Knitting and crochet blogs for you to enjoy

On our regular e-newsletter we choose a knitting or crochet blog of the month that we think our followers will enjoy.

In case our blog readers aren’t signed for the newsletter, here are a few of our favourites from the past year that you might enjoy browsing over the bank holiday weekend.

knitting blogs

Elsie Pop is a UK-based crochet blog written by Louise who promises “yarn, cats, a one-eyed dog, unfinished projects and a lot of colour”. Elsie (Louise) is a real crochet enthusiast who writes about patterns, reviews yarns and offers tips and advice. She is also a London commuter so is an expert on crocheting in public and on the move. The blog talks about both crochet and Tunisian crochet and features patterns for each. Elsie’s real enjoyment of her craft comes across as does her hope to help other people feel the same.

Great Balls of Wool records the activities of Una, charity knitter extraordinaire. She has been knitting for more than 50 years and says she loves “looking for wool bargains and making them into something useful”. The blog charts the progress of the items Una makes and which charities eventually receive them. She also links to the many charities she has made items for – there is no doubt the Una has committed to knit and we’re sure she will inspire others.

knitting blogs

Hand Knitted Things is the blog of Julia March who lives in the Scottish Highlands with a small flock of Shetland sheep. Julia writes about patterns and yarn that has caught her eye along with the knitting projects she is working on. All accompanied by beautiful bright photographs. This is a great blog to turn to if you are looking for ideas or inspiration because the photographs will certainly make you feel good about yarn crafts and Julia is honest about her experiences of patterns and projects. You will also find some useful tutorials.

Sometimes you just want to look at great images of knitting and to seek some inspiration, which is how we first came across The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done. On this blog Orange Swan reviews the patterns in knitting magazines by sharing pattern pictures with her comments, so it is a great place to see a wide range of patterns, assess trends and browse for ideas – rather like a very focused Pinterest.

knitting blogs

Barbara from Knitting Now and Then describes herself as fascinated by old knitting patterns and women’s magazines. Luckily for her, since 2011 she has been sorting and cataloguing the collection of publications held by the UK Knitting and Crochet Guild. This massive collection of magazines, pattern booklets, pattern leaflets and other publications is a fantastic resource and one she uses to talk about the history of knitting – for example the metrication of needles – how styles have changed and to show vintage stitches and patterns.

Mason Dixon Knitting one of the most established yarn craft blogs. It takes the form of letters between Kay who lives in Manhattan and Ann who lives in Nashville. They talk about all things knitting from new patterns and what they enjoy knitting, to knitting deadline stress and TV to binge watch while knitting. Their site is fun to get lost in, reading their friendly posts as well as exploring the tips and free patterns.

Never Not Knitting is the sort of blog where you smile or laugh in recognition. Podcaster and knitting boutique owner Alana Dakos writes about common knitting experiences such as persevering when deep down you know your knitting is coming out far too small, or falling for a supercute pattern and the joys of a spot of selfish knitting. There are also tips, patterns and book recommendations to give you new inspiration.

The Winwick Mum blog, which as the runner up for Blog of the Year at the recent British Craft Awards, is written by Cheshire-based Christine Perry who says she writes about plus what makes her happy: family, knitting, gardening, home-making and enjoying the outdoors. And knitting definitely makes her happy because there is plenty of discussion of knitting, knitting events, yarn and patterns. You will also find plenty about socks – Christine has written a sock knitting book – including a sockalong to get you started and a free pattern and tutorial for her Easy Cable Socks. Winwick Mum is a relaxing read for crafters that may also help you discover something new in terms of yarn or events.

knitting blogs

The Yarn Harlot is something of a knitting blog legend. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has been blogging and producing very funny books about knitting for years, Her blog is perfect to drop into when you need a smile. Over the years she has introduced us to the problems of dropping your yarn when on the move, the travelling sock, and more recently the concept of stash tossing. And she is very honest about startitis and playing yarn chicken (the hope beyond reasonable expectation that you have enough yarn to complete a project). You will recognise yourself and other knitters in Stephanie’s posts and generally have a good time.

