How knitters and crocheters can help the Grenfell Tower fire survivors

The Grenfell Tower fire in west London last week has been dominating a lot of people’s thoughts and we know that knitters have been asking if there is anything they can do to help the Grenfell survivors.

We have checked with some of the charities involved in collecting and distributing the initial donations to the families left homeless by the disaster and they tell us that immediate needs have been met.

However, they also say that there will be more long term needs for these families as they are housed and start to rebuild their homes. They will need things that they won’t be thinking about right now – blankets to personalise kids’ bedrooms when they get them again, bobble hats for those same kids going to school next winter and warm socks for elderly people, for example.

Colourful crocheted or knitted blankets could add personality and comfort to a rehoused child’s room

There is plenty that knitters and crocheters can do.

So we were very pleased to see our friends at Knit for Peace announce that they will be a collection point for knitted items for Grenfell survivors. Click on the link here to find out where to send your items and how else you might be able to help.

Hopefully, some of you can use your talents to help the Grenfell families. This story serves as a good reminder that charity knits are needed all year round not just in the an immediate time of crisis, or in Commit To Knit month.

Tips: Summer knitting and crochet with cotton

At this time of year we often think about using cotton yarns to create cool, summer garments.

If you are used to working mainly with wool, cotton can behave differently so we have collect some useful tips to help you with your warm weather projects. Thank you to everyone who contributed tips on social media.

Needles

Your choice of needles can make a real difference to your experience of working with cotton. Many people prefer bamboo needles over metal to get the most accurate tension.  Metal needles can allow the cotton to slip and slide a bit too much.

The other downside of combining metal needles with cotton can be splitting. Because of how the fibres form in cotton yarn, particularly sharp needles can easily slip into the yarn rather than a whole stitch causing splits.

Crochet

Cotton yarn is very popular for crochet. It forms very crisp well defined stitches and firm fabric. So choose your crochet pattern with that in mind. 

Finished fabric

Cotton yarn behaves differently to wool, so if you decide to substitute cotton in a pattern written for wool, the finished item will look different. This can be a good thing but it is worth swatching carefully.

cotton yarn

You can see here how on the green swatch, which is in wool using the same yarn weight and needles, the rib is pulling in more than the cream 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.

Why knit in public

This Saturday, 10 June 2017, is World Wide Knit in Public Day. Pretty much as it says on the tin, this is when knitters of all abilities, styles and nationalities take their needles and yarn out and about.

For some people this means going to an organised Knit in Public Day event. A number of these around the UK have been organised as part of Commit To Knit (C2K) month so will be focusing on charity knitting in public – you can find details of 70 C2K events here.

Other people might just get together with friends in a café or have a special local knitting group outing.

And some people will do pretty much what they do anyway, that is knit everywhere – on park benches, on public transport, in waiting rooms and hospital wards, and anywhere else they might have an opportunity.

world wide knit in public

If you haven’t knitted in public before, why not give it a go this Saturday? It is a great way to reduce your stress in waiting rooms or lose yourself on a crowded train. You just need a small project that you can pull out of a bag (or even a pocket in the case of a crochet square for example) when you have the opportunity.

And it may not be just you that benefits. When you knit in public, you will notice people who seem to relax by watching your needles. Other people will chat or ask you what you are making. This can range from the chirpy “Will you do me a hat, love” to people asking where they can learn or who really want to tell you about the lovely sweaters their Nan made. Whatever the conversation, a little friendly chat can’t be a bad thing.

Finally, you might meet a fellow knitter. Knitters round the world seem to be happy to greet another person with their yarn out. So you never know, you could make a new friend this Saturday.

Click here for the full worldwide list of events.

Knitting and crochet books to make you think

Here at UK Hand Knitting we’re always keen to take a look at new knitting and crochet books. Recently two arrived that have made us think about our crafting in new ways.

Knit Yourself Calm – A creative path to managing stress Lynne Rowe & Betsan Corkhill, Search Press

therapeutic knitting

Mindfulness and use creative pursuits to improve our mental well-being are hot topics at the moment and this book addresses where knitting fits into this movement.

Therapeutic knitting expert Betsan Corkhill has worked with designer Lynne Rowe to put together a set of patterns to help with different aspects of stress and benefit people’s health and wellbeing. Corkhill tells us that a study she did with Cardiff University “showed that the more frequently people knit (more than three times a week) the calmer and happier they feel – 81% felt happier after knitting.” The same study found that among those who initially “felt sad” only 1% continued to do so after therapeutic knitting.

With this in mind the projects in the book are divided into different types of projects for different situations with explanations of how they may benefit you. For example, Quick and Easy projects to give you a sense of accomplishment, and Group Projects that you could collaborate with others on.

Reading this book, the UKHK team were able to point to times we have used our knitting or crochet to help us cope with difficult situations or stress. If you think you or someone else would benefit from some therapeutic knitting this book is a useful tool.

 

In one section of Knit Yourself Calm, Corkhill says: “Learning new skills on a regular basis is essential for nurturing a healthy bran, opening new neural pathways and even encouraging the growth of new brain cells right into old age.” And for crocheters this is where our second book comes in.

 

Design Your Own Crochet Projects – Magic Formulas for Creating Custom Scarves, Cowls, Hats, Socks, Mittens & Gloves, Sara Delaney, Storey Publishing

crochet books

We have been lucky enough to get an early look at this US book coming out in the UK later this year and were surprised how useful it is for people with no interest in publishing their own patterns.

