A cunning hat

Ever since I first encountered it, probably about 10 years ago (i.e. roughly the time that I started knitting), Firefly has been one of my favourite TV series.  Therefore it’s no great surprise that I should fall in love with the cunning hat that Jayne Cobb wears in one episode (The Message) and want one for myself.

This hat, knitted for Jayne by his ma, is described by him as “cunning” and by Kaylee as “the sweetest hat ever”.  Wash pays it a backhanded compliment by saying “A man walks down the street in that hat, people know he’s not afraid of anything” (If you have no idea who any of those characters are but have any interest in finding out, Google is your friend).

Jayne Cobb Hat

There are quite a few patterns around for Jayne Cobb hats and at least 6 or 7 years ago I picked out one that I found on Ravelry as being a good one to try – Heather’s Firefly Hat (as you can imagine, it’s designed by somebody called Heather).

Having found the pattern, my next step was to find some suitable yarn (the pattern calls for chunky).  Somehow I never got round to that and then I had my extended break from knitting, so my cunning hat remained unmade.

On my return to knitting last month, I was after some straightforward patterns to ease me back into things and this hat seemed like a good choice.   Looking around for some yarn, I discovered one called Serenity Chunky (by Wendy).  With that name, it was just crying out to be made into a Jayne Cobb hat and it also happened to come in the right sort of colours and at a price that wouldn’t break the bank.  It’s a mostly acrylic blend, with a bit of alpaca and wool to provide some extra softness and warmth (IIRC the proportions are 7:2:1).  I wasn’t too worried about an exact colour match to Jayne’s hat (and the pattern is probaby not totally accurate in any case).  I think the orange and yellow I found are pretty close.  The red is a good bit darker but I like it.

I’ve made a few notes on my Ravelry project page for the hat so I won’t repeat them here.  (NB if you’re interested in viewing the Ravelry project pages you’ll need to sign up for a (free) account if you don’t already have one – it’s well worthwhile if you’re into knitting or related crafts).

Since I was following in the footsteps of Ma Cobb for this hat, it wasn’t necessary to be too tidy for my work.  Indeed, arguably, a hat with a few imperfections would be more authentic.  This is just as well, because there were a handful of places where things didn’t go altogether smoothly. The main one was in the decreases at the top, when I’d switched to DPNs and managed to get a bit of laddering in where it switched from one needle to the next – usually I’m pretty good at controlling the needle transitions on DPNs but I think the extreme decreasing (K2tog around for several rows) and the consequent need to keep on shifting stitches between needles to ensure the right numbers to be able to knit together didn’t help (also, I think I maybe worked a bit too fast and carelessly in my haste to finish the main body of the hat).  Also, my picking up of stitches for the earflaps wasn’t entirely neat; if I have to do a similar thing for a less homespun project I should probably look up the details of the technique but for the present purposes, the slightly untidy look is quite effective.

I did draw the line, though, when I realised that I’d got the decreases wrong on the second earflap.  Foolishly, I tried to rely on my memory (which insisted that it was just K2tog at the start of the right side rows and P2tog at the start of the wrong side ones) rather than consulting the written instructions or even looking carefully at what I’d done on the first earflap (about 3 days earlier).  It was only when I’d almost finished that I realised that the second flap was a lot longer and pointier than the first.  I checked back and discovered that the K2tog (or P2tog) should be worked at both ends of each row.  I did contemplate leaving the flaps uneven, in keeping with the rough nature of the hat, but then I decided that Ma Cobb may be an untidy knitter but she’s not that incompetent (not to mention that I didn’t really want an earflap reaching down to my shoulder), so I decided to frog back and start the decreases again.

Making the pompom was quite fun although also slightly annoying in that I’d recently bought a proper pompom maker (basically just a bunch of plastic rings) but the biggest size it can do is just over 2″ and the pattern calls for a 3.5″ pompom.  I made up a quick test pompom (using some much thinner scrap yarn) at the 2″ size, partly to remind myself of the technique and partly so I’d have an actual physical pompom to hold up to the hat for size.  I decided that it was a bit on the small side, so I put my fancy plastic pompom maker aside and went back to the traditional technique of cutting some suitably sized rings out of a bit of card.   Actually, I decided to go for 3″ rather than 3.5″ but the extra inch of diameter makes a big difference.

I’d done most of the finishing (weaving in ends, etc. and also cunningly using the yarn end at the top to fill in some of the biggest gaps left by the DPNs) as I went along, so it didn’t take long to attach the pompom and grab a quick selfie:

Self-portrait with shiny hat

All I need to do now is give the hat a gentle wash (I probably won’t worry too much about blocking it, since it’s supposed to be a bit mis-shapen) and wait for some colder weather so I can actually wear it in public (there’s a difference between not being afraid of anything and wearing inappropriately warm headgear for the season!).


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