Saturday, 19 August 2017

5 Reasons Why Knitting Makes You Smarter

knitting makes you smarter
Image source
We've always known it, haven't we? Us knitters are a bright bunch and our hobby seems to help us stay mentally fit for longer. Knitting requires skills whose regular use encourages us to take the time to practice, again and again, those things that will keep us agile as we get older.

1. Focus

Knitting requires a great level of concentration, particularly if you are a beginner or trying out more complicated stitches. This attention to detail keeps our minds sharp as we work our way through patterns and make progress with every knit and every purl - not to mention yarn overs, increases, decreases, slipped stitches and on and on.

2. Cognitive agility

Every knitter knows that each and every project comes with its own problems. We are a stubborn bunch and won't stop until we have found a way to make things work. This may be fixing something as simple as a dropped stitch or finding a way to reknit an entire pattern repeat. We've all been there. We are problem solvers. The good news is this habit helps maintain our cognitive agility, which we will be thankful for in the long run.

3. Dexterity

Apart from our brains, we need our hands to knit. Clumsiness won't usually get you very far with knitting because it requires dexterity. Knitting every day or a few times a week helps to keep our motor skills at the same level as they are now. As we age, we may lose them to a degree, so having a crafty hobby that relies on the use of our hands will help us keep our range of movement.

4. Mindfulness

I already mentioned focus and it goes hand in hand with mindfulness. Focusing on one thing and letting go of whatever else usually occupies our minds is calming and relaxing. We become aware of what we are doing at that very moment and everything else slips into the background. We feel the yarn gliding through our fingers and hear the clickety-click of the needles. A cup of tea and the world is alright again.

5. Creativity

Knitting is an act of creation. Being able to make something out of string, only with the help of sticks, is quite a feat, come to think of it. Knitters are makers and creative people. This is only possible because of the four points above. Without focus, problem solving skills, motor skills, and mindfulness we wouldn't be able to create much at all. 

We should be very proud of this. Knitting is not an unimportant past-time. It is not as easy as people think and it is not just for grannies - though once we reach that age, we will be the sharpest, most agile grannies around.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Knitting Inspiration: International Elephant Day

Elephant knitting patterns

Yay, it's International Elephant Day and we are celebrating with four fun knitting patterns featuring our favourite pachyderm.


1. So let's begin with this stunning Elephant Cowl that I absolutely love! It is so intricate and the colour work simply looks gorgeous. Check out the designer's page to see how different gradient yarns can turn this already fantastic knit into the most precious thing you'll ever own.

Mini Make

2. Can a list ever be complete without a Mochimochi Land pattern? Probably not. Here's a teeny tiny Carnie Elephant, the perfect quick fix for knitters who like little projects and don't have a lot of time to waste. Bring the carnival to your town!

Cuddly toy

3. My favourite elephant toy pattern has to be included here, of course. I came across Elefante very early on in my Ravelry days and made mine from leftover yarn, mainly acrylic. It is a fun thing to make, doesn't take very long, and it isn't too fiddly either. 

Woolly Hat

4. After the heatwave we have had here in the UK, it is decidedly autumnal now, so looking at hat patterns is perfectly normal in August - right? Elephant Park is available in sizes ranging from baby to large adult, so there's something for everyone. Just look at those little elephants! Can you resist?

Toys and colour work seem to be the theme here. Which is your favourite of the four? Do you have any other elephant knits I should know about? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

6 Myths About Knitting

6 knitting myths
Image source
Call them myths, call them misconceptions, call them actual WTF moments. There are plenty odd ideas non-knitters have about who knitters are and what they do. I've put together six of the most common ones I keep coming across again and again. Which would you add to the list? Share in the comments!

