Knitting Equipment – Part 2 for Established Knitters

Because you can never have enough things for knitting!

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I’ve talked about the basics, but knitter’s acquire tools as easily as yarn. Well, maybe not quite that easily!

What do more advanced knitter’s find useful? As I spoke about in my previous post, it depends on what area of expertise you focus on, though there are a few general things too. I’ve shown some examples for the first two points from Etsy – there is so much choice on there for knitting accessories!

1. Yarn Bowl

Something I have yet to purchase, although I’m not sure that will take long after this post. Yarn bowls come in all shapes and sizes, and are designed to keep that pesky ball of yarn from rolling all over the place. Holes in the bowl allow you to thread your yarn through, and you’re good to go! A solid base is helpful to keep the bowl in place, and you want to make sure the holes are as smooth as possible, especially if it’s made of wood. Even the slightest rough patch will cause your yarn to catch. Here’s a few examples:

This cute bowl by Lochbroompottery with hare’s in the middle.

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This foxy bowl by Barruntando

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And this typographic bowl by LittleWrenPottery

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2. Knitting Markers

These come up in lots of patterns to help you pin point a particular spot in your knitting, and can be very useful for complicated patterns. They also come in all sorts of shapes, you have your boring ring clips (which I have), but you can also get lots of lovely looking charms, which have the bonus of making your knitting look extra pretty.

Sea themed mermaid markers by TheMerinoMermaid

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A happy looking sheep by MyNeedleCrafts

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And of course Harry Potter markers by thimbleandthreadmake

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3. Stitch Holders

These come in most useful when knitting jumpers. They allow you to hold a section of knitting whilst you carry on with a separate part. They’re pretty basic, without much variation. If you don’t have them, I know a lot of people just thread through a scrap bit of yarn. Job done!

4. DPN’s

Double pointed needles are sold in sets of four or five, and are a  way of knitting in the round. People usually have a preference for either circular needles or DPN’s (look out for a post in the future comparing the two!). They are used for knitting socks, sleeves or hats, or anything else small that you want to knit in the round, and not seam the edges. The main annoyance I have with these is that the ends stick into your hands and they can be quite fiddly.

5. Circular Needles

These needles come in different lengths for different projects. You can buy interchangeable versions which saves buying needles of the same size, but with a different length. The only downside to this is that they can be pricey. The length is measured from tip to tip, and if you have a needle that is longer than you need, you can use a technique called the Magic Loop method which can come in very useful!

So thats a quick break down of some equipment you might use. If I can find anything specialised or particularly unusual I may do another post! If you have any questions, just let me know.

What to Knit in Summer

When it’s too warm to be dealing with chunky yarn, try some of these ideas instead!

Nearly the end of May, and we are definitely getting into the summer season – not that the British summer lives up to the name. Even so, knitting is not really associated with this time of year. You can’t really get excited about cosy cables and chunky scarves when it’s hot! But that’s the thing, there are plenty of designers out there creating beautifully light knits perfect for those summer days. Here I’ve put together a bit of inspiration and some tips to get you going.

Inspiration

Helmut Lang Spring 2013 Gem Davis Design
Helmut Lang Spring 2013

Acne Studios Marcy Moulin Basic sweater Gem Davis Design
Acne Studios Marcy Mouline
 

Springtide Poncho Anthropologie
Springtide Poncho Anthropologie
Grace Hamilton Jewellery - Gem Davis Blog
Jewellery by Grace Hamilton 
Top Tips
  1. Use cotton yarn – much more breathable and so it feels cooler to wear
  2. Try out some lace patterns, all those holes will let the breeze through!
  3. Make some smaller projects, like accessories, so they don’t feel heavy in your hands
  4. Be wary of white yarn – I’ve had to unknit and discard some white yarn as it got stained from the suncream left on my hands!
Patterns

Odele Top by Amy Christoffers

Odele Top by Amy Christoffers - Gem Davis Blog

 

Nyanen Tee by Cecily Glowik MacDonald 

Nyanen Tee by Cecily Glowik MacDonald - Gem Davis Blog

Sheer Top by Rowan

Sheer Top by Rowan - Gem Davis Blog

 

Abricot by Rachel Coopey

Abricot by Rachel Coopey

So hopefully that’s given you some inspiration for the coming months! 

