The joy of yarn shops

Visiting a strange town last weekend, I spotted a yarn shop so popped in for a visit.

It was reasonably-sized shop with the walls lines in yarns, giving customers plenty of choice. One customer was seeking advice about the right yarn for a pattern while another browsed pattern options. A third was settling in on a sofa for a “knit and knatter” session. And the staff were helpful and knowledgeable.

This was great example of a local yarn shop offering more than just the yarn – the knowledge, advice, support and community are essential ingredients and ones I have found in yarn shops all over the UK.

And this is exactly why Let’s Knit organises its annual Yarn Shop Day – to recognise and encourage these great attributes.

yarn shop day

This year’s Yarn Shop Day is this coming Saturday, 6th May. Many yarn shops round the country will be holding special events such as demos and workshops, sales or refreshments. You can find a list of participating shops and their events .

In addition Debbie Bliss has created this special blanket pattern which is only available for free through the shops taking part in Yarn Shop Day.

So if you have a hour or so to spare this Saturday why not use it to visit your local yarn shop.

 

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.

 

Trendwatch: In the pink for summer knits

It seems that if you want to look the height of fashion this summer go for a strong pink yarn.

In its Colour of Year predictions Pantone point to a series of strong pink shades to tone with the leaf green it picked out as this year’s colour.

Meanwhile in its summer trends review Vogue tells us to avoid pale pinks and to go bold with fuschia.

With this in mind we had a look to find some yarns to keep you right on this trend this summer.

 

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:

 

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