SHEEP AND LAMBS
Yarns and guidelines
Spinning plant fibres
NOTE ON ACRYLICS
This page shows various things I have knitted recently with animal-free yarn. These examples need only basic or intermediate skill, as well as showing plenty of shortcuts. Please email pictures of your own work if you would like to contribute to the gallery. All skill levels! You can email me anyway if you like, with feedback about the website. And please see the knitting archive page for many projects previously posted.
On this page you can see:
something about colour
How to make a hat that fits
cushions from scraps
planning your own project
tips for finishing off
An unusual hat
A knitting machine!
Quick child's sweater
Sucess with my vintage knitting machine!
knitting as therapy?
I have two daughters, each of whom resolutely resisted knitting from later childhood, through teenage years and into adulthood - even during the resurgence of knitting which has happed in recent years. But a miracle occurred recently and, independently, each came to knitting!
My older daughter started with practical projects: a cushion cover, scarf, cowls etc. A lovely soft cowl (made with Sirdar Freya, a lovely light chunky cotton / acrylic / polyester mix) was her first Christmas present to me after becoming a knitter! She teaches in a primary school and became inspired to make little characters to illustrate the stories she is reading to the children. Here's one you might recognise, from Meg and Mog! I think it's brilliant, especially for a new knitter, and all of her own design and making!
Then, in the same week, and for my birthday, she knitted a bouquet for me! Isn't it lovely! I think it was made using ideas from the internet, and also from her own imagination. One good thing about a knitted bouquet is that it can be placed near to a heat source. It's great for brightening up places where you've often thought you'd like a bunch of flowers but a radiator makes it an unsuitable place for fresh flowers.
And this is my younger daughter getting on with her first piece of knitting in her adult years. She is very good at getting on with things, despite interruptions....
We noticed some very inexpensive polyester yarn in Aldi which is a lovely stone colour and exaclty matches the colour design she is making in her dining room. Together we have embarked on four chunky cushion covers in garter stitch. There's nothing like really, really wanting the finished project, for encouraging enthusiasm, so she picked up the technique at lightning speed compared with when she was a child. Even her five year old wants to get in on the act!
I've made a couple of simple items during the last week or two, not so much for fun as because I really needed them. One was a really simple sweater on my trusty vintage Bond Classic knitting machine - two evenings to knit, and two to sew up. The sweater has the simplest finishings possible (see below). Here it is, just after being washed for the third time (laid out flat whilst it quickly dries, as you would do with any acrylic garment)
And I thought I'd try out a kind of a cosy thingy for my slow cooker. It grieves me to feel so much heat being lost from the top of a slow cooker - but I'm mindful that slow cookers have been designed without a thermal insulating lid, and there must be a reason for that. Also, the lid has a ventilation hole for steam, which I guess should not be covered. So I made a kind of a compromise with a cosy type of thing, a simple square to fit in with the corner shape where the slow cooker lives.
One side is a granny square (if you don't know how to crochet a granny square you can easily find instructions on YouTube). The other side is plain garter stitch, both sides worked in chunky yarn from my stash. I also use this little cosy to chuck on top of a small teapot when I make 'proper tea' in the same corner of the kitchen. It helps keeps it hot for the few minutes it takes for the tea to brew. I dislike tea cosies as such because why would anyone want to drink 'stewed' tea? Horrid.
Easy hand warmers
Straight up-and-down hand/wrist warmers are my favourite quick knit for winter because they are of course easier to knit than those with a shaped thumb (or, perish the thought, fingerless gloves!) and they have the advantage of keeping your whole hands warm if you're going outside, whilst you can instantly push them down onto your wrists if you need to use your hands. All you need to knit is two straight pieces and because they are so simple you can make free with fancy patterns or stripes etc.
Lately I've been hunting in charity shops for very small cuddly toys. I thought I'd buy some -
- give them a good wash -
- and then use some of my stash to make them little waistcoats (or whatever) and sell them as fundraisers.
...And here's the first one I did:
Using a circular needle I can make up the pattern as I go along. Once I have made a test swatch and have worked out how many stitches to cast on, I keep 'trying on' the little garment and increase or decrease as needed.
As well as being decorative and raising a little money on a campaigning stall, these little toys will come with a label advertising Sheeplessknitter.net!
Knitting as therapy (or not)
In recent years, knitting has become a tool for therapy, whether individually or in groups. There's lots to be found on the internet, such as here, and there's also an entry with some of my thoughts, on the knitting archive page.
