craft

Tip of the week: Knitting speed

6)more speed

One question I'm asked a lot is: "How do I knit fast?"

My top tip for getting through your knitting faster is NOT to try to knit really fast. What generally happens is that you can end up dropping stitches, splitting yarn or making other mistakes that mean over all your knitting takes longer.

Rather than thinking about being speedy, concentrate on finding an efficient knitting style. This is a way of knitting that lets you to get into a steady rhythm and requires only small movements to make each stitch. This way each stitch will take a small amount time.

First,  work out what sort of needles you are most comfortable using. This could mean using long needles you can tuck under your arms. Or it could be working on circular needles (even for rows) because you. find it easier only to move the short tips.

There are various styles of knitting and it is worth trying out different methods to see what suits you - I'm going to contrate on two.

Many people say that “continental” style knitting (as in this UKHKA video), where you hold the yarn in your left hand and use the tip of the right needle to pull or “pick” it though each stitch is the fastest. This only requires a small movement so can be quite speedy.

However, if you are more comfortable holding the yarn in your right hand, learning to “flick” the yarn in the way forward.  Knitters use their index finger to move the yarn round the needle without ever letting go of the right hand needle. This allows them to work at a steady rhythm with very little excess movement. I like this tutorial from VeryPink

Experimenting with techniques and practice will help you find the most efficient and comfortable way to knit for you. Once you find it, you will develop your natural knitting speed. And remember this is about enjoyment not racing.

If you need any advice or any other help with building your knitting skills or confidence check out my knitting therapy service


Tip of the week: Knitting with double pointed needles

22 hedgehog
"It looks like wrestling a hedgehog" - probably my favourite description of knitting with double-pointed needles from someone nervous of trying it.

There is a misconception that you have to hold all your DPNs all the time. In fact, once you get into your rhythm the needles will stay put unless your accidently pull out the wrong one. 

When I am teaching in person I wave my sock knitting round my head to demonstrate how secure the needles are - try it! If you were at the Knitting and Stitching Show last week, you may even have seen me do this.

This means there is no wrestling involved. Just concentrate on knitting across the stitches on the next needle, and only holding the two needles involved in that. Then when you free up a DPN, rotate your work and start across the next needle, ignoring the others. That way you are only ever holding on to and worrying about your active needles. The others will just sit in your work. If you look at the picture, I'm only holding two needles. 

The only way to get over that hedgehog wrestling feeling is to practice with your DPNs, after a few rounds it will feel much easier.


October magazine patterns - part one

My two patterns in  Knitting Magazine this month (issue 223) are all about comfort and as I am having a sofa day today, I'm delighted to have the samples on hand so I can try to replicated the pictures in my own home.

Duality chunky

Duality is a chunky lace wrap/bedrunner with an unusual construction that I hope you will all enjoy. The lace is worked separately on either side on the central spine running along the full length. The yarn is Cascade Yarns 128 which gives a soft, cuddly finish.

 

Slouchy small

The Slouchy Sofa Socks are intended to be indoor socks for relaxing in and feature cables and ribs as well as a ribbed short row feel. For extra squishyness, they're knitted in #SocksYeah DK.

 

 


Tip of the week: Casting on with double pointed needles

21 dpn cast on

Hand knit sock season is definitely on the way so the next few tips are intended to help.

Your preference for what needles you use to work on on small items in the round, like socks, will depend on your knitting style. Some people like using magic loop with a long circular, some small circulars and some like me will be more comfortable with double pointed needles. 

However, the idea of having more than two needles on the go can be off-putting.

Casting on is no different to any other piece of knitting - you cast all your stitches on to a single needle. There is no need to try to hold extra needles before you're ready to start your first round. 

Next divide your stitches evenly between three (or four) needles by slipping the stitches from one to another.
 

Dpn 3

 
Arrange your needles into a triangle (or square for four needles) so that your first cast on stitch is the first one on the left needle. The last cast on stitch is at the tip of the right needle. Slip the last cast on stitch to your left needle. Lift the first cast on stitch over the first one and slip to the right needle. Your stitches are now joined in the round. Now pick up your fourth (or fifth) needle and start knitting along the left needle from your join.

Then keep going in the round.

Dpn 6


Tip of the week: Yarn substitution

4) yarn sub

If you want to easily replace a yarn in a pattern there are 4 easy steps to success.

