Category Archives: Knitting

Prym Ergonomics Review

Sometimes an opportunity comes along at just the right moment.

Having posted the other day about visiting the Knitting and Crochet Guild archive, I was thinking a lot about the historical changes – or rather, lack of changes – in the tools that we use to work our yarn. And right when I was pondering the matter, the German company Prym contacted me to say, “S’cuse me Twisted, we’ve just revolutionized the design of the knitting needle. Would you care to take a nosey?”

Obviously, I said yes.

Let’s start with the facts. Prym has just this week brought out a new range of needles called Ergonomics. The clue is in the name: they went right back to the drawing board to try and figure out the perfect needle for your stitches. Many furrowed (knitted?) brows and many, many caffeine-fuelled hours later, they decided that they’d found the answer. Here’s the contents of the package that landed on my doorstep the other day:-

Shall we see what’s inside?

First and foremost, the folks at Prym came to the conclusion that the ideal knitting needle would have a little drop shape at its tip, to better catch stitches:-

Also, the central part of the shaft would be triangular in profile, and slightly narrower than the round portion near the ends. That’s tricky to show in a photograph:-

And they’d be made from ‘high performance synthetic material’ (erm, plastic?) which is flexible without breaking, and is also warm to the touch. Also, the straights could be clipped together, in order to prevent your stitches from wandering off-piste when your WIP is squished in the bottom of your handbag. Look!

Of course I put these needles to the test – the straights, and the DPNs – so that in true Twisted tradition, I can present you with the world’s most nerdy, nit-picketty review. And as I’ve oft said before, needle choice has a lot to do with personal preference, so there’s no point in anyone saying THESE NEEDLES ARE PERFECT, or THESE NEEDLES ARE TERRIBLE! I’ll try and give you an idea of what they’re like, so that you can decide whether or not they’d be right for you. OK?

So let’s cast on, and work a few rounds.

These are the 4mm (US size 6) double-pointeds in action. They’re light, and they’re warm, and I freakin’ love the bobbly nobble on the end – it’s ideal for grabbing hold of your yarn. That’s a genuinely splendid innovation.

One thing to note is that these needles are very grippy. Some of you will love this, some of you will hate it. I was quite slow knitting the Rowan Felted Tweed (pure wool) in these pictures, so I thought I’d change to some more slippery yarn to see whether that helped. Here’s some nice smooth green Rico Design cotton:-

Yup, that helped. Suddenly, I was knitting much faster.

There was another issue with tension, though, that I’m going to struggle to explain without sounding like a total needle nerd. If you look at the photo of the needle tips earlier in this post, you’ll see that the tapered section is quite long – longer than on any other needles I own. (And I own a lot of needles: the Stoic Spouse says you couldn’t find a haystack amongst my needles.) Now, it’s the widest portion of the needle that determines your loop size, and thus your gauge. This isn’t a problem if your needle reaches its greatest width fairly soon. But with these, I found that if I worked my stitches as normal, I was working them on the narrowed part of the needle, and so they were rather small, and very tight when I pushed them further along. Maybe I need to adjust my knitting style to match the needles. Maybe I need to get out more.

They’re handsome beasts, though:-

The design (including size) is printed on and not etched, and so like every other needle with printing along its length, this snazzy pattern is not going to stay put forever. Even after a few thousand stitches (albeit rather tight stitches!) the paintwork was starting to suffer:-

Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to use a needle gauge to check their size, despite the triangular profile, because the end sections are round like a conventional needle.

That reminds me: the triangular profile. This was easy to grip, especially in larger needles. And yes, these needles are very flexible. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t bring myself to try breaking one on your behalf. I just couldn’t.) But they certainly bend quite a bit without complaint. The 4mm DPNs almost felt too flexible, but maybe I’m just a violent knitter. I do wonder what the 3mm needles from the range would feel like, but I haven’t tried those.

Going bigger in size, the flexibility felt less worrying in the 6mm straights that I tried.

