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The Camp Hat, or THIS IS WHY I KNIT

The Camp Hat, or THIS IS WHY I KNIT
September 9, 2009 Mary Jo

I think this story is straight out of the DIY Homesteader’s Handbook.  Or it should be.

Let me set the scene for you.

We’ve just arrived at our campsite.  Baby is juggled, Girl is happily riding her bike.  Captain Daddio assembles the tent, the cots, arranges the tent layout, almost single-handedly.  In a rare moment of baby-nursing, camp-chair-rocking meditation, the wee, usually-muted voice of my subconscious was finally allowed to speak.  We packed no sleeping bags or pillows. Damn.

Driving home and back to get them was out of the question.  Instead, we headed to town to see what we could find.  Two more sleeping bags would have a legitimate place in our camping stash, we reasoned, once the kids got bigger.  In the little town with a big tourist economy, we combed the streets for a purveyor of sleeping bags.  After attempting to live the “buy local” ideal I support, the owner of the hardware store shook his head and pointed the way to that great, big, evil store I despise so much.  Daddio ventured in and returned with two sleeping bags of varying quality (slim pickings this time of year) and a heaping slice of humble pie.

And that night was cold.  So cold.  I had drawn the short straw and was stuck with the sleeping bag of lesser quality, which, when you close your eyes, feels rather like a handful of plastic bags sewn together.  Plastic bags with that big W logo on it, I imagined, and a smiley face spiting my every attempt at sleep.  Errol and I shared this bag throughout the long, tortuous night.  To be fair, Daddio was sharing his sleeping-bag-made-by-a-legitimate-manufacturer-of-camping-gear with Isadora, which he claims was no better.  Isadora said she slept great.

So this was the precursor to our jaunt into a nearby town the next day:  a bit crabby, sleep-deprived, and looking for a better solution.  Daddio’s first stop en route to the fishing lake was to return to the scene of the crime and buy some more blankets.  A good man, that one.  Me?  I started fantasizing about a hat.  That would have made all the difference, I surmised.  If only I had a hat.

Wouldn’t you know, we soon came upon a Utopian local yarn shoppe, nestled among the other quaint stores of the town?  The first hank of yarn I spied was the chartreuse – handspun local wool dyed naturally with french marigolds.  Are you kidding me????  You know I had no choice but to buy it.  The sheer magnetic force of that yarn drew me to the bin of local alpaca roving.  There was a small reddish ball in there that would be perfect paired with the chartreuse, and soooo soft against the skin.  Sold. I sought out one of the owners and gave her the lowdown:  was camping, was cold, needed to knit a hat REAL FAST.  Could she recommend a simple, quick pattern, something maybe like this example here?  Oh sure, she said, and told me the simple how-to.  Then, an epiphany, and she went to her own knitting bag, pulled out an index card with the basic instructions written on it:  Elf Hat with Ear Flaps.  EAR FLAPS! I shrieked, for all to hear, turning a few heads at the outburst.

Edit:  You can find the pattern here!

And this, ladies and gentleman, is why I knit.  Knitting is POWER.  Power to see a problem (damn cold) and to solve it.  (with gorgeous, local fibers)

Yes, yes, I know that any normal person could have just gone out and bought a hat or toughed it out another night without, but that just wasn’t an option for me.  This, rather, was the realization of a long-born DIY fantasy, a test of resourcefulness and think-on-your-feet-ed-ness, whose solution (a warm, awesome hat) produced incalculable satisfaction from its inception en route to the campground, to its completion by the campfire, illuminated by the soft glow of lantern and fire light.  Aahh.  No, really – aaaaaaahhh.  Is it a coincidence that my favorite books growing up were of the Alone-in-the-Wilderness; Must-Be-Resourceful-to-Survive genre?  Probably not.

And it was lovely to sleep in.  Lovely and warm.  The tails of the yarn were woven in minutes before the hat was called to action, about 10pm, I believe, keeping my promise to finish it before going to bed.  I didn’t even have to sleep with 4 double pointed needles attached to the unfinished hat, though that was Plan B.  I chose to knit two strands of the chartreuse together to create a bulkier yarn that also knit up faster.  A good move.  Technically, it’s not exactly the best showing of my knitting:  I did some random decreasing in the wrong places, probably stopped too soon at the top, and have a few ends still sticking out.   But hey – the lighting was poor and the lively campfire conversation had me laughing too much to concentrate fully.  And the hat is a bit too big.  Perhaps the medium size would be perfect?  My anal left brain tells me to rip this out and re-knit in the smaller size, omitting the random errors this time, but my right brain says NO! It’s perfect as it is! I wonder which side will win?  Right now, I’m leaning towards keeping it as is and reveling in the hat as a culmination of an experience.

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