Starting a new adventure… learning Spanish

I’ve been having fun for the last few weeks, taking lessons in basic Spanish using the iPhone app. I’ll try to post regular updates here as I move forward. So far, this is the most excited I’ve been about learning something new since I started learning to knit. One reason I’m excited is that I found a very interesting site and program called “Fluent in 3 months,” by a very funny guy who calls himself ‘Benny the Irish Polyglot,’ which focuses on an idea he calls language hacking. I love the very pragmatic approach he advocates; so much so that I bought his Speak from Day 1 training program. I’ll let you know how it works out for me.

Easy top-down hat recipe


Knitted hat

A typical top-down hat made from this recipe.

Most of the time, I love knitting complicated things. That said, sometimes I just want something that I can cast on and knit, without worrying about keeping a printed pattern nearby, or counting stitches after every row. You will have to do a little stitch and row counting to start, but it isn’t hard at all.

I’ve come up with a knitting recipe that allows me to grab a skein of yarn (anything over 100 yards seems to work), a set of double-pointed or circular needles in the recommended size, and cast on… no swatching, no worries. All you really need to decide at the outset is how many increase lines you want on the hat. This recipe should work for any number from 3 to 10… I’ve done hats with four, five, and six sets of increases. If you’re on Ravelry, you can see my “recipe hats” project page here. My goal is to make this simple enough that—perhaps after making one hat following my directions—you’ll be able to cast on and knit a hat without having to reference any directions. Even better, I’m hoping that you’ll be confident enough to play with the idea and improve on it, make it your own, and be able to “invent” a hat on the fly.


  • You know how to cast on for a project or have someone who can help with this. I use “cable cast on,” and it works fine. Please use whatever method you prefer.
  • You know how to do knit and purl stitches and at least one increase stitch. I use KFB (knit front and back) and Cat Bordhi’s “LA-Link and LA-Rink” (youtube link) increases. I believe that you could use any increase you like and have a most excellent finished object. If you want to learn KFB or another standard increase, I suggest starting at Knitting Help ( on their Increases page.
  • You have yarn and needles. I suggest that you use bulky or super-bulky yarn and whatever needles make sense for that weight of yarn. There’s nothing to stop you from using fingering-weight yarn, but one of the joys of these hats (for me at least) is how fast they progress.
  • It might be helpful if you’ve knit in the round before, although my technique of starting might enable this to be your first ITR project.
  • You know how to bind off. I like Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off, but any stretchy, loose bind-off will do.


  • Stitch markers
  • Row counter or a pencil and paper
  • Gauge-measure, ruler, or tape measure for figuring gauge


  • DPN: Double-Pointed Needle
  • KFB: Knit one front and back
  • Gauge: Number of stitches per inch
  • ITN: In the Round
  • LA-Link: Leaning left increase
  • LA-Rink: Leaning right increase
  • Segment: The section between markers
  • SPI: Stitches Per Inch

Sample: Pentactinal Hat

These instructions assume that you are using a thick yarn… something in the Aran to super-chunky range. I believe that this method will work for thinner yarns, but I haven’t tried it out.

First time doing “in the round” knitting? Start Here


Ten stitches cast on, one row finished.

  1. Cast on 10 stitches.
  2. Knit 1 row. I know it’s not “normal” to knit a row before joining in the round, but I find it makes the join much easier. The ‘extra’ row vanishes into the tip of the hat and isn’t visible.
  3. Join in the round, taking care not to twist your work. This part is easiest to do if you are using DPNs. If you’re on DPNs you’ll have something like 3 stitches on needle one, 4 on needle two, and 3 stitches on needle three. If you are using magic loop, you’ll have 4 on one end and 6 on the other.
  4. Round 1: KFB on every stitch. You should end up with 20 stitches.
  5. Round 2: Knit a round, placing a marker between each set of 4 stitches. Note: some pairs of stitches will be “marked” by the join between needles, not by a stitch marker.
  6. Round 3: Knit all stitches.
  7. Continue with the “Generic Instructions for Increases” step below.

More-Experienced Knitters Start Here

Ready to join in the round

Ready to join in the round

This start is a little more fiddly, but should give you a flatter, smoother top to your hat. If you prefer to have the little “point” at the top of the hat, use the first set of instructions above.

