Malacatl hat by Naomi Parkhurst

Malacatl hat

Knitting
October 2013
Light Fingering ?
24 stitches and 36 rows = 4 inches
in stockinette worked in the round
US 3 - 3.25 mm
190 - 240 yards (174 - 219 m)
Hat circumference 18.7 (21.3) inches [48 (54) cm], to fit head sizes 20 (22) inches [51 (56) cm].
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People have made many beautiful ceramic spindle whorls over the millenia. Once, somewhere between the 9th and 15th centuries AD, a potter in Mesoamerican Mexico made a particular one with a motif like a flower, and I expect it was used with pleasure. This ceramic disk would most likely have been used as a low whorl. Centuries later, someone bought it and gave it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Later, the museum put a picture up on their website. When I saw it, the design struck me and kept coming back to mind. Once, I woke in the middle of the night and realized that it reminded me of a tam. The idea of wearing a hat made to resemble a tool used for making yarn felt satisfying, just as spinning and knitting yarn using methods known to many generations of skilled hands feels satisfying.

Malacatl is a Nahuatl word meaning spindle. I do not know if it was the word used by the people who made the original spindle.

Techniques:
You need to cast on for the center of a doily or shawl. I provide instructions for the Disappearing Loop cast-on; Emily Ocker’s cast-on also works.

You also need to know how to knit in the round, purl, increase, do stranded colorwork, knit two together, and knit an i-cord bind-off. A tutorial for lifted increases is included.

Some guidance for using stitch markers is provided, but they are optional.


Materials:
Light fingering weight yarn (the smaller hat uses more yarn):

  • Color A: 77 yards 71m of medium shade; I used Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight in Russet (FC38).
  • Color B: 76 (51) yards 70 (47) m of dark shade; I used Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight in Dark Chocolate (143).
  • Color C: 83 (58) yards 76 (53) m of light shade; I used handspun yarn, from an oatmeal-colored Shetland fleece. Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight in Beige (202) would be a good substitute.
  • Spinning specifications: unwashed singles: 24 wpi; washed and finished 2-ply yarn: 12 wpi. Grist: 2009 ypp. • US size 3 3.25mm needles for working in the round.
  • Darning needle.
  • 14 stitch markers (optional); 8 will do in a pinch.
  • 10 inch 25.5cm diameter plate for blocking.