Review by: Joy Harmon
Published by: Interweave Press
This is a full length review. An overall review of the book comes first followed by short individual reviews of each hat. Thoughts and comments from anyone who has purchased, tested, or completed any of the hats are welcome.
The Knitted Hat Book contains eighteen individual patterns, plus one His & Hers pattern. Although it is not a how-to book, anyone with basic skills in knitting could use this book to learn new skills. Besides learning how to make a simple knitted hat in several shapes, you can try your hand at knitting stripes, cables, color work, and lace. There are instructions for each and there are stitch charts where needed for pattern stitches and color work. This is not an art book, but a basic hat book that you can return to again and again to learn to knit the basic hat shapes or find a quick hat project to learn a new knitting technique.
The book is available in soft cover and digital format. I received the soft cover version for review and was pleased with the quality of the cover, which is bound with a scored edge, so your book stays open to your pattern page. As usual, with an Interweave publication, the book is printed on high quality varnished paper and easy to read fonts. They know this is a book their customers will use over and over again, so it’s made to last. Of course, you want to see each project from all the angles before you choose to make it. So, they have provided lots of full color photos, showing front, back, side, and crown. With few exceptions, there is no guessing what the finished hat should look like.
Most of the hats are a variation on the traditional stocking cap, or watch cap, although they favor calling them beanies. There is a watch cap with the cuffed brim, which can be turned down over the forehead and ears for added warmth. And there are a couple of toques, barely discernible from the ubiquitous beanie. I particularly like the lace tam. For variety there are a couple of cloches and a kerchief. I think there is some confusion in the naming of the hats, but the designs themselves have a lot to recommend them. I have written brief reviews of each pattern for those interested in the details. But first, here is my overall review of the features.
Overall quality: on par for a book of this kind. It’s not flashy, but you can tell right away, it’s a work-horse kind of book. There are issues with clarity on some of the photos, which make it hard to see what the finished hat will look like. For instance, the focus may be on the face but the hat may be in soft focus, so you can’t really see what the pattern stitches look like when worked up.
Layout: The stitch guide would have been better placed on the facing page with the stitch chart. The cast on stitch count should stand out. The knitter wants to have that stitch count right there, before anything else.
Descriptions: The descriptions are inconsistent as far as nomenclature of the hats. The cast on count, is buried in the instructions. It’s not easy to quickly find it. As a knitter, I want to see: CO (or Cast On) XXXX stitches using XX needle and XYZ yarn. This is an editorial issue, but it affects user experience.
Photos: Generally good, but some were not sharp enough. Reader needs be able to see the stitch pattern. Also, some of the hats did not fit the model. Photos of each hat are not available online. Publishers are going to have to accept this as a necessity if they want online customers to click the buy button.
Recommendation: If you are looking for a hat book with a few different shapes and a variety of patterns and skill levels, this is a good buy. These are good standard patterns. If you are looking for a book with very unusual style or design, count the hats in the book that stand out for you. If there are five or more you would want to knit, then it’s a buy for you.
Rather than describing them chronologically, I’m going to deal with the hats by technique, as that is the strongest point of this book.
Squall Colorwork Beanie – This is shaped the same way as a standard stocking cap, but a little snugger. It will easily come down around the ears. This is a good beginner pattern. It is simple construction and the only new thing to learn is the color chart.
Revolve His and Hers Beanies – These are the most basic hats. They have a small a narrow band, rather than a true brim. The fullness is just slightly slouchy, like the traditional stocking cap with a pompom on top. The only adornment is a choice of three color or six color stripes above the band. These hats would be good projects for a first hat with the added stripes giving a novice a chance to try some color work without a complex pattern.
Locality Slip-Stitch Slouch – This is a cute little beanie, there is no slouch to it. So, I don’t know if the name is a mistake or the sample just came out too small. I still think it is a darling hat. It has a poofy little mushroom shape that will look adorable whether worn forward, tilted, or on the back of the head. The slip-stitch pattern should be easy enough for a beginner to learn.
Sunshine Lace Kerchief – This project will make a nice warm weather project for a beginner. And it’s nice to see a simple summer head covering that’s not a headband. Since this kerchief has a small circular crown instead of the usual triangular shape, it looks like a little cap when tied at the back. It reminds me of the little caps that Amish and Mennonite women wear. It has a simple lace pattern that repeats symmetrically over just eight rows. So, if you’ve tried a few patterned knit stitches and are ready to try lace this is a good starter project. The one challenge is that you have to change to double pointed needles (DPNs) for closing the crown. There are no instructions on using DPNs, so do watch a video or refer to a good knitting technique book before you start.
Frolic Paperbag Hat – I recommend this project for young knitters. They will enjoy wearing it with the ponytail coming out of the top. I think I might try that myself. I still like to do fun things with my hair! It is worked flat and seamed into a tube shape during finishing. Personally, I would just knit it in the round and raise a stitch to match the stripes. But for a beginner it is a good chance to learn mattress stitch, which will be so important for more advanced projects later on. The ends are whip stitched on the inside, which anyone with a little sewing experience will know how to do. The ties are made with a simple braid, so I-cord is not a necessary skill for this project. It’s easy and fun and the possibilities for changing the stripes or even adding your own embellishments are endless.
