Something I’ve Wanted For A While: A Seashell On My Head


Really, I have wanted to knit the Chambered Nautilus Tam from the moment I laid eyes on it. Its an Elizabeth Zimmermann design and its one of her “no purls needed”. It’s gorgeous right? Right! That’s why its on the cover of her book, Knit One Knit All.

The Chambered Nautilus Tam by Elizabeth Zimmermann

I’ve read through the pattern (more than once) but I couldn’t get my mind completely around it. That’s rare for me because I do lots of brain-knitting. I read a pattern, I visualize the knitting up, and I see how it goes. I have hundreds of knits all finished up that exist only in my head. Its really too bad you can’t see them. Most of them look awesome.

(By the way, I do lots of brain-cooking too. I’ll cook up a whole meal, step by step in my head. It helps me work out the sequence, the timing, how many bowls I’m going to need, and which ingredients I can substitute for things I actually have in my kitchen. Then I usually just re-heat some soup or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Can’t be wasting valuable crafting time on things like cooking!)

But this Chambered Nautilus Tam was a bit out of mental reach. I could never quite nail it down. That could be because the pattern says things like:

  • “sew up the opening (or not)”
  • “repeat 1a-4a about 72 times”
  • “Some of the 3-stitch I Cord will show on the outside, some on the inside. How much of each will depend on which half of the I cord is chosen.”

So. I guess I’ll have to actually knit it if I want to understand the pattern, huh?

Getting Started on The Seashell For My Head

Step 1 in starting a new project is explaining my actions to the Feline Overlord.

“This is what you want to make?”

Yes, Overlord. See how it starts at the top of your head? Most hats don’t do that.

“Your time would be better spent flashing the red laser toy around the house.”

I can do that while knitting, Overlord. I’ll figure out how to work the laser toy with my toes. That way we can both be happy and fulfilled.

Step 2 through 17 is to figure out which yarn to use, sort through all my needles, chase bad cats out of the needle stash, chase them out of the yarn stash, get a fresh cup of coffee, take a breath, and find a place to sit down and knit.

Step 18 in starting a new project is to actually start the project.

the start of a Chambered Nautilus Tam by Elizabeth Zimmermann

I copy over perfectly good directions into my own handwriting, my own words. Its a habit that I’ve never tried to break. It does slow me down some but I don’t mind that. Copying things over is a part of understanding for me. It helps me internalize the directions.

This hat is made in one long strip with no more than 7 stitches on the needle at any given time. One side of the strip is garter stitch, the other is an I Cord edge. After a little while, you start picking up stitches from that I cord edge and knit-2-togthering them with the last stitch on your needle. That makes a spiral.

making the Chambered Nautilus Tam by Elizabeth Zimmermann

Once I have the pattern, the method down, and I feel confident that I know what I’m doing, Step 45 is to get more coffee. While that’s heating up, its time to find one of those bad cats (currently resting from all of that exhaustive earlier interference in my needle and yarn stash) and harass them.

a start to the Chambered Nautilus Tam by Elizabeth Zimmermann

That hat is currently at 33 of “about 72” repeats in the first section. I still have quite a ways to go but I get it now. Its a pretty cool way to make a hat. Very different and it has me wondering what other things knitted spirals could be used for.

So whatcha making? Any WIPs you care to share? Post some pics in the comment section!

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"There is no failure. Only feedback." - Robert Allen

19 Comments on "Something I’ve Wanted For A While: A Seashell On My Head"

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Crap- I need that book.



Dirty trick for feline overlord exhaustion: attach the laser pointer to one of your needle ends, and knit away. I’ve also just used a hair tie to attach it to my wrist or a finger, and it exhausts without interruption! Now to get the book….sigh


That’s a really neat way to make a hat! I am *almost* done with the Tardis blanket (finally). My other WIP right now is I’m making a baby, like a real one 🙂 I want to knit tons of other baby blankets now because of it!


I got this book exactly a week ago for my birthday! It’s an amazing hat but I had trouble brain knitting it too, glad I’m not the only one! I can’t wait to see how it turns out xxx


That looks like a fun knit! And the “pattern” is Auntie Elizabeth (I call her Auntie Elizabeth), all over.