Holey cowl

….Just in time for our current lovely Springtime temperatures! Oh well blink and the weather changes here in England.  I’ll take it away with me to wear during chilly evenings, or for wearing by the sea if the wind blows. 

The yarn looks a different colour in every photo, it’s more red not raspberry. 

The apple blossom should flower soon. It’s so pretty. 

Details – as you might want to knit a holey cowl too? 

I used Louisa Harding Orielle – Ruby (colour no. 12) 

This is a gorgeous wool blend; with 97% baby alpaca and 3% metallic polyamide (can you see the little sparkles?) It’s as soft as a cloud and drapes beautifully. 

I used 4mm needles and sewed the seam at the end. Can you spot it in the second pic? I’m not sure how I managed such a neat job of it, but I did enjoy the sewing. It would knit well on circular needles too if you prefer seamless makes. 

I used 3 x 50g skeins but if you want a longer cowl or a narrower one, the amount would obviously differ. 

Height: 41cm/16″ (I wear mine doubled over, I don’t have the neck of a giraffe!)

Circumference: 61cm/24″ 

Cast on 72 stitches 

1-5 rows: Knit  

6th row: K1, *yo, k2tog and repeat to the penultimate stitch, k1

And repeat until it’s the right height for you. 

Easy! Good pub or cafe knitting if you have a crafty meet up ahead. 

Valentine’s heart patches


This is a sweet little patch. I intend to buy two blank craft cards and envelopes and attach a heart patch to each using double sided sticky tape. Do they still use that all the time on Blue Peter? I’m going to send them to two little-ish girls for a Valentine’s surprise.

Alternatively you could just knit two rectangles, swiss darn the heart (or one on both sides) and sew or crochet them together, to turn them into a little woolly pincushion or a pointless but cute woolly thing. You’ll probably have even better ideas. If you do, please share them!


Yarn: I knitted these with Stylecraft Special DK scraps, in parchment and did the swiss darning in raspberry. You can use any DK you have.

 
Needles: I used 3.5mm but use whatever you have or prefer. 4mm would work equally well and will still make a patch small enough to easily fit onto a card.

 
Pattern:
Knit a moss stitch border with stocking stitch as the main part of the patch

Cast on 20 stitches

Moss stitch for 2 rows:

Row 1: *k1, p1*and repeat * until the end

Row 2: *p1,k1* and repeat until the end

Stocking stitch with a moss stitch border for 8 rows

Row 3: k1, p1, k to last st, p1

Row 4: p1, k1, p to last stitch, k1

Repeat rows 3 & 4 6 more times.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 once

Cast off

Swiss darning/duplicate stitch: decorate the patch with a contrast yarn. See this video from Simple Stylish Knitting if you’re unsure about how to do swiss darning. It’s easy once you get into the rhythm of it. Sew in a good source of light, so you can see what you’re doing properly.

 Both of my hearts are slightly different from each other. The main thing is to start at the top, and do the middle stitches first. Make sure the bottom stitches line up with those at the top.  You can make the heart as wibbly or symmetrical as you like.

Simple Stylish Knitting – review

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a PR Company to ask if I would be interested in trying the first issue of a new knitting weekly magazine series, or park-work, published by De Agostini. I’ll always be honest in my write-up if I am sent a product to try, or asked to work with a company. After a few of my very ‘real’ past write-ups I’m quite surprised whenever I’m approached again; I aim to give a balanced view but as I try to be very truthful I will say if I find something lacking.

After having a look at Simple Stylish Knitting online I decided to give it whirl. In fact I hoped it might help to improve my own knitting skills. There are so many really talented knitters on Instagram, and seeing their beautiful work makes me want to move forward with my own.

Included in the email was this information, I found it interesting and have since read the full report: As knitting fast becomes the new ‘it’ hobby for young people, DeAgostini Publishing and University of Exeter Medical School have issued a report looking at the hobby’s health benefits to understand why so many youngsters are taking up the new skill.

