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Old 12-20-2012, 05:13 PM   #1
mojo11
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Hats: Top-Down, or Bottom-Up?
Okay, so I'm looking at hat patterns right? Dozens of them, in fact. And probably what'll end up happening is I'll borrow elements from two or more and creating something else, but that's not the Great Mystery.

The Great Mystery is rooted in the fact that an overwhelming majority of patterns I've seen start at the bottom. And I'm curious why this is. I've probably done more hats than any other single type of item and except for the very first one I did, I have always done them top-down. And I do it that way for what I consider to be really good reasons. Including, but not limited to:
  • Starting at the top I can just knit until I have enough hat and then bind off.
  • This gets the shaping out of the way up front, and if I'm going to have a problem that's probably where it's gonna be. So better to tackle it first.
  • If I run out of yarn, I can finish in a contrast color and it looks a lot less like I ran out of yarn and finished in a contrast color. (This is particularly true of berets.)
  • If I have to adjust for size (or anything else for that matter), it's a LOT easier to do it if the BO is at the bottom.
  • For me at least, the BO edge comes out a lot neater than the CO edge.

That said, I know there are sometimes good reasons to start at the bottom, and my new "hybrid" pattern will probably require that since the band is knit flat and seamed, then stitches picked up from the edge and continued in the round. But the patterns I'm talking about could have gone either way, yet the author chose to work bottom up.

I figure at least most of them probably know a lot that I don't know (not exactly a high bar there), including why this is so much better as an option. But I'm stumped as to what that reason might be.

Of course I do hat shaping in Magic Loop too, which also seems to be unpopular, so maybe I'm just a rebel without a clue.

Any thoughts on this? All other things being equal, which end do you prefer to start at?
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Old 12-20-2012, 05:24 PM   #2
GrumpyGramma
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I've yet to do a hat top down so I'm interested in seeing what people have to say. I have one in mind that I'll start soon that will be a band joined at the ends and then the rest of the hat joined to it. I was thinking that there are at least two ways to do this that don't require seaming, one is to pick up and knit to the top of the hat, the other to knit the hat part, top down or bottom to top and then, using provision cast on(s) join with a 3 needle bind off.
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Old 12-20-2012, 05:33 PM   #3
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I do hats from the bottom up because I can try on or measure them after a couple inches to make sure they're the right size. I don't use the same needles so my gauge is different. Plus they always seem to stretch a lot more than my sts per inch indicate. When I crocheted hats, I always did them from the top down, somehow guessing (or sort of trying on) when to quit increasing to get the right size.

I suppose that in knitting one top down, your gauge would have to be right on in order to make the lower edge fit right. Or you'd decrease before the edging to get the right size.
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Old 12-20-2012, 05:38 PM   #4
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GG, your idea reminds me of the Robin Hood hat which is knit top down and then a band is knit sideways and at the same time joined to the body of the hat. It seems like great fun to do and is a very stylish hat.
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/robin-hood-2
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Old 12-20-2012, 06:01 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by mojo11 View Post
All other things being equal, which end do you prefer to start at?
Let's let Lewis Carrol answer this one, shall we?

"Begin at the beginning . . . and go on till you come to the end; then stop." --from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Now where you're "beginning" is, is, I suppose, up to you!

I've only ever done bottom up, but I imagine like most things in knitting, you can do it whichever way you please!
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Old 12-20-2012, 06:02 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by suzeeq View Post
I do hats from the bottom up because I can try on or measure them after a couple inches to make sure they're the right size. I don't use the same needles so my gauge is different. Plus they always seem to stretch a lot more than my sts per inch indicate. When I crocheted hats, I always did them from the top down, somehow guessing (or sort of trying on) when to quit increasing to get the right size.

