Thursday, May 12, 2011

My hat is too loose...

"My hat is too big!  How can I tighten it?" is a question frequently asked on community knitting boards.  Luckily, there are two good options, but today's post starts with two options which do NOT work, yet which are frequently suggested.

1)  Blocking the hat smaller  The idea behind this advice is that if you wet the hat and then block it smaller, the hat will stay that way.  It is true that thoroughly wetting a too-loose hat, then firmly yanking it lengthwise will make it both longer and narrower.  It is also true that pushing the fabric together and drying it in that scrunched-up position will make the hat look smaller. Yet, sadly, although blocking can do many magical things (such as make your knitting look more professional by evening out the stitches, or opening up lace) it cannot make things smaller.  Logic will tell you that any "smallerizing" you were able to achieve by blocking will be undone as soon as you put the hat on and wear it.    Plus, blocking really works best on wool, anyway, so if your hat is made of anything else, fuggedaboudit, as they say in New York.

2) Felting the hat smaller The idea here is to shrink the hat by felting it smaller.  It is indisputably true that felting will shrink woolens. However, imho, this advice is ill-advised.  Felting is a wild and uncontrolled process which goes very very fast when it finally happens, so getting the hat to shrink "just so" would be a matter of great luck.  A too-small, too-short, too-stiff object--a sort of a felt bowl--is just as likely to be the result of the experiment.  It is true that there are commercially felted hats, and even commercially-made felted jackets, but fitted felted garments are cut out of sheets of felted knitting and then sewn together. Home-made felted clogs are a popular exception, as are felted mittens, but clogs and mittens are meant to fit loosely--it is not necessary to have them sit "just so" around one's feet or hands, as a hat must sit around one's brow.

The one almost-exception to all this occurs with superwash wool. Of course, the whole POINT of superwash wool is that it does NOT felt, yet many knitters may not realize that putting this sort of yarn into a dryer helps it regain its bounce and size--a superwash hat laid out to dry will be much bigger than one machine-dried.  So, while throwing a superwash hat into the dryer is not felting per se, it is "shrinking" through using a clothes drier--an almost exception to the don't-felt concept.

Now we come to two ideas which DO work.

1. Lining the hat  This idea is 100% guaranteed to work 100% of the time.  The idea is to make a  lining--either a full lining or a headband style lining, which does fit your head exactly as you would like.  An excellent fabric to use for this lining is polar fleece. Polar fleece is stretchy, non-itchy, comes in various weights, and best of all, it does not fray (and so, does not need to be hemmed). The lining is then sewn inside the too-large hat, easing the excess fabric of the hat to the lining, one little stitch at a time.  Because the lining was made to fit your head exactly, the resulting hat must also fit your head exactly.  There are more complete details about the process in these two posts:
Lining a hat, headband style
Lining a hat, fully-lined style

2. Elastic Sometimes, lining a hat will not work, either because of its style--a slouch-hat, for example, with no real "band" around the forehead, or because a sewn in band is not a good fit for the style of the hat--a lacy cap, for example.  For such hats, you may wish to consider thread elastic, worked into the edge for several rows or rounds.  The how-to can be found in this post on tightening up socks--scroll down a bit and you will find thread elastic discussed.

Good knitting!

This post the fourth in a series on garment correction.  The other posts in this series are:
Part 1: My sweater is too wide
Part 2: My sweater is too long, my sweater is too short
Part 3:My sweater is too tight under the arms/at the bust/chest--the magic of gussets
Part 5: My sweater slips off my shoulders
Part 6 (still to come): My sweater is too small around my middle

You have been reading TECHknitting blog on "my hat is too big!"


seeherknit said...

I once made a felted adult hat by throwing it in the washing machine, but it took three separate tries. First I made a felted bowl, and then I made a felted baby hat. I'm all about the felted bag, but I doubt you will catch me trying to felt a fitted garment again.

adriene said...

This has never happened to me because my hats usually come out too small! It's still fantastic info for reference. Thanks!

Andy said...

I made a really cool entrelac hat and it was too big. So I picked up the stitches around the bottom and knit another, smaller hat in a coordinating yarn as a liner. The hat fits like a dream and is the Warmest Hat Ever.

Pinneguri said...

Thank you for a wonderful blog and helpful advices. I come back to your blog time and time again.

I don't know if this is any helpful at all for anyone, but last year I knitted a stranded hat too big and as the yarn was superwash (and you had not written this post ;p) I cut and sew it instead. It worked. You can see the pictures here (the text is in Norwegian).

TECHknitter said...

If you left a comment earlier, Blogger ate it (Blogger was down for hours and hours, 5-12 to 5-13. So, if you need an answer to a question, repost, OK?


Cath said...


New to your blog - but will definitely be back. Great diagrams.

One pet peeve needing help: last stitch. Mine come out loose and rather sloppy leaving last row sagging and uneven.



TECHknitter said...

Hi Cath--here is a link (cut and paste this into your web browser)

(Works for last stitch in circular knitting)

Diana Troldahl said...

I hate polar fleece. I am allergic to many synthetic materials, which may be part of that hatred. Or the sweaty dankness which is what happens when one wears polar fleece next to the skin. I feel it woudl ruin my lovely wool hat.
Couldn't one also line a hat with knitting, as was often done in Scandinavia? Would that not work as well?

Another alternative for top-down construction is to just frog and reknit the bottom ribbing

TECHknitter said...

Hi Diana--of *course* you can line a hat with knitting, or with flannel, or with any fabric of your choice. The advantage of polar fleece is that it stretches, and need not be hemmed. Yet, obviously, if you react to it, then you must use something else, even if hemming or more knitting is required!

mavisandfrank said...

This question is entirely unrelated to this post, but I wasn't sure where else to put it to you. Could you possibly shed some light on the issue of pilling? I find pilling to be the single most disappointing aspect of handknitted garments, and the answer you usually get from the yarn manufacturers is "It's inevitable, deal with it". I know wool is a special thing in nature and it deserves my love and respect, but man I wish I knew how to solve this one. I recently tried shaving, SHAVING a sweater in desperation with a razor. It worked, but I also ended up with a hole in the fabric. WORST case scenario. Any wisdom you have on the topic would be greatly appreciated, I couldn't find any in the archives.

Cath said...


Me again! Wow, I asked and more than received. I will be returning to all the ideas about binding off the last stitch.

I especially like the way you help see and 'think' the knitting, and guide me to make good choices depending on the knitting situation.

Wish I'd found this blog years ago.


Demetria said...

Hi Techknitter. I just checked out your new (to me) index system and it is wonderful! Great work. Your ideas and methods are original and always right on point. I am getting ready to line a large knitted jacket with a slick lining (like silk) and would love to see you do a post on this issue. After all you did promise us one way back in May 2008, didn't you?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Demetria--I promised one, and it is even all written up, but it's so...SEWING. I keep trying to figure out how to make it more knitting-centric. Someday...


Diana Troldahl said...

Hmm Flannel! If I cut a wide enough bias strip of flannel for lining it would stretch a bit, the hemming is still an issue, though. I love the feel of flannel.

Chris and Krysta said...

An Award for you!

Lisa, Hanz and Franz said...

Re: soon to come "my sweater is too small in the waist" - can I use this excuse when I go to my nutritionist? "I knitted it too small in the waist."

Marla said...

Why aren't you writing a book???? I've just found your website and I'm loving it! Thank you so much!!!

Tiddy and Charlie. said...

Lining the hat is a really clever idea :o) c x (Sorry, blogger insists I am 2 teddies!)