Finished Projects · knitting

Classic Fair Isle Hat

a beginner-friendly fair isle hat for my brother-in-law, plus a deep-dive into some knitting data I collected

Hello! Welcome back to the blog. Today I want to share about a hat I made for my brother-in-law for Christmas. This hat is incredibly beginner-friendly and knits up quick. At the end of this post, I decided to showcase some data I collected in my Christmas hat knitting frenzy! Hope you enjoy it as I much as I do!

Hat Details

I purchased this pattern on Ravelry. For my hat, I used US size 4 needles for the ribbed brim, however the pattern calls for US size 5 needles for the brim. The pattern instructs to cast on 100 stitches. While this amount of stitches worked for the size I needed, I would highly suggest casting on 20 more stitches (one more pattern repeat) to make a slightly wider hat. (More on cast-on stitch amounts at the end of this post!)

I love seeing the “wrong side” of fair isle knitting…

The pattern and chart were easy to read and rewarding to follow! I appreciated that some rows were, in my opinion, not simple to memorize; this taught me the valuable skill of trusting the process. For example, let’s say my next row is two stitches grey, one stitch blue. I will repeat this to myself in my head as I work. However, for some rows in this chart — specifically rows 9 and 19 — there was not an easy-to-memorize cadence I could repeat to myself as I knit the row. While initially frustrating, I appreciated the fact that (especially for a beginner-friendly project) it teaches the knitter to trust the chart and trust the process even if it does not make sense in the row.

For yarn, I used Cascade 220 (my favorite!) in Atlantic and Grey. If you recall, these are two of the same three colors I used for the blue Northdale Hat. This yarn is 100% wool and make such a quality knitted product. I absolutely love working with this yarn.

Cascade 220 in Grey, Smoke Blue, and Atlantic

I wet blocked this hat to lock in the colorwork before gifting to my brother-in-law for Christmas. It fits him perfectly! This is an excellent hat to whip up for a gift, and I found it to be an especially stylish and classic hat for the guys in your life. Picking two contrasting colors is easy enough and this hat practically knits itself. I hope you give this hat a try!

Knitting and Data

Through knitting many hats for Christmas, I gathered some data about needle size to stitch ratios. I was curious about where the sweet spot is for the perfect, one-size-fits-most, flexible hat pattern. I was keeping track of these data points in anticipation of designing my own hat as a gift for my other brother-in-law. I will be sharing the pattern I created for that hat soon, but I thought, in the meantime, I would walk you through the number crunching I did in preparation for making a fair isle hat without a pattern.

I used seven hats as my sample size for this mission. These hats are:

For my data collection process, I recorded the cast on stitch amount, cast on needle size, body stitch amount, and body needle size. Below are the tables with my data.

Cast On Stitches and Needle Size

Body Stitches and Needle Size

Using this data, I created two graphs! In both graphs, each column represents the seven different hats. Each hat has its own color across both graphs. (For example, Hat 1 is represented by a black bar in both graphs.) The first graph shows cast on stitches relative to needle size, and the second graph shows hat body stitches relative to needle size.

Then, I took the average across needle sizes for each category (cast on and body stitches) and found these conclusions:

For Cast On stitches, the average cast on stitch amount for size 4 needles is 109.6 stitches and 101 stitches for size 6 needles. Below this information is represented in both a chart and a graph. (It is important to note I only have two data points to factor in for the size 6 average, as well as my overall small sample size.)

For hat body stitches, here are the data represented in a chart and a graph. The average stitch amounts came out to: 132 stitches for size 4 (this was also my only data for size 4), 112 for size 6, and 90 for size 8 (the only data point for size 8). Again, it is important to note my small sample size (seven hats) and the outliers which are averages of themselves (Size 4, 132 and Size 8, 90).

Some conclusions that I drew from this research are that, as I suspected, both cast on and hat body stitch amount are negatively correlated with needle size. In other words, as hat needle size increases, cast on and hat body stitch amounts decrease. If I were to knit a hat based solely on my data, I would cast on 109.6 (so, 110) stitches with a size US 4 needle and then switch to a US 6 and increase just two stitches (112 total) for the hat body. I will need to collect more data before I make that hat! Back to the drawing board…

If you enjoyed this data collection and analysis, let me know! I really enjoyed doing this and thought it would be fun to look at knitting through a different lens. I think, as I continue to knit more hats, I will continue to record more data, and see how this changes my averages.

Thanks for reading today! Until we talk next, happy data collecting!


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