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This page shows the best part of a year's knitting
by Sheepless, a lady of intermediate skill and a lover of shortcuts. If you would like to send me a picture of your sheepless knitting for the gallery and maybe write a few words about it, please email it to me (right click and copy the address) with your permission to put it up here. You can email me anyway if you like, with feedback about the website!



Striding forth

You know those waterproof covers you can get for the bottoms of your trousers when walking in muddy places. I think they're called gaiters and I used to have some. Mine didn't survive several house moves and I could have really put them to good use lately in the wet and wintry weather we've had here. So, practical as ever, I just knocked up a pair from my stash. I chose the most unobtrusive colour I had (for obvious reasons I think you'll agree!). It's good to arrive home with clean trouser bottoms, anyway.  You don't need me to tell you how to make these but I'd just mention that if I ever make these again I'd make them fit a bit more cosily.  The slouch was intentional, but with wear I'm sure these will get a bit too slouchy.....
So that's me, striding forth into the New Year!

                      wooly gaiters - 1    wooly gaiters - 2



Seasonal whimsy

The house is starting to look very seasonal indeed - at least some of it is! I thought it worth putting a bit of sparkle in the kitchen, seeing as one spends so much time there.
kitchen cabinet decsclose up

A few years ago I attended a recital in one of the oldest Churches in the city, around Christmas time.  I was amazed to see a knitted nativity scene in a prominent place in the Church. As soon as I saw it I knew I'd have to make one.  That was a few years ago, but I've found that you can still find this particular pattern in the archive of the Australian Women's Weekly:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060827070129/http://aww.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=26930
It might still be there if you decide to make this next year! Otherwise, you can easily google other nativity patterns (take my advice and use the smallest!) The character of knitted figures depends greatly on the knitter, as you can make them thin or fat, change their whole structure by slight variaitons on how you sew on the limbs, etc.. and of course you can give them completely different faces and ethnic characteristics. So don't choose what to knit entirely on how they look in the illustrations.
(just a note about sewing/embroidering faces - the eyes fit roughly half way down the full length of the head - not in the top right and left hand corners as is often seen!)
 I like the little angel perching on a bobbin. It's a Jean Greenhowe Christmas Tree Trim from her book Knitted Toys.
    nativity  angel

Easy gifts

Quick cowl

I've just put together a quick gift for a friend - it's a cowl, made from yarn which my friend chose herself.  It's the lovely cowl on couch Freya by Sirdar.  I made it with huge 7.5 mm knitting needles with a very simple openwork pattern - the idea came from a shop demonstration cowl in the same yarn, made on size 7.5 needles, also in a lacey openwork pattern.  To my mind, when using a multicoloured fuzzy yarn it's a bit of a waste of effort to use a complicated lacey pattern, so I worked the cowl in the simplest openwork pattern - first row, yarn over, knit two together along the row, alternate rows knit to end. Put a single knit stitch at the beginning and end of each row - so a pattern might read:
cast on a multiple of 3 plus 2. (I had 26 stitches)
Knit one row. Continue in pattern:
Row 1 - K1 (yarn to front, knit 2 together) to end of row, K1.
Row 2 - K
Knit to desired length, casting off with the knit row. About 50 inches is a reasonable lengh for a woman's cowl, I think, and 9 inches a reasonable width.
The word cowl is ancient and versatile .. a monk's hood .. a chimney cover.. in the world of knitting and crochet it's  come to mean a scarf which is joined to itself at the ends, either a short one to pop over the head or a long one to wind round .. then there's the slightly different snood, which is usually something designed to cover the head, instead of, or as well as, the neck .. I'm sure you knew all that!

Little Hedgehogs

There's still time to make one or two of these nice little toys, which also make great pincushions (use round headed pins only). Last year I needed some stuff for a sale, so I devised this pattern as the simplest / quickest way to make little knitted hedgehogs that stand up on their own, without my having to knit four little legs for stability. If you don't make a firm flat base for hedgehogs the little creatures just roll over, like the one which was my first attempt. I first saw this 'flat base' idea in patterns by Jean Greenhowe, but it's probably widely used now. Jean Greehowe's pattern for little hedgehogs has you making four little feet, by the way, which is not for me when there's a quicker way...

You will also see that using this method there's only one piece for the head and body. Really, the whole thing can take less than an hour once you've found the materials and got the hang of the pattern.

Use any yarn and suitable size needles, e.g. I used double knitting yarn and uk size 9 (3.75mm) with size 10 for the head. Dark brown or grey will do for the body, with lighter colours for the head.

With the darker colour, cast on 4 sts. first step

(numbers refer to the rows)

  1. knit, increasing in each stitch (8sts)

  2. as row 1 (16sts)

  3. knit

  4. (k3, increase in next stitch) 4 times (20sts)

    Increasing along the row like this gives an convex shape.
    Continue in garter stitch until work measures 3 ins.

Next row: (k3, k 2 tog) 5 times along the row (16sts)taking shape


    Change to the lighter colour yarn and the slightly smaller needles.


(K 3, k 2 tog) to end of row (13 sts)

Next row: purl

next row: knit

Next row: (k2, k2 tog) to end of row (10 sts)

next row: purlgrowing

next row: (k1, k2 tog) to end

next row: P 2 tog to end

Thread yarn through remaining stitches and bind off.


