It has been weather not just to wear summer dresses and floaty shirts but also serious sun-hat weather. And just in time for these hot July weeks I have made myself one. Crochet is peculiarly suited to making hats because of the easy way it works up in the round and the idea of making a crochet sun-hat has been in my head for a while. It started in Liberty's when I was in London a few months ago. Taking a meandering detour through Liberty's ground floor, - as all rightly-arranged visits to London do! - I came across this:
A fabulous broad-brimmed hooky sun-hat! I wasn't convinced about the colours - not the most inspiring choice, I felt - the black, yellow, white and salmon pink together - but the design was perfect and when I tried it on, (as I just had to), it looked wonderful. The price however was not so wonderful - an eye-watering £210! Sadly, trying it on for a few moments was all that was possible. Or was it?! Close examination revealed it had been made in US double / UK treble crochet in a way that looked relatively simple to replicate.
Perhaps I could create a version of this Audrey Hepburn-style accessory myself, without breaking the bank?
I scoured around for a suitable pattern but couldn't find quite what would replicate the shape of what I'd seen in Liberty's, with the beautiful wide brim and I felt hesitant about plunging in with a pattern that wasn't quite right. In the meantime I played around with possible colour palettes and chose one or two additions to my Cascade Ultra Pima collection. I wanted a stripy hat but in subtle wearable colours, nothing too brash or startling. The colours of summer grass and newly-cut for hay, the bleached blues of early morning summer skies, the pale greeny-yellow of meadowsweet growing by the stream and the silvery-green of olive leaves under a Mediterranean sun, green water-mint, pale duck egg and soft sea-foam.
Then the July edition of Simply Crochet arrived and on the cover was the pattern I'd been searching for - a perfect wide-brimmed sun-hat, worked in my favourite US single / UK double crochet.
I tweaked the pattern a little, using a 4mm hook throughout and making the crown slightly deeper than the pattern specified - I hate sun-hats you have to hang on to the whole time to prevent them blowing away in a sudden gust of wind and I wanted this to fit snugly enough to put on and forget about. This wasn't to be a fancy hat to wear to a garden party, or a wedding, but a more functional item, to wear when out and about in the heat of a scorching day. A hat that would keep the sun off and leave my hands free to pick cherries or take photographs or eat an ice cream. In addition to making the crown slightly deeper, I also added a row or two to the brim because I felt like it (less is not always more!) and I didn't bother with the picot edging of the original pattern as I preferred a clean, plain edge.
I worked two rows of each colour and repeated the colour sequence three or four times over the course of the hat, making good use in the process, of my new yarn bowl which was a birthday present from my parents. This is a fabulous bit of kit for any hookaholic - so simple but so effective - no more runaway balls of yarn. Mine is a ceramic one from Muddy Heart Pottery on Etsy but you can get them in wood as well.
To finish I used a piece of brim wire, over which I crocheted the last two rows so that the brim stretches out nicely and isn't all floppy.
It's worked just as I hoped and I love it!
The subtle colours are a bit different from my usual brighter ones but make the hat so wearable and the soft light they cast on my face underneath is kind in tone. (I'm clearly getting to an age when I notice these things!)
It didn't take long to hook up, once I'd got started so if you like the idea of making one for yourself you have a fair chance of completing it while we still have the weather for it! The pattern recommends Stylecraft Classique cotton but any DK weight cotton yarn would work. For a good fit I recommend keeping to the 4mm hook throughout and repeatedly checking so that you get a snug fit on the crown. The brim wire you can get from MacCulloch and Wallis in London (they do mail order, so you don't have to trek to Soho!) - it's very cheap and really makes a difference to how the hat sits. Buy enough to go round the circumference of the finished hat twice so that you can insert it in both of the final rows.
You could obviously make the hat in just one colour or follow the pattern's suggestion of making a plain crown and using stripes on the brim. You can go bright or subtle or anywhere in between. You can keep it unadorned or you could easily pretty it up for more flamboyant use with a bouquet of hooky flowers. The possibilities are myriad and sunny!
I've worn it a lot here this last week, out and about in the English countryside with my American blogging friend, Liz of Carolina Knits who has been staying with me after a Charles Dickens seminar week in Oxford. So it's been given a whirl among the white-flowered borders of Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey fame, in the garden of Jane Austen's house in Chawton (which, for those of you keen on dyeing, has an interesting section of dye plants that would have been familiar to Jane and her family), along the wild-flower-edged, grassy tracks and footpaths, near where I live and on the open, sunny downs of White Horse Hill near Uffington.
And I am happy to report that it does exactly what it's supposed to do i.e. it stays securely on my head (until H wants to take photographs that is!) without being too hot or tight and it keeps, what has been a beautifully scorching sun off my face and the back of my neck.
It's been the perfect accompaniment to a hugely happy week that has seen the translation of a virtual blogging connection into a new and tangible reality.
It's also a perfect hat to take on holiday - the crown flops flat when not in wear and so the hat packs easily in a suitcase, which is handy because that is exactly what I am going to do with it!