Crochet might be included, though some would say that the larger amount of twists and turns of the fingers, hand and wrist needed for crochet are not so relaxing as the smooth movements of the hands of an experienced knitter doing stocking stitch.
But crochet can certainly be relaxing with a nice simple, repetitive stitch, smooth yarn and a generous sized hook. especially when making an item that is in itself a symbol of relaxation!
However, a fairly loose crochet such as pictured above, is certainly not suitable for an item that will receive a lot of hard handling and which needs to keep its shape. The picture on the right shows what can happen when the yarn and tension is just not fit for purpose! Actually this cover for a footstool became an old friend and even when I'd made a new cover (mainly for the colour) I was reluctant to ditch the old one. As it's made from mainly acrylic yarn, it will go into one of those charity bags where textiles which are past use are sent to a recycling mill.
The footstool cover below was certainly NOT a relaxing project, as it was worked with a hook which was really too small for the double knitting thickness of the yarn. But I think the result will be more hard wearing. I hope so anyway, because it was a real pain to work on. It reminded me of a little basket I made a year or two ago for my granddaughter. That was worked with two strands held together, and a hook that was much too small. It really was hard work and it even made my fingers sore for days afterwards. The opposite of therapeutic! But it's been kicked around the toybox for two years and it's still going strong, although I won't be doing projects like this again any time soon...
In my enthusiasm for my lovely old knitting machine I've made several servicable (but quite boring) garments for myself recently. It takes less than an hour to knit the back or front of a simple sweater for an adult and in fact the texture doesn't look at all machine made, since there are always slight variations in the size of stitches because the machine is operated by hand (see below).
An easy way to make the neck of a sweater is simply to join one shoulder seam, pick up a suitable number of stitches, knit a few rows and cast off. You will already know the tension you are working in because you will have calculated it before you started, so you can work out the number of stitches you will need to fit around the neckline to make a little roll collar - just knit a few rows and cast off.
An easy way to finish the bottom of a sweater is not to do a border of tedious ribbing but (in the case of a garment made in stocking stitch) simply work ONE row in the stitch that is not called for (that's one row of purl if you are on a knit row, etc) and then work about an inch (no more than 1.5 ins) in stocking stitch and cast off. Sew up the hem with fairly loose catching stitches. This gives a hard wearing hem with the same width as the garment, so it's very suitable for a tunic or long sweater.
An even easier way is not to have a hem at all, but to simply cast on and start knitting, then you have a roll hem as well as a roll collar - and the same goes for the sleeves in this example!
After all this plain knitting I might soon fancy hand knitting something a little smaller and maybe a little more decorative ...
A Quick scarf
I've just been listening (BBC 'On Your Farm') to a Cumbrian farmer who is wooing a businessman from Hong Kong to buy his meat. Yes, Hong Kong. Farmers in the fells would not survive without government subsidies - many of them are constantly looking to diversify and many farmers and / or their wives have paid jobs outside the farm. Clearly, keeping hundreds of sheep on bare hillsides in harsh winters, needs - as well as the subsidies - a lot of artificial concentrates to fatten the sheep, and expensive chemicals to fertilise the grass, to make it work at all. Whilst what we really need are trees, to populate the uplands, to restore biodiversity, and prevent flooding in the towns below.
The flock of sheep 'On Your Farm' today were the Herdwicks, typical of Cumbria, and these were kept exclusively for meat (whilst a few farmers have contracts with the National Trust for wool, which goes into expensive woven goods for tourists). The farmer in today's programme is hoping for a contract to supply carcasses to the Hong Kong businessman - yes, Hong Kong... in order to improve the sustainability of his farm. (words fail me)
So I went and bought a new handbag. It has many qualities of the perfect bag: stands up on its own, generous capacity, opens wide to see right inside. Also, this one is a lovely cherry red (which doesn't come out in the photo). I also needed a matching scarf of course (at least!) so to plug this gap I quickly made one from my stash. I did it rapidly in little more than an evening, as you can guess by the generous gague.
What I liked about this project was that, if you work single rows of single crochet (UK) in different colours, you don't get a stripe, as you would if you crocheted back to where you started the new colour - instead, you get a dotty pattern. People with a head for maths could work out how many different colours you would need in order to return to the end where you started off a new colour, rather than have to cut the yarn to take it to the other end. If you have too many colours attached to your work, though, you risk a monumental tangle!