 
1. Yarn weight: If a pattern is written for a DK or an aranweight, you will end up with a very different fabric is you try to knit it in 4-ply. Although you can adapt a pattern, you are best substituting DK for DK, chunky for chunky, etc.
 
2. Fibre content: For best results, try to use a yarn that is made up from similar fibres as the one in the pattern. Cotton yarn behaves very differently to wool so swapping one for another might give you a very different outcome than you were expecting.
 
3. Tension: We’re back to the tension square again. You do need to check that you can get the same tension as the pattern with your substitute yarn.
 
4. Yarn amounts: To work out how much of your new yarn you require, you need to know the meterage (metres per ball) for both the yarn in the pattern and your chosen yarn.
Time for a small sum: If the pattern requires six balls of yarn with 120m per 50g, you need 720m of yarn. The yarn you have chosen has 210m in a 100g ball. Three balls would give you 630m (probably not enough) and four balls 840m.
 

Creating video courses for lace knitting

After designing, my favourite thing of the various activities and jobs I have in the yarn sector is teaching – or more precisely empowering knitters to enjoy their hobby and be able to make the project they want.

That could be a face-to-face class, online help, in a magazine “agony aunt” column, picture tutorials or as the UK Hand Knitting Yarn Doctor solving individual problems.

Most recently I have created my first online courses, rather than one off tutorial video. These were lace knitting classes for the fabulous Knit School. The Intro to Lace masterclass, followed by the Next Steps in Lace course, combine videos, instructions for practice swatches and patterns to take students from making their first yarn over to tackling more unusual stitches and techniques from Estonian and Shetland traditions.

 

Ks grab

It was particularly interesting to plan the courses in video sections each designed to add to the skills of the previous one so that students learned to understand what was happening in lace patterns and why a particular combination of stitches gives a certain effect. It also means that someone who is happy with yarnovers can join in at the stage explaining double decreases or reading charts, for example.  

Working with Knit School also meant that when the classes launched there were also opportunities to interact with students via live Q&A sessions and through the community chat group. This is very rewarding – especially after talking to a camera by myself to create the classes in the first place.

P4251819Demeter's Delight beginner's shawl - now available from my pattern store

It was fabulous to receive really positive feedback for students about how the classes had helped them or changed their knitting. Some have kindly allowed me to reproduce their feedback here.

TD: “I was a complete lace newbie. I loved to look at lace knits but couldn't even comprehend understanding a pattern never mind a chart. Now I am knitting yarnovers like no tomorrow!! I'm actually knitting a lace shawl and already planning my next 🤩"

CM: “I have made a few lace patterns before but by taking the time to work through the course it allowed me to stop and appreciate the difference in the way the stitches were worked. I'm much more confident in correcting mistakes and being able to read the knitting.”

PL: "I had worked on a couple of simple lace patterns before, but I had tried and failed numerous times to try something more adventurous. The course video was easy to follow and really informative with lots of helpful tips. There were also lace knitting swatches to try, which was so helpful. Everything had been thought through so that the patterns gradually increased in difficulty and the fb live and Knit & Natter sessions were there to support you and help you along the way. I learnt so much - I am now much more confident about trying lace patterns and I also understand the importance of practicing a new lace sequence/pattern beforehand instead of diving straight in, getting confused and giving up. Thank you!"

 

Kelp P5271854
In the Kelp Garden wrap - a more advanced 4-ply lace pattern available now from my pattern store

Following the success of these courses I will be working with Knit School to develop more classes for next year and I am also thinking about how I can do similar online courses elsewhere as well as making plans for a new YouTube channel with short videos focusing on a single stitch or technique. More on that soon but you could help by commenting below to tell me what you’d like to see.

In the meantime, there are other ways you can learn from me. Knit School is open for new members from 23 July – this will give you access to both the lace courses I’ve been talking about (and the patterns), a mini-class on adding beads to lace, the patterns I designed to go with the courses and the vast amount of other Knit School content (there are hours and hours of great lessons in there). You can find out more by  clicking here  and there's an online prospectus. Note I’m an affiliate of Knit School so linking from my blog or social media can help support me too.

I am also offering one-to-one Knitting Therapy sessions where I tailor a lesson/session to help you with your specific knitting needs – techniques, helping you prepare for a project (sizing, yarn choice, practising stitches), fixing something that’s gone wrong, etc. Click for more info and to start a conversation.