Sew up the seam, leaving most of the tummy unstitched.

Stuff carefully, pushing into shape as you go.

Before sewing up, make an egg-shaped disc of cardboard and a slightly larger egg shape from dark coloured cloth. Lightly glue the cloth to the cardboard.underneath

Place these inside the open seam (cardboard inside the hedgehog) and oversew the knitted shape onto the fabric using sewing thread.

Make some simple stitches in black knitting yarn for the nose and eyes.



These look great when they are covered with colourful round-headed pins - especially the 'pearlised' kind. They really do make useful and decorative gifts.




              nearly finished     finished



Frugality par excellence

O the joy of completing projects! I have completed and worn, several times, my warm hoody and it's perfect for cool weather dog walking. I have a very light showerproof raincoat which I can easily stash and carry in case of rain, and with a 'wooly' instead of a jacket I feel much freer somehow. As mentioned previously, this was a 'frugal' project because I only had to buy half of the yarn. I love the side vents. They're very easy to make (as mentioned previously) and they are a great advantage on a long knitted garment because 1. the garment 'hangs' better and 2. they prevent it from stretching over the bum as you sit down.
                      hoody      side vent
  picnic basket
My other frugal project is not knitting at all, but it's a tiny picnic basket.  I bought my granddaughter a toy teaset for her third birthday which was this week, but I coudn't find a box or basket the right size for her to stash it.  (And after I'd taken the teaset out of its merchandising box, it was almost impossible to get it back in...) To make the framework I re-sized a cardboard box that once held a radio. The lining is from fabric I once bought to  make a carry pouch when the three-year-old was a babe in arms. And the cover fabric used to be my pinny. I knew my granddaughter liked the design because she once admired it (sweet!). I didn't have any fabric left after making that, so I actually used the pinny itself. Needs must because I knew for sure that the recipient would like it. It did wash it first of course!



There's more to life..

How's your knitting coming along? Slowly, I hope!  Because of course there's more to life than knitting. Most of us who aren't professional knitters place knitting quite a long way down the 'to-do' list except when we 'have some urgent knitting to do!' (that's a quote from the character played by the wonderful Beryl Reid in the film version of Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane.)

A clue to the main reason why my knitting has been coming along slowly is contained in the following link:
http://thecottagemarket.com/2013/10/35-diy-dog-coats.html

Most (not all) of the projects shown on that website are quite silly, and horrendously anthromorphic (which some would say is a form of animal abuse) - and I'm not intending to embark on any of them any time soon! But meanwhile here's a picture of the heap of knitting which one day will be my hoody, alongside my little Peace offering for the vegan bookstall this coming Saturday.

              heap of knitting       peace poppies


Even more on therapy

When we have a life-affirming project going on that grabs the self and gets it to work in a positive way, that is an antidepressant - that's a quote from Carrie Barron, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York. There's more from Carrie here http://preview.tinyurl.com/n3e3mfz but much of it comes from studies involving  other crafts lumped in with knitting, or from animal studies which I hate and discount. But the quote singled out above is right on, I think, and we don't need university psychiatrists to point it out.

first attemptsThe above principle applies even when you don't have a nice easy piece of knitting or crochet on the needles, because you are still doing something positive (and yes, even if it doesn't work out, you will have learned something by the time honoured method of experience). Talking of knitting something a bit more fiddly, I have spent some time lately looking for patterns for, or trying to devise, a knitted or crochet poppy. Near Armistice Day, if I wear a poppy it is a white one sold in aid of the Peace Pledge Union. Thse are worn in remembrance not only of soldiers but of all victims of war, and they show an alternative position to the glorification and military-style parades which take place on November 11th.  Indeed the vast majority of victims of war are civilians, now more so than ever.

I had in mind the Peace Fair which is held in my city each year around Armistice Day. I usually help out in a book stall there, and I thought I might also sell some knitted white poppies this year in aid of a pacifist or vegan cause. Or (depending on how many I manage to make) I might just give them away, together with a paper card about this website, in return for a promise to visit here! 

You can see from the picture above the sad results of my first attempts, in both knitting and crochet. I was beginning to abandon the whole idea when I came across the best and most original flower pattern I've ever seen. The petals are worked together by dint of a bold and daring (but simple) technique which I haven't come across before. And the whole flower has just seven rows! It's from a book in the series easy world craft: Classic Knits  written and published by a team under the label Dorling Kindersley.  The book turned up in a well known remaindered bookshop, so I had a bargain. Actually it's one of the nicest comprehensive guides to knitting that I've seen and it's really worth having. I don't know who devised this bold and daring technique to make the petals, but it's new to me. Don't worry, it's not difficult - just unusual. I'm copying the whole pattern here, rather than scanning it, because you don't need all of it as printed, and so reading it all here might have been confusing.

Five petal flower pattern
poppies
Use any weight yarn, and suitable needles. I used DK weight and size 4mm (UK 8) needles.
Note: slip all slipped stitches purlwise with yarn at wrong side of work.

