Solving knitting problems: Cable mistakes

One frustrating thing that can happen with you knitting, is to look down and realise that you have cabled the wrong way.


But if the mistake is only a few rows down, rather than rip out at the rest of your cabling, there is a way of untwisting that one rogue cable.


Arrange your work so that the stitches each side of your cable are on separate needles and pin your work to a foam or cork board. Only drop the stitches that form the top crossing part of the cable off your needles. In this example it is the three right hand stitches of the cable.


Drop those stitches down to just before the last cable cross and pin the ladder of strands created out of the way.


Place the three dropped stitches on a safety pin and slip under the other half of the cable – this will happen very easily.


Use a crochet hook to pick up the stitches one at a time, making sure that you work up the “ladder” strands in the correct order.


When all the stitches have been picked up you will have a correctly aligned cable.

Know your yarn: Bamboo


Continuing with our occasional look at the different yarns and fibres we can use in our knitting and crochet, we are thinking about bamboo sourced viscose which is now turning up in more “winter yarns” as well a lightweight summer ones.

Where does the yarn come from?

Bamboo is a fast growing plant and the fibre is promoted as being more environmentally friendly that other forms of viscose because the plant can be grown in marginal areas unsuitable for some other plants and doesn’t necessarily involve deforestation.

The fibre is extracted in one of two ways. Leaves and the inner pith of woody stems are extracted during a steaming process and then crushed. The second method involves the bamboo being crushed and then broken down by bacteria or natural enzymes in a retting and washing process similar to how linen is produced from flax.

Once the fibres have been extracted they are spun into a viscose thread or yarn.

Note that when you see viscose in the yarn composition information on a label it may mean bamboo or another plant fibre so it is important to check elsewhere on the label to see if bamboo is mentioned.


  • Fabric knitted from bamboo yarn has a shiny appearance and drapes well.
  • Softer than cotton
  • Durable, strong fibre
  • Breathable and cool, with some UV protection.
  • Absorbs dye well
  • Is biodegradable
  • Bamboo has some anti-bacterial properties making it popular for inclusion if sock yarn and baby garments
Sirdar Snuggle Baby Bamboo DK 80% Bamboo sourced viscose, 20% Wool soft with sheen ; King Cole Bamboozle 48% Bamboo, 44% Wool, 8% Acrylic – chunky thick and thin ; Louisa Harding Pitturissimo 75% Fine Merino Wool and 25% Bamboo viscose ; Rico Superba Bamboo 4 Ply 50% Merino Wool, 25% Bamboo, 25% Nylon variegated sock

Clockwise from top left: Sirdar Snuggle Baby Bamboo DK (80% bamboo sourced viscose, 20% wool) is soft with a sheen; King Cole Bamboozle (48% bamboo, 44% wool, 8% acrylic) is a thick and thin chunky yarn; Louisa Harding Pitturissimo (75% fine merino wool, 25% bamboo viscose) has a soft drape; Bamboo is popular in sock yarns such as  Rico Superba Bamboo 4 Ply (50% merino wool, 25% bamboo, 25% nylon)

Tips for working with bamboo yarn

Bamboo yarn can split do you may find wooden or bamboo needles a better choice than very pointed metal ones. The fact it is a slippery yarn may be another reason to avoid metal needles.

Garments knitted with bamboo fibre may drop (this will depend on whether it is blended with other fibres and which these are) so you may want to hang your swatch up with a couple of clothes pegs on the bottom edge to see if it stretches. You can then bear that in mind when looking at the length of your garment.

Choose patterns with drape to benefit from bamboo’s qualities or use yarns where bamboo is blended with other fibres for a firmer fabric.

What is your favourite pattern for bamboo yarn – please tell us in the comments below.

Baby knits – a first step to big knits

When we are out and about at craft shows we often meet people who tell us that they have been knitting for a while but they are nervous about trying to make a whole garment. Of course we also meet people whose first project was a jumper but this blog is for the first group.

There are lots of reasons why newish knitters may be nervous about tackling their first jumper even if they have used quite complex colourwork or patterns for hats and scarves. They include:

  • What if I spend a lot of money on yarn and then can’t finish the sweater?
  • I don’t understand how cardigans go together.
  • I’ve never really done any shaping.
  • I’m worried about sewing up.

One way to help someone get past these worries is to suggest they start with a baby garment.

The great thing about baby garments is that you can find pretty much every style of sweater or cardigan you can think of. So you can find bottom-up and top-down designs, raglan and set-in sleeves, colourwork, lace, cables etc. Have a look at the UK Hand Knitting baby pattern collection here for an example of this.