Entering the Machine Age
It hasn't been easy... a couple of months ago, on impulse, I bought a 1980s knitting machine. Nothing fancy - it's one of those where you have to adjust the yarn at the beginning of each row, and push along the carriage with your hands. Still, compared with hand knitting, it's turbo speed. At first it was tricky - very tricky. The basic instruction booklet tells how to proceed, but doesn't explain how it works, so that when something goes wrong (plenty of opportunities for that) you really have to get down to finding out why. It's the same as hand knitting in that respect. As a child you may be taught how to knit in terms of needle in, over, through, out, and you may go on like that for years without really understanding how the knitted fabric is formed. It's only when you drop a stitch and you have to work out what's actually happening when a new stitch is formed, that your knitting takes a big leap forward.
My first successful project is a tunic, made from a bundle of 'mixed fibres' from a discount store. It's pretty badly spun and made from all sorts of sweepings up by the look of it. It seems to be Aran weight but there's no indication on the pack. I bought it on impulse because I love the colours, and because it would not be a financial disaster if it were to go horribly wrong. Some things did go horribly wrong along the way (partly because of the unevenly spun yarn) but I bravely rode the steep learning curve. The packet was only 400g and so I decided to make a tunic rather than a sweater. Also, a tunic would be easier than a sweater as a beginner's project. The hem, side vents and armholes are hand knitted, but the body was completed in no time (or would have been were I not a beginner). Since completing it, I've enjoyed wearing it and I've already completed more than half of my next machine project, feeling pleased at having conquered the machine and now working at a great lick of speed...
A quick child's sweater
Whilst we were shopping in the cheap shop recently, my grandaughter fancied this sparkly yarn - cheap as chips for a fancy yarn like this. You can just about see the price tag on this packet of 200g:
Now the first thing to be curious about, when you get a cheap yarn home, is whether you have actually got 200g in the packet. My balls of sparkly yarn weighed only 83g and 97g respectively. A whole 20g short!
I was a bit worried because I wanted to do a tunic style of winter sweater, as long as possible. This is the finished project:
The basic design is a lovely go-to pattern for a child's sweater in multiple sizes, which if you follow the link you will see I have actually made even simpler than it already is!
I knew tht 200g of acrylic should easily produce a sweater for a 4 year old, but I wanted to use up every scrap of the yarn to make it as long as possible. The solution to this is to divide the yarn you have into two (I used the smaller ball first, to make certain I had plenty left when I had completed half of the garment). Then you knit either the sleeve or the back from top to bottom, and cast off when you have used all the yarn. Many knitters used to knit sleeves 'downwards' like this so that when a child grew the arms could be lengthened from the cuff, which could easily be unravelled and put back on the needles (you can only unravel knitting in a downwards direction of travel). In this case I knitted one sleeve first, and then the back, with the first half of the yarn. I knitted this first sleeve the normal way, then for the back I worked the pattern downwards and backwards starting from the back of the neck. Backs are usually a straightforward part of the garment, so it was quite easy to see how to do this. Follow the pattern from the end, working cast on instead of cast off, increase instead of decrease etc. You will easily see how this works, but you do have to keep your concentration!
In this way I could be sure that I would make the sweater as long as possible with the yarn that I had.
I also wanted to knit the front downwards for this piece, so that the lower ends of the back and front would be exactly the same. I couldn't be bothered to work the front neck downwards, expecially as this would mean knitting the side necks separately, so I learned a new technique that I hadn't needed to use before. I cast ON at a point just below the armholes, using a 'provisional' or 'invisible' cast on, and worked upwards to finish at the front neck. I looked around the web to find out how to do this cast on.. There are many online tutorials you can use for this and if you are interested you will find two or three different ways to do it. You can see in the picture below that I cast on at a point just below the armholes, and the stitches are held on the piece of waste yarn needed for the provisional cast on.
I then turned the whole thing upside down and put the cast on stitches onto one of my needles - actually a smaller one for this purpose, as it's easier to pick them up. Then I continued in stocking stitch with the correct needles, in the opposite direction. It's interesting that the stitches look the same upside down as the right way round, and also interesting that with this method you actually lose one stitch along the way. This is related to the fact that you are never quite sure when you look at stocking stitch exactly which vertical line of little seeds is the actual stitch. (Hence it can be tricky to keep your concentration when counting stitches to find your gague at the beginning of a project.) That's just some of the magic of knitting....
Here is the finished sweater and you really can't tell where the stitches are 'reversed'!
