Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Tale of Two Hats

I’m not entirely sure where to start with this post so I’ll start at the end: I made a hat then I re-made it.

I’m one of the many who adore the Baa-ble Hat by Donna Smith. I didn’t get to it last year, but this week I rediscovered the pattern nestled in with my handspun yarn, enticing me to revisit the project. I was challenged to find yarns with the right combination of fiber, weight, and colors. And I wanted to use stash, particularly handspun.

Hand knit wool hat with ivory and black sheep motif surrounded by dark orange above and green below on a white background.

The yarns that stood out to me were two skeins of Wensleydale handspun, a green and a rusty orange. Wensleydale may be my favorite fiber to spin. It is a wool with a wavy crimp, brilliant luster, and long staple length, but it's not recommended for wearing against the skin because it can feel prickly. I purchased it as a dyed “cloud,” which means it was a disorganized mass of colored locks. It was fun to allow the curls in the fiber to choose how they wanted to settle into becoming yarn.

The rest of the yarns weren’t as easy to select. I don’t have any light-colored handspun right now, so I chose two commercial ivory-colored yarns: one for the sheep, and another for the “flowers” and “stars.” The yarn for the dark areas was the most difficult to select. Darks blended too much with the green, midtones blended too much with the orange, and lights blended too much with the sheep. I picked a rosy-beige that seemed to stand out enough.

Four skeins of yarn on a white background in dark orange, ivory, rose, and green.

That hat did not turn out well. The ivory yarn for the “flowers” and “stars” was a shimmery DK-weight merino/nylon blend. The rosy-beige yarn was another smooth, delicate yarn. Neither of these yarns had the heft to hold their own against the Wensleydale; the stitches either disappeared or were elongated far out of proportion. The white stood out too starkly against the green and orange, while the rosy-beige all but disappeared.

In addition, comments on the pattern warned that it knit up large, so I had gone down a needle size. Apparently I knit stranded colorwork very loosely because the ribbing was the perfect size while the rest of the hat puffed up like the top of a cupcake. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even think to take a photo before I ripped back to the top of the ribbing.

For the second attempt, I used the smaller needle size throughout. I decided not to include the “flowers” and “stars” because the Wensleydale is lovely enough on its own. I swapped the delicate rosy-beige yarn for a basic worsted-weight wool in black, which is strong enough both in color and fiber makeup to hold its own against the Wensleydale. The only other change I made was to cut back on the ribbing rows so the brim doesn’t fold up; this was a practical choice based on the amount of green I had.

Child in front of a light gray background wearing hand knit wool hat with ivory and black sheep motif surrounded by dark orange above and green below.

I’m very happy with the result. The hat looks a little large here because I only had a child available to model, but for an adult head it fits nicely. It will look sharp with my black winter coat. I’m almost looking forward to colder weather!

How are you preparing for the change in seasons?


  1. Oh my, what an adorable hat! I've loved this pattern since the first time I saw it. I love your version. The brown and green play well together and the sheep are just adorable.

  2. Thank you! It really is a lovely pattern.


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