Posts tagged how to
Chasing Sunsets

I know I have mentioned it eleventy billion times on all social media channels, but this summer has been rotten. So wet, so cold, so grey and dull.  I hear you all saying "You don't live in Scotland for the weather". I know, but even I need to dry out and get warm at least once a year! 

However, one thing that bad weather teaches you is how to enjoy the sun when you see it.  So, when (after a terribly wet day) the sun broke through the clouds for a sunset on Sunday night, I was out like a flash.

I am a big fan of shooting back lit photos...if I could every photo I take would be back lit or at least in the golden hour, but you know, scotland...rain...grey...

But when the chance is there, I grab it with two hands! 

ISO 160, f2.5, 1/1250sec

ISO 160, f2.5, 1/1250sec

ISO 500, f2.5, 1/2000

ISO 500, f2.5, 1/2000

ISO 160, f5, 1/200

ISO 160, f5, 1/200

ISO160, f3.2, 1/200

ISO160, f3.2, 1/200

ISO160, f3.2, 1/200

ISO160, f3.2, 1/200

ISO 160, f3.2, 1/200

ISO 160, f3.2, 1/200

To get great sunflare and back lit shots takes practice.  It can be tricky to get the exposure and focus right when you are shooting straight into the sun, but its so worth it. For landscapes and still life, my best tips are: 

  • Sun flare is best shot with your lens directly facing the camera, with the sun slightly off centre of the lens.
  • You will need to play around with the exposure you want.  Your camera will automatically expose for the brightest part of the photo (the sun) leaving the rest of the shot in shadows. To better expose the foreground, you will need to adjust your settings. You can do this a couple of ways:
    • change the light metering so that you are using spot metering.  This will help adjust get the correct exposure on your subject. Don't know how to do that? Read the manual. 
    • You can trick your camera by aiming it toward the darkest part of the scene and adjusting your settings then reframing and taking the photo. 
    • Simply adjust your settings so the light meter is showing slightly over exposed. This is what I usually do.
  • I almost always adjust exposure initially by shooting in Live View (ie with the screen on), then turn that off to focus. For my camera at least focus is better through the view finder.
  • If you are having problems focusing in the bright light, turn your lens to manual focus or close down your aperture (go to a hight f number) so that more of your scene is in focus naturally.  You can also focus at the bottom of your subject and reframe the photo to take the shot. 


How to Read a Crochet Pattern

One of the things I hear most often from students and customers is "I know the basic stitches, but have no idea how to read a crochet pattern".  In fact, it wasn't so long ago that I was in the same boat, struggling to understand what all of the letters, numbers and abbreviations meant!  Most searches on the internet throw up only a list of abbreviations for the terms used in crochet in either US or UK crochet.  Of course this is crucial information, but it isn't the whole story. When you get to the basic instructions of a crochet pattern, there are a number of things you need to know in addition to the common abbreviations.  In many ways, its like a code or another language that tells you how and where to make stitches. Unfortunately, each designer and publication will do things a little differently, which can add to the confusion. While I don't believe that there should be any sort of dogma in pattern writing, people do need to understand what you are telling them to do.  And while testers and tech editors can really help with pattern clarity, the reader still needs some basic pattern information.

Let's look at an imaginary line of pattern:


At the beginning of the line, you should have some indication whether you are working in rounds or in rows.

round numbers
round numbers

Immediately following this, you will have an indication of what row/round you are currently on.  Numbers in brackets (parentheses) refer to the corresponding instructions for different sizes, working from left to right, smallest to largest. If there is a "-" in the instruction, this means that this particular instruction doesn't apply to that size.

beg chain copy copy
beg chain copy copy

Next up, you should have some indication of what the beginning chain will be.  You should also have an instruction, either in the pattern or in the beginning instructions of the pattern, of how this stitch will be counted in your stitch count.  This is done because the first stitch at the beginning of a row or round in crochet needs to be raised up to the correct height of the rest of the following stitches, otherwise the work will be sloped. A designer needs to make a decision whether or not this is counted as a stitch and what works best with the pattern.

