So, you may have guessed by now, that I'm willing to give any yarn-based craft a try. Whether it's knitting, crochet, weaving or felting (which I am yet to try...), they all have their place and where possible if they can be completed within a short period of time, whilst leaving you with something impressive looking, all the better!
At Depop - where I work - we had a line up of crafty workshops for colleagues in the evenings during May for Mental Health Month, so I stepped up and offered to teach Macrame! Had I done macrame before? No!.. but, I stock the fab kits from Hoooked (Only £9) and have a lot of their beautiful t-shirt and cotton yarns, so I got to learning.
All you need is a wooden ring, some beads and about 18-21m of a thick rope or yarn.
There are 3 main knots of macrame - all easy to google and thankfully one is half of the other - so really there's only 2! The loop knot, square knot and half-square knot is all you need to cover. Then it's up to you to get creative and combine them to develop a beautiful plant hanger!
Within an hour or so, you'll have something beautiful, functional and the platting and knotting will send you to a serene and lovely place of meditation.
The Stitch and Story slipper kit is a very popular gifted item on the stall. You may not know, that all the Stitch and Story kits are built and designed for beginner and I can now advocate, this one really really is.
As I'm sure you've seen, I've run beginner knitting workshops before, learning beanie hats and my own slipper pattern with t-shirt yarns - and this is not dissimilar, with 2 basic stitches, no increasing and some super simple decreases and you'll be done. SPOILER:- you are basically knitting a big square-ish-thing - that sounds simple enough, doesn't it?
The pack includes some beautiful stubby 12mm knitting needles, the yarn, pattern and instructions on how to knit - Stitch and Story also have lots of videos you can watch to help with this bit too! All you need to learn is how to cast on, a knit stitch and a purl stitch. It'll be a frustrating 5 minutes - but perseverance is key! I promise you'll have it and unending satisfaction in no time.
I knitted one slipper in an hour - so for beginners maybe allow 2-3? You'll see it growing quickly, which is super rewarding and in an evening you can get one done! The 100% merino wool is super super soft, will keep those toes warm (the pattern splits between sizes 3-5 and 6-8 for a snug fit) and you can make the cute little pom poms for the embellishment on top without any additional tools or cutting of card circles - the pattern recommends using a fork! - I used my fingers.
The Hoooked storage bag crochet kit is a best seller on the stall. For £13 you get the Zpagetti t-shirt yarn, a 12mm crochet hook and the pattern to complete it - which is little to ask for an evening or two of distraction that leaves you with a handy and rather beautiful storage bag. And because it uses Hoooked's Zpagetti, the big hook and only one crochet stitch you will be well away in no time, even if you've never done it before.
A few people often start by thinking they want the kit and then leave with a hook, the Hoooked book (which has the pattern in it) and Zpagetti in the colour of their choice. Either knowing they'll want to attack other patterns once they've started or feeling the need for a particular shade.
The only things you'll need to know are:-
A Slip Knot
Double Crochet Stitch
Give them a google and a youtube and you'll see that's really nothing at all.
And that's all there is to say really - easy peasy. Why not? Once you've got the hang of it, you'll easily be able to adjust the size and colours you choose and go to town!
I've been meaning to make a version with Triple stitches as a laundry basket for my bedroom, but it's in the making queue!
So - that was Christmas - and what have we done?! Well, I bloody well knitted a jumper.. and it wasn't half as scary or time consuming as I expected!
It's something I've had my eye on for a while. As many of you know, I only came back to knitting in the summer and I've been keeping everything simple and basic. I am always envious of people who have the time and attention for detailed jumper knits on tiny needles - and feel a bit of a fraud for not being one - but I am not one of these fabulous people and that's ok. I like things I can finish, I like big needles with big yarn that develops quickly - and I loved this knit.
I searched for the right kit for a while. I knew it needed to be chunky and I wanted something on straight needles, because it's accessible - and if one day I finally get round to organising a jumper club, everyone can have fun without the mental boundaries of circular needles! I also have a particular taste in clothes. I like clean lines and fitted sleeves, something that fits properly over the shoulders and is without frills and frolics. Pretty boring right? But basics last the test of time.
I was stuck for a long time between We Are Knitters and Wool and The Gang. Both have a beautiful range of jumpers that fit my requirements, but like the Cinderella experiment, when I knew, I knew - and it was Wool and The Gang's Eden Jumper that got me. The only 'downside' was the vast range of colours, this nearly held me back from buying at all, but I spotted some of their 'Crazy Sexy Wool' in John Lewis on Oxford Street and seeing a decreased range in person, I opted immediately for the Ultra Violet.
So, what do you get? If you opt for the full pack, you get 12mm needles, the pattern, a yarn needle and 6-8 balls of Crazy Sexy Wool. I must confess, I purchased mine during Cyber week and got 30% off - but usually this would cost around £120. I had my own needles (the Hoooked needles do just fine), so that made it a little better too.
