Category Archives: knitting

figuring the percentage of a circle that’s been made

Okay, say you’re knitting a doily from the center outward and you know how many rounds the whole doily is. It turns out that that there’s a fairly straightforward way to calculate when you’re halfway done (or whatever). You can’t just say “I’ve knit 30 rounds out of 60, I’m halfway done”, because the number of stitches per round keeps growing.

Here’s the easy math: take the number of rounds you’ve knit so far and square that number (multiply it by itself). Take the number of rounds you’re going to knit and square that. Divide the former by the latter, and that’s the percentage.

30 rounds out of 60 means

(30 x 30)/(60 x 60) = 900/3600 = 25% or a quarter done.

There’s more detailed math below, but here’s a good rule of thumb:

Approximately half the yarn will be used when about 70% of the rows have been knit. It turns out that this works for any geometric shape where the knitting starts at a point and increases at an even rate.

(I don’t know that this works for pi shawls.)

Continue reading figuring the percentage of a circle that’s been made

Pinion hat pattern!

I’ve just posted a new pattern on Ravelry, the Pinion tam:

Pinion Tam blocked on a plate

I will donate all proceeds for Haiti Relief (after PayPal fees are deducted) from sales of this pattern through the last day of February. Money will be split evenly between Doctors Without Borders/MSF, Partners in Health, and the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Thank you very much for your help!

This lacy tam is worked from the center outwards. The design spirals outward and flows into a ribbed brim. It looks more complicated than it is–if you know how to knit in the round, purl, knit two together, knit three together, and make a yarn over, you can make this hat.

Both charts and written out instructions (in abbreviations) are provided, along with suggestions for modifying the brim size to fit.

Other materials required include a darning needle for working in ends, about a yard of smooth, thin yarn for making a lifeline, and a plate for blocking (about 10 inches or 25cm in diameter).

You shouldn’t need a Ravelry account to buy now.

Thank you!

Bull City Yarn Bag

I’ve put up my first pattern for sale on Ravelry:

The Bull City Yarn Bag!

It’s meant to let someone carry a ball of yarn or some handspinning fiber hanging from the wrist – excellent for portable projects! It’s about five inches tall and five inches deep.

Techniques you need to know include
– Knit, purl, slip, yarn-overs and decreases
– Provisional cast-on
– Knitting in the round
– Three-needle bind-off
– I-cord
– Kitchener stitch (a tiny amount)

I will be donating all proceeds for Haiti relief through the end of March. The pattern costs $3. Funds will be split evenly between Doctors Without Borders/MSF, Partners in Health, and the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Thank you very much for your help!

the English Cast On, illustrated

I originally posted a different version of this on the Advanced Knitting community on Livejournal. I hope I have learned from my mistakes; I certainly appreciate the commenters over there for making me reformulate my thoughts on the subject!


Sometime in my teens, I learned this cast-on, which has remained my favorite. I might have learned it from my grandmother; I can’t remember, and my grandmother’s memory is unreliable at best at this point, so I’ll never know for sure. I’m a little sad about this, but so be it.

I didn’t know a name for it until recently, when I checked Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks out of the library. It was the first place I had ever seen it described. Armed with a name, I searched on Google, and found only two sets of instructions for it, both text. Here’s the links, just in case they help clarify the instructions I’m providing: Britt Scharringhausen, Lord Gazmuth.

But there’s no illustrated instructions online that I can find, and I’d like to show other people how to do it, as I think this cast-on has a number of advantages:

  • It’s quite stretchy. (I can usually use it for sock cuffs.)
  • Because it’s knit onto the needle, you can cast on in pattern. I only show casting on with knit stitch here, but you can also knit and purl (handy when you’re about to do ribbing), and I imagine you could do the first row of a lace pattern with it.
  • I think it’s attractive.
  • At the end of casting on, you’ll have completed your first row of knitting.

There are some potential disadvantages:

  • If you aren’t comfortable with throwing the yarn around the needle with your right hand when knitting, this isn’t for you. (So if you’re exclusively a Continental-style knitter, this won’t be comfortable.)
  • You need to remember that you’ve completed your first row of knitting after casting on. Note: for some stitch patterns, if knit in the round, you may want to purl your cast-on instead of knitting.
  • If you are using the tail as a marker for something, it might be at the opposite end from where you’re used to.
  • As with the more usual long-tail cast on, you’ll need to allow enough tail for the cast on (or else use a separate length of yarn, in which case you’ll need to weave in extra ends).

