The Ivy-Covered Camera Knitted Camera Strap That Sneaked In Ahead Of The Post About Crocheted Christmas Decorations

I know, I know, I said the crochet paper chains were coming next, but this post sort of barged in front. How very rude! Apologies on its behalf – it was badly brought up and has no manners.

So, have a seat and tell me, are you ready for Christmas? You are? Ooh, you’re well ahead of me – I’m so disorganised. I’ve got a good present idea, though, that you could knit for the photographer in your life. Or maybe you’re keen on photography y’self, in which case you might be able to use one of these for your camera. Look! Pretty, no?

It's quite hard to take a photo of one's camera. What do you use to take it? Hmmm. I was almost reduced to drawing a quick sketch instead...

It’s quite hard to take a photo of one’s camera. What do you use to take it? Hmmm. I was almost reduced to drawing a quick sketch instead…

The thing is, the straps that come with digital SLR cameras these days are a bit uncomfortable, and they’re not exactly beautiful. Time to do summat about this, methinks. What I’ve designed is a stranded cover for the wide part of the strap. And having figured out the basics, I was staring out of the window, pencil in hand, wondering what sort of pattern should be on the strap, when my idle gaze fell on the blimmin’ ivy sprawling up our garden fence. Must do something about that wretched ivy, I thought. So I did. I put it on the camera strap. Ha! That’ll learn it – I bet it’s scared, now. And for the other side of the strap, I doodled a happy, abstract pattern. If you want to create your own design for this pattern, I’ve got some tips here. Being a stranded design, the resulting fabric feels quite thick, making for a nice comfortable strap.

photo 3

Would you like to make one? I’m happy to share the pattern, in exchange for a steaming mug of green tea, if you don’t mind popping the kettle on. Ooh, are those some biscuits? Don’t mind if I do….

First, some basics. The finished work in the photos measures 73×4.5cm, and should fit over the wide part of most standard straps (but the length can be adjusted for any model). It’s knitted in the round on double-pointed needles (DPNs).

Yarn: One ball of Rico Design Superba Poems, in ‘Tropic’. (Yarn ‘A’ in the pattern below.) One ball of Rico Design Bamboo Uni, in ‘Ecru’. (Yarn ‘B’.)

Needles: one set each of 3.0mm and 3.5mm DPNs.

Gauge: 30s, 42r to 10cm square in stockinette on 3mm needles. But really, I wouldn’t get too hung up on precise gauge for this project.

photo 2

Right, off we go!

Cast on 30s on 3mm needles in yarn A. Divide stitches between three DPNs as follows: 15s on first needle, 8s on second needle, and 7s on third needle. Join in round. Fetch tea, and some of your very very best biscuits. Settle y’self in your comfiest chair, and put your feet up on a footstool…. or the dog…. or one of your children. You’re going to be here for a wee while, my friend.

Round 1: *K1P1. Repeat from * until end of round.

Rounds 2-18: As row 1, to create a band of 1×1 rib.

image

Round 19: Drop yarn A. Introduce yarn B and knit all stitches around. As you remove each 3.0mm needle, replace it with a 3.5mm needle, until you are working exclusively with the larger size.

Round 20: Drop yarn B. Pick up yarn A, and knit all stitches.

Round 21 onwards: Begin working from the bottom right of the pattern chart (which I’ll come to in a minute…), using the coloured yarn A for the background, and cream yarn B for the leaves and pattern details (marked as ‘X’s on the chart). Work in the round from right to left on every row of the chart, with the 15 stitches on the first needle being used for the whole of the ivy design panel, and the abstract pattern on the reverse being split between the needle with 8 stitches and the needle with 7 stitches. OK? Yeah? When you get to the top of the pattern chart, pour yourself some more tea and start again from the bottom. Continue until you’ve worked the length of the wide part of the strap. In my case, I worked just over 1 ½ repeats of the chart, but your camera strap might be a different length from my Canon.

Next round: Drop yarn B. Work a round in knit stitch with yarn A.

Next round: Drop yarn A. Work a round in knit stitch with yarn B. As you remove each needle, replace it with one of the smaller 3.0mm needles until you are just working on the smaller needles.

Next 18 rounds: *K1P1. Repeat from * around to create the second cuff in 1×1 rib.

Cast off. Weave in ends. Have y’self another biscuit.

Wash and block. All manner of unevenness and dodgy stitches will magically sort themselves out.

photo 4

And you’re done! See, it wasn’t that hard. Anyway, you need the chart to actually knit this, don’t you? So here it is! Ivy Camera Strap Cover (You might need to right-click on it to get it to open or save.)

Now, are there any more of those biscuits?

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Easy Crochet Christmas Decorations, Part One

Right, people, it’s crochet time. Hooks to the ready, my fine fearless friends. Mince pie, anyone? That’s it – do pass the plate round.

We’re getting properly festive here at the ‘Yarn. The tree is up. The Toddler Twinnage is over-excited. The Stoic Spouse is…. stoic. And there are decorations, especially the little trees, Santa, paper chains, wreaths, and candles that I knitted the other week. But now we’ve got our hooks all ready, it’d be a shame not to use them, so shall we make some crochet versions of all of these? Please say yes.