And have I mentioned that all of these needles are quiet? Seriously, they’re the quietest needles I’ve ever used. Maybe this doesn’t matter to you, but I’m writing as someone who’s sat through the twinnage’s music class trying desperately not to click-click-click as I knitted on metal or wood. They’re light, too.

So do I like them? Well, I’ll let my knitting tell you the answer, right here:-

Does that answer the question? They are slow, though, so I’ll save them for my slipperiest yarns. And the smaller-gauge DPNs did feel a wee bit too floppily-flexible for my personal preference.

Anyway, let’s talk about the range. As of this week, you can buy these pretties as straights and DPNs. In the summer, a range of circulars will be added. I like the sound of the circulars: the cord will be plastic-covered steel (exactly like some of the early 20th century needles at the Knitting and Crochet Guild: nothing is completely new!) and hopefully less annoyingly curly than some cords that I’ve encountered. Here are the sizes that you can buy right now:-

Straights:                           3-10mm (US sizes 2.5-15) in 35cm (14”).

3-12mm (US sizes 2.5-17) in 40cm (16”).

Double-pointed:               3-8mm (US sizes 2.5-11) in 20cm (8”).

These are relatively long needles. I’m not sure the DPNs need to be quite so long but again, maybe that’s just me.

They’re available throughout Europe. (Check the Prym website for your nearest stockist.) Those of you further afield will need to buy them from a European supplier, for now.

So should you throw your hard-earned cash in their direction? The droplet-shaped end really is rather fabulous. It’s hard to describe how wonderfully it engages with the yarn. If you like very grippy needles and if your gauge tends towards the loose, you’ll like ‘em. I think they’d particularly suit a beginner. Their warmth and flexibility is easy on the hands, too.

Go on, you know you want to.

Meanwhile, the folks at Prym have produced a video to show you more. It’s here:-

This post was sponsored by Viral Lab, but all opinions are my own. (Don’t look at me like that! How do you think I afford to buy all this yarn!)

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Fancy Another Free Pattern?

Fancy another free pattern? Yes?

OK, but before I reveal all, may I just thank you from the very bottom left corner of my heart for the generous comments that you left regarding the chair. However, I am deeply aggrieved that you’ve all sided with Stoic Spouse about whether or not anyone should sit in the thing.

The twinnage certainly can’t be kept away. Here’s one young man and his car park:-

In all the excitement of the chair, I didn’t get a chance to tell you about another project – one that you might actually want to make. Take a look at this cowl:-

Falling Leaves cowl stranded knitting free pattern

The design came about after I was contacted by Hobbycraft (the major UK craft store chain) and asked to design something for their website. That was last autumn. And with my usual combination of optimism and stupidity, I set to work designing an autumnal project… which was ready shortly after Christmas.

Falling Leaves cowl stranded knitting free pattern

So allow me to introduce the Falling Leaves cowl. The FREE pattern is published on the Hobbycraft website, right HERE.

Falling Leaves cowl stranded knitting free pattern

It’s a stranded knit, but because there are some crazy-long floats, I’ve suggested an alternative way of trapping them.

Falling Leaves cowl stranded knitting free pattern oak

Talking of cowls, Rainbow Junkie (love the name) has made a beautiful jewel-coloured version of my All That Jazz cowl. Her rather gorgeous version is here on her blog. I love it!

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Finished Object!

New year is a funny ol’ time, and I realize that folk have wildly different feelings about it.

If you’re one of those ultra-sorted people who takes their life to the existential gym five times a week for a thorough workout, and you’re ticking those life goals off the list faster than the ink will flow from your pen, then I’m sure you’re just fine-and-dandy on New Year’s Eve, and are up at midnight singing Auld Lang Syne with the best of ’em. (Maybe you even know all the words.)

Predictably, I’ve been knitting.

But if life isn’t yet quite in the Nobel-prize-winning position that you’d anticipated, then it’s all too easy to OD on cheap prosecco and get maudlin about how it’s “yet another year and I still haven’t won first prize for my onions in the village produce show,” which can lead to sitting in a dark corner at the party and despairing. I mean really, how does Mr W.M.M. Prendergast Esq. from Rose Cottage keep growing these award-winning monster scallions year after year? How?! They’re freaks of nature! I swear there must be some kind of doping irregularity going on. If I tried chopping one of those onions for dinner, I wouldn’t just get a bit tearful; I’d solve the whole Middle Eastern water shortage.

