Knitting: What Next?
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Last week, we looked at the basic steps of knitting and learnt how to make tension squares. Whilst squares are useful and versatile, they can get a little boring after while! So today, I am going o talk about some projects or garments that you may want to start once you have learnt the knit and purl stitches.
My first ever project was a scarf, which I made using just knit stitches (meaning that it was even easier to make than the squares from last week!). I then started using scarves as ways of learning other stitch patterns such as rib stitch, cable and lace. Scarves are great projects for anyone, whether you want something simple and quick or something more intricate. What's more, they make great presents too; I remember making scarves for some of my family as Christmas presents when I was about eight years old, and I also taught a friend how to make them when I started secondary school so that we could make ourselves matching scarves.
2. Blankets and Pillows
The great thing about knitting a blanket is that it is no more difficult than a square so it does not require too much concentration, but it is on a much larger scale, so it's something that can keep you going for much longer. When I was in primary school, I made a striped baby blanket in chunky pastels. It was a great way to relax and learn new skills, such as changing colour midway through a garment. Pillows and pillowcases are similar but once you are done, you fold it in half and sew it up. It's a good way to get into sewing, which is important when making more difficult garments such as clothing. Some knitters are not a big fan of the sewing up but for me, it's really satisfying to sew something up and finish it.
3. Hats and Socks
I decided to group these for two reasons. Firstly, I put them together because they can both be made in the round using circular needles, which is a useful skill and is much less difficult than you may think. Secondly, I must confess that I combined these two together as they are projects that I have less experience of, though I am often told that I should give them a go as many people love making them! I did make a sock a couple years ago but personally, I didn't find it particularly satisfying as I prefer working on larger projects. I had to give socks and hats a mention though as many people love the fact that hat and sock knitting is very quick and easy, making it perfect for gifts.
4. Jumpers and Cardigans
This may seem like a big jump from squares but in reality, it isn't that different. The 80s jumper I made earlier in the lockdown was made up of two squares for the front and the back and the sleeves were very similar, with only a little basic shaping which involved casting on extra stitches after a certain amount of rows. This type of jumper is called a dropped sleeve jumper. Other styles may contain a little more shaping - for example, I am making a jumper at the moment where on the fronts and the back, you will do increases for a period of time then some decreases. This may sound a little complicated but it is often explained in the pattern and you can find online instructions and tutorials for shaping too.
Sometimes you have to play around and try lots of different patterns as some are explained slightly differently, so different people may find them easier or harder to understand. For example, I recently tried to make a waistcoat and it was going well at first but I started to make lots of mistakes as I kept misreading the pattern and having to try and remember errors I had made so that I could do them on the other side. Eventually, I decided to undo that project and make a different cardigan instead which, despite the fact that the structure was similar to the waistcoat, I understood far better.
Again, because I love big and bulky projects, I haven't made that many toys but I would love to make some in the future once I have finished a couple of the jumpers and cardigans that I have planned. Some toys can be quite fiddly to make as they are often made on very small needles so that the stuffing doesn't fall out. In addition, they often involve a lot of shaping (e.g. to create circular or rounded shapes) so that they look more realistic. However, you can make toys out of squares or shapes with minimal shaping. Also, because toys can be quite popular and quick to make, there are many tutorials available online, particularly on YouTube.
So those are just a few of my recommendations on some projects to start next. Got any other suggestions? Leave a comment down below! Until next time, happy knitting.
Knitting: Basics and Tension Squares
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Yesterday was our first day back in the shop and it was great to see some fellow crafters again. From now, we will be open from 10am until 4pm on Wednesday to Saturday.
