1 – Crocheting a baby blanket. This was my first attempt at reading crochet charts, and my first finished crochet project! (Ignore the granny blanket’s whines of neglect, babies are trumps to all other projects)
Cabled Baby BlanketView 2 of the cabled baby blanket
This is Sólás Caomh crocheted in Naturally Caron Country, in Charcoal and Green Sheen.

2 – Finding these sweet buttons at a local art show. I have plans for these beauties, to be told once I actually start the project. I’m a little concerned that I don’t have enough of them, but I literally bought all of this type that the artist had!
Not my gumdrop buttons!!

3 – Having my mother be a bad influence on my knitting. Remember this lovely lace knit-along shawl?
yay, beads and lace!
Well it still isn’t finished, but now it has a friend!

I was going to forgo the second shawl, but I accidentally got my mom addicted to lace shawl knit-a-longs and then couldn’t resist when she signed up! I totally had willpower to avoid knitting 2 shawls at once. Totally. Maybe.

4 – Knitting for Christmas – including these little beauties:

The hair was the most fun, and is only slightly realistic.

Which I adapted from the “Human Bean” pattern in this book. Yes, they are based on real people (Kaela of Local Kitchen, and her hubby), and they were incredibly fun and fast to make. And I cackled about making them for months before hand, because they were such a goofy idea.

I knitted some other stuff which I neglected to take pictures of, and one surprise present which hasn’t been delivered yet, so it might be more of a mid-winter gift instead.

5 – Generally doing lots of random Christmas things, like trimming the tree, and baking my husband a gingerbread TARDIS.

It's bigger on the inside.

6 – Considering whether I should take up spinning and quilting. Because a girl cannot have enough hobbies.


So…I have not made much progress, but…I’m finished clue 2 finally!
Isn’t it pretty?
yay, beads and lace!
So now that clue 9 (of 9) will be out this week, I’m finally ready for clue 3. Apparently this amount of lace/beadwork really gives my tendons a workout, so it has been slow going. Well, that, and…I may have cast on and worked on some other projects (some of which are super-secret projects and therefore are only partially visible):

memo to me: learn to take better blog pictures.

My first foray into lace knitting was, as all things, an exercise in biting off more than I could comfortably chew. I found a beautiful shawl pattern (in this book, Lily of the Valley Shawl), and decided that my mother needed one. Two yarn purchases (because the first batch I bought I didn’t buy enough of, and then they were out of the colorway, so I bought a different colorway instead [153, if you are interested]), and much time and frustration later, I had made something beautiful, even if the edging was 4 rows shorter than it should have been, and it never was blocked. You see, it was 11pm on the eve of Christmas eve, and the edging looked fine, and no one should give their mother a damp, half-blocked shawl for Christmas, so I opted for a soft, dry, wrinkly shawl instead.
However, despite set-backs, and a lot of looking techniques up (how do I do a yarn over in front of a purl again???), I discovered that I loved everything about knitting lace. The teeny tiny yarn and big open on purpose holes in the knitting were just addicting.

So I moved on to lace hats and scarves:

Lace scarf of awesome.

The hat was looking out over the dunes in NC.

Anyway, so along comes this past March, and I see that one of my favorite yarn and bead stores is offering a mystery lace knit-a-long (with beads!!), with the Unique Sheep people. I think, “Awesome! I should see if my mom or anyone wants to do it with me!” And so I ask, and we all (me, my mom, my sister, and my aunt) pick out yarn, and wait for our yarn and first clue to arrive. And here’s a picture of my mom’s first ever lace knitting! (cat added for interest):

Oh yes, the cat loves lace knitting! So does the blocking board.

I think she did really well considering that it was her first lace, her first use of tiny needles and yarn, her first YO!!! and there was a little bit of pattern errata making things hard (the Unique Sheep people fixed it almost right away, so don’t go hating on them!). I was really proud of her.
Clue 1 arrived last Friday, and I have been just loving the pattern so far. My mom, not so much, though, because we used a lace cast-on, which Eunny says is a weird and unpopular cast-on (even though my grandmother taught all of us to cast on that way!), but good for lace. The problem with the cast-on is that if you cast on a stitch purl-wise, it can unravel itself sometimes. Which, unfortunately, we needed to do for the last cast-on stitch, so we could slip the first stitch on the first row. Clear as mud, eh?