In fact, I’ve FINISHED the knitting.

But, hey, 1st January is just another day, as is the 2nd and the 3rd and the 4th. I sincerely hope that your 2017 will be filled with good things both large and small. And yarn. Lots and lots of squooshy yarn. Happy new year.

So did you stay up past midnight to see in the new year (just to check that it did actually arrive on time – like a really important Amazon delivery)? I headed to London with the Stoic Spouse and the twinnage, to a small party at the house of friends from undergrad days.

Naturally, I knitted on the way.

T’was fun. At five to midnight, we observed our many-years-old tradition and climbed the stairs to the very top of their house. From the attic room balcony, we waited for Big Ben’s midnight chime (via the radio), glasses of champagne ready in our shivering hands. As the new year arrived, we watched fireworks burst all across the London skyline. I know that a lot of people will be glad to see the back of 2016.

New Year's Eve fireworks over London

We attempted to sing Auld Lang Syne, but even though we’ve been doing this on and off for the best part of twenty years, none of us really knows the words, so we just hold hands with our arms crossed and sing, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, la la la la la la laaaaaaaaa. La la la la, la la la la, for the sake of auld lang syne.” I do realize that Google is a thing, and we should probably be doing better by now.

So I hope that your 2017 has started well. What’s happened round here so far is that I’ve finished my heavily modified version of the ‘Glitter Glam’ jumper. It’s come out OK:-

The pattern is from a recent issue of Simply Knitting magazine, and is listed right here on Ravelry. (Speaking of Simply Knitting, my latest column is out in the current issue. Feel free to go pester your newsagent for a copy. Obviously it’s a marvel of wit and erudition, this time about how deeply yarn/knitting have infiltrated the English language.)

Thanks to your wisdom, I kept it simple and worked the whole thing in stockinette as the variegation in the yarn is plenty complex enough. I also converted it to in-the-round, and added a bit of shaping at the waist. Yarn: Adriafil Knitcol in shade 49: ‘Picasso Fancy’. It’s warm, but it’s a teeny tiny bit itchy, so I’m going to rinse it with hair conditioner to smooth those fibres.

Happy knitting/crocheting, folks. 🙂

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Christmassing Inexpertly

It’s a tricky time here at Twisted Towers. Christmas has completely unexpectedly lumbered into view. I know that some of the wiser amongst you might argue that the fact it’s on the same date every single year does lend it a certain predictability, but I’m telling you, we’ve been caught totally off-guard.

home-made Christmas bauble decoration

Once upon a time (pre-children), I had time to design and paint silly decorations.

Also, we’re not very good at remembering to water the Christmas tree, so the poor thing is shedding needles so fast that we face gathering round a be-baubled Christmas stick on the big day to open our gifts. The twinnage are happy, though. (Don’t worry, we do remember to water/feed them.) They’ve sneaked off with some of the needles, plus the tiny wreathes that I knitted, and some baubles, to make tiny dinosaur egg nests, which I keep finding in obscure corners of the house. Full marks for creativity, boys.

Let’s hope that the catering arrangements are going rather better. The Stoic Spouse largely bans me from the cooker/oven on Christmas Day because – in his words – “If I left it to you, we’d be having cumin-roast turkey with spiced lentils for Christmas dinner. Probably at 10pm.” He does have a point. I do cook a huge tagine on Christmas Eve, though.

Some of my home-made decorations were a mischievous.

Today, I am finishing writing my Christmas cards, and feeling smug because I’m a day ahead of the last posting date. It’s ever-so-slightly tempting to write “Happy Christmas 2017” in them, thus skipping a year and instantly moving from last in the Great Christmas Card Race to FIRST PLACE (by about eleven months).

So I’m dealing with the chaos of Christmas in the same way that I deal with everything remotely challenging, by interspersing frenzied last-minute activity with picking up my knitting for “just one more row” and writing a blog post. That explains all this progress on the jumper, anyway. Here’s a sleeve:-

And on that note, I must go and finish the cards. Merry Christmas, my fine fibrous friends!