Using the normal 'English' method, cast on 41 sts.Flower row 4
ROW 1: (RS) *sl 1, k 7, rep from * to last st, p1
ROW 2: *sl 1, k to end
ROW 3: as row 1
ROW 4: (pictured) sl1, p 7, *sl 1, take yarn to back of work between two needles then around the back of knitting and then forwards over cast on edge, over top of knitting between two needles and around cast on edge again, so ending at front of work, pull yarn to gather knitting tightly, p7, rep from * to last st, k1.
ROW 5: *k2 tog, rep from * to last 3 sts, sl1 k 2 tog, pass slip stitch over (also known as 'sk2p') - 20 sts
ROW 6: k
change to the colour you want for the centre of the flower
ROW 7: (k2 tog) x 10 = 10 sts
break yarn, thread  into a needle, draw through all stitches and fasten off.



Cheap and Cheerful Chunky

The whole world is busy! I'm always longing for a quiet time of relaxing knitting. To add to my usual state of busy-ness, I have three yarny projects on the go at the moment which are all slightly complicated and exploratory and not really suitable for my preferred semi-recumbent knitting position.  So, to fulfill my need for simplicity, I decided to use two balls of c
Hoody cheap woolhunky four year old yarn from my stash, together with some extra yarn which I would buy, to make up  a winter hoody for myself.  Also for simplicity, I used a bought pattern rather than devising one for myself.  I had previously devised a hooded jacket pattern for myself - pictured left - and devising the pattern took a while to get right, as I had little experience of knitting hoods and side shaping - and I'd knitted it up in a very cheap yarn (more of that later). Actually it turned out really well, and I loved wearing it. So when by chance whilst out on a jaunt to another town I saw a nice knitted-up example of a different kind of hoody, I was inspired to buy the pattern and save myself some trouble. I hadn't knitted a garment with split sides before, and I thought I'd like to see how the professionals do it. Also, the pattern happened to be for the very yarn in my stash that I had in mind - so this is now what I'm knitting for relaxation.

                Hoody pattern  Hoody pattern
To make the side vents, the band of ribbing at the bottom is deeper than usual, and before changing to the main stitch there is a decrease row - traditionally there is an increase row after the ribbed lower edge, so that the ribbing makes the bottom of the garment fit snugly. By increasing the number of stitches at the point the garment will hang more loosely at the bottom edge, so as to accommodate the side split. An inch or two after the ribbing, a few stitches are cast on at each side and before sewing up, a sideways bar of ribbing will be added to the gap, to make up the width.  The seam of course finishes at the side bar, making the side split. Now I would never have thought of all that myself so I'm pleased to have this pattern to add to my collection. (The loose ribbing and the side split should eliminate the tendency of longer knitted garments to bag out at the derriere...)
Side vent

A note on cheap acrylic wool. pilling
The sad story of my first hooded jacket shows that it just isn't worth knitting garments in bottom-of- the-range yarns. I really did love this hoody and wore it constantly at home - and I literally wore it out! It started to 'pill' after only a couple of washes, and soon I was leaving little balls of fluff all over the house.  And the more time went on, the more messy and drab it looked.  After spending so much time and thought on it, I was of course disappointed.  But this is what happens with the cheaper sorts of acrylic yarn.  The one I used for the first hoody was King Cole Big Value Chunky, which I would not buy again (even if I hadn't resolved to buy as little acrylic as possible in future!)  The picture shows what happened to some wrist warmers I made last winter so as to use up the last of it from my stash. How awful.  If you are going to use a
n acrylic yarn, don't use the bottom of the range if you want something to really last, and remember that blended yarns are blended for a good reason and a man-made yarn with another synthetic mixed in in it would be more hard wearing.
And by the way, the sweater I knitted in Marble a year or two ago did wear quite well and certainly much better than the hoody. Marble is also a 'budget' yarn but it is lovely and smooth to knit with and the colours are excellent - I don't usually like yarns that knit up into a stripe, but Marble is more subtle than most. It has been on the market for ages, which is a good sign of its quality.



Spinning, weaving, knititng..


Back in the day, when I was a student, I had a friend whose mother was a spinner and whose father was a weaver - they worked in a mill, of course (in West Yorkshire, of course). From Sleeping Beauty to Silas Marner, this division of labour was often the case, and especially when textile crafts were taken over by industrial scale machinery. I've never (yet) been attracted to weaving but something inside me would like to become a proficient hand spinner. I admit that I'm not getting along very well with it just now, but I'm hopeful because I now have cotton and linen 'tops' which should be easier than soy, and I've been given a valuable hint to damp down the fibres so as to help them hold together.

Ihand warmers've just been on holiday so there's been a gap in my spinning progress, but on a long car journey to beautiful Cornwall I didn't have to drive so I was able to dash off a pair of mittens in double knitting which feel just right for working at the keyboard.  I didn't have a project small enough to carry with me on the train for the first leg of the journey, which was by train, but when I arrived at my first stop I realised that a car journey of several hours without knitting lay before me. Luckily the first  stop was overnight, so I dashed into town for a ball of Stylecraft Special from the market. I had some short needles in my travelling case (it's become a habit!) and so the situation was saved. I remembered that I'd seen an idea online for working mittens with the palm side smooth and the upside patterned. I knew I could do this without a pattern, so I quickly worked out the gague and how many stitches would be needed. These are made from a single straight piece of knitting, with cosy rib stitch for the wrists and fingers The main part has moss stitch for the back of the hands and stocking stitch for the palms. To finish, you simply sew the edges together, leaving a gap for the thumb.

