Wednesday, August 3, 2011

LOOM KNITTED CAPS FOR KIDS

What with the current heat wave, cold weather seems months away. Even so, it’s the right time to begin some of your knitting projects for fall and winter. And what's more comforting to a young child (or to just about anyone) in cold weather than a tube cap pulled down over the ears. This tube hat, knitted on a round loom, is an easy project that you’ll enjoy. It has at least two convincing advantages for the knitter. First, it can be a use for your leftover yarn - using just a part of a skein of chunky yarn or twice that amount for a double strand knit of worsted-weight yarn. Second, it can be completed in 5-7 hours. (I loom knitted my very first tube cap in just two afternoons.)

How my cap knitting adventure began
I absolutely loved the yarn that I’d chosen for my granddaughters’ sweaters - a soft, medium weight burgundy, beige and brown tweed for the five-year old and the same yarn in a blue, beige and brown tweed for the two-year old. I'd started to knit the sweater for the younger girl and was finishing up the back part when I decided that I really didn’t like the pattern. It was an easy knit but it looked too simple and shapeless. I felt stymied on the project and stopped working on it – that phase lasted for two months. Of course, I worked on a few other needlework projects in the meantime. (See my post about unraveling sweaters and the scarves I made for an artist friend.) Some weeks later I found I needed an incentive to pick up where I left off on the sweaters. My newly resolved goal was to get the entire project finished before cooler weather sets in.

While I was deciding on another sweater pattern, I thought about knitting caps for the girls using the same yarn. I was sure that I’d be pleased to see these wonderful yarns as tube caps, and that that would inspire me to finish the sweaters in the shortest possible time. Having loomed some simple scarves on a long, rectangular loom, I was ready to take up cap knitting on a circular loom. (Of course, I took the precaution to use another type of yarn when I tried loom knitting my very first cap – just, in case I had a miserable flop at it. More on this later….)

I had another reason for wanting to learn how to make these caps. Last year, I thought about joining a group of women at the local public library that knit warm clothes for needy children. From September to May, they meet one evening a week in the library and chat while they make little caps and sweaters, and that seemed in some ways to be an ideal charity for me. But, as the months went by, I couldn’t make up my mind whether or not to join them. I had two - maybe not so good - reasons for not committing to the group. First of all, I’m a slow knitter in comparison with the needlecraft wizards that I'd spotted there, and I feared that I might take weeks to finish even the first project. Second, I knew that I didn’t have a budget to buy more yarn. I'm already spending quite enough – some months too much - on my personal knitting projects. But, as it turns out, these caps can be knitted in just a few hours and made from leftover yarn – of which I usually have plenty. So, it turns out that tube caps are just the right project for both my skill level and my pocketbook. Now, when September rolls around again, I plan to join with other knitters and make tube caps for disadvantaged kids.

A pattern for a child’s tube cap
First of all, I want to make clear that this is a basic pattern and shouldn’t be presented as my own design. The only part that’s somewhat "original” was the decoration that I added to the cap. On the other hand, hopefully, my guide for making the cap will be helpful to you. So, keep on reading and decide if you want to follow my "pattern". You can also do what I did - search for some Internet posts that feature hat knitting patterns and watch youtube.com tutorials on the subject.

Hey, the one I made on the first try turned out nicely. My only problem was that I used the blue loom (30 pegs) and the resulting cap was small - more like a fit for an infant than for a two-year old. Happily for all of us, my son and daughter-in-law are expecting their third child this December. So, the little cap will be a first gift for the new baby along with a knitted blanket.  

Materials for the cap
- A round knitting loom large enough to make a hat for a child’s head – may require the orange loom (36 pegs)
- A fair-sized ball of bulky yarn - about a skein - or two-strands of a worsted weight yarn wound together to form a single ball - about 2 skeins. (The yarn for what turned out to be an infant’s hat was less than a skein of a chunky wool/polyester blend in a beige color, leftover from scarf making.)
- Loom knitting pick
- A few yards of each of two bright colors to make the decorative stitches. (My colors were bright pink and medium blue).
- Tapestry needle

Cap making instructions
 - Make a loose knot and fasten the yarn around the single peg that you see sticking out on the side of the loom. Leave a short yarn tail that will be pulled through to the back after the first few rows of knitting. What’s above the outside peg is the first peg to be wrapped. Make sure to wrap the pegs somewhat loosely. This will make the lift-off process a lot easier. Working clockwise, twist the yarn around each peg in turn (around to the front of the peg and back behind again) until you come back to peg 1.
- Next do another full round. Secure the yarn that's next to be used by wrapping it around the outside peg. (I do this by clipping it to the peg with a large plastic clothespin.)
- Then , take the first row (bottom stitches) off the pegs. Start lifting off with the first stitch. Slide the pick in the groove of the peg under the bottom loop (2 loops with 2-stranded yarn) and lift them up over the top loop (or 2 loops) and off the peg. Continue the lift-off all around the loom. Each round of wrapping and lifting off is one row.
-When you have wrapped and lifted off about 10 – 12 rows (4 to 5 inches), you are ready to fasten the brim to the hat.
- Take hold of the very first knitted row - now hanging down on the inside of the loom. Lift the loops of this row over the corresponding pegs. Then with the pick, lift the bottom loops over the top loops. This is the brim of the hat.
- Continue wrapping and lifting for 18 to 20 more rows beyond the brim.
- To finish the hat, you need to decrease the number of loops. If you don’t do this, you’ll have a bulky bulge at the top of the hat. Start the decrease by dividing the loom into five or six sets of equal number pegs. Mark the beginning of each set with a twist of a contrasting yarn. Lift off the loops from the middle peg of each set and place them on the one just before (counterclockwise direction). Then wrap another full round, making sure to skip the pegs without yarn. Do this decreasing process one or two times more.
- With only one row on the pegs, measure out a 36- inch piece of yarn and cut it off the ball. Thread the yarn piece onto the tapestry needle, using a double thickness. Lift all the yarn loops off beginning with peg #1 and pass the piece of yarn through each loop. When all the loops are joined together, turn the hat inside out and push the leftover yarn through to the inside. Pull the yarn tight and make about four stitches to close the top of the hat. Make a knot in the yarn and trim the ends to about a half-inch.
- Weave the piece of yarn left from the starting row to the inside brim of the hat.
- Turn the hat right side out and embroider a decorative row with one of the colors. Use a double strand of yarn threaded on the tapestry needle. Knot the strands to the inside of the hat. Next bring the decorative yarn forward following every other knitted stitch along the first row above the brim. Then take the other color yarn and make another row of stitches just above the first row, also brought forward on top of every other stitch.
- The side (or sides) of a young girl’s cap could also include an embroidered flower or a soccer ball. The tube cap for a boy could be decorated with a baseball glove and bat or a sailboat. I decided against the extra decoration for the infant’s hat because baby clothes have to be washed frequently and larger decorations are easily damaged.

If you are just learning to knit on a round loom (like I was), this pattern is a good place to start. So, get started now knitting tube caps for the child or children you care about. You'll be bursting with pride when you see your little darling wearing this cap and telling everyone who'll listen: "Grandma (Auntie, Mommy, etc.) made me this to keep my ears warm."

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