New Favorites: The perfect leftovers hat

New Favorites: The perfect leftovers hat

Every single time I buy yarn for a sweater, I buy a little more than I think I might need plus one more skein — out of extreme caution heightened by my compact-row-gauge affliction — and every time I think, “If there’s enough left over, I’ll knit a matching hat.” I’m apparently wild about the idea of a matching hat. And yet, thus far, I have never once done that. Which means I have a lot of leftovers, which is why you’re always hearing me speculate about a leftovers blanket or even a leftovers sweater. But the fact is, I do really love the idea of using them to make myself an array of very plain but perfectly coordinated hats — hats that hopefully meet my exacting requirements for a hat, since I don’t have a super hat-friendly head and won’t wear one if it isn’t just right. Enter Whitney Hayward’s Holcomb Hat, an ultra-basic top-down hat pattern written to work for any gauge and intended size. She describes it as ideal for using up handspun (unpredictable gauge) and those mysterious no-longer-labeled stash yarns we all have rolling around, but I love this specifically for project leftovers because you’ve already established your gauge, thereby negating the need to commit any of your yarn to a swatch while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of nailing the fit.

The thing about a top-down hat is it’s the same as a top-down sweater: Trying it on as you go is all well and good, but you need to know how blocking will affect the finished fabric. As long as you remember to count, not measure, you should be good. And a fold-up brim always gives you wiggle room on the length.

I’m hereby swearing to do this when I’m done with my current sweater, leftover yardage permitting.


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14 thoughts on “New Favorites: The perfect leftovers hat

  1. I live in a much colder climate than you do but a person only needs so many hats. I use those leftovers to make hats for charity, and the need for that is unending, Last year, I donated 26 and I have made 15 so far this year, using only the left overs and knitting hats only in spare moments when I have just a short time to knit and don’t want to be counting stitches and reading a pattern; it never takes over for the main knitting projects. Its a “one for me, one for you” sort of a thing. This would be a great pattern for that sort of effort.

    • What a lovely idea! One for me and one for you. I’ve struggled with charity knitting–prayer shawls take too much time away from the big projects I want to do for myself and others. But a quick hat or pair of mittens would use up stash and share the wealth at the same time.

  2. Ha its not just me who does the extra skein sweater math….I totally have eyes on this pattern!!!

    • If you love knitting hats, but your family members rarely wear them, the American Cancer Society is always collecting handmade hats for cancer patients undergoing chemo. ;o)

      • They are really specific with the kinds of yarns they’ll accept, tho–not a lot of 100% wool, to make sure the most sensitive scalps can wear the hats.

  3. Yes! This is such a great way to use those last bits of the truly special yarn that we choose for sweaters. I am like Karen and Amy in that I over-purchase for “just in case,” but even if one has just a small amount left, this pattern offers the opportunity of a contrasting strips or brim in another yarn. Can you tell that I am excited?!!

  4. I also always purchase at least one extra skein, so now I have a couple of drawers in my yarn cupboard full of single skeins. I’m very excited about the idea of ‘one for me and one for you’. My husband is part of a team at our church who cook & serve lunch for the homeless shelter every week. He could hand out my ‘one for you’ hats there. Thanks for the great ideas!!

  5. I’m not sure that having a hat that matches a sweater is terribly useful. Here in Canada, by the time you need to wear a hat, you’re also wearing a coat, so it’s the match-up between the hat and coat that really matters. That said, top-down hats are fun (my Penelope hat in Osprey for example), and seem to go faster than cuff-up ones. Caution: make sure to get the bind off just right; there’s generally a lot less elasticity in a bound-off edge, depending on the method chosen of course.

    • This part about the bound off edge is super-duper true, as I have learned the hard way. I have a sweater I adore but, let’s just say there’s a very obvious handmade look to the hem. In fact, a friend whose mother knit her and her siblings’ sweaters all through childhood (they grew up in rural China, so it was a necessity thing) took one look at me before exclaiming, “you made that, didn’t you? All handmade hems look like that.” :(

      • To combat the lack of elasticity in a bound-off edge I grab a one-size-bigger needle or tip for the right side so that those stitches are the teensiest bit bigger. Saves a lot of cussing and ripping.

  6. After having so many friends suffering chemo, I have seen some of the most hideous knit and crochet hats ever. Years ago a very dear friend returned home in one of those. That cemented my need to make beautiful hats that make sense for chemo sufferers. Our group of knitters is now over 100, and going strong.

  7. I just realized that I don’t have enough yarn for a sweater I’m knitting (Julie Hoover’s Redford for Brooklyn Tweed) after reading your post about buying extra yarn. The pattern called for six skeins for the size I’m knitting. I have one skein left and still got a sleeve, which will use at least one whole skein plus a little more, the neckband and cuffs to knit. This is quite frustrating as I ordered the yarn over Christmas from the States and I live in Hong Kong. I’ve emailed Knit Purl in Portland where I bought the Brooklyn Tweed Loft to ask if they still have a skein from the same dye lot. What are the chances? I’ll need the extra yarn for the neckband and cuffs, so if I can’t get the same dye lot the color difference will at least be confined to those parts and not an entire swathe. This is the first time I’ve run into this problem. I’ve bought yarn for two other sweaters and now I’m worried if it’ll happen again and whether I should buy extra like you do from now on.

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