You can sign up to my newsletter for news on what’s happening with my plans – plus access to pattern discounts on my Payhip store (use BLOG721 for 5% off today).


Tip of the week

31 knit what you want

I am going to try very hard to share some knitting wisdom with you every week.
 
We're starting with the most important piece of knitting advice I can think of.
 
It isn't about what other people knit, or the latest yarn craze. It is about enjoying the making and the result, using a yarn and a colour that make YOU happy.
 
I may not be very Marie Kondo when it come to clutter, but I certainly subscribe to the "does it bring you joy" principle when it comes to yarn craft.
 
If you think you could benefit from some one-to-one advice about your knitting, check out my Knitting Therapy sessions 

New pattern - the No Sew Bolero

 
It really is no sew apart from weaving in ends.
 
No sew
 
The body is knitted in one piece to the armholes and the shoulders are joined using a three needle cast off.
 
The sleeve stitches are picked up round the armhole and then shaped using short rows.
 
Finally, the lace edgings are added using a knit on technique.
 
The brief was for a garment with less common construction so I set out to create something without sewn seams but which wasn't a yoked sweater or a top down raglan.
 
It was a fun challenge and I think the result is rather pretty. But what's really important is that none of the techniques are really difficult, just take it step by step.
 
Bolereo style file
 
 
Find the pattern in Knitting Magazine issue 215 where you just might find another pattern and an article by me!
 
K215 cover
 
 

Blocking isn't all about stretching your knitting

25 blocking general

Be warned this is one of my hobby horses.

I often hear or read: “I have never blocked my knitting.”

Quite frankly I don’t believe this.

I don’t believe that there is anyone who has neither reshaped a damp piece of knitting nor ever washed a knitted item.

The problem is a common misconception that “blocking” always involves wires, pins and extreme stretching.

In fact, blocking is a general term for getting your knitted pieces wet – by soaking, steaming, spraying with water or covering with wet cloths – and then shaping it. The shaping could be a small adjustment to get straight edges or persuade you stocking stitch to unroll, or it could be a more aggressive process to open up a lace pattern.

There are lots of good reasons to block and they are all about getting a great finish to your project:

  • Making your pieces the right shape

  • Opening up or evening out your stitches – for example gentle blocking can really improve the look of colourwork
 

The crown of the hat has been steamed to even out  the
stitches and dried over a curved surface
  • Letting your cables bloom.

  • Opening up lace to create the final fine fabric


Blocking changed the Firebird shawl from the top pic to the bottom


There are several ways to block:

  • Wash your knitting (following ball band instructions) and lay it out flat, gently adjusting it for size.
  • Pin your pieces to shape on a foam board or a folded towel and stray with water or steam (I recommend a travel steamer). Then leave to dry.
  • Pin out and cover with damp cloths, letting the moisture soak into to the knitting and then leaving to dry
  • Using a steam iron to steam your pieces through a damp cloth. Note, always make sure the knitting is covered by the cloth and never touch your steam iron to the cloth, let alone the knitting.
  • Wet blocking by soaking your pieces and pinning out – more on this tomorrow.

Personally, I tend towards steam or wet blocking because of the fibres and projects I choose.


How you block will depend on various factors:

  • Fibres – wool has lots of spring so can take some aggressive stretching and wet blocking but this would distort cotton or bamboo yarns. Acrylic yarns don’t like too much heat – so steam from a greater distance.
  • Stitches – take care not to over stretch of flatten cables. On the other hand, lace stitches need opening up so take more blocking and pinning out.
  • The project – how much reshaping does your project need? A lace panel in a sweater will need to be opened out but you may not need/want to stretch you piece as much as a lace shawl where you will want a very light fabric.

But, and this is important, blocking will even out stitches, it will NOT make your item fit if you’ve knitted the wrong size (well not without causing other problems).

If you are not sure what the best way to block your piece is, test various approaches on tension squares or extra swatches - may be that will convert some tension square refuseniks!


Introducing the Beautifully Blocked collection

Beautifully blocked grid

I have recently republished a number of shawls originally designed for magazines in my first Beautifully Blocked collection.

I used to work in theatre production and in theatre “blocking” refers to working out the movement of a performance. These days, for me, my designs are my performance so we had a theatrical photoshoot to put these eight designs in the spotlight.

