The Hat Maven: It’s About Time

It’s lunchtime for me, and because I’m nursing some sort of respiratory virus and don’t feel up to either knitting or sewing or doing much at all other than drinking tea and sipping soup, I’ll write for a bit about my ongoing fleece hat project for the Scouts’ upcoming Klondike Derby.

For those expecting a blog post about knitting, this is one of a series of posts about serging fleece hats. I’ll be back to posting about knitting real soon — promise. I am continuing to make incremental progress on all of my knitting projects in between working on the hats, but the hats are taking precedence right now.

Anyway, today’s post is about time — the time that it takes me to crank out a whole bunch of fleece hats.  When considering a substantial project, I think it’s important to deal honestly with the time it’s going to take to get it done.  If you’re planning a large project like this, my notes about the time needed may provide you with a reality check. Everyone is different — you may sew faster or cut more efficiently than I do, but at least this may give you a benchmark so that you can plan your project with enough time so that you avoid avoid some sort of meltdown before your deadline.

I’ve seen a number of fleece hat patterns and ideas tossed around the Internet, labeled something like “10-Minute Hat,” or otherwise noted as something ridiculously quick and easy. I tend to view labels like “10-Minute Hat” as I do recipes that say “20-Minute Supper,” that is, with a great deal of skepticism.

Now, a 20-minute supper recipe may be just that if you have your mise en place (that is, every single thing you need for it on the counter, organized, chopped and prepped), everything else that you need for side dishes all completely done, and your skillet searingly preheated. Yep, then it might be do-able. But is it realistic?

Reality for me is that I walk into the kitchen after work, and my starting point is pretty good: ingredients thawed in the fridge and dishwasher run. But all the chopping and prepping and side dish-making has yet to commence. The result is a 45-minute dinner, which isn’t bad, but it’s not the 20 minutes the recipe advertised.

Hat projects are similar. One year, I made a type of hat for Klondike that was advertised as a 10-minute hat. Well, if I had all the stuff cut out already and pinned, yes, perhaps. But my average time per hat was closer to an hour when I took all the prep into consideration. And considering time required is an absolute must when I have to juggle work, family obligations, and sewing obligations with a hard-and-fast deadline.

The reversible hats I’m working on now will require me to spend about 50 hours of hands-on time (billable hours, if you’re familiar with those) for about 36 hats. That’s a little under 1 1/2 hours per hat. Sound like a lot for a simple hat? Well, that number takes into consideration all tasks that have to be done: researching hat patterns, protyping, shopping, cutting, pinning, sewing, and any final handwork.

I could tell you that you can put together a reversible hat using a serger in just a few minutes. It’s true if you’ve got your serger all adjusted and beaten into submission and you have all your pieces cut out correctly and pinned. I could tell you that, and when you’ve estimated the time you need to complete your project based on what I’ve told you is a 15-minute hat, and then you’re up all night struggling to finish what’s really a much more time-intensive project, you might be more than grumpy with me.

Or, I can tell you that a large project like this take me a fair amount of time to do. Even when it’s planned well. Even when the hat project is pretty simple. Even when I’m using great equipment and quick methods. It’s important for me to consider how much time these large projects take so that I can fit them into my time budget. Weeknight evenings are generally constrained, so I’m generally left with sewing on the weekends, and the annual hat project typically takes parts of every weekend between New Year’s and Klondike. If I underestimate the time it takes, I’ll have a last-minute crush to deal with, which I don’t want. If I plan accordingly, it all works out well.

If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions, I still haven’t posted those yet. I will, but it’ll probably be after all the hats are done, as I probably won’t have time to draft up the instructions until then. I will try to post some photos of the hats-in-progress between now and then.

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