OK, let’s take it from the top. Here’s a very easy little crocheted Christmas tree. The method is exactly the same as for the knitted version. Find some lovely green DK (aka light worsted) yarn. I’m using Fyberspates Vivacious in ‘Deep Forest’, which is just about perfect for a subtly variegated, leafy effect. Look!

Easy Crochet Christmas Tree

Easy Crochet Christmas Tree

You’ll need to work a square in double crochet (US terminology, so that’s treble crochet here in the UK). With a hook sized to match your yarn, loosely chain between 15 and 22 stitches, depending on whether you want a smaller or larger tree. (I recommend making a variety of sizes if you’re working a little plantation of these trees.) Turn your work, chain 3, then work back working double crochets (US terms) into every stitch. Repeat until you’ve worked a beautiful square. Woah, you’re ahead of me! Look, I’ve only got this far:-

a in progress w

When you’re done, enjoy a mug of lovely mulled wine. Aaahhhhhhhhhhhh. :-)

Now for the making up. Follow the directions exactly as for the knitted version. In short, fold the square nearly-but-not-quite in half, as in this photo. It really won’t work well if you fold it completely in half, so it does need to be like this:-

a1

Roll the tree up from one side across to the other, using the long tails to sew up the base and a curved seam up the back from bottom to top. You’ll need a smidgeon of toy stuffing to bulk out the top part of the tree.

a sewing up w

So far, so good, but isn’t it just begging for a few decorations? As before, I’m using tiny metallic pipe cleaners for tinsel and to shape the star on top, and metallic beads for baubles. But feel free to go for it with the sequins and the glitter, too. Express your inner bling, people. :-) Quick tip: if you stick the ends of the pipe cleaners into the crocheted fabric, they should stay pretty still without having to sew them. Easy, no? Hurrah! Here’s the finished tree, standing slightly aloof from its knitted colleagues:-

Knitted And Crochet Christmas Trees

Knitted And Crochet Christmas Trees

Now, one more easy-peasy crochet make for today, and then we’ll leave the crochet paper chains and wreaths for my next post, OK?

So, here’s a very quick and simple candle. It’s even easier than the Christmas tree. First, you need to crochet a rectangle in pale cream yarn. You can use any thickness of yarn and you can use either single crochet or double crochet stitches (US crochet terms). In the example below, I’ve worked double crochets in chunky yarn, which gives quite an uneven surface, but if you want a very smooth, realistic surface you could use quite thin yarn in single crochet stitches.

a candle w

Now, how big a rectangle to make? Well, the example in the photograph was made from a rectangle 24cm wide and 12cm high. So perhaps start with that, and then vary the size any way you like. (I wouldn’t recommend attempting a tall narrow candle, though, unless you want to reinforce it with wire.) I rolled up the rectangle loosely from the side, and sewed it down the back using the cast off tail of yarn. Making the wick is easy. Take a narrow metallic pipe cleaner. Leave a 2cm end to poke into the candle, then bend round to make a little circle for the centre of the flame, then twist round again to make a bigger loop that you can pinch at the top to form the tip of the flame. Cut the pipe cleaner so that both ends have 2cm spare. Twist the two ends together and poke them into the crocheted fabric. And you’re done!!

Would you like another mince pie? Oh…. they seem to have all gone. I don’t know how that happened… Um…

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Winter Knitting

A small quiet post for a cold, cold December evening. Come sit here beside the fire and tell me honestly what you think of these fat green olives. Oh, and do have a dribble of rioja, too.

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We’ve been hunkering down for winter here at the brewery, a statement that I appreciate will sound faintly ludicrous to those of you blessed/cursed with proper winters. In my defence, all I can offer is this: ice-on-the-inside-of-the-windows. Not now, obviously, but sometimes. Time, I think, to head off to the welcoming warmth of the pub:-

image

Notice the Stoic Spouse’s iron grip on his pint, there. Ain’t nobody gonna steal his beer.

Anyway ( <– a word so vastly over-used on this site that it should be taxed at source), I’m properly cheery that so many people enjoyed the easy-to-knit Christmas decorations here, here, and here. Let’s not mention the penguin. Thank you to those kind people who emailed pictures of your creations, and do feel free to share them with a happy wider audience on the ‘Yarn’s Facebook page. Newsflash: crochet versions of the patterns will be revealed very shortly…

Meanwhile, Carole Beck has written an article for the Tesco website about easy-peasy Christmas crafts for children, and look whose work is described and pictured on page one (and page four)! It made me smile from ear to ear, I tell you.

Oh, and whilst I’m prancing round this post showing off like a post-bedtime five-year-old on a sugar rush, may I show you this little snippet from Let’s Knit magazine?

Excerpt from Let's Knit magazine

Excerpt from Let’s Knit magazine

That reminds me…. Look out for a shortly forthcoming article on the Let’s Knit blog, to be appearing just as soon as I’ve finished knitting this:-

image

Yup, I’m back to designing and knitting stranded patterns. Honestly, people, it’s like coming home.