The patterns are available individually on Ravelry and Lovecrafts plus on Ravelry you can buy any three for the price of two or select all eight patterns for the special price of £30 (add all of them to your basket and use code BB30).

The eight shawls (clockwise from top left) are:

Facet

Redshawl (7 of 59) CROP

Inspired by semi-precious gemstones and designed to show off a luxurious laceweight yarn, the Facet shawl is made up of three triangular panels featuring a small and then large diamond pattern.

The shawl is worked from the centre top, increasing outwards thanks to yarnover increases and the edge of each panel.

Don’t be alarmed by the lace in this shawl - it is all created using simple decreases and yarn overs. Just take it one stitch at a time and you will have a beautiful wrap.

100g laceweight

Electric Storm

Blueshawl (12 of 24)

Inspired by hand dyed yarns, this shawl is shaped using wedges of stocking stitch and lace created with short row shaping. This is actually quite simple and fully explained in the pattern. It is designed to show off a yarn with strong flashes of contrast colour in a yarn that is at least 50% a solid main colour.

Colourway used for the sample is Cosmic Girl on BFL Bamboo 4ply Fingering by The Wool Kitchen

200g 4ply

Leaning Diamonds

Tealshawl CROP (11 of 56)
Who says a rectangular stole has to be knitted from end to end? This wrap is worked from corner to corner, using increases and decreases to create the wrap shape. This creates a bias fabric with lovely drape with the lace running in diagonal stripes. This is fun and adaptable way of making wraps and makes for an interesting knit.

100g laceweight

Hardy’s Heroine

Russedredshawl (29 of 30)

This is the shawl that I imagine Bathsheba Everdene, Grace Melbury or Tess Durbeyfield

wrapping themselves in. Made with soft but robust West Country wool and richly coloured, it

features a Victorian stitch pattern for the knit on edge.

The half hexagon shawl has three triangular panels and is worked out from a garter stitch tab

and provisional cast on. It is worked in rows on a circular needle.

200g 4-ply

Seascape Shawlette

Seascape Collage

Graduated mini skeins and garter stitch stripes create the gentle colour change in this asymmetric shawlette which ends in a ripple pattern.

It is inspired by the Donegal sea views of my childhood where the shades of the water would subtly change as the waves came into the beach.

175g 4-ply in total

Seasilk Shawl Stole

Longblue (44 of 80)

The combination of silk and seacell (seaweed sourced fibre) creates a lovely light, draping fabric that is perfect for a glamorous wrap. The stole is begun with a provisional cast-on and knit in two directions outwards. The lace pattern is presented both in charts and in written form.

200g 4-ply

 

Shetland Summer wrap

Brownshawl (64 of 87)

This long draping stole is made is fine Shetland wool in a natural shade that will work with any colour.

The stitch patterns are adapted from traditional Shetland lace patterns. Drape it over your shoulders to combat a breeze on a summer evening or wrap it round your neck as we move into autumn.

The stole is made in two parts and grafted at the centre for symmetry.

125g laceweight

Isblomma

Aquashawl (3 of 104)

As light as a snowflake, this shawl features wide band of zigzag lace pattern. The shawl is worked in segments, using short-row shaping with wraps and turns to show the gradient of the yarn to best effect. Each wrong side row of the segment is shorter than the previous one, to create the wedge shapes.

100g laceweight

 


More woodland (and architectural) inspirations

Some goodies came in the post and my brain is full of new shawl ideas - just need to finish 4 or 5 other things.
 
P6190762
 
I bought these two skeins via the Virtual Wool Monty last weekend - despite not having a show to teach at I couldn't help some shopping.
 
I've been playing with some ideas about mixing more solid and variegated yarns together and these two skeins from RiverKnits really hit the spot.
 
When I went for my walk in the woods I started thinking about the red tile roofs and brick chimneys of various buildings that peep through the trees, so another woodland inspired shawl may be on the way.
 
P6190748
P6190748
P6190748
P6190748
P6190748
If you fancy knitting a shawl today, check out my Ravelry shop - there is 10% off all shawl pattern until 25 June 2020 with code GOWIB.
 
 
Footnote: Chatting to Becci from River Knits online I have learned that the red brick along the canals was the inspiration for one of these colourways. Great minds and all that....