Heather vs Solid Color Yarn
The heather yarns found in some of the kits may seem to be a lighter weight yarn because they have not been “scoured”. That is, the heather yarns are spun from fiber that is dyed before it is spun. This process allows for multiple colors within the strands of yarn.
The solid colored yarn included in the kits is the same weight as the heather yarn, but it appears to be more full or "bloomed". This is because the solid colors are dyed after being spun which allows the fibers to fluff or "bloom" during the drying process. Because the heather yarn is spun after the dye process it has not had the opportunity to “bloom”. Nothing to be concerned about as the heather yarn will "bloom" nicely when you block your hat. Happy Knitting!
Fingering weight yarn is required for my hats. I love Jagger Spun 2/8 Maine Line wool, and use that in my kits. Knit Picks also makes a great fingering weight wool called Palette. Left-over bits of sock yarn do the job and make a washable hat if you can find the right solid colors.
Check out JaggerSpun to Cascade suggestions if you have Cascade finger weight yarn readily available.
I start each hat with 160 stitches and a rolled hem, using a long-tail cast-on. This cast-on takes about 3 yards of yarn or slightly less. Sometimes I haven't pulled out enough yarn for the long-tail cast on, but if I can at least cast on 140 stitches, I can increase the extra 20 before I start the corrugated ribbing and get away with that. Who doesn't love a good fudge!?
People usually find it easier to purl with the right hand rather than the left, so I suggest doing the purls right-handed (throwing) and the knits left-handed (picking). With the 160 stitch ribbing, I usually snug up my stitches so the ribbing will hug my ears at 9 stitches per inch. If you are knitting for a smaller head, you may be more successful with as few as 140 stitches, but be sure to increase to the necessary amount for the body.
I prefer the method of increasing where you lift a stitch from a stitch below - a "lifted increase". When increasing from 160 stitches to 180, *knit 8 stitches, lift a stitch from below the 8th stitch and knit it, repeat from *.
It is important to remember to weave in your floats to keep your work from puckering. I knit no more than 5 stitches without weaving in, as I learned from Ann & Eugene Bourgeois, in "Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified". www.philosopherswool.com.
Another, newer book I love is Mary Jane Mucklestone's "200 Fair Isle Motifs".
One of my test knitters likes to plan ahead, so she marks the chart on the stitches where she plans to weave in her floats. I think this is a great idea.
Stagger your lock-ins
If you stack all your woven-in floats on top of each other, this will create a "corduroy" effect on the right side of your work. For a smoother finish, avoid stacking.
Never switch hands! Always take note of which color you are carrying in which hand, so that when you need to set your work down and come back to it later, it doesn't change. It DOES make a difference in the finished work. The color carried in the left hand will stand out slightly more than the one in the right hand.
Though I personally prefer to use 16" circular needles and then double-pointed needles to close the tops, this is only a personal preference. You may choose to use 40" circulars and the "Magic Loop" method. This will eliminate the need for double pointed needles.
If you want the hat to fit differently you can use different sized needles. If stranded work tends to work up loosely in your hands, use smaller needles. Often people find that stranded work tends to get tighter, so they will want larger needles. If you or your "hipster" would like a floppier hat, try size 4 needles.
I have successfully worked a child-sized hat by casting on 140 stitches for the ribbing and then increase enough stitches to work one less repeat than originally intended. So long as this is slightly more than 140, it should make a nice hat. You may also want to work out a way to make the hat shorter to fit your child. Get out some graph paper and play around with the design a little - and send me a picture when it's finished!!
Not the Size you wanted...
If the hat comes out smaller than you'd like, you can make it a little larger by stretching while wet. Stretch it over a bowl or plate to dry. If you want the ribbing to be larger, you may need to find something like a mixing bowl that will hold the stretch while it dries. After it dries, if it stretched more than you wanted it to, you can wet it down and try again. Wool has good "memory".
For a hat that comes out larger than you had hoped, try "felting" it or shrinking it a little. The yarn provided in the kits is 100% wool and will shrink if you douse it in hot, soapy water and then rinse it in cold water. Do this repeatedly, little-by-little so that it doesn't suddenly become smaller than you wanted it to.
I just knit a hat that came out much taller than it did when I've knit it before, but I still like the ribbing size. I will carefully scrub the body in hot, soapy water, and rinse it in cold water, but will keep the ribbing as dry as I can.