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.

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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.

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.