Over the last month or so, I've been working on a new design collection. Experimenting with an unusual type of construction, which has involved a ninety degree transition in thought.

In other words, sideways Hats. I was a clever girl and did my research and there are very few patterns of this nature out there. I found a couple of freebie garter stitch ones, and on the purchase front I found even less. The idea struck me to design and write patterns purely for straight needles but not do the standard of working back and forth with a seam up the back. It takes a heck of a lot of care and skill with mattress stitch to make these look neat (and to be honest, most don't - I shudder sometimes when I see a lovely Hat with a visible join on folks' heads!)

OK, so working sideways does require Kitchener for a perfect finish, but folk don't have to if they don't want to - the pattern allows for regular cast-on, cast-off and seaming. What fascinates me the most are the possibilities for shaping, stitch use and much more that is a damn sight trickier working top down (or bottom up)

I could have started by looking at the other patterns I found closely, to see how the designer had gone about it.... but that wouldn't have helped me much, really. To get under the skin of it sufficiently to be able to take the idea further, I needed to work it out for myself. Now that caused some serious brain ache - it took me weeks! Kept trying to convert what I know in my head about stitch gauge, standard formulas etc into row gauge, and kept getting stuck. Not that it didn't work, but more that it didn't flow. It wasn't until I made myself forget what I already knew and start from scratch that it all fell into place. And now the brain is buzzing with too many ideas. Working with row gauge is a little odd at first, but you get used to it.

The first completed pattern was a basic garter stitch Hat, like many already out there. That's up on the free pattern page. It uses a regular chunky, 5.5mm straights. Quick and easy (and I had such fun making that pompom!) Garter stitch is very common on sideways Hats, which kinda bugged me, as it seemed that few had taken the idea very far. Garter stitch hides the short rows (wrap & turn) well, and as discussed the other week in Stash, the tension of rows versus stitch is fairly square, making it easy to translate from top down to sideways.

Having got that sussed, I moved onto stocking stitch which doesn't have a square gauge. The next pattern born was 'Pixie Flora' - this Hat is a cute, snug little cap, with optional extras. There are three types of 'panels' - a flat, normal edge, a shallow scallop or a long scallop which can be seen here as ear-flaps. Working this way makes it easier to write a 'mix and match' pattern, which me thinks is great as it gives the knitter ownership over their Hat. I'm not keen on charging for a basic pattern, so always try to write in a few extras if possible. This one requires chunky again - for the blue Hat I used the new Lorna's bulky Shepherd which was a dream to knit with, and requires 6mm needles. I really like the effect the short rows have on the hand-dyed yarn.

Next came 'Strawberry Joe' - similar to Ribba in shape yet droopy (due to drape of the aran) like Sloppy Joe. Slightly more challenging, as it uses short rows at both ends with a subtle zig zag eyelet pattern - a plain, non-eyelet version is also included. The pink aran I used for the sample shown came from here - it's a lovely soft single ply which drapes wonderfully. There is something like 60 sts to kitchener at the end, but it's not that difficult, honestly!

I was having a few issues with provisional cast-on's, as I wanted to practice a few.... but my tension was all skewiff and, well, I was just pants at it. Thanks to the generous Heather, I am now confident with the crochet provisional cast-on, working it directly onto the needle - superb! It's so, so easy and saves the agro of picking up the wrong 'bumps'. Sorted. Casting on and off methods amuse me - of all the techniques, these must be the hardest for most knitters to learn - think we get so used to the methods we were taught as beginners that habits then become hard to break.

Anyhows, these are all up on the website for anyone interested. There are a couple more finished patterns and a fair few in progress, but they won't be going up just yet - am saving them for a 'special project' (which is no longer a secret due to too much vino friday night - felt sorry for anyone trying to have a reasonable conversation with me!) I'm really enjoying this way of working, feels refreshing, and can see me going some distance with it.

Before I depart, there are a few places left on the Hat design workshop I'm teaching late next week at The Knit Tin. I'll be providing you with lots of notes, formulas, tips & tricks so it'll be well worth it for any Hat lovers. Infact, I'm attempting to write everything I know about Hats down in legible form. I can't wait! Y'know, it's kinda cool being a Hat designer, having a specialism. Makes me happy!

AuthorWoolly Wormhead