6 Things You Need to Know as a New Knitter

Learning to SpinI started spinning some superfine Shetland fibre a few days ago. It is beautiful stuff! Incredibly fine, soft, and surprisingly bouncy. I could see the fine crimp in the fibre as it ran through my fingers and spun up into strands of yarn ready for plying, and it was spinning like a dream. This is only my third spinning project, and I felt like I was spinning gold!

I then started reminiscing about when I began knitting all those years ago, and the things I know now that I wish I knew back then. Out of this I’ve come up with some tips for new knitters that I hope will help you be happier with the craft.

1. The quality of yarn and needles IS important

My Mum is the person who first taught me to knit. I was using leftover old acrylic yarn, and old metal needles. And my first project? Yep, it was a multicoloured scarf that was wider than it was long. The combination of poor quality needles and yarn meant every stitch squeaked and it sent shivers up my spine! Good quality yarn does not necessarily mean pure silk. There are good quality acrylic yarns today, and wool is not as scratchy as you may have been led to believe. And if you aren’t able to invest in quality needles as a beginner knitter, ask a knitterly friend if they would be willing to lend you some to learn.

2. Fun yarn is not always fun

My fun yarn phase is somewhat of a blur to me all these years later. This is possibly a side effect similar to that of post-traumatic stress, where your brain blocks out a painful memory! Fun yarns do have their place in the knitting world. A very small specific place! Think carefully about whether you would wear the finished garment if you really did make it in that fun yarn. I wish I had asked myself this question before I used fun eyelash style yarn to make a strappy summer top!

3. Don’t be afraid of mistakes or to ask for help

We learn through our mistakes. So please don’t be afraid to make them. I also urge you not to be afraid of asking for help. When I was making my first lace project I came across a new to me knitting instruction of “yo” and I could not figure out what it meant. I read and re-read the pattern. I searched online search engines, spending hours trying to figure out what I was  meant to be doing (this was before I found Ravelry). Later that evening I gave up and went to ask my Mum. She took the project from my hands, worked the stitch, said that’s it, and I took the project back. Imagine how much further in the pattern I could have been if I had asked for her help 10 hours earlier! In my experience, the knitting community has always been willing to help a fellow struggling knitter.

6 Things You Need to Know as a New Knitter | www.gradianceyarns.co.uk
6 Things You Need to Know as a New Knitter | http://www.gradianceyarns.co.uk

4. Free patterns are not always your friend

The internet is full of free knitting patterns. Typing “free knitting patterns” into Google and you get over 2.5 million results! There are countless high quality free knitting patterns out there, but there are just as many poorly written free knitting patterns too. I downloaded a huge number of the bad ones when I first started out and it held me back from learning my newly discovered craft. A poorly written knitting pattern for a new knitter can easily discourage you from finishing your project – it can even deter you from knitting altogether! Ravelry is a free online community for knitters and crocheters. They have the largest database of patterns on Ravelry, including free ones. But even better, you can see how many people have made those free patterns and see how their projects came out, giving you a good idea of which are the good ones and which are the baddies!

5. Ravelry

I mentioned the pattern database on Ravelry quickly in the last point. It truly is an amazing site. You can keep track of your projects, including needles, yarn, start and finish dates, notes, and pictures. The pattern database, shown below, has a huge range of search functions, from free to paid, craft type, age, yarn type, designer, garment type, language, and more. You can search for yarns, search for people, join groups and be part of smaller communities, join KALs (knit-alongs), participate in swaps, and generally be part of a worldwide love of yarny crafting. It truly is a work of genius!

Ravelry Search

6. Swatching can be important

Do you want your jumper to fit your or your doll? Knitting those little 20cm x 20cm squares may seem tedious, and a waste of yarn when you are just starting out. After all, you’ve just spent money on needles and yarn for a craft still new to you. Why would you want to use some of that yarn making a square? Yes, this process is not crucial to some patterns. But for many projects, such as jumpers and cardigans, hats and gloves, socks and legwarmers, this is super important! Alongside being honest with yourself about your size. There is no point knitting a size 6 jumper if you are really a size 12. Taking careful measurements of your little square and of yourself (or intended gift recipient) and noting these right there on your pattern is key to choosing the correct size making something that will fit you. Besides, you can always make a blanket with all your squares and you don’t have to be honest with anyone else about your size!