So by picking a baby sweater in a similar style to something you’d like to make in an adult size you can learn about shaping, sleeves, picking up stitches for a neckband and all the techniques while only using a couple of balls of yarn from your stash. This is a good way to build up confidence with the techniques and you will always find a grateful recipient for a baby cardigan whether that be a friend or relation or a local charity.

And if you don’t believe there is a relationship between these mini knits and a grown up sweater, check out this blog post from Let’s Knit magazine about baby knits and their adult equivalents.

Your Christmas knitting checklist

We don’t want you to panic, but with the schools starting back you might want to think about your Christmas knitting if you are planning to give hand-knitted or crocheted gifts this year.

It is certainly time to make a plan and decide if it is realistic – so ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How many gift do you plan to make?
  2. How big is each gift – a sweater or a hat? If you answered 20 to question one and now note that at least 10 of these are fair isle jumpers or granny square blankets for double beds, it is possible that you have a time problem. So…
  3. How much time per week do you have to knit?
  4. How long does it take you to make (including weaving in ends, sewing up, adding buttons, etc) a pair of socks, a hat, a laptop cosy and so on?
  5. How many of the projects are secret and what proportion of your time is “secret knitting time”? Does anyone else imagine themselves knitting in a wardrobe or broom cupboard to keep a present a surprise?

Now take a look at questions one, two and four to add up the amount of making time you require between now and the early hours of 25 December. Then look back at question three and ask yourself one final simple question – is the amount of knitting/crochet/finishing time available more than you need to complete your gift list? If not, it is time for a rethink now – not in mid December.

Christmas inspiration. Nordic sweater from James C Brett (jb193); Fun hats from Hayfield; Slouchy cable socks by Debbie Bliss (DB084); Kids sweaters in Stylecraft Life (9031); King Cole Christmas selection (8002); On trend Mermaid blankets by Wendy (6022)

Remember that although you might think of a knitted sweater to full circle shawl as a bigger gift, many not knitters will feel as loved receiving a beautiful soft scarf or a pair of snuggly socks. Choosing a luxurious yarn for a small project can also make it more special – so if you had originally budgeted for a sweater quantity of yarn you could think of a smaller project but up your spend per skein. It is also a good idea to purchase all your gift knitting yarn now so there is no delay between projects and so you can pick up something else if you hit a glitch with one item.

And finally while giving people handmade presents is a lovely thing, please remember that you should enjoy yourself too so try to avoid any 3am secret finishing session on the run up to the big day.

Tips for choosing yarn colour

Most knitters will have heard a story like this:

A customer in a local yarn shop has looked through piles of patterns but can’t find what she wants. The LYS owner asks what she is looking for. “I want a red sweater, “ says the customer, “but none of these are red.”

And all though we might laugh, we all know that sometimes choosing a different colour for a pattern can be difficult.

There are lots of reasons why a pattern will be pictured in a particular colour. It could be the designer’s favourite shade, because it fits with the theme of a collection or magazine, or because it is a colour for the yarn that season, for example.

However it may not be a colour that you like or want to work in. So how do you decide what shade to use instead?

First of all, will the colour you choose go with your or someone else’s colour scheme, whether that be in terms of clothes or home depending on what you plan to make?

Remember that colours can complement each other, you don’t need to match exact shades necessarily.

Once you have some shades or colours in mind look to see what is on offer in the yarn but think about which of your options have the same tone as the original pattern colour. This is because using a lighter or darker tone could affect how your stitches and pattern detail show up.

yarn colour

Different colours or tones can make the stitch pattern look different

And don’t forget to make sure all your yarn of one colour is from the same dyelot – it is very frustrating when you discover that one section of your beautifully made jumper is a different shade.


Whether making something using Fair Isle, stripes or any other colour technique choosing your yarn shades can seem complicated.

yarn colour

You want colours to work together but be different enough for the pattern to show. A colour wheel can be helpful here.


Using colours that are near each other on the wheel (analogous colours) will give you a more tonal effect, whereas colours from opposite side (complementary) will result in more popping contrasts. Looking at a colour wheel may help you narrow down what yarn shades might work together for your project.

Then if you are shopping in a local yarn shop, hold your shortlisted colours together to help you imagine how the colours will look in your finished piece.

If you are shopping online, copy pictures of the yarn in the different shades you are considering. Then you can use some photo-editing software or a free collage maker like to look at the colours side by side.

The more you play with colour and experiment the more confident your will become putting colours together or spotting which shades will best show off a stitch pattern.