Wishing you a week of peaceful, happy knitting and crochet.

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Book Review: James Norbury, The Penguin Knitting Book

It began with a postcard.

I’ve always loved the traditional Penguin paperback covers, and I have a lovely box of postcards of some of the old covers, and often choose one to include in parcels or notes to friends. (It’s getting tricky though, now I’ve used up the uncontroversial ones. I always find the most deeply inappropriate cards when I’m looking – I suspect that sending Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own with a birthday gift to a divorcing friend would not be clever, nor would sending De Vries’ The Tunnel Of Love as a thank you card to an elderly male neighbour.)

One card that I’d kept back was the cover of James Norbury’s The Penguin Knitting Book, originally published in 1957. Feeling curious, I searched online for a real copy earlier this year, but the prices made my eyes water – and it’s hard to knit with watery eyes, so I had to stop looking. But a random whinge on the Yarn’s Facebook page about my chances of reading this book any time soon prompted Golden Michele Mulkey to respond that the book was now re-issued and available. (Thank you GMM, wherever you are. :-) ) Wa-hey with a capital ‘Wa’! And in small paperback format, it was looking pretty darn affordable. My poor beleaguered credit card already knew that the game was up, and slipped itself out of my purse with a gloomy sigh.

Looooook!

James Norbury - The Penguin Knitting Book

James Norbury – The Penguin Knitting Book

So I thought I’d give you a review of the book, because it’s interesting and frankly, you might love it or hate it. Want to know which camp you’re likely to fall into? Read on.

First, some background. James Norbury was the Arne and Carlos of his time, the 1950s’ version of a celebrity knitter who brought out books to support his TV show. Plus ça change. History doesn’t record whether he flitted around the world knitting for adoring audiences and being generally fabulous, but he ought to have done. I wish I could have seen him in action, but he died in 1972, and I can’t find footage from any of his TV appearances online.

As you might expect from a book of that era, words are more plentiful than pictures, so the actual technicalities, the ins-and-outs of knitting, so to speak, occupy relatively few pages. Norbury was a man of strong opinions, mind. There was apparently a correct tension that one must master. Care of one’s knitwear was a subject particularly close to his heart, and he bemoaned having “shuddered” at “cardigans hanging from an ordinary hook behind a door”, or jumpers “flung across a chair”. Flung! Flung, I tell you! One can almost picture him clasping a hand to his brow in despair, before taking to his bed for a week with nervous exhaustion.

Anyway, having got that out of the way in the first 66 pages, what, you can almost hear Norbury pondering to himself as he sat in his favourite winged armchair smoking a pipe, fountain pen in hand, was he going to write about for the remaining 200 or so pages?

His answer was patterns, of course, a wide range of them for all ages with a few homewares thrown in, some of which are figure-flatteringly elegant and which would still work up nicely for anyone who loves a vintage knit, and some of which are probably best bypassed with a nervous smile. Instructions are given for one, or occasionally three, sizes. I offered to make the “man’s continental slipover” for the Stoic Spouse, but the look he gave me said, “I know an unscrupulously ruthless divorce lawyer and I’m not afraid to use the Toddler Twinnage’s inheritance to pay her,” so I shut up. See, he’s not so stoical after all.

image

 

The best thing about this book, I think, is the section on the history of knitting. I read about ancient nomads working on simple knitting frames at a tension of 36 stitches per inch. Knitting was perfect for those ancient nomads, being so portable, and the colourwork that I love and which long-ago spread to Shetland, to Scandinavia, and worldwide, originated in the Arab world. A sample of Arabic stranded stockinette colourwork apparently still exists from somewhere between the 5th and 7th centuries: man, I’d love to see that knitting. What one can see, if you visit the V&A Museum in London, is socks. These Arabic socks were made somewhere between 300 and 499AD and given their state of preservation, have clearly never suffered being flung across a chair. Let’s gloss over the ancient Arabians’ lack of style: socks to be worn with sandals?! I shake my head in Norbury-like aesthetic despair.

Ancient Arabian socks. Photo: Robert Taylor.

Ancient Arabian socks. Photo: Robert Taylor.

Back in merry, plaguey, ol’ Blighty in the Middle Ages, we hit a golden age of knitted colourwork, and of (male) apprentices to the Knitting Guilds serving an apprenticeship of six years, half of which involved travelling around Europe studying with the masters of the craft. Before being admitted to the Guild and becoming Master Craftsmen themselves, they had to complete in 13 weeks a colourful knitted carpet incorporating flowers, leaves, birds and animals, plus a beret, a shirt, and a pair of hose with Spanish Clocks. People, if anything makes me want to undergo gender reassignment surgery and time-travel back a few hundred years (and very few things do), it’s this.

Anyway, if you’re a learner knitter and you want a how-to book, this probably isn’t the best place to start. If you want lots of colourful visuals, scurry elsewhere. But for both historical interest and interest in the historical, James Norbury is worth a look. Enjoy.