 

 

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The Voice Of Wisdom. (That’ll Be You.)

You were right, of course. All of you. That swatch was never going to work.

Thank you for your comments. Can you believe it, we had a near-unanimous consensus. That never happens online. What even is the point of the internet if you can’t damage your keyboard by violently punching out vitriol like HOW VERY DARE U IMPLY THAT MAGIC LOOP IS BETTER THAN DPNS!!!!!!!!! I HOPE MOTHS EAT YOUR MERINO AND THE CAT CHEWS YOUR NEEDLES!!!!!! You folks are way too sane and reasonable to be pootling about on the web.

Anyway, you spoke as one – or at least as only one-and-a-bit – and you were right. Yes, my plan to knit this fancy jumper (pronounced s-w-e-a-t-e-r outside these shores) in variegated yarn was a very bad plan indeed.

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I love the fitted, scoop-neck shape of it, though. And I love the luscious shades (with NO PINK – hurrah!) in this Adriafil Knitcol, so I’m keeping the form of the jumper but knitting it in stockinette. Oh, and I’m working most of it in the round to minimise purling, and adding the tiniest hint of shaping at the waist. What can possibly go wrong? (Don’t answer that, please. Let me live in my cheery, delusional, bubble for a wee while longer.)

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Obviously it would be a very bad idea to get caught up in knitting a new jumper this week, when there is so much else to do. Yeah, I’d never be weak-willed enough to do something like that. Oh, wait:-

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So, my friends, this jumper may turn out to be lovely, or it my turn out to be a disastrously shouty cacophony of colour, in which case I’ll just wear it around our freezing house to scare the spiders*/bailiffs/burglars.**

I’ve made jumpers in Adriafil Knitcol before: small ones, for the twinnage, and they were lovely (the jumpers, I mean, not the twinnage. The twinnage are monstrous.) Exhibit A of woolly delight:-

adriafil knitcol

…And travelling further back in time, Exhibit B:-

adriafil knitcol

But I had to wait (and wait) until the boys had grown out of all of those before making myself one, because wearing the same clothes as your children would be… well I’m not sure what it would be, but I think we can agree that it would not be indicative of a healthy family dynamic. That said, we’re not above wearing wellies-on-a-theme:-

Rainbow wellies

All of the twinnage’s Knitcol knitwear has now been outgrown and/or has felted when the washing machine broke down mid-cycle (which was NOT AT ALL infuriating, as you can imagine). So I’m free to wear Knitcol. Hurrah!

My headless friend would like to show you some progress:-

Am I mad to think that it might just work?

 

*Just had to Google ‘Do spiders have colour vision?’ after writing that. In case you’re interested, the chunky, lazy, ones hanging around in cobwebs on your ceiling waiting for lunch to come to them, don’t. If a spider tells you that it can see colours, run away now because it’s probably one of the more go-getting types of arachnid, such as a jumping spider. Also – and potentially of more concern – it spoke to you. It’ll be asking you how to access the World Wide Web, next.

**Actually, the twinnage have got that one covered, in their six-year-old style. A large notice has appeared on one of our upstairs doors, saying ‘Burglers [sic] are stoopid. And ther is an il dog in this hous’. Just for the record, we have never had a dog, ailing or otherwise. But the sign seems to be working, because we haven’t been burgled.

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Don’t Try This At Home, Folks…

YES! THE LOVELY, YARNY GIVEAWAY IS STILL OPEN FOR JUST A FEW MORE DAYS! ENTER HERE!

Meanwhile, would you like to make some super-easy Christmas decorations? See the links under the photos throughout this post.

easy knitted christmas trees free pattern

Christmas trees pattern HERE.

It has been brought to my attention by my children, as well as via the subtlest of hints on social media, that it’s nearly Christmas.

knitted christmas decoration candle easy free pattern

Knitted candle pattern HERE.