Actually I unravelled the neck after this picture was taken as I thought this version was a bit heavy. The final version is in the top photo. I love this way of doing edges in stocking stitch. Basically, you just cast off!
A one-off reindeer!
I spent a few days house-sitting recently in a lovely part of the Derbyshire Dales, and I took with me some scraps of yarn to get me in the seasonal mood. The photo shows my effort at making a quirky embellishment (?) for a gift of wine. I knew I had seen something like this online, but at the time I hadn't got broadband for inspiration so I had to make it up as I went along.
With crochet like this, you can if you like just set off with a project by deciding where to start - head, body, etc - and making a chain of the appropriate length, for instance, the circumference of the neck. Then crochet around, sometimes stuffing as you go, until you've got the shape you have in mind. My reindeer has several shapes sewn together, which you can work out if you look closely. The legs aren't stuffed but consist of three rows of double crochet, sewn into a tube. If a piece gets too large as you work it, just rip out some stitches until you're back to the right size. If I wrote a pattern for this, I would get very bored, a reader might get very confused, and the pattern would be a couple of pages long. It would make the project look far more complicated than it really is.
If you would like to make up little figures like this but don't yet feel confident, first use YouTube to learn how to crochet simple shapes such as a flat circle and a tube, then find out or figure out how to decrease along the length of a row. That's pretty much it, really.
This slap-happy, improvisational technique is best with crochet. It's only possible with knitting if you want to make something where size doesn't matter... such as a toy ball or a child's simple straight-up straight-down teddy. If you prefer to knit, you would first need to check your gague (tension) before doing some preparation / design on paper or in your head. My advice to a beginner knitter would be to choose a knitting pattern to work from, so as to get the hang of the basics first. And I must say that I do prefer the look of a knitted doll, to one that's crocheted. I'm not keen on dolls with knobbly faces!
On impulse - a machine!
I was listening to a rado programme last week, in which a knitting machine appeared. Not that I am suggestible but I immediately started browsing around ebay for knitting machines. I've never wanted one (though I did borrow one, decades ago, which I completely failed to master). In fact part of the point of hand knitting, for me, is that you get to sit down (or even recline) and you can take it with you almost anywhere. But I soon became interested when I glimpsed into the world of knitting machines, and I was tempted to learn more and acquire a new skill. I found out quite a bit about the different makes and prices of older second hand machines. I was surprised at how affordable they were, and within an hour or two I had bought just the thing.
Its a thirty-something year old hand operated Bond Classic, and as a first machine it's ideal. This one has all its parts, and has obviously been greatly under-used. It was very musty in its box, and I did have to freshen it up a bit and leave it by an open door for a while! But the instructions were in the box and it didn't take too long to get going. There's lots of help on YouTube of course, including the original video that came with the machine. With a simple machine like this, you can actually find out what's happening as you knit, especially if you are a hand knitter with some experience. There's a fair bit of hand manipulation for casting on and off, but I don't mind that - in fact it's my intention to use the machine mainly for knocking out plain sweaters which I can finish off decoratively - or plainly - with hand knitting or crochet. You can see in the photo that my sewing machine has now taken a back seat....
I'm still at the stage of trying out different yarns and I certainly need more practice, but I am optimistic that this isn't just a passing enthusiasm. Especially as it seems there's not much that can go wrong with it that I can't fix myself. (Or I know somebody who can!) With modern electronic machines I'd be sunk if something went wrong. The speed of knitting really appeals to me, and it doesn't at all mean that I won't continue with slow knitting. I can do both!
Something about colour
One of the nice things about knitting and crochet is that it's all about colour. Of course, if you are knitting for someone else with a colour that they have chosen, you may not enjoy the knitting so much - and it goes without saying that one should avoid, where possible, knitting in black!
We all have our favourite colours, and over time, sometimes years, our preferences can change. For instance, for ages I have favoured wearing reds, browns and yellows. But quite suddenly, for some reasons, this year I have started to wear pink. I have no idea why. It's noticeable. Friends have expressed their surprise. They have never, ever, seen me in pink before. It seems that I have changed from an autumn person to whatever person it is that wears pink. I've gone from earth to fire! Now there may be psychological reasons that some people might put forward (lost youth, etc) but it came to me quite suddenly that there may be quite a straightforward reason. I haven't acquired any new paintings or prints for ages, but I do like to move them around the house. One that I really like is Paul Klee's The Rose Garden, and I have a lovely view of it from my favourite chair.