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More Unfeasibly Easy-To-Knit Christmas Decorations

Hmm, I never expected this knitting blog to embrace Christmas quite so enthusiastically (we’re talking kisses-on-both-cheeks-and-a-hug levels of enthusiasm, right now). But here is the third and last of my posts on ridiculously easy-to-knit Christmas decorations. And just to reassure all those tinsel-deniers out there, I’ll be back to normal by next post.

Continuing in the vein of festive decorative knits for beginners and children, and those who just want their decorative makes to be unchallenging, I give you, (i) knitted ‘paper’ chains, that’ll last a whole lot longer than those sticky paper ones you had as a child; (ii) knitted candles that are extremely unlikely to burn the house down, and (ii) knitted wreath decorations for your tree.

Righto, let’s start with how to knit a paper chain.

happy knitted paper chain

happy knitted paper chain

The knitting couldn’t be any simpler. You’ll need to knit strips that are 20cm wide and 4cm long. Your ball band will give you an idea of needle size and stitch number to achieve 10cm width – let’s not fuss about exact gauge, here – so just double the number of stitches to cast on your 20cm-wide strip. Knit every row until you’ve worked 4cm of knitting. Cast off. Pick another colour yarn and repeat the process… and again, and again. Obviously the process is quicker and easier if you’ve chosen some reasonably hefty yarn: I chose Vanna’s Choice.

strips for paper chain

strips for paper chain

Once you’ve got a decent number of strips, sew their ends up to make a chain. You can then decorate them with beads, sequins, or – if you’re especially deviant and determined to subvert the medium – toenail clippings. And you’re done! Hurrah!

chain links

chain links

What’s next? Oh yes, how to knit candles. Ahhhhh…. candles. An essential part of everyone’s Christmas, whose soft light forgives the bags under your eyes that were caused by staying up until 3am crocheting everyone’s blimmin’ presents. Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend you actually set fire to these candles, but they do look quite cute.

So, you’ll need to knit a square (if you want to make a thinnish candle), or a wide rectangle (if you want a squat, fat candle). This design looks quite good in off-white. I used Deramores Vintage Chunky, in Chalk, 25 stitches wide, 36 rows. Don’t go crazy with the number of rows, or you’ll have to reinforce it down the middle with wire, or a spare knitting needle.

The knitting was easy

The knitting was easy

Then roll your candle up, and sew its edge.

image

The ends will look something like this:-

image

Now, make a wick and a flame. The easiest way to do this is to take some thin metallic pipe-cleaners. I folded a dark purple one in half, leaving inch-long ends ready to stick down into the candle. Then I made a double-looped flame-shape with an orange pipe-cleaner, securing it into the folded purple wick before sticking the wick down into the centre of the top of the candle. Am I even slightly making sense? I do hope so.

And of course you can embellish and decorate your candle in any way you wish. :-)

finished candle

finished candle

Try displaying it in a candle stick or candle holder, potentially next to some knitted Christmas trees from a couple of posts back. ;-)

image63

…And finally, we arrive via an inefficiently meandering route at how to knit little wreath decorations for the Christmas tree. Now for this one, you, your child, or your own inner child can use a knitting nancy (aka a knitting doll), one with four pins on top. Alternatively you can work a 4-stitch i-cord on conventional needles. Choose some rich, green yarn and knit away! You’re aiming to make about 20cm. Then cast off. Take a 45-cm piece of wire and fold it in half. Insert the folded end into the end of your knitted tube and push it all the way through the length of the knitting. Then curve the whole thing round to make a ring, and join the wire together to make a circle. This should reinforce your wreath pretty well, just in case the cat sits on it. Cut away any excess wire, or use it to make a hook. Sew the two ends of the knitting together over the join in the wire. Now you need some decoration. A little bow of thin ribbon at the top can help conceal the join. In the example below, I wrapped a red metallic thin pipe-cleaner round and left it at that, but you can decorate with embroidery, beads, or sequins. See how pretty it is? See how easy?

easy knitted wreath

easy knitted wreath

Now, let me just remind you of a blogger who does Christmas properly, with a colourful Norwegian twist. :-)

Right, you sorted? Ready for Christmas? Ah, if only it were that simple…

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Knitted Father Christmas

What? What? More Christmas makes? Well… yes. Because now that the TheTwistedYarn has turned on the festive ideas tap, it just won’t stop dripping. Somebody call a plumber.

So, assuming that the easy-to-knit Christmas trees were on the favourable side of tolerable, here’s another easy decorative knit for Christmas. I’m deliberately creating the simplest, most beginner-oriented designs, involving nowt more taxing than a garter stitch square. And in case even that sounds daunting to complete beginners, let me make it clearer: you get to knit every stitch of every row. No purling. No fancy-schmancy through-the-back-loop, yarn-over, P37.6tog shenanigans. These projects are designed for beginners (children and adults), but more experienced knitters will enjoy adding extra embellishments. Or is it just me?

So let me introduce Father Christmas, bless his fluffy novelty-yarn socks:-

Father Christmas

Knitted Father Christmas

You ready? OK, let’s knit. Actually, the knitting is exactly the same as the knitting for the Christmas trees except, as your laser-sharp incisive mind might’ve guessed, in red rather than green. I used Vanna’s Choice in Cranberry.