Now I realize that you and I may be sitting on opposite sides of the table regarding the matter, but personally I have a very strict routine for yuletide preparations. This comprises persistent denial – bordering on an ‘I’m too cool for all that’ attitude – until roughly the 15th December, followed by ten days of ‘AAAAARGH! PRESENTS! DECORATIONS! FOOD! CARDS! INVITATIONS! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH!’ hysteria, with precious time wasted as I try to extract a definitive answer from the Royal Mail about whether or not there’s any chance of them laying on a time-travelling postal service that will enable my Christmas cards to be delivered a week before they were actually sent, thus arriving at their destinations in time.

easy crochet christmas tree pattern

…And the crochet version, too. HERE!

By about the 20th, I reach a peak state of OK, I CONCEDE THAT YOU WERE RIGHT, ALL YOU SUPER-EARLY CHRISTMAS-PREPPERS. I BOW TO YOUR WISDOM AND SHALL ATTEMPT TO COPY YOU IN FUTURE. But the pain of Christmas preparation – just like the pain of childbirth – is eventually forgotten, and thus the sorry process of my procrastination repeats itself the following year.

crochet candle pattern

Crocheted candle, HERE!

Truly, I’m trying to change, but I’m constitutionally incapable of beginning any deadline-dependent task until the very last possible moment, and I always underestimate how much time will be needed. In my head, writing down a task on a to-do list constitutes 90% of the work of actually completing it, despite this belief having been proven wrong on many, many occasions.

knitted ‘paper’ chain HERE.

Fortunately, the Stoic Spouse is aware of my idiocy, and takes charge of the ahead-of-time tasks such as ordering the turkey, baking the Christmas cake, and telling the twinnage that no, Santa will not be able to bring either of them a live dinosaur, and no, it can’t possibly be true that George-at-school is getting a REAL LIVE T-REX AS A PET AND IT’S NOT FAIR THAT WE CAN’T HAVE ONE TOO, although if the Royal Mail does manage to establish a time-travelling delivery service then Mummy and Daddy might just reconsider the matter, but only if the twinnage both promise to eat up all of their brussels sprouts from now until the end of eternity.

Slightly crazy Santa, HERE.

Anyway.

It’s Christmas.

If you celebrate, I do hope that your preparations are going well. And if you haven’t started yet, do come and sit here beside me on the Naughty Bench.

Crochet 'paper' chain Christmas decoration

Crochet ‘paper’ chain Christmas decoration HERE.

Just in case you’re in the mood to knit or crochet some easy-to-make decorations, I’m scattering pictures and links to my free festive patterns throughout this post, just like Lego bricks sprinkled on a freshly-tidied sitting room floor. Don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time to finish making them before the big day.*

easy knitted christmas wreath pattern

And you’ll be needing a tiny knitted wreath, HERE.

Enjoy, and happy needling/hookery. If you need me, I’ll be under the table with a bottle of affordable-yet-astonishingly-quaffable red wine, frantically Googling ‘Last minute gifts for difficult-to-impress husbands’, even though Continue reading

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If Freud Were A Knitter

The very last thing that I should be doing right now is beginning a new piece of knitting, just for fun.

So… you can probably guess what I’m doing. If you’re familiar with the Freudian analytic terms, ‘superego’, ‘ego’, and ‘id’, my knitting is, right now, all id. To clarify: your superego is that irritating voice in your head that earnestly lectures you about the wisdom of washing and blocking your gauge swatches before you measure them. Yeah, I tell that voice to shut up, too, especially when it later murmurs ‘I told you so’ as you try to squeeze your full-ish frame into the micro-cardigan that you’ve ended up creating because your tension was way off. Nobody likes a smart-arse.

adriafil knitcol

Your id is the part of you that WANTS TO GO TO THE YARN SHOP RIGHT NOW AND BUY ALL THE PRETTIES, ALL OF THEM RIGHT NOW! Successful adulting mostly involves getting that voice to quieten down a little, because it’s 9.00 on Monday morning and you really ought to put in an appearance at your pesky head-of-nuclear-physics-for-NASA job, and anyway NASA doesn’t pay so well that you can buy ALL THE YARN, ALL OF IT! I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT NOW!