This is a great project for starting to devise your own patterns. Since coming home I've found my original inspiration for this idea online at http://blog.lulalouise.com/2013/02/free-knitting-pattern-fingerless.html You might want to have a look at the pattern as it is written there, and then with that information in your mind, devise something similar but unique, for yourself. I wanted to make mine with a moss stitch section because I really like the appearance and feel of the stitch - and such a small piece is quite enough for the slight fiddlyness and slowing down that's needed for that stitch. Bear in mind that the knitting pattern linked above is made in thicker yarn than the yarn I used, so if you want to use double knitting you will have to calculate the number of stitches needed.

SINGLE RIB: Knit one, Purl one, all the way along each row. Knit a K stitch on top of a P stitch of the previous row, and a P stitch on top of a K. If you cast on an even number of stitches you will find that you will begin alternate rows with a K stitch.
MOSS STITCH (also called SEED STITCH). The same, but knit a K stitch on top of a K stitch of the previous row, and a P stitch on top of a P stitch. If you cast on an even number of stitches you will find that you begin each fow with a P stitch.
As you practice these stitches, examine the appearance of the stitches you are knitting - look on the reverse side so you can see what the previous stitch was - and you will get the hang of what your next stitch calls for.
If you do a little sample of each stitch, you can see the different qualities of each.




              spindle                                   Abby Franquemont's book  

My hand spinning has a long way to go - meanwhile I can recommend a comprehensive and beautiful book, by Abby Franquemont. It's a real inspiration and a great practical help. The writer has been spinning since her childhood in Peru and has researched the history of spinning across centuries and continents. I'm very pleased that I splashed out on this book, especially as, unbeliavably, there are no books about hand spinning in my city's library catalogue. There are lots of videos on YouTube of course, but many of them seem to suggest that their way is the only way - and they are not much help with troubleshooting!

The photo on the left shows my first efforts with soy fibre, which is beautifully silky but far too flimsy for a beginner. My little spindle displays several faults which a hand spinner would instantly recognise - but I will persevere, perhaps later with plant fibres which don't slip apart so easily!


The Seven Mile Scarf

August 9th was the long-awaited day of the unrolling of the 7 mile long knitted scarf between Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield in Berkshire. Confounding all doubters, it was a huge success. Knitters (including me!) throughout the UK and overseas have contributed sections, and many of us took our knitting along personally to stand up and be counted as citizens who disagree with our Governments 120 billion Trident nuclear defence programme. There are some stunning photos on the Wool Against Weapons website, but here is my little camera's contribution, starting on the coach with some hasty sewing up and rolling into bundles:

on the coachroad sign

successthe road

roadapplique

butterflydoveheartsfancy

washcloth
We took our knitting back to our home towns and the next stage will be to unpick the sections and make them into blankets for humanitarian aid projects, mainly in Tanzania, Uganda, Syria and UK.

The coach journey was about 4 hours, so of course I did some knitting - the perfect activity to stay focused whilst aware and participating in what's going on around. I made a bathroom washcloth, and installed it when I finally got home!




I'm very excited because the lady who sent the photo of her knitted items from plant fibres which she had spun herself, has agreed that, when she has time, she would like to submit a page here all about spinning with plant fibres. In a few days I'm off to a yarn spinning shop not too far away from where I live, to pick up some cotton and other fibres, together with a drop spindle, to have a go myself:
http://www.winghamwoolwork.co.uk/13-plant
I'm not sure how I'll get on with spinning but in the line of duty I'm determined to give it a go!

Meanwhile, I've finished the baby blanket /  rug that I've been making entirely from my stash. It's a great success in fact, though a little eye-watering....

bright blanket



When women get together for tea, cake and knitting, sometimes the cake and conversation overtakes the knitting. This is what happened yesterday at my house.  Those present hadn't seen each other for a while, and being in the middle of a heat wave it was really too hot to do anything much. Here are some snaps of our work in progress - the two tiny pieces are from women who had only just learned to crochet!  Also appearing is my trusty pick-up-at-anytime item which is a baby or toddler pram rug/blanket. 

 crochet square  bag and pattern

 tiny crochet square  multicolour



My trusty stash

The baby blanket I made a while ago has proved a real success. Garter stitch is a lovely cozy and stretchy stitch, especially when it's worked diagonally.  So my daughter has selected some outrageous colours from my stash for me to knit another one, which will make a good cover in case the weather ever gets cooler. They say it's uncomfortable knitting heavier items in summer, but actually it's quite nice to sit calmly knitting and imagining cooler weather. It's cool, in fact.

multicolour



Therapy?

