The project

The finished woolly bobble hat for St. Mungo’s

I decided to knit this woolly bobble hat after seeing the link to St. Mungo’s posted by @StitchLondon on Twitter. They need people to buy bright orange yarn and knit a woolly bobble hat using a free downloadable pattern. The only condition of downloading the pattern, for DK, Aran and Chunky yarn is that you knit at least one hat and send it to St. Mungo’s in time for their Woolly Hat Day event on 26th October. There are even Woolly Hat Day Kits available at £4.60 from Woolly Madly Deeply but these were out of stock when I clicked on the link. The idea is that St. Mungos collects 5,678 orange bobble hats to launch this year’s Woolly Hat Day campaign and to be sold on Woolly Hat Day to raise funds. The 5,678 hats will represent the number of people who slept rough on the streets of London last year – a 43% increase on 2010/2011 figures.*

“Well,” I thought, “How hard can it be? And I want to learn to use circular needles anyhoo.” So I ordered the yarn and needles and looked up circular knitting on YouTube. There are lots of videos there and they all tell you more or less the same thing but there is no substitute for actually doing the knitting. The first few rows are the hardest, and you need to concentrate. In my case I had a sneezy dog, or a tangled skein, or supper boiling over or a child to pick up, so I had about five false starts. I chose the Debbie Bliss Paloma yarn because it was the only pure wool chunky yarn I could find in orange. It’s burnt orange, actually, and more wearable than bright orange. I think the colour is glorious. Alpaca is supplanting cashmere in my affections. It is light, warm and durable and just as soft.

What have I learnt from this knit?

  • I have learnt to use circular needles: the first few rows need complete concentration in order not to get in a terrible tangle; and the last few rows of shaping are stiff and harder to knit than the main body of the hat.
  • That skeins of wool should be rolled into balls, in the manner of ladies in television adaptations of Jane Austen, before use. Otherwise they end up in an unruly mess. I could make an analogy between being a child and growing up into a fully-formed woolly hat, but I shan’t.
  • That chunky and super-chunky might, on occasion, be interchangeable. My woolly hat will be a bit larger than the ones in the pattern.
  • That it’s really far too easy to M1 st accidentally at the end of each round using this yarn, which can completely muck up the pattern if one is not careful. This caused a little confusion in the shaping at the end. It was late in the evening. Enough said.
  • How to make a woolly ball. My first attempt of this, in the quest to make an Easter chick at 6 years old, failed because I couldn’t for the life of me see exactly how wrapping yellow acrylic yarn around a circle of card could make an Easter chick. I’m particularly proud of this woolly ball and intend to use my newly-acquired ball skills to make many bobble hats in the future.

The bobble!

The materials

Debbie Bliss Paloma 60% Alpaca 40% Merino Wool 2x 50g balls at £6.95 per ball from Deramores. Shade: Burnt Orange 017

Needle: KnitPro Symfonie Wood fixed circular needle 80cm 6.00mm

* Figures from St. Mungo’s charity