This is a long tail cast on. It’s not the usual method that’s called “long tail” by default. There’s an extra twist in each of the loops created by the tail. The result is identical to the Twisted German cast-on; it’s a different method for arriving at the same result.

First, figure out how you’re going to do the tail. I’ve seen suggestions for the long-tail cast on of leaving a tail that’s four times the width of your first row of knitting. I’ve also seen the suggestion of 1″ per stitch in thicker yarn (worsted) and 1/2″ per stitch for things like lace weight. Alternately, you can leave about a yard of tail, cast on 20 stitches, mark the ends of the tail yarn used in the cast on, unravel it, and figure out how much yarn you used per stitch. Also leave some extra for weaving in once you’re done knitting. Or you can use a separate length of yarn* from another ball of the same yarn, a contrast color, or the other end of a center-pull ball.

First, lay the yarn over your palm so that the tail end is trailing off the pinky side of your palm (it’s usually much longer than I show here; I’m just trying to make it clear which end is which) and the ball end is lying over the base of your thumb.

Close your fingers over the yarn. (I usually leave my index finger pointing up, contrary to this picture, but it doesn’t really matter.)

Loop the ball end of the yarn around the tip of your thumb so that the ball yarn is between your index finger and the tail yarn.

With your index finger, reach over the ball yarn and under the tail yarn.

Here’s another, closer view.

Straighten your index finger.

Drop the yarn off your thumb and pull the loop tight around your index fingertip. You now have what is essentially a twisted backward loop on your index finger. I kind of think of my finger as a flexible knitting needle when I do this cast on.

I did a little fiddling with two yarns so that you can see the structure of the loop more clearly.

Pick up your knitting needle, put it knitwise through the loop on your finger, and knit the stitch off your finger, tugging gently on the tail yarn to pull the stitch snug. (Note that the first stitch is a slip knot, so if you’d rather do that as the beginning of your cast-on, you can. Also, you can insert the needle purlwise if you want to cast on a purl stitch.)

Now repeat the procedure. I generally keep the tail yarn held beneath the fingers of my left hand as I cast on. You need to be careful to put the correct yarn under those fingers if you put everything down to do something else.

Here’s several stitches on the needle, after I stopped casting on.

I realized that the fuzzy yarn makes it hard to see the structure of the cast on, so here’s a couple more views with different yarn:

The tail yarn part of the cast on is a series of backward loops twisted an extra time. They lean to one side (from bottom left to top right).

Here’s a video:


*If you want to use a separate strand of yarn instead of a tail, make a slip knot in the end of it and put it on your needle. Don’t count it as a stitch. Cast on the number of stitches you want. When you can, drop the slip knot instead of knitting it.

Sock Summit!

Well, I’m exhausted and all peopled out, but I had a great time.

First, let me say that I highly recommend the HI Hostel in Northwest Portland. It’s inexpensive and pleasant with good service, and it’s within walking distance of everything I needed, including free public transportation.

I got to Portland on Wednesday, checked in at the hostel, and then took the train over to the Convention Center, where I arrived shortly before they started registration. Everything was well organized – they had three lines (depending on last name), but when they saw how many people were there (and figured out that they had enough volunteers), they allowed people with any last name to form a fourth line in front of the Information desk. This speeded things up immensely.

Once I was duly registered, there wasn’t anything else scheduled for the Sock Summit on Wednesday. I could have stuck around just to be part of the crowd, but I’m enough of an introvert that I knew that I needed to go spend some time alone so as not to wear myself out before the weekend even really started. So I headed back toward the hostel. I think that was the day I stopped at a food stand and got a sort of Greek-style grilled cheese sandwich (spinach, feta, tomato, and something else I don’t recall). In any event, it was tasty.

I took note that Powell’s City of Books was on what looked likely to be my daily route, made it back to the hostel, dropped off the registration materials, and then walked over to Trader Joe’s for basic supplies. Then back to the hostel, where I puttered around online and read books and forced myself to stay up to 10 on the theory that even if I had insomnia, perhaps I could wake up at 4 am Portland time instead of 4 am Eastern Time.

