5 Yarns, 5 Hats

I’m working on what I hope will be an eye-catching postcard to publicize whatifknits, like the postcards artists send out before a show. The front will have pictures of a hat I’ve designed, knit up in a variety of yarns. The back will have the pattern and information on this web site. Melissa and I spent part of yesterday morning photographing the hats in various urban settings, drawing inquiries and encouragement from passing drivers. (And, sinice it was Saturday, avoiding questions from security personnel who might mistake a couple of knitting loons for a terrorist threat.)

Knitting these hats in rapid succession has been a real test of my stamina as a knitter. The changes in yarn helped, but two weeks solid of the same pattern had me a bit desperate. I like asking my “what if?” questions as I knit, planning the next project while one is still on the needles, so it got rather disheartening when the “what if?” question was reduced to “what if I do the same damn thing over and over again?” (The answer to that questions is: I get crabby and despondent.)

But now the hats are done and the *FREE* pattern will be going to press in a week or so (I’ll also post it here) ready for me to pass out at Stitches West and other knitting venues. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my observations about the yarns I used.

5 different versions of the Point Lobos hat
Yarns (clockwise from top): Quatro by Cascade Yarns; Iris by Bertagna Filati; Fauve by Louisa Harding Yarns; Manos Cotton Stria by Manos del Uruguay;Merino Frappe by Crystal Palace Yarns.

Quatro by Cascade Yarns
Label Information: 100% Peruvian highland wool, 100 grams/3.5 oz, 220 yards, needle size 7-8 U.S., 4.5-5 stitches per 1″.
Approximate Price: $7 per skein.
Yummy, yummy wool marl. This yarn was a pleasure to work with: rich in color, bouncy enough to make the k2togs easy. I love marls—all the richness of a variegated yarn, without any worries about color pooling. Many of you have no doubt used this yarn already, but if you haven’t, its reasonable price and high quality make it well worth trying out.

Iris by Bertagna Filati
Label Information: 60% cotton, 40% nylon, 50 grams, 90 meters, needle size 5-6mm, 18 stitches and 24 rows per 10 cm.
Approximate price: $7 per ball.
This is a yarn I found in the “Four Buck Bucket” at my favorite local yarn shop, The Swift Stitch. I was seduced by the contrast between the matte cotton strand (reminding me of the days when we tied up packages to mail in cotton string) and the shiny variegated rayon. This yarn is substantial enough to use on a project that will get regular wear, but light enough that you’ll keep using the garment well into the spring, perhaps even on cooler summer days. Unlike some double-stranded yarns I’ve worked with, this one has very even tensioning, so you don’t find one of the two strands bunching up around the other. The yarn has a surprising amount of give to it, so repeated k2togs didn’t result in the hand cramps they sometimes produce. Besides working well for hats, this yarn would make beautiful cardigans or knit t-tops.

Fauve by Louisa Harding Yarns
Label Information: 100% nylon, 50 grams, 127 yards/116 meters, needle size US 6/7 UK, 5.5 stitches per 1″.
Approximate Price: $9.50 per ball.
I love this yarn, but I’m also frustrated by it. I bought it after trying it out at a yarn tasting at Article Pract because it felt so good in my hands: very bouncy and supple, almost suede-like. The labelling’s a bit confusing, however. The strands we got at the yarn tasting were from a ball that recommended size 10.5 US needles, but the balls on the shelves mostly had labels recommending size 6 US needles. The bit I knit up at the tasting (I used US 11 needles) came out quite nicely, flat, smooth, and sleek. When I knit the hat, I used US 7 needles (as I did for all the hats) and the yarn really scrunched up, resulting in a very thick, stretchy fabric that had a much tighter guage than the label suggested it would. My hat pattern requires about 100 yards of yarn in pretty much every yarn I’ve used for it, but I ran out of Fauve near the end of the project, even though the balls are 127 yards. (I did manage to finish the hat by unravelling my swatch from the yarn tasting and reusing it on the crown of the hat.) Final assessment: you’ll love the feel of this yarn as you work with it, but be very, very careful about gauge—and buy substantially more than logic tells you you’ll need to finish your project.