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In praise of the humble knit stitch

One thing visitors to craft show tell our volunteer teachers and our Yarn Doctors is: “I can only do the knit stitch.”

This makes the knit stitch seem rather unimportant but as we always tell people, the knit stitch is the most important thing you will learn in knitting and it is in fact the most important stitch there is.

If someone has learned the knit stitch without much else they can already make scarves, head bands, phone and tablet cases, and potentially even a skirt.

They can create items that look different depending on whether they choose plain or variegated yarns.

Or try interesting striped patterns.

Throw in some simple knit stitch based increases and decreases and they can make a variety of squares and well as a simple top.

Or do the knit stitch in the round to create a stocking stitch fabric.

Once you have mastered the knit stitch, the purl stitch can be seen as a variation on making a stitch. Then you can take on pretty much any stitch pattern.

And of course casting off would be quite difficult without the knit stitch.

 

Why teaching kids to knit will help them with maths and technology

I noticed something when I was teaching my seven-year-old niece to knit.

She isn’t that keen on sums in her homework, but if I asked her to keep track of her stitches she would happily tell me how many she had gained or lost. And if I asked questions like “You’ve knitted three rows this afternoon, how many stitches is that?”, she would be quite happy to sit and do the mental arithmetic. She didn’t notice it was sums.

teaching kids to knit

Image from UKHKA event

Like many crafters and craft teachers, I have often argued that knitting, crochet and other skills teach a range of useful extras including mental arithmetic, so along with my UK Hand Knitting colleagues I was pleased to hear this radio feature on the links between maths and crafts. It talks about how knitters think in 3D and use geometry to solve shaping problems.

What you learn from knitting can be applied elsewhere as computer scientists are showing. A scheme to interest girls in careers in coding starts by teaching them about knitting. This is because knitting and crochet patterns are “programs” – a set of step-by-step instructions that often use symbols or letter codes to replicate an action.

It is exciting to see knitting used as a way into writing computer code but it isn’t a new idea. The mother of modern computing Ada Lovelace drew inspiration from the punch cards used by weavers when she worked with Charles Babbage on their Analytical Engine .

So if you decide to teach some youngsters to knit during these school holidays, you will be doing more than just occupying them on a wet Wednesday. You will be providing them with both the skills to make lovely objects in the future but also to do well in certain school subjects and preparing them for possible future careers.

 

Using tape and ribbon yarn

When we took a look at summer knitting and crochet trends last week, mesh knits were among the looks we highlighted.

One way of achieving summery mesh looks is using tape or ribbon yarns with lacy or drop stitch patterns.

Tape and ribbon yarns are pretty much what the name implies flat yarns that look like lengths of tape or ribbon. They are often used on larger needles creating a light summery fabric which can be great for tops and cardigans for warmer weather.

Working with a flat yarn rather than a more usual round one, can seem a little different. The yarn will give more pronounced stitched because of its shape and will naturally want to twist as you knit so you should take care to lay your yarn flat over the needle as you make your stitches.

Choose patterns that show off the yarn using big enough needles to show the colours and texture of the yarn, rather than very delicate stitch patterns to create fun knits.

A few tape yarns and similar for you to take a look at:

 

Your knitting speed questions answered

Thanks to our current collaboration with ICHF Events to see how quickly knitters can complete a row of 100 stitches, for the Nations’s Fastest Knitter competition, we’ve had more than a few questions about how to knit faster.

The first thing to say is that often with knitting you can have a bad case of more haste less speed, in that when you try to knit really quickly, you can end up dropping stitches, splitting yarn or making other mistakes that mean over all your knitting takes longer.

So rather than thinking about speed, it is better to think about finding an efficient knitting style which allows you to get into a steady rhythm and where each stitch takes very little movement.

Needles

The first step is to work out what sort of needles you are most comfortable using. For some people this means using long needles they can tuck under their arms, for others it is working on circular needles (even for rows) because they find it easier only to move the short tips.

