Ball Bands!

All yarn come with a band on them giving you invaluable information.  But do you know what it all means?

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Yarn weight and thickness – all yarn is categorised by how thick it is.  They vary from 0 to 6 and are shown on the band by an image of a ball of yarn with a number on it.  I will go into more detail about this scale in a later blog.

Yarnweight

Recommended needle size – this is by no means set in stone.  You do not have to use the needle size stated on the ball band.  This is just a guide to help you get the correct tension.

Tension – the tension is usually given as a square.  It will state how many stitches and how many rows will create a 4inch or 10cm square.  It is usually better to knit a swatch much bigger than this and to measure the tension in the middle.  I have written an earlier blog about tension squares.

tension square

Washing instructions – these will tell you if you have to hand wash garments made from this yarn or if they can be machine washed.  If they can go in the machine it will give you a guide temperature.

handwash wash temp

Drying instructions – some yarns will tell you if they can be tumble dried.  The symbol with a cross through it means it cannot go in the dryer.  The other symbols will tell you which setting.  One dot for low, two for medium and three for high.

tumble dry

Ironing instructions – you may be able to iron items made from some yarns.  A picture of an iron with a cross through it means you can’t, one dot means iron on low, two for medium and three for high.  Sometimes you will see a picture of an iron with steam at the bottom which may or may not be crossed out.  This will tell you whether or not to use steam when ironing finished items.

ironing

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Corn Rows

This week has been very busy!  I have been trying to get ready to go away on holiday.  So I have a pattern with the tech editor and test knitters.  Hopefully there won’t be any problems with it so I can release it next month.

I have written 3 blog posts and scheduled them to be published over the next two weeks.  And I am just about to send a newsletter out.

But what I am most excited about is the release of my new pattern this week.  It is Corn Rows Cabled Boot Toppers and it matches the Corn Rows Cabled Headband that I released at the end of last year.

Corn Rows Boot toppers

Corn Rows Cable Headband

Corn Rows Cable Headband

I hope you like it!

How do you like yours?

Recently a friend started to learn how to knit and was more than a little confused by the vast array of yarns and needles available.  It reminded me of how I felt when I was a beginner.  Which yarn went with which sized needles?  Does it make any difference if I use a bigger/smaller needle than the one recommended on the yarn band?  Why are they made in all kinds of different materials?

So I started to search through my books and realised I have some pretty good info just sitting on my living room bookshelf.  Pages and pages about types of yarn, variations of needle size and type.  Measuring tension, notions and embellishments.

Lets start with needles.  Everyone who has been a knitter or crocheter for a while has a favourite type of needles or hooks.  I would recommend all beginners to try out as many different kinds as they can.  The material they are made from can make a dramatic difference to the fabric that you produce.

Metal, plastic, bamboo or ebony/rosewood are all common materials used in the manufacture of knitting needles and crochet hooks.

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metalcrochet

Metal needles – these are usually very slippy and not recommended for beginners.  It is easy to lose a stitch when working on metal.  They are great for fibres like mohair and wool that tends to stick.  They are also great if you tend to knit too tightly.  You will find you naturally loosen your tension when working with metal.

bambooneedles

bamboocrochet

Bamboo needles – these are very lightweight and flexible.  If you have a lot of stitches or a heavy fabric you may find your needles bending.  They are great for more slippery yarns such as silk, cotton and bamboo.  They are often recommended for beginners as they will slow the flow of your knitting down.  Also recommended if you suffer with arthritis in your hands.

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plasticcrochet

Plastic needles – these have a surface which falls somewhere between metal and bamboo.  They keep a steady temperature as you use them and are not too slippery or sticky so are great with most types of yarn.  Great for beginners and arthritis suffers.  But beware needles smaller than 4mm have a tendency to snap!

symphonie

Ebony/rosewood needles – these feel luxurious in your hands but are usually the most expensive on the market.  They have a smooth surface, almost waxy and will become smoother with use.  They keep a nice temperature too.  They will help you keep an even tension and don’t bend like bamboo.

I started off using bamboo.  As a beginner I liked the way the stitches flowed off the needles at a nice steady pace.  I had used metal when I was much younger and my nan was teaching me.  I had a tendency to lose a lot of stitches as when I slipped one off the needle, the stitch behind would follow, often without me noticing for a while!

A couple of years ago my husband bought me a set of KnitPro symphonie needles.  I have never looked at another needle since.  They are quite costly, but I think they are well worth the money. I have since received gifts of their double pointed and interchangeable needles.  I even have a few of their crochet hooks too!

