Monday, 16 July 2018

Plan your holiday knititng and crochet

As the summer holidays approach keen knitters and crocheters often find themselves with some serious decisions to make.
First off, is how many projects to pack for a holiday. When we asked about your holiday knitting on Facebook and Twitter, lots of you told us that your big fear is running out of yarn or projects while away. Then there is the issue of the right project for the circumstances – you may want something different for traveling to sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine.
It is definitely worth making a plan. Ask yourself how much time you will have for knitting and crochet. How many projects will you really have times for? Do you want something simple or complicated?
Once you have decided on what projects you should take – make a knitting packing list. Hopefully you will avoid the panic of searching for the right hooks and needles three hours before an early morning start. Although it is unlikely to stop most of us adding one more emergency skein to our bags at the last minute.

If your holiday packing looks like this you may want to check out our tips

Asking around for holiday knitting and crochet tips, we have collected the following useful advice:

  • Take works-in-progress. That way you won’t be seeking out wifi hotspots in the hope of downloading a new pattern. It also means you will have the yarn and needles already sorted out.
  • Choose small projects like socks (your first sock could be a holiday challenge) or lightweight projects such as shawls or lacy scarves.
  • Pack a notions pouch with essentials such as yarn cutter, tape measure, stitchmarkers, scrap yarn and safety pins.
  • Make sure your project bags keep your yarn from escaping as you use it - neither train floors nor sandy shores are yarn friendly.
  • Take three projects – easy, medium and hard so you have plenty to keep you going and plenty of choice depending on what your day is likely to bring. A complicated lace project may only be suitable for a shady veranda whereas you might pop a crochet hook and some yarn for yarn squares in your bag when heading out on a trip.
  • If you are knitting socks while traveling, using circulars rather than double pointed needles will avoid the risk of having to chase an escaped needles down at train or plane.
  • If you are using interchangeable needles and carrying them in your hand baggage, you can protect them from multiple bag packing and unpacking by replacing them on your project with cable stoppers and carrying the needles in a pen slot or notions bag. 
  • Knitting needles and crochet hooks are generally not banned from airports and planes but you may come across individual airlines where you will be asked not to knit or airports where security staff aren’t sure. If you are worried about taking needles through airports choose acrylic and wooden needles, and circular needles over DPNs or straights. Also don’t choose a project that will be irreparably damaged by having the needles removed.
And don’t forget there may be a lovely yarn shop or two at your destination. It may be worth doing some research in advance in case you do need more supplies or simply to find a lovely yarnie souvenir.
Do tell us your top holiday knitting and crochet tips.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Summer knitting

Do you knit and crochet during the summer months? It is one great divide we come across in crafting. Some people pack away their yarn projects as the barometer rises while others plan on taking their knitting to the beach.
 There is no reason why knitting and crochet can’t be all year round activities but you may need to plan differently for the summer months. We have few tips on enjoyable yarn crafting for the summer months.

Fibre choice
If you are worried about getting sticky hands during the summer, choosing the fibres in your yarn carefully can make a big difference. Avoid hairier yarns like mohair or brushed yarns because there will eb more rubbing from the fibres as they pass through your hands making them hotter and potentially felting.
Instead choose your yarn as you do your summer clothes - other natural fibres such as cotton, linen and even bamboo are as good choices for knitting as wearing. These option are often very smooth so will slide through warmer hands more easily.
One thing to remember about cotton and similar yarns is they can stretch or drop because the smoother fibres don’t stick together as much as wool. So take time to make a swatch and wash it before you start.

Yarn weight
Finer yarns such as 4-ply and laceweight can be a good summer choice because there is less yarn actually going through your hands and your growing project is likely to be lighter and airier. A chunky wrap pooling in your lap in mid-summer is not that pleasant. However, be realistic – I’m not sure hand painted cashmere/silk lace weight and the beach really mix.