(this is what I see from my favourite chair)
So when, a day or two ago, I decided I'd like a new cover for a little footstool, it was obvious which colours I was going to pull out of my stash:
And I have to admit (though die-hard feminists might not like it) that my new fixation has partly been made possible because the pinks section of my stash has been enlarged recently by having little girls in the family!
A hat that fits!
Many knitters have experienced the frustration of using quite a complicated pattern to make a lovely hat which, at the end of the day, just does not fit the head. This can often happen if your tension is not exactly as stated in the pattern, or if you simply have an unusual size head! I've just made a very simple 'wooly hat' from scraps of yarn, and I used a fail-safe method I've often used before.
It's really a very wide headband covered over by a crown at the top (which is the prototype of most hats, come to think of it...)
You start knitting in garter stitch, which is nice and warm and stretchy:
Then you try it on:
When it's the right size (the one pictured above is not yet the right size!) you cast off and pin the ends together (don't sew at this stage).
Then you thread a length of the same yarn through one side and, with the hat on your head, pull the yarn until the hat fits exactly. Secure the yarn with a stitch or two.
Then, using a circular needle but knitting back and forth, pick up as many stitches along the edge of the knitting as is suitable for your tension. You can tell this from how comfortably the stitches line up on the knitting needle.
Knit the crown in stocking stitch, decreasing evenly along the knit rows while knitting straight along the purl rows.
For a larger crown you would, say, knit 10 knit 2 together on row one, purl row two, knit 9 knit 2 together on row 3, etc. As this was a chunky hat with a small crown, my first row was knit 3 knit 2 together and I was knitting 2 together all along the row in no time.
Don't work the decrease rows until you have only two or three stitches on the needles, but thread the yarn through and finish off when you have about 10 for chunky, and up to about 18 for double knit. Pull the stitches together tightly to finish off, then sew the seam. If you had done the decrease rows until you had almost no stitches left you would have had a pointy hat, which you might want sometimes but not in this case.
Easy bits of whimsy
Every big bland project (such as my ongoing roundandround sweater) needs some colour and whimsy to lighten it up as it goes on.
Both of these items were made to hold extempore presents for little girls.
Useful things to know:
To strengthen a crochet basket, you can use ordinary PVA glue. Just thoroughly paint round the inside of the basket and the glue will dry transparent (give it time - overnight at least for a thick layer of glue). I wouldn't recommend glueing the outside of the basket because that would destroy its soft yarny feel. PVA could also be used for two dimensional projects, such as flowers and Christmas snowflakes...
My time-saving tip for decorating knitting projects is to embroider them after completing the knitting, rather than working with two colours. Working with two colours can be enjoyable, but it uses up quite a lot of yarn, and when carried behind on the wrong side it makes the item thicker - which actually is a good thing if you are producing a winter garment. In fact I rather feel like doing some 'proper' colour work quite soon..
Cushions from the stash!
A cushion is a great symbol of relaxation, even if you don't often get to recline on it. Also, it's a chance to do an easy little project as a change from some of the more tedious or demanding ongoing projects of knitting and of life. All of the artefacts in the main picture below - except at bottom left - are made from oddments in my stash (back in the day, my 'stash' consisted of leftovers from completed projects - whereas now, like many other knitters, I sometimes buy yarn because it's a particular bargain). The smaller pictures are of cushions that were 'commissioned' by my daughter, who chose the yarn herself, and I must say they look spectacular where they are now, as opposed to sitting on my own shabby chairs...You can see that teddy is on a knitted cushion, and you can tell how that was made by using just garter stitch and stocking stitch. All the other cushions are crocheted, so I'll just mention my favourite crochet stitch: the ripple, or chevron, as it used to be called (actually, chevrons have more pointy corners, to be strictly accurate). You can see how to do the ripple stitch here.
Seamless sweater on circular needles: planning your own project
Most knitters hate the final stage of their garment - sewing up all the pieces! And sad to say, many of them make a mess of it too. A knobbly seam doesn't look good on their completed garment, which is a shame after all those hours they spent knitting it! This is simply because they haven't bothered to discover the various ways of joining knitted pieces neatly, which can easily be found online these days.
On the subject of seams - I have a really good knitting book which not only takes you very simply and with clear illustrations through all the varieties of knitting problems that we all encounter , and tells you how to construct and embellish your own projects, but also pioneers a way to produce a garment that does not need seems!