In today's post, we will look at the basics of knitting and learn how to make a tension square. A tension square is a square that you knit before you start a project or pattern to make sure that you have the right needles and you are knitting tightly/loosely enough. I have covered some of these steps on previous posts so some of you may find this a little basic; however, there are some new things in here that you may find useful, such as how to adjust a pattern according to your tension. So, let's start
Step One: Setting Up
In order to knit a tension square, you need the right equipment. You will need
In the bottom right-hand corner of this image, it tells us to use 6mm needles, cast on 14 stitches and do 20 rows in order to make a 10cm by 10cm square. If yours requires a smaller needle size you will do more rows and stitches and vice versa. First, we need to cast on 14 stitches or however many stitches your tension square states.
Step Two: Casting On
The very first stitch will be made by creating a slip knot. To do this, create a loop about 15-30cm away from the end of the yarn. Then, pull a loop through this and keep pulling until the knot is secure. Finally, place it on the needle and pull the two strands so that the loop fits around the needle securely but not too tightly.
Then, to create the second stitch, hold the needle with the stitch in your non-dominant hand (for me this is my left) and the needle without in your dominant hand (i.e. my right hand) Put the empty needle into the first stitch, wrap a loop of yarn around this needle, pull the loop through the stitch and place it on the needle.
To create the rest of the stitches, we will repeat this but instead of starting by putting our needle into the most recent stitch, we will put it between the two most recent stitches. The last photo shows how it should look once you have created all of your stitches in this way.
Step Three: Knit and Purl Rows
Now that we have all the stitches we need, we can start doing the rows. For the first row we will do all knit stitches. These are very similar to the casting on stitches as you put the needle in the stitch in the same way, wrap a loop around this in the same way and pull the loop through in the same way. However, instead of putting this onto the needle in the non-dominant hand, you slip it off of the other needle, leaving you with a stitch on the needle in your dominant hand and a stitch less on the other needle. Keep doing this until you have knitted all the stitches.
Well done - you have completed your first row! Make sure you keep track of this so that you do the correct amount for your tension square.
Next, swap the needles so that all the stitches are in your non dominant hand and your empty needle is in your dominant hand. We are now going to do a purl row.
With the knit stitches, we would put our needle in from the front to the back but with purl, it is the opposite. Put the empty needle into the stitch from the back of the stitch to the front. Then, wrap a loop around this, pull this back and slip the stitch off of the other needle. This creates a purl stitch and moves your strand of yarn to the front - make sure you keep it this way for the rest of the purl row. Keep repeating until your purl row is complete.
Well done - another row completed! Keep alternating between these rows until you have done the amount stated on the ball band (for me, this meant doing 20 rows - 10 knit and 10 purl). This technique is called stocking stitch.
If your forget what type of row you need to do, you can work it out from the side of it that you can see. The side you see when you are on a knit row looks like this (a sort of fishtail pattern). This is called the right side.
The side you see when you are on a purl row looks like this. This is called the wrong side.
Once you have done all of the rows, it is time to measure up and see if your tension matches the ball band.
Step Four: Measuring
The measurements you need to take are the height and width. Here are my measurements.
If both the height and width of the square are smaller than 10cm by about the same amount, it means your tension is tight. Experiment by making tension squares with larger needles. Alternatively, having both measurements over 10cm by about the same amount indicates you have a loose tension, which can be resolved by reducing the needle size. However, it can sometimes be a little more complicated. If your width is fine but the height is too short or long, you may want to do more or less rows when you do the pattern. If the width is the problem, you could do more stitches if it is too narrow or fewer stitches if it is too wide. For me, as my square is pretty much the right width but a little over and quite a few centimetres too long, I would probably do less rows and would possibly consider a smaller needle size too.
After you have done it, you could undo your square and use this yarn in your project, but you may wish to keep your tension squares and make them into something. Once I have gone through crochet tension squares, I will show you a few things that you can make with tension squares, but for now I will leave it there. Next week, I will look at some things that you could try making after you have learnt these basics, but until then, happy knitting!
Knitting: The Benefits
Hello and welcome back to the blog! We are now halfway through this series of posts on mental health and craft, and today we are starting a new section all about knitting. To start, we will look at the physical and mental benefits of knitting. However, before I start, I want to clarify that am not speaking for everyone; you may find that knitting has a totally different impact for you or that it does not help in some the ways I mention. That is absolutely okay and normal - everyone is different! Now, let's get to the list.