There's been hardly any time for knitting or crochet recently and I've been feeling quite 'pulled out' with various commitments. Does that phrase originate from our ancient knitting vocabulary?  I might have said I've been 'run ragged' (though it wouldn't be true) just because that's another saying from the world of textiles.  Co-incidentally, my Lion Brand free e-newsletter arrived today, with a very nice article from the woman who wrote the piece on knitting as therapy which I mentioned previously. The article takes the therapeutic aspects of knitting even further, actually advising us to make a list of symptoms we might like to heal, together with yarnly activities aimed at those particular symptoms! Whether you will love this, or treat it with the utmost scepticism, you might appreciate it:
http://blog.lionbrand.com/2014/06/20/5-step-guide-to-creating-your-own-yarncrafting-wellness-plan/
Maybe I've felt pulled out lately precisely because I haven't been able to take time for my favourite armchair and some knitting. In fact, just to get a needed project done, when I've got my hands on it I've been knitting furiously with other things on my mind. Not good! Lazy Daisy stitch

Simple embellishment

But I did take time to do some very quick embelishments at the final stage of the project, and this was transformative and fun. The colour doesn't show up well here, but baby's mum had chosen a pale peach from my stash with a gentle grey for some decoration. Naturally I chose the simplest trick for the embellishment - the tried and trusted Lazy Daisy stitch. The texture of acrylic yarn holds this stitch beautifully on a knitted garment, however often you wash it, and it's lovely on baby items. You can see how it's done, here.
I might make some black fingerless mittens for myself soon, with orange daisies / stars, just to show its versatility. I could go on like this, from my stash, for ages!
Cardigan for Rosie
Whilst I'm on with baby cardigans, needless to say (as mentioned on the Guidelines page) I have a 'generic' pattern for baby and toddler cardigans, which I then customise even if only very slightly. Here's one I made for the older sister of this little baby, when she was two. It really is worth getting hold of patterns that you can use again and again, especially for children, so that you don't have to make the calculations each time they grow. Designing a simple pattern for yourself is a different matter because you only have to make the calculations once!





Here's a sweet picture of the baby shawl I made recently. This little girl has a beautiful head of hair not often seen on a newborn. Sadly, it doesn't come from my side of the family!

Baby in shawl


An easy but effective stitch

Just before leaving my Wool against Weapons project, I'll sing the praises of a stitch I often use for a flat piece of work such as a blanket or a purse, or even a dishcloth... Instead of just doing stocking stitch, (knit one row, purl one row, continue until bored) you can do little blocks of stocking stitch, alternating the 'right' and 'wrong' sides. That's what I did for this piece:

finished scarf for CND

The yarn itself would have been enough to show off the lovely colours, but this stitch has the effect of producing a flatter finished product - plain stocking stitch tends to curl at the edges, even with a small border.  And while I'm on the subject, here's a little shoulder purse that I sometimes wear under my coat when I'm carrying a backpack.  It's made with two rectangles of the main stitch, starting with a few rows of moss stitch
(or 'seed stitch') with a buttonhole in the centre of the border of one of the pieces. Then I made a strap in moss stitch which I sewed on afterwards, taking the strap all the way round, between the two pieces. I really like the little button which is sewn on the inside of the bag!  Hint: if you ever make a knitted strap for a bag, remember that it's going to stretch massively in use - perhaps to an extra third of its length. You can see that I had to tie a knot in this one!

cotton purse



The 'side benefits' of knitting

Actually these are really benefits - just as any 'side effects' of  drugs are, in fact, effects (why have we so easily  been misled like that?)  Anyway ... a recent item in the American Lion Brand  newsletter lists no less than ten healing benefits of knitting (referred to as such, not as 'side benefits', by the way). Some of these are the relief of depression, building self-esteem, possibly postponing dementia, etc... Have a look:
http://blog.lionbrand.com/2014/05/20/10-most-important-health-benefits-of-yarncrafting/
It makes interesting reading, though some might say it's over-egging the cake a bit and it does call to mind those typical exam questions of yesteryear ("list ten reasons why....")

The tricoteuses

This subject - knitting as therapy - reminds me of something I have often thought. You might know that, in the bloodiest part of the French Revolution, numerous women gathered around the guillotine with their knitting, which they continued to work on between executions.  In the popular imagination, these women, who came to be known as the
tricoteuses, are usually thought to have been callous and unfeeling because of the knitting.  But it's much more complicated - women played a big part in the French Revolution and certainly not all women in the crowd were of one mind. I have no doubt that some of them, and probably most of them, found that their knitting - the only remaining 'normal' thing in their lives - played a vital part in helping them to stay relatively calm in a truly hellish situation.  

One of the benefits of knitting is of course that you can use it to help another person or organisation, even if you are housebound and cashstrapped.  Just now I'm knitting for a campaign I've mentioned before - http://www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk/.  I searched my stash for all shades of the pinkish variety and came up with quite a few - at least enough to knit a piece measuring 60cm x 100cm. I got out my needles and tried out some swatches in a very simple pattern, intending to use just one strand of DK yarn.  I then cast on the relevant number of stitches, or so I thought, and knitted up an inch or two, but frustratingly it wasn't the right size.  I must admit that I was a bit cross and rather rushed at the time so I ripped it and put it aside. Then a couple of days later I happened to be visiting a nearby town in Nottinghamshire where of course I found a yarn shop. When this happens, I invariably buy a little something to support the shop.  I confess that on this occasion I bought 200gm of chunky acrylic yarn to get me going again
easily and enthusiastically with huge needles on the campaign project. (I say 'confess' because only a few weeks ago I'd made a resolution about buying yarn.)   It didn't take long to work out the gague, and I was up and running. As you can see, I've simply used speedy stocking stitch, reversing the knit/purl stitches along the row in blocks of ten stitches.  It's really easy and pleasant I must admit, to be knitting this, compared with juggling with oddballs to get a satisfactory pattern. I'm pretty sure that I'll have enough to make the piece the right size, even if when I've used up the yarn the old warm iron and wet hanky trick are needed, to stretch it a bit (note: the deadline for producing a piece for this project is 30/6/2014).

