Trendwatch: Fluffy and furry yarns

From the catwalk to the High Street, feather, fluffy fabrics and fun fur are set to feature heavily in fashion for this autumn and winter – especially when it comes to soft trims, coats and accessories. And it is all about having fun with colour and texture as you can see from these coats by Shrimps and Preen respectively.

This is a trend that knitters and crocheters can have a lot of fun with using mohair, fluffy and faux fur yarns.

The trick with these yarns is to allow them to do the work – especially with the hairiest types – so avoid complicated stitch patterns and choose simple shapes.

Combine a fluffy or fur yarn with a regular smooth one to create a trim on a hat or jacket or go high fashion by matching a long fur yarn with a more fleecy type to create a look like the Shrimps coat.

Mohair yarns have a lovely drape worked on large needles so are perfect for soft scarves and shawls as well as for draping tunic type tops.

Here are a few yarns to get you thinking.

 

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Kids knits for back to school

It is not that long until the end of the summer holidays and so our minds have turned to kids’ knits for the autumn. Among the great things about a child’s jumper is that it is relatively quick to make and there is less  to hold while the weather is still at least a little on the warm side. Another is the opportunity to try out different yarns or techniques on a smaller scale.

With this in mind we have picked out a few patterns for small folks to get you started.

Starting from top left. With kid’s knits, it is often worth looking at the patterns as unisex. The kid’s hoodie in this mother and daughter pattern in Sirdar Imagination chunky could also work for a boy – choose the right chest measurement and adjust the length.

Slipovers are a useful item for any wardrobe – adult or child’s – again this version in King Cole Luxury Merino DK could work well for boys and girls and is definitely a quick knit.

If you want to try out some cables, a child’s aran, like these from Wendy, is a great canvas.

This colourful hoodie in C+B Lolli is another unisex option. It will also give you the opportunity to try adding a zip to your knitting.

And if you want a go at stylish fair isle, these DK sweaters from JC Brett have a bit of colourwork.

But we mustn’t forget that sometimes what is needed is a straightforward school jumper, like these in Stylecraft Life DK. Perfect TV knitting on an autumn evening.

And finally, we can all fun with a stylish accessories for kids. A hat and scarf in Rico Creative Lucky Chunky will keep anyone toasty.

Do you have a favourite kids’ pattern for autumn? Let us know in the comments.

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.

 

New yarns for all the family

August is the time of year where we start to see new yarns for autumn and winter appearing in our yarn shops. There are always interesting new offerings, colours etc so we will probably do several posts with new yarns that catch our attention over the next couple of months. However, we have already noticed a trend for new practical washable yarns suitable for knits for all the family, as well as being great options for youngsters to try a first project with, so we’re starting with those.

Clockwise from top left

Wendy Stella chunky

Stripes and ombre colour effects are still very popular and this yarn will give you that look on chunky garments and accessories. This soft yarn has colour tones that fade from solid into blended shades and back again giving a subtle stipe effect.

Sirdar No 1

This double knitting crepe yarn has been designed to be a classic DK with something for everyone in the family thanks to its wide colour palette. A practical go-to DK.

Stylecraft Tweedy DK

With 26% cotton Tweedy is a a good choice for autumn knits, especially with a collection of interesting heathered shades to create fun colour effects that will look good on garments and soft accessories to add an extra layer.

James C Brett Stonewash DK

This range of lighter-coloured variegated yarns incorporates the fading you see in stonewashed fabrics. The fresh range of colours should show stitch patterns well.

DY Choice Apollo

Another yarn offering stripe effects, this time in a DK. Apollo has long colour repeats giving stripes of vibrant colours. The 300g balls mean you could make a cheerful kids jumper from a single ball.

King Cole Big Value Baby 4ply Spot

This is a fun variation on a 4ply baby yarn, adding spots of colour. We don’t think it is just for babies though. Combine it with a toning solid colour to create interesting stripes or a different approach to colour block style garments.

 

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.

Summer shawls and cover ups

Shawls and lace wraps are not only handy summer cover ups for when a chill breeze starts and glamorous accessories.

They are also perfect summer projects because they tend to be lightweight and are easily packed up for a trip. Plus it is quite possible that you could finish them on holiday and wear almost immediately.

Here we have picked out a few examples in popular shapes that tie in with this summer’s trends for colourblocks and lacy mesh patterns.

Look out next week for our tips on blocking your finished shawl.