1. Knitting is for grannies.

We all know he prevalent mental image that non-knitters have about the typical knitter: a little old lady sitting in an armchair knitting up a jumper. It is frustrating for younger knitters, knowing that they are seen as the odd ones out, a novelty. And yet there are loads of young knitters and the popularity of places such as Ravelry and the emergence of online yarn retailers like LoveKnitting and Deramores with their new community section and social hub, respectively, prove that marketing campaigns are aiming for a younger demographic.

The great thing about knitting is that is spans generations and brings together people of all ages and different social backgrounds. You can see this in your local knitting groups. The youngest person ever to join in one my local group was all of 9 years old and learning to knit a scarf. The oldest members were retired and most of us were somewhere in-between. So let's get rid of this image of knitting nanas. I'm looking at you, Shreddies.

2. Knitters are always happy to knit for you.

No, we aren't. Knitting takes time and skill, so we will only knit for people we really like A LOT and who we know will appreciate the work that has gone into it. Those of us who have knitted socks, shawls or even jumpers for ungrateful, unappreciative people learned this the hard way. We will be picky. We will decide who we consider knitworthy. 

3. Knitting is cheap.

This is an expensive hobby: Not only does good yarn cost a fortune, knitting also involves a lot of skill that should be appreciated. So don't ask us to knit something for you because we happen to be good at it and expect it to be for free. What's more, asking for a pair of hand-knitted socks will definitely cost you more than £10 so don't be surprised if the person you approach suddenly displays a nervous twitch. Back away slowly. Proffer yarn. Retreat in silence.

4. Are you pregnant?

Possibly, but probably not. After the common assumption that all knitters must be old and grey, another mistake is to assume young women (and what about knitting men?) only knit because we are expecting and the newborn needs to be wrapped in all manner of booties, cardis, onesies and the like. Luckily, we can knit whatever our plans regarding children. And this neatly leads us to:

5. Men don't knit.

Oh yes, they do! While the sight of a knitting man isn't as common as that of a knitting woman, there are lots of men who know how to handle yarn and a pair of needles. Knitters are familiar with designers like Kaffe Fassett and the Scandinavian duo Arne & Carlos whose work is particularly popular. See's top 10 men in knitting here.

Gender makes absolutely no difference in knitting. In fact, knitting used to be a male occupation, In 1527, Paris saw the founding of the first ever knitting union and women weren't allowed in.*

*Gardner, Sue, ed. A to Z of Knitting: The Ultimate Guide for the Beginner to Advanced Knitter. Woodinville, WA: Martingale & Company, 2007. 

6. Knitting is easy! I did it once at school.

Well done. But knitting consists of more than just casting on, knitting, purling, and casting off again. These basics are great and can be all you need for some projects, but you will have seen all the wonderfully intricate lace shawls or cabled jumpers and these are an entirely different ball game.

Knitting can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be and I think it is probably fair to say that those who knit for years and years will progress from the basics and keep developing their skills. I have heard many a crocheter say they don't knit because it is so much more difficult than their preferred craft. 

Saturday, 29 July 2017

5 Questions to Ask a Knitter

Knitters get asked  lot of questions and especially beginning knitters like to know what wisdom the more seasoned ones amongst us can share. So let me answer five of the most common questions today:

1. What if I run out of yarn?

Hahahahaha! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! Haha! Ha! 

Stop it. You never will. Your stash will be bigger than Trump and May's inflated egos combined. It will be as endless as time and space. Your storage box, closet, cupboard and/or spare room will be like your very own TARDIS. Your yarn will outlive you.

2. What kind of knitting needles do I need?

All of them. Ever single kind in every single size. Ideally multiples. You know, just in case you loose one or want to cast on the fifth project and all other needles in that size are already in use. And when you think you have enough, get some spares just in case, in all available colours. Oh, and don't just stick to one brand because you need to make sure you find the perfect set just for you.

3. How do I avoid mistakes?

Don't even try. You'll drop stitches, read the pattern wrong, create the weirdest stitch patterns and realise it's all futile anyway. But don't despair. Unpick, tink and pull up those stitches and carry on. It's going to happen again, so you might as well embrace it. Knitters are great problem solvers - and occasionally throw knitting into a corner in a rage. It's ll part of the process.

