Monday, January 12, 2015

Not a cat person

It is well documented that I am not a cat person. Occasionally I meet a cat I like, but it’s rare. But what about a cat hat? crop2My niece turned 5 just before Christmas and as a birthday present, we sat down and had a consultation about a hat I would knit for her. The hat we decided on wasn’t this one, because a few days after our chat I ran across this pattern and thought it seemed perfect for her. I asked her mom to show her photos of both hats, and indeed, Kate loved the kitty cat. I dove into my knitting group’s share bag of Cascade 200 Superwash (where we keep the leftovers from the blankets we’ve knit as gifts) and came up with enough “silver grey” for the hat (I used 48 g) and “strawberry cream” for the ears (just a few yards).

I almost didn’t buy the pattern because really, this is just a plain hat without a crown decrease and some duplicate stitch for the ears. But I like to support designers and I didn’t think of this idea on my own, so I paid the $4.

That’s when I got picky. The designer calls for the “Alternate Rib Cast On” (instead of the standard long tail CO), but doesn’t explain it in her pattern. Instead, she links out to another person’s (free) blog post about how to work the technique. This wouldn’t bother me in a free pattern, but if you’re going to charge I feel you should explain anything that isn’t standard. (She also links to other websites to explain kitchener stitch, 3-needle BO, and duplicate stitch – but these are more standard to me.) To add insult to injury, the technique link was dead and a google search didn’t come up with the Alternate Rib Cast On.IMG_5418I am a more experienced knitter and determined that what she wanted was the same thing that Woolly Wormhead calls the Alternate Cable Cast On for 2x2 Ribbing, and I used Woolly’s blog posts to work this new-to-me CO. It was fussy and fiddly, but I like the result and will work it again. See how the ribbing seems to appear out of nowhere? Here I’ll show it next to an older hat that used a regular long tail CO so you can really see the difference:IMG_5419The pattern is written for 6 different sizes, which is nice, and they are color-coded in the pdf – but the S and M sizes are colored in hot pink and red, which makes them virtually indistinguishable especially since they are right next to each other. Also, the yarn requirements aren’t given for different sizes – she just says “75-250 yards” which is a pretty big range.

I’ve listened to and read a lot of interviews with knit designers and am very sympathetic to the economics of being an independent designer. In fact, just last fall Woolly Wormhead herself published a long post called “The True Cost of a Pattern” which is well worth reading. But I do feel that if you’re going to sell patterns in today’s knitting world, you should have them tech edited or study up on that yourself (there have been at least a couple books published on this topic recently).

In the designer’s defense, I emailed her about the dead link and she responded right away with an alternative link (not Woolly’s). She also updated the pattern in Ravelry so that all purchasers would receive the corrected version. This was both responsive and responsible – kudos for that.cropI am pleased with the hat and hope my niece will be, too. I might even make it again – it would be a great choice for my annual kid hat donation that is part of the Knitters’ Day Out registration fee.

But, just as I’m not a cat person, maybe I’m also not a cat pattern person. Bottom line: this hat design is perfect for a beginning knitter, but the pattern isn’t.

P.S. – Woolly Wormhead is having her annual sale through January 23. All patterns are 40% off. Treat yourself to a new hat pattern or two!


  1. I'm also not a cat person, and don't have any five-year-olds to make a cat hat for, but I really do appreciate your pattern notes and thoughts. I especially like the alternate cable cast on for ribbing. I've recently been searching for the best cast on to use with 2x2 ribbing, so I thank you for providing such a timely and helpful answer!

  2. I've never run across this cast-on, either. This is good information to have. Such a thoughtful analysis of what is a common problem. My current pet peeve is PDF patterns that assume the knitter which read errata published elsewhere. Why not update the PDF? Jeez. There's a LOT of sloppiness out there -- said the guy who never published a pattern.

    Your niece is going to be one cute kitten!