Flicking

Once you have established what needles suit you, it is time to look at how you make your stitches. If you look at the speediest knitters they have a very economical style where they don’ t move their hands or yarn much for each stitch.

One way to do this is known as “flicking”. Knitters with this style hold the yarn with their right hand and use their index finger to move or “flick” the yarn round the needle without ever letting go of the right hand needle. This allows them to work at a stead rhythm with very little excess movement.

You can see how the yarn and needles are held in this picture by Stacie of VeryPink.com who has made a video showing the technique.

knitting technique flicking

Continental knitting

Unlike in the “English” style of knitting most commonly learned in the UK, in continental knitting you hold and tension the yarn with your left hand.

The right hand needle is used to pull or “pick” the yarn through the stitch as in this video from Knitting Help.

Again this creates a very efficient movement, that allows you to knit smoothly.

Combination knitting

The main difference with combination is in how the purl is worked and the technique is often combined with the continental knit stitch.

Here the yarn is held with the left hand and scooped up through the stitch as in this diagram from Annie Modesitt.

The result of this technique is that when you come to knit your stitches on the next row, you will find they are orientated differently to usual. This means you have to work the knit stitch into the back of the loop which can affect your decreases.

It is worth trying these various techniques to find which is most comfortable and effective for you.

And if you are in Birmingham this week, why not come along to the Hobbycrafts and Sewing for Pleasure shows, where you will find us in Hall 12. Our knitting doctor can show you these knitting styles in person or you could see how fast you can knit 100 stitches.

Increasing with and without holes

Our yarn doctors report that one of the regular questions they are asked at yarn shows is about doing neat increases.

For most knitters, their first experience of increasing is by accident when they create a stitch and (inevitably a hole) by knitting into some part of the knitting that isn’t a stitch or by accidently wrapping some yarn round the needle between stitches.

Once they’ve learned to avoid these problems, knitters will tend to learn one type of increase but this can be confusing because different patterns can call for different increases and if you don’t understand the technique you can end up with unintentional holes.

Kfb – knit front and back

knitting increases

This form of increasing uses one stitch to make two. You first knit normally into the stitch but instead of dropping the loop off the left hand needle at the end, you knit into the back of it first, creating two stitches from one.

It is important to remember that this method uses an existing stitch to increase. It is most commonly what is meant by “inc 1” or “inc in next st” in patterns but it is important to check the pattern to make sure.

This method of increasing creates a little horizontal bar at the base of the new stitch, to the left, as you can see above. This means you cannot create exactly symmetrical lines of stitching which some designers prefer. However it is a neat increase method.

M1 – make 1 stitch

A “make 1” increase uses the space between two stitches to create a new one. The left hand needle is inserted under the “bar”, the horizontal strand of yarn between two stitches, and then you work into that new loop to create a stitch.

increased knitting

There are two ways to do this:

mi stitch

  1. Insert tip of left need from back to front of workIn this case you knit the “new” stitch normally .
    This will give you an increase that leans slightly to the right as on the right hand side of the swatch picture above.
  2. Insert tip of left need from front to back of workm-1-f2b

    In this case, you knit into the back of the new stitch, creating an increase that leans slightly to the left (as pictured above).

It is very important to work into the new stitch as indicated because this will twist the picked up yarn – otherwise you will create a small hole in your work.

The left and right leaning increases can be useful when symmetrical increases are needed. In some pattern instructions you will see these abbreviated as M1R and M1L. Always check the pattern notes to be sure you understand which version is needed.

Remember that a make 1 increase doesn’t use any existing stitches.

Yarn over increase

This is an intentional version of those accidental increases we started with.

yos

A yarn over increase is worked by simply putting the yarn over the needle between two stitches and working into it on the next row creating a new stitch with a hole below. It is most commonly used in lace and is often paired with a decrease.

Remember to always read the pattern carefully to check what type of increase ins required.

You will find our Yarn Doctors on the UK Hand Knitting stand at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at London Olympia, 2-5 March 2017

 

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.