Some time ago, Michelle over at Widdershin Woolworks asked if I would test knit a new product for her. Michelle mostly dyes spinning fibre, but she was thinking of adding yarn to the shop, starting with a 100% Targhee worsted weight. Now, I don’t work a lot with variegated yarns, but I was happy to give it a go. After a few tries, I came up with a stitch pattern that I think looked good with her dyeing style, and tried it out as a hat. (You can see my full swatching notes here.)
Then I got curious: how would this stitch pattern look in a completely different yarn? I pulled some Malabrigo Merino Worsted from the stash.
I played around with the crown decreases, making them slightly different for each hat: a visually strong, 3 stitch wide decrease line in the variegated yarn, and a more subtle, 1 stitch wide decrease in the semisolid.
I liked the hats so much that I submitted them to Interweave Press for consideration for their Interweave Knits, Gifts 2014 issue. The slipped stitch rib is both cushy and quite stretchy, so the hat can fit a wide range of sizes, which is great when you don’t want to go around measuring the heads of your intended recipients, even if they might believe that it’s for science.
As it turned out, Interweave liked the hats, too.
Something about the stitch pattern — the way the ribs ran down from the peak of the centre slipped stitch to the ditches of the purl stitches — reminded me of old dirt roads out in the countryside, so I called the design the Backroad Hats.
Here’s where I geek out about fibre and yarn structure, and how a simple stitch pattern can work with completely different yarns.
Widdershin Woolworks Targhee Worsted (100% Targhee wool; 200 yds/183 m per 3.14 oz./89g) is a very springy, round, 3-ply yarn with great stitch definition, made in the USA from sheep to skein. It’s not kitten-soft, but I think it’s soft enough to be worn next to the skin unless you’re very sensitive to wool. Targhee sheep are an American breed, developed from Rambouillet, Corriedale, and a bit of Lincoln. The wool is fine, lofty, and springy, characteristics that are enhanced by the multiple plies and fairly firm twist of this yarn. This structure makes for a fairly durable yarn that should resist pilling quite well. Michelle dyes in small batches and doesn’t generally repeat colourways, so while you won’t find the exact colourway in the sample, you’ll get something of which only a few skeins exist in the world. The mill she buys from is still spinning up this year’s Targhee clip, so it won’t be back in the Widdershin shop for a few weeks; I think it’s worth the wait for a quality yarn with this provenance.
Malabrigo Merino Worsted (100% Merino wool; 210 yds/192 m per 3.5 oz./100g) is a loosely-twisted, fulled Merino yarn from Uruguay. While it’s not the most durable yarn — I would never make socks with it — it is wonderfully soft, and feels rather dreamy in hats, scarves, and other projects that won’t see a lot of friction. It’s also dyed in small batches (10 skeins to a batch), but in repeatable colourways, from true solids to semi-solids to some beautiful variegated colour combinations. It’s pretty widely available in brick and mortar stores and online.
So now you can find the pattern for the Backroad Hats, with both decrease types and in two gauges, in the new issue of Interweave Gifts, either at your local shop or on Interweave’s website. One hat takes about 126 yds/115 m of worsted weight or 118 yds/108 m of Aran. I’m currently working on patterns for a matching scarf and mittens, to be released in the fall.
All photos with models here © Interweave Knits.