If memory serves (which it rarely does these days, the rotten scoundrel), I cast on 25 stitches on 5.5mm needles, and I knitted until I’d achieved a perfect square. That done, you need to fold, roll, stuff, and sew your square, exactly as described in the Christmas trees post. Then pause for a leisurely sip of mulled wine, toss another log on the fire, and continue. Your cone should look like this:-

knitted cone

knitted cone

Bend the tip of the cone over, to imply a certain rakish floppiness in Santa’s hat. Now, perspicacious people, you’ll have already noticed from the photo above that white sparkly pipecleaners are useful in this endeavour, so wrap one around the base of your Santa, and another one about two thirds of the way up to imply the base of his hat, and then wrap a third piece tightly several times before sewing it in place at the cone’s tip to make a pompom.

Here be pipe cleaners.

Here be pipe cleaners.

They can be fixed by sticking their ends into the knitted fabric, and strengthened by sewing in fine white thread.

Of course, you now need a face. The easiest solution is to cut a face-shape piece of cream or pale pink felt, but lacking such materials, I knitted a face in thin cream yarn, and sewed/glued it into place. But I’m weird like that. Pick up that red yarn again and knot a piece several times to make a nose, which you can then sew or glue into place.

Adding the nose.

Adding the nose. Yes, that’s a smidgeon of Toddler Twinnage in the background.

AAdd beads for eyes (or stick on drawn eyes as I’ve done). Glue on some cotton wool for a beard. Now for the arms. They’re optional, because complete beginners might not want the fuss. But I made Santa’s arms by working a three-stitch-wide i-cord. Having cast on, I knitted 5 rows, then cast off. I did a spot of sewing with black wool at the end of each arm, to imply a hand. Then I sewed the arms onto Santa’s sides. But I honestly wouldn’t have bothered with the arms if I’d been a complete beginner.

And there you have it. :-) Merry, er, not-yet-Christmas. :-) More next time. Christmas is nowhere near over at the brewery….

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Knitted Christmas Trees

Right, people. Just this once, I’m going to break the habit of a lifetime, and mention Christmas before mid-December. This really doesn’t fit with my miserable, curmudgeonly ol’ personality, but I have things to show you, pretty Christmassy things, and they won’t wait. Also, we normally have nine of us gathering here at our old brewery for Christmas, and my lack of prior festive organisation is impressing no-one.

So. Decorations. What are yours like? Obviously, you need some knitted or crocheted ornaments with which to adorn your beautiful home. There are gorgeous fairisle bauble patterns out there (Arne and Carlos, I’m looking at you), but this post is all about ideas that, (i) are so simple that even a child could make them, (ii) are quick, and (iii) dropped out of my leaky brain and onto this screen on a wet Wednesday afternoon.

There’ll be a ‘part two’ to this post, because this fearless first festive article covers just one thing: knitted Christmas trees. These chaps are super-easy to make, and you can either stand a small plantation of them on your mantelpiece, or hang them from ribbons. Look!

Easy Knitted Christmas Trees

Easy Knitted Christmas Trees

 

Would you like to make some of these? Yes? OK, first to the knitting. ‘Tis simple, my fine fibrous friends. Here are the instructions:-

Fetch some green yarn, DK or aran weight. I used Fyberspates Vivacious’s appropriately named ‘Deep Forest’, because the subtle shifts of green are delightfully leafy but honestly, use anything green. Grab some needles, 5.0 or 5.5 mm – no need to be strict about it.

Right, you – or the small but enthusiastic child beside you – are going to knit a simple square in garter stitch. See how simple this is?

It's a square. It's garter stitch. Really, it couldn't be much simpler.

It’s a square. It’s garter stitch. Really, it couldn’t be much simpler.

If you’re making a few of these, it’s best if they’re all slightly different sizes. So cast on a different number of stitches each time – anything between 20 and 35 stitches is fine. You’re aiming for squares of between 10 and 15 cm along each side.

image

Now, knit every row to create a nice garter stitch, until you’ve achieved a perfect square, then cast off, leaving a long tail. OK, you done? Was that not the simplest knit ever? Good. Now to roll up your little tree. First fold it not-quite-in-half, like this:-

image

And then begin to roll the blighter up. You’re aiming for approximately a cone shape, although it won’t look properly gorgeous until you’ve sewn it up. If it’s wriggly and recalcitrant and generally annoying, don’t worry, that’s normal at this stage. Here, have some cake.

You can choose how tightly your tree is wound at its base, according to whether you want a thin tree or a fat tree. For a thin tree, make a fairly tight coil, like the photo below, then sew through it a few times with the shorter tail of yarn.

The coiled base of a tree. Fairly thin, you'll note, oh arboreal connoisseurs.

The coiled base of a tree. Fairly thin you’ll note, oh arboreal connoisseurs.

