Friday, 18 November 2016

The Humdrum Helix Hat Pattern

I've never had two batches of plant dyed yarn turn out exactly the same.  Even with careful weighing, measuring and equal time spent simmering, flowers picked one week won't have quite the same dye content as those picked the next week.  To get it all the same shade, yarn has to be dyed in one batch and you'd have to have a really big pot to fit in enough for a jumper. I did once manage to get some curtains dyed, but it was a Herculanean struggle. I bet most people who try plant dyeing have a load of small skeins sitting in baskets, waiting for the day they commit to a Fair Isle knitting project. 

Helix knitting in the round allows you to use many small skeins of different colours at the same time, without having to carry the yarn up the sides of the work, as you must with ordinary stripe patterns. I learned the technique from Margaret Radcliffe's Essential Guide to Colour Knitting, which is a completely brilliant book. This link takes you to an older post which includes the principles for knitting the Humdrum Hat, my personal pattern for knocking out a basic hat shape, which can be adapted to knit with any weight of yarn. The following Helical version of the Humdrum is given for aran weight yarn, but I've discovered that with helix knitting, you can even use balls of varying yarn thickness and they seem to average out without distorting the shape. It is for four colours, but you could knit this hat with even more, just divide your cast on stitch count by the number of colours you want to use. Addendum See this post for helix hats with ten colours.

The Humdrum Helix Hat Pattern

4.5mm circular needle with a short 50cm cord, or a long cord, using magic loop
Aran yarn, about 33m x 4 in different colours, A, B, C and D - total 132m
Using my 100% wool yarn, this weighs 75g
Darning needle for sewing in ends

Knit in stocking stitch on a circular needle,16 stitches and 20 rows measures 10 x 10cm (to adapt the stitch counts in this pattern for a different weight of yarn, read this post)

For a snug fit, a hat should measure up to 5cm less in diameter than the person's head. Knitting this pattern, it is easiest to start with a multiple of four stitches.  The 84 stitch cast on is intended for an average person with a 56cm diameter head, wearing a 52.5cm diameter hat. 

Working to a gauge of 16 stitches to 10cm, 80 stitches cast on would make a hat measure 50cm diameter for a smaller head, 88 stitches result in a 55cm hat for a larger head and so forth. Just remember, for a bigger size, you need to start with more yarn.

The long tail cast on gives a neat, elastic start, but any cast on method will do. The brim rolls up, so you won't see the cast on row once the hat is finished. 
Cast on 84 stitches using Colour A. Place a stitch marker and join to work in the round, taking care not to have a twist in your cast on row. This is a helpful video.

To make a single colour brim, like the hat in the photo at the start of this blog, knit round after round in Colour A until the work measures approximately 8cm long.  Let the fabric curl up on itself to form a roll with the first 8cm, exact measurements are less important than having the width of brim you prefer.

For a multicoloured brim like the ones on these two Humdrum Helix hats, knit two rounds in the first colour and then start your helix.

First Round
From the stitch marker at the beginning of the round, continue knitting in colour A for 21 stitches. Now use colour B to knit the next 21 stitches, colour C to knit the next 21 stitches and colour D to knit the last 21 stitches back to the marker.
Second Round
Continue knitting with colour D for 21 stitches.  Here, you will find the yarn from the ball of colour A dangling below the 21st stitch. No twisting the yarns round each other, just drop colour D, lift up colour A and adjust the tension on the last colour A stitch so it is just the same as all the other stitches.  If you leave it too loose or pull it tight as you start to use it again, you will end up with a seam running vertically up the knitting. Knit 21 stitches with Colour A, to where you find Colour B dangling down.  As before, check the tension on the last stitch of colour B and use B to knit 21 stitches, pick up and use Colour C to knit 21 stitches, arriving back at the round marker.

Subsequent rounds
Always continue knitting with the same colour you are using at the end of the round for another 21 stitches starting from the round marker, then pick up and use each colour in turn for 21 stitches.

When the total, unrolled length of your work measures about 18cm, begin these reductions to form the crown of the hat.

Continue to work with the four yarns in a helix throughout the crown.

Reduction Rounds
From the stitch marker, knit 1, knit 2 together, continue knitting til you reach the next colour. With the next colour, knit 1, knit 2 together, continue knitting til you reach the following colour. Repeat til you get back to the stitch marker again, then continuing in the same colour as you were using for the end of the last round, knit 1, knit 2 together and knit to the next colour.

Continue with these reduction rounds.  Once the tube of knitting gets too small to work easily on the circular needle, start using magic loop or change to double pointed needles until there are only 3 stitches of each colour left on the cord - total 12 stitches. Break the working yarn leaving a 20cm tail, thread it onto a darning needle and run it through the loops of all 12 stitches, removing the round marker and the circular needle cord.  Pull tight, fasten off and sew in the loose ends of all four colours. Wash, spin dry and block into shape. I wear hats while they dry to get a perfect fit.

Update read this post for humdrum helix hats knitted with ten colours of dk yarn

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