Irony and knitting

When I started knitting again after a 20-year hiatus brought on by leaving upstate NY and moving South, where warm woolies are not so necessary, I began by making hats.
North Country hat, from the 1980's
Hats have several wonderful qualities that make them ideal for a former knitter getting back into this needle art:
  1. Hats are self-contained. Each hat can be a one-off, not related to a larger garment or knitting theme. This makes them perfect for experimenting in color work, cables and so on.
  2. Hats are versatile. They can be loose or tight, large or small, close-fitting or floppy. My two favorite hat-size circular needles (pink plastic and blue plastic) are sizes 6 and 8, but you can knit a hat on anything from size 1 to size 13. You can use lace-weight yarn, big bulky yarn, worsted, or any other yarn that you can find.
  3. Hats make great just-in-case gifts. You can give away a hat with no effort, making them a wonderful way to use up extra yarn or just keep your hands busy. You rarely end up with a stockpile of hats.
  4. Hats are cheap to make, as they use only about a skein of yarn. you can indulge in amazing, pricey yarn that would be ridiculously expensive for a sweater.

These four advantages to hat making are only the tip of the iceberg of hat suitability for the knitter finding his or her way into knitting, or back into knitting. So I made hats from 2009-2011.

Probably I made 200 hats. I could make them, literally, with my eyes closed. In those years, I gave away about 170 of these hats, and sold about 30, without even trying very hard. Most of the ones I sold were commissioned (I'll give a shout-out to Sarah and Robbie, who spurred me on with their hat orders!), giving me a taste of what it means to design and produce knitted goods at someone's request.

Then I moved to Prague from Florida. Since I could sell hats in Florida (something like selling refrigerators to eskimos, as the old joke goes), I could surely sell them in wintry Prague. I started looking at the hat market here, with an eye to breaking into it.

What did I find?
  • Everyone already has a nice hat here. Prague is a city, and young people especially are fashionable. The hats I see are varied, attractive and appropriate.
  • You can buy an okay hat cheap, anywhere. The cheap Asian-made hats available in the US at Target, etc. are even cheaper here. The local small drygoods stores, usually run by Vietnamese, have dozens of cheap hats all year.
  • You can buy a handmade hat at a craft fair, of which there are dozens here at any given time. Some are made by Czech people, who are knitting/crocheting more hats at the fairs; some are from Peru or other Andean countries, imported here and sold at a good price.
  • Hats are just not a big deal here. As my artist friend Marie says, hats have to be better than just basic to sell in Prague.

At about the same time my hat fever peaked, I got a commission to design and knit a sweater for a movie made here at Barrandov Studios. I was very excited, imagining a new career as a knitwear designer. My excitement lasted about a month, until I realized how tedious it is for me to design and knit according to someone else's specifications. The project was only fun for me in the thinking, planning, and experimentation parts. Once I sketched and transcribed the pattern, matched the yarn I was given to the best needle size and stitch, and began knitting, I was bored. The knitting process itself, usually so soothing and relaxing, became nerve-wracking, as I was super-cautious about making mistakes. And, of course, my being super-cautious led to mistakes, as I couldn't get into the rhythm and just KNIT.

Since then, I've been messing around with my knitting. I've been on an EZ kick, reading her books and absorbing both her hints and her humor. I've knit a few sweaters: one for my granddaughter, which she likes. I've knit doll clothes for her, too.

About a month ago I knit my first-ever topdown sweater and loved the process. Last week I knit a triangular scarf with a lacy border, my first try at making a scarf that wasn't just a long rectangle.

So the irony is that I have this blog, "Basic Hats," which people read (thanks, Google stats!) and which has been lots of fun to write. But I am sick and tired of knitting hats. So how can I slide this blog into my next knitting phase? Tune in tomorrow to find out!


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