Caithness for My Friend

I’ve been loving my Milarrochy Tweed hat this fall; I wear it almost every day. It seems fragile in the ball, but it coheres into a very stable, warm fabric. I’ve received many complements on it lately, not least from a good friend of mine, Lorraine. Like me, she got a “COVID chop” haircut. A stylish wee hat, slouchy indoors and warm outdoors, is just the thing. She wanted one in blue, so I chose a blue one from the Milarrochy Heids book, a whipped it up in a couple of days.

Just finished, before it was blocked on a balloon. Thought you might like to see what it looks like before the blocking transformation!

Caithness” by Dianna Walla was not one of the stand outs in the book to me; I chose it for the color. But once I started knitting it, it surprised me. It’s made almost entirely of 3-1 repeats of color, excepting plain rows, and altogether four rows that are different. It’s a very creative pattern within those limitations.

The hardest part, honestly, was working out which color to hold in which hand while knitting. I’ve discovered that in doing fair isle, my left hand is very loose. This is apparently always the case in two-handed fair isle; whichever color crosses under (which I think is always the left hand) has a bit more slack, and makes looser stitches. According to The Principles of Knitting, this means your left-hand yarn is always looser, even if you’re a left-hand dominant or continental knitter normally.

Enough slouch to hold a ponytail on a small head; fits snugly on an adult head.

For years I thought this meant that you should always hold the “foreground” color in the right hand, so it pops, and the “background” color in the right hand. However I’ve learned more recently that this varies, especially with very small motifs. For me at least, large single stitches tend to engulf the stitches directly above or below them. This might be what I want if I’m continuing a vertical line; that is not what I want if I’m making a dot, or starting or finishing a line, or making a small motif inside a narrow horizontal stripe. I made guesses in this hat, and while I’m not happy with every row, I’m happy enough. It would be nice if patterns like this included row-by-row suggestions on which hand to use for which yarn. But that might not be feasible; not everyone knits fair isle this way, nor do they have the same tension differential between hands that I have. And as always, blocking helps.

Crowns on patterned hats are the best part!

All that to say, it was a fun and interesting knit. I am thankful my friend wanted a hat so I had the excuse to knit it. I gave it to her today and she’s pleased as punch. Before I handed over I took these pictures on my lovely hat model. Thanks Stringbean!


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