In the Spirit of EZ
I didn't join Zimmermania, since I've got too much on my plate right now, but I have been ogling all the awesome projects. I really like EZ's knitting philosophy, especially the idea of using "recipes" instead of set patterns. So here is my generic cloche recipe.
First of all, why a cloche?
1. They're feminine (cute or elegant, depending on your choice of yarn, color and finishing), and flatter most face shapes.
2. You can't ignore gauge completely, but you don't have to obsess over it to get a good fit. A cloche is a good surprise gift for a woman, since you don't need to get her head measurement first.
3. There is no need to increase between the brim and the main body of the hat, so you can use complex stitch patterns without having to worry about the increases blending in nicely. Or about choosing a separate stitch pattern for the brim.
1. Choose your stitch pattern. Knit a gauge swatch. (Disclaimer: Only once have I ever actually done the swatch - for Glaistig, since that was for publication. However, I have had to rip out and start over on occasion, so maybe I should swatch more often.) Since gauge is not terribly crucial, don't worry about using any of those crazy techniques for knitting your swatch in the round. Just knit it flat. If it's a little off, it won't matter.
2. Measure your swatch. If it's ribbing or some other stretchy stitch pattern, pin the swatch out to a comfortable stretch before measuring. Figure out how many stitches to the inch you're getting.
3. Cast on enough stitches for the size of your head plus one-half to one inch. Add an extra inch or so if you're using an inelastic yarn like cotton or silk. Adjust (upward, always upward) if necessary to get the correct multiple for your stitch pattern. If it's a gift and you don't know the recipient's head size, just go for about 24". A cloche can be waaaaaay too big and still look good. But it won't look good if it's too small.
4. Join into a round and start knitting. If your stitch pattern is simple and non-curling (seed, moss, rib) just start off in pattern. For stockinette, or any other curling pattern, I recommend a stockinette hem. After 1.5 to 2 inches, work an eyelet round. Space 6 to 12 eyelets (made with a YO followed by working 2 stitches together) evenly around the circumference. If you are knitting a cabled hat, don't start cabling until after the eyelet round - the brim will flare out a bit, which is good. If the cables are on a ribbed background, do a ribbed brim. If on a stockinette background, do a stockinette hem.
5. After the eyelet round, continue knitting in your chosen stitch pattern until it's time to start the decreases (hat will measure about 8" in length at this point).
6. Figure out how many stitches to decrease each round. For garter stitch, 4 stitches. For stockinette, seed and moss, 5 stitches. For rib, 6 stitches. For cables, it depends on the density of the cabling. 8 to 12 is usually about right, but it can be much higher if the cabling is very dense (Diminishing Braids, for example). Work your decrease rounds until you have 4-16 stitches left (less for bulkier yarn, more for thinner yarn) and close up your hat.
7. Now, for the finishing. This is where you are able to get that perfect fit, which is why you don't really have to worry about it when you're knitting the hat. The simplest thing (and the best choice if it's a gift and you're unsure of her measurements) is to just thread a nice piece of ribbon through the eyelets, and tie it in a bow. You could also make an i-cord bow, as Meg did. Or, you could knit a ribbed band. 5 stitches in 1x1 rib generally fits nicely through the eyelets. Make a yarnover buttonhole at one end of the band, and either make a bobble on the other end or sew on a button. The knitted band should fit around your head with 1 or 2 inches of overlap when comfortably stretched.
Now for Starlight news. I've been knitting! The sleeves are now about an inch short of starting the cap shaping. I've also cast on for the back, and have about 3" of that worked. I've decided to copy the great Eunny and work the sleeve cap together with the body pieces rather than seaming them together afterward. I'm still working the body flat, though, and working the back and two fronts as three separate pieces up to the armhole shaping. So when I'm done knitting, I'll have a big flat blob to lay out and block. Then I can sew the side and sleeve seams, and after that work my edgings.