bought had been treated to survive the washing machine, so it was resistant to felting. I thought if I was really harsh with it I could probably still get it to felt, but I tested a small piece and it failed. So I had to go back for more wool. It's a darker shade of grey than I would have liked, but I didn't have much choice.

The wool joined the queue of projects I had lined up at the time. Several bee hats jumped ahead of Heather's hat in the queue, so that delayed things by about a month. 

When I finally got the wool, the correct needles and the pattern all assembled in my knitting bag the actual knitting, after some initial hiccups because of mistakes in the pattern, went smoothly and was very enjoyable.

Generally items destined for felting are knit loosely on bigger needles that you would normally use, so that when the fabric shrinks in the felting process you end up with an item that is roughly the right size. You can't tell from this picture, but this sucker looked massive, on and off the needles.

The felting process involves taking your knitting and torturing it. You get a bucket of cold water and a bucket of hot soapy water and you repeatedly plunge and scrub the knitting in the hot water, and then every so often dunk it in the cold bucket. The heat, soap and friction make the wool fibres relax and then bond together, which is what turns something from knitting into felt. The cold water shocks the fibres and their bonds become stronger.

After about thirty five minutes of scrubbing it was clear that the felting was going well but it didn't seem like the hat had shrunk much. I squeezed out a lot of the water and tried the hat on and it was still miles too big. So I gave it another fifteen minutes and it was just right. You can see it standing up all by itself because the felt is nice and thick. 

All that remained was to fit the hat to my sophisticated drying apparatus, painstakingly crafted from a vase and a balloon blown up to head size, and wait a day or two for the hat to competely dry out. 

So that's what I did yesterday. I'm really pleased with the end result. Let us hope that Heather likes it too, and that she never looks at it and sees what I can see: a vague resemblance to Darth Vader's helmet.

Oh, and if you're wondering what happened to the first lot of gray wool that I bought, I made Heather some wristwarmers.

If Darth Vader had been given handknitted wristwarmers he might not have turned out so evil.

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