hdc in dc
hdc in dc

In this example, the next section of instruction means to make 2 half double crochet stitches into the next stitch of the previous round (the pattern tells us the previous round was a double crochet) and then make 1 half double crochet in each of the next 2 stitches.  This is often when there variation occurs in crochet patterns.  When I first started writing patterns, I would have written "HDC2, 2HDC" for the same line...not terribly clear.  If you do come across problems in any designers patterns - ASK!  Don't get in a muddle.  Its not worth the frustration.

number after brackets
number after brackets

In this case, that line of pattern is in square brackets (some designers may use normal parenthesis/brackets) .  This tells us that bit of pattern is repeated the number of times directly after the second bracket.  In this case, 4 times.  There may be variation in relation to sizes, following the same left to right, smallest to largest order.


When instructions are preceded by a *, this means to repeat that sequence of stitches as many times as indicated, usually to the end of the round or row.


'Join' means to join the round with a slip stitch. This is usually used at the end when working in rounds.


'Turn' means to turn your work. This may not be in the line if there is a general instruction at the beginning of the pattern for how to deal with turning.

stitch count
stitch count

The stitch counts at the end of the row tell you how many stitches you should have worked in that row or round. This may be followed with the specific stitch that is used in the round/row, the word "stitches" or nothing.

Does that help anyone? I certainly hope so!! Experienced crocheters, have I forgotten anything?

(I could not have ever written this post without the stellar tech editing skillz of Ms Joanne Scrace, she taught me most everything I know.)

How To Design a Hat (Part 2: The Math)
how to design a hat lt background
how to design a hat lt background

For the Math-a-phobic, stay back.  There are sime heavy calculations going on below.  There is nothing wrong with making a hat by eyeballing it or going by a pattern.  This is just the way I like to torture blog readers.

No really, this is most useful for people wanting to write their own designs in multiple sizes or those who want to use a more complicated stitch pattern that requires forward planning. For everyday hat making, its a lot of work to go to and as Joxy eloquently said in yesterday's comments, crochet is so versatile, you just need to know how to increase and decrease, then you are sorted. I would add that hats are stretchy and can forgive a number of sins. Now please forgive me for any that may appear below ;)



So, I said yesterday that the method I described was the "easy way".  You basically pick a stitch, crochet a flat circle until it measures close to your diameter and then work even until its the right height.  Its all fine and dandy and pretty no-fool when you are working in simple stitches and in lighter weight wool.

You can run into problems when you are working in more complex designs and bigger wools.  Basically a completed round may not be anywhere near the diameter of a circle you are needing or you may have a stitch pattern that requires a certain number of stitches in a round. This is where maths can play a crucial role.

The example below is using a US Half Double Crochet (UK Half Treble) for ease. With such a straight forward stitch, you probably will be fine with using a 6 or 8 stitch increase for the flat circle to get to the desired number of stitches to reach your hat circumference. You can just use step 1 to formulate that.  However, I go into the further detail for when we look at lace and more complicated stitches in future posts, where increases need to be more precise. 

You need to know:

- your gauge

- your HAT circumference

- your HAT diameter


Head Size

Hat Size

Hat Height

Flat Circle Diameter

0-6 months

13 - 15in

12 -14  inches

4.5 - 5 inches

4 inches

6-12 months

16 - 19 inches

14 – 18 inches

5.5 inches

4.5 inches

1 – 3 Years

18 - 21 inches

17 – 20 inches

6.5 inches

5.5 inches

4+ years

20 – 22 inches

19 – 21 inches

7.5 inches

6 inches


22 inches

20 inches

8.5 inches

6.5 inches


23 inches

21 inches

9.5 inches

6.75 inches

As an example, I am going to do the equations for a 1-3 year hat, with a 17inch hat circumference and a 5.5inch diameter. 


