Using a colour wheel to pick out yarn combinations

Last week we talked about stashbusting using stripes, colourblocks and contrasting edges. But how do you decide what colours to use together?

One useful tool is a colour wheel like the one pictured below.

colourwheel

This colour wheel is a standard version with twelve segments. It is made up of the primary colours yellow, red and blue (at 12, 4 and 8 o’clock) and secondary colours orange, purple and green (2, 6 and 10 0’clock). Secondary colours are created by mixing two primary colours, for example red and yellow give orange, so they sit half way between the primary colours on the wheel.

The other colours here are known as tertiary colours and are made by mixing a primary and a secondary colour. So for example at 9 o’clock the blue and green are mixed to give a greeny-blue or turquoise shade. You could go on adding segments by mixing each colour with the one next to it to create a larger range of shades but twelve is enough for now.

Using colours together

There are various ways to combine colours and if you are choosing from stash yarns it can be useful to set them out as if round a colour wheel.

If you want to work with colours of a similar shades, choose yarns that sit in the same quarter of wheel. So purples and blues for example. These are known as analogous colours.

On the other hand, if you want more of a contrast use complimentary colours. These are the colours that sit opposite each other on the wheel – yellow and purple, green and red etc. These are good choices if you want a strong contrast such as on the heel of a sock. If you want a subtler contrast choose a colour to the immediate left of right of the one opposite. For our yellow this would be pink or a purply-blue.

If you are looking for a group of colours to work together pick three or four colours evenly round the wheel, for example  at 1, 5 and 9 o’clock or 1, 4, 7 and 10 o’clock. When working with groups of colours like this, choose one to be dominant and use the others as contrasting options.

Join our stashbusting summer

There are so many lovely yarns coming out for Autumn, but we know some of you are saying that you don’t have room in your stash.

With this in mind, it is time for a session of summer stashbusting – that way you can make some room. Here are a few ideas and some pics to give you inspiration.

Stripe it

We’ve all had the frustration of not quite having enough yarn in the stash for a whole garment, hat or scarf. But as we know stripes and even colour blocks are very fashionable right now. Check your stash again to see if you have enough yarn in two or three colours to make a whole garment. Then pick a pattern you like and work out how your stripes or colour blocks are going to work. This is a chance to be adventurous with colour.

Inspiration from top left: Striped T-shirt from Wendy; Stripey accessories from James C Brett; C+B Lolli colour block sweater; Stylecraft Wondersoft baby sweater; Rico Essentials Super Kid Mohair Loves Silk stripes scarf

Stripes are something you can really go for in kids’ hats and mitts. Collect up all your odd balls of DK yarn, for example, and pick out simple beanie and mitten patterns. Then randomly pull out yarns work a few rows in each to create fun rainbow effects.

Sock heels and toes

If you have odd amounts of sock yarns to use up you could go down the stripe route or you could make socks with contrasting cuff ribs, heels and toes. A great choice for contrast heels is to use a sock pattern with an afterthought heel

You can also take a similar approach to the bands and cuffs of a sweater, think vintage sweaters and cricket jumpers for inspiration.

Inspiration from left: Hayfield baby cardigans with a contrast edge; Socks with contrast heels knitted by JuJu Vail; Wendy cricket slip over

Granny squares

Crochet squares are a great use of stash yarn and another opportunity to get creative with colour. You could go all out and feed as much of your stash as possible into a blanket but there are lots of smaller projects to contemplate – cushions, tote bags, pencil cases, scarves and gadget covers. Remember that if you go for a more lacy square pattern like the traditional granny square you may need to line your project.

Inspirations from left: Wendy Serenity blanket; Debbie Bliss Rachel bag; Sirdar Harrap Tweed DK blanket

Toys

If there are youngsters in the family why not turn your left over yarn into some fun friends for them, Toy patterns range from simple squares to elaborate families of costumed animals, there is something for everyone. And they are no reason not to have fun with colour – there are some very well loved multi-coloured dinosaurs and pink cats out there.

Stylecraft Crochet Dragon Heads; King Cole tortoises 

Charity knits

And if none of the above appeals, why not check out our charity pages on the website. There are free patterns and links to charities who use knitting in their fund raising appeals  – from helping refuges or the Grenfell Tower families to protecting animals and raising awareness of various health conditions.

And if you do decide to join in with a sport of summer stashbusting let us know on our Facebook or Twitter pages (tag #summerstashbusting ) and share pictures of what you make.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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