Ceallach mac Donal - His Musings

Felted Monmouth Hat (With Variations)

by Lucy Isbell (MKA Miranda Sterling)

This hat can felt up in surprisingly different ways, depending on a few simple changes. This one was made for a head that is 24" around, so it's on the large side. The owner wanted the hat to just touch the top of his ears when the brim was folded up, and he wanted the brim to be 1.5" tall. From ear to ear across the top of his head, I measured 12". I will offer variations for smaller sizes below.

I used about 4 ounces of Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool, but you can use any (non super-wash) wool worsted. My test swatch was 25 stitches by 25 rows on size 8 needles. Unfelted, this swatch was 5.25" wide by 4.5" high. Felted very firmly, it was 4.125" wide by 2.75" tall. I strongly encourage you to make your own test swatch!!!

On a long size 8 circular, or your favorite set of double points, cast on 150 stitches. If you want a smaller circumference hat, use fewer stitches, but always keep your count a multiple of 6. This is because you will be decreasing in 6 equal segments at the top.

The hat I made has no loop, which you will find in many Monmouth patterns. If you want a loop, leave a long tail at the end of your cast on, and when you knit your first round, you can crochet this loop, and then use the very end of your tail to knit into the first couple of stitches to anchor it. Be sure to remember to catch both these doubled stitches as one on your next row so your stitch count stays correct.

Knit evenly for 16 rows (this is 1.5" once the hat is felted.) At this point, you can do a row or two of purl to help the material fold easily, although this will probably disappear when felted. Then knit 16 more rows.

VARIATION: At this point, you can simply continue knitting until you're ready to decrease...or...fold your cast-on edge under, and knit through it all the way around. This is very awkward, and a great hassle to do, and it will absolutely NOT make a Monmouth hat if you do it!! Instead, when you felt it and then block it, it will cause the brim to flare out more like a flat-brimmed derby. Be careful to get your edge stitches accurately aligned so your brim will not twist.

If you are making the flat-brimmed cap, you may wish to knit more rows before beginning to decrease so that the crown will be a little taller. Take your own measurements and plan accordingly. For the Monmouth, knit 30 more rows (total of 62 from cast-on, not counting any purl rows you made to turn.) On your last row, place markers (PM) as follows:

Knit 12, PM, knit 25 (or, if you used fewer than 150 stitches, divide your total by 6), PM, knit 25, PM, repeat around. Finish up the last knit stitches on the row. If you have markers of different colours, you may wish to make your first marker different from the others so you can easily see when you're beginning a row.

Decrease Row 1: Knit to within three stitches of your first marker, knit 2 through back loops (k2tog tbl), knit 1, slip marker, knit 1, knit 2 together (k2tog), repeat.

Decrease Row 2: Knit around.

Repeat these rows until you can't anymore. For the next row, make your decreases on the last two stitches next to the marker, and then the first two stitches right next to the marker. Knit the next row. (18 stitches)

Next row, knit together the stitches separated by markers (remove these.) If you wish, keep the back and forth pattern of alternating k2tbl, and k2. Knit next row. (12 stitches)

If a button is desired on the top, knit another row or two here. I did not do this and cannot speak for the results. This instruction is an educated guess only.

Next row, alternate k2tbl, and k2 around. 6 stitches. Break yarn leaving a 10" tail, and knit through the remaining 6 stitches, pulling the tail all the way through each time. Tie off and pull yarn inside hat, knotting it and clipping it.

TO FELT: Place hat in lingerie or other mesh bag. Set your washing machine on hot, and add some old jeans or towels to the load. (Note: if you use towels, be sure to use ones that aren't too wildly different in colour from your yarn because they will shed and then you will not be able to pick the fluff out of your felt because it will be incorporated therein. This has happened to me.)

If the water in your machine does not get hot enough, consider adding extra hot water from the stove. Please be extremely careful in doing this as boiling water burns are most unpleasant. This has also happened to me.)

Add some laundry soap, and allow the machine to agitate as long as it will. Pay attention to avoid letting the water drain, no sense wasting water. You can pull the bag out every once in a while to see how the felting is proceeding. If you can still see stitches, it's not done felting. Lion Brand wool seems to need a very long felting period, at least 15 minutes, so I just keep resetting the machine to the wash cycle.

Some felting instructions advise not letting the spin cycle occur, warning that the felt might be permanently creased. This has never happened to me, though it might be a problem on a larger article. Instead, the spin cycle has always been useful to reduce the drying time considerably. Whether you choose to spin or not, be sure the hat gets rinsed well, all the soap out.

Once your cap is felted and still damp, it's time to block it to your desired shape. You can pull and stretch it without fear. Try it on and see how much it needs to change to achieve perfection. The top is probably not as smooth as you would like.

You can use your fist pushed into the hat and held down against a counter, while pulling up on the brim. You can also massage it across the rounded side of a bowl or pitcher or a ball. You don't even have to tug it, just polish the rounded surface with the inside of the cap.

Be sure the fold is where you want it, and press it firmly. Let the cap dry. Wear in good health!