What do you do when you make something that isn’t quite right? I’m not talking about a glaring fit issue or a really unfortunate color choice—I’m thinking more of those niggling little things that keep a good project from being great, like pockets that are a little too low to relax your hands in or a neckline that grazes your throat, but only when you lean far forward. Do you wait awhile to see if it’s something you can live with? Do you fix it, or move on and make something new now that you know better?
About a year ago, I knit the hat above, which I called Meditation to play off the names of the pattern (Lotus Hat by UptownPurl) and the yarn (Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Worsted in Blood Orange), and because I found the knitting itself to require a little mindfulness without being difficult. The slanting motif looks like it would involve some kind of traveling stitch but in reality requires only simple decreases next to the yarn overs. I wore the hat several times, but soon discovered that the loose gauge, openwork, and short height meant that it didn’t cover my ears completely and didn’t keep my head particularly warm.
Now, I absolutely think there’s room in the world for hats that are more pretty than functional, but what really killed me was that the pattern doesn’t use very much yarn—only about 64 grams/112 yards out of 100 grams/175 yards, which meant that I had about a third of the skein left when I was finished. Normally I’d be thrilled to find such an economical pattern, but since the yarn was a souvenir from Lettuce Knit that I carefully selected during a day trip to Toronto whilst celebrating my 5th wedding anniversary in Niagara Falls, it seemed a shame to use so little of it and have so much lingering behind with no real purpose in sight.
Frogging a project that I didn’t deeply dislike felt strange at first, but that’s a feeling that’s quickly overcome. I waffled for a while about what to knit it into for its second life—I didn’t want to repeat my “mistakes”—and settled on Koolhaas, the perennial favorite from Jared Flood.
Although I don’t have a particularly large head, I chose to make the larger size so that I could be sure that it would cover my ears. I used about 90 grams/158 yards of yarn this time around, leaving behind enough yarn to make repairs should I ever need to but (probably) not enough to do another pattern repeat. The only place where I deviated from the pattern instructions was the decreases, where I replaced the SSK with K2togtbl; I think it continues the look of the twisted stitches better.
This pattern offers an excellent opportunity to practice cabling without a cable needle. (Like nearly everyone who knit this before me, I followed Grumperina’s tutorial.) Although it’s not my first cabled project or my first time working without a cable needle, I still consider myself a cabling novice. For someone looking to learn to knit cables, or someone like me who wants to get better/faster at them, I highly recommend this pattern. It probably looks overwhelming, but I’d argue that a small, heavily cabled item like a hat is the perfect opportunity to practice, because it allows you to iterate. As you continue making the same motions over and over again, you start to build muscle memory while figuring out how you can make the stitches most efficiently and consistently. Compare that to a large item or an item with only one or two cables, where each cross is isolated from the ones before and after it by swaths of other stitches, and you can see why this project makes sense. This is one of those times where do yourself more favors by jumping straight in rather than dipping in a toe here and there.
I confess I didn’t get up to full knitting speed for more than three or four crosses before I stumbled and had to slow down, and I did end up with a few crosses in the wrong place, but overall I feel my technique did improve, and it didn’t take me nearly as long as I thought it would.
How do I know? Back in September, during the first weekend that the temperature really dropped into fall territory and the skies were overcast, Justin and I were lucky enough to have a weekend of no commitments. We decided to hunker down inside, and instead of popping in movies, he decided to play through The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo while I watched (it’s a long-standing custom of ours that, whenever one of us plays a single-player game, the other watches). He’d started a game previously, but apparently the cartridge’s battery is failing, because his save had been wiped. Undaunted, he started a fresh game, but he knew he’d have to play the whole thing in order to keep his progress.
Luckily the cartridge had enough juice to survive being powered off overnight, so he managed to complete the game in two long sessions spread over two days for a total of about 14 hours, during which time I knitted the entire hat from start to finish. We were actually racing each other at the end, and he beat me by a narrow margin of about an hour, but only because I took an hour-long nap on the first day. So I call it even. 😛
Considering the connection between the hat and the game, I was tempted to call this Minish Cap after the red hats worn by the Minish people in the game of the same name, but it’s the wrong shape and I want to leave room in case I decide to knit myself a Minish cap in the future (cosplay, anyone?). Instead, I named it after the lake that features prominently in A Link to the Past and many of the other games.
When I took these photos, it was only about 60 degrees outside, so I can confirm that it keeps my head nice and toasty, proving it was a good choice to frog a good project in favor of a great project. Have you ever done the same? Would you? If not, what would you do instead?