So these are the things I would go back and tell myself as I ventured into the world of knitting. Let’s show new knitters that the knitting community are super keen on passing on their skills and knowledge and tell me what you wish you had known when you first started knitting in the comments box!

Happy Crafting!


5 Valuable Tips for Successful Car Knitting

Car journeys as a passenger have the ability of being, well, boring. Especially travelling long distances as the journey usually takes you down long monotonous motorways, only becoming interesting when you get closer to your destination. But taking your knitting is not always going to be smooth activity for you. I’ve compiled a list of useful tips I use myself when preparing for a long journey that lead to happy knitting.

1. Your Needle Choice

Metal needles have a tendency to be slippery.  You know that void underneath the car seat or down by the handbrake? Car knitting is a prime opportunity for your slippery needles to perform the disappearing magic trick! Choose stickier needles such as wood if you are still new to car knitting. Also try not to choose a pattern than has too many needle size changes, maybe one or two at the most. The space available to you in a car is much more limited than your home.


2. Make Something Familiar

This is not the time to make your first ever sock or to learn brioche. And it probably isn’t a good time to do a steek, even if you are a seasoned pro. If you regularly make socks then make a sock. If you make a shawl, then make a shawl. I love making shawls!


3. Choose a Simple Pattern

Car sickness affects a pretty significant number of people when you are focusing entirely on something close and inside the car. I’m one of them! If you need to look at your project the entire time because you’ve chosen something complex such as lace or fair isle, then you won’t be knitting for long. Garter stitch and stocking stitch is a safe bet, and you can still include colour in the form of stripes.

Colour Affection Shawl by Veera Valimaki

4. Pre-driving Read Through

We are always told to read through your pattern before you knit it. Though I’m guilty of not doing this. But for car knitting, you really, really should. I also recommend browsing other finished objects on sites such as Ravelry for the pattern you are going to make. This will help you understand the construction and form of what you are going to make. Trying to get the internet on your phone whilst on the M3 to see if you are doing it right is unlikely to be successful. Reading through will also help you to understand what notions you need to take with you. After all, 3 hours down the road no one is going to turn around for a stitch marker!


5. When and When Not To Knit

Roads have a tendency to be bumpy and uneven. Country lanes are not a good time to be knitting. Lots of bends, big bumps, and sudden breaking are all prime opportunities for a naughty stitch to drop off and ladder! Roadworks and when you are getting close to your destination are also not great times for knitting. Your driver is likely to be expecting you to help look out for signs, and do you really want to fail at fitting in one last row? So really this leaves motorways and dual carriageways as your prime knitting opportunities. They are monotonous so you are unlikely to be having a thrilling game of “I spy” or even playing pub cricket. And since you are knitting without looking you can still have a conversation with your chauffeur!


And one bonus tip. Unless they are asleep, don’t knit when travelling with children.

5 Valuable Tips for Successful Car Knitting by Gradiance Yarns | www.gradianceyarns.co.uk
5 Valuable Tips for Successful Car Knitting by Gradiance Yarns | http://www.gradianceyarns.co.uk

If you want to sum up all of these points into one easy to remember theme: knit something similar to what you have made before. I know this sounds unadventurous, but I’m sure you will have plenty of adventures where ever it is you have just spent all that time travelling to!

Those are my tips. Now it’s your turn to share your tips in the comments to help others!

Happy Crafting and Travelling!

All photos are copyright 2016 Gradiance Yarns

This 1 Easy Process to Keep your Stash Under Control

My yarn stash is out of control! My fibre stash is not! But what have I done differently? This simple process I have put together, if followed religiously, will help new spinners keep what is very likely to become a new addiction under control.