For a wider tree base, curl it around more loosely, and sew a flap of the knitted fabric across the base. If you’re making a chunkier tree, you’ll need to push some stuffing into the base of the tree as well as into the rest of its height, but if you’re making a thin tree, then you’ll only need a smidgeon of toy stuffing near the top:-

Sewing Up

Sewing Up

 

Ah, that brings me on to the next part: sewing this critter up. Use the long tail of yarn to sew up your conical tree. Consider the shape you’re making as you work: it’s likely that the line you sew will be curved like this, but it’ll be at the back when you display your tree, so nobody will see:-

image35

 

Hurrah! You’ve made the basic shape! Now, drag your children away from their electronic gizmos (if they haven’t already helped you with the knitting), and get them to help you stick pretty things on the tree, such as these:-

All The Pretty Things

All The Pretty Things

I recommend thin metallic pipe cleaners to look vaguely like tinsel. You can poke the ends into the tree to fix them. And sew metallic-looking beads on as pretend baubles, and sew a tiny sparkly pompom on top. You get the gist.

image37

 

Just go find your inner ten-year-old and make them pretty, people! And then it’s time to adorn your mantelpiece. (Yes, that is the knitted mandala picture beside the trees. I still haven’t moved it to its permanent home.)

www.thetwistedyarn.com 's knitted Christmas trees

http://www.thetwistedyarn.com ‘s knitted Christmas trees

And you’re done! Wa-hey! It really is that simple. Finally, may I respectfully direct you towards a real pro, who does festive makes properly, with a colourful twist from her native Norway: EclecticHomeAndLife. She also happens to be a ridiculously lovely person. :-) ‘Til next time, knitters. More is to come…

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Knit Faster! Knit Faster!

Ever felt as though you need to learn how to knit faster? Those afghans and skirts and scarves won’t finish themselves, y’know. Yes yes, I realize we’re doing this for fun not efficiency, but I’ve got so many pattern ideas – and so many of other people’s patterns – fizzing around in my head, and I want to knit/crochet them all, right now. Stamps foot, petulantly. Tell me that I’m not alone?

Just for context, I’ve always been an English-style knitter of the most inefficient kind, shamefully lifting my hand from the right needle to wrap the yarn, each and every stitch. Every. Single. Stitch. I do it pretty rapidly in the hope that nobody will notice but still, that’s not good, is it? I’ve tried flicking the yarn so that all fingers can remain on-duty at needle-HQ, as taught to me by Mother Twisted many years ago, but, well maybe I’ve got weird fingers but that never seemed to work. Anyway, I’m not going to tell you how few stitches I was knitting per minute, because you’d laugh at me. And then you’d catch your breath enough to say, ‘Really?‘ And then you’d laugh at me some more. By which time my meagre ego would be crushed. Crushed, I tell you.

So, what to do? A rapid brainstorm yielded the following options:-

1. Convince the Stoic Spouse to learn to knit, using a complex system of cheese-related inducements, thus potentially doubling household knitting output.

2. Learn to knit continental style.

Having made this short list, I glanced over at the Stoic Spouse, who was idly winkling gravel out of the sole of his shoe with the brass toasting fork*, and looking remarkably unlike any kind of fibre artist, so that left option 2.

Y’know, it was surprisingly easy to master continental knitting. It’s even easier if you’ve been knitting (and frogging) for a while, and have a decent grasp of the anatomy of a stitch. Instead of the “in, wrap, pull through, off” of English knitting, you hold your yarn in your left hand and use your right needle to reach in and scoop a loop of yarn then push the stitch off. That’s it! Wowsers! After a bit of practice, you can do it with negligible finger movements, and thus very very fast.

That said, of the two fastest knitters in the world (Miriam Tegels and Hazel Tindall), one knits continental-style and the other knits English, so it’s not all about the style per se, more about the smoothness and smallness and efficiency of movements.

After a couple of days of dodgy tension and wiggly fingers, I’d become respectably fast. YouTube is your friend, people, if you want to learn continental.

And whilst I’m busy humiliating myself in public I may as well add this: I broke my own cardinal knitting/crochet rule and paid dearly for it. Always practice new techniques on spare yarn, I say. Get your fibrous snarl-ups out of the way on the cheapest acrylic you can find, before you attempt to make an exquisite fairisle cushion cover of arctic qiviut for your best friend. Normally, I stick rigidly to this rule and it’s served me well. But this time, for some reason I can no longer recall but which may have involved grape-derived alcoholic beverages and overconfidence, I decided to learn continental knitting right in the middle of knitting a blanket for my friend’s baby. I know, I know, the very best outcome I could have hoped for was an unsightly shift in gauge. What I got was an ugly mish-mash of wildly fluctuating tension. *Sigh* Time to call on Mr Frog. :-( So I pulled out my needle, and re-inserted it about twenty rows back:-

Getting Ready To Meet Mr Frog

Getting Ready To Meet Mr Frog

and ripped and ripped and ripped. (Ouch.)

Ouch.

Ouch.

and didn’t come back until I’d properly mastered continental knitting on some scrappy old spare yarn of uncommon ghastliness, by which time I was getting respectably fast.

