I finished the first hat for Connor's Caps.
Pattern: House Hat beanie from Charmed Knits by Alison Hensel; I made the smallest size, 18-1/2" circumference.
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish (superwash merino) in Ocean, Coast Gray, and Gold.
Needles: Knit Picks Options US#6 (ribbing) and US#7 (rest of hat).
You may recall that the requirements were that the hat use Connor's school colors of cobalt and gray with a little touch of gold. After I finished the first hat I weighed it and compared that weight to the remaining balls of blue and gray yarn. (Scale was $20 plus shipping on eBay. A useful investment.)
Yes! Definitely enough to make a second hat in a larger size; exactly as I planned. Hell, yes, I'll take credit for luck.
As I cast on for the second hat, a daring thought crept into my mind. Perhaps I could use this as a teaching opportunity! Never mind that I am a perfectly ordinary knitter who seldom ventures beyond her comfort zone of stockinette, garter, ribbing, and cables and hence has little to teach in the way of techique. Never mind that some really good knitters (you know who you are) occasionally read my blog. Never mind the hubris inherent in the whole effort. I seem to have established a track record of giving a knitting tip or lesson about once a year. It's time. Here goes.
I always cast on over two needles -- actually, over both ends of the circ held together, since I always knit on circs -- to ensure that my cast-on is not too tight. Instructions often say to cast on over a needle a size or two larger than the one you intend to use, but that means I have to go hunt up another needle. My way is easier, i.e., better for the lazy knitter. Me = lazy knitter.
Although stitch markers have become an accepted art form, perhaps even attaining the status of knitting bling, I have resisted the temptation to buy any cute ones because I lose stitch markers like kids lose mittens. Here one second, gone the next. For a long time I have instead used scraps of yarn looped around the needles. They tend not to slide off the needle when I am not paying attention. If I do drop one it doesn't bounce once and disappear from the face of the earth. And they are free.
Long hard experience has taught me that I am incapable of consistently and accurately counting to any number larger than twenty. So I use my [free!] stitch markers to delimit groups of twenty stitches each. This hat requires a cast-on of 96 stitches, hence, the group of 16 at the end.
Okay, this one is my favorite. I can estimate how much yarn I need for a long tail cast-on when the number of stitches is less than 40 or so (about a yard). But that estimation gets harder when the cast-on is for 72 or 96 or 168 stitches. It is intensely annoying to run out of yarn before reaching the number of stitches needed, and I hate to waste the long tail of yarn if I overestimate. So I tie the two ends from my ball of yarn together loosely and cast on with those two strands. When the cast-on is done, I cut the strand that comes from the outside of the ball and continue merrily along with the center-pull strand. A couple things to remember: the initial *stitch* is not a permanent stitch, but will disappear when you untie the knot, and remember to leave all the ends long enough (6" or so) that you can easily weave them in.
Wait. I just remembered another thing that an accomplished knitter from the fiber guild taught me last spring. When you are going to knit something in the round, don't bother to join immediately after the cast-on. Knit a couple rows back and forth, then join. It is a lot easier to avoid twisting the work, and you can use the tail of yarn to sew up the little seam where you were knitting flat. It doesn't show. I have done this on the last five pairs of socks I knit and on the first hat, above. Trust me. It.Doesn't.Show. (But be warned that I adhere to the trotting horse theory of error correction; if you can't see it from a trotting horse, it doesn't need to be fixed.)
There you have it. Your knitting lesson for the year. Don't spend it all in one place.