Know your yarn: Cotton

When you look back through old knitting books, you can see that for a long time they were written for yarn made from wool because it was readily available and cheap to knit. This is why for some people “knitting yarn” and “wool” mean the same thing. As you look back through patterns of the last 60 years you see more and more different fibres being introduced whether natural(with different levels of processing) or manmade, until today when a read of yarn labels shows a wide range of fibres and yarn sources. Can you imagine yarn made from crab shell? Well it is now a possibility.

With this in mind we thought it would be useful to take a regular look at different yarn fibres to help you navigate your yarn choices – starting with that summer staple, cotton.

Where does the yarn come from?

Cotton fibre grows as a protective layer for the seed of the cotton plant forming fluffy “bolls” which are picked and spun into thread. The fibre is cellulose and although most bolls are off-white, plants that produce brown or red fibres also exist.

gossypium cotton

You can see the cotton “bolls” in this picture of Erika Knight Gossypium Cotton

 Cotton has been spun into yarn and woven into fabric for at least 8,000 years so it is one of our most traditional fibres. These days it is a mainly industrial process where bales of the picked fibre are carded and then drawn into fine threads which are spun together to create yarns.

Mercerised cotton

This cotton has more lustre or sheen than ordinary cotton yarn. This is achieved by the yarn undergoing a chemical process while held a high tension, this causes the fibres to swell and straighten which in turn means that reflect more light and therefore have more lustre. You can read a technical description here.


  • A cool, breathable fabric
  • A machine washable fabric
  • Durable
  • Takes dye well giving range of colours
  • Your cotton knits will soften with wear increasing drape
  • Cotton’s firm, inelastic yarn gives you clear stitch definition making it very suitable for working with knit and purl texture patterns.
  • This is an inelastic yarn that doesn’t spring back in the same way as wool which gives you a flatter fabric with more drape. This also means that a cotton piece stretch on blocking like wool.
  • Crochets into a firm fabric that is great for bags, toys and homewares


cotton yarn

Cotton is a fibre that can be spun and combined in a wide variety of ways, clockwise from left: James C Brett Craft Cotton; Lolli a cotton chainette yarn from C&B; Sirdar Beachcomber; Rico Essentials Crochet Cotton; Stylecraft Malabar DK a cotton silk blend.

Combination with other fibres

Cotton and wool yarn – cooler and more drape than wool on its own but the wool has more spring so a rib in cotton/wool would have more give and be less flat than in cotton only

Cotton and silk – silk add more sheen and helps create an even more draped fabric. Silk also adds strength to the fabric.

Tips for working with cotton yarn

Because cotton softens over time and can be heavier than wool it is a good idea to choose patterns with firm tension to avoid sagging – some people go down a needle size when working in cotton.

Swatch and then wash your swatch to get a good idea about how a particular cotton yarn behaves

Cotton yarn can split, you may find wooden or bamboo needles a better choice than very point metal ones

What is your favourite pattern for cotton yarn – please tell us in the comments below.

Wrangling needles and notions, hooks and gauges

I love this time of year for a particular reason – apart from the occasional sunny day.

It is the season of the “back to school” stationery sale which is a blessing for anyone trying to organise what we might call “an extensive knitting and crochet related collection”. By this I don’t mean a lovingly built yarn stash but all the other items an avid knitter and crocheter accumulates.

knitting storage

I’m always accumulating new kit that needs storing

Speaking as someone who has 25 or so crochet hooks, at least two sets of double pointed needles in any size I deem “useful” and uncounted numbers of circular and straight knitting needles, this is a great time of year to organise my kit.

A browse through a stationery sale will turn up:

  • Desk tidies – great for needles and hooks

    knitting storage

    The crochet hooks are easily accessible and look pretty in a pencil pot

  • Pencil cases – small ones for tapes measures, stitch markers, darning needles and lots of other notions, big ones as project bags for sock and similar
  • Tins and boxes – perfect for storing notions, buttons and beads
  • Organiser wallets – these are a good way of managing your circular needles, especially the transparent ones that allow you to see the needles sizes without pulling everything out. DVD wallets can be another option here.

And having wandered into a stationery shop this week, I am now contemplating one of those three drawer mini-filing cabinets. A quick hack to create some cardboard drawer dividers could make it a great needle storage unit.

Then there are all those patterns we accumulate. I don’t keep whole magazines but do cut out patterns that catch my eye – so those display books with plastic pockets are essential for these and the pdf print outs from downloaded patterns.

So August has become the time to organise my kit and I’m always looking for new ideas for storing and managing my knitting and crochet equipment, so please share your ideas in the comments.