Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Use a colour wheel to help your yarn choices

One look at our needle and hook collections will tell you the the KnitPro team loves colour. 
Zings, Trendz and Waves all add colour to your crafting kit
So it is not surprising that we love stripes, granny square, Fair Isle and anywhere else we can combine colours in yarn. And judging by the pictures you post on our social media channels so do you.
What can be hard sometimes is deciding what colours to use together. A useful tool, we sometimes turn to, is a colour wheel like the one pictured below.
The standard wheel you usually see has 12 segments as shown here. The primary colours, yellow, red and blue are shown at 12, 4 and 8 o’clock and secondary colours, orange, purple and green,  are at 2, 6 and 10 0’clock. Secondary colours are created by mixing two primary colours, for example red and yellow give orange, so they sit half way between the primary colours on the wheel.

The other colours here are known as tertiary colours and are made by mixing a primary and a secondary colour. So for example at 5 o’clock the red and purple are mixed to give a red-violet or shade. You could go on adding segments by mixing each colour with the one next to it to create a larger range of shades but twelve is a good place to start.
Using colours together
Among the ways to match colours are: 

  • Similar shades: Choose yarns that sit in the same quarter of wheel such as reds and oranges – these are known as analogous colours.
  •  Complimentary colours: These are colours that sit opposite each other on the wheel and provide good contrasts– yellow and purple, green and red etc. If you are looking for a subtler contrast, go for the colour to the immediate left of right of the one opposite.
  •  Colour groups: For fair isle and crochet squares we are often looking for 3 or four colours to combine. Pick your colours evenly round the wheel for example  at 1, 5 and 9 o’clock or 1, 4, 7 and 10 o’clock.

This is known as colour theory, one of the easiest ways of using it with yarn – especially from your stash – is to arrange your skeins and balls in a circle in the correct positions for the colour wheel. This will really help you see what will work together – and what crucial shade you need to buy for your perfect colour combination.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Kids crafting for summer

It may be a lovely summer so far but there will always be wet days or those when the kids are just bored and looking for something to entertain them. What better time to get them started on some crafting and use up your left over yarn with some free patterns and tutorials?

Simple knitting
One of the problems with teaching children to knit is that if you start with a teddy’s scarf or similar it can take a long time to get results. But there are fun projects you can achieve with just a few rows such as the finger monster from UK Hand Knitting which only needs oddments of yarn and some bits and pieces to decorate it. Plus it doesn’t matter if the finished creature has holes or is uneven, it is a monster after all.   

Finger knitting
If picking up the needles doesn’t appeal, try finger knitting which is a great way of getting kids interested in yarn crafting and delivers quick results. It requires no equipment beyond a few balls of leftover yarn. You get great effects using two balls together and children love deciding on the colour combinations. To keep interest going. have finger knitting races to see who can make a strip to stretch across a room first. You can find video instructions on finger knitting here.

From friendship bracelets to kumihimo, braiding left over yarn is an easy option to get started with and you can make a simple braiding disc from cardboard – click for video instructions from Kidspiration.
Braiding like this is very portable and so can be useful for dull moments when travelling.

Thanks to the invention of pompom makers you don’t necessarily need to cut up you cornflake packets for pompom rings, but the attraction of winding wool to create these fluffy balls continues. Of course the risk is you then end up with a stack of them gathering dust. To avoid this, plan to string the pompoms together to create a garland to decorate a bedroom or better yet make a pompom rug as shown here by the Make and Do Crew.

Do share your kids’ crafting tips with us.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Plan your holiday knitting 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.