10: It Can Be Used For "Cognitive Anchoring"
This is a term that I only came across recently when doing research, but I feel that it describes one of the reasons that I love knitting really well. Cognitive anchoring is when you learn by doing other things at the same time, and is the reason why some students doodle, organise or do hand crafts during lessons and still manage to focus on what they are being told. However, one of the problems with doodling is that it is not too productive and can be seen in a negative light. Therefore, knitting is a great alternative. For example, some students will knit whilst reading their notes or listening to a revision video. Even if you are not a student and are not trying to learn anything new anymore, you may find that when you knit, you are able to concentrate on things such as the TV, conversations or other things that are going on around you. These are also examples of cognitive anchoring.
9: Knitting Can Help You Learn Life Skills
You may not realise, but there are a great deal of life skills involved in knitting. At the start of your project, you have to decide what you will make a set a goal. You have to be organised and make sure that you have all the materials you need to do your project. Then you need patience and perseverance as whilst knitting is fun, it can take a little while to progress. Finally, after you have finished your project, you come away not only with a new gift but also with a series of transferable skills. Because of this, knitting classes have been started up in some prisons. Inmates of all races, ages and genders are taught to knit and make presents for family members as well as comfort dolls for traumatised children. If you want to watch something uplifting, I would definitely recommend looking this up on YouTube.
8: Knitting Can Prevent Memory Loss
It's true! Memorising sections of patterns, word shortenings and key steps really help sharpen your mind. This is because learning new things creates more connections between brain cells. Knitting is believed to help decrease dementia risk, though this has not been fully proven yet.
7: Physical Benefits
Knitting can improve fine motor skills (coordination of hands and fingers) as to knit, you need to move your hands and wrists a lot, possibly at quite a fast pace. This increases strength and dexterity. Therefore, it is often used to prevent or alleviate symptoms of arthritis or help people recovering from injuries. As someone who is hypermobile and struggles with fine motor skills, I have found knitting to be really helpful and I now experience few problems in my hands and fingers.
6: Knitting Can Help With Addiction and Impulses
Knitting itself has been proven to be an addictive hobby. Therefore if you are suffering with addiction, such as to smoking or alcohol, or just experiencing mild impulses (such as that impulse to eat a whole tub of Pringles in a day - been there, done that!) knitting can help some people as even if you are experiencing a craving, you may be too occupied by your knitting to act upon it. If not, you may at least want to finish the row you are on first, giving you extra time to consider and decide.
5: Knitting Can Help With Perfectionism
Whilst being observant and perfecting fine details can be an asset at times, it can also be incredibly draining when you try to do perfectly in everything because being perfect just is not possible! I definitely am a perfectionist and find myself getting stressed over making mistakes or doing "poorly" in things such as exams and pieces of homework. I find that knitting really helps with this as I do make mistakes frequently enough in knitting but I know that they do not often have a great impact on my garment and if they are that major, I can always undo and rectify them. Doing this in knitting reminds me that in all areas of life, it is okay to make mistakes as I can always learn from them and only some will have a major impact on my life, whereas others will not matter in a few months' or years' time.
4: Knitting Encourages Creativity
Knitting is great if you struggle with creativity or if you want to become more creative. Knitting patterns have a great deal of structure, meaning that you can definitely enjoy knitting if you do not feel that you are creative. However, you get to be creative by making decisions on colours and textures then later, once you are familiar with a pattern or technique, you can incorporate new things into the pattern and add a bit of your personality and style to it. Often, as I am obsessed with baggy things and colourful garments, I will add stripes and extra length to the things I make. I really love playing around with this and found it has sparked my creativity generally.
