Crochet: What Next?
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Last week, we looked at how to make crochet tension squares as well as a few of the things that you can use tension squares for. Whilst these can be fun, they can also be a little tedious at times and also, chances are, if you are making a tension square, you probably planning on making something else once you know your tension, so today I'll be looking at just a few of the projects you may want to try next.
1. Granny Square Blankets
I know what you're thinking - after talking about moving away from squares, why have I suggested making squares as a more advanced project? Well, classic granny squares are very different; you start with a circle then do clusters of treble stitches with chains in between in a specific pattern to make sides and corners, meaning it is a little more challenging but still very therapeutic. Also, because it starts in the middle, you can make it whatever size you like and use just one square rather than multiple to make your blanket. Last week, I finished one that I had started using Stylecraft Dreamcatcher in Tree of Life. Unfortunately we are out of stock in this colour but we stock many of their other shades and a variety of other colourful yarn cakes, which are super fun for making granny squares out of. Here is a photo.
2: Cases and Bags
Many beginner crocheters next move onto making phone cases and tote bags, make out of rectangles which are folded in half then crocheted together at the sides. Again, these are very simple but are a great way to learn new stitches and are also very practical. Then, you can also start to learn shaping from making bags with rounded bases. As crochet is often a little more bulky, I would definitely recommend crochet bags over knitted bags as when done in the right yarn, they are very good at holding their shape.
3: Shawls and Cowls
Because of the structure of crochet, crocheted fabrics can be very warm, making them perfect for things such as scarves and cowls. Alternatively, if you want to do something a little more challenging or are looking for something summery, you could try lace crochet techniques and make a light shawl. Once you get into the world of crochet blankets and shawls, you then may want to start a crochet-a-long, which is a pattern released (often on social media) in stages for you to do at the same time as many other fellow crocheters. People will often share their versions of the garment along the way and it can be a great way to learn new skills, get inspiration and connect with the community of crafters.
Personally, one of the first things that I think of when I think of crochet is toys, particularly with the rising popularity of amigurumi, the Japanese art of knitting and crocheting small toys such as animals or sometimes cartoon characters. These not only look adorable but are also pretty quick to make, and you can find many patterns and online guides for a range of skill levels. We stock many amigurumi pattern books from Rico along with the recommended wool, so if toy-making is your thing, I would definitely recommend checking these out. Below is a photo of some of our amigurumi books.
You may think that it is much better to knit jumpers and cardigans than to crochet them but that's not necessarily the case. Whilst I don't have much experience with crochet jumpers, I do know that there are many patterns for them available online as well as for lace tops, dresses and even bikinis. These use a wide range of techniques and you can find so many different styles of pattern and garment, so there is something for everyone.
One thing that is really important to remember when learning a craft is that you are doing it for you. Even if you are crafting for someone else, it is meant to be for your enjoyment; so, if you see something you like, give it a try! Chances are, you are more likely to get it right if it is something you want to do, so if you really want to make a jumper or a toy, as long as you find instructions that make sense for you there is no need to make a ton of shawls and bags that you won't enjoy beforehand. Making mistakes is inevitable in your project but you will probably be able to push through them a lot better if you are making something you want to make. For example, I recently had to undo something that I had nearly finished and start over again because I didn't have enough yarn and had made it way too big. At first, I was very frustrated because of how close I had been to finishing but now that I have started again, I'm actually enjoying making it because I picked a pattern that I was really drawn to.
Next time, we will be looking at a Scandinavian concept linked to mindfulness that I really love called hygge and how crochet can be linked to this. But until then, happy crafting!
Crochet: Basics and Tension Squares
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Now, you may be thinking that the title of this post looks familiar; that's because I did something very similar just over a month ago on how to knit tension squares. Today, I will be looking at exactly the same, but for crochet (apologies if this is a little basic for any crocheters reading this!) and I will also be showing you some of the things that you do with tension squares instead of just undoing them or throwing them away.
Step One: Setting Up
As I mentioned in my last post, the things you need for crochet are not that different to your knitting equipment, but here is a list of what you will need as a reminder:
Reading a tension square is the exact same in knitting as it is in crochet. Below is a picture of the ball band I will be using (in my demonstration I am using Stylecraft Special Chunky in Saffron). This tells me that I will need a 6mm hook and will do 20 rows containing 14 stitches in order to create a 10cm by 10cm square, though yours may require to use a smaller hook and do more stitches and rows or a larger hook with fewer stitches and rows. First, I will be creating a chain of 14 "stitches."
