Knitty: little purls of wisdom
Quince & Co.

For almost as long as I've been a knitter, I've been fascinated by the history of knitting. I've especially enjoyed the mind-twisting process of working with the often obtuse and obfuscatory language of antique patterns. There's a thrill, I find, in watching a project emerge row by row and knowing that other knitters, long gone, followed the same path.

The process of decoding, testing and correcting isn't for everyone, though; and so in this column I hope to share the excitement of the journey by removing as many of the roadblocks as possible. You don't need to be a historian to come along -- just a knitter with a curious mind.

Hatters Gonna Hat

Elizabeth Zimmermann famously wrote that a person will wear just about anything on her head if she thinks it'll make her look cute. She was right.

I, myself, am rather crazy about hats. My physical person has little to recommend it, but at least I was born with what one of my aunts called a "hat face." By this she meant that I look well in hats, all sorts of hats.

I do. So I own an array -- baseball caps, newsboy caps, tweed flat caps, fedoras, porkpies, a straw western* (for summer rodeo), a felt western (for winter rodeo), and even a divine vintage straw boater that occasionally causes idiot passersby to ask if I'm on my way to a tap dance convention. As the straw boater is both a timeless classic and the second most perfect** piece of warm weather male headgear ever conceived, the idiots elicit only a withering roll of the eyes. We live in a world of bare heads and ugly trucker caps, but that's not my fault or my problem.

My favorite part of getting dressed is choosing a hat. What eludes me, tragically, is a knitted winter hat that doesn't make me look like a slack-jawed goon.

And let me tell you, lovey, I have been through the full range of knitted winter hats backwards, forwards, sideways, slantways, and upside down. I've tried plain, fancy, one color, two colors, cables, pointy, round, slouchy, fitted, somber, and goofy. Nothing works. I knit it up, I put it on, and staring back at me from the mirror is a depressed, dyspeptic hipster chipmunk.

Yet I keep searching...searching...

beauty shot
The original cap fromĀ Art in Knitting: Bison Yarns Book No. 1.
Not visible: the model's switchblade and flask of bathtub gin.

I ran across this month's pattern when I was hunting around for a piece of glamorous 1920s knitting for a client. It isn't glamorous by a long shot (the client settled on another, very different design); but after I'd seen it, it stuck in my head.

The construction is fun -- a series of garter stitch wedges, knit sideways and seamed up the back. One set of points is sewn together and forms the crown. The other set of points is flipped upward and becomes the brim. It could scarcely be simpler, but the result is surprising. It's not the sort of hat you feel you've seen all over the place.

In 1920, when it was published, it was intended for children. (Take a look at the photograph from the original pattern book. Isn't she a peach? So much character. I bet that was a great time to be a kid model. You could be dark-haired and a little chunky, have a stare that could bore a hole through concrete, and still book decent gigs.) I have nothing against children, but I don't think it's fair for them to hog all the cute hats. Thanks to the simple construction, it was surprisingly easy to tweak the yarn weight and the stitch counts and re-design it for an adult.

To be perfectly frank, once it was finished I wasn't sure how it would be received. I had a ball with the knitting -- it takes a smidge longer than a standard circular stockinette cap, but is far more interesting. Yet you never know whether something this odd will be seen as whimsical and cute or whether it'll just remind people of Jughead from the Archie comics. And that's a bad thing. I mean, Jughead is no style icon, certainly not in the same league as Prince Valiant or Mary Worth.

If you're not sure, let me tell you that of every pattern that has ever appeared in this column -- and I am not excluding the Pineapple Bag or Flo the Elephant -- I have never had so many people grab for a finished sample and then beg to keep it. No joke. People (male and female) keep putting this on, squealing, and then trying to sneak off with it. So far, it looks utterly adorable on everybody.

Everybody but me.

But I'm not bitter.

And there's always the next issue.

*You probably know it as a "cowboy" hat, but the cowboys I know call them western hats. Go figure.

**First place goes to the true, original Panama hat, which can be rolled up and tucked in a pocket when not in use. If you try to roll up a boater, it turns into Shredded Wheat.

Quince & Co.

beauty shot

Translated and adapted by Franklin Habit from Art in Knitting: Bison Yarns Book No. 1 (1920)











spacer model: Sarah Mitchell
spacer photos: Franklin Habit




8.5 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide, laid flat after after brim is turned up


Quince and Co. Lark [100% American wool; 134 yd/123m per 50g skein]
spacer [CC1] Bird's Egg; 1 skein
spacer [CC2] Leek; 1 skein

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer #4/3.5mm needles

spacer five cute buttons (sample uses 5/8 inch)
spacer locking ring stitch marker or safety pin
spacer yarn needle
spacer scissors

20 sts/40 rows (20 ridges) = 4 inches in garter stitch

[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

Long-tail cast on. Instructions for this method can be found here.

Mattress stitch. Instructions for seaming with mattress stitch can be found here.


With C1, use long-tail method to CO 50 sts.

Knit 1 row.

First Wedge
Row 1 [RS]: Kfb, k to last 2 sts, k2tog.

Row 2 [WS]: Knit.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 12 more times -- wedge will contain 13 ridges. (In first wedge only, the 13 ridges do not include the CO edge.)

Break C1, leaving 6-inch tail.

Second Wedge
Join C2.

Row 1 [RS]: K2tog, k to last st, kfb.

Row 2 [WS]: Knit.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 12 more times -- wedge will contain 13 ridges.

Break C2, leaving 6-inch tail.

Work [First Wedge, Second Wedge] 3 more times -- a total of eight wedges.

Bind off, leaving a 6-inch tail.

You'll have a fully reversible piece of knitting. Decide which side is the WS, and and weave in ends on that side.

Wash, gently block, and allow to dry completely.

With right side facing, sew one set of points together (for method, see Pattern Notes) to form crown.

Sew back seam. To avoid visible seam when brim is turned up, work as follows:

From lower end of crown seam, measure 5.5 inches along selvedge. Place marker or saftey pin at this point, which will be just above the eventual turning of your brim.

With right side facing, sew seam from crown to marker. Remove marker. Turn hat inside out, and finish seam with wrong side facing.

Fold points of brim edge upwards, then stitch each point in place.

Attach buttons to points and to top of crown as shown in photos.

habit-portraitBlank Franklin Habit is all over the place. There's his blog, The Panopticon. There's his new(ish) Tumblr feed, Yarnshaming. There's his book,It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press).

And he teaches! Oh, how he teaches! He teaches all over the place! He's even teaching on a ship! He needs to go lie down for a little while.