New yarns for all the family

August is the time of year where we start to see new yarns for autumn and winter appearing in our yarn shops. There are always interesting new offerings, colours etc so we will probably do several posts with new yarns that catch our attention over the next couple of months. However, we have already noticed a trend for new practical washable yarns suitable for knits for all the family, as well as being great options for youngsters to try a first project with, so we’re starting with those.

Clockwise from top left

Wendy Stella chunky

Stripes and ombre colour effects are still very popular and this yarn will give you that look on chunky garments and accessories. This soft yarn has colour tones that fade from solid into blended shades and back again giving a subtle stipe effect.

Sirdar No 1

This double knitting crepe yarn has been designed to be a classic DK with something for everyone in the family thanks to its wide colour palette. A practical go-to DK.

Stylecraft Tweedy DK

With 26% cotton Tweedy is a a good choice for autumn knits, especially with a collection of interesting heathered shades to create fun colour effects that will look good on garments and soft accessories to add an extra layer.

James C Brett Stonewash DK

This range of lighter-coloured variegated yarns incorporates the fading you see in stonewashed fabrics. The fresh range of colours should show stitch patterns well.

DY Choice Apollo

Another yarn offering stripe effects, this time in a DK. Apollo has long colour repeats giving stripes of vibrant colours. The 300g balls mean you could make a cheerful kids jumper from a single ball.

King Cole Big Value Baby 4ply Spot

This is a fun variation on a 4ply baby yarn, adding spots of colour. We don’t think it is just for babies though. Combine it with a toning solid colour to create interesting stripes or a different approach to colour block style garments.

 

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Blocking your knitting

Among the things our yarn doctors are regularly asked about are “how do you block your knitting?”, “is blocking lace difficult, I am nervous about starting a shawl” and “what are blocking wires?”.

So following our look at summer shawls last week, we have some tips about blocking your knitting and crochet.

Wet blocking

This technique is particularly useful with spring yarns with a lot of “memory” like wool and alpaca and when you really want to stretch out your work as with lace knitting.

When you a piece of lace knitting off your needles it is likely to look a bit scrunched up and floaty as in the pattern picture. You can see the effect in this swatch for a shawl.

lace knitting

Before starting to block your piece, collect the items you will need to do the job. Discovering that the pins are in another room as you juggle wet knitting is not a fun activity.

As a bare minimum you need towels, pins, a measuring tape and something to pin out your piece on – this could be a layer of old towels on a spare room bed (please note spare, you don’t know exactly how long it will take your knit to dry). However, if you plan to regularly wet block, it is worth making a small investment in some blocking kit.

lace blocking kit

A good (and to some extent potable) option as a blocking surface is a set of interlocking foam matts. You will find these sold as blocking matts as well as children’s play matts and as workshop flooring. They are easy to stick pins in and are quite robust.

Rather than dress making pins, buy T-pins which are larger and better for controlling blocking wires – they are often sold together.

Blocking wires are often the item that make people nervous. They are basically what they say on the tin, flexible wire rods that you can thread through the edge of your knitting. The main type are straight and unsurprisingly very helpful when you want to block one or more straight edge. You can also find finer wires that naturally sit in a curve.

To start the wet blocking process, you need a sink full of warm (not hot) water. If the water is hot you run the risk of felting your piece. Gently put the knitting in the sink and ensure it is submerged. Don’t agitate or rub the knitting – simply leave it to soak for about a quarter of an hour.

Once the knitting has soaked, lay a towel on a flat surface. Gently lift the knitting out of the water – let water drain off but DO NOT wring it out. Place the soaked knitting as flat as possible on the towel. Gently roll up the towel like a Swiss roll with the knitting as the jam. Carefully squeeze the rolled towel which will soak water away from the knitting leaving you with a damp, relaxed piece.

Treating you piece with care, lay it out on your blocking surface and start to pin it out to the right size and shape.

lace blocking

Here I have used a blocking wire along the straight edge of swatch, using T-pins to hold the wire in place on the matt. Then I have used more pins to pull out the points of the lace to reveal the pattern.

Once you are satisfied that you piece is pinned out to the right size and shape – take your time to get it right – leave it be to dry.

When it is completely dry, you can carefully remove the pins and wires, making sure not to snag any stitches. The knitting will retain its shape and size.

finished lace blocking

Steam blocking

Some yarns do not have the same qualities as wool when it comes to memory – cotton behaves very differently from wool for example. Also you may not want to stretch your work much or have textures or cables that you want to protect.

Steam blocking is an alternative that can be used these circumstances and for simply flattening basic garment elements. You can use a steam iron for this task but again if you do lots of knitting or crochet it is worth investing in a handheld clothes steamer.

If you do use a steam iron, place a damp tea towel over your work to avoid accidentally touching your knitting with a hot iron.

steam block knitting

As before pin out your piece to the right shape and size but this time you pin it out dry as with the swatch pictured above.

Once you are happy with the shape, move your steamer or iron over the piece squirting steam. Make sure you cover the whole piece with steam. You may see the yarn relax or bloom under the steam as you work.

Leave you piece to dry before carefully unpinning it.

steam blocked swatch

As you try both blocking methods you will discover what you prefer for different types of yarn and stitch patterns. But concerns over blocking should not stop you from trying new types of knitting.

Summer shawls and cover ups

Shawls and lace wraps are not only handy summer cover ups for when a chill breeze starts and glamorous accessories.

They are also perfect summer projects because they tend to be lightweight and are easily packed up for a trip. Plus it is quite possible that you could finish them on holiday and wear almost immediately.

Here we have picked out a few examples in popular shapes that tie in with this summer’s trends for colourblocks and lacy mesh patterns.

Look out next week for our tips on blocking your finished shawl.

 

Get the best from summer yarn shows

If you take a look at our knitting and crochet event calendar you will see there are plenty of yarn fairs to visit over the next two or three months.

With this in mind here are our top tips for getting the best out of a summer yarn show.

Take some time to research and plan

It is worth taking a little time before the show to make sure you will see everything you want to on the day. Check to see if there are any workshops with spaces and any talks or demonstrations you might want to fit in.

Have a glance down the retailer list so you don’t miss a stall you will regret later.

Check out the refreshment facilities. If it is an outdoor (or even partially outdoor) event, see if there are places where you can eat a picnic on sunny day.

Allow plenty of time

There is no point is rushing round an event like this. There may be sheep or alpacas to admire, a shearing or a spinning demo to watch and you might bump into people you know.

Plus if you are determined to get the best from the stalls you may be best advised to make two circuits. First as a recce to you can see everything on offer (and not spend all your money at the first stop) and then a second to find a few treats whether that be yarn, needles and hooks, bags or something out of the ordinary.

Image from Fibre East

Enjoy yourself and chat to representatives of guilds, as well as  other knitters and crocheters

One of the joys of a yarn show is admiring other people’s knits and chatting to them about what the pattern is and what yarn they used. Another is visiting various guilds and associations on their stands to find out about new crafts. The social side of a yarn event can be as much fun as the shopping.

We are planning to have some fun trips to yarn fairs this summer and we hope you do too.

Trendwatch: Superbright knits

This is the summer of colour. Alongside colour block and stripe patterns, the trend of this summer is strong colours.

We have mentioned the Fuschia trend already but zingy oranges and yellows, pillar box red, lapis blue, emerald greens and electric purples are all also great choices.

To be on trend all you need to do is pick a pattern you like and choose a bold, vibrant shade to make it in. Don’t be afraid of bright colours – they look great in the sunshine and show of your great makes.

Here we have selected some yarns that could help you achieve that bold look in your summer knits.

 

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.