Step Two: The First Chain
Just like in knitting, the first stitch in crochet is 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 hook and pull the two strands so that the loop fits around the hook securely but not too tightly.
Then, to create the next stitch in your chain, hold the hook in your dominant hand (for me, this is my right), wrap a loop of yarn around it and pull the loop through your first stitch, allowing it to come off the hook and leaving just one new stitch on. Do this repeatedly until you have reach the number on the bottom of the tension square diagram of your ball band - in my case, that means repeating it 14 times in total. Once you have done that, you are ready to move on to the main rows.
Step Three: The Main Rows
Unlike in a knitted tension square, you only do one type of row, so once you have done this section once, go back to this heading and repeat again until you reach the number on the side of your tension square diagram (for me, that is 20 rows).
First, do one extra chain. Then, put your hook through the chain closest to the hook (this can be a little fiddly at first and was very difficult to photograph but you should be going through two loops that are touching and that look a little bit like a section of a plait). Then, wrap a loop around the hook and pull this through the two loops you have just put on, leaving two stitches on your hook. After that, wrap another loop around your hook and pull it through the remaining two stitches. You should now just have one stitch on your hook again. Repeat this until you have got to the opposite end of the row, then turn it around, ready to repeat and start your next row.
You may notice that at first, it is difficult as your chain my be curling quite a bit. This is normal but it should eventually straighten out a little after you have done a few more rows.
Step Four: Measuring
Measuring your crochet tension square works in the exact same way as measuring your knitted tension square; the measurements you need are the height and width.
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 a larger hook. Alternatively, having both measurements over 10cm by about the same amount indicates you have a loose tension, which can be resolved by reducing the hook 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 a longer chain if it is too narrow or a shorter chain if it is too wide. In my case, both the measurements are too large but it is less wide than it is tall, so I would experiment by decreasing my hook size and possibly doing fewer rows.
It is quite easy to make the mistake of thinking that tension squares are too small to be of any use; however, you can make some great things out of the tension squares that you make across your projects. As almost all tension squares are 10cm by 10cm, they are very versatile and can be used to make a range of things including:
Next time, I'll be going through some of the things you can learn to crochet once you get bored of joining squares - don't get me wrong, I absolutely love knitting and crochet but when you make things out of squares, you do end up sewing in a few billion ends!
Until then, happy crafting!
Crochet: What's New?
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Today we are going to be starting our new section all about crochet. I know that crochet is on the rise right now - many of my friends are learning or want to learn how to crochet. However, there can be some misconceptions about it as sometimes, people get crochet and knitting confused - after all, both of them are yarn crafts with similar benefits and techniques. However, there are some key differences can help you differentiate between the two and deciding which one you prefer. So, I thought that I would start this section by looking at some of the key differences between knitting and crochet.
1: The Appearance
Sometimes, people may look at something that I have knitted and call it crochet or vice versa. For some more experienced knitters and crocheters, the difference between knitting and crochet is very obvious, but for someone who has never done it before or is new to it, it can be a lot harder to tell. However, with crochet, there are usually more holes than in knitting. If you look at a crochet tension square, you will see lines of raised stitches with thin dips between each row, whereas with a knitted tension square, you will either see one side that is smooth and has a fishtail pattern and one side that is more bumpy (stocking stitch) or lines of flatter stitches with thinner lines of bumps in between (garter stitch). Here are a couple photos - the left photo is crochet and the right photo is knitted stocking stitch.
2: The Equipment
Most of the time, the equipment used for crochet is very similar to what you use for knitting; for example, you will always need yarn, scissors and a tape measure. However, instead of using two needles in both hands, you will need just one crochet hook, which you will hold in your dominant hand. The same sizing applies to hooks as to needles (apart from the fact that your natural crochet tension may be different to your knitting tension, meaning that you may have to increase or decrease your hook size slightly) and just like with knitting needles, you can also get crochet hooks in a range of materials.
