Lots of people start a new hobby or craft in the new year, here are some hints and tips to help you along the way…
Relax – Learning any new skill takes time and patience. Sitting comfortably with your shoulders dropped and your grip loosened will help you produce stitches loose enough to work into (without strangling the life out of the yarn) and stop you getting sore shoulders and arms. Once you find your comfortable position and way of holding the yarn, be consistent as it will show in your fabric.
Choose quality yarn and tools – The temptation when ‘only’ learning is to purchase inexpensive yarn and needles. Investing a little extra in a natural blend fibre such as King Cole Merino Blend and some needles that you enjoy the feel of will make all the difference to your finished pieces and the experience. Keep your yarn colour light and plain, you want to be able to see those newly formed stitches.
Yarn labels – Take some time to read the yarn labels, these hold a lot of information:
Suggested needle size 4mm or US 6
Recommended tension is 22 stitches and 28 rows which should measure 10 x 10cm
Yarn content 100% Premium Acrylic
Yardage (much yarn is in the ball) 158 yards or 145 metres
Ball weight 50g
Shade number 4061
Shade name Lilac
Buying yarn is not dissimilar to buying wallpaper. Yarn is dyed in large batches and given a dyelot number. Whilst the same dyeing process is the same variation in colour can occur across different batches. To avoid noticeable variation in colour, always buy all the yarn you require to finished a project from the same dyelot. We recommend buying a spare ball just in case! If disaster strikes and you find yourself having to use a different dyelot, use this yarn for places like cuffs, neckbands etc.
Care Instructions – this label says wash at 40C, do not iron, do not bleach, dry clean with any solvent and low heat tumble dry.
WASH – If dots or numbers are shown inside the “tub”, they indicate water temperatures.
PROFESSIONAL FABRIC CARE/DRY CLEANING
Not all needles are equal – Needles and hooks come in a variety of materials. Stainless steel are slippery and quicker to work with, but for many dropped stitches and loose stitches are an issue. They can also be a little cold and hard on the hands and therefore not great for those with arthritis or mobility issue in their hands.
Wooden needles offer a little more grip and warmth to the hands, but for some who holds them a little too highly, they have a tendency to bend or break!
Plastic coated needles are like Marmite, you either love them or hate them. They are warm to the touch and have plenty of grip. BUT they are often heavier than other needles and when working with synthetic fibres they have been known to squeak!
Learn to read your knitting – Spend some time examining your knitting. Identify the individual stitches and how they are made. Learn to spot the knit stitches and the purl stitches. This will help you count stitches, identify mistakes and fix them!
Swatching – You have already done this, no doubt when you first started out, you were producing squares or rectangles of fabric. Swatching is counting the number of stitches and rows you have in a 10cm square. This is a simplistic overview, you should wash and block your swatch before measuring it, but in essence it really is that simple. DO IT, when it comes to making things that fit, you will be glad this process is second nature.
Take a class – There are lots of online classes and if you are really lucky, classes at your LYS (Local Yarn Shop). These are an excellent way to learn new techniques. Find your local stockist here.
Join a knit and natter group – Knitters love to share their knowledge. If you are having difficulties with a pattern or technique there is sure to be a friendly face who can help and inspire you.
Free patterns – These are both a blessing and curse! Yes there are lots of high quality knitting and crochet patterns out there available for free. But there are FAR MORE lesser quality patterns that are full of mistakes and misleading instructions that have not been checked and corrected. As a new knitter you should avoid free patterns (unless they come recommended), these will sap your confidence. Spend a couple of pounds on a pattern that you can have confidence in and if needed request support for.
Always finish your row – Avoid putting your work down mid row (even if the cat has made off with your yarn, or the doorbell rings). In the early days it can be quite easy to think you know where you have left off, only to find later on that you turned mid row. Add a locking stitch marker to the front of your piece, if you need to put it down you can easily work out which is the front side.
Always join a new ball of yarn at the beginning of a row. The temptation to join mid row, rather than pulling back to the start of the row is great, Resist, you will be so glad you did!
Block your pieces, this really does make all the difference to your fabric, it relaxes and smooths out your stitches. It also makes sewing pieces together a breeze.
Keep notes! It’s much easier to remember which point in the pattern you got to if you have it written down. You can guess what happens; inevitably we get distracted and forget and wonder why the yarn is a different colour or the sleeves are different lengths.