28 May 2014

Why stop at one?

Thanks for the messages about this series of ideas for #SummerKnitting — glad you like these. And here's another: Think in Multiples!

We've all experienced the phenomenon of having to concentrate at the start of a pattern to make sure everything is going just right, haven't we. Then all of a sudden it seems to get easier, and by the time you reach the end you are almost knitting on auto-pilot. Well, you can tap into that for some great summer knitting. So here are five ideas for repeats that really work.

#1: One pattern, two or three yarns

If you have a pattern that you have enjoyed working, then go on to repeat it with a couple of different yarns. You will be surprised how different the end result can be! A fine gauge yarn might turn into a lovely skinny scarf which would be perfect as a tie-wrap for an evening dress. A chunky yarn would produce a wide comfy scarf which will be pressed into service as soon as the weather turns colder. 

For example, a pattern such as the Elizabeth Scarf lends itself to many different weights of yarn. The photo above shows a North Ronaldsay Aran-weight yarn being worked in this pattern, and it has a completely different feel to the original — very rugged and a really nice width to the scarf. 

Pop into some knitting shops along your travel route and see what yarns "speak" to you. You might find something quite inspiring in a new store. 

Do a quick gauge swatch to test out the yarn and decide what needle size works best. Then cast on and see what comes! You will need to carry a few different needles with you as you go, but perhaps this is the year to treat yourself to a set of interchangeable needles, such as the ones above from KnitPicks. Then you'll have everything you need to explore those luscious new yarns you find along your way.

#2: Same yarn, different pattern

The same holds true for yarns. When you have used a yarn that was especially good to work with, you just want to find more excuses to use it. I loved the yarn I used for the Kimpton Scarf and Wrap, for example, and am about to order some more of that in different colours. That was Knit Picks Shine sport-weight yarn and it is gorgeous. I am planning to work a wrap in this yarn and I think the end result will be beautiful. 

The advantage of this approach is that you already have an idea of how the yarn behaves and what type of projects it might be good for. You will probably also have some notes of the size and type of needles which are most suitable too. So it should be very easy to find another pattern to work in that yarn and then you can get going straight away.

#3: Don't just make one — knit a set

Cushions and pillows always look better when there are a lot of them, so why not plan to make a whole set, such as these Rare Earth Cushions. Start each with a different co-ordinating colour and knit away. Then when all the knitting is done you can sit in a quiet place and finish them all off together. In fact, you could do the knitting during the summer and then sew them together when the kiddies go back to school in September. It is always very satisfying when you can turn a stack of knitting into finished objects very quickly, so this would be a good two-season project! 

And of course you could make several cushions in different colourways so that you can change your cushion covers to suit the season — pumpkin coloured cushions for Halloween, red and green for the holiday season etc.

#4: A basketful of socks

Socks are a great summer knitting project and it is easy to knit a whole basketful of socks with only a small amount of yarn. Once you are in "sock knitting mode", you can easily make three or four pairs ready for the cooler weather ahead. The yellow socks above are some more I have worked from the Mentmore Socks pattern I was mentioning in my last blogpost

#5: And don't forget patchwork afghans

Small items such as squares are perfect for carrying with you when you go to the beach, or to work on in quiet moments under the welcome shade of a palm tree! You could knit just a few squares for charity using oddments you have around, or gather co-ordinating yarns specifically for a larger project such as in the log-cabin blanket above.

I hope that has given you some more ideas for #summerknitting to keep those knitting needles going over the summer! By the time September comes around you will be amazed at how productive you have been over the summer months. 

Happy Knitting!


. 26/7/18 W

19 May 2014

Dyeing in the kitchen

There was a story in one of the textile magazines when I was first spinning: the lady who was writing the piece said that the postman had come running into the kitchen looking most distressed. The children had answered the front door and when he asked where their mummy was, they had dutifully replied that she was "dyeing in the kitchen". 

Of course, he found the lady busily stirring a batch of colourful dyepots and not lying on the floor gripped by a heart attack! I have no idea if the story is apocryphal or not but it still makes me laugh. I suppose I am easily amused.

Anyway, it set me thinking about further ideas for the summer. I started last week by outlining a Guide for the Summer Knitter and I intend to continue for the whole of this month to suggest ways in which we can get our textile 'fix' while still enjoying all the other pleasures this season brings.

So here's an idea for a project where the kiddies can get involved too — dyeing your own yarn! I know, your first reaction is to think of dye splashes all over their best outfits and a mess on the floor that will take weeks to clean off. However, it can be done. 

Our two girls always had a great time 'helping' me with dyeing. They gladly fetched and carried water, pre-washed skeins of yarn while standing on a small stool at the kitchen sink, weighed out batches of fleece ready for the dyepot and giggled helplessly every time I splashed dye on the walls or all over myself.

You need very little equipment to start dyeing and it is immensely satisfying to see something change colour right before your eyes. All you need is a good-sized stainless steel saucepan with a well-fitting lid, a couple of slotted spoons and/or metal tongs, a Pyrex measuring jug, a few small plastic bottles to store your dye stock solutions and a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands. 

Of course there are more items you can add if you really get into this in a big way, but this will get you started. 