Sara Delaney shows us that designing is much wider than publishing patterns. Her book is designed to help you create lovely accessories with yarn from your stash and give you the skills to turn that skein of yarn you have fallen in love with into exactly the item you imagine.

The book gives you the formulas or recipes for 18 project types including scarves, hats, socks and gloves. Each formula takes you step-by-step through measuring stitch tension, working out what stitch patterns will work and how many stitches or pattern repeats will be needed.

This is a book that will make us be braver about our own crochet – stash yarn will certainly turn into hats and cowls in the coming months and may well feature some more adventurous stitch patterns. Look out for this book and hopefully it will inspire you too.

 

We have a copy of Knit Yourself Calm to give away. Tell us how you have used knitting or crochet in a positive way in the comments below and we will pick a winner among the commenters.

Three reasons to Commit To Knit for charity this June

June is Commit to Knit month, when we ask you to commit to knit or crochet at least one item for charity.

So why should you get involved?

  1. Stashbusting
    A lot of the patterns in the special charity knitting supplement we have put together with the lovely folk at Simply Knitting (look out for it in your newsagent in the next few days) and the ones on the charity section of our website use small amounts of yarn. Why not make some space in your yarn cupboard by rustling up a few twiddlemuffs, blanket squares or preemie hats.

    Commit to knit month

  2. Knowing that what you make will be really appreciated
    We receive lots of feedback from charity projects we support, thanking knitters for their time and skill. If you have run out of people to knit for, why not make something that will really help someone?
  3. Meet like-minded makers
    We will be putting together a list of libraries, knitting groups and shops that will be hosting Commit To Knit events and sessions, where you can join other knitters and crocheters to simply make together or work on a joint project. Keep an eye on the Commit to Knit area of our website.

 

Using long colour change and self-striping yarns

As we revealed in our post about summer knitting trends, stripes are in.

One of the ways to achieve lovely striped garments is to use yarns dyed with long sections of contrasting colours that give you stripes as you work.

There are lots of these yarns about at the moment as you can see from this selection.

There are plenty of accessory patterns for these types of yarns at the moment and they do make fabulous shawls and scarves, but they are also lovely for sweaters and cardigans and especially on trend right now.

If you are going to use a self-striping yarn for a garment there are a couple of things to think about before you start. Mainly this centres around whether you want the stripes to match on the front and back of a garment and the sleeves to match.

If this is important to you, you may need to wind off some yarn at the start of some parts of the garment. For example if the front and back are to match you will need each to start at the same place in the stripe sequence, which will mean winding through the yarn to the matching spot.

You will also have to keep an eye on the stripes at each side of the front neck so they line up – otherwise if the stripes match elsewhere your garment could look lopsided.

On the other hand if you are not worried about the stripes lining up, just go for it and enjoy the effect as with this Noro top.

noro taiyo

Tips – using stitchmarkers

Stitchmarkers can be some of the most useful tools in your knitting or crochet bag but a lot of people haven’t used them or are puzzled because there seem to be so many different types as in this picture.

stitchmarker tips

You see stitchmarkers that are plain metal or plastic rings, charms hanging from rings, beads on loops of plastic coated wire, fancy ones using semi-precious stones and silver plated wire and ones that look like plastic safety pins.

In fact you use all the different types, apart from the plastic safety pins (which we will discuss below), in the same ways.

  • Start of a round. Tips – using stitchmarkersIf you are working in the round, hang a stitch marker on your needle before the first stitch of the round. Each time you start a new round, you know because you have to slip the marker from the left to the right needle tip.
  • Marking pattern repeatsusing stitchmarkers

    If you have a pattern that repeats across a row or a round, you can place a marker at the beginning of each repeat and at the end of the final one. This can help you keep track of the pattern and spot mistakes, because you can will be able to tell if there is a problem with a particular repeat rather than having to check the whole row.Here we have used a random selection of markers to show that they all serve the same purpose. However, if you need to mark the start of a round or the position of an increase or decrease, as well as pattern repeats, you might choose one type of marker for each. For example, a large marker for the start of the round, matching dangling ones for the pattern repeats and plain rings for shaping positions.

Markers are particularly useful if you are a fast knitter or someone who doesn’t look at their knitting all the time, because feeling the marker will remind you to take particular actions and you won’t have to unravel any stitches.

  • Row tally sttchmarker tipsThis is the first use of the safety pin type markers. Unlike the ones that you slide on to your knitting needle, these markers can be easily added to or removed from your work at any time.This makes them very useful for keeping track of rows on a long piece of knitting. You can clip a marker into the last stitch of every twentieth row, for example, then you only need to count every individual row from the last marker keep track of your total rows. For example three markers would mean 60 rows and 17 after the last marker would mean at total of 77 rows worked.
  • Crochet markers stitchmarkersIf, like many of us, you sometimes lose track of where a row or round of crochet starts, these removable markers are very useful.  Clip one through the first stitch of each row or round and you will know where stitches should align. This can be very helpful when crocheting in rows, in particular, because you are less likely to end up with sloping sides caused by not working to the correct last stitch on each row.
    When storing your plastic safety pin markers, leave them open because this reduces the strain on the plastic and makes them last longer.