Story behind the pattern
‘Unventing’ the Llama Hat pattern
“It even haunted me at night!”
Have you ever been so intrigued by a knitting project, that it has been haunting you for years? It happened to Dutch knitter Thelma. In the autumn of 2002 she discovered a very intriguing hand knit baby cap in a shop window. She was very pregnant at the time, so maybe the hormones caused it, but she was at once totally bewitched by the ingenuity of that cap. That’s where the story of the Llama hat started. The happy ending you find here: several different pattern variations on that first special hat!
What was so very special about that little hat? “The part that mostly caught my eye, were the two pointy ears. Ears on hats are not uncommon, but most are knit separately. These ears really seemed to ‘grow’ out of the cap. There were even little openings were ears and hat connected. Wonderful!” says Thelma.
“Next thing that surprised me was the pointy V-shaped forehead. Now I know it’s the chevron stitch doing the trick. But at that time I couldn’t understand how V-shaped rows were knit. Let alone how a vertical line of straight stitches could be in the middle of them!”
Not visible at from the shop window, was the also beautiful dart (formed by double decreases) in the center of the back.
Knit in the Andes
Thelma bought the cap as a present for her soon-to-be-born youngest daughter. “But as an addicted knitter I didn’t only want to own this hat. I also wanted to be able to knit it myself!” So the puzzling began.
All the woman in the shop could tell about the hats, was that she got them from a friend who traveled to South America. That’s why Thelma decided to call it Llama hat. The ears remind her of the llamas, alpaca’s en vicuna’s that live there.
Thelma was already very interested in Andean knitwear and especially in chullo’s, the famous earflap hats. She searched her book about them (Andean Knitting by Cynthia Gravelle Le Count) for any information regarding the Llama hat type, but in vain. Also day long internet searches couldn’t help.
“But I was very happy to find the Chevron stitch (‘Keper-’or ‘visgraat-’ stitch in Dutch) in my stitch dictionary,” says Thelma. “Now I could start to ‘conquer’ the pattern myself. I puzzled a lot to get the right double decrease in the middle and in the end I had a pattern I was quite pleased with.”
Still no ears
One major part of the intriguing hat Thelma could not master though. It seemed impossible to find out how those pointy little Llama ears were knit! “I was sure hat and ears were knit in one piece. I made a lot of attempts, but no luck. I only managed to knit ears that turned to the sides instead of the front.”
Since then Thelma knitted about a dozen Llama hats. Some with sideway ears and some with pompon’s instead of ears. Those are very cute too! Still the construction of the ears kept puzzling her! Later on she would discover the ears were not the only fault.
Palm Tree hat
About 4 years later, in 2006, Thelma finally found another Llama hat and proof that they really originate from the Andes. A Dutch newspaper published holiday pictures made by readers. One of them showed a Peruvian baby girl, carried on the back of her mother, wearing a bright yellow Llama hat! “This hat was even more intriguing then mine. It did not only have ears and a chevron stitch center. There was also a sort of palm tree in the center. The stem was formed by the double decreases, and the leaves were shaped by something that I call a counter-chevron stitch! I kept the newspaper cut-out like a treasure.”
Then came the day the riddle of the ears seemed to be solved. Thelma found another Llama hat, this time with pattern! That was when Berocco published the Cisco pattern, in 2008. It was described as a “Peruvian style baby hat”. This hat was knit from the back and that made it easier to knit it with ears in one piece. “At first I had an Eureka feeling. Of course, how could I not have come to that idea! I also was a bit envious. The Llama hat felt like ‘my’ hat, ‘my’ discovery and now someone took it from me. And even beat me to solving the ear problem! But I still thought ‘my’ pattern was better shaped, because of the dart in the back. Cisco shapes at the sides by increasing.”
Also there were some illogical solutions in the Cisco pattern:
- You have to bind off stitches half way and then pick them up again.
- Knitting from the back up seems illogical, especially because you have to make double increases for the chevron part.
- Pictures show that the Andean hats are not knit upside down. (Stitches are V shaped instead, not upside down V’s).
With Alien help
Other knitting projects made Thelma put aside the whole Llama hat project for a while. Then a picture of another Llama hat, found on Flickr somewhere, woke up the dragon again. This picture, called Alien, showed the same palm tree as Lotty’s hat.
This photo was taken by Bergius in Peru. Found on Flickr
“If I couldn’t solve the puzzle of the ears, at least I wanted to be able to knit the palm tree!” says Thelma. “I blew up the Alien photo and I also tracked down the woman who made the news paper picture. This woman, Lotty Blok, send me her original photo. I blew up that picture too. Now I could make a stitch count and hopefully see how the pictures were knit!”
To Thelma’s surprise that wasn’t so hard at all! It took just one attempt to find it out.
Midnight problem solving
This question answered so easily, the ear challenge started to haunt Thelma at night. “Lying awake I started ‘knitting’ with imaginary needles and yarn. And suddenly I just saw the mistake I made for years. There seemed to be no sewing done in the original hat. But I always knitted my Llama hats in an upside down T-shape, and had to sew the sides to the back later. Instead I should knit the sides to the back like a sock heel is shaped! This insight seemed at the same time to open the door to the solution of the ear problem. I got an idea and almost jumped out of bed to try at once if I was right!”
Lots of variation
She didn’t, but next day she tested her theory and it worked! After that, Thelma tracked down as many Andean Llama hats as she could on Flickr. She noticed a lot of different detailing in stitches en decoration. Now they are (or will be) on this website for you to knit!
(Photo: Bergius, found on Flickr)
(Photo by Thomas Quine, Quinet on Flickr)