Needles and hooks
What your needles and hooks are made of can make a difference to how warm your hands feel. If acrylic needles usually feel warm in your hands, they may not be your best choice for summer. Metal can warm up in the sun whereas wood and carbon fibre are less affected by external temperature. Pick needles that generally feel cool or comfortable in your hands.
The other factor is how smoothly your stitches move on your needles. Some yarns will stick or slide more on different materials. You will find it more comfortable to choose needles where your stitches slide easily, reducing the chance of generating extra friction and heat.

Smaller projects
As mentioned above with the chunky wrap, a summer’s afternoon is not the best time to work on a man’s chunky jumper that will cover your lap with an insulating layer you really don’t need. Go for smaller and lightweight projects – socks can be a good choice. And the brighter summer light could be perfect for the lacy scarf you’ve been planning.
Crocheters might think of making squares or other motifs that can be joined into a blanket in cooler times.

Find a good crafting spot
Some shade is your friend when it comes to summer knitting as is a light breeze, Find a good knitting spot and stick with it.
And most important – enjoy your summer knitting and crochet.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Using double pointed needles

We love our double pointed needles (DPNs) and you can often find at least one of the KnitPro team with a sock growing from a set. But we know that some of you feel a little intimidated by balancing four or five needles at once, so here are a few tips to get you started with DPNs.

KnitPro DPN sets come with five needles and you can work in the round using four or five. In this example we have used four, leaving one as a spare.

 Start by using one of two needles to cast on as you would normally, so that all your stitches are on a single needle. Then divide your stitches evenly between three needles by slipping the stitches from one to another.

Form your needles into a triangle so that your first cast on stitch is the first on on the needle on the left side of the triangle, tacking care not to twist your cast on.

Using your fourth needle start to knit the stitches from the needle on the left of the triangle. Don't worry too much about the other two needles with stitches, they are unlikely to fall out.

Once you have worked the stitches on the first needle, rotate your work clockwise and use the needle that has just been freed up to knit along the stitches on the next needle.

From there you can continue rotating and knitting as set by your pattern. You will find that as your work a few rows, the DPNs and knitting becomes easier to hold.

Working on DPNs is useful for working on smaller circular items such as socks, gloves, sleeves and the crown of hats and many people prefer them to the magic loop circular needle method. It is worth trying out both to see which works best for you.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Time for a Fair Isle project

When it comes to knitting techniques, fair isle is a particular favourite with the KnitPro team and we are always excited to learn more about it. So we jumped at the chance to look at a new book featuring the history of Shetland knitting, the home of the technique, and to attend an event where we could get up close with the garments featured. 

The Vintage ShetlandProject by Susan Crawford is more than a pattern book, although there are some great patterns in there. Over the past few years Susan has spent time at the Shetland Museum’s textile archive researching the techniques and patterns of traditional Shetland knitting. The result is a stunning book containing a series of essays on a range of topics to do with the history of knitting in Shetland, the development and recording of patterns and how knitting styles changed over times. 

These are followed by a collection modern patterns derived from some of the garments and accessories held in the museum.

For anyone with a love of colourwork there are some interesting and indeed challenging patterns, but that said they are not outside the reach of any knitter willing to take things one step at a time.

Each pattern comes with a lot of information about the sizing and how each garment in constructed and it is important to read through these before starting your garment, especially the sizing because these patterns have been developed from actual vintage pieces they do not necessarily come in standard sizes.

 As is traditional in fair isle many of the patterns are worked in the round with steeks- sections of knitting designed to be cut to allow buttonbands and sleeves to be added. This has the advantage of allowing you to work the colour pattern in the round which for most people is easier and creates a more even tension. 

Seeing the pieces close up, we were able to look at the wrongside of the garments as well and see how neat the “floats”, the strands of yarn not in use on the reverse of the pattern are. They form a design all their own as you can glimpse in some of the images here. One common mistake people new to stranded colourwork like fair isle make is to catch the yarn not in use every couple of stitches. In fact you can let it run behind the work for seven or even nine stitches, by which time in the majority of traditional patterns it is back in use.

