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.

Knitwear and crochet trends for this Spring

Spring and summer yarns are out, summer dresses are appearing in the shops and the clocks are about to go forward, s0 it seems like a good time to take a look at the new seasons knitting and crochet fashion trends.

Colour block

Two or more contrasting colours in your summer knits are set to be a big hit this summer – you can go for strong contrasts or light and dark shades on one colour.

You can use different colours of the same yarn to achieve the look as with this Cleo dress from C+B.

Or you could use a yarn like Sirdar Colour Wheel which has been dyed to give you blocks of colour as you knit.

sirdar colourwheel

Mesh and lacy fabrics

This is a good summer to try a spot of lace knitting. This doesn’t necessarily mean tiny needles and extra fine yarns. Mesh knits in cotton tape yarns like this one in Rico Summery Ribbon.

mesh summer top

or a lacy knit in DK such as this sweater by Jenny Watson in a James C Brett yarn will also fit the bill.

Vintage stipes

Stripes are a popular choice this summer especially narrow ones or those that echo vintage garments. We think these two tops are great examples of the look.

 

Granny square

Granny squares are still enjoying a revival in the fashion stakes – if you are not sure you want a dress or a waistcoat in this technique, go for a crochet wrap like this one in Stylecraft Classique Cotton DK.

granny square qrap

Finding and saving patterns on Ravelry

When our Yarn Doctors are out and about on our stands at craft shows, one of the regular questions that people ask is “where can I find patterns?”.

There are a number of answers including a wide range of knitting and crochet magazines, and browsing the pattern leaflets at your local yarn shop. Your local yarn store owner will no doubt have an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of patterns available, but if you still can’t find what you are looking for, another useful tool is Ravelry.com.

ravelry pattern search

Ravelry, the online knitting and crochet community, has a database with over 400,000 knitting and 200,000 crochet patterns including patterns from books, leaflets and magazines. Most entries include a picture or several, yarn and needles details and where to find the pattern (for example the leaflet number or magazine edition, and whether it is available online).

ravelry pattern searchYou can just browse popular patterns on the site but several hundred thousand options would take a while, so Ravelry has created a range of filters to help you find what you are looking for.

To narrow down you search you can choose different types of pattern in terms of knitting versus crochet, clothing or other projects, size, and yarn weight etc.

You can also choose options such as types of colour work, whether there are lace or cables, and even styles of pattern such as written versus charts.

As you make your choices the range of patterns reduces until you have a manageable number to browse.

You can also use the search box to look for patterns using a particular yarn or brand or from a particular source.

For example in the screengrab below, you can see a search for UK Hand Knitting which has brought up images for our baby patterns. I could further narrow down my search by clicking to only search for patterns using 4ply and including preemie sizes.

ravelry pattern search

I could also have searched for a particular yarn that I have in my stash to find patterns using it.

Once you have picked out a pattern you might want to make, you can save it to your “queue” – a list of patterns you like on your own account, which is very handy because it is easy to find the pattern again. Below I’m saving the particular UK Hand Knitting pattern I want to use  – now I have the details for when I’m ready to buy and use it.

ravelry pattern queue

The queue function also comes in handy when you spot a pattern in a magazine or book, or even in a pattern selection in a shop, that you might want to make in the future.

For example, it can be very frustrating flicking through a pile of magazines trying to remember where you saw that perfect cabled sweater. But if you search for the sweater on Ravelry and add it to your queue it will be much easier to find it in the future (as long as you keep the magazine). And if the pattern isn’t yet in the database, there are straightforward instructions to help you add it so you, and others, can track it down again in the future.

It can take a little bit of organisation to start your queue but once you have it, it is easy to browse all the things you want to knit and find where to access the patterns.

Plan your 2017 knitting and crochet fun

In some jobs it can be quite a good thing to be the person in the office on the days between Christmas and New Year.

You can sort out loose ends from the year, sort out the filing and get your diary organised for the new year.

If you have some down time at home over this period you can apply the same principles to your knitting and crochet pursuits.

You could plan some trips to yarn shows or workshops for the new year. There are already quite a few shows from large multi-craft events to local wool festivals in our 2017 events calendar and plenty of knitting and crochet classes being added to our workshop diary.

yarn event diary

Over the Christmas holidays is also a good time to finish off a few projects (or be brutally honest that some things aren’t going to be finished) and to plan new ones.

The equivalent of sorting out the office filing is to tackle the stack of knitting magazines you have been accumulating over the months. Go through them and identify the patterns you want to make. Some of us are strong willed enough to tear out those patterns to go in a folder and to throw away the rest – or perhaps share the remainder with other people at a knitting group.

organising knitting patterns

Once you have narrowed down your patterns, it can be great fun to go through your stashed yarn to see if you have something suitable. This can of course mean getting out all your yarn to have a look. Matching patterns to yarns and putting them together in a project bag can be very satisfying as you line up a little collection of projects for next year.

