Friday, April 25, 2008

How to line a hat, headband style, with Polar fleece

includes 14 illustrations
click any illustration to enlarge

Lining a hat with Polar fleece is a splendid idea for several reasons. First, if the hat is too large, you get a second chance to make it fit--you can ease the hat smaller by sewing in a correctly-sized Polar fleece lining. Second, Polar fleece completely alleviates "itchy forehead" syndrome. Third, for athletes and active types, Polar fleece "wicks" -- it draws moisture away. A hat lined with Polar fleece will remain comfortable long after a woolen hat is sodden. Finally, Polar fleece has many virtues of its own--it's cuddly, sturdy and comes in lots of pretty colors and prints. Oh--it's also very easy to cut and sew and it never, ever, comes unraveled.   Further information about Polar fleece can be found here 

There are really two methods of lining a hat--the headband method and the fully-lined method. The fully-lined method is warmer, while the headband method is less bulky and suits active folk well--more heat can escape from the crown of a hat lined by the headband method than from a fully lined hat. Today's post shows the headband method, while the full-lining method is described here.

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1. (above) The first step is to cut your headband out of Polar fleece yard goods, as shown. The illustration suggests a 4" deep headband, which is generous. Some folks prefer a narrower headband, so experiment and see what suits you. Polar fleece is pretty cheap, so there's no real reason to be sparing with it.

2. (above) Once you've cut your headband strip, the method illustrated here lets you go forward without taking any further measurements--everything from here out is done intuitively, and the tape measure can be put away. For example, the headband strip for the lining is sized by wrapping it around your forehead and pinning it shut. Experience shows that it's best to wear the pinned headband around the house for a little while before you commit to sewing it shut. What seems comfortably snug at first can seem ear-numbingly tight after a quarter of an hour.

3. (above) When you're pinning the headband, arrange matters so the "good" side (green side) is on the inside and the "not so good" side (blue side in these illustrations) is on the outside. Then, once you have the length correct, sew the headband shut across the short end.

4. (above). Trim away the excess fabric at the seam. If you find a standard 3/8 inch seam allowance too bulky, you can cut it closer--Polar fleece does not unravel or fray, so you can get away with narrower seam allowances if you prefer them.

5. (above) Because you want to see the good side of the fabric when you peer inside your hat, you must put the not so good side against the inside of the hat. Therefore, flip the band inside out so the seam allowance (and the not so good side) are on the inside of the band.

6. (above) Flip the hat inside out, also.

7. (above) Slip the headband over the hat. If the hat has a back--a seam, perhaps, or a little knitting error you don't care to display on your forehead--align the seam of the lining with the hat back.

8. (above) Illustrations can take you just so far. For reality, there is nothing like a photo. As you can see from this photo, it often happens that the headband is far, far wider than the hat itself. This is because the hat is likely to "draw in" more than the band, especially if the hat is in a contoured fabric like ribbing. While this may look worrisome, it really isn't a problem, as you can see by skipping ahead: illustrations 12 and 13 are the "after" photos of this same hat.

9. (above) The next step is to pin the hatband inside the hat. Make sure to tuck the seam allowance flaps inside and smooth them down at this point.

10 (above) Here is the how-to trick for pinning a headband evenly into a hat (or should I say--for pinning the HAT evenly inside the HEADBAND!?)

a: holding the hat (gray shape) inside the lining (blue shape), S-T-R-E-T-C-H the hat and the lining with both forefingers into a long shape which can be stretched no further. This automatically centers the hat inside the band. Pin the band to the hat in these two spots--a 4 inch headband may require two pins at each contact point (as shown in illustration 11), a narrower band may require only 1 pin at each contact point. Do you wonder how you can pin in the headband while your hands are inside the hat and band, stretching everything smooth? You can ask someone to help you, of course, but if you are alone, you can take a shortcut by pinning in one contact point BEFORE you start the stretching-out process, then pinch the hat and lining together where you find the second contact should go. Just be sure not to prick yourself with the pre-set pin, which would go right against one of your stretching fingers.

b. along one side, divide the length between the two pins in half by again stretching the hat and the lining until they can stretch no further. Pin this third contact point.

c. along the other side, repeat step b. Four points are now pinned.

d. again stretching between two contact points, set a fifth contact point at the half-way mark between two already-set pins.

e. repeat the "stretching to find the half-way point" 3 more times until a total of 8 contact points are securely pinned down.

f. the perfectionists among us may want to again halve each side length for a total of 16 contact points. I myself wouldn't bother unless the hat was very large, smooth and light--a large man's cap knitted from sock yarn, perhaps.

If the band was far wider than the hat, as in illustration 8, you will find that the band is puckering where it is pinned onto the hat. This is normal, so don't worry.

11. (above) Now we come to the sewing. The trick here is to smooth the hat to the band by stretching as you sew. Use a sharp-pointed needle and polyester sewing thread. I use a single strand, but some folks prefer a double strand. The fact is, polyester sewing thread is very, very strong. So strong, that it could end up cutting the woolen yarn of your hat if you are not careful about tension. You do NOT want to pull the thread up so tight that there is no slack--this is what causes the thread to want to cut the yarn. On the other hand, you also do not want to to sew so loosely that loops of thread lay inside the finished hat. Practice makes perfect in this, as in so many skills.

The best stitch for sewing linings into stretchy woolens is the overcast stitch (also called the whip stitch).  This overcast stitch is particularly good because it allows a bit of extra thread to remain in the fabric, allowing for stretching without popping the thread or tearing the knit fabric.

The overcast stitch is also an excellent choice because the thread "tethers" the two pieces of fabric (hat and lining) together, rather than fastening them unmovingly to one another. An analogy from woodworking would be a carpenter attaching two pieces of wood together with short lengths of chain rather than nailing them together.  Nailing would be stronger, but the chain more flexible.  In the same way,  "nailing" the lining onto the hat with a firm stitch like the back stitch would be strong but inflexible, so that the thread might tear as soon as one fabric stretched more than the other.

If you click on illustration 11, it will enlarge enormously, and you can see a closeup.
  • At the hat edge, you'd want to pierce right through a strand of yarn--use the sharp point of the needle to catch two plies of a 4-ply yarn for example.
  • At the Polar fleece edge, you want to catch a little dollop of fabric from the fabric face, as illustrated. Using your needle to catch a little dollop from the fabric face forces the cut edge of the fleece to roll to the inside. This little roll hides the cut edge of the fleece from view, making a very lovely transition line between the fleece and the knitting (click to enlarge illustration 12 for a closer view)
HOWEVER, catching that little dollop of fabric from the face can be frustrating with fleece, because sometimes your needle just catches fuzz, instead of scooping up the little dollop you want. So, although, the rolled-in edge is very beautiful, don't let frustration and this sort of perfectionism stand between you and a lined hat. Sew the headband in by whip stitching right through the cut edge of the Polar fleece and to heck with it! This stitching is inside a hat, after all.

12. (above) Here is the final result from the inside. As you can see, the excess width of the band, as shown in illustration 8, has been eased to the hat. When the hat is put on, all those puckers disappear, and the hat lies smooth against the head.

13. (above) There is something of a line where the edge of the headband lies. If you don't care for that look, here is a post about a method for fully lining hats with Polar fleece.
14. (above) ta da!

--TECHknitter (You have been reading TECHknitting on: how to line a hat with Polar fleece, in the headband style)