3: The Number of Stitches
If you read the post explaining how to knit or you are a knitter, you will know that you keep all the stitches on the needle at all times and do not cast off a stitch until you have finished with it (most commonly at the end of a project. However, with crochet, you will only have one stitch (or two at most) on your hook at a time. Then you work with that stitch (I'll explain in more detail how to do this in the next post) and move on the next one. The action creates something that is a lot like casting off in knitting, but in crochet, you will keep going back into the stitch, working on it, moving on and "casting off" in every single row, not just the last row.
Knitting is always either back and forth (doing a row then turning the work to do another row) or in the round (using circular or double pointed needles to keep knitting without turning the work and going in another direction, forming a tube). In crochet, you can do both of these but in addition, you can go around edges of the project to form a bigger square, a 2D circle or other cool shapes which are much more difficult in knitting. I have also seen crocheted 3D mathematical models which I think are super cool - if you want to take a look, just search up "crochet curvature" online and look up images. For this reason, some people find that crochet is more versatile and therefore is better for them.
There are many exceptions and overlaps with this point but more often than not, crochet is more delicate and stiff, meaning that it is great for toys and blankets but because of its bulkiness, it isn't often used in jumpers or tops, particularly not ones that are meant to drape. Having said this, as more stitches and combinations of stitches have been discovered, there has been a rise in things such as crochet sock patterns (of which there never used to be any of before) and there are plenty of patterns for knitted toys on the market too. In my opinion, it is good to play around with both knitting and crochet to help you get an idea of texture, technique and personal preference.
That's all from me for today. Next time, I'm going to be explaining how to crochet a tension square and show you some of the ways to you can work old tension squares and scraps of yarn into projects. Until then, happy crafting!
Casting Off: Final Knitting Tips
Hello and welcome back! Today is the last post on the knitting section of this blog series, so I thought I would share a few final tips on knitting as a little summary. Here are my top ten tips.
10: Rewind Your Yarn
This one may sound a little strange but I often find that certain types of balls of wool come apart really easily then end up forming knots. So, I almost always rewind yarn before I start it. You can get yarn winders, which are essential for rewinding skeins, but as I don't use skeins a lot, hand winding works well enough for me.
9: Ensure You Have Everything
When I was new to knitting, I would often start things without any pattern, equipment or even a basic idea as to what I was doing. This wasn't a major problem but I did sometimes end up wasting wool that I could have used for something far better. That isn't to say that I don't experiment or make things up anymore but I recommend trying to get basic knowledge and quality equipment before starting any hobby.
8: Sew Ends In As You Go
Most knitters hate sewing ends in with a passion, but I'm afraid it does have to be done. To make it a bit easier and less of an annoyance, it may be a good idea to sew in a loose end as soon as you create one, and alternate between sewing ends and knitting regularly. Also, if you have lots of long ends, they can get tied together and muddled, which is very confusing. It may not always be possible to sew in ends as you go with a jumper as you may want to leave some ends to sew the pieces together, but I would recommend sewing in any ends that are too short to come to any use later.
7: Leave Long Enough Ends to Sew
This links to my last point. It's not only a good idea to sew ends in immediately but it's very important to have a long enough end to sew in as if you don't, your project could become unravelled! The length you want to leave will vary depending on the thickness of the yarn but 20cm is a good length in most cases.
6: Knit Regularly(ish)
This is not to say that you need to knit every single day - after all, knitting is meant to be a hobby, not a chore - but if you start a project, it is best to do it on a regular basis and avoid leaving it for a long period of time as it can be easy to get out of rhythm and lose track on it. If you are actively avoiding a project, the chances are that leaving it and doing it months later will make you like it less, not more (trust me, I have tried that more than once). Alternatively, if you are busy, it might be good to work through smaller and easier projects at that time as things that are harder will only add to your stress.
5: Connect with Others
There have been plenty of times where I have had a pattern and had no idea what to do or I have made a mistake somewhere and can't work out why. In times of doubt, it can be great to talk to a fellow knitter - for example, I always go straight to my mum if I am confused or need help with a project. Connecting online can be a good way to learn but if possible, it is good to have a few people who you know personally to help you too ,as they will know the best way to explain something to you. Be warned though, once you become a part of the knitter community, you may have to do this for many, many knitters in return!