Essential Equipment for Beginner Knitters

What do you really need to learn to knit?

If you’re new to the world of knitting, then the equipment you need might seem a bit daunting – what do you actually need? What brand should you choose? Even if you’re a well seasoned knitter it can be confusing!

Before I learnt how to knit, I wanted to check that I could actually perform this mystical looking art before spending out on equipment. So I grabbed some chopsticks, a scrap bit of yarn and sat down with a youtube video (you can see the result here). So you really can knit with the bare essentials! The equipment you need really depends on the type of knitting you’ll do. So if you had to narrow it down, what do you really need to learn to knit? If you’re a more experienced knitter, look out for future posts building on the equipment list.

 

Knitting Needles - Equipment for beginner knitters - Gem Davis Design

1. Needles

Can’t go far without these. But which ones? If you’re a complete beginner, then I would recommend 4mm straight needles. 4mm is the most common needle size used in patterns, particularly for DK yarn (double knitting – the most common yarn size) so it’s great for beginners. Then there’s the question of what type – metal, wooden or plastic? That depends on what you feel most comfortable with. I started with metal pony needles like these, as they are the easiest to find in shops. However I now find them quite hard to knit with. Different types of needles have different qualities, the slippery nature of metal needles makes it easier to slide yarn over the needle, which is good if you have a yarn that catches easily. They are also useful for knitting at small sizes, as the stronger material is unlikely to bend or break. On the downside, metal needles tend to be slightly heavier, and might be a bit hard on your hands if you have arthritis.

I use bamboo needles, so I can tell you more about those than the others. This also applies to other wooden needles – Wool and the Gang do a lovely set of rosewood needles. Bamboo needles are very light, which is great if your knitting is getting heavy! They’re smooth under the hand and not cold, which is one of the things I dislike about picking up metal needles. If you’re using a slippery yarn like cotton, it makes it much easier to control the yarn as the wood grips it better. They’re not so great at small sizes because they can get quite bendy, and break quite easily. Saying this, I’ve only broken one needle so far! (Touch wood).

I’ve never used plastic needles, and I haven’t seen many in the shops so I can’t tell you much about these!

 

Tape Measure - Equipment for beginner knitters - Gem Davis Design

2. Tape Measure

This is an item that you may well have already, but if not then you will definitely need one. They are not expensive and are often given away free with knitting magazines. You’ll want one that has both centimetres and inches on it, as different patterns will use different units.

Tape measures are needed to make sure you are knitting to the right size. Tension is measured in a 10x10cm or 4×4″ square. I’ve seen a square rule with the measurements around the edge which would be useful! But a simple tape measure is all you really need.

Continue reading “Essential Equipment for Beginner Knitters”

How to Block Knitting (if you don’t have all that fancy equipment)

Unless you’re blocking something everyday, you can make do it with what you already have.

I’m one of those lazy knitters. I don’t tend to block much (or swatch, but that’s a whole other issue…). The joy of finishing a project is just too much, I will always want to put it on and use it straight away. Now I’ve read that blocking only really works on projects made with some wool content, so as most of my knits have been made with acrylic I think I’m OK.

Due to this lack of blocking in my life, I don’t have any of the equipment for it. As with a lot of things however, I find you don’t need it. Unless perhaps you’re blocking knits all the time and fancy making life easier. I manage to get by just fine with things I already own.

What you need:
  • 2–3 towels
  • Pins
  • Tape measure (if you’re blocking a fitted garment that needs to be a certain size)
  • Mild shampoo or wool wash
  • Something to pin into

The amount of towels depends on the size of the knitting. One is needed to lay the item down to pin into, and the rest to dry it as much as possible before hand. The last point is your preference. I use a cutting mat to pin into, or you could use a piece of foam board, or even just the carpet, it works perfectly well.

