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

 

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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.

Ideas for crocheted Christmas gifts

Last week we looked a couple of books that could come in useful when knitting gifts.

But we know that more and more of you are crocheting as well, so might also be thinking of getting your hooks out ahead of the festive season.

If you are new to crochet it is probably best to aim for well-chosen small projects this year. Concentrating on small gifts were you have thought a lot about the colours and yarns you use is more realistic than tackling a series of blankets for this year.

Great choices for small projects include gadget cosies, bags and purses, mug hugs and neckwarmers in chunky yarns. These can be personalised without weeks of work. Purses, matts and other homewares can be interesting learning projects as well because you can find patterns in cotton and less traditional yarns like raffia as well as wool.

crochet gifts

Crochet blanket from Hayfield; Stylecraft tech cosies; Crochet bag from Wendy; Fun animal from James C Brett; this Noro cowl pattern is a free download; Rico’s fun slippers; and a raffia bag by King Cole

If you have been crocheting for a while this might be the year to make someone a beautiful throw in someone’s favourite colours – assuming you have the time and ability to hide it from the recipient. Or you could try something with interesting construction such as a cosy pair of slippers.

For kids (and some adults), crochet toys are a good option. There are plenty of patterns out there mainly using double crochet so they can be good TV projects because they often require several rounds of the same stitch. The results are often well loved so using a robust acrylic yarn is often the best option allowing them to survive for a good length of time.

And if you don’t want the pets to be left out, why not make crochet a pet basket.

hayfield-cat-basket

 

Books to inspire your gift knitting

As we get closer to Christmas you may well be revising your gift knitting plans to include some smaller items. Luckily we’ve recently come across a couple of books that might help with this.

Knitted Toys by  Jody Long (Dover)

knitted toy bookJody Long has come up with a selection of quirky toys that would make great gifts for younger children. The patterns themselves are fun and colourful and clearly written. They don’t require complicated techniques and should be as fun for you to make as for the recipient to play with. From Dippy the Duck with a rubber ring and Freddie the Fire Engine, complete with a knitted 3D ladder, to Primrose the Teddy who is ready for bed with her nightgown and cap. these patterns have lots of detail making them special gifts.

The book also features lots of advice on making toys safely as well as a techniques section. All the patterns written for acrylic DK and Jody includes an explanation of how to work out you have the correct amount of yarn if you use a different brand than the one he chose.

Speaking as someone with young nieces and nephews, if you have children to knit for this is a very useful book.

Pretty Knitted Hands by Clara Falk and Kamilla Svanlund (Search Press)

Pretty knitted hands bookFrom autumn to spring I always have a pair of fingerless mitts close at hand for chilly days and as well as enjoying wearing them myself, I’ve realised that they make lovely gifts for other people. You can put a lot of love and detail into these small items and make them in a fantastic yarn that you might buy one skein of but not a jumper quantity.

Well this year I’m not going to have any problem finding patterns – my worry is whether I have enough scrumptious yarn – because of this lovely book of handwarmers for all year round.

The 27 patterns have been broken down into seasons and there is enough variety for everyone’s taste. The techniques such as Latvian braid are explained clearly, and there is a nice mix of cables, lace and colour work, wrist warmers and full mittens. The only problem now is to decide whether I am making presents for other people or having the best selection of mitts ever.

Join our Christmas Appeal and hone your sock skills

Over the past few weeks on the blog we’ve looked at baby knits being a great way to learn new skills with out the commitment of an adult garment.We’ve also had tips on making socks for the first time.

UK Hand KNitting stocking appeal

If those two ideas interested to you, the UK Hand Knitting  Christmas appeal is just the thing for you. We are asking knitters and crocheters across the country to join our Christmas appeal and spread some festive cheer by making mini stockings which will be made into bunting. We want to bring a little Christmas spirit to care homes and lunch clubs by getting as many people involved as possible to make some festive bunting.

Anyone can get involved simply by making a mini Christmas stocking from left over yarn. We have created two special knit patterns and Raveler RhonddaM has kindly donated a crochet pattern, all of which can be found on the UK Hand Knitting website.

One of the patterns, mini Christmas sock, is worked in the round and has all the components of a full adult sock in minature. Perfect for learning sock construction while using up the odds and ends in your stash.

We are keen to make as many metres of bunting as possible. Knitters and crocheters can drop off their bunting at the UK Hand Knitting stand at the Knitting and Stitching Shows at Alexandra Palace and Harrogate, or by sending them to
Christmas Stocking Appeal
60 Bridge Road East
Welwyn Garden City
Herts AL7 1JU
Please join with UK Hand Knitting to spread some cheer this Christmas

Books to help you tackle socks

Sock knitting is one aspect of yarn craft that seems to cause more debate than almost anything else.

There are people who say they will never knit socks, those who say they look too difficult, those who only knit socks. Then there are the mysterious (to non-sock knitters) arguments about magic loop versus double pointed needles and top up versus cuff down.

It can make sock knitting seem like a minefield, so it is no surprise that some people steer clear but to quote some of the best advice I have seen about sock knitting “it is just like any other knitting, you knit one stitch at a time from one needle to the other”.

So how can we demystify sock knitting for people who want to give it a go?

sock-cast-on-with-toe

First up is the magic loop method on circular needles or using double pointed needles. Both of these method are often mention with some awe as if some mysterious power was required to tackle them but as said above you are still just knitting a stitch at a time. Both magic loop and dpns are just ways of holding and managing your stitches as you work in the round. Try both out – there is a vvideo tutorial about using dpns here and one on magic loop here – and decide which is most comfortable to you. Whichever method you choose you will be able to knit the same patterns.

For most sock knitters a much more important aspect is understanding the different parts, the “anatomy”, of a sock. When it comes to a knitting a sweater, we tend to have a basic understanding of shaping and the elements. We know the basic shape of a body or a sleeve but when it comes to socks we might not really understand the shape of the heel section or have little idea of what the gusset does or where it is on a sock.

Two things can be of real help here, starting with a plain or beginner’s sock pattern and finding a good sock book with a section that explains the elements of the sock.

A plain stocking stitch sock may not sound exciting but it you pick an variegated or graduated sock yarn you can keep your interest by seeing how the colours come out but not worry about keeping a stitch pattern right when you are learning how a sock is shaped.

There are plenty of sock knitting books out there but here are two we have found useful in terms of explaining sock anatomy and which are full of handy information about sock sizing.

Vogue Knitting’s The Ultimate Sock Book is one of those knitting books that you can return to again and again, as much for the useful information as for the range of patterns.

ultimate-sock

There is a comprehensive techniques section with advice on the best cast-ons for cuff down and toe-up socks, using dpns, working short rows and joining stitches using Kitchener stitch, among others.

There is also a whole chapter on the anatomy of a sock explaining the different sections and the basic shaping involved as well as how this might differ depending on whether you start with the cuff or the toe. And you can try it all out with one of the simpler sock pattern before moving on to lacy or colourwork versions

Once you become more confident with your sock knitting, there is also a section with advice of designing your own socks complete with basic template patterns and selection of suitable stitches to get you started.

sock-innovation

In Sock Innovation, Cookie A sets out to explain her approach to designing sock patterns but in doing so she provides lots of detail on sock anatomy and the options for the different parts of a sock. She explains why you might choose a particular style of heel or toe and what might affect your preference for one type over another.

Even if you don’t plan to design socks, reading the sections on how different stitches will change the stretch and behaviour of your socks and on charts (and charting mistakes) will help you deside what sort of socks patterns you choose. Plus her selection of patterns can show you how much variety and interest there can be in sock knitting.