Handmade: Thinning hair leads to creative hatmaking

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Some call it hair loss, others call it hair thinning — but no matter the phrase, it’s something that affects so many of us as we age, for one reason or another.

I’m not sure when mine started, but it’s been a gradual process. My tightly-coiled afro is no longer the tall, full head of hair I started with in the fall of 2002, after a co-worker encouraged me to let her barber shape the natural hair I’d been hiding beneath my growing collection of wigs.

To give the barber an idea of the style/shape afro I wanted, I carried with me a magazine cover photo of singer/songwriter/actress Jill Scott. I’ll never forget the strong sense of freedom I felt as I walked out the shop. In days, and even weeks, to follow, I often told myself — “You should have done this years ago!” It was so liberating! I felt like a new woman!

Now, the more I age, and try to come to grips with my disappearing afro, my love for hats has grown. They help me work around the thinning hair I’m left to deal with, and they enhance my funky sense of style.

No matter the season, I love to rock a hat sometimes, not only for coverage, but to complete certain outfits, and I seldom wear one I didn’t design and make myself. I usually sew, knit or crochet my headpieces, and I, especially, like them tall and worn with a jaunty tilt to the side.

But, knitting or crocheting hats for warmer months can be a little challenging because most yarns are too heavy, woolly, and/or fuzzy. I’ve used 100 percent mercerized cotton thread yarn, but it can sometimes be too hot and heavy, as well. And, most lighter-weight yarns don’t have enough substance for the shaping needed to make a structured hat.

A few Saturdays ago, with spring just around the corner, I knew I needed to find a yarn I could use to crochet a few hats for warmer weather, so I stopped by The Wool & The Floss (397 Fisher) in Grosse Pointe for its “transition sale.” Much of the yarn was priced at 50-75 percent off! (The shop has been sold, and deep discounts continue on many items.)

As a crafter, there’s nothing more frustrating than having a design idea, and not being able to find the materials you need. I knew what I was looking for — well, sort of — and after browsing the shop a couple times, I spotted what I thought might work, neatly tucked away in one of the cubbies. It’s Stacey Charles “Stella” yarn, made in Italy of 74 percent silk and 25 percent lurex, which gives it just a tad bit of sparkle. I purchased four spools in champagne fizz, reluctantly leaving behind several, and some in two other colors.

I spent that evening crocheting a little pillbox hat, hoping with every stitch that I’d purchased enough yarn. As it turns out, the finished hat was just what I had in mind, and it took all four spools (336 yards).

That following Saturday, I made a beeline back to the shop and purchased all 21 remaining spools, some of which I used to make two more hats that are a bit more elaborate than the first. I recently found this fine yarn online in more colors. I haven’t ordered any yet, and, although the price is considerably higher, it’s nice to know it’s available!

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or

A Little Hattitude

(Hat pictured on far left)

Level: Advanced (shaping skills required)

Estimated time: 8 hours

Tools: Size 00 crochet hook, scissors

Supplies: 4 spools of Stacey Charles “Stella” yarn in color of choice

Abbreviations: ch chain, sl st slip stitch, sc single crochet, dc double crochet, tog together, cont continue, rnd(s) round(s), beg begin


Ch 6 sts. Sl st ends tog to make loop.

Make 12 sc sts in loop.

Now, make 7 (spiral) rnds of sc sts, adding sts as needed to keep piece flat.

Rnd 8: Ch 2 sts. Make dc st in each sc st. Join ends with sl st.

Rnd 9: Beg 5 (spiral) rnds of sc sts, adding sts as needed to keep piece flat.

Rnd 13: Ch 2 sts. Make dc st in each sc st. Join ends with sl st.

Rnd 14: Beg 5 (spiral) rounds of sc sts, adding sts as needed to keep piece flat.

Rnd 18: Ch 2 sts. Make rnd of dc sts, dropping a st about every 5-6 sts to begin shaping for band.

Rnd 19: Beg 5 rnds of sc sts, while continuing to gradually decrease sts for pillbox shape.

Rnd. 23: Cont pattern — 1 rnd of dc, followed by 5 rnds of sc -- while continuing to decrease sts, until there are 6 rnds of dc (including 2 in crown). Try on for size/adjustments.

Then, make about 7 rnds of sc sts, working same number of sts each rnd.

Next rnd: Beg adding sts, about 1 in every 5-6 sts for next 5 rnds.

Final two-three rnds, drop a st about every 5-6 sts for rolled brim. Work in tail.