End of summer
It was a long summer for cricket tragics. The test series was marred with controversy, and the positively memorable moments were scattered very few and far between. (I will always be proud to say I witnessed Sachin's century at the SCG; I will be less proud to say I jumped to my feet and cheered at the fall of Ishant Sharma's wicket two days later.) The 12-match one-day series that followed the test series seemed to drag on and on, and continued to be marred by whinging, mudslinging from both Australia and India, and too much cricket in the headlines. It got to the point where I rejoiced when the footballers started getting into the papers for all the wrong reasons, yet again.
Such is the ebb and flow of the seasons. For sports fans the onset of autumn is more than just the extra hour of darkness at the beginning of the day and the extra chill in the air (at least in the shade) - it's the thrill of seeing the four big sticks erected at the local oval, and the excitement of the *whump!* sound made when a boot connects with the pointy ball. AFL is finally back and, thanks to the annoying antics of the Australian cricket team, I couldn't be happier. (Though I must put on record that my faith in cricket was somewhat restored by attending Day 1 of the Sheffield Shield final between NSW and Victoria. A bunch of mostly unknowns, quietly going about their business and doing a good job of it. That's what cricket should be about.)
The impending beginning of autumn and the AFL season this weekend caused me to realise with some alarm that I had not yet finished my Geelong Memorial Witterings Hat. Cast on during last September's grand final match between Geelong and Port Adelaide in what happened to be Geelong colours (by accident, not intention). I finished the knitting in a fit of summer-heat inspiration on a visit to Queensland in early December with visions of a new summer hat to wear to the cricket dancing in my head.
The instructions for finishing Witterings were clearly to be followed to the letter. This is an interesting design in that the detail of it, mainly the finishing, result in a knit that is worthy of High Street more so than most of the knits I attempt (which, well-finished though they may be, rarely result in something looking anything but hand made). I wanted to pay special attention to the tubular cast off and go about the final processes of blocking, applying millinery petersham to the crown, and inserting a cord into the tubular cast off in order to strengthen the brim. A sunny day presented itself, perfect for blocking. I didn't have a form to roughly match the size of my head, so my blocking efforts concentrated on evening out the brim, which had a somewhat segmented look, due to the regular, rapid increases which formed the brim.
People seem to have had trouble sourcing millinery petersham for this project. I simply salvaged some from a vintage hat I'd had sitting around in the 'donate-to-Vinnie's' area of the spare room for about 18 months now. The hat wasn't in good condition and it had served its purpose with me long ago as part of a costume to a fancy dress event. The petersham was easily smipped out, handwashed, dried in the sun, and ironed - ready for insertion.
More difficult was finding an appropriate cord to thread through the brim. The designer recommends cotton laundry line. In the end I opted for a length of elasticised cord I'd had hanging around in the craft box, salvaged from an old mosquito net which had been thrown out years ago. The cord was the right diameter, but its construction - a number of smaller elastic cords held together by a nylon casing - made it very difficult to thread through the narrow tube which forms the brim. The threading through took me several attempts until I found a method which worked. Because of the cord's construction, I couldn't simply put a safety pin through the end and guide it through the tube, because the safety pin kept pulling out of the cord. Finally I settled on wrapping some strong thread round and round and round the leading few centimeters of the cord, attaching that thread to a safety pin, and then pulling the cord through. Even once I'd settled on this method, the pulling through took a few evenings in front of the telly.
Exhausted by these efforts, the hat was then cast aside for later joining of the cord, closing of the last remaining opening in the cast off brim edge, and finally application of the petersham. Fast forward about 3 months to earlier this week when I suddenly learned that Geelong would, once again, be playing Port Adelaide, nearly 6 months since the grand final, in round 1 of the 2008 AFL season.
The two ends of the elastic cord, of course, refused to be sewn together - again, due to the construction of the cord. In the end, I dipped the two ends in Elmer's glue (my old craft glue favourite, brought back to Australia from my last trip to America several years ago and only used for special occasions) and let them dry. I thought I would then be able to sew the two ends together but in the end found that they overlapped by only a centimeter or so and just left the ends free inside the tubular cast off to do what they want.
I then used a rough approximation of mattress stitch to close the gap in the tubular cast off and wove in a very long end, threading a good 10cm of the tail into the tube of the brim in case I need to reopen this gap and adjust the cord situation in future.
Trying on the hat, I was pleasantly surprised that the negative ease at the crown promised to keep the hat firmly on my head in any windy conditions, because if there's anything that gives my heart a sudden panic it's a hat threatening to blow off. Because the actual diameter of my crown and the actual diameter of the hat were so disparate, I decided not to sew in the millinery petersham. I may one day, if the hat stretches to the point where it requires something to stabilise it on the crown, but for now the petersham is quietly rolled up back in the craft box.
Now that autumn has begun (and Geelong, again, has beaten Port Adelaide), this very summery hat has had one ceremonial walk in the dog park before it will be gently folded up and put in the summer clothing box to await what will hopefully be a splendid summer of cricket. By then, I'm sure, all the footballers in the paper for all the wrong reasons will have turned me right off AFL.