4: Listen to Your Body
I feel as if the title of this point makes it sound a little more deep and profound than it actually is, so apologies if this tip is a little anti-climatic! However, it's good to know how you are feeling when you knit as your emotions, your energy levels and other factors of your life can impact your abilities and may lead to you making mistakes. For example, I sometimes try to knit in the evening to wind down before bed, but if it is too late and I am too tired, I will find myself making tons of mistakes! If you don't realise you are tired or stressed and you make mistakes it can be incredibly frustrating, so do your best to listen to yourself when you are knitting.
3: Find Homes for Your Projects
I don't know if I really should be saying this as I currently have projects and yarn all across my floor, but personally, I find the few projects that I do have organised easier and more enjoyable to work with. The projects that I currently working on will have their own little box, bag or shelf and that way, it is always on hand and I can take it wherever I need. I would really recommend doing this even it you only do it for one project.
2: Read Carefully
As I said earlier, it is very easy to get confused by or make mistakes with patterns, so always read them carefully! One thing that I was recommended by Sharon is that whenever you have a series of complicated rows, such as increase rows, you should write out all of them and what you do on each one. For example, I may write all the numbers from 1 to 50 if I have to do 50 rows and write increase rows in a separate colour so I know when they are. This is very useful and allows me to make sure I fully know what I am doing!
1: Enjoy It!
You have chosen to do knitting, so make sure it always feels like a choice and a fun thing to do. If you aren't enjoying a project, stop and start something you will enjoy as there is no point in spending your free time in a way that will make you feel miserable! For example, I learnt how to knit socks a little while back. I thought that I would love it but in all honesty, it wasn't my thing at all, so I haven't made any since. If I get the urge to retry in the future, I may but until then, I will be sticking to my chunky cardigans! Don't feel pressured to move onto a new project for a challenge, as not everything you do in life has to make you learn or grow - you can just enjoy things too!
Next week, I will be starting the crochet section. I am super excited for this one as whilst I am more experienced in knitting, I have got into crochet more over the lockdown and really love it. But until then, happy crafting!
Knitting and Meditation
Hello and welcome back to the blog! I wonder, how many of you have tried meditation? I have tried it a few times (I can particularly remember doing a few sessions at school) but there's something about it that doesn't really work for me. Often, the breathing exercises can feel a little forced and I really hate sitting still. However, life can be stressful and having an outlet or taking time out of your day to relax can really help. Recently, I have discovered the world of knitting meditation, where people knit and do meditation exercises at the same time. Today, I thought I would look at some of the things you can do to make your knitting even more soothing and meditative.
Picking your Meditation Project
First of all, you need to find a project that you enjoy, ideally one that takes little thought and is simple or familiar. For me, that's something like a chunky blanket, scarf or even a jumper if I have done one like it before, whereas Sharon prefers to knit socks while meditating. Also, the colour and texture are important too - personally, I like to work with pastel colours (I find colour-changing pastel yarns particularly soothing) and I like slightly fluffy yarn, such as chenille, but nothing too fluffy as that can be tricky to work with, which is not ideal for meditating!
Your surroundings play a key role in all types of meditation. A great way to ensure that your space is perfect for meditating in is by focusing in on the five senses and how you would like those to be whilst you meditate. Here is what I like to have for each of the senses when I am relaxing, as some alternative options:
Sight: In the videos that I have seen of knitting meditation, people will often knit in very tidy areas, but for me, that is not too important. Also many people like to surround themselves with their favourite things, such as pebbles or stationary, but again this is not too important for me either; so long as I have everything that I need to knit, I am good to go. What does matter to me is the lighting. My room is pretty dark, as I have a blackout curtain and very few lights. However, for the sake of being able to see my project, I may open the curtain and window if knitting during the day or turn on my small lamp and colour changing bulb and set it to either a shade of green, blue or purple when knitting at night.
Smell: Some people love candles, though as my house is made of wood and I am a very clumsy person, I could not trust myself with that. Instead, I like to use perfumes or pillow sprays, particularly if they have lavender in. Also, it's pretty important for me that the wool doesn't smell too strong, though I know that many knitters love the smell of pure wool.