The wool? The Crazy Sexy Wool has the same size specifications as Stitch and Stories chunky merino but seems far hardier and bouncy. Not quite as soft, which is to be expected, but where the softness of the merino means you have to be quite careful with it, the Crazy Sexy Wool runs with the punches and is reassuringly strong. On their website Wool and the Gang say: 'Crazy Sexy Wool come from happy sheep in South America, sourced with consideration as to reduce the impact on the environment. It happens to have amazing qualities - it’s natural, renewable, biodegradable. Plus, it’s also breathable, stretchy, made to last, easy to care for and comes in amazing colours!' I'd say it's pretty accurate - and as ever, having a mindfulness of sustainability and environmental impact, you can knit with a sound mind.
The knit? It claims to be intermediate, but as long as you can knit and purl, increase and decrease - you'll have this one down. There's some rib stitch for the edges (knit 1, purl 1) and a point where you have to put the body and sleeves piece onto a needle together so you can knit the neck across all sections and bring them together, but that really is it. Stocking stitch and a bit go shaping - sew it together - and done!
The feeling? I managed to get this completed within 54 hours - sleeping, socialising and Christmas celebrations included. The rush of seeing it developing and working through the balls of wool was thrilling (maybe I need more socialising?) - and for the size 2 (UK 10-12) I knitted, I was sent 6 balls and only used 5! - So, not only did I finish before I expected, I also had a whole ball to play with afterwards, which was useful, because I found it very hard to stop knitting at the pace I had done whilst attacking the jumper. A jumper detox ball, if you will. I finished this guy at 1am on Boxing Day morning - stuck it on, jumped on the sofa and danced a little on my own next the Christmas tree. Everyone else was already bed. Amazing. I'm already planning the next.
Then, on Boxing Day morning I knitted an amazing little hat in about 2 hours, and tried knitting bobbles for the first time (see next blog post) - but it shortly got lost on a night out with the girls (perhaps less socialising required hahaha).
And as soon as I have the funds, I will share what I can of it with you all by adding it to the stall stock! Until then, the Company of Crafters is always open if you need some assistance and have bought your own kit from their websites!
Thank you Wool and the Gang - you really made my Christmas.
I'm all about quick knits. I'm certain that for new crafters in particular, the ability to complete something and to see the development of a piece is super important. There's encouragement in being able to visualise an end point and magic when you see a textile develop and grow from your needles or crochet hook or in this case arms. That's not to say that the reward that comes from a detailed piece isn't very fulfilling, but starting off, getting a few pieces finished really builds confidence. Here I am trying to justify this addition into the shop, but let's face it, I've always wanted to try this - and now I have - and am very much looking to spreading the craze. Because, GIANT YARN BALLS!
So, how did I go about this? I took my 2kg yarn ball and I Googled. I often tell people on the stall to do the same. There's such a wealth of youtube videos and blogs out there, when you can find someone that speaks your language, it's a piece of cake. There's no denying, being able to knit was very useful in getting started very quickly, but I like to be reassured I'm about to embark in the right direction. I used this blog article from Wool Couture here. They sell beautiful merino arm knitting wool and was an initial port of call when I was trying to find a supplier. Instead I went with Woolly Mahoosive and their acrylic balls as a start. The acrylic yarn is more accessible price wise, whilst working out what the appetite is (£20 vs. £40 per kilo), it's also vegan friendly, though there's no denying, it doesn't have the same softness of merino!
So I cast on 16 stitches and got going. I'd recommend avoiding bulky jumpers for this one! I managed to get my blanket started and finished in an hour ('Have I Got News For You' and 'Would I Lie to You' - a fun filled Friday night in - though I wasn't able to reach my wine very easily!.. check out instagram for some silly time-lapse videos of the feat). I probably knitted it a little too tightly, a bit looser and the knit would have been more even, but we live and learn. It was quick and arriving at a pink blanket about 110 x 90cm in such a little time was super rewarding.
And it's not just blankets you can get done with these guys, it's an affordable way to make rugs, bed runners, big bags, pet beds, storage boxes - endless options! I'll be setting up some workshops soon so you can get a handle on it with some in-person assistance, so keep those eyes peeled!
Four beautiful colours available...
Last night I gave the Luca Pom Hat a go. It's the first Stitch and Story kit I've tried, but there's always a lot of interest on the stall, so as sample for people to see and feel is a must!
It's got everything you need to complete the hat. The two 100% merino wools (also stocked in Grey with Pink), beautiful bamboo needles and both basic knitting instructions (for which there are also online guides too) and the pattern for the hat.
I sat in front of the tv and must have completed it in 2-3 hours. My little kittens were enchanted by the wool, which was a little distracting, but it was lovely to see the detailing of the hat emerge as the patterns came together - and being such a short knit definitely gave a sense of accomplishment quickly!
Great for beginners, this only uses knits and purl stitches, but in combinations that create the ribbing and the swirl pattern on the main bit of the hat, which feels pretty fancy to have created - and with being on big straight needles, it's much simpler for a beginner than a knit on round needles.
All in all, a big old recommend for me. I think I made my pom pom a little small, but thankfully there's more wool to give it another try - and having worked with t-shirt yarn for a month of so now, the soft merino was dreamy. If you don't see it on the stall, it's because it's made it's way into my private stash - if I wear it, it'll still count right?
Click here to buy the kit for £35