Knitpro crochet knitprointerchangeable

Which kind of needles and hooks do you prefer?

Frog it!

How do you feel about frogging your work?  As I have progressed with my knitting skills over the years it is something I have come to learn to live with.

For years I would avoid frogging like the plague.  I would live with mistakes that I knew were there or I would fudge the stitch count to try and make it work.  But over the last few years I have come to realise that if that jumper has a mistake in it I will know about it.  It will bug me.  And I won’t wear it as a consequence.

Sometimes there is a mistake which I just cannot stop looking at.  Like this jumper.

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Can you see it?  I tried to wear it a few times but eventually decided to re-use the yarn rather than keep it in the cupboard unloved.

Sometimes it is because the fit is just all wrong.  I made this vest and it was far too big.  Again I knew I would never wear it so frogging was my only option.

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This cardigan was frogged because I just could not get the collar to go right.  I always thought I would come back to it later, but I have never found the time.

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The latest victim of frogging has been my Sage jumper by Marie Wallin.  I started it in the large size and have since lost a lot of weight.  Coupled with the fact that I had made a glaring error in the snowflakes I decided to pull it all out and make it in a smaller size.

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Despite the fact I hadn’t got very far with it, this was one of the hardest things to frog for the sheer effort that had gone into the colour work.  But better to start again than to plod on through to end up with something that I wouldn’t be happy to wear anyway.

As I have been designing my own patterns I have had to do a lot of frogging.  Sometimes the yarn doesn’t behave how you would expect it to.  Sometimes the maths isn’t quite right and you end up with too many or too few stitches.  And sometimes the pattern just doesn’t look right.

What have you recently had to frog and how did you feel about it?

Banners, Branding and a New Pattern

It has been a couple of weeks since I last wrote, but that is because I have been waiting to reveal a few things.

The change to Designs by Emma @AllNeedles is now almost complete.  Here is my new design!

Custom Esty Shop - Starter Kit_Avatar Logo

The only thing left to do is the name of my page on Facebook.  For some reason, because I have over 400 likes I have to provide some kind of evidence of the name of my business.  Such as a phone or utility bill.  I have neither of these so am still working on this one.

My Etsy shop has had a complete re-vamp.  A new name as well as a new banner and profile pic.  Pop over and take a little peek.  I would love to know how you think it is looking.  I now need to start going through all my listings and update the pictures and descriptions.  Something I always put off!

This week has also seen the release of my latest knitting pattern – The Caitlin Cabled Skater Skirt.  This one has been a bit of a labour of love.  It was designed for my daughter which is why I named it after her.  She just loves skater style skirts which are really flared at the bottom and get more fitted the closer they get to the hips.  The shape creates a wonderful swing when the wearer moves and twirls.

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The pattern was originally designed in a smaller size for children from 11 years up through the teenage years, to fit up to a 32 inch waist.  It has elastic inserted into the waistband, so if you need a smaller size you just put in a smaller piece.  This adds even more to the gathers and swing of the skirt.  When I started to share pictures of the skirt on Instagram I had such lovely comments but more and more people were asking for a larger size.

So much maths, headaches and testing by some wonderful knitters later the pattern also includes a size which will fit up to a 36 inch waist and also is a little longer for taller people.  The pattern is a lovely big cable alternated with a smaller cable.  The flare is created by panels between the cables which get smaller towards the waistband.

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As always, all my patterns are also available on Ravelry, Love Knitting, and Craftsy too!

Writer’s Block

This week family life has taken over a little and I am late in writing this.  My daughter injured her finger in PE and so instead of blogging yesterday morning I ended up in the small injuries unit at A&E.  She has damaged her growth plate and now has a rather snazzy splint type thing she has to wear.  You can see a picture on my Instagram.

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I have also spent time this week looking at my knitting pattern business and decided I need a re-brand.  When I first started over a year ago I was concentrating more on making handmade knitted and sewn gifts.  Now I am moving more towards knitting and crochet patterns so my logo doesn’t quite fit anymore.

With this I have been trying to write a new tag line.  I have been finding this incredibly hard.

What do I offer?  Knitting and crochet patterns.  So what?  Well, I have a variety of patterns available, from quick knits for beginners to larger more complicated projects.  Especially the few that I have lined up for release over the next few weeks.  And?  I like to think that my patterns are the kind that you will not only want to make, but want to wear when you have finished too.

And there you have it.  Knitting and crochet patterns you will want to make and wear.

What do you think?

Is This The Death of Creative Education?