4. I won't take my knitting on holiday with me. What should I do instead?

I don't understand. You're obviously in need of this holiday because you're not thinking clearly. If you decided to leave your knitting behind (Why???), you're in luck. I bet your holiday destination has at least one yarn shop or general craft shop. Go! Do not waste another minute! Get your hands on some yarn, needles and any notions you might need. Bonus: You'll have the best kind of souvenir a knitter could possibly have.

5. Seriously. You're exaggerating, right?

Nope. If only.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

I Think I Have a Problem

It's inevitable: knitters have knitting books. I do, too, though not as many as I would like, and my collection is a mix of excellent resources, simple pattern books, and everything in-between. As a spinner, I also own a few books about wool and spinning techniques.

But there is an issue: I have all these books, but apart from looking at the pictures, I have read hardly any of them. I think I have a problem.

I love looking through my books and I should devote more time to some of them. When I find a new one, it goes one of two ways:

1. The mathematical daze: There is a lot I could learn from the book and I start reading about how to ensure perfect fit and use the formula to calculate this, that and the other, and my eyes just glaze over. I suspect it is the maths rather than anything else. Maths has never been my friend and just the sight of numbers makes me nervous.
2. Theory vs practice: I read the book, take everything in, and have a lot of theoretical knowledge - but I rarely put any of that knowledge into practice. This seems like a waste of time, although it is good to know that the knowledge is there should I ever need it.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get into one of my mostly unread books and tackle it properly. But what about you? Are you the better-read knitter? Is there a book you would never part with? Perhaps there's something I need to add to my shelf... and eventually read.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

What Are Your Bad Knitting Habits?

bad knitting habits

Let's be realistic: We aren't perfect and will have developed a few bad habits over our lifetime. This does not stop at knitting, I'm afraid, and there are certainly some things I know I should or shouldn't do, but I always find an excuse to go right ahead the way I always have. My inner, stricter Nadia is shaking her head at the mere thought right now. Are you guilty of any of these bad habits?

Not swatching

Guilty! I rarely ever knit a gauge swatch. Actually, I may only have done this for a jumper - at least I can't remember any other time. I just like to give it a go and hope for the best. If the fabric doesn't turn out as I'd like, I simply unravel it all and choose a different needle size. 

Ignoring the recommended needle size

As I rarely swatch, I usually start out with the recommended needle size printed on the ball band unless I know from experience that a particular yarn works best for me with different needles. Personally, I think that since our gauge is different from person to person, a recommended needle size isn't all that important. It is a good guide, however, if you are new to knitting or are using a yarn weight you are unfamiliar with. 

Not modfying knitting patterns

Why not personalise the fit of a garment or the look of an accessory? I often tweak a knitting pattern a little bit unless I am trying something totally new. It works well with things I have lots of experience with, such as socks. I know where I have to go off pattern to make them fit better. If I am not entirely happy with the look of something, I may change the stitch pattern as well. So I don't think that this is a bad habit, but it may well be one if you do it and always end up with something you dislike or which doesn't fit properly.

Not reading the pattern first

We should always, ALWAYS read a pattern through from beginning to end before even thinking about casting on. I don't take my own advice and it usually leads to problems down the line. Sometimes I will think I understand what's going on, only to find further on in the pattern that I misunderstood a stitch and ended up with something different entirely. That is very frustrating and can be easily avoided. Learn from my mistakes, people! Read first, knit later.

Not blocking your knitting

Always block your knitting! You've probably put a hell of a lot of effort into your work, so make it shine! Blocking your knits will make the fabric more regular and even out the tension. It will also make the stitch pattern pop and you can adjust the fit and size as needed. Luckily, this is something I have always done because I started out knitting a lot of lace. Without blocking my shawls, they would have been tiny, shriveled hankies instead.

