A while ago, a staff member at the IWK Health Centre asked me to test a few patterns for purple hats to see if they are the right size as they were getting hats that were either too big or too small. I replied that a finished object really depends on the crafter’s choice of yarn and needles/hooks and on individual’s tension. Also, if a program lists ten patterns for newborn hats, many people would immediately go on Ravelry to look for the eleventh. If you knit purple hats for the Period of PURPLE Crying Program, you probably know that you can use pretty much any pattern as long as hats are not too ‘heavy’ as they are used indoors. It’s just how we knitters are, we love this creative freedom in choosing the cutest, the simplest, the most unusual pattern. And it should be allowed because happy knitters produce more little hats.
I thought ‘What if instead of suggesting certain patterns, we could offer a common measuring tool that any knitter/crocheter (or designer) could use with any pattern to check finished hats?’ A few days ago, I went to bed thinking about it and then got up, walked up to my refrigerator and measured this.
It’s a 750 ml (32 oz) package of yogourt, and it’s exactly 37 cm (14.5 inches), the most commonly listed head circumference for an average newborn.
Now, I know it’s kind of funny but hear me out. When you try to put a hat on a plastic tub of yogourt you can answer a number of important questions that will help you decide if the hat has the right fit. Plus, you can find this simple measuring device in your own kitchen, and if it’s not there, in the closest supermarket. It’s good for you anyway. I assume 750 ml/32 oz package is pretty standard but you might want to double-check the circumference of the lid, if you have a tape handy.
So, the first thing we need to test is the stretchiness of the bottom edge. My friend is a nurse at the IWK and she told me that some beanie-style hats have such small openings that they simply wouldn’t go over baby’s head even though the hat looked big enough.
When you put the hat on, imagine that you put it on a newborn baby that is a gentle, fragile thing. There should be no pulling or tugging, and you should be able to fit your fingers under the cast on edge to make sure it’s not going to be too tight. Also, please make sure it’s not too loose either because a hat that doesn’t stay on is quite annoying even for unexperienced in fashion trends newborns.
Next, we can check the depth. The reason the IWK prefers a hat with a foldable brim is because the depth can be adjusted. But since many patterns come in a beanie style, I measured hats that were previously tested by new babies and received their quiet approval.
To measure the depth (how tall the hat is), pull the hat down the yogourt package so that it is centered nicely.
Any hat that falls below baby’s eyebrow line or barely covers the forehead will not see much use, no matter how pretty it is. I marked the bottom edges of all three hats to see if they will be the same depth. This is a new pattern, and I was testing it against the other two. Just in case you wonder, patterns for these hats can be found on Patterns page.
Then I looked at the marks, and they were exactly three inches (7.6 cm) from the top. See?
However, I decided that it’s too early to rest on laurels and went to the IWK hospital with my trusty measuring device for more testing. This neat compartment is full of newborn hats that are given to new parents as a part of a layette.
After checking how my yogourt looks in a good number of them, I am happy to report that they measured the same three inches from the top (give or take a few millimeters), folded as they are. To be completely honest some of them felt ‘roomier’, especially ones made with homespun-style baby yarn but overall the look was the same. So next time you need to measure a baby hat and a handy newborn is hard to come by, you might want to give this method a try. So when all is said and done (or knit and measured, in our case), can we rest assured that the hats are perfect? If you want to sleep well at night, ask for feedback when you donate your hats.
And to wrap it up, I would like to ask people on the receiving end — program coordinators, nurses, volunteer services personnel — please, do provide feedback on the hats you get. As a knitter, I would prefer to hear constructive criticism that next time hats should be made bigger/smaller/lighter than knit unfitting hats in blissful ignorance for the rest of my life.
Thank you all and happy knitting!