So clue 2 arrived from the magical pattern faeries last night in my inbox. Which is exciting, except for the fact that this is what clue 1 looks like right now:

It's totally almost finished....

See those 4 lonely little beads on the yarn at the bottom? That is how many more pattern repeats I have to do, as each bead is placed on the edge halfway through the repeat. Maybe I’ll be done by Christmas.

Right, decreases, double pointed needles (dpns) and binding off our completely unseasonable wool hats!

Well hopefully you have made it through the knit 2 purl 2 ribbing without wanting to chew up your yarn and spit it out, or put it in time out for awhile (it happens, its normal, don’t worry). Still with me? Great. And now your hat should look something like this:

What mine looks like before decreasing, click to see bigger.

What mine looks like before decreasing, click to see bigger.

Of course, ymmv, and likely you used different colors, and a different yarn, and hopefully you haven’t run into any gauge issues and you have something you will be able to wear this winter. If you had gauge issues and ended up with a baby hat, see if you can find someone who will have a baby this fall! If you ended up with a huge hat…we’ll call it a style choice. As an aside, I usually try mine on while it is on needles to see if it is long enough. If it comes down over my ears even without finishing, I figure it is good.

So, where to go from here? Now we need to start decreasing for the crown of the hat, so that it has a rounded top, instead of some sort of avant garde top. Decreasing can be extremely easy, and we are going to use the easy techniques on this hat. On the next round, we are going to knit 2 (k2) and then purl 2 together (p2tog), instead of k2p2. To purl 2 together, you just put your right hand needle through 2 stitches instead of 1, and purl them as if they were just 1 – thus decreasing from 2 stitches to 1. Like so: 


See how the right hand needle is through 2 stitches? Then I purled. Click to make bigger.

See how the right hand needle is through 2 stitches? Then I purled. Click to make bigger.

After k2 p2tog all the way round, we are now going to k2p1 for 4 rounds. This is so we end up with the right amount of rounding. If you decrease too quickly, you end up with a way shorter hat than expected, with a very flat top, if you do it too slowly, you end up with a point on your head. On the next round, we will knit 2 together (k2tog) and then p1, all the way around. This works the same way as purling 2 together, just with knitting. Like this:

Knitting 2 stitches together, to decrease by 1. Click to make bigger.

Knitting 2 stitches together, to decrease by 1. Click to make bigger.

At a certain point, you are going to find that your stitches are being stretched way out by your circular needle (usually right around the end of the k2tog p1 row). This is when you move to your double pointeds or dpns. Note: you will find it hard to use a stitch marker with dpns. At this point you should have 32 stitches left, and will need to do some more buffer rows to make the hat just round enough. On the next round k1p1 onto your dpns. Don’t be scared, just do it, and make sure that when you have about 10 or 11 stitches on one needle, you start a new needle (I am assuming you are using 4 dpns). Like this:

Starting a new dpn, so the stitches are evenly distributed.

Starting a new dpn, so the stitches are evenly distributed.

When working with the double pointeds, you should always have 1 that is not holding any stitches. This becomes your right hand needle, and you knit and purl the stitches off another needle, onto it, thereby freeing the left hand needle to become the right hand one. Clear as mud? This tutorial has lovely pictures that may help.

Ok, now that the hat is on dpns, k1p1 for another 2 rows (for a total of 3 since the decrease row). Then we are going to get crazy, k2tog, p2tog for 1 row. You will now be down to 16 stitches total. k1p1 for 1 row, and then k2tog all the way around for 8 stitches left, and we’ll bind off now. This is what you should be looking at:

I'm ready to bind off!

I'm ready to bind off!

Binding off hats is REALLY simple. Easier than any other bind off ever. Cut your yarn, to leave about 8 inches of tail. Now, using your yarn needle, thread the tail through each of the 8 stitches you have left, take the needles out, pull it tight, and thread the rest of the tail down into the hat, and voila, you have a hat!

Yay, we finished knitting!

Yay, we finished knitting!

A hat with weird tassle things inside it, but a hat, none-the-less.

But not finishing!

But not finishing!

Usually with hats I’m not much for finishing, and tend to just knot my loose ends tightly and then trim them so they don’t show while I’m wearing it. However, many people believe you should weave in ends on everything. The choice is yours, but I am a firm believer in hiding ends on the inside of things (scarves and shawls being obviously exceptions). Oh, and last but not least, blocking! I never pin hats out, but a good soak and dry often softens up rough yarns. Here is a great method that I have used.