This is a book that knitters can return to time after time for inspiration and to create classic garments with their own colour twist. A true investment for anyone who loves colourwork on their needles.

Our top tip for fair isle knitting: 
Learn both English and continental knitting techniques so you can work with one colour in each hand. This evens out your tension and reduces the chance of yarns tangling.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Yarn substitution

If, like us, you spend many happy hours browsing the patterns on Ravelry, the chances are you will have found a design you love the look of that uses a yarn you can’t get hold of. Or you might be lucky enough to have a whole garment’s worth of yarn in your stash looking for a pattern to bring it alive.  If you have never adapted a pattern for a different yarn it might be quite a daunting prospect, but we would like to reassure you that it is quite easy if you follow our tips.

Fibre content
It is always best to try to find a yarn with a similar fibre content.  If the pattern calls for wool and you want to use cotton, the drape and handle will be very different, and you might be disappointed.  However, if it stipulates wool and you have a wool-effect acrylic yarn in your stash it will probably work out fine.

It is so important to check that you can achieve the same tension with your chosen yarn.  Using the needle size and tension given, knit or crochet a square and see if you can match the gauge in the pattern.  If the square is far too big, your yarn is too thick; way too small and your yarn is too thin.  If your tension square is just a little out, you can adjust this by changing the size of your needle or hook.

Yarn quantities
You will need to work out how much of your chosen yarn you are going to need.  The original pattern will give you the number of balls the design requires in your size.  It may also tell you how many yarns or meters there are in the ball or hank.  If not, you can usually find this information on Ravelry.

Now you need to calculate the total length of yarn needed.  Let’s imagine our pattern takes 5 balls, each with 120 metres.

5 multiplied by 120 = 600 metres in total.

Now let’s say your chosen yarn has only 100 metres in each ball.

600 metres divided by 100 = 6 balls needed in your chosen yarn.

If you are worried you might run out, it’s probably worth adding an extra ball, just in case.

So now you can choose a pattern to match your yarn with confidence.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Stashbusting part two – using the orphans and oddments

In our last post we talked about those stray balls of yarn and small amounts you uncover when you sort out your yarn stash. Here we have a few ideas on how to use them.

Stripe it
It can be really frustrating when you realise that you don’t quite have enough for a whole garment, hat or scarf. But stripes and colour blocks are very fashionable. So check through that orphan and oddments collection to if you have enough of  the same or similar yarn in two or three colours to make a whole garment. Then pick a pattern you like and work out how your stripes or colour blocks are going to work. This is a chance to be adventurous with colour.

Inspirations: Stripy Mitts by Sandra Paul; Rosee Woodland’s Stashbuster Sweater; Brooklyn Tweed Turn a Square hat 

You could also try other types of colourwork like fair isle or intrarsia. 

Añashúa Peruvian Fish Pillow by Erssie; Anniversary hat by Juliet Bernard 

Sock heels and toe
If you have odd amounts of sock yarns to use up you could go down the stripe route or you could make socks with contrasting cuff ribs, heels and toes. A great choice for contrast heels is to use a sock pattern with an afterthought heel

Rainbow by Michaela Richter Wicked Simple Socks by Ashley McCauley 

You can also take a similar approach to the bands and cuffs of a sweater, think vintage sweaters and cricket jumpers for inspiration. 

Granny squares
If you have a lot of the same weight of yarn – DK, aran, etc –crochet squares are a great use of stash yarn yet another way to be creative with colour. You could go all out with a blanket or try smaller projects such as cushions, tote bags, pencil cases, scarves and gadget covers. Remember that if you go for a lacy square pattern like the traditional granny square you may need to line your project.

Demelza by Catherine Bligh; Squares bag by Marinke Slump 

Toy patterns range from simple squares to elaborate families of costumed animals but in general they use smallish amounts of yarn And they are no reason not to have fun with colour – there are some very well loved multi-coloured teddies and dayglow dinosaurs out there.