pink piece



Another tiny cardigan, and the end of a tedious project
cotton baby coat
After writing about acrylic yarn I was even more determined to try to knit with plant fibres and to use acrylics less often. As I think I've mentioned, I already had 50g of Debbie Bliss Ecobaby yarn so I knitted up another little baby jacket for the most recent baby in my life - another beautiful granddaughter. The pattern is easy and enjoyable to knit, and this website so worth visiting, that I'll link it here again. This jacket looks really tiny but in fact it's perfect for a newborn and should fit the baby for at least two or three months, after which it will probably fit a favourite teddy bear.   

In other news ... I'm just breathing a huge sigh of relief after finishing a project that's been on the needles for 10 months or so.  I started it whilst on holiday last year, on impulse because I really liked the colour of some cheap yarn that I spotted on sale in a post office (!) The colour doesn't show up well here, but it's similar to a lime green but softer and easier to wear for those who feel that lime green doesn't really suit them. I was so keen to get this project out of the way that I put it together in haste and didn't make a great job of it as you can see (though it's certainly good enough to wear, and over time the washing might hide a multitude of sins). The easiest way to neaten a newly knitted acrylic garment (as it should not be ironed, except with a cool iron and a wet hanky over it) is to chuck it in the washing machine and just shake it out when it comes out - I should think a tumble dryer would harm it because of the high temperatures, and it's not necessary anyway because acrylic dries very quickly.
Button bands - aargh!
What I have learned, or had finally drummed into me, from this project, is:
*Sewing up is everything!
* Separate button bands are extremely tedious to make and to sew on, but they are a great little item for carrying about for away knitting
* Whilst sewing on the button band, it should be stretched more than just slightly. I knitted the band to a length that looked just about right, then held it on a safety pin whilst I sewed most of it in place so that I could get the length exactly right before casting off
* It would be much quicker to have knitted a top down cardigan, thus avoiding sewing up and purl rows.  My next item for myself will be a sweater made on the Elizabeth Zimmerman principles, of which I now approve more heartily than ever!

almost there...                                                                                            at last!
       

unfinished cardigan           finished cardigan



More about squares, and a tiny cardigan
starting the square
Perhaps the most accurate way to knit a square is to do it diagonally. The advantage of this method is that you don't have to work out how many stitches you need for your square but you just plough straight into it. Cast on two stitches and then knit twice into the first stitch and knit the next one (3 stitches). On the next row, knit twice into the first stitch and knit the next two stitches. Increase in this way at the start of every row until the the two sides of your square are the size you want, then decrease (knit two stitches together) at the beginning of each row until you have just two stitches to knit together. To get a nice edge, begin each row with two plain stitches (slip one knitwise, knit one) before doing the increase of decrease (I forgot to do this so I had to neaten it afterwards with crochet).

To make this baby blanket I used Stylecraft Special DK in pale mauve and grey, alternating the colours with two rows of plain knitting.   I wanted to use all of the yarn, so I carried on knitting until each ball weighed 50g on the kitchen scales and then I started decreasing.  When it was finished, I firmed up the edges with 3 rows of double crochet (crocheting into the back of the chain of the row below for the middle row, but under the chain on the first and third row). I had to buy another ball of yarn for this of course.  There was tons left, so I quickly knitted a sweet little baby jacket to match, with a pattern I found here.


 finished blanket   blanket and top


It's a treat to have some really simple knitting to do and with nice smooth needles and yarn you can really work fast to complete a project, and relax at the same time.  I'll be doing more of this soon, when I knit my contribution to the Wool Against Weapons happening in August.  Have a look, especially if you would like to support the campaigns against nuclear weapons. There's some really imaginative and inspiring knitting on their website.


      
Dishcloths!

Two comments I received when I first launched this site, were "do people still knit dishcloths", and a request for a really simple knitting project. The two seemed to go together!

The simplest and in fact the traditional way to knit a dishcloth, in my experience, was always simply to knit a square.  Think of the hours of tedium involved for schoolgirls of previous generations who were forced to make them.  Cast on as many stitches as you want for the size you want, and continue in garter stitch until the length matches the width - just fold it into a triange to check this. 
(There is actually a very different way to knit squares, which I'll soon be posting in another project.)
For the standard 'dishcloth cotton' (now also called 'craft cotton') you will probably need UK size 8 (4mm) needles.  You might like to use short needles, to make a good project for a train journey.   What I've just described is a traditional dishcloth as far as I'm concerned.  However, it now seems that designer dishcloths are all the rage, and bathroom washcloths are also popular.  The yarn for both is always cotton of course, as it's the most absorbent.