Hope this worked for you (though it was long-winded) and you had fun and now have a hat you can wear! (once it gets cold again.)

So, as I said before, I firmly believe that hats are the way to begin knitting. I really think that if I had started with scarves, I would not be a knitter today (I have actually seen this happen, people knit a couple of scarves, say ‘is this all there is? I’m bored.’ and never touch needles again!). I have literally only made 2 and 2 halves and 3/4 scarves (there are 3 scarves on needles right now [one of which is years old], I get bored easily with scarves), unless you count a couple of neck wrap things I’ve made from a pattern that was supposed to be a head wrap! On the other hand, I have made …here we pause while I count on my fingers… at least 8 hats, one of them twice because it didn’t turn out quite like I expected (wish I had pictures of the original hat to post so we could talk about it!). Yes I know that that is not extremely prolific, but I never claimed to be fast, just a knitter…and we haven’t discussed any of the baby blankets and sweater pieces and other random stuff I have knit.

Anyway, last week I totally punked out on telling you how to make this vaguely homely, but very easy, hat. So I figured, that maybe a beginning hat knit-along might be in order. I will knit a 2nd hat of that same style, and using a similar weight of yarn, and show you, step by step, how to do it. This week we’ll cast it on and start working in the round, and next week we’ll do decreases, and the dreaded double pointed needles.

For this hat you will need a size 10.5 16 inch circular needle and double pointed needles, a yarn needle, a couple of stitch markers (nothing fancy, I’ve used well washed o-rings from a tool box before) and 1 skein of bulky yarn. Here is what I’m planning to use:

the supplies for my new hat - click to see bigger

the supplies for my new hat - click to see bigger

That is a skein of Reynolds Lopi in Grey Tweed and a little bit of some dark teal I might use that is leftover from another project (I like stripey hats). It can be a bit itchy, but its very warm, because it is 100% wool, and it felts really nicely if you want it to. If you have a local yarn shop, I recommend supporting them before using a big online store, plus you can feel the yarn first, so you will know how itchy it is and make another decision if you can’t deal with itchy. I have been toying with the idea of adding a flannel lining to make these hats less itchy for the wearer, but sewing is not my forte, so if you try it, let me know how it goes!

My beardie, in full-on run

My beardie, in full-on run

And that colorway (the knitterly term for yarn color or colors if it is variegated) reminds me of my puppy who still lives with my parents. See?

To begin, we will use the circular needles to cast on 64 stitches. My favorite cast on is the knitted cast on – which for this hat, I modified to casting on 2 stitches knit wise and 2 purl wise. Don’t worry if this sounds confusing, here is what I mean for purlwise (I use the method from the link for knitwise):

Hope this helps!! Otherwise just cast on knitwise and it will be fine!

Hope this helps!! Otherwise just cast on knitwise and it will be fine! click to make bigger.

If you are up for a challenge, you can try either taking a picture of your own hands knitting (phew!) or try a long-tail ribbed cast on, but I actually didn’t learn such things until very recently, so I usually use my old reliable knitted cast on unless a pattern specifically says not to.  So keep casting on 2 knit and then 2 purl stitches until you have 64 stitches. A quick hint for counting – if you put a stitchmarker in after every 20 stitches, you can count more easily, and won’t have to recount each individual stitch 35 times.

Now you will join the knitting in the round – being careful not to twist the stitches. Get used to reading that one, it is in every pattern ever written for knitting in the round. So here is what not twisted stitches look like:

note the bumps are all around the outside of the needle circle

note the bumps are all around the outside of the needle circle

Note that the bottoms of each stitch stay in a line, and don’t go all roller-coaster spirally around the needle. Put a stitch marker on the needle in your right hand, to mark the beginning of the round.



Now just start knitting the knit stitches and purling the purls, like so:

a few stitches into the first row.

a few stitches into the first row.


Every time you get to the stitch marker, just slip it to the needle in your right hand and keep going. Keep working on it until its long enough to roll up, or not, depending on what you like. Feel free to add stripes if you want to (just start knitting and purling with a 2nd color at the beginning of a row, cut the 1st color to about a 6 inch tail and tie the tails of the 2 together). We’ll do decreases and bind off next time!

I know not everyone knits the way that I do, so, as always, your mileage may vary – and let the record show that that yarn is the least cooperative for pictures ever! I will interview the potential yarns much more vigorously next time!

For the 2nd part of this tutorial, click here!