Sigh. If you have small children, then you’ll be very familiar with the operation of the id.

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Sitting awkwardly between these two extremists and wishing it could be somewhere else entirely, is the ego. That’s the voice that says ‘Look, just put in a few hours at your nuclear physics job, and then you can go and buy one – or possibly two – skeins of moderately-priced wool at the yarn shop, OK?

It’s generally a good thing if the ego gets a hefty amount of say in what happens, because the id will drain your bank account and alienate your friends, and the superego is that character that you really don’t want to get stuck next to at a party. So for a fully functioning ship, you should let the ego take the helm fairly often.

…So I’ve messed up, there. Here’s my new yarn. Adriafil Knitcol pure wool DK-weight, in case you’re wondering, purchased when I stupidly gave my id custody of my credit card for a while. And the reason for this yarn purchase? I was seduced by a jumper pattern in a knitting magazine.

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There are lots of jumper patterns that I can scroll right past, because they’re baggy and unflattering, especially in the sleeves. But this one looks nicely fitted. It’s in the current issue of Simply Knitting magazine, here in the UK.

The plan is to make it in this gorgeous variegated Adriafil Knitcol yarn, which may or may not work. I’m gauge swatching, (yeah I listen to my superego a bit, sometimes…) and I’m trying to work out whether the reverse stockinette ‘background’ to the pattern is going to look awful and messy in such shade-shifting yarn.

Hmm, that's not really working, is it?

Hmm, that’s not really working, is it?

Because of course in reverse stockinette, you’ve got all those purl bumps to contend with, which can look super-messy if they’re a different colour from their surroundings. Compare the picture above with the reverse of the swatch-in-progress.

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Hmm, I’m not sure whether this works. If it doesn’t, I’ll just have to find an alternative, right-side-stockinette pattern for the yarn, and rip out what I’ve done in order to begin again (she writes, as though ripping out a few hours’ work will hardly cause any emotional pain at all).

So, um, may I humbly ask for your opinion on this weighty matter please?

Also, don’t you think it’s time for a (worldwide) giveaway of beautiful, beautiful yarn with accompanying patterns? Yup, I thought so too. Stay tuned, people, because there’s one coming up within the next week or two. Hurrah!

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‘Head Over Heels’ Sock Yarn Review

See these?

head over heels stylecraft sock yarn review

These are happy feet.

If it weren’t for the fact that they’re pointing skywards, then they’d probably be dancing. Badly. So be glad that they’re safely away from the ground.

The reason for their joy is no doubt obvious. It involves some splendidly colourful new sock yarn. You may have heard already, but a few months ago, Stylecraft launched a range of 4-ply sock yarn called Head Over Heels. It’s 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon, and it comes in six different marvellously mountain-monikered colourways (Eiger, Everest, Fuji, Kilimanjaro, Matterhorn, and Olympus, in case you were wondering). In the photo above, the completed sock is Eiger (my personal favourite), and the sock-in-progress is Fuji.

picmonkey-collage

I was fortunate to be sent samples of both these shades earlier this year, but I held off posting about it because I wanted to thoroughly road-test the stuff before writing about it. The outcome? I like it. And so do my feet. I enjoyed the slow, leisurely shifts in colour.

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I knitted these socks (four of them, two in each colourway) everywhere, walking to collect the twinnage from school, and on trains and buses, and in the village pub. Socks-in-progress using yarn that does its own colour-changing thing make perfect out-and-about projects, because they’re much more discreet and portable than – say – an afghan. I still looked like an oddball knitting as I wandered the village, but at least I was a semi-discreet oddball.

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I brought the fourth-and-final sock to knit on the bus journey to collect my new car today (bye bye Stinkwagon!) This turned out to be a good thing, because the bus driver must have missed the bit of the training where they tell them to confine their driving mostly to the road, and instead he seemed to have just a little difficulty distinguishing between road and kerb/pavement/verge. The other project I’d brought with me was some complicated fair isle, which proved near-impossible on the top deck of a wildly-swaying double-decker bus. Top tip, people: don’t attempt complex knitting upstairs on a bus, especially when the driver is a bit reckless.

