Nov 27, 2014

Knitting Tools DIY Alternatives

If you've ever opened a recently written knitting book, you'll know that the first few pages are usually dedicated to the different types of yarns available and the tools needed to knit.

All of these tools may seem confusing at first to a person just wanting to start with some basic knitting without all the bells and whistles.

This is why I decided to write a post and show you how you don't have to buy every single tool: I'm a seasoned knitter and there are a few tools I do without.

The mains tools you need are knitting needles. Some like straight needles, others prefer circulars. If you're a beginner, I'd recommend first buying a cheap pair of straight knitting needles in the size required for the yarn you're using (if you're not sure, just ask the person at the counter).

1 - The cable needle: this is a short needle that is double pointed and is curved in the middle. When you knit cables, you need to slide a number of stitches onto this needles so that you can knit a few other stitches from the main needle before knitting the stitches left on hold to get the crossed effect. If you have regular double-pointed needles, you don't need to buy cable needles: I actually find curved cable needles awkward to use, and I'd rather use a straight one.

2- Still with the cable needle, the size of cable needle (or double-pointed needle if that's what you're using for your cables): you don't need to invest in every single size of cable needle. You'll only be using them to hold stitches for less than a minute. You need to make sure your cable needle is not too small, to avoid the stitches slipping out too easily, and not too big, in order not to struggle trying to put those few stitches on the needle and stretching the stitches. For example if you're using DK wool with 4mm needles and you only have a 5mm cable or double pointed needle, just use that! You can invest in a 4mm one later if you know you're going to need them a lot but I wouldn't worry about having only a size up or down.

3-The stitch holder: sometimes you need to leave some stitches on hold (for example for a thumb while you're knitting the rest of a mitten) and you may think you need to buy the large plastic contraption that looks exacly like a large safety pin. Well I've got new for you if you're a minimalist like me: you have at least 3 other alternatives that work just as well!
3a- Use a length of yarn about double the size of the stitches that need to be put on hold, carefully thread this through your stitches, remove the needle and tie a knot to keep your stitches secure.
3b- Use a spare circular needle if you have one, place the stitches to be put on hold on the cable part. The extra needles may get in your way when working the rest of your knitting but if you can live with it, so can I!
3c- If Mc Gyver was a knitter, he'd use a safety pin and I've tried this myself but you need to be very careful of this method as the tip of the safety pin can be very sharp and may split the yarn if you try inserting the pin too fast (mind your fingers too!).

In my knitter's toolbelt
4- Stitch markers: these are very cheap and I do a lot of circular knitting so I did invest in a pack eventually, but when starting out you can just use a small bit of yarn tied in a knot, looped around your needle. You can also use a small elastic band. If you have children your house is probably full of these loom bands that are all the rage at the moment: if you're going to use some, just avoid the glittery ones unless you want your hands and knitting full of glitter (glitter sticks and is pretty difficult to wash out, believe me I've been a glitter victim before;-)

5- Pompom makers: different types of pompom makers, usually made out of plastic, are available now: I just wonder what happened to cutting 2 circles with a hole in the middle out of an empty cardboard cereal box?

That's all I can think of now, but I'm sure there are a lot of other tips out there, as more often than not, logic takes over as necessity arises. You're welcome to add some of your tips in the comments section: I'm sure I've left out lots!

Don't forget of course the knitting needles, yarn and the measuring tape;-)

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Nov 14, 2014

I'm Being Selfish For A While: Join The Knitting Queue Please!

I like being my own boss: that allows me to knit things for myself instead of for "Ze Bisnesss" sometimes. Not that I'm really successful and can afford it (selling an average of 2 knitting patterns per week is not going to put food on the table, but it helps a little going towards my yarn budget).

