The Hat Maven

For those of you who tune in to this blog, looking for something knitting-related: beware.  This and the next couple of entries will focus on my current effort, which is making a large number of fleece hats for the menfolk’s Boy Scout troop.  No, I haven’t given up knitting.  In fact, I will squeeze that in as best I can over the coming weeks.  No, I haven’t given up writing about it, either.  It’s just that time for knitting, writing about it, and sewing the fleece hats all tend to cannabalize one another, when I really have scarce discretionary time for any of it.  But hang in there — I’ll be back to blogging about knitting as soon as the hats are done.

For the first several weeks of the year, I morph from Rocky Mountain Knitter to Hat Maven.  Every year in mid-February, the Scouts go to Klondike Derby.  Every year, they sport matching fleece hats at Klondike.  For the past several years, I’ve helped out by making the hats.  I’ve become the Hat Maven.

Our troop is fortunate in that it has many active adult volunteers.  I’m thrilled that other step up to go camping or teach merit badge classes or keep up the paperwork.  Me?  My idea of camping is staying at a hotel that doesn’t have a full bar.  While I may not care for camping or teaching, I do have a killer sewing room, and I don’t mind spending a few weekends once a year in it, making hats for the Scouts.

I wind up making about 40-odd hats each year.  Even with a well-outfitted sewing room and lessons learned from experience, this is not a minor undertaking.  Over the next few blog posts, I’ll describe how I make the hats (so, yes, for those who’d like it, I’ll give detailed instructions, with photos) in hopes that the descriptions will help others who may decide to take on such a project.

As with any manufacturing endeavor, hat-making involves certain steps: research and development, prototyping, and scale-up.  I’ve got a hard-and-fast deadline of mid-February.  The process really begins in the fall, when I start thinking about my wintertime projects, and (with any luck) find out what the theme for that year’s Klondike Derby will be.

I research different hat styles, always with an eye toward finding a style that can be made in quantity in my limited available time.  So, although the stegasaurus hat may be really cool, when considering making 40 hats, it would be the short road to insanity.  Better: the neat, rectangular jester hat.  This year’s theme is “Get Ready for 2012,” which the Scoutmaster and I decided gave us license to do what we wanted.  We decided on a practical and warm reversible hat in lumberjack plaid and red.  Practical, scalable, and lacking in multiple little pieces that tend to make me go to pieces by the 30th hat.   Before Christmas, I had a plan.

As the holidays approached, I researched patterns and examined a reversible hat that my mother-in-law had made the guys a few years ago.  Nothing was exactly what I wanted — either the directions were not detailed enough, or the measurements weren’t quite right.  Nothing, of course, was written for the serger.  So, between Christmas and New Year’s,  I grabbed some old fleece and spent a day or two making guesstimates and measurements and cutting and serging.  When I came up with a workable prototype using old fleece, I did the math, bought what I needed in this year’s fleece, and prototyped it.

During prototyping, I thought about what production methods would be best for 40 or so hats.  How should they be cut? Where should I topstitch and at what point in the process? What steps might save time? What steps could be omitted?  And importantly, how much time was this all going to take?  The Hat Maven does, after all, have a full-time job.

I started production this weekend with 10 medium-size hats.  I usually do hats in several sizes.  When the 10 hats turned out well, I started on the 20 large hats using the same techniques.

I’ll be cranking on these for the next several weekends.  I’ve got photos ready for the next blog post, but that post will take a back seat to getting the actual hats done.  I’ll be knitting, too, in dribs and drabs.  My next post will be detailed instructions as to how to make the reversible hats.  Stay tuned.  The Hat Maven is at work.

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