Truly, Elizabeth Zimmerman's 1971 book Knitting Without Tears is the only book on knitting that anyone would actually need (though of course we can't resist other more modern books sometimes, because of their lovely illustrations and their inspiring colours, and because we might be given them for Christmas). I think it's true to say that before the 20th century, most knitters knew how to produce a sock or a sweater as well as knowing how to actually knit. But by the 1950s and 1960s, with rising living standards and falling rights and opportunities for women (after their brief entry into industrial production during the two world wars) most means of production were controlled largely by men and, guess what, women actually needed a pattern to knit anything. And a large portion of those patterns, I believe, was actually calculated (calculating, a man's job!) by men behind the scenes in the dark satanic textile mills of Yorkshire.
Elizabeth Zimmernam, a British emigree living in the U.S, carried the torch for the individual's power over knitting,
with her own mail order business selling books and knitting supplies. She is still an icon of the knitting world, though ignored by the majority who still seem to want to follow instructions dictated by the god of Fashion, chief among the consumer gods.
So anyway. A sweater is basically a big tube (body) with two small tubes attached (arms). If you knit these three tubes, joining them together at the armpit into one big tube, which is then narrowed into a smaller hole (neck) then you have a sweater which you can make in just one piece - avoiding seams. Not only that, but if you want your main pattern to be a smooth stocking stitch, you can also avoid the purl stitch (as with knitting socks in the round on 4 needles). The only magic principle, which we might not have otherwise noticed, is that the measurement of the top of the sleeve is about 30 per cent as wide as the chest measurement. With these proportions in mind, and using the gague of the yarn and needles we have chosen, we can work out how to make a garment to fit the size we want.
To the right is a copy of a page from Knitting without Tears which is still very much in print, though I think more popular in the U.S. than in the U.K. (why the ghastly cover photo? I have no idea.)
Following a recent resolution to avoid seams in knitting for a while, I turned to Elizabeth. I need a very simple project just now - I get most benefit in terms of relaxation if my project is simple..... I'm trying King Cole's recycled Cotton Aran because it should be relatively quick to knit. It will make a warm sweater which will be rather heavier than those made with acrylic or other plant fibres.
I'm using Symfonie interchangeable needles by KnitPro which in themselves are a delight to use. This will be a long term project and I expect I'll need at last one smaller and more colourful project in between, but for now it's nice to be smoothly progressing round, and round, and round....
I made a garter stitch border for a change (it had to be done on 2 needles of course) and I'll decide later whether to sew the edges up, or not.
It's a delight to knit with smooth cotton yarn, and the feel of the finished garment is lovely. It's heavier than acrylic, so the garment itself will be heavier. However, depending on whether it's knit densely or to a regular gague, it can be used for warmth or for summer wear. This is a double-knit cardigan in stocking stitch, so it's kind of an in-between-seasons garment. Whilst knitting cotton, the results are definitely better if you can achieve an even stitch - if your knitting is slightly wonky (and you don't want it to be) every little bit of unevenness will show up. That's because cotton yarn is not half so flexible and stretchy as acrylic (or wool).
The border I decided on worked really well. I made the scallops one stitch smaller for the sleeves and put on a pink button to finish off. And another thing - a one-button cardi saves a lot of messing with buttonholes when you work the button band!
My little granddaughter loved it (mind you, she loves any new clothes!) but the novelty was soon lost as she dashed down to the pool for her swimming lesson....
I spent a little time today looking round the internet to find a nice decorative edging for a child's cotton cardigan. Nothing really took my fancy - the prettiest ones seemed a little over the top for a small cardi. But then I remembered the poppies I knitted last November (see knitting archive under 'even more on therapy, and a nice flower pattern'). They were knitted in a technique new to me at the time, and when I was knitting them it had occurred to me that the method could be used for cast-on borders. I tried it out - just the perimeter, not the centre of the flower of course - and it turned out quite well. I've copied below the first few rows of the pattern. You will see that it's based on multiples of 7, making sure that the slip stitches come at least a few stitches in from the sides.
All slip stitches are worked purlwise. Make sure that slip stitches after row 1 are worked above previous slip stitches.
Using the normal 'English' method, cast on 41 sts.
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.
You will see in the photo that I did two ridges of garter stitch to finish it off.
Knitting can wait, but many other commitments, especially the garden, can't!
Meanwhile I enjoyed wearing my most recent sweater.
Not always relaxing - and some tips to help..