Duality Watch Cap – It is truly a watch cap. It has the traditional cuff band, which can be folded down for added warmth in foul weather. It is again a great beginner project. The main body is stockinette and the band is a simple rib. So the stitching is not complicated. The two contrasting color strands used to make the body of the hat offer an opportunity to experience two stranded knitting without the need for introducing the additional complication of a color chart.
Flapper Ridged Cloche – This cloche hat has the feel of the flapper era with its asymmetrical design and little horizontal ribbed accent. The basic stockinette and purl stitches make this an ideal first hat. The only thing new is an I-cord bow and you could do that with a lucet, if you want to make it quick and easy!
Blossom Appliqued Beanie – This is more a cloche than a beanie, but a pretty one, at that. It only uses one stitch for the body of the hat, so it’s a good beginner pattern. The simple garter stitch body, makes a perfect background for the knitted flower appliques. Some designs, it’s all about the hat; other times you want to show off the embellishment and a simple hat is best. This one is lovely and the possibilities for different floral arrangements and colors are endless. The one thing I would change is that I would crochet the flowers. There should be more patterns that use both knitting and crochet. Each has its advantages and crochet really works better for three dimensional objects.
Flora Embellished Cloche – This hat uses the same basic shape as a standard stocking cap, but the details turn it into something quite feminine and becoming. Stitches required are stockinette, ribbing, and a slip stitch.
It is for beginner to intermediate knitters, depending on whether you are up for doing all the different stitches and the embellishment. It’s more an issue of whether you have developed the patience required than any advanced techniques.
Dolce Cables and Lace Beanie – This pattern is for advanced knitters or intermediate knitters who are ready for challenge. Because it includes both cables and lace, it would be too challenging for a beginner. I suggest you should know one of the two techniques before tackling this project, which combines the two.
Sterling Lace Tam – This project is for and intermediate or advance knitter. The pattern starts in the center and increases as you knit outwards, so you will need to know how to start a circle from the center with double pointed needles (DPNs). The tam shape is quite different from a stocking cap. Instead of a long tube, it is knit as a flat circle until you reach the maximum diameter, much like a doily. The model is wearing it on the back of the head as a slouch hat. I wish one of the pictures would have shown it worn in the traditional way, so readers could see the true shape.
Crisscross Slip-stitch Beanie – This is an intermediate to advanced pattern. It is worked top down and the two color pattern starts with a star shape on the crown changing to the crisscross pattern in the body of the hat. I think the two colors and the changes in pattern would be too much for a beginner. The two color pattern could be knit in any two contrasting colors and so would be a fun project to knit in different colors.
Sea Glass Cabled Hat – The cabling and the cashmere yarn make this an intermediate pattern. It starts at the band and ends with a gathered center on top, so there are no complex decreases in the cabling as it gets smaller. Since it is a beanie, it fits just at the top of the ears and snug to the head. The gathered center at the crown could be uncomfortable because of this.
Forge Graphic Toque – This is an intermediate to advanced color work design. If you’ve done a little stranded color work and want to try something more complex, this one is really worth the effort.
Scoop Brimmed Hat – This one has curved band that gives it a 1920s look when pulled down close to the eyebrows. The lace body is a simple mesh pattern, so any intermediate knitter would be comfortable with this pattern. It’s amazing what a few simple variations in style can to do to change an ordinary hat to a WOW hat. I imagine this hat in many color variations and a quick change of the embellishment would create a whole new look!
Verdure Buttoned Cloche – This hat has a similar look to the Scoop Brimmed Hat. The slip-stitch bow pattern makes this an intermediate project.
It is made to be worn low over the eyes and the straight band with side button ornament gives it 1920s look. The one thing I don’t understand is why they made the crown slouchy. I think it spoils the look of an otherwise stylish hat.
Gem Textured Slouch – They had to pull this hat way back on the model’s head to get any kind of slouch look. This is an intermediate pattern. The body is mainly ribbed with a short bit of faux cabling. The description says it is faux cable and lace. I can’t see any lace in the photos. Of all the hats in the book, this one has the weakest descriptions and photos. I’m sure it’s a cute hat, but the text and photos have gone wrong. Such a disappointment for the designer!
Timber Cabled Toque – This is a beautifully designed hat three different cables combined to make a beautiful whole. Be sure to use a high definition yarn to show off the cables. This is a great pattern for the advanced knitter who loves cables. The band even has cables!
Thistle Lace Beret – This is an advanced pattern. It starts with a Latvian braided band, changes to a thistle lace pattern in the body, and decreases into a sunburst pattern for the crown. The end result is beautiful and worth the effort if you’re up to the challenge. I do think the pictures were weak on this one. The patterning just does not show up as well as it should. Were all the patterns for this model too small? They are all pushed to the back of the head as far as the can go, as if they were too small to sit on top of her head.