Home Front knitting

Yesterday was Mr. Beth’s birthday. (All together now: happy birthday Mr. Beth! Okay.) I struck a deal: the only knitting I would do, would be on a project that was just for him. Agreed. So the pattern I picked was one I’ve wanted to try for a long time. It’s a Red Cross pattern distributed during WWII, kind of a knit-one-for-a-sailor deal. I downloaded it from the web site for the Red Cross Museum, here.

It’s a watch cap in navy blue, but it’s the strangest pattern I’ve worked on so far. Maybe I just have to pretend it’s an EZ pattern and trust it. But still.

There are no indications about the thickness of the yarn (I picked worsted weight) or the size of the needles (I picked US size 4, I’m a loose knitter).

You start by casting on 140 stitches. Yes, for a hat.

You work back and forth in seed stitch for six rows, then in the round in single rib for 12 inches. You are supposed to be on three dpns when you work in the round, but I just couldn’t fathom dividing this many stitches on three needles for a hat, so I substituted a 24 inch circ.

The stitches are scrunched on the 24 inch circ.

I feel I may be knitting a woolen motorcycle helmet.

Here’s the best part: after knitting one foot in single rib, I am supposed to knit plain for an inch, then draw up the final stitches and sew up the seed stitch band. That’s it, all done. A fourteen-inch-tall hat two feet around. I guess it would fit any sailor as well as another. Maybe it self-felted during active duty?

I’m just starting the rib part and am wondering why I didn’t notice that almost the whole pattern alternates knit and purl, which I am especially slow at. Because it’s for Dear Husband, and the wool is good (Plymouth Galway), I will press on. But if you plan to knit this hat, or have knitted this hat, please share your experience! I keep telling myself, it was intended to be easy.

P.S. I plan to tour an alpaca farm sometime this week, to see how they are set up and get ideas for my own future farm. Whee!

Published in: on July 9, 2007 at 5:22 am  Comments (7)  

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  1. Interesting! At first I suspected that you were supposed to be using a lighter-weight yarn, but I think “4/8 sweater yarn” might be similar to Mountain Colors 4/8s wool, which is worsted weight. Still, 140 stitches is a huge hat in worsted weight, no matter how stretchy! If you wanted a 20″ hat, you’d have 7 stitches to the inch, which is sock weight. That would be my bet (sorry to say).

    Happy birthday, Mr. Beth!

  2. Happy Birthday, Mr. Beth!

    140 stitches for a hat certainly seems like…a whole lot. Maybe it did felt in all the wind and rain and hard work at sea! 🙂

    Ooh…alpaca! I’m working with some Plymouth Baby Alpaca DK right now, and I keep stopping just to pet the yarn. I may never finish the project at this rate!

  3. Happy Birthday Mr. Beth!

    I was curious so I had to check the link, then converse with my good friend Google (how did we ever live before google?). 4/8 yarn is indeed worsted weight. Then I snooped around on the sock pattern, since it says to use the red cross sock guage. I burst out laughing when it said “Guages available from Area Offices” Maybe you should give them a call? haha

    I can’t wait to see this thing in person!

  4. Oh Oh, It also said for the child’s sweater guage, which I found. 5 st. to the inch and 6 rows to the inch. That still comes out with a 2 foot hat…

  5. HahahaHA! (Oh, Happy Birthday, Mr. Beth! Sorry.) Beth, this reminded me of a site I used to visit every so often, run by Esther Bozak, that had several free WW2-vintage patterns for troops on it. So I went to find it and check if it had the same pattern… And her webpage is apparently gone, or maybe down for maintenance, as all I got was a page saying I don’t have permission to access. (It was on a university server.) So I used the Wayback Machine to find archived copies. [eg] And sure enough, there’s the same hat pattern. You want *DK* weight yarn, not worsted, and will probably have to go down to US #2’s if you’re a loose knitter; the original’s on 3’s. (Make note of the mm size, though – maybe needle sizes have changed a bit? ) Here’s the whole thing – if Esther’s still out there, I sure hope she doesn’t mind me passing this along:


    From Esther Bozak’s Troop Knitting page:


    Approx 750 yards of light weight DK yarn
    #3 (3 1/4 mm) DP needles or to obtain gauge of 6.5 sts/1″

    Cast on 140 sts. and, knitting back and forth, work as follows:
    1st row: K1, P1.
    2nd row: P1, K1.
    Repeat these two rows twice, making a total of 6 rows, Put sts on 3 needles. (Put 46 sts on the 1st two needles and 48 sts on the 3rd needle) and K1, P1 for 12″. K plain, without ribbing, for 1″.

    Break yarn, leaving about 12″, and draw thread through all sts. Gather as tightly as possible, then sew firmly together to make a pleated effect and firmly close opening. Sew first in one direction and then in the other direction before finishing off. Sew together strip at border.

    This pattern was adapted from Bernat’s Handicrafter (Vol. XIII, No. 3): WARTIME HANDKNITS. Copyright 1942, Emile Bernat & Sons Co., Jamaica Plain, MA, USA

    Esther S. Bozak


    If anyone wants to check out the other patterns, I made a TinyURL for the Wayback Machine’s results on Esther’s site:
    These links are all the same, near as I can tell – they take you to an archived copy of Esther’s page with links to various patterns. The hat was on the WWII Patterns page, second pattern from the bottom of the list, “Watchcap”.

  6. Thank you all for the birthday wishes, and especially the well-wishes for Tom-o to gain weight. (We’ll remember this fondly when Big 10 schools are talking to him about offensive line scholarships.)

  7. I want progress reports on this strange-sounding hat!

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