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A basic sock is just fine, however. In fact, the sock was such a good distraction during the more unnerving parts of the journey that I accidentally overshot with the foot section and have thus created a sock that would be absolutely perfect for a rather elegant giant who is possessed of extremely long but slender feet. Know anyone who’s like that? Me neither. Time to rip back a few rounds, I guess.

knitting on the tube

And I will knit them on a train, and I will knit them in the rain, and I will knit them on a bus, and I will knit without much fuss, and I will channel Dr Suess, and hope my knitting ain’t too loose.

That’s not the fault of the yarn, of course, so let’s get back to the review.

So as you can see, the stuff knits up nicely, and I didn’t come across a single knot. Yay! This is a personal thing, but I wish, wish, wish, that more lusciously variegated yarns would be made WITHOUT PINK! Why, why, why, does everything have to include blimmin’ pink?! Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. And yeah, I’m probably in the minority.

running and knitting in public

And I will knit whilst on a run, and I will knit out in the sun…

It’s reasonably soft, and being superwash, it’s pretty tolerant of your washing machine’s general grudge against all fabrics. As you can see from the images below, the length of the repeat varies between colourways, so you can find the yarn that best suits your project, whether you’re knitting socks or crocheting a shawl.

stylecraft head over heels sock yarn review

Images in this collage courtesy of Stylecraft.

  • Head Over Heels is available from major shops and online sellers, and comes in 100g balls. In the UK, it’s typically priced around £6.50-£7.00, so cheaper than many sock yarns.
  • Needle recommendation: 2.25mm-3.25mm.
  • 75% superwash wool, 25% nylon.
  • 100g = 400m.
  • Gauge: 28 stitches / 36 rows.
  • No, it’s not hand-dyed by eunuchs under the light of a full moon, BUT it’s way more affordable than eunuch-yarn could ever hope to be. And it’s soft.

So what are you waiting for?

log fire wine knitting hygge

 

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The Mindfulness In Knitting, A Book Review

It’s fairly rare for my day job (clinical psychologist) to collide with the knitting thing, but today a new book is published that spans both of these worlds, and I’ve been given the chance to review a copy. “Well if you absolutely insist,” I said. Actually, that last bit is a lie: I jumped at the chance. Allow me to introduce you to The Mindfulness In Knitting by Rachael Matthews, published TODAY by Leaping Hare Press.

The Mindfulness In Knitting Rachael Matthews review

It’s rather a beauty, don’t you think? Not that I’m superficial enough to judge a book by its cover…

Mindfulness – just in case you haven’t made its acquaintance – is a set of techniques derived from traditional Buddhist meditation. The purpose is to free oneself from angst about the future, the past, and the unknowable, by learning to tune in acutely to all of your senses in the present moment. (Melded with cognitive therapy, it’s created an approach that’s achieved a pretty impressive evidence base in treating recurrent depression amongst many other problems.) Mindfulness is mostly the brainchild of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a man who looks so uncannily like George W. Bush that it’s tricky to concentrate on anything he says because one is so busy marvelling at the resemblance. I once attended a ten-day conference-workshop with him, so I speak from experience.

But I digress.

This is no dry textbook, and I had to switch off my impatient day-job brain. It’s a series of reflections on the meaning of knitting, the purpose of knitting, the role of knitting, and the benefits of knitting. Reading each chapter (whilst knitting, of course) felt like a meditation on an aspect of our craft. The author hails primarily from a knitting and knit-activism background, rather than from a mindfulness/therapy background, but I can’t help respecting a woman who’s been thrown out of the bar of the Savoy for knitting.

The Mindfulness In Knitting Rachael Matthews review

The whole book feels like a peaceful space into which you can step at will to reflect on the significance of the stitches on your needles. Matthews recognizes that the process of knitting is particularly compatible with mindfulness. In her own words, “The utterly absorbing process of creating textiles provides us with an informal meditation space while connecting us with a heritage we cherish and ultimately a universe we understand.” And both knitting and mindfulness are increasingly recognized for their health benefits.