Of course you will discover that you don’t have the yarn for all the patterns you’ve saved, but that’s OK because now you have an excuse for a spot of yarn shopping and perhaps some online browsing to narrow down suitable yarns and colours. So it is a win win.

 

Knitters have their own hygge

There is a lot of talk at the moment about “hygge” and a lot of different explanations about what exactly it is.

I’ve variously read that it is a Danish, a Norwegian or a wider Scandinavian idea and come across a lot of different explanation of what the word means.

However, there are some things that most of the explanations agree on including an idea of taking pleasure in simple or small things, and creating a warm, friendly atmosphere.

When you think about it, in that case knitters and crocheters have a head start in the hygge stakes. We are the sort of people who take pleasure in simple but lovely things – a soft skein of squishy yarn, a pair of hand knit socks, or a successful stripe of fair isle.

What could be more cosy and homely than being on your sofa with a knitted cushion and some handmade socks while you work on the jumper or blanket in your lap.

With that in mind we’ve put together a selection of patterns that might qualify as hygge.

hygge knitting

Clockwise from top left: Hayfield Blanket; Cabled handwarmers from Debbie Bliss; King Cole tea cosies; Swift knit wrap by Stylecraft; Rico Slipper Socks; Mermaid blankets from Wendy; Crochet cushions from James C Brett

 

12 days of Christmas decorations

As you have probably seen, we’ve been encouraging people to make mini Christmas stockings that we’ve been turning into bunting for care homes, hospices and other worthy recipients. It has been huge success with close to 800 stocking collected – that’s a lot of bunting.

Not only is this spreading cheer across the country, but chatting to some of the knitters and crocheters who made stockings for the appeal, we’ve realised that making Christmas decorations like the socks or baubles are a great way to try out different techniques.

Once knitters and crocheters got hold of our mini stocking patterns, lots were inspired to add motifs, stripes, lace, etc to personalise their work.

knitted christmas decorations

Some of your mini stockings

This made us think that December might be a good time for a mini-making challenge that can double as a stash buster. Why not download one of our mini-stocking patterns or a basic bauble pattern (knitted or crocheted) and choose 12 patterns or techniques you want to try, delve into your stash and get creative.

You’ll end up with a set of unique tree ornaments designed by you and have increased your knitting and crochet skills.

Please share your results – we’d love to see your ideas,

Knitting from charts

When we talk to knitters, many mention that they don’t like charts or are nervous of patterns that include them. Often this is because knitters haven’t ever been shown how to work from charts, so we thought we’d provide an introduction.

Charts are simply another way of providing knitting instructions and if they are well drawn they should to some extent be a diagram of how your knitting should look.

The most straightforward charts to understand are those for colourwork.

knititng in colour chart

Each square on the chart represents a stitch. You could think of putting your knitting needle below the chart and matching the stitches on your needle to the stitches on the chart.

Right side rows are worked from right to left, this is why the right hand column is labelled 1. If you think about matching your knitting to the chart, if you are working a right side row the tip of your needle would be at the right hand side of the chart. A wrong side row would be worked from left to right because you are working back along your stitches.

The key to the chart tells you the right side rows are knitted and the wrong side ones are purled. It also shows you what colour yarn each stitch is worked in. So your knitting should look like the chart picture as you progress.

This chart also has a red outlined box. This shows you the set of stitches to repeat across the row for the pattern to right a across your work. For example a in a garment with five flowers across it, row one might be written out as “K2A (k5A, k2B, k5A, k2B, k6A) five times, k1A” – A and B refer to the yarn colours. All the chart is doing is showing you that in a picture.

Cable charts

Cable charts can be a good example of showing how your work should look as well. The symbols for cables here show which direction each cable should slope.

knitting cables chart

It is important to read both the key to any chart and the abbreviations carefully. This will tell you how many stitches are used in a cable and what to do.

For example here we have a symbol using three squares which the key says is Tw3B. The abbreviations section would tell you that this means “slip next 1 st on to cable needle and hold to back, k2, p1 from cable needle” – this makes cable that slopes to the right and if you look at the symbol it has a right leaning slope. The dot in the symbol is the purl stitch and you can see that it is worked after the knit stitches.

Texture and lace

lace chart knitting

Charts for texture and lace should be approached in just the same way, understanding what each symbol means and working one stitch at a time.

You may find that as you work with charts for a while you will be able to look at a piece of knitting and see more clearly what is happening with the pattern because you are more used to reading the stitches from a picture.

Top tips

Of course looking at the charts at first might still be daunting so we asked our social media followers for their advice.

Most of this focused on being able to see clearly which row you are working on the chart. The top recommendations were to use washi tape, post-it-notes or a chart board with magnetic strips to outline the row you are working. That way you won’t be distracted by other rows.

Another useful suggestion is to photocopy the chart and use coloured pencils or highlighter pens to mark different stitches in different colours.

If your chart involves repeats, put a stitch marker or a loop of contrasting yarn on the needles at the start of the group of stitches for each repeat.

What are your top tips for working from charts, please tell us in the comments.