Manos Cotton Stria by Manos del Uruguay
Label Information:100% Peruvian cotton, 1.75 oz/50 grams, 116 yards/106 meters, needle size 4-6 US/3.5-4 mm, 18-20 stitches and 24 rows per 4″/10cm.
Approximate Price: $9 per skein.
I bought this yarn from Patternworks a few years ago because I couldn’t resist the color. Since I didn’t have any specific ideas about what I’d knit with it, I just ordered a single skein, and it’s been calling to me teasingly from my stash since then, while I wondered what to do with 116 yards of cotton. Since this is a slightly finer yarn that some of the ones I worked with on this project, I was worried that the hat would come out small and even considered moving up to US 8 needles, but I’m glad I stuck with the size 7 (still one size larger than the range recommended on the label). If I hadn’t the hat would probably have come out big enough to use as a toaster cover. Not surprisingly, the hat wound up a bit loosely knit, so it doesn’t have as much stretch as the other versions, but it fits comfortably. Of the five yarns I used, Stria had the least give. It wasn’t uncomfortable to use on the larger needles, but I think it would feel rather stiff on the recommended size US 4. The texture of the yarn (not exactly a boucle, but more of a ripple) is retained in the finished piece, making it interesting without distorting the pattern stitch too much. I’m not sure how well it will wear, so I’d work with it again on a small project, but don’t think I’d want to use it for anything substantial.

Merino Frappe by Crystal Palace Yarns
Label Information: 80% merino wool, 20% polyamide, 50 grams, 140 yards, needle size 7-9 US, 3.5-4 stitches per 1″.
Approximate Price: $8 per ball.
The first time I bought this yarn, I picked it for its color (a rich purple). I’d enjoyed working with it, so thought it would make a good hat yarn, but I was forced to buy a different color because there wasn’t purple on the shelf. The black binder didn’t show on the purple yarn. On the mustard-colored yarn it does show through, giving the yarn a certain haziness. Merino Frappe knits up very comfortably, and the 140 yard skeins seem to go a long way: I always have more yarn left than I expect after finishing a project. The only drawback to this yarn is that its texture makes it difficult to unravel, so it’s not a good candidate for experimental knitting or particularly complicated patterns. On the other hand, since it has a furry texture, even if you do unravel a lot the yarn won’t wind up looking particularly shopworn.

Would I work with these yarns again? Yes for all of them. The Quatro and the Merino Frappe would be my first choices, just for their vesatility and reliability (does it make sesne to call a yarn reliable?). I’m sure I’ll also pick up more of the Iris if I can find it, though I suspect it’s being discontinued, which would explain its being marked down. I don’t know that I’ll get more Stria, but it may turn out to be exactly the right thing for a warm-weather project someday. I have one more ball of Fauve at home, but doubt I’ll buy more. I love, love, love to touch it it, but I don’t trust it in terms of guage or total yardage called for.

7 Replies to “5 Yarns, 5 Hats”

  1. Nice blog and pretty hats. Very useful to see the comparisons. Look forward to the pattern. Good luck with your blog.

  2. Hi-I just found your web site because I just came across 2 balls of Louisa Harding Fauve that I got some time ago.
    I think I know why you had yardage issues with that yarn, on my label it says 127 yards, but someone crossed it out & hand wrote “90”.
    I think that its a great idea for the post card & will be keeping my eyes open for the pattern!

  3. Pingback: IeriWinner_96
  4. Love the hats and all the different colours and textures. Have you posted the pattern? I’d love to try this pattern .

    great photo


  5. Drat! I’m a fairly new knitter, and I picked up your postcard with the pattern for this great hat almost a year ago at a show in Oakland, I think, and I’ve been planning to make it ever since then. I just got the needles I need, and I have the yarn, and I had the pattern in my hands as recently as last week, but I lost it! Have you posted the pattern? Thanks!

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