Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jayne Cobb Hat

Please note that the pattern listed below was my first run at re-creating this hat, and I have since updated the pattern. Because it's so different, instead of editting this entry I made an entirely new one. Please go to the new page to see the new, updated (and much more accurate!) pattern. Thank you!

In the remarkable, wonderful, too-short series "Firefly," created by Joss Whedon, the character Jayne Cobb (played by Adam Baldwin) is a rough and tough, selfish mercenary. In the episode titled, "The Message," Jayne receives a knitted hat from his mother, and wears it during most of the episode. On disk four of the DVD collection, there exists an easter egg which shows the actor wearing the hat while singing "The Hero of Canton," a song from a separate episode, "Jaynestown," a screenshot of which is pictured above.

As a Secret Santa project for a Firefly fan, I tried to duplicate this hat. It turned out so well that I made a second one for my brother, who is also a fan. This undertaking yielded some interesting and entertaining insights for me, and quite a few questions.

First of all, "Ma Cobb" was not an experienced knitter. Most knitters learn early on that if you do not rib the first few rows of an article, the edge will roll. In this case, the hat obviously does not have ribbing at the brim. The only thing that keeps the edge from rolling is that the hat is decidedly small for the wearer. This is evidenced by the straining stiches around the circumference of the hat. It does not look like neat rows of kniting, but instead, you can see between the stitches. (My doll model's head is too small- you'll have to take my word for it that I've reproduced this effect. In fact, the doll is a bad model all the way around- the proportions look all wrong.)

The edges also roll inwards on the ear coverings. This is because most knitters have discovered that you need to knit about 3 stitches on the edges, every row, to keep it from rolling. (Jayne's ear flaps are knit with stockinette stitch, which alternate knit and purl rows. An interesting choice, because a hat knit in the round is all knit stitches. Ironically, had Ma Cobb continued to knit every row, the ears would not have rolled- though the ears would have had a different-looking stitch than the hat itself.)

Finally, the hat is not decreased at the the top, which would have produced a fine, smooth round top. Instead, it is gathered at the top, creating the bulky, bunched look. The round gather of all the stitches is then "hidden" by a pompom.

All of these, ah, interpretations of a hat design lead me to conclude that this was Ma Cobb's first hat. Not only was it her first hat, but she designed it herself. I deduced this because, if she used a pattern, the pattern designer would not have incorporated the...choices...Ma Cobb made. The hat would have had ribbing, at least in front and back, and would have had a garter stitch (knitting a few stitches every row, as previously described) edge to the ear flaps, but may or may not have had a gather and pompom. Therefore, Ma Cobb designed and knit her very first hat- to mail across the galaxy to her boy Jayne.

A mother's love, my friends. In addition, that Jayne immediately put on and wore the hat-- as jarring as it may have been to his tough-guy image-- speaks volumes about Jayne's own love for his Mama. I find their love for each other heartbreakingly sweet.

A few qustions arise from these musings. Did the director intend such implications? Who did make the hat? Was the hat designed to exact specifications, created precisely to convey the emotional impact I have proposed? Or was the hat just found somewhere, to be snapped up by an excited costume designer with a squealed, "Oooh! Perfect!"?

Maybe I should write to Joss and find out.

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures!

Here is what I did:
I used 16" size 10 circulars, with worsted weight yarn: Caron Sunflower, and Red Heart "soft" in Paprika and Tangerine.
1. With orange, cast on 60 stitches.
2. Join, being careful not to twist. Knit every row, to 3 1/2 inches.
3. Join yellow yarn, knit to 9 inches total hat length.
4. Cut yellow yarn, thread the end onto a tapestry needle, and, with the stitches still on the needles, thread the yarn through all stitches. Take out the needles, and pull on the end of the yarn to create the gather. You can run it through the ring a couple more times to secure it. Leave the long end in the hat.
5. Fold hat in half, with the back being on one folded edge. Mark the center of each side, as with a coil-less safety pin. Count 10 stitches to one side, and begin picking up stitches there, working towards the center, then pick up 10 more, for a total of 20 picked up stitches.
6. Join rust-colored yarn, and knit in stockinette stitch 22 rows, or about 3 1/2 inches. (Knit on the knit or "right" side of hat, and purl on the purled or "wrong" side).
7. Begin decreasing 2 stitches every row: Knit 1, knit 2 together, then knit until there are 3 stiches left. Knit 2 together (or ssk, or however you want to decrease), then knit last stitch. On the purled rows, purl 1, purl 2 together, purl to last 3 stitches, purl 2 together, then purl last. (You could also knit or purl the first two and last two stitches every row. Doesn't really matter which method you choose, so long as you're decreasing 2 every row.) When you have 1 stitch left, cut your yarn with a 6 inch tail, and slip it through the last stitch to bind it off. Cut another peice of yarn 10 inches long, and slip it through somewhere on the bottom and tie it to itself, to give the three strings shown on the right side of Jayne's hat.
7 1/2. Do the same for the other side, but only leave 2 strings. These strings tie the flaps together. They look about 3 to 4 inches long on Jayne's hat, but you can cut them to whatever length you'd like.
8. Make a pompom, either by using a nifty tool, or by winding yarn around a piece of cardboard about 3 inches tall by 6 inches wide. Begin wrapping the cardboard. (Use mostly rust yarn, but add some orange and yellow too!) When the cardboard is nice and fluffy, slip about a foot of yarn, perpendicular, between the cardboard and the wrapped yarn, move it to the bottom, and tie it loosely, to hold it in place. (You can also put the anchoring yarn next to the cardboard first, before wrapping the yarn.) Cut the top, wrapped yarn, so you have a wad of three-inch (or shorter) strings. Tie the anchoring yarn VERY tightly around the bundle of short yarn, then trim if needed. Poke the end of the anchoring yarn into the gather. Tie the anchoring yarn to the yellow yarn end used to make the gather.
9. Weave in ends- except the ear flap ties!
10. Wear proudly, or gift to your favorite Firefly fan!

Do not sell this pattern. The Jayne Cobb hat and image are copyrights of 20th Century Fox, and probably of lots of other companies and people, too. Besides, its not nice.


Celera said...

It seems a wonderful analogy for parenting, really. We do things for our kids that aren't what they wanted. We often don't do these things terribly well. We sometimes seem a bit ridiculous. But we love them, and they know it, and it turns out that was all that mattered anyway.

seashmore said...

I've been meaning to learn to knit and my sister just told me she's pregnant. Her husband and I both love Firefly, and your explanation of this being Ma Cobb's first hat may have convinced me to finally learn the craft. (I currently crochet.)