Sunday, 28 June 2009

A gentleman's nightcap

I'm way behind on my blogging, but with holidays out of the way, I can finally reveal the top secret project that I've been working on for the past couple of months. Well, when I say 'top secret', those who know me in person saw me working on it, but I've avoided blogging anything as the intended recipient reads this blog.

Last year, I spied this pattern on Knitty for a 1840's gentleman's nightcap.

If you look at the link, you'll see that this pattern was originally published in The Workwoman's Guide in 1838, by an anonymous author who signed herself 'A Lady'... Franklin Habit (who's blog often features the adventures of Delores the sheep) reworked the pattern for the modern knitter, suggesting it as an example of 'manly' lace. From his blog entries on the subject, he thought of it as a historical curiousity, possibly of interest for the lace brim or as a baby's bonnet...

But there are those of us who do know potential Victorian gentlemen who might have a cold head, hence the reason we might want to knit it.

This is Richard, who likes hats.



Richard also has the LARP bug and is something of a re-enactor, which means he has a reason to collect hats of all sorts for costume purposes. I saw this pattern last autumn and immediately thought of him. Sadly, my Christmas knitting list was already very full with items for my numerous relatives and I didn't see me managing to make it in time for December, so I decided to try to make it for his birthday which was earlier this month.

I queued the pattern on Ravelry and watched carefully as other knitters attempted to make it, with mixed success. The main problem seemed to be gauge, with quite a few people's efforts resulting in a hat of elephantine proportions. Franklin himself commented on the problems on his blog, reminding people that this was a lace weight project intended for tiny, tiny needles and that if you made it from a heavier yarn, you'd need to gauge up.

This seemed sensible, but after thinking about it (and after all, I had plenty of time to knit it) I decided the thing to do was to find the right yarn, find the size needles it knit up well on and then re-gauge accordingly. i.e. work out the correct gauge for the yarn I wanted to use on the needles which suited it best.

I had a plan.

After much thought, I decided on a crochet cotton I'd seen Steelbreeze using for her Blusa Queen (yes, the pattern is in Portuguese - Steelbreeze is a brave lady), a sort of lacy cardigan she's been working away on. This cotton is very soft and wearable, not like many crochet cottons that I seem to see for sale which while shiny, are a bit scratchy.

The cotton in question is a No. 10 called Clea 1000, from Circulo, bought from Yarnstick who is a small trader based in Birmingham.

After a bit of playing around, I decided it knitted up in stocking stitch nicely on 2mm needles, to a gauge of - 38st x 60rows = 10cm.

Next, I needed Richard's head measurement and despite sneakily trying to measure his hats at events, I wasn't doing very well. I discovered that Richard often buys hats because he likes them, rather than because they fit him very well. So, I guestimated that I'd need to size the brim at about 60cm, working on the basis that if I'd sized up, then a loose night cap was much better than a very tight one which would cut off the circulation to his head while he slept (yes, I kept its original function very much in mind).

The lace border on this hat has a 13 stitch repeat, meaning I needed to cast on a multiple of 13 stitches to make it work. So I cast on 221 stitches on my 2mm needles, bought specially for the job, which gave me an expected brim circumference of approx 59cm.

I started to knit, only to discover nine rows in that while I'd checked and double checked that there was no twist when I joined for circular knitting, somehow I'd managed to knit one in. I ripped the whole thing back and restarted... And did exactly the same thing again!

The third time, I became paranoid, checking there was no twist at the end of each round. I was using a very long (150cm) 2mm needle, with the magic loop method and the only thing I could think of was, that I must somehow be pulling the needles up on the wrong side of the knitting.

This time it worked and the brim knitted up fairly quickly... Then I entered some sort of weird temporal dimension where no matter how much I knit this hat, it never seemed to grow at all.

I plodded on determined to finish this hat and after starting it on 14th April, I finally cast off on 12 June! There followed a hurried scramble to add a tassel (my first ever) and wash and dry the hat, finishing it mere hours before I handed it over to the birthday boy.


I am happy with the result and think that all things considered it came out well, but I am relieved that it is finally done. And I do not want to make another one any time soon!


  1. The present was brilliant, and wisely keeping it off your blog meant it was a surprise, seeing the effort you put into your project makes it all the more appreciated, I just have to get over my fear of it getting damaged, its too nice wear.

  2. Hurrah, 'tis finished. Looks great.

  3. Looks fabulous and Richard you must wear it!! Julie you should knit more for such recipients rather than ones who don't appreciate the end result :)