The trick to speed really is to keep those movements small. I keep all of my fingers very close to the needles. I know some knitters have the left index finger raised with the yarn around it, but I keep it on the needle, and that seems to help. And by pressing your left index finger against the needle/stitch, you can stretch the stitch enough to make it easy to reach through and scoop the loop with your right needle. image Just so you know, I finished the blanket. And the baby hasn’t even been born yet. image It’s a clever log cabin design by Sirdar, using some of the yarn from my Deramores prize. I just hope that the baby likes it, when he/she arrives in a few weeks’ time…

*Not really. He was actually baking an apple crumble, but that didn’t fit with my anecdote.

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The Crochet-Meets-Knitting Bag Pattern

Do you want to hear a story of some slight craziness? It is about knitting and crochet, honest. Yes? Well settle your good self on the sofa there, (oops, mind that Lego) and I’ll tell you. Green tea, anyone?

So, to stretch a short story long, yesterday was Mumsnet Blogfest in London, a rather fabulous annual celebration of blogging, with plenty of feisty independent thinkers/writers, plus an abundance of laughter, swearing, cake, and unlimited free gin. People I tell you, it’s like coming home. I was signed up to go, and to meet up with my lovely friend from the Telly And Travels blog.

All was calm until three days before the event. It was a chilly autumn afternoon, and I was lazily browsing in a craft shop with the Toddler Twinnage. And there, suddenly, was a large ball of yarn. It was grey and tweedy and unremarkable, but without warning it screamed at me, YOU-NEED-TO-BUY-ME-RIGHT-NOW-AND-SCAMPER,-NAY,-SPRINT,-HOME-TO-KNIT/CROCHET-A-CUSTOMISED-THETWISTEDYARN-BAG-WITH-A-LITTLE-POCKET-ON-THE-FRONT-FOR-THE-‘YARN’S-BUSINESS-CARDS,-ALL-READY-FOR-BLOGFEST.

Well, I was mightily taken aback by this outburst, I have to admit. I’m not used to being screamed at, except by toddlers. I glanced around to see whether anybody else had overheard these woolly words, but everyone in the shop was behaving normally (except for the Toddler Twinnage, who were pushing the boundaries of comedy by calling each other ‘Poo-head’ repeatedly then laughing hysterically). So, frowning, I turned back to look at the ball of grey yarn. It lay there, looking almost innocent, the beastly fiend. But it was too late, and the yarn knew it.

Beastly Shouty Yarn

Beastly Shouty Yarn

Readers, I bought that yarn.

Sigh.

That was the easy bit, the buying and the sighing.  The hard part was having only three days in which  to design and make and decorate the bag, three days during which I was also inconveniently encumbered by, y’know, real life. It wasn’t going to happen, was it? :-(

Well probably not, but that’s never stopped me before. Let’s just gloss over the ensuing few days, let’s speed past the caffeine-fuelled nocturnal hours of frenzied stitchery, the woeful neglect of building dens for the Toddler Twinnage, the failure to hold much of a conversation with the Stoic Spouse, and the frankly fairly hasty driving home from work to pick up my needles/hook.

What I envisioned was a shoulder bag with a stockinette knitted body (ie nice smooth surface on which to embroider the blog name), topped by a band of single crochet (US crochet terms), and wide single crochet shoulder straps. I’m quite excited by the design, because it combines both crafts, and because it looks OK and a bit different. I swatched carefully to do the maths of a smooth transition from crochet to knitting… which was all very well, but that didn’t solve the problem of how to make this beast in half a week.

I’m not a fast knitter and I’m definitely not a fast crocheter, but my fingers were such a frenzy of stitchery that I swear they’ve eroded to an inch shorter than their length this time last week.

I worked the chain-stitch embroidery with rather more speed than quality, I’m ashamed to say, although I did sew quick guidelines to ensure I wrote in a straight line. The probably not weird thing is, my handwriting in embroidery is completely different from my handwriting with a pen.

image

So did I finish the bag? Well, the night before Blogfest, I realized it was completely unrealistic… and then picked up my hook and started work on the first handle. Morning came too soon, and I sat waiting for the train towards Blogfest with crochet hook in hand.

Hooking Whilst Waiting For The Stupid-O'clock-In-The-Morning Service To London

Hooking Whilst Waiting For The Stupid-O’clock-In-The-Morning Service To London

By the very outskirts of London I’d finished the second handle and tidied up the embroidery. As we trundled through outer London, I made a crude pocket from a piece of felt and some gold embroidery thread that I found in the deepest depths of my handbag.

Quick! I've Only Got Five Minutes Of Train Left To Make A Pocket!

Quick! I’ve Only Got Five Minutes Of Train Left To Make A Pocket!

And by the time I was squidged into a London Underground carriage, I was improvising a small yellow flower. (This photo doesn’t do the train justice, as eight thousand people crowded in, the moment after I snapped this pic.)

Hooking On The Tube. So to speak.

Hooking On The Tube. So to speak.

Just to ensure that I looked like a complete freak, I then stood in a quiet corner of King’s Cross station working away with an embroidery needle and sharp scissors to attach the flower to the bag. I fully expected to be arrested. And then at last, I put away my sewing gear, and popped some business cards in the pocket of the bag. With minutes to spare before Blogfest opened, the job was DONE!

