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!


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.

Storm Cloud – Colour Profile

Storm Cloud, as you can imagine, was created out of the very dark and moody blue storm cloud that lurked on the horizon one day.

It goes through a total of three dye stages to build up the colour, with the water never even reaching a simmer.

First it has a short bath in some teal:


Then a longer bath in some violet:


And finally it has a dip in a touch of black:


I’ve been dyeing some more of this today, and finished just as another storm cloud loomed on the horizon!


Flat Rate Postal Changes

Here at Gradiance Yarns I have always operated a flat rate postage fee. No matter how little or much you order, your postage cost will still be the same.

On 1st April 2016, Royal Mail will once again be increasing their parcel prices. I will continue to operate the flat rate fees, but as of 1st April 2016 my postage rates will be as follows:

UK = £3.10

EU and Europe = £4.20

Rest of the World = £5.50

This also includes part of the increase in my packaging costs. UK mail will continue to be sent 2nd Class, and all other countries will be sent by International Standard services.

I’m still waiting for the day that yarn can be teleported free of charge. Until then, thank you for understanding about the costs of postage.

Squish! Squish! Squish!

No I don’t mean the sound under feet as you walk around outside today. Well, actually yes, but that’s not what I’m here to write about today. I’m here to introduce you to Squish – an aran weight yarn!

Squish is relatively new to my collection, and is the king of the aran weights in my shop. It is 100% Bluefaced wool and it just loves to slurp up dye. This means beautiful bold and bright colours for you. But it does soft and subtle too (I think!)

Squish is also a 2-ply yarn. This gives it such an energetic bounce and loftiness you will just want to sit there all day and watch it bounce back. It is where some of my day goes! Squish, and squish, and squish!

With my most recent update primarily made up of Squish, now is the perfect time to grab a skein for your collection.