Well, after all my rants about making our own patterns, the day has now dawned when I've actually followed a pattern to make a dishcloth, and not once but twice!  I did actually make dishcloths of my own design a year or few ago when I first got my little camper van, because after all that little sink was a bit special (more of the van later, maybe - not the dishcloths though..)  After the question about whether people do still knit dishcloths, to prove the point that they do I found zilions of dishcloth patterns on the internet and was charmed enough to knit a couple which I found at http://www.allfreeknitting.com/Dish. And here they are:


            dishcloths   dishcloths and labels

One is made with traditional rough dishcloth cotton, and the other with the more expensive kind, and you can tell which is which, not by the colour, but by the rougher texture of the darker one - both kinds come in white and beige-ish.  Try making one and see how it compares in use with your other favourite factory-manufactured dishcloth! Since the reawakening of my interest in dishcloths (!) I've been looking around for coloured pure cotton in a nice colour for both bathroom and kitchen cloths.  I actually found some in an Oxfam shop yesterday so I'm quite looking forward to finding out what it's like using a knitted facecloth.

cotton yarn

6 balls of pure cotton for 2.00.  Not bad!


garter stitch cloth

And the last word on dishchoths
is that granny was right and actually the best dishcloths are made with plain garter stitch, which gives the most dense finish with the most absorbency. If you're going to knit a cloth like this, remember to slip the first stitch on every row, rather than knitting it - this gives a firmer edge and applies to many designs where the side of the knitting is open.






I discovered a new yarn ...


Well it may not be all that new, but I've just used it for the first time.  Freya by Sirdar.  It's described as a 'winter cotton' and it's a mix of cotton, acrylic and polyester.  It's light and soft and lovely to knit with. Freya yarn baooll
Even at the final, exciting stage when you pick up the stitches for the neckline and you have the whole thing on your needles it's delightfully light and soft, and easy to work with. I made myself a tunic, one of those garments that covers a multitude of sins and which can co-ordinate otherwise mismatched separates.

I've already washed it and it's fine.  The yarn doesn't come in a big range of colours but they are all very nice subtle mixes.  The shade I chose is 'Lapland', which you can see much better on the Sirdar website
http://www.sirdar.co.uk/yarns/fashion/Freya/shades than in my photographs.

I really enjoyed knitting this, partly because it was for meeee! And I really needed it - it's become my favourite outfit of the moment.

 
                                  close-up     Dress               
 
It was quick to knit up on UK sizes 4 and 5 needles.  Needless to say, the close-up above is not to scale.  I used only 300g of yarn for this - including a matching cowl - so you can tell how light it is, whilst it's also warm. 

patternsI used my good old chunky pattern as my base line and made very simple adaptations.  Of course I checked first that the gague given in the pattern was similar to that recommended for the yarn. I knitted the body a few inches longer than stated in the pattern, then when I got to 2.5 inches below the armhole decrease, I changed to smaller needles and worked 2 inches of rib, then changed back to larger needles.  That pulls it in a little and gives a slightly dress shape, rather than straight up and down.  The bottom edge is a little roll created by omitting any rib or edging pattern at the cast-on.  That also gives a slightly outward movement and accentuates the dress shape (whilst it's still not a dress but a tunic, really).
Sleeve
To knit short sleeves from a long sleeved pattern, cast on just a little more (say 10% more for slim arms) than given for a wrist cast - on and increase over the next few rows until you've got the maximum number of stitches stated in the pattern before shaping the armhole. For this little tunic I made the ribbing at the sleeve edges the same width as the band of ribbing under the bust which also added a little bit of style.

The tunic has a simple roll top, as in the pattern, which I love because it's so easy to do and it's quite flattering and also easy to get on and off.


Neckline
Of course you can't be entirely sure how much yarn to buy when you work like this.  I bought 300g, knowing that the amount would be enough for a sleevelss tunic but when I'd knitted half way up the back it was clear that I could probably knit sleeves as well, so when I'd completed the front and back, using the kitchen scales I divided the remaining yarn into two plus some for the roll neck, so that I would have an idea how long I could knit the sleeves.

Even then I had a very small amount left over - just enough for a modest sized cowl.  I love this idea - it looks like a high neck sweater when it's on, but you can just whip the cowl off if you get too warm.

Now here is another very lazy idea for a fancy stitch.  No yarnovers, no knitting stitches together.  Just knit a length of garter stitch and before casting off you DROP some single stitches placed evenly along the row.  You see how this works, yes?  It really is the laziest way to get a bit of variety and lightness.  Shamefully lazy but the lightness is quite appropriate for something that's going to be worn round the neck.  Maybe it's not a great for larger areas of knitting as it may catch on pointy objects and the loops would pull.  Mind you I have knitted at least two scarves with this method over the years and I've never had that trouble.