3: Knitting Can Reduce Stress
Once you have got the hang of knitting, it is quite a repetitive thing, using the same actions again and again to form garments. Personally, I find repetition incredibly soothing and familiar, which can help me feel considerably less stressed or anxious in times of uncertainty. For this reason, knitting is also used as a form of art therapy or meditation, which I will be looking at in more detail in a few weeks.
2: The Community
When you become a knitter, you become part of a community of crafters. You can connect with other crafters online, through websites and chatrooms which allow knitters across the world to share advice and experiences, as well as in shops, where you can meet other customers and staff members who knit. Next week, the shop will be opening up again and we are so excited to see our customers and crafting friends.
1: The Sense of Purpose
When we are at our lowest, it is easy to forget our importance and feel as if we are worthless to those around us. However, when you pick up a pair of needles and make something such as scarf to keep a family member warm, a toy to entertain a child or even a pouch to save an endangered animal like a bat or kangaroo (yes, you read that right), you can really feel a sense of achievement and purpose.
For me, the best thing about knitting is the power that it has. It can improve your life in a range of ways, both physically and mentally. Next time, I will be showing you the basics of knitting, but until then, happy crafting!
Learning and Inspiration: Social Media
Hello and Happy Easter! I hope you are all having a good week and taking the time to relax. Today, we will be looking at social media sites and a couple of accounts for learning and inspiration. Personally, I think this is the method of learning that I prefer as I am a very visual learner who likes to see things played out in front of me. Also, as a young person, social media very accessible for me and I love the fact that with the Internet, I can learn from both individuals who enjoy craft and shops that have an online presence (most shops and manufacturers do). Here are just a few of my favourites.
I have to be honest, I don't use Instagram a lot for learning but I do follow a couple of accounts that give me inspiration and tips. For example, it's good to follow yarn brands such as Stylecraft or Lion Brand as these update you on the new wool, show you it in use and some also share tutorials on different yarn crafts. On Lion Brand's Instagram page, you can learn macramé, punch needling and finger knitting as well as basic knitting and crochet.
We also have an Instagram account run by Sharon, which is @avicraftwool. Here, we share what we are making, yarns that we love, updates on the shop and lots more. Here are some photos of my favourite posts from it.
A couple months ago, I mentioned Pinterest on this blog; however, I had only just got it so I didn't have tons to say. Now, I have many boards, so I'll put the links below for you have a look at. I'll also add a link to the Avicraft Pinterest account.
knitting inspiration - this board has a range of knitted items that inspire me, particularly jumpers and cardigans.
crochet inspiration - this board is similar but has a lot more blankets. One of the pins also shows how to plan a project and arrange it, which I found very useful!
macramé inspiration - as part of my Duke of Edinburgh award, I am learning macramé and my most recent pin is of what I am learning to make at the moment. One of the great things about Pinterest is that some pins, including the one I have mentioned, will take you to a website explaining the instructions which is so useful!
aesthetic - I use this board to help me deciding on colour schemes. Some of the pins at the bottom have all the colours in the photo matched up with yarn shades next to it, often in Stylecraft Special DK.
fashion - remember a couple weeks ago when I recommended looking up non-knitted clothes for inspiration so that you can make your garments look modern and work with the rest of your wardrobe? This is exactly what I use this board for.
Avicraft Pinterest account - this has so many pins and boards to inspire to do a range of craft types, so there was no way I could pick between my favourites. This also includes some photos of things Sharon has made, so I definitely recommend that you take a look and give it a follow too!
Although I don't use YouTube for knitting and crochet a lot, I have used it for other crafts and some non-craft hobbies (particularly music and computer programming) and cannot recommend it enough! As I said earlier, I am a very visual learner and I find it a lot easier when I see instructions being played out. Also, I love that I am able to rewind or slow down the speed it plays at if I need. However, different countries use different craft terms, so I would recommend that you find accounts from the country you live in.
That's all from me today, but next time we will be moving on to a new section and soon, we will finally start doing some knitting and crochet! Until then, happy crafting.
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..