A few months ago a dear enabler friend loaned me her spinning wheel. As an obsessed avid knitter, dyer, and designer, spinning was naturally going to be the next vice craft for me to partake in. But with such an unruly exciting yarn stash, I could easily see fibre taking over following the same path.

Then an even worse thought entered my head! More fibre and more spinning, leads to even more yarn! Clearly this seemingly traditional and stress reducing craft has a dark side.

In 2014, before spinning, I decided to go cold sheep*. Bear with me here. For the uninitiated, this is where you buy no new yarn for a set period of time. Usually a year. You are allowed to swap yarn, but no newly bought yarn. Anyway, surprisingly, I survived the year. And I was OK about it. Don’t start building any shrines though. There were moments of weakness where yummy skeins of yarn were added to my cart, but no “Pay Now” buttons were clicked. By saying a 100% no, my self-restraint could cope. No was no.

Stash 2013
My yarn stash before the 2014 cold sheep experiment

This previous experience triggered an idea. What if I could buy a braid of fibre, spin it AND knit it, all before I buy the next braid of fibre? This would require a higher level of self-control. I would be allowing myself to buy fibre, but only under certain conditions. Though, would I start trying to justify a purchase to myself? I might start saying “but I need two braids to make the yarn to knit this” or “it might not be here next time”. I’ve been in this situation with yarn and I’ve caved into the little devil sitting on my shoulder before.

A few days passed and I was starting to think that, really, this is still a no means no situation. Which I succeeded at before. Why would this be any different? So I started. My first spinning was a braid of my own. A Polwarth and Merino D’Arles top in the colour Tropics. I finished spinning, I knitted it up, and I even gifted the item to my enabling dear friend. Then I purchased my next braid from Artist’s Palette Yarns. I spun it, knitted it up, and then went in search for my next braid. It was working.

Handspun Tropics-1.jpg
My first hand spun and knitted garment using the Whirl Me Away Cowl pattern

Today, I still have no extra fibre in my stash. I am waiting for our excellent post man to deliver my next parcel so that I may again repeat the process that is so far working for me. As with my year of cold sheep with yarn, fibre has made it into carts during moments of weakness. But no “Pay Now” buttons or credit cards have been handed over whilst I have not completed a braid in progress from fibre to finished item.

If you are new to spinning then maybe this could work for you too! If you are not new to spinning, then perhaps a tweaked version of this would work. Maybe you spin and knit two braids, before you buy the next one?

*I did allow myself one yarn purchase. And this was purely because our holiday that year was in Iceland and I was not going to be leaving the country unless I had some of the famous Icelandic lopi! I left with 4 x 50g balls of natural coloured lace and a pattern book of Icelandic lace shawls. That was it.

Juliet’s Shawl – New Pattern

Have you been following this pattern test on Ravelry? Do you want to make it? Well now you can! Not only was the pattern released a few moments ago, but it is also free to the first 500ish people who download it, AND there will be a KAL in the Gradiance Yarns Ravelry group!

So, yes. The pattern is available for free to the first 500ish people who download it. There is no need to enter a coupon code. Just add it to your Ravelry library through the pattern page here. I say 500ish, because this relies on me regularly checking in to see what number the counter has reached, and then switching the listing over to a paid pattern. I regularly miss the free download mark and extras go out! The pattern will be £4.00 (plus your local VAT) after this initial period.

I will also be hosting a KAL in our Ravelry group. Please feel free to join the KAL. Share your newly ordered or stash yarn and (optional) beads, share your progress, receive support from me and the awesome Ravelry community, and more than likely click the love button on projects! There will be a prize or two at the end drawn at random for a couple of lucky participants.

The lady who I named this shawl after, Juliet, is the reason I adore hand dyed yarns in the first place and it was an honour to name this after her. My sample was after all made using one of her yarns. I hope you’ll join me in the KAL thread.