Pretty cunning, don’t ya think?

17 Mar

Jayne Cobb is a big gorram hero, but that doesn’t mean he don’t love his Mama.

It is a little known fact that in spite of my epic geekery (or maybe because of it?), I worked in a knitting store for four years. I even taught people how to knit things like cabled sweaters. Scary, right? Never fear, I can use my extreme knitting powers for the force of good as well. Today, we’re going to learn how to make a cunning hat from the Firefly episode “The Message”.

The first thing you need to understand is your gauge. In knitting, gauge is the concept of how many stitches wide an inch is. Find any yarn you like, cast on about 30 stitches on a suitable needle size (hint: it’s on the wrapper), and knit for a few inches. Lay that little piece of knitting flat, pull out your fabric tape measure, and count how many stitches take up one inch. That’s your gauge, and you now understand how to construct any knitted thing that you see. Okay, so it’s not quite that simple, but gauge is the building block of knitting. My head is 21 inches around at the cast on point for a hat. If I find a neat yarn I like, all I have to do is find my gauge for that yarn, then multiply that by about 20 (knitting stretches). So let’s say I’m using a yarn with a gauge of 3 stitches to an inch, and I decide to make a hat for myself with it. 3 x 20 = 60, and my hat is go time.

It’s speculated that the original cunning hat was knitted with a bulky yarn (gauge of about 2.5 to 3 stitches an inch), but the reality is once you understand gauge you can use any gorram yarn that you want to. If you find a suitable shade of orange, red, and yellow, all you need to do is find your gauge, then multiply it by the circumference of your head. Keep in mind that your orange, red, and yellow yarns should all yield about the same gauge, and you’re in business.

Pattern time!
Cast on the number of stitches determined by your gauge with the orange yarn, on a set of double pointed or circular needles. Join into the round, being careful not to twist your stitches.
Knit one row of K1 (knit one stitch) P1 (purl one stitch) ribbing.

Now here’s where things get interesting. The front of Jayne’s hat is shorter than the back of it. It has less rows of ribbing, basically. There are two ways to get this:
1) On the second K1 P1 row, knit about halfway (40ish percent of the stitches if you want to get picky), then flip the knitting inside out and go back to knitting normally. This makes you go over the stitches you just knitted, making part of your hat shorter.
2) Knit backwards.
I’d pick option 1, it’s just plain easier! Turn your hat inside out, and knit over the stitches you just knitted in K1 P1 ribbing for the rest of the row. You’ll end up with a “front” that has only one row of ribbing, while the back will have two.

On the next row knit all the way across, and continue until your hat is about 2.5″ tall. Switch to the yellow yarn and knit for a long time. No, really! The cunning hat has no shaping at the top, so knit until you have a tube of at least 8 or 9″ long, depending on how big your head is. If you’re not sure, take your tape measure and measure from the bottom of your ear to the top of your head, curling the tape measure to the crown of your head. It needs to be at least that long, and going an inch or two above that measurement will only make the next part easier.

Break the yarn off, thread it through all the stitches, and pull. You’ll probably have to do this several times to close that hole up a decent amount. Next, make a pom pom using your orange, red, and yellow yarn. The easiest way to do this is to cut out a cardboard circle, and wrap the yarn around it alternating colors, making it nice and fat. Loosely tie a string around the middle, then cut the yarn around the edge of the circle, tightening the thread in the middle as you do so. Voila, pom pom! Using a yarn needle and extra yarn, sew that puppy right onto the top of your cunning hat, hiding the hole at the top. It’s special, just like Jayne’s Mom made it!

For the earflaps you have two options. Option 1 is to knit the earflaps and sew them onto the bottom. Option 2 is to pick up stitches along the bottom for the earflaps. Pick whichever you’re comfortable with!
Cast on separately or pick up about 25% of your original cast on number of stitches, as determined by your gauge, in the color red. Placement of the ear flaps is on other side of the “front” we made earlier with a short row of ribbing. Knit for about 4 or 5 inches, then start decreasing every row by knitting 1, knit 2 together, knit to within 3 stitches of the end of the row, knit 2 together, knit 1. Continue doing this until you have only 3 to 5 stitches left. Break the yarn, and thread it through the remaining stitches. Do not weave the ends in! For your hat to be truly cunning, leave the ends a few inches long and visible.

Wear it with style!


3 Responses to “Pretty cunning, don’t ya think?”

  1. Anna March 17, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    My dear, I do believe I detect the spirit of Elizabeth Zimmerman in your post. Also, this is awesome 😀

    • Claire March 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

      My mom taught me how to knit when I was 7 years old, and I grew up with the Zimmerman books! Learn your GAUGE, knit whatever you want! 😉

  2. falconesse March 18, 2011 at 9:39 am #


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