  1. Cast on 5 stitches.
  2. Knit 1 row. I know it’s not “normal” to knit a row before joining in the round, but I find it makes the join much easier. The ‘extra’ row vanishes into the tip of the hat and isn’t visible.
  3. Join in the round, taking care not to twist your work.
  4. Round 1: KFB on every stitch. You should end up with 10 stitches.
  5. Round 2: Knit one round, placing a marker between each pair of stitches. Note: some pairs of stitches will be “marked” by the join between needles, not by a stitch marker.
  6. Round 3: Knit all stitches.
  7. Round 4: KFB on every stitch. You should end up with 20 stitches.
  8. Rounds 5 & 6: Knit all stitches.
  9. Continue with the “Generic Instructions for Increases” step below.

Generic Instructions for Increases Step

First round is complete

First round is complete

For the next section, and continuing until you have the correct number of stitches, you’ll only have to count to three rounds at a time, increasing in round 1 and knitting plain in rounds 2 & 3.

  1. Round 1: *Knit 1 stitch. Increase on next stitch using LA-Rink (or your favorite increase). Knit until 1 stitch before marker. Increase on the last stitch on your right needle using LA-Link (or your favorite increase). Knit the last stitch, pass marker.* Repeat all steps between asterisks to end of round.
  2. Rounds 2 & 3: Knit plain.
  3. Continue to cycle through this set of three rounds until you have a little more than two inches of knitting between any two markers.
  4. Using a ruler or gauge measuring tool, count the number of stitches in two inches and divide by two to find your gauge.

Un-scary Math Section

If you know the size in inches of the head you’re making the hat for, multiply your gauge by that number to get the target number of stitches. Divide this number by 5. If the division is even, you’re all set; that’s the number of stitches you want between your markers. If the division is not even, change the target number up or down until you can divide by 5 evenly. Say that your gauge is 5.5 stitches per inch, and your recipient’s head is 22.5 inches around. 5.5 times 22.5 is 123.75. I can see that the nearest smaller number divisible by 5 is 120, and I know that ribbing has plenty of stretch, so I’m going to decide to drop down to 120 stitches. If you’d like a more-relaxed fit, then you could increase to 125 stitches and still end up with a great hat. For the purposes of this first hat, though, let’s settle on a target of 120 stitches, or 24 per segment. Note: If you don’t know the recipient’s exact size, you can estimate it based on this nifty KnitPicks hat size chart.

Body of the Hat and the Bind-off

  1. Continue increasing as in the Generic instructions until you’ve reached your target number of stitches per segment. If your last set of increases would put you over your target number, you can skip every other increase on the last iteration of round 1 or  return to your target number by decreasing evenly in the last iteration of round 3.
  2. Switch to K3P2 ribbing and knit until you have about 5 yards of yarn remaining.
  3. Bind off and weave in ends.
  4. Wash and block your hat.
  5. Enjoy!

Note: If you want to decorate your hat with a tassel, save an extra couple of yards for this purpose.


If you try this pattern, I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d tell me any ways that I can improve this recipe. I’ll try to add more details about how to adapt the recipe for other numbers of segments. I am not sure that the little images help at all. If you think that they do, let me know and I’ll take better pictures to replace these samples.

Many thanks to Gail A. on Google Plus for suggesting the name of this hat.

Second pair of Maine Morning Mitts done

Sending these off to an ‘internet friend’ in Canada….

From the pattern "Maine Morning Mitts"

Maine Morning Mitts for Casey

Project info

Name: Maine Morning Mitts 02
Pattern: Maine Morning Mitts by Clara Parkes
Craft: Knitting
Made for: Casey

Needle and yarn

Needle: US 8 – 5.0 mm
How much? 0.6 skeins = 90.0 yards (82.3m)
Colorway: Indian Corn
Dye lot: 0000K8
Color family: Brown
Purchase date: May 21, 2011

Charlotte Heart Walk Raffle Results

Okay, time to report the results of my drawing from my Charlotte Heart Walk fund raising effort. I raised $130 overall, of which $25 was seed money from me, and $105 came from folks who bought $5 ‘raffle tickets.’

Many, many, many thanks to everyone who helped me raise some cash for heart research.


I entered each person’s name into a list, listing them multiple times if they bought more than one ticket. Then I went to RANDOM.ORG and used their “List Randomizer”  to sort the list. Here is the result:

There were 21 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

  • Christina 3
  • Ed 3
  • Ed 4
  • Dinah
  • M.C. 4
  • Ed 1
  • Nancy 2
  • Josh
  • Christina 2
  • M.C. 5
  • Christina 4
  • Ed 2
  • Chelsi
  • Christina 5
  • Christina 1
  • Donna
  • Nancy 1
  • Alex
  • M.C. 1
  • M.C. 3
  • M.C. 2
Timestamp: 2011-09-20 11:18:57 UTC
As you can see, Christina is the winner! I will contact Christina to discuss what she wants me to make for her. I’ll of course blog about it on my knitting blog!
Here I am with my team leader for the event.
From 2011-09-17 Charlotte Heart Walk

Charlotte Heart Walk Drawing – Sept. 17 deadline!