What was I saying about a nice relaxing piece of knitting? My sweater is now completed, but with one or two hiccups on the way. Its progress provides another useful lesson in colour photography! Actually the colour is a nice subtle dusky pink - not at all like the photos in fact ...
It was relaxing all the way along until I came to the collar. It was going to be a roll neck, but I was never quite sure about it. Initially I knitted the whole collar - on a circular needle, albeit knitting back and forth. My circular needle wasn't quite the right length to knit in the round. This was after I had sewn up both shoulder seams - normally you would sew up just one shoulder so that you have a straight piece of work to knit back and forth, but I wanted to try it on before I committed to a roll collar. Most people find the back and forth method easier and it's what you usually find on UK pattern instructions. But the great advantage of a circular needle in my case was I could pop the garment over my shoulders before casting off the collar, so see if the collar was the right size (which you coudn't do if it were on straight needles!)
At first it was too tight so I ripped it back and knitted it up again with larger needles. On it went again but I still didn't like it. It just felt a bit too bulky with this thick yarn. So I ripped it back again and knitted just an ordinary round neck. Even this I had to try on a couple of times to get it exactly right. Whew! After all this I thought I'd better make sure that the rest of it was going to be exactly right too.
I've noticed with my and other people's knitting that the seams often look a bit messy. I've always tended to use an oversewing method, except for once when I knitted intarsia for this cute sweater for my teenage grandaughter.
.. and the seam turned out really neatly. The seam nearer the bottom of the next picture is finished, and the upper one is still just pinned up.
Here it is from the front - very neat, and I'll always use this method in future.
And just to make things perfect, here's how you can neaten off if you notice that you've made one or two uneven stitches here and there. Where you have a stitch that's come out too big, push a blunt needle into the stitches above and below and gently pull until they are closer to the same size. The method only works like this with stocking stitch, but when you have a bit of experience you can often do it with other stitch patterns too. Of course you wouldn't want to do too much of it.....
So I had finally finished my 'relaxing' project.
I expect you know that you should never steam or iron yarn containing acrylic, or indeed most artificial fibres. The easiest way to finish off these projects is to chuck them in the washing machine, pull them into shape and let them dry flat. Which they do incredibly quickly!
Are you sitting comfortably?
Here's a snap of my knitting, snuggled up in bed with me.... in case you find this confusing, the spotty blob is actually me, and the direction of viewing is towards my feet.
If I wake early and I know I won't be able to go back to sleep, I often grab a cup of tea, and some knitting. Outrageous decadence! Appropriately, on the needles is a hot water bottle cover. I used scraps of sky blue and turquoise green knitted together for warmth - also for warmth I used reverse stripes of stocking stitch which also help to trap in the warm air.
No need, really, for all that tedious shaping that you often see in patterns for hotty covers - I just knitted a long rectangle and sewed it together. For a button hole you cast of 3 or 4 stitches along the row, and cast them back on again on the following row.
There are quite a lot of posts about knitting as therapy on the knitting archive page and a huge amount on the internet. There are even books about knitting as meditation (I've got one...) And speaking of meditation, which would you rather do - get up an hour early and and sit immobile in a cold room to try to calm your mind, or go back to bed with knitting and a cuppa? Anyway - central to the therapy theme is relaxation! And for this, speaking personally (as a merely 'intermediate' knitter) I need a really smooth easy piece of work for that. So here is my current knitting-to-grab. A dead easy, fast growing comfy sweater for myself:
A friend would like to knit a hat similar to these but she couldn't find a pattern:
(I haven't succeeded in tracing this picture so please let me know if you find it so that I can give the credit.)
I've worked out how to do it, so here we go.
It's actually very easy. In fact it's a bit of a trick!
You can see that the main part of the hat is knitted in stocking stitch, alternately reversed so that the 'purl side' forms ridges against the 'knit side'. If you knitted up a hat in the normal way with alternate reverse stocking stitch, the lines of knitting would be paralllel to the brim and you wouldn't get a spiral effect. So you need to knit the main part and the brim as two pieces. Below is a summary of the pattern I wrote for this type of hat, with step by step photos beneath. You can use any thickness of yarn, with suitable needles, but I chose to knit in double knitting with size 3.75 (UK9) needles and my tension was about 25 sts to 4 inches. With a hat like this, size is not absolutely crucial. The spirals produce a bit of a concertina effect so the hat is quite stretchy - that's why it needs to be tamed by a turned-up brim. If you read the instructions beneath the pattern you will see how to adapt it easily to fit any size.