And indeed, I was up at 4 am Portland time. Alas. At least I could make myself tea and access the internet and work out what time I needed to catch the light rail to get to my first class.

My first class was one of the short sessions. Chrissy Gardiner taught us her three favorite bind-offs for toe-up socks. I was familiar with a couple of them, as it happened, but hadn’t ever tried the third. I’m not sure I’m likely to use it much, but I do like having more knowledge, so it’s all good.

I went back to the hostel for lunch, and then made a stop in Powell’s. In any case, my afternoon class was with Star Athena, and covered a combination of methods of sock designing, how to write sock patterns, and how the knitting pattern publication process works. I think this was the class I took that had the most information that was new to me. It was extremely encouraging to me, and I’ve got a fire lit under me to get my Inset sock pattern finished. Not that far to go, folks, and then I publish on Ravelry.

Following the design class, the Marketplace opened for people who were registered for classes. It was overwhelming and amazing. I had some missions in mind, and so I headed straight for Carolina Homespun, where I nabbed some Abby batts (mmmmm) and the class pack for the spindle spinning basics class. Then I went up and down the aisles, spending friends’ money and a little of my own. I’m still not certain I made the best choices, but I think they were pretty good ones. And oh, there was so much beautiful stuff there.

Friday morning I got to the Convention Center before 7 so I could get a ticket for the World Record attempt. I am still bemused that I did this, but it seemed like it might be fun. And it was. A few hours later, the attempt started, and I had a good time chatting with the people around me while we knit. Then back to the hostel.

Saturday morning I walked down to the Rose Garden. I was really hoping for a visit to the Japanese Garden, but it wasn’t open yet, and seemed to have an entrance fee to boot, so I skipped it. It was a lovely walk regardless. Then I gathered up my supplies for the spinning class and the books I’d bought and already read. I stopped in at Powell’s, where I sold the books back to them and picked up another for the plane. (This was really quite convenient.)

Then off to Sock Summit again.

I wandered through the marketplace one more time, and then it was off to “Spindle Spinning Basics” with Abby Franquemont. I didn’t actually learn all that many new techniques, but it was a wonderful class nonetheless. Abby & Denny are very funny! But best of all, I loved watching Abby start with some history, and then move from the techniques used to teach children in the Andes (this was new to me, and I hope to use it with my son) to teaching park & draft spinning. Somehow she made the transitions effortless. I wouldn’t say that people found the actual spinning effortless; I mean that the shifts between techniques were natural.

After the class I was almost entirely wiped out. Back to the hostel, with a stop for dinner on the way. I got up the next morning, finally found out that there were other Sock Summit attendees there (we’d been on different schedules), then packed up, checked out, and headed off to the airport.

My flights were pretty much on time (which meant that I got home past midnight). I was exhausted, and seem to have managed to leave the camera on the plane. This means no pictures, alas.

It was an excellent trip, all in all.


It figures. I get my sock pattern all written up and partially edited, when I discover that there might be a better way to do the most difficult part. I think it would not only improve the appearance but be easier to knit.

I’m working up a quarter-scale version of the sock, and it’s looking promising!

Fortunately, I can use the experience from writing up the first version to improve the write-up on the new one.

I still have hopes of getting this done by Sock Summit!

Design setback

I was just about to post that I was making really good progress on one of my sock designs and that I’d finished half a sock, when I realized that I had half again more stitches than I should on the instep. Then I realized why, sighed, and ripped back most of the way. Fortunately, I had used a lifeline right before the critical row, and so it wasn’t hard to pick up the stitches again.


Barn Raising for Doctors Without Borders

A community project which has arisen from the planning for Sock Summit 2009 is the collection of Barn Raising Quilt squares to be sewn together and auctioned off. The fundraiser will benefit Doctors Without Borders, one of my favorite non-profits.

Since I inevitably have some leftover sock yarn, I’m going to knit some squares for the project. The pattern is temporarily available for free for charity knitting.

Getting Going!

There’s two things I’ve been meaning to do:

  1. Get started on using this blog.
  2. Actually try knitting and writing up the patterns for some sock designs I have in my head.

With Sock Summit coming up, I’m feeling more inspired. I don’t yet know if I will be able to afford to go; however, there’s no reason not to work on the socks in any case.