Not washing your knits correctly

Again if you have put in all this effort to create something beautiful, why ruin it by not taking care of it? There are lots of wool washes available nowadays and it is worth giving them a go to find what works best for you. These special wool washes won't hurt the fibres so you will be able to enjoy your finished object for a long time. My favourite is Soak, which comes in an unscented and several scented varieties. I am very partial to Celebrate and also use it to wash lingerie that I don't want to risk putting in the washing machine. 

What's your worst habit, do you think? I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

My Favourite 10 Blogs to Follow

10 knitting blogs to follow

If you're like me, you'll have a list of favourite knitting blogs you return to regularly. A while back I started using Boglovin' to read them all in one place so I don't miss anything.

Because I love discovering new bloggers all the time, I'm going to show you my list of favourite blogs. It's not a complete list by any means, but the bloggers you find here are the ones whose posts I read most frequently at the moment. Let me know in the comments what you think I should add to my reading list!

So here we go. In no particular order:

1. Libby from New Zealand blogs, designs and records podcasts at Truly Myrtle and I just love listening to her. She has a fantastic way of speaking to you through her recordings that feels very personal and authentic. There is always something interesting to learn, be it about her life in New Zealand (the most beautiful and varied country I have ever visited), her designs, sewing and knitting projects, interviews, and latest yarn purchases. If you like audio-podcasts, give this one a listen.

2. Many of you will know Louise from Knit British. While I really enjoy her audio-podcast, the recordings are very long (roughly an hour) and I don't always have the time or attention span to listen every time a new one goes live. However, the podcast is always packed full of information about British wool and very educational.

3. Knitted Bliss is a varied blog by Julie from Canada. She posts about all sorts of things and structures her posts around set topics such as Modification Monday, Pin Ups, and Wee Wednesday. My favourite is Pin Ups which contains links to all kinds of interesting blog posts and articles. I have tried a few of the pinned recipes, for instance, and a few more are in the pipeline.

4. Mochimochi Land is so popular that it has a loyal following and it's easy to see why! The tiny knits are cute and quick to make. One of the best things about Anna's work is the fun ways in which she turns her little knits into animations. You may even have come across them as GIFs on social media - I like using them during #knittinghour on Twitter, for instance. The site has free patterns, too, in case you want to give them a go.

5. Scottish blogger Elise mainly blogs about knitting and her latest charity shop purchases on Elise and Life. Her blog is a fashion and lifestyle blog of a different kind. It feels more real, more authentic and not at all pretentious. Lately, Elise has been adding her own videos to some posts and I always look forward to what she's going to write about next.

6. Dive into knitting in the Netherlands with Woollen Wilderness. This blogger is a fast knitter and it's not at all unusual for her to post several FOs at once. She has an eye for colours and designs that suit her and there are always new patterns to discover. Whenever I see what she is working on at the moment, I go and search for the patterns and want to cast on something new. 

7. Skipping back across to Canada, we have Yarn Harlot blogging about all things knitting. This is a good blog for those who like to see what others are currently making and who enjoy reading more than just a few lines in a picture-heavy post. I read this blog occasionally and it has a large following.

8. Amanda from OwlPrintPanda designs knitwear and I particularly enjoy her photography and easy-to-read posts. She isn't posting that frequently at the moment, but when a new post goes live I always look forward to it. 

9. Becca from Knit Happens is the only blogger on the list I knew in person before I knew her as a blogger. We used to be in the same knitting group until I stopped going altogether and Becca moved. She knits and crochets and has designed a few patterns, too. The blog is updated whenever there is something new to post, so a great occasional read.

10. Not all blogs I follow are craft related, though. I've been following Seasalt With Food for some years now. I like the Asian recipes and straightforward videos. I have cooked quite a few things posted there and many have become firm favourites. If you love your food, too, check this one out!