Then the only other items you will need are a bottle of white vinegar and some dye. I use Cushings acid dyes which come in small packets ready to prepare your stock solution. Or your can explore the contents of your kitchen cupboards for Easter Egg dyeing kits or Kool-Aid drink mixes, which also do a great job of dyeing wool.

So here's an easy dye project that will be immensely fun both for you and the kiddies: kettle-dyeing some yarn ready for a pair of socks. Kettle-dyed yarns are ones that have been dyed unevenly to give a wonderfully subtle effect. There are many of these yarns available from Indie dyers in places such as Etsy, but they are also super-easy to do for yourself. 

Have a look at this great video from Rebecca at ChemKnits: 'How to make a tonal kettle-dyed yarn'. You'll want to get your own dyepot running the minute this video finishes! 

The only problem with kettle-dyed yarns is that they are, well, a bit variable! That is after all one of their most endearing features. However, sometimes one skein can vary enormously from another so you need to plan your knitting project carefully to take full advantage on the lovely tonal effects of the yarns. 

For example, take a look at the Mentmore Socks knitting pattern which has a method for combining several skeins of yarn to give some wonderfully tonal socks. I also chatted about this in a couple of previous blogposts here and here, so check those out too.

Then have a think what you might need to get started on this — and how to get your kids dyeing in the kitchen too!

Happy Knitting!


12 May 2014

Summer Knitting starts here

In the USA, many summer activities start on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and end on Labor Day (the 1st Monday in September). That's 26th May to 1st September this year, so is only a few weeks away. 

For many people that means a welcome end to the cold weather and the start of a whole raft of activities - the arrival of the kiddies home for the holidays, summer camps, school catch-up programs and long car journeys to the beach or the mountains. However, that poses some problems for us knitters - how do we manage all our regular interests so that we can keep knitting wherever we are?

Well, the good point is that we're ahead of the game right now and have enough time to prepare. So, I have put together a Guide for the Summer Knitter to help make this the best knitting season of the year!

#1 - Get ready for selfish knitting 

Yes, you can do it! Knit something just for yourself. You know that by the end of August or beginning of September you will be starting your holiday knitting projects, so now's the time to focus on you. Choose a pattern for that summer scarf you've always fancied. Or how about a linen-lined bag such as the Sarasota Shopper — perfect for your next long road trip.

#2 - Download an armful of patterns

You won't have time to look later on, so choose 3 or 4 knitting patterns now that will give you a whole range of projects for the summer, such as the Ryedale Bracelet pictured here. Then you can go ahead and load them onto your iPad or print them out ready to go.

#3 - Click on the on-line yarn stores 

Many yarn stores have offers at this time of year and they often choose the summer season to introduce new yarn lines too. So it's a great time of year to see what is available and get stocked up. Try to get all the yarns you need for the patterns you have downloaded and place each pattern with its relevant supplies in a bag ready to grab and take with you. 

And if you want a suggestion for a wonderful summery yarn, then how about Knit Picks "Shine" Cotton/Modal yarn. This soft and silky yarn drapes beautifully, as you can see in the Kimpton Scarf pictured above. 

#4 - Hunt out yarn stores along your route 

There is a brilliant website called Knitmap which will give you lists of yarn stores in the area. You can enter just a town name or a whole state and see what's around. 

And it's not just for the USA as they have international offerings too. The map above shows listings for London, and new stores are being added all the time. It's a great resource and will enable you to top-up your yarn purchases as you go along. Just be sure to call ahead and make sure they haven't moved! 

#5 - Remember the notions 

It's so frustrating when you come to the end of your knitting and don't have the right bits and pieces to complete an item. So gather all the zips, buttons, closures and so on for each of your projects and put them right into the bag with the yarn and needles all ready. Then when the knitting is done it won't be long until the item is finished!

#6 - And that goes for knitting tools too

Have you ever been on a plane and dropped an interchangeable needle end down the side of the seat? Or been unable to find the crochet hook you need right now to catch that dropped stitch? 

So, check your tool supplies and make sure you have spare needles and all the other essentials. Then put them into a bag so you know exactly where they are. I have an old US Airways travel bag with 3 mesh pockets and it goes everywhere with me. 

However, if you can't remember the good old days when airlines used to give away freebies, then how about buying a new notions bag to carry all your essentials. The one pictured above is from the OceanPatch Etsy store and is even made from organic cotton. What could be better. 

#7 - Look out for the #summerknitting hash tag! 

Yes, you can't escape it. Twitter hashtags are making their way into mainstream knitting. However, the #summerknitting tag is a great way of finding some inspiring summer projects. In addition to Twitter, look in Pinterest, Instagram and even a general Google search for some great ideas. 

Then you'll be set for a whole season of knitting and will hopefully have a large number of completed projects by the end of the summer. After that, you'll be able to contemplate your holiday gift-list in a refreshed state of mind. But that's for another day! 

Happy Knitting! 


Last Blogpost: Kimpton Scarf

NB: The photo at the top of this blogpost shows Hever Castle in Kent, with the beautiful rose garden in full bloom. 

. 26/7/18 W


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