    Drop stitch pattern            Cowl

  


 
talking of scarves ...

pink lace scarfYellow lace scarf

Here are a couple of scarves I made a while ago using  King Cole Bamboo Cotton
http://www.kingcole.co.uk/knitting-yarns/dk/bamboo-cotton-dk.html
The pattern is the Buckingham scarf which is available free on Ravelry
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/f225-buckingham-scarf
It's a really good first lace project because there's only one pattern row, and alternate rows are simply purl.  Lace just consists of yarnovers and decreases, after all.  It's great that the most complex knitting patterns you can come across all consist of the few basic stitches (and quite a bit of concentration!)
This yarn is a delight to knit with as it's so smooth  and the colours are lovely.  I treated myself to a pair of bamboo needles to get in the mood.  That was a good idea because the yarn itself is very smooth and might be likely to slip off steel needles when doing awkward manoevres.
Finally, this yarn is very durable and washes perfectly.




little basket
Balls of colour


Here are some little balls I crocheted recently for my 2 year old grandchild.  You can see the pattern here.   I claimed that these might teach little Rosie the names of the colours, but really I just wanted to have a pretty basket of colour around the place.  There are three balls each of primary colours, and two each of secondary colours (is that sad?) Actually I'm not really keen on teaching kids 'facts' and 'knowledge' too early and I soon began to regret my idea when it instantly turned other grown-ups into primary teachers. 
There are no such things as colours anyway!
There is no place where one colour ends and another begins. 
It's all a glorious symphony of hues, changing from day to day and person to person.  Don't let's spoil it for little children by compartmentalising, at least not just yet.  They will soon enough learn.  Actually these little balls have been played with quite a bit.  They are good for hiding and finding games and they are very resilient.  I found one under the hearth rug while I was hoovering today.  It had been under that rug, being trodden on, for a week, but it soon bounced back as if nothing had happened.  Very forgiving.

Noah




knitted bunnyAs I write, Easter is coming up and so I thought I'd include this. 
It must be the simplest ever way to making a bunny - it's all made from one knitted square (e.g. 28 sts of dk) with just the neck and body stuffed, leaving two corners of the square as ears and adding a stuffed tail or a pompom separately, where it hides the gathering stitches.
With the knitted square, draw an imaginary triangle between the half-way points of three of the sides.  Thread a running stitch through the three sides of this triangle and pull it together to make the head, stuffing it and pulling tight. Stitch round the remaining half of the square and stuff that.  Position the ears convincingly and hold in place with a few stitches. For the tail, make a little white square of knitting and stuff that, or make a pompom.  Sew on the features of the face. Did you get that? I found this suggestion on the internet but I'm afraid I can't remember where, and I can't find it at this moment.  I think it was an American site.  Please let me know if you find it!  I really should include the link.



'Frugal'

I've often seen blog posts about being frugal, when what is being described doesn't seem to me to be very frugal at all.  Frugal is what we had to do when we didn't have much money, and frugal is what we do now to combat rampant consumerism and carbon footprinting - and because we still might not have much money!

O, and 'thrifting'.  What is thrifty about buying something from a charity shop that you don't actually need?  Somebody else might need it. I am not saying that I'm not guilty here!

I had never even heard of a stash until the latest surge of popularity for knitting.  Back in the day, you would never have any yarn stashed away, other than left-overs.  (Sorry to sound harsh but don't worry - this is not going to end up with us living in a box by the side of the road. Also I should admit that I now have a mountain rather than a molehill of 'leftovers'.)

Frugality is, for instance,  knitting both sleeves of a sweater top down at the same time (on the same needles) so that you can make them as long as possible, but not necessarily as long as you wanted, just so you don't have to buy another ball of yarn, or so you can rip them later and add more at the cuff - because as you know, knitting can only be unpicked 'backwards' from the top and not 'upwards' from the bottom. Conversely  you could make them longer as a child grows, and that's why top down is essential for a really frugal scheme like that.

Frugality is unravelling garments for knitting up again .Frugal sweater
Frugality is me, years ago, in the 1980s when I couldn't afford any yarn at all.  This sweater is made partly from small amounts of left-over yarn and partly from ripping garments bought in jumble sales (remember jumble sales?)
It's made from double knitting yarn of all sorts and descriptions, which is really no problem for an item like this.  The only problem is that I was using yarn with colours I didn't actually like very much.  If I'd waited longer to collect more yarn in nicer colours I would have liked it much more, but you know how it is - I just needed to knit something.  And wearing it didn't seem too odd back then!  I can't think why this item has survived so many clear-outs, especially as I've cleared out so many, more attractive creations over the years.  Probably I haven't
cleared it out because nobody else would want it!




Talking of using scraps - you can make useful coasters from knitting or crochet.  Crochet is my favourite because it's much quicker to make a satisfactory flat circle, especially with thick yarn. You can easily find instructions for crocheting circles in books, magazines and on the internet, for instance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZiCnCGP_NQ.

The thing to bear in mind when viewing an American video is that they have different terminology, the main one being that what is called 'treble crochet' in UK terminology is what they call 'double crochet' across the pond. If you are following a video tutorial to make a circle this won't matter at all - it's just something to bear in mind.

As for crocheting circles, you might want to know that you can deliberately make them octagonal, or you can make normal circles.  When you make a circle, you start from the central point and you place increases evenly along the outer edge to make it bigger as you go along.  For octagonal shapes you place the increases on top of the increas in the previous row whereas for a smooth circle you place them just one stitch along from the increase in the previous row.  A pattern will tell you how to do this, but with this information you can see for yourself why you do it. 
      Coasters



The yarn I used for these is an acrylic of bright hues: Stylecraft Harlequin, which was incredibly cheap to buy at my local market. One ball makes all these and more. For a large piece this yarn works up in stripes, but for these little coasters it gives variety between each one, which is lovely.  The yarn doesn't mind spills and in an emergency you can even use the coasters to start the mopping up process.  Win win!









 
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