L’as Du Falafel: A hat for Lucy

I am at once a young child and an old woman. For a child-granny like me, knitting is the perfect activity: both fun and relaxing, creative and comforting, without being overly stimulating. My love of knitting manifests itself in many ways, not least of all through the “Wool Fix” piggybank sitting on my suite’s bookshelf and any one of the six self-knitted scarves that I wear around campus.

Knitting is not particularly difficult once you’ve gotten the hang of it: the key is really just patience and practice. If you get outlandish with your designs, the final design can end up looking quite complicated, but the process of knitting anything essentially comes down to the manipulation and repetition of one of two different stitches, a gesticulation with two hands and two sticks and a thread of yarn inserted between them.

But my confidence in my knitting prowess has lately been shaken after recent experiences trying to knit my friend Lucy a hat.

The fruits of Hughes Neghaiwi’s labor.
The fruits of Hughes Neghaiwi’s labor.

Surely this cannot sound as onerous as it is. But I am faced with subtle choices in fashioning a gifted hat: how large is Lucy’s head? How long does she wear her hats? Does she prefer them tight or loose, floppy or with pompom?

Granted, most of my problems are structural ones, and they do not only pertain to Lucy’s head shape and style preferences. Some are of a more general kind: more broadly, I am having issues conceptualizing the correct proportions of hats.

How do you finish a hat off with a tight, neat end without it becoming too pointy or too skinny? How do you avoid the awkward in between length of a hat that is neither long nor short but flounders in some purgatorial middle area?

After making myself a much-too-tight beanie over break, I feel better equipped to tackle the hat issue with my failures in mind. I am once again going at it without a pattern, using only my intuition and spatial reasoning as guides.

I try to start off a little wider this time, remembering that my last attempt was missing a few stitches. but it is here that I encounter my first dilemma: How many stitches do I add on? How many are enough? How many are too many? I decide to add two because I am working with very chunky wool, but after a few rows I begin to think that I have been too conservative with my additions. I decide that this hat should also be a little bit longer than my first attempt, because the one I made for myself barely covers my ears. I add a few rows to my last pattern and start finishing it off, decreasing my stitch count row by row to end in a nicely rounded dome at the top. The result, however, looks must too short and I unwind the top few rows to start making the hat longer. After adding seven more rows, I’m convinced that I’ve reached a good length. I hold up the finished product to admire it. But something is off.

The proportions are all wrong. My creation looks like a tubular banana pressing against my temples, suffocating my brain.

My suitemate Cora confirms, examining the hat I’ve given her to try on: “Yes, this does look like a banana.”

So I go at it again, undoing my mistakes, this time checking in with Cora along the way for feedback. With her advice, the hat finally turns out presentable; my Mount Fuji is climbed. It might not be as lovely as the fluffy white chapeau that Lucy gave me for my birthday, but it is crafted with love and care and I hope this will make up for any of its imperfections.

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