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The six chapters each address an aspect of the craft, considered mindfully. There are accompanying exercises designed to help you bring mindfulness deeper into your knitting, for example one contains a list of questions about the place that knitting occupies in your life right now. For me, these exercises were the least interesting part of the book, and I was far more absorbed when reading Matthew’s anecdotes and wisdom.

My favourite chapter is Knitting Circles And Craftivism, perhaps because Matthews’ background is rich with interesting experiences in this area. This section is a meditation on the implications, the politics, and the power of knitting in public, and knitting in groups – especially groups set up with the purpose of using knitting as a form of activism. Like the Yarn Harlot (Stephanie Pearl McPhee) before her, Matthews writes about the unifying nature of making textiles, irrespective of the makers’ origins. It’s true, though: I’ve met knitters of many ages and backgrounds, but whilst we’re knitting together, we’re sisters (or brothers) in yarn.

The Mindfulness In Knitting Rachael Matthews review

I enjoyed this book most when Matthews wove in anecdotes, material from history, and other information. Early on, she considers her relationship with our knitting forebears, and – further back in time – with the practitioners of naalbinding, a frustratingly slow precursor to knitting that tested even Matthews’ yarn-related patience when she gave it a try. As she says, “the knitting experience is as much about the occupation of mind as it is the working of fingers”. Too true, as anyone faced with the instruction to knit acres of monotonous garter stitch can attest.

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There were reflections, too, that caught my attention, for example about how “someone, somewhere was probably knitting with us in mind in the months leading up to our birth”. I wonder what that person was hoping, expecting, and dreaming. My mother is a knitter, my grandmother was a knitter, but I’m not sure what if anything they created in the weeks before I arrived. I was also drawn to the section on the complexities of knitting for others, how a gift can in fact be a weapon when it arrives, hideously inappropriate but with the firm expectation that it shall be worn and appreciated. Knitting for others is a minefield, and we’ve all probably got some horror stories from times when we’ve been the giver or the receiver. Matthews is wise in her unpicking of what exactly is going on when we give or receive a hand-knitted gift.

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I like this book. It’s not what I expected, but once I sat back, put my feet up, cast on, and lost myself in each of its six meditations, I enjoyed it very much. And since I finished reading, I think I’ve approached my works-in-progress in a more mindful way, thinking beyond the immediate demands of knit or purl.

The Mindfulness In Knitting, Meditations On Craft And Calm by Rachael Matthews, is published today by the Leaping Hare Press, hardback UK price £8.99, and is also published in Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asia. Enjoy.

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(Usual disclaimer: I did not pay for this book, but all opinions are my own.)

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So Who’s Won All These Beautiful KnitPro Needles?

Well goodness, an above-averagely-sized THANK YOU to all 270 of you who entered the KnitPro Royales needle review/giveaway before the gong sounded earlier today.* You left some lovely/funny/witty/kind/interesting comments with your entries, too.

knitpro royales knitters pride

And a great big woolly THANKS to KnitPro for providing the awesome prize. (I made cautious enquiries as to whether they’d be prepared to provide 270 prizes so that everyone could have one: they gave me a look that suggested I was pushing my luck.)

knitpro knitter's pride royales review

So there can be only one winner. As usual, I numbered all the entries before consulting the oracle that is random.org. And the result?

We have a winner!

We have a winner!

Do you recognize yourself in those digits? Well you should if you’re SUE MCDONALD. Congratulations Sue! YOU’VE WON!

I’ll be in touch within the next day or so to ask for your address, so that I can pass it on to the lovely folk at KnitPro. You’re going to love this prize. Happy knitting!

And thanks again to everyone else. If you’re in the UK, there’s still time to enter this giveaway. And don’t worry, there’ll be more competitions soon for everyone. Meanwhile, I’d better go and do some knitting after all that excitement…

knitpro knitter's pride royales review

∗Either here or on Facebook. Apologies for the vanishing Facebook post that caused some confusion. But I mopped up all your various entries from the various corners of the blog’s Facebook page and included them in the draw.

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