In brief: A study of over 3,000 members of an online knitting community found:

* 82% felt ‘a little’ to ‘very happy’ after knitting

* Almost half (47%) indicated that it helped them think problems through, while over a third (37%) said it helped forget problems

* Nearly two-thirds (65%) reported an increase in confidence, while 86% felt an increase in belonging

A study conducted in an inpatient eating disorder unit found:

* 74% of participants reported distraction from eating disorder thoughts and feelings

* Nearly one-fifth (18%) said knitting prevented eating disorder behaviours altogether

* 74 % found it relaxing

I think this some of this will ring true for both knitters and crocheters, we know it makes us feel happy, calm and productive.

Looking at this photo I’m wondering if I threw the needle away with the packaging, ummm….

Each week there are two balls of yarn with the magazine. I was surprised they are 50% wool, 50% acrylic; they’re not the usual squeaky yacky magazine yarn. I partly learnt to crochet through buying crochet mags and the yarn was absolutely shocking quality. It also came in lurid colours! (See my early crochet pics here from 2011/2012 for evidence…)

The plan is that you knit two squares a week, which gives you the chance to learn many different stitches. I had a look on IG for pics tagged #simplestylishknitting and lots of people are knitting stitches I haven’t ever tried. At the end of the (90 issue!) series (I checked the online FAQS) you will have knitted a substantial throw, or alternatively you could buy fewer and build a collection of stitch swatches.

I spent a fair amount of time using the online stitch library, watching the knitting techniques videos. The mattress stitch video is the clearest I’ve ever seen. I thought it would be good to test how clear I found the instructions for a familiar technique. Another demo has given me Fair isle confidence. People mention 3 needle bind-off / cast off a lot and I had NO idea what that was, now I do. It’s the same with tinking though I realise I’ve always done it, I just didn’t know it was called that (did you know it’s the word ‘knit’ backwards?) If you do check out the videos look at the funky lime yarn and purple nail combo! Even the crochet hook matches.

Square number one was plain garter/knit stitch and that I definitely didn’t need to practise! So I knit number two which is stocking stitch, decorated with duplicate stitch/swiss darning. This is the first time I’ve tried it. I like it! The only thing I would say is that the stitch library video assumes you’re a right hander. I really can’t hold the sewing needle in my right hand or sew from the right, but I just did what I do with some crochet charts – I started in a stitch on the left, going into the legs of the stitch above from left to right.

I liked swiss darning so much that last night I designed a little woolly decoration to make a Valentine’s card! For this I used my KnitPro wooden needles. The magazine ones are a bit like knitting with those splintery chopsticks you get in cheapie Chinese restaurants, they do the job but are not luxurious.

Apart from the two squares a week there are patterns for other makes, the first issue includes: a mug cosy, pom-pom scarf, Mr Fox ipad case (which I love but would need to size up for my regular sized ipad.) Yarn requirements vary for the other patterns; so you’d need to buy more, or use your stash.

For complete beginners there is a full knitting know-how section at the back with very clear instructions and photos. One omission is that there’s no how-to hold your yarn photo. It’s only shown looped over the index finger, so it’s unclear how you would tension your knitting. Most people would automatically use Google, YouTube, websites etc or look it up in a book, but its inclusion would be useful in the magazine and also in the video stitch library.

For improvers like myself each pattern is written in the usual pattern short-hand, as well as with more detailed instructions given for a novice knitter.

The magazines are available in Supermarkets and newsagents, or back issues can be ordered through the website. In true part-work style the first issue is 99p, the second £1.99 and thereafter it’s £3.99, the p&p is free. E-copies are also available in digitally too.

And tomorrow I plan to join in with the Yarn Alongers. Is this turning into a post a day in February?!

Knitted cactus pin cushion

Inspired by a cactus pin cushion I spied in a craft shop in the Summer I decided to have a try at making my own version after my table got a bit scratched by my new pins the other week. They’re too long for my 20131111-102229.jpgpin cushion which I reckon would be termed ‘vintage’ now as the material dates from the 1970s. I’m wondering if these are really millinery pins?