Something that you may or may not know about me is that I have recently taken on the role of school governor, well, we are actually called Directors at this school.  It was a decision I made because of the wonderful work they had done with my son who has autism, because my daughter was joining Year 7, I had a little spare time and I thought it would be nice to give something back.  I only attended my first board meeting in December but so far I am enjoying the role.  I have been asked to have responsibility for Food Technology and Textiles, two subjects I would like to think I know a thing or two about!

Yesterday I went into school to meet with the Director of Learning for the Technology Department, or in other words, the Head of Department.   The meeting didn’t get off to the best of starts considering they couldn’t find the lady for half an hour and then she left me waiting a further 20 minutes!  Eventually she collected me and we had a tour around the technology department.  Some very large Year 11 children were busy at work, both in the kitchens cooking for a GCSE assessment, and also in the workshops where there was lots of cutting, hammering and welding going on.  But the textiles rooms?  Deserted.  The walls were half bare too.  I was shocked and saddened to hear that not one single child had chosen textiles as one of their options.

Apparently one of the reasons for this could be that the project they complete in Year 9 before they choose their GCSEs is not exactly enthusing the children.  They make a bag in Year 7, a cushion cover in Year 8 but in Year 9 they make a fabric postcard which even the staff admit isn’t very interesting.  Why can’t we offer them something like a simple quilting project which can be VERY addictive?  So I decided to look into this further.

Simply by doing a Google search I found a few articles and papers written about the decline in creative subjects within schools.  Primary children get very little chance to make things, as evidenced by a lesson I taught as a supply teacher recently where not one Year 4 child in a class of 29 knew what to do when I gave them a needle and thread!

One of the best articles I read on this was by the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/feb/11/design-craft-subjects-decline-in-schools  in which it is clear that Educational policy is one of the reasons for the decline.  A few years ago the EBac was introduced which placed a greater emphasis on ‘academic’ subjects rather than those that are more artistic and creative.  GCSEs have recently gone through change from being all about getting ‘5GCSEs at A* – C including English and Maths’ to a ‘Best 8’ system which turns grades into numbers and gives a student an average points score similar to the American system.

It works like putting all subjects into three boxes.  My Year 9 son will have to study English Literature and Language and Maths which will go into the first box and be double weighted in this new points system.  He will have other compulsory lessons such as PE but will end up with room on his timetable for just three options.  One of these MUST be from science, computing, history, geography or a language – basically traditional EBac subjects and they will go in the second box. The final two choices will be from any of the subjects the school offers, but if a child chooses two creative subjects they could possibly end up in a situation where only one will count towards the final points, leaving the other as a zero score and the child with a potential deficit in their overall points.  This will put them at a disadvantage compared to a child who choses more academic subjects and thereby gains a higher points average.  And of course all this has an impact on the school league tables too which has led to some schools leaving children with only one choice of subject at GCSE in order to maximise the potential for points.

All of this seems to be in a complete juxtaposition of what is happening if you look at community courses, or adult education.  There has been a significant growth in the number of adults enrolling for evening classes in creative areas.  People are choosing to spend their free time and hard earned money on anything from knitting to flower arranging.  This could lead to craft based skills only being available to those people who can afford to learn them.  How will that impact on already disadvantaged families?

Something that also came up in my reading is the growing evidence of increased childhood depression.  More and more young adults are needing help with their mental health, they are suffering from stress placed on them to achieve in their exams.  Suicide rates continue to increase and there seems to be a new story in the news every week about the lack of funding in the NHS for mental health, especially for young adults.  There has been studies into this and it has been proven that increased creativity can reduce depression, stress and anxiety.  Are we doing our children a huge injustice by taking away their creative outlets and replacing them with yet more academia and stress?

We also need to consider the long term life choices that could be affected by what the children can study at school.  When I was taking my GCSEs our school didn’t have a textiles teacher, and so it wasn’t offered as an option.  Something which has always bothered me as I am pretty sure that my career choices would have been very different if I had been able to work with materials from a much younger age.  So can you imagine my horror this morning when I discovered that the school I am now a Director of, with a responsibility that includes textiles, is not offering it as an option to the current Year 9 children for one of their Year 10 subjects!

I would love to hear your views on this, do you have any ideas or comments?  Do you have children in this position?  Would they like to do more creative things in school?

I feel like I need to do something about this.  It may already be too late for those children going into Year 10 in September, but what about future generations?  And one last thing to ponder, I did hear a rumour that the government is now trying to make PE lessons less practical too – where will this all stop?