This year I’ll be walking in the Charlotte Heart Walk.

I’m a terrible fund-raising person, so the only money in my account so far is the $25 worth of seed money that I donated. So I’m stealing an idea from Melinda Steele-StCyr!

For every $5 you give through my page (link below), I’ll enter your name into a drawing… donate $20 and your name goes in four times… $30 – six times… you get the idea. After the walk I’ll do a random drawing to choose the winner of a custom pair of socks or a hat or a pair of mittens (or anything else [small] of a type I’ve made… stalk my Ravelry projects page) using worsted-weight or heavier yarn. Your choice of fiber and color …up to $30 in materials. If it’s in my stash, even better!

The Greater Charlotte Heart Walk will be held on September 17th, 2011 Charlotte, NC, so you have a little more than two weeks to donate. If you’re the only person who donates, you get a custom-knit item (for you or as a gift), possibly for less than the cost of the yarn. If I get a few entries, your chances are still great!

Be sure to put in the comments that you’re entering the drawing for the knitted item!

Thanks very much in advance for your support of this cause.



I’m walking and raising money to help reduce death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20% by 2020.

I’m joining the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk to promote physical activity to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Please support me in helping to reach this lifesaving goal by giving a donation today.

Rav projects page:

Rav stash page:

My donation page:

Little sock goes ripit, ripit, ripit

My attempt at making one of Cat Bordhi’s discovery socks didn’t go very well. I did discover that it was too tight to go over my heel. I’ve ripped back to the arch of the foot and I’ll set the project aside for a while. I might turn this into a classic sock and make a discovery sock with larger yarn. I’m a bit discouraged, I won’t kid you.

Close-up veiw of the cuff of the sock I had to rip back.

Stripey sock is stripey

View of the heel and cuff section of the sock I had to rip back.

This view shows most of the foot, the heel, and the too-tight cuff. 😦

Knitter’s Inventory

I’ve been thinking this morning about my “knitting journey.” This fall I’ll hit my 4-year mark from when I started to learn to knit. I have 54 finished projects in my list on Rav, or about one F.O. per month. More than I expected, really. But I’ve never been interested in churning out projects. I’m a lot more interested in learning new things.

Looking at the list that way shows that I’ve been true to my focus; most of those projects are first of a kind for me, or steps in learning, where I’ve done a clumsy first effort and progressed to a harder or more-finished project on the next project of that type. My only ‘gimee’ projects tend to be for charity knitting… for instance, the mittens I made early this year using super-chunky yarn.

I haven’t done anything often enough to get really good at a particular technique, but I don’t believe that learning happens in a linear fashion (at least for me). I seem to learn in a way similar to accretion, where each bit of learning (when it actually sticks) builds a bit more of the structure. So learning to do stranded color work leads to increases in my skill in yarn handling and tension control, and learning to cable helped me learn to ‘read’ my knitting on my lace projects.

Overall, I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made so far. My frustration with my current convertible mittens centers on the feeling that I didn’t push myself. I suspect that I’m going to thin out my queue of any simplistic patterns and focus on things which… after two months or more of work… I’ll be thrilled with, not just happy the project is done.

Some things that have changed for me over four years of knitting:

  • I thought that I’d always do simple patterns. Now I look for complexity.
  • I thought I’d always use thick yarn. Now I work mostly with fingering weight.
  • I loved rugged-looking, uneven yarn at first. Now I love smooth, tightly-wound yarn.
  • I used to compulsively buy any yarn that appealed to me. Now I have so much yarn in my stash that I (generally) only buy for specific projects. Any time I think… “ohhh, that yarn is so cool!” I try to remember the ultra-cool skeins lurking in my stash, which have never yet seen a moment of use.
  • I thought I was alone being a guy who knits. I’ve discovered a rich community of men who knit, but even more importantly, I’ve discovered that the Charlotte knitting community is incredibly welcoming to male knitters. In fact, I’d say that I’ve had only a tiny percentage of knitters anywhere react to me in anything but a warm and helpful fashion.

What has not changed…

  • I still haven’t found time to really learn to spin, nor prep the fleece I have in my stash, nor refinish the spinning wheel. (However, at least I know about these things now!)