Some people like to block their knits after seaming all the pieces together, this means that you have a good idea of the shape the garment is supposed to be, plus it’s done all in one go. Others prefer to block their knitted pieces separately before seaming together, having never done this I’m afraid I can’t say what the advantages are. If you prefer this method please let me know, I’m curious as to what you think!

Step One:

First you need to fill a sink or bowl with lukewarm water and add your choice of shampoo/wool wash. You don’t want to use hot water, as you’ll be in danger of felting the fabric – this happens when the fibres are rubbed together in hot water, causing them to stick together.

How to Block Knitting soak in water
Step Two:

Now add your knitting to the water, being careful not to move it around too much. Make sure it’s fully soaked and leave it in the water for around five minutes.

Step Three:

Once your knitting has finished soaking, drain the water and then rinse your garment with fresh water to get rid of any soap.

Step Four:

Get the towels ready! Carefully take your knitting out of the water and lay on a towel on the floor. To get rid of the excess water roll the towel up with the knitting inside, squeezing as you go. If there’s still a lot of water left over then repeat the process.

How to Block Knitting Pinning Down

Step Five:

Grab a dry towel and lay it over the mat or area of carpet where you’ll be blocking. Lay the garment down, and pull it into the right shape. Make sure the measurements match those of the pattern, and use pins to pin down tricky sections.

And you’re done! Now you just need to wait for it to dry. Good luck with your blocking, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! The pattern is my free bunny snood – get it here!

How to Block Knitting

Top 5 Tips for Finishing Projects

Small or large, these 5 top tips will help you finish!

Finishing projects. I don’t think I’m the only one with an issue with this, and I’m not just talking about knitters (I know most of you lot have far too many knits on the go at once!). I just find it hard to finish things. Even though that’s the best feeling, when you can be proud of what you achieved (and show it off!), something new is always more exciting. I’ve been pretty strict with myself recently however, I’ve ripped back all the knitting projects I’m not likely to finish. I now have just two on the go, one simple and one more intricate for variety.

So how can you combat this? Here’s five tips for finishing projects.

1. Set a deadline

You may already have one, if you’re making something for a specific event or for a client. Either way, this is the first rule in finishing things. Pick a reasonable amount of time, don’t pick something impossible as you’ll only feel disheartened if you can’t achieve it. On the other hand, don’t pick such a long length of time that you get lazy about it. You want this thing done!

2. Create action steps

This kind of ties in with the previous point. By breaking down your task, however simple or complicated it is, you are making it much more manageable and are more likely to finish. If you are knitting something then you could use the different sections in the pattern or go by length – say I’ll knit up to here by the end of the weekend. If it’s a more complicated project you’re doing, like designing your website, then choose small tasks and plan them out. Sometimes looking at the big picture isn’t the best idea.

3. Make time

Nobody has time, you’ve got to make space for it. Schedule in time for your projects and then stick to them. I like to write things down in a planner, but you’ve got to find a way that works for you because there’s no point writing everything down if you never look at it again. I know, it’s hard. We all have lapse moments. So make sure you plan for that as well, and give yourself an extra bit of time just in case, I know I’ve needed it a few times.

4. Keep motivated

There are some tasks that you just won’t want to do. Maybe you have to schedule a meeting and you feel nervous, or you might just not have the energy that day. This is when you need to take a break. It sounds counter-productive, and you’ve probably heard this elsewhere, but you need it. Your mind and body can’t keep pushing all the time, if you’re panicking, go for a walk. If you’re feeling un-motivated, check out an exhibition. Or, and this is for those of you who work on your own, give a friend a call or better yet go round to see them. This break in routine will leave you refreshed and in a better mind set to keep going. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself. Don’t of course use this excuse all the time, it’s a balance after all!

5. Don’t give up

You’re not a quitter. You can do this. Look at where you’ll be at the end, remember why you started. And don’t get too serious!