Yarn: double knitting
Needles: size 3.75 (UK9) or 4mm (UK 8)
Tension (gague): approx 24-25 sts to 4 inches.
size: child up to 2 yrs (adult size in brackets)
Cast on 70 (120) sts using thumb method.
Row 1 (right side): K
Row 2: P
Row 3: K
Starting with a purl row, proceed in reverse stocking stitch, reversing every SIX ROWS and AT THE SAME TIME increasing one stitch at the beginning and decreasing one stitch at the end of the RIGHT SIDE rows only, until you have completed 11 (15) six-row sections which show the purl stitches on the right side - that's 22 (30) sections in all plus the first and last short sections.
Next row: K
Next row: p
Next row: Cast off knitwise.
Along one long side of the rectangle (if different lengths, choose the longer side) pick up and knit 4 stitches for each six-row section and 2 stitches along each of the first and last three-row sections (92 / 124) sts.
With the same size needles used throughout, single rib (K1, P1 across the row) for 2.5 (3.5) inches.
Cast off quite loosely.
Bring the sides together and join into a tube.
Draw the top together and make a matching pompom to finish.
Here it is in detail:
Yarn: double knitting
Needles: size 3.75 (UK9) or 4mm (UK 8)
Tension (gague): 24-25 sts to 4 inches.
size: child up to 2 yrs (adult size in brackets)
Cast on 70 (120) sts using thumb method.
To adapt this pattern for other sizes, find the number of stitches you need by measuring the length of the border to the top of the crown (use a hat you already have) and cast on the number of stitches which will give you that measurement PLUS one third. Then, make the length of the knitted piece long enough to fit nicely round your head, ending with 2 rows of stocking stitch on the right side. This will will match up with the short section at the beginning of the piece when you sew it up.
The thumb method is used because it gives a fairly loose row of stitches to start with. Actually it would be ok if you just used your normal method of casting on - but cast on quite loosely.
If you want to learn the thumb method, here's a tutorial:
It's quite important with this pattern to know which is the right side (for counting the sections). In the photo I'm doing the first row and you can see that the tail is on the right, so when I see the tail on the right I know that's the right side facing.
Row 1 (right side): K
Row 2: P
Starting with a purl row, proceed in reverse stocking reversing every SIX ROWS and AT THE SAME TIME increasing one stitch at the beginning and decreasing one stitch at the end of the RIGHT SIDE rows only, until you have completed 11 (15) six-row sections which show the purl stitches on the right side - that's 22 (30) sections in all plus the first and last short sections.
There are several methods of increasing a stitch and a simple one to use here is simply to knit into the first stitch but don't slip it off the needle and immediately knit into the back of this first stitch before slipping off. To decrease at the end of the right side rows, just knit two stitches together.
I find it easier to count the rows of stocking stitch from the purl side. After a few sections I put in a couple of stitch markers to mark the right side because the tail kept dipping out of sight. You can see that this makes a peculiar shaped piece of knitting. More so in my case, because I seem to have done the increases quite loosely and the decreases more tightly. As I said, this hat is very forgiving.
Next row: K
Next row: p
Next row: Cast off knitwise.
This narrow section of front-facing stocking stitch will match up to the narrow section at the beginning. There is now no particular 'right side' of the work.
Along one long side of the rectangle (if different lengths, choose the longer side) pick up and knit 4 stitches along each six-row section and 2 stitches along each of the first and last sections (92 / 124) sts.
I find it easier to do this if I pick up all the stitches needed straight along, rather then knitting into them one by one. For this, I usually use a double-pointed needle of a smaller size, but it doesn't have to be double-pointed in this case because you are going to knit in single rib, where there is no 'right side' of the work.
With the same size needles used throughout, single rib (K1,P1 across the row) for 2.5 (3.5) inches.
Cast off quite loosely.
Bring the sides together and join into a tube.
You may have noticed that the direction of the spiral in the hats that I was copying runs differently in my hat. If this is an issue for you, the deciding factor is which side you choose as the 'right side' when sewing up. Of course, I chose the neatest side!
Draw the top together and make a matching pompom to finish.
Make a running stitch along the top, pull tight and catch down.
You may have made pompoms as a child, using two cardboard circles as I did here - but here's a method of making them using just your fingers:
The fingers only method should be fine to top a hat, because all that's needed really is two thirds of a full pompom.