“Take a ball of soft baby wool and a pair of knitting needles (old size 10, or metric size 3.25mm) and settle down with a cup of tea or glass of wine in an environment which you find relaxing, whether this is a blanket on the lawn with a CD of soothing music, an old armchair in front of the fire, or parked in front of your favourite film or soap opera.
Turn off the phone and disconnect the doorbell.
Cast on 73 stitches and stocking stitch (knit a row, then purl a row) six rows. Don’t be afraid to let this bit of the knitting curl around, as these rows are supposed to form a natural curl which will be a little border to the bottom of the hat.
Hold the knitting away from you so that you can admire your work, take a sip of your tea or wine and, when you feel like it, change to size 8 (metric size 4.0mm) needles by knitting the next row on to one of the new needles.
Purl the next row (remembering you need to swap the needle you have just knitted the stitches off with the other new needle before you do so!) and then continue in stocking stitch, taking regular sips and dreaming about the newborn baby until the work measures about 10cm.
If you are a midwife, marvel at how your body easily knows how to measure this distance with your fingers. If you are not a midwife, ten centimetres is roughly the diagonal width of a woman’s palm, from the bottom of the little finger to the bottom of the thumb. If you are a mother-to-be, you may like to marvel at how your womb will open to about this width in order for your baby to be born. Like the petals of flowers, women’s wombs open gently, yet with a powerful, ancient force.
Begin the decreasing rows (to make the crown of the hat) when you are ready. Knit one stitch, then knit two stitches together, then knit six stitches. Continue the “knit two stitches together, then knit six stitches” pattern along the rest of the row. Purl a row, knit a row, purl a row again and then stop to daydream a bit.
When you feel like it (and only when you feel like it), begin another decreasing row by knitting one stitch and then follow a pattern of “knit two together and then knit five” for the rest of the row.
Knit a row, purl a row and knit another row, remembering to relax and daydream as you go.
Did you knit when you were small?
Has it been a while since you knitted something?
If so, how does it feel to be doing it now?
Have a little think about whether it is time to make another cup of tea, or find something to nibble on while you work. Give your fingers a little stretch and admire your creation-in-progress.
For the next decreasing row, knit one and then “knit two together and then knit four” for the rest of the row.
Purl one row.
Follow the decreasing pattern by doing a decreasing row where you knit one, then “knit two together and then knit three” for a row, purl a row, and then knit one and “knit two together and knit two” for a row, before purling back.
By now, you probably don’t need reminding to daydream about the baby who will wear the hat, and you may find yourself unexpectedly coming up with insights and answers to some of the questions which had been racing around your mind and bothering you before you sat down to knit. Don’t worry that you only have a few stitches left and seem close to the end ~ you can always remain in this space by making another hat, perhaps to give away.
“Knit one stitch and then knit two stitches together” across the whole of the next row, and then purl a row.
For the last row, knit one stitch and then “knit two stitches together” across the whole row.
You can then cut the wool about a foot (or 30 cm) from the end, threading the end onto a sewing needle and then thread this through all the stitches, gathering them up, pulling them off the knitting needle and fastening the gathered bit with a couple of stitches. Don’t cut the thread, though, as you can use this to sew the two sides of the hat together, remembering that it may be neater if you turn the hat inside out first. Secure the wool at the base of the hat by stitching three times in the same place, and then cut the wool.
Turn the hat the right way around, perhaps helping the base to curl a little more, and admire your work.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and reflect on how you feel, and whether you feel differently to the way you felt before you sat down to knit.
Can you feel a sense of connection to all of the other women who have ever knitted a hat for their baby?
It is possible to vary this hat in many ways, by changing the wool every few rows to make stripes; (if you are new to knitting, it is easier to remember how many rows in each stripe if you always change at the beginning of a “knit” row) or by knitting the first 6 rows in a different colour from the remainder of the hat. If you don’t know how to do “purl” stitches, then just do “knit” stitches throughout.”
Wickham S (2007) Weaving the Fabric of Life: women, birth and craft. In Davies L (Ed) (2007). The Art and Soul of Midwifery: Creativity in Practice, Education and Research Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.