Sound: On my phone, I have a playlist full of calming music. I love to plug in my headphones and listen to that as even at lower volumes, it manages to block out the rest of my surroundings pretty well. Some people prefer background noise and ASMR, which is when people record the sounds of tasks, such as eating, cutting hair, doing makeup and many other things. Personally, I'm not a big fan of this and I particularly dislike the eating sounds but some ASMR videos can be very soothing. On the other hand, knitting in silence can be really relaxing and the clicking of the needles could be its own form of ASMR
Taste: This one is less important, though it can be nice to have a snack whilst knitting. Personally, I think chocolates, cake or shortbread are the best knitting snacks.
Touch: This is more to do with the garment itself, though touch can also link to other things such as where you are sitting. Make sure you are really comfortable, ideally with a supported back and perhaps some soft cushions too.
The Type of Meditation
What type will you do? Will it be centred around breathing, visualisation or something else? Will you incorporate your knitting or will you just use your knitting to allow you to keep still? Here are some classic types of meditation that you can either do with your knitting or just whilst you knit.
That's all from me this week. Relaxing can sometimes feel like a chore but taking just ten minutes out of your day to do something for you can be really beneficial. Next week, I will be sharing some final knitting tips but until then, happy crafting.
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.
Learning and Inspiration: Top Books
Hello and welcome back to the blog! Today, we will be looking at the best books and authors for learning how to knit and getting craft inspiration.
Knit and Nibble - James McIntosh
Knit and Nibble is a great book for knitters of all abilities. Written by James McIntosh, a chef who discovered knitting after experiencing anxiety, panic attacks and depression, the book explores the benefits of knitting, explains the basics, gives tips, shares patterns and even contains recipes for sweet treats to snack on whilst doing your knitting. It also focuses on male mental health and encourages people of all genders to knit. I am yet to try any of the patterns but I have found the other tips incredibly useful and well-explained. I also made and tried a few of the snacks a couple years ago and they were all amazing, particularly the Marshmallow Delights and the Malteser Squares. Here is a photo of the book.
A Little Course In...
You can buy these books for knitting, crochet, sewing and even non-craft hobbies such as Pilates! Books in the series go through the stages of the hobby step-by-step, explaining the basics and moving on to more advanced aspects. I have not read these books myself but it was a recommendation I got from Sharon. What's more, they are widely available and affordable; you can get many of the books for under £10.00 via Amazon, eBay, The Works and other shops. Here are some photos of the knitting and crochet versions.
Sophie's Universe: Crochet-along by Dedri Strydom Uys
If you crochet and want to learn something a little more advanced, this is a great project for you! The book goes through how to make a specific blanket called Sophie's Universe, which is broken into many stages so you can make something as big or small as you like. Another good thing about it is if you are finding the instructions in the book hard, you can find many guides and videos online which go through parts of the pattern in a more visual way. Whilst it is quite complicated, it is explained in detail so you don't have to know everything about crochet before you start. Even if it is a little too advanced for you at this stage, I would recommend looking it up as the pictures of it are stunning and make me feel really inspired! Here is a photo of the book and some pictures of it made up by Sharon
Maybe these don't quite count as books, but I had to give this a mention as this is where I get a lot of my inspiration from. One of my favourite things to do in my free time is to flick through craft magazines (my favourites being Simply Knitting/Crochet and Knit/Crochet Now), cut and stick patterns onto plain sheets and add them to a folder. I already have a lot of projects on the go at the moment, but it's given me a lot of inspiration; after I've done some projects for this blog (more on that in a few weeks), I may make myself a Pusheen (a famous cartoon cat) jumper from a pattern I found in a Knit Now magazine - it looks so cute!
Craft Murder Mysteries
Yes, you read that right. It doesn't really fall into the category of books for learning or inspiration but I just had to say a bit about them. At the moment, I am reading a book called Casting Spells by Barbara Bretton, which is about a murder that happens in a supernatural town containing a yarn shop, and it's up to the yarn shop owners to resolve the crime. It's the first book in a long franchise and there are many similar series available too. So, if you're looking for an escape from the world and your hands are a little too sore to knit, why not give this genre a go? Here is a photo of the one I am currently reading.
That's all from me for today! Next time, I will be looking at social media sites and accounts that are good for learning and inspiration, but until then, happy crafting!
My name is Sharon the Sheep, the owner of Avicraft Wool Shop in Bromley Kent..