ribbed bonnet and thoughts on gauge

ribbed bonnet, originally uploaded by cosymakes.

i finished this bonnet on wednesday at amanda’s house. it was an interesting pattern from this knitting booklet – Patons Book No. 118. i tried to do some research on it as to when Patons put these out etc, but no luck. the best guess i have on date is 1960s.

the thesis is evolving as i knit. i’m reading history and digging through patterns and trying to decide what would flesh it out. i decided on this bonnet because it seems a very classic children’s knit and i had acquired two ball of Paton’s Fuzzy Wuzzy at the thrift store at one point. i was certainly skeptical of this yarn when i first bought it because it came in such small quantities. i couldn’t imagine what i’d make out of it. luckily i found this pattern. here’s a snippet of directions:

Just perfect for sports or dress, this little bonnet has been designed to fit girls from about 6-12 years. The yarn to use is Patons Fuzzy Wuzzy of which you will need:-2 (1/2 oz.) balls; 3 balls will make 2 bonnets. Two No. 9 Milward Knitting Needles. One Button.

You must use the exact yarn specified in order to be sure of satisfactory results.

then it launches into the pattern. i did many no-nos. i did not use the prescribed Milward Knitting Needles, and if i had 3 balls of the yarn, there’s no way that i would be able to make two bonnets. so my gauge must be off, but there was no mention of gauge. besides that, the little girl in the picture is wearing her bonnet way back on her head. i think mine will be for someone smaller, cover more of her head, and be more flattering (so there!).

that’s what they get for not giving enough information. i’ve a feeling that they were trying to get me to buy their products more than assure that i have a safe and comfortable knit. i’ve been reading (for the first time!) Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears. i finished the first fifty pages—The Opinionated Knitter section—at school on thursday (while knitting of course). then, i promptly gave it to my friend Alissa to read, so i can’t quote. but the gist of her thought is that needle size does not matter, but gauge does. this really interests me because i’ve always thought that i knit the way i knit. but according to Zimmermann, you should be able to adjust your gauge to fit your project (looser, not tighter). my friend sarah does this all of the time. i thought she was crazy the first time i saw her do it. she had sweaters on her needles for both her mom and her husband – one knit loose, one knit more regularly in order to achieve gauge. mind you, she couldn’t alternate between projects as easily, but she had some very nice sweaters in the end. i had no idea such feats were even possible.

i have never been a gauge swatcher. for accessories, it seems barely worth it unless you’re trying to make two bonnets out of three balls. if it doesn’t seem right when you’re an inch in, just start over. patterns have come a long way and it seems to me a blessing and a curse. i just recently had the epiphany (like within the last month) that i could measure around something, figure out my stitches to the inch and then figure out how many stitches it would take to go around it. i’m (obviously) not one who sews, otherwise i may have known this earlier… but i really feel that a door has swung open. why didn’t i know that earlier? i blame patterns. shiny, glossy, patterns of things i may want to wear for my lack of diligence in research. really, where is Zimmerman on the big box bookstore shelf compared to the yarn girl’s guide (one of my first knitting books) and the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch books (another of my first knitting books). on the plus side, the sweater might actually fit you.

according to Anne L. Macdonald, in the mid 1800’s knitters were blamed when their garments didn’t work out. even if you did something as directed, you could come out with something drastically different. one woman designer is quoted as saying that “In working these patterns the knitter must have the same degree of faith which is necessary for a cure in taking homeopathic medicine. ‘The doctor knows.’ Keep this in mind and remember that each pattern has been worked twice…. Remember this, even though it ‘may not sound right,’ and work on blindly to the end of row or round, and, our word for it, you will find that the ‘end justifies the means.’”

the first mention of gauge that Macdonald knows of was in “Harper’s Bazaar in 1870… a ‘Lady’s Knitted Under Vest…to be worn under high-necked dresses instead of a vest’ Instructions called for ‘heavy wooden Needles in the common patent stitch,’ the needle size to be determined by whatever produced this result: ‘Each rib of the design measures about half an inch, 8 rounds in length being 1 ½ inches.’” Macdonald goes on to point out that many writers still thoroughly avoided this issue. and apparently, this continued until the 1960’s. (pages 154-55)

7 thoughts on “ribbed bonnet and thoughts on gauge

  1. I can’t believe I just got mentioned in the same paragraph as Elizabeth Zimmerman. . .

    cosy, if you haven’t read “Knitting in the Old Way” yet, you really really should.

  2. I really like this bonnet. I am trying to find a baby hat pattern for a 5 – 8 month old (that would also fit him a year later) and I thought something with ribbing might be good because it would stretch.

  3. Pingback: thrifting « cosymakes

  4. I feel that while Zimmermann is certainly not underrated by the majority of knitters (those outside of the new crop of indie knitters), within the new wave knitting community, she doesn’t get nearly enough airtime. She teaches one to think for oneself!
    When asked (on forums or wherever) what are my favorite knitting books, hers are the first mentioned.

    Deborah Newton’s Designing Knitwear is a good one, too.

  5. Pingback: pattern writing history « cosymakes

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