I suppose that in knitting one top down, your gauge would have to be right on in order to make the lower edge fit right. Or you'd decrease before the edging to get the right size.
See, I go top down for the same reason. Usually I'm on a long circular (remember what I said about Magic Loop) for the shaping at the top, so it's just a matter of yanking the needle points and checking the size as I go. Working from the bottom up, I'm on a 16" needle which (trust me, my head is a LOT bigger than 1") until I get to the shaping, so the only way to do this is transfer it to a longer needle (knit on, knit off Daniel-sahn). I guess at some point I won't find this to be a pain in the butt, but that point is not now.

I guess if you were doing the small end on DPNs, you'd have the reverse problem (unless you have a very small, square head) so that might explain why so many patterns are written this way. That is, most of them also specify DPNs, and while you're certainly under no obligation to do it that way, the pattern writer probably did/does and wrote the pattern based on that method.

As for gauge, I did have one instance when a knit beret came out too loose. But that was me assuming that two worsted yarns (Plymouth Select and Cascade 220 in this case) were created equal. Spoiler alert, they're just different enough. And I'd never have thought it considering how close the yardages were, but it was what it was. Or maybe it was something else. Anyway, ironically the only other time I had one come out too loose like that it was the one I did bottom up.
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Old 12-20-2012, 06:05 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by GrumpyGramma View Post
I've yet to do a hat top down so I'm interested in seeing what people have to say. I have one in mind that I'll start soon that will be a band joined at the ends and then the rest of the hat joined to it. I was thinking that there are at least two ways to do this that don't require seaming, one is to pick up and knit to the top of the hat, the other to knit the hat part, top down or bottom to top and then, using provision cast on(s) join with a 3 needle bind off.
The one I have in mind is like that too. The band is knit sideways (flat), grafted together with Kitchener stitch, then stitches picked up to knit in the round.
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Old 12-20-2012, 06:05 PM   #8
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I only have one 16" and I use that to start with, then switch to a larger size after an inc or so and single loop till the top where I ML. So I can try them on when they're about 2-3" long. I like looser, slouchier hats rather than beanies, so if I started top down, would have a harder time figuring out how many to decrease to get the lower edging snug enough to stay on without falling into my eyes.
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Old 12-20-2012, 06:37 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by salmonmac View Post
GG, your idea reminds me of the Robin Hood hat which is knit top down and then a band is knit sideways and at the same time joined to the body of the hat. It seems like great fun to do and is a very stylish hat.
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/robin-hood-2

That is cute! I might actually buy the pattern.

This is an interesting discussion. All I can say is that I've never used DPNs on a hat, ML makes them unnecessary.
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Old 12-20-2012, 07:22 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by GrumpyGramma View Post
This is an interesting discussion. All I can say is that I've never used DPNs on a hat, ML makes them unnecessary.
I've never used DPNs for anything except I-cord and occasionally working something flat. I learned ML and didn't see the need to go through the pain of having all those potential dropped needle disasters. But if you read most patterns that have any small-diameter instructions (hats included), they almost always assume you're using DPNs. My theory is that people were using DPNs since the Stone Age, or at least before circular needles were invented. And as a result, that's the technique that grandma and great grandma and great-great grandma used, so that's what you learned from ma. And if it works for ya, there's no reason NOT to use it. I've just never seen the advantage of using 4 or 5 needles to do a job I can do with 2.

As for the top down v. bottom up discussion, it's kinda the same thing. Do what works. I'm just curious why the majority seem to go from the bottom up. Either way, if your gauge is off your size is going to be off, and it seems to me that if that happens it's a lot easier to fix it if you can work from the big end. In fact, a lot of times just a tweak in the bind off will do the job -- especially if it's a tick to snug (less likely if it's a tick too loose).

Nonetheless, most patterns seem to follow the bottom-up convention, so I s'pose I'll have to make peace with it or figure out a reliable way to convert them. If there's not a lot of complicated pattern stitches, that's usually not too bad. But if there's abunch of decreasing cables and so on... well that's probably beyond my skill level anyway at this point. ;-)
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