The bag. Embroidery imperfect owing to extreme haste of sewing.

The bag. Embroidery imperfect owing to extreme haste of sewing.

So, do you want to know how to make a bag like this? (Obviously, you don’t have to embroider TheTwistedYarn.com on yours. ;-) ) It’s quite a flexible design, which would work well with different colours used for the knitted and crochet sections, and maybe some more elaborate decoration on the knitted section.

HOW TO MAKE THE CROCHET-MEETS-KNITTING BAG

I used an aran-weight yarn, Hayfield Bonus Aran Tweed.

Gauge: 24 rows x 18st = 10x10cm in stockinette. But hey, it’s a bag: you don’t need to be too precise. The finished bag measures 42cm wide by 37cm high, excluding handles.

Needle: 5mm (USA: 8). I used a circular needle (80cm length).

Hook: 5mm (USA: H/8).

Using long-tail cast-on, cast on 144 stitches. Join in the round, placing a stitch marker at the start of the round.

Work 70 rounds in knit stitch, to create stockinette.

Purl 1 round. (This makes a nice transition from knitting to crochet.)

You will now crochet the stitches, removing them one by one from the knitting needle to crochet them. Weird, I know, but it works. Take the first knit stitch and CH2. Then single-crochet (US crochet terms used here, so that would be double-crochet in UK terminology) 4 stitches. Work a decrease single-crochet from the next two stitches. *SC 5 stitches. Then work a decrease SC to combine the next 2 stitches. Repeat from * until the end of the round. In other words, for every set of 7 knit stitches, you SC 5, then SC the last 2 together. You should now have 124 stitches in your finished round of crochet.

Work another 10 rounds in SC (or UK DC). (No decreases.) Begin each round with a CH2 into the first stitch.

Pull through and break the yarn.

If you want to embroider a design on the knit part of the bag, do so now. :-)

Turn the tube of fabric that you’ve created inside-out and sew or crochet the bottom edge closed. Turn the bag the right way round again.

To make the handles: Lay the bag out flat. Measure 6cm in from the left edge of the top on the front. Join yarn here. Ch2. Then work one SC into each of the next 9 stitches, ie you’re working towards the centre of the bag. (10st.)

*Turn your work. Ch2. SC9. Repeat from * 60 times.

You have now reached the end of the first handle. Use slip stitches to attach this end to the bag, so that it is symmetrical with the first end, ie its right hand side is 6cm from the right hand edge of the bag.

Turn the bag over and make another handle for the back.

You have finished. :-) Now go find some stuff to put in your lovely bag.

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Scrawlin’ The Scrawl

Hunched up against the howling autumn gales, I’ve been knitting. A lot. This will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody who knows me at all.

I’ve been keeping one project semi-secret until now, because I’m writing up the pattern for you, and because I’ll probably initially be putting the blimmin’ thing ‘out there’ via a guest post I’ve got coming up soon on the Deramores blog. (But don’t disappear: the free pattern will also appear here, too.)

Anyway, the idea came from a simple question: what happens when you cross a scarf with a shawl? And the answer is this. (But what to call it? A scrawl? A sharf? I’m liking scrawl so far, but I’m odd like that…)

The Scrawl

The Scrawl

The shape was intended to provide the wearability of a scarf, combined with the sloping sides and substantial shape of a shawl. I added a fringe to each end to emphasize the waterfall-like cascade of the ends. The sloping sides also mean that the ends of the scarf aren’t too thick – I’m not a fan of cramming acres of thick scarfy fabric inside my coat.

image

The design owes a tiny bit to this picture in the front of a book, which made me think of painting colour into the world with yarn, which is pretty much the core of what this blog is about:-

Colour Knitting Techniques - Margaret Radcliffe

Colour Knitting Techniques – Margaret Radcliffe

Now, for the bad news, for anyone planning to knit one: it’s all done in 1×1 rib. Mad, you might think. But I wanted the stripes to be perfect on both sides. You’ve got enough to deal with in your life without worrying about whether your scarf shawl scrawl is the right way round. Also, ribbing is thick and stretchy: perfect for a scrawl, no?

Look: the stripes are neat on both sides of the scarf!

Look: the stripes are neat on both sides of the scrawl!

I made a prototype in Katia Azteca, a soft aran-weight ombre feast of colour, and chucked in a sneaky blue stripe, just to be sure:-

image

And I checked technical aspects of the final pattern using swatches:-

Swatching For Details

Swatching For Details

And then I lined up some balls of a beautifully-shaded wool-alpaca blend, ready to knit. (Lima by Bergère de France, in case you’re interested.)

All The Colours. :-)

All The Colours. :-)

And started to knit. Here’s the result:-

The Scrawl

The Scrawl

Now, I’ll be writing up the pattern very shortly, free for y’all, because I love the people I’ve met and ‘met’ through blogging, and I want to give something back. The pattern might be a little different from patterns that you’re used to, in that for some parts you’ll be able to choose between the ‘doing it properly’ instructions and the ‘fudging it’ instructions.

But rest assured, it’ll be just as bonkers as anything else you’ve ever seen at the Twisted Yarn. :-)

image

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