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I glued a circle of felt to the bottom of the flowerpot so it wouldn’t scratch the table. I bought a new terracotta pot although you’d never know with all the glue marks I’ve left. At least I didn’t superglue my fingers together, though I did ruin the trousers I was wearing due to glue blobbage as it set firm in a plastic disc. Oops.

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There’s a lump of polystyrene at the bottom of the flowerpot, then some toy stuffing so the cactus sits at the right height. Next time I might try using rice or similar just because of the huge mess the polystyrene made (see photo on my Facebook page…) when I tried to saw a chunk from a piece I’ve been hoarding.

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How to knit a cactus

I used Stylecraft Special DK Meadow Green, with 4 mm needles.

Cast on 30 stitches for the main body of the cactus
Rows 1 & 2: Knit 2 rows of stocking stitch (that’s 1 row in knit stitch, the next row in purl stitch)
Row 3: Knit a row of garter stitch (that’s all knit stitch)
Repeat these 3 rows until you have a nice tube – check this by keeping the knitting on your needle and folding the rectangle in half until it’s the diameter you’re happy with.
Don’t cast off, just cut the thread leaving a length to thread a needle and gather up all 30 stitches tightly, fasten off securely and darn in the ends. That’s the top of your cactus.

Cast on 15 stitches for the ‘arm’ of the cactus (I probably need to look up cactus terminology?!)
Repeat the 3 row pattern, as for the body, until you’re happy with the tube you’ve made. As above, gather up the stitches and secure.

Crochet some earth!

FR: Chain 6, slip stitch into a circle.
R1: Treble 6-8 into the circle (depending on your tension)
R2: Chain 2, then DC into each treble of the previous round
R3: Chain 2, then DC into each DC of the previous round, increasing into every other stitch
R4: Chain 2, then DC into each DC of the previous round, increasing into every third stitch

Continue rows in the same way increasing into every fourth, then fifth, sixth stitch etc until the circle fits nicely into your pot.

Sew the arm onto the body of the cactus and then sew the cactus onto the earth circle (sounds New Age?!) Use superglue with care, sticking the sides of the earth circle to the pot.

Stab the cactus with an assortment of pins and darning needles until it’s suitably spiky.

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Here it is in use last night as I began preparing to sew a Cath Kidson pattern – a large tote bag.
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It’s an anniversary today – 2 years of The Little Room of Rachell. How time flies! When I look back I’m amazed at how much I’ve made, with lots of learning curves. I really didn’t think I’d still be blogging beyond learning to crochet, which was my goal for the New Year of 2012, but it’s been fun making crafty connections with others and sharing what I’m up to online diary style. So I carried on day by day, week by week without a plan. I just looked at my stats and this is my 305th post! Admittedly I’m rarely short of something to say, both here and in real life! Thank you for reading, especially if you’re part of the little band of followers who’ve been here since the beginning. And thank you for leaving so many great comments (2,374!) I always really appreciate it when you stop to type your thoughts, or respond positively to a post. As many of you know I often reply with an email, it’s been fab batting chatty messages back and forth.

The blog’s definitely evolved and is not solely crochet focused anymore. This year I’ve been dabbling in all sorts of crafts, although crochet is still a big part of how I spend my spare time. I joined a knitting group in the Autumn and find it far easier to crochet while I chat and get to know the group. I don’t have to look at what I’m doing all the time, and I always take something simple like the huge Granny Squares so there’s no counting or complicated pattern to follow. Several of the group are also both crocheters and knitters which is cool.  I have to say that it’s nice to watch someone else also wave a hook and a glass of wine around!

Have a fun New Year’s Eve! Enjoy reflecting on the past year and looking ahead with crafty resolutions, learning goals or just anticipating lots of creative fun to come in 2014. :-D xxxx