Keeping it Simple – the ‘Perfect Beanie’ – a Design Journey!

Hot off my hooks is a new beanie hat design made using Tunisian crochet. My ‘Perfect Beanie’ hat!

If you want the pattern straight away so you can get going to make your own then here are the links… enjoy! 🙂

Ravelry: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/perfect-beanie-hat

Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/890954760/perfect-beanie

But I’ve also turned this into an extra long blog post to share with you all my design journey! Because even a beanie hat which can be the simplest of designs actually needs a lot of thought and planning…

So enjoy reading about it and also enjoy some photos taken on a very windy day on the south coast! Not the best conditions for taking photos but the hats stayed on! 🙂 🙂

Keeping it Simple – a Design Journey!

‘Keeping it simple’ is a lesson learned over the years as a crochet designer. With a new design in mind it is often tempting to push those design boundaries, and whilst there’s certainly a place for elaborate and complicated crochet designs, sometimes keeping it simple can lead to the best outcome. But keeping it simple doesn’t necessarily mean keeping it easy and even the simplest of crochet designs has a design process with many steps to consider before the perfect outcome is achieved.

Let’s take the humble beanie… those comfy hats that always look so perfect on the models with that signature slouch and relaxed laid-back style. The perfect beanie certainly benefits from keeping it simple, but as you’ll see there’s quite a design journey involved…

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, there’s the yarn. Matching a yarn type, thickness and feel to the right project is a make or break moment. Our perfect beanie needs yarn that’s comfortable to wear, gives warmth with a little stretch and of course is washable too. Sometimes a whole design idea will start with a particular yarn. That’s especially so when we think of hand dyed yarns by independent yarn dyers. These gorgeous skeins are a familiar sight at yarn shows. The colour inspiration used and then the names given to a particular colourway can tell a story in itself.

Independent yarn dyer Lil from ‘Country Mouse Yarns’ draws inspiration from nature as well as offering themed monthly yarn clubs. Names such as Magpie, Once upon a Time and Durdle Door. When we crochet an item, the memories, feelings and places we’re at are often woven into that crochet as it grows, but these hand dyed yarns have already started telling a story before they even reach our crochet hooks! They are expensive yarns and often only one skein is purchased so designing a one skein project is ideal… just perfect for our beanie. So the perfect choice for our beanie is a 100g skein of 4 ply hand dyed merino wool with nylon mix. It’s warm, not too chunky (so that slouchy shape can be created), washable and in beautiful colours that conjure up that cosy outdoor walk feeling…

Then which stitch pattern to use? Our beanie needs to be warm so whilst some crochet fabrics can often have lots of openness to it (think of the granny square and all those little holes) we need to choose a stitch patten that is closed, offering a practical solution. On this occasion Tunisian crochet was considered. Tunisian crochet is known for its thicker, denser fabric, just perfect for creating a warm and cosy hat. Tunisian crochet also has a natural tendency to curl which isn’t always helpful and ‘taming the curl’ is often mentioned. But it’s desirable for the perfect beanie hat to have a little curl at the base and as a designer, using the natural properties of a particular stitch pattern to our advantage is always a good idea. So Tunisian crochet with it’s tendency to curl will be a great choice for our beanie!

The smaller Tunisian stitches are also perfect for crocheting with hand dyed yarn, gradually building up the colours and avoiding clumps of colour that can sometimes be seen if crocheting taller traditional stitches. Tunisian knit stitch seemed a lovely option but this stitch produces a very dense fabric with very little give so perhaps it is not the best choice for a beanie hat which needs to stretch and ease over our heads. Maybe an extended Tunisian knit stitch could be used to give more stretch? But then the closeness of the fabric is lost a little. So, in line with keeping it simple, a Tunisian Simple Stitch was chosen for our perfect beanie.

A designer should always consider the best methods for constructing an item and choosing the least amount of seams is always desirable. If a seam can be avoided, then let’s avoid it! If it can be worked in the round then go for it. But Tunisian Simple Stitch needs a double ended hook and two ends of yarn to be worked in the round. And with our beautiful skeins of yarn already wound into a ball, working in the round doesn’t seem to be the best option on this occasion. So a design based on simple rows with just one back seam is created.

Which hook size? Another very important factor to consider in crochet design. Use a larger hook for looser drapey stiches (think shawls or dresses) or a smaller hook for tighter more closed fabrics (think baskets and amigurumi). Tunisian crochet is known for its dense and thick fabric and it’s often recommended to go up two hook sizes to what you would usually use for traditional crochet. But we want to use the thicker fabric to our advantage so for our perfect beanie we’re only going to go up one hook size and use a 4.5mm with the 4 ply yarn.

And finally, after all the considerations above we can start to crochet! But first we need to start with a swatch to see how the yarn works up in the chosen stitch pattern and with the chosen hook size. How does the resulting crochet fabric feel? What is the tension like? Are we happy with the results? If we are then we can now measure the amount of stitches and rows we have within a 10cm x 10cm space which makes calculating the amount of stitches we need and our starting chain a lot easier. It also means we can share our tension as part of the crochet pattern so that people following will be able to match the designer’s tension and achieve the same results. Sometimes, using an existing well-fitting hat as an example to base our design on is a good idea. A shop bought knitted hat that’s in a shape you already love and basing your design on that can be helpful.

Now there’s the maths! As crocheter’s we are accustomed to counting and whilst maths might not be our first love or the reason any of us choose to crochet, it is without doubt an essential aspect of crochet design. And for our perfect beanie we need to work out the numbers for our decrease rows so that the hat tapers in gradually at the top. We need to ensure that the stitches are decreased evenly and in a way that as the hat grows, we create and achieve that slouchy look. And what about sizing? To grade a pattern so that it can be made in various sizes requires more mathematical skills. But it wouldn’t be a perfect beanie hat if it wasn’t available to make in different sizes to cater for different heads.

The process of actually crocheting our hat and seeing the Tunisian Simple stitches grow beautifully and getting the results we’re happy with is a complete joy within the design journey. After all the thought processes and decision making that can so often be overlooked or forgotten about, all those elements coming together to create a design we’re proud of is what it is all about. 

So as you can see, keeping it simple helped to create our perfect beanie hat but keeping it simple still required a whole lot of thought and planning in our design journey!

Happy Crocheting Everyone… 🙂

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