First you need to gauge swatch.  For Cascade 220 and a 5mm hook, my gauge is:

14HDC and 11.5 rows = 4inches

In order to simplify things, its easier to use your 1 inch gauge, based on your normal swatch size, in my case:

3.5 HDCs and 2.9 rows in 1 inch

Armed with this information, I need to figure out how many stitches will make up my circumference and over how many rounds I need to build up those stitches for a nice even crown.

Step 1: Stitches in Hat Circumference

First, lets figure out how many stitches are required for the HAT circumference.

To do this, you need to multiply the hat circumference by the number of stitches in your gauge.  The number you get is the # of stitches around your final circumference will be.


In my example: 17inches x 3.5stitches = 59.5 stitches in circumference

Step 2: Rounds in Hat Diameter

Then, you need to multiply the diameter of the required hat size by the number of rows in your gauge swatch. Then, because when measuring across a flat circle, each round equals two rows, you need to divide this figure by 2. This is the number of rounds that will make up your diameter.


In my example: (5.5 inches x 2.9 rows)/ 2 = 7.97 of rounds in diameter

Step 3: Calculating the Increases

So now you have 2 figures:

the number of stitches that will make up the circumference (59.5)

the number of rounds that will make up the diameter (7.97)

Now, obviously you can't have 0.5 of a stitch or 0.97 of a row.  You'll need to make a judgement on each. Generally speaking, I estimate the rounds to the nearest complete number.  In my example, its obviously 8.

Next, you need to figure out how many stitches to increase in each round, or what number stitches you'll crochet into your first loop and then increase by over the rounds. This is calculated by dividing the stitches in the circumference by the rounds in the diameter.

# of STITCHES in CIRCUMFERENCE/# of ROUNDS in DIAMETER = Stitches to increase per round

In my example: 59.5/ 8 = 7.43 stitches per round.

You'll often come out with an uneven number. This is where you need to make a judgement. You can:

- Leave the remaining stitches out (in my example: I could make 8 rounds of 7 stitches each with a total of 56 stitches, which would change the hat size from 17 inches to 16 inches)

- Add stitches in to make a next full increase round (in my example, I could round it up to 8 stitches over 8 rounds, for a 64 stitch hat circumference, but this would mean about an 18inch hat circumference)

- To get the correct sizing, round down to the nearest number (in my case 7).  Then in an additional round (in my case, round 9) increase evenly by the remaining 'hanging stitches' (in my case 3).

Then you need to work even until the hat height measures your desired size.


There are so many variations to this process, which I can not go into in this kind of format.  However, once you get this basic principle, the possibilities are endless, including sizing up and down for writing a pattern.

For other varieties:

- Slouchy hats tend to have longer heights and a diameter that will fit snugly on the wearers head so it doesn't slip down over their eyes.

- Beret styles are larger circles so the diameter of the circle makes up much of the hat height.  Obviously the bottom few rounds need to be decreased to a good snug fit.

- Hats with pointy tops can be made by alternating each increase rows with rows that do not increase stitches at all. This will form a cone. To measure the diameter, just rely on the stitch count


Notes: Though I write about inches, it will work just find if you measure in centimeters.

Even though this all sounds very complicated, it is actually relatively straight forward to implement once you get the hang of it (she says, with optimism).  However, if it makes no sense to you at all, try drinking a glass of wine, and if that still doesn't work, I accept full responsibility ;)

There is soooo much more I could say about hat design and pattern writing, but I am going to leave it here for now, as this gives a very basic foundation.  I am toying with the idea of putting all of this (and the other important information) in a pdf, but time is limited at the moment.  However, if you have any questions, please ask either in the comments section or on facebook and I will do my best to answer.

How to Design a Hat, Part 1 is here.

The full interactive eBook is available here.

Subscribing in a reader or liking Slugs on the Refrigerator on Facebook are great ways to be alterted to when I post part 3.