What’s this? It looks like a hat, and it is. But more importantly, it’s a gauge swatch. Double dipping here!
I want to knit a yoked sweater for DH. I’m planning on Dreyma by Jennifer Steingass. I’ll change the neckline to ribbing rather than the rolled one. Maybe I’ll even learn a tubular cast on. Maybe. There are some short rows on the back, after the yoke patterning, so I’m set for that after the short row classes I took this weekend!
I chose this yarn for DH, Berroco Vintage Worsted, because it’s machine washable, 57% acrylic/40%wool/8%nylon. I want him to get maximum use out of it, without waiting for me to hand wash it on a regular basis. Know your gift recipient! This is slightly lighter in weight than the specified yarn, so my gauge is going to be a little off. I can adjust for that. A hat is a great way to make a gauge swatch. (Yes, I know that Vintage comes in a bulky weight, but I think worsted is more versatile for indoor wear.) And yes, I bought an extra skein of yarn for swatching, and just in case I run out of yarn. Better to have too much than too little for a sweater.
Of course, a gauge swatch for a sweater should be washed and blocked. Treat your swatch the way you plan to treat your FO! Bisquee is helping with the blocking train here.
Hats are pretty simple. Here’s a recipe. Measure your head. You want your hat to measure 1-2“ less than that. Negative ease keeps your hat from sliding over your eyes. Take your estimated gauge (I’m relying on the ballband guess of 5 sts/inch on a US 7. Multiply that by the number of inches you want (20” in this case). That gives me a cast on of 100 sts. I wanted to add this colorwork pattern from Dreyma, which has a repeat of 8 sts, so I cast on 104 instead of 100 (13 x 8 = 104). That would make the hat between 20 and 21”, which is fine. I could have used 96 instead, which would make the hat 19.5”. Same same. I’m using a 16” circular needle.
I like a K2P2 ribbing on the edge, which means my cast on should be a multiple of 4. 96, 100, and 104 are all fine for that. Use a needle 2 sizes smaller than the needle for the body of the hat (US 5 in this case). Knit K2P2 ribbing to desired height. Change to larger needles and knit stockinette until piece measures 5.5” from the cast on (I tried 6.5” first, based on the common wisdom that a hat is as tall as your hand before you start the crown shaping, but it was too tall. 5.5” is plenty.)
Start crown decreases. I like a crown divided into 8 wedges. Ooh, look, my cast on was a multiple of 8! Perfect. (If you don’t have a multiple of 8, decrease some stitches on the first decrease round so that you do.)
I have 8 sections of 13 sts each. I’ll decrease with a k2tog for the last 2 sts of each section.
Rnd 1: *K11, k2tog, place marker, rep from * to end. (You’re just knitting the last 2 stitches of each wedge together to decrease.)
Rnd 2: Knit all sts.
Rnd 3: *K10, k2 tog, slip marker, rep from * to end.
Rnd 4: Knit all sts.
Keep decreasing every other round, until 8 sts remain. Move work to dpns or magic loop or 2 circulars when it gets too tight on the circular needle. (Don’t knit the final plain round after the last decreases. Pointy.) Cut yarn, use a yarn needle and run yarn tail through all sts, twice. Drop yarn to inside of hat, cinch up tight, sew in ends. Done!
When the hat is dry, I’ll check my gauge to see if it changed after washing and blocking. It’s the post-blocking gauge that decides the ultimate measurements of the sweater. But you also have to know the pre-blocking gauge, which you’re going to match while knitting. Measure twice, knit once! Apologies to This Old House.
If you’d like an easy to print pdf of the Gauge Hat pattern, click here.
I don’t get this picky about gauge for cowls and hats; they’ll fit someone. But a sweater is a much bigger commitment of time and yarn, so it’s important to get it right. Ask me how I know.
I knit this sweater for DH, twice! Once in 2006, then completely frogged and reknit the next year. I had made a tiny gauge swatch the first time, and of course it lied to me. The finished sweater was HUGE. The entire sweater served as a giant gauge swatch, and the second knit was a success.
Need to knit a quick gift? There’s still time to knit a hat!