Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tam tips

   Knitting a tam is a great way to test out Fair Isle color combinations and also results in something nice to keep your head warm. I've knit several tams of my own design and am always pleasantly surprised with how the crown patterns work out. The crowns have become my favorite part, especially since they go faster and faster as you decrease towards the middle.
   Basically a tam starts with a band that fits snugly around your head. I like to knit it in corrugated ribbing. This is done by using two colors: alternating two knit stitches in one color and two purl stitches of another. It's especially fun to change colors on the purled stitches to create wonderful shaded effects. Here's a close up of corrugated ribbing on a vest and on a tam.
Warning: this kind of ribbing is not stretchy so you need to get the number of stitches pretty accurately. If you don't want to bother, a one color ribbed band is fine too. After the band, one increases rapidly, knits straight for a while, and then decreases in wedge shapes to come to the center. The higher mathematics of planning a tam can be found in Knitted Tams by Mary Rowe. (This book is now out of print, but check your local library.) Or you can take any basic tam pattern and plug in your own colors or pattern. The thing I like about planning my own tam is that I don't have to match someone else's gauge. I'm lazy that way.
    The completed tam will look like an amorphous blob until you block it. Then it will magically transform into a wonderful circular mandala for your head. I blocked older tams on an 11"/28 cm diameter dinner plate. I wanted my most recent tam to be slightly larger and chose 12"/30.5 cm as my diameter. Not having a plate of that size and not wanting to get into a difficult woodworking project, I cut a circle out of 3/8" thick Foam Core. (That's about 1 cm.) This very rigid yet light board used by artists, is foam bonded between two sheets of thick paper. (You could use thicker board, but thinner board might bend as the tam is stretched over it.) I traced the circle around a frying pan and cut it out freehand with a utility knife. It doesn't have to be perfect since tams, like all knitted items, are forgiving. I slipped the circular form into a garbage bag so that it wouldn't absorb water. Next I washed my tam and blotted it dry with a towel and then stretched it over the form.  A tam knit of Shetland 2 ply jumper yarn is quite thin and dries quickly.  In the near dessert conditions of a Midwestern house in winter, mine was dry in about 5 hours. To speed drying, I placed the form and tam on a glass so air could circulate around it.
   Trying on my tam, I found it looked too large and floppy. One can get a tam to be slightly smaller by reblocking it, so I cut a smaller blocking circle. This time I traced an 11" dinner plate and made a series of marks 1/4" out to result in an 11.5"/29 cm form. Then I connected those marks and cut along that line. I rewashed my hat and reblocked it. This time it came out just the way I wanted it.


Queen of the Tea Cosies said...

Love love love love

Rebecca said...

These are fabulously inspiring!! Wow wow wow. I have other knitting I should be doing but can't help but cast on for a tam this afternoon.

Carolina said...

Thank you both. Now I feel the true power of blogging by causing someone to cast on immediately! Enjoy your tam project Rebecca.

Asplund said...

Lovely tams and great tips - and I thought your Fairisle tips were very useful too. Never thought of wrapping a single strand of one colour around another to see if it's visible, for example. Reading that was one of this year's best Christmas gifts!

Happy new knitting year!

Carolina said...

Thank you Asplund, coming from an expert knitter like you, that is high praise. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the secrets of not swatching. Gasp.