At the end of September I decided that I was going to knit or crochet a least 2 items per week and list them in my Etsy shop. I sort of kept it up for October but I also started knitting a jumper for myself at the same time, which I was working on at the week-ends and Mondays (Monday is when I go to my favourite knitting group). I also told my daughter I would knit her some legwarmers with some of my birthday wool (me and my big mouth:-) and I would also like to do a pair for my other daughter with the remaining colour.
These would work great as cabled legwarmers for daughter 1

And these for daughter 2

Winter is nearly here (even though it's still unseasonably mild) and I'm not great at multitasking: I can't handle more than 2 projects at the time, so if I want to be finished by Christmas, I need to be selfish and knit my jumper full time - unless I get a custom order which I'll prioritize of course, because I'm nice like that;-)

I guess the fact that my jumper suddenly got more interesting has a lot to do with me wanting to finish it - I started the yoke, which is in a lace pattern, wayyyyy more interesting than stocking stitch in the main body/arms.
Check out the top part: that's where it get interesting - I have removed my well needed lifeline for the purpose of this photo.

So here's what I'm hoping to do before Christmas, in order of priority:
1- Custom orders (if I get requests),
2 - Finish my jumper (about 1 week),
3 - Pair of legwarmers for daughter 1 (2 to 3 days),
4 - Pair of legwarmers for daughter 2 (2 days - I'll have the pattern worked out above),
5 - Have a go at my sewing machine as I still haven't started on my owl cushion kits and I really want to have them done by Christmas (time: 2 to 3 days and a lot of swearing I'm sure!),
6 - A crochet monkey my brother wants me to make him for christmas (1 day),
7 - The World is my oyster: time to think of knitting patterns for headbands, scarves, hats, phone cases...

Now I'm not really good at following my own plans, but at least once I have these written down I can free my mind for some other ludicrous ideas of how I'm going to get my business to feed my family and me some day (dreams...)

Update: since I wrote this 2 days ago (I'm not the quickest at taking blog photos!), daughter 1 decided that she'd prefer a different wool for her legwarmers (this is the wool I had planned to make her a Katniss cowl with last year, which never happened): cables won't show in this variegated bouclé wool, so they'll just be plain legwarmers, and hopefully these WILL happen:

This wool smells like sheep: these legwarmers will be super warm with 87% real wool

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Nov 5, 2014

Trip To The Knitting And Stitching Show 2014.

I had the pleasure to visit the RDS in Dublin again this year for the annual Knitting and Stitching Show.

The Knitting and Stitching Show is a huge venue not just for wool and fabrics stores but also for a lot of other crafting supplies like card making. Associations like the ICA (Irish Countrywomen's Association) have stalls there too.

The entry fee is not cheap but if you are really interested in all sorts of crafts and looking for bargains or if you'd like to purchase items that are normally only available in the UK (it's possible to buy online but sometimes it's nice to be able to ask for advice face to face and see the goods before purchasing).

In short, the RDS Dublin turns into a giant craft shopping centre once a year for 4 days.

The reason why I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show this year was to have another look at the Coolree yarns (I didn't have anything in mind I could think of knitting using it so I couldn't justify the expense) -  Coolree yarn is the Ferrari of yarns, and I drive a Hyundai, but it's already on my list of things to buy when I win the Lotto (the yarn, not the car;) - and also to try and find nice wool bargains.

I didn't go too close to the really cheap yarns, as I prefer using good quality soft wool for knitting and crochet, but I found some good looking chunky Rico Design Fashion Highland (I got 3 full packs - 500g for €19.00 per pack) and some Katia Air Lux in shimmery colours that should look good in light airy lace scarves (this one wasn't really cheap but since it's thin wool, at 300m/328yards per ball and the 10th ball free I don't think I did too badly):

I also got a scrap fabrics pack so I can practice using my sewing machine and for 2 cute Oaklee Owl cushion sewing kits I'm hoping to do for the girls before Christmas:

There are also workshops and textile-related art exhibitions. I didn't take a lot of pictures of the exhibitions, but my sister did, so with her permission I am now leaving you with a few images of the Knitting and Stitching Show art gallery:

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