DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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19 June 2014

Winter knitting

I've yet to find a more comfortable winter activity than knitting. Just thinking about my wool, cotton and needles gives me a good feeling. And then there's the important choice of where to knit. Even though knitting is so portable when you take the kids to sport or dancing, a little warm chair to knit in is part of winter for me. I have an arm chair set up in the lounge room where I'm surrounded by knitting, needles, wool, patterns, a little jar of markers, a darning needle and small scissors. Bliss.


Alone is a good place to be when you knit because you sometimes need silence to explore the ideas that will form in your brain when you undertake the simple repetition that makes up knitting. Some say that knitting is similar to crochet and I suppose that's right in some ways, but to me, knitting is more like meditation. The long periods of repetition encourage thought that can sometimes be deep and illuminating. But showing her true versatility, knitting will also see you through your favourite TV program, a tennis match or rehearsal.

These photos, above and below, are the same shawl. I'm not sure what happened to the colour but the top one is true.

I've just finished my second shawl. It was very simple knitting, ideal for a beginner who wants to progress beyond scarves and dish cloths. I made both of mine with organic cotton, one in the colour Diligence, a dark grey and the most recent in Patience, a camel light brown. I thought a lot about those two qualities while I was knitting my shawls.  I'm also doing up a few dishcloths to show at my library talks. The one on my needles now is Deb's waffle weave, which is in my book and was asked about at one of the talks. I recently knitted a pair of fingerless mittens (in New Zealand pure Merino) for Hanno but when I finished them and gave them to him I noticed I'd knitted one in a greenish grey and one in a bluish grey. Ahem. I guess I'll be doing up another pair. They'll match this time. :- )


Knitting is a wonderfully creative investment of time in the practical activity of making clothing and soft furnishing for your home. Generally the clothes we knit last for many years so it's wise to use the best yarn you can afford. That yarn will be rubbing against skin when it's worn so try to steer clear of the Chinese acrylics and look for more natural alternatives. Real wool breathes, real cotton is cooling. But think about the time you invest in knitting too and make that time enjoyable by using yarns you like the feel of. Use good needles. I'm totally won over by bamboo needles and although I have metal, wood and vintage plastic, I always choose my Japanese bamboo needles now. I've noticed that Japanese needle sizes are alongside the UK and US sizes on various charts now. I think that reflects the incredible influence that Japanese crafts, fabrics and implements have had in the West in recent years.

I am not the best knitter in the world and my projects are rarely, if ever, perfect, but knitting makes me happy so I'll keep clicking those needles. I really enjoy the time I spend making things from wool and cotton. It feels right. It suits me and my life. If you're a beginner, and you're looking for help and encouragement you'll find it at the forum. There is a monthly thread where members show and tell their latest projects. Chel and Judy are there to keep your hands busy and your mind thinking creatively while the rest of us appreciate all you show us.

What's on your needles?

39 comments:

  1. I'm knitting a shawl like yours, slowly :), I have passed the halfway point. And I want to crochet some baby socks for my first grand child, due in August.

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  2. I have never had a friend in Australia. It is so strange (to me) that it is winter there and I am buring up in 93* (105 with humidity)! And your garden is still producing?... that would be so great!
    Do you find knitting with wooden or bamboo needles to be easier than aluminum?

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    1. Bamboo needles, for me, are easier than any others. My second preference ins aluminium. Bamboo has the ease of aluminium without that 'superslide' on the needles.

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    2. Samr here Rhonda, love the Bamboo, good for anything, but sure don't need slipping and sliding when you knit 2 ply lace : )

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  3. Knitting. Perfect ANY time of year, right?

    On needles now... socks (always as they travel with me); a colour block, bias baby blanket (nearly done), and a colourworked sweater.

    Blocking, "Anne's Shawl" which is a favorite, knit from yarn I picked up on vacation which was a local yarn. Instead of souvenirs, I go to the local yarn shop and ask what is the most popular project or shop project. Then, I ask for local yarns to knit it from. To me, that is a very nice way to remember wonderful memories every time I wear the garment!

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    1. I really like your yarn souvenirs idea, Matty. It reminds me that Tricia gave me a skein of Irish wool after her trip.

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  4. I'm on to my 2nd beanie and loving it, totally agree with your sentiments.

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  5. Funnily enough, what's on my needles is a dishcloth - same colour and pattern - as the one you've shown!

    Madeleine.x

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  6. When I was just a bride, I learned to knit. Being so in love with Prince Charming, I wanted to knit him something special. Mind you, this was my first project ever. I followed directions until I got to the thumb. 'It can't be,' I reason and added a few more stitches. The mitten came out close to 2 foot long. LOL That was the last time I knitted, but I have crocheted for 45 years. I would love to learn how to knit the dish cloths you often talk about, though. Do you use cotton yarn for those? The small skinny kind?

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    1. That is so funny, Angie. Dishcloths are really good to learn on because even if you don't do a good job, you can still use it. I use 8ply pure cotton and I've also used 5 ply. Both work well. The 8 ply is very absorbent but the 5 ply dries out much faster. Good luck.

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  7. I learnt to knit as a child, & although I went on to learn to crotchet, patchwork, x-stitch & tapestry, it remains my favorite of all time. I do the 'squeak test' (as I call it), where I squeeze a ball of wool to feel it, if it's soft & squeak free I'm happy to use it. I met a lady recently who is a member of a protest group called the knitting nannies (I think), who knit on the protest line -- priceless!! I hope this skill is never forgotten.

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  8. Winter ( I am like, what??), but then I remembered where you live. It is late spring time here. The garden is growing and the flowers are blooming. I really enjoy your posts. We seem to have much in common. I am currently knitting a rug. Yes, a rug. I am knitting tubes (6 knit, then 6 purl) out of some organic bits and pieces that I picked up at a garage sale for $3.00. It rolls nicely into tubes which I will then sew into a round rug. So far it looks like it will be nice and soft. It is in the experimental stage right now, but I am enjoying the process.

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  9. Great idea about the dishcloths. My daughter (nearly 8) is keen to learn to knit, so we thought we'd learn together this winter. She has plans to make a little scarf for her doll. I think a dishcloth might be about my speed!! Thanks for the encouraging post - I think the shawl looks lovely, and it's also great to be reminded that you don't have to totally brilliant at something to get pleasure from it.

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  10. I have started knitting after years of neglect and am knitting the most amazing blanket. I found a website that taught me to do mitred corners so it can be knitted all in one piece. There is something very relaxing about knitting with the weight of your project resting in your lap. It is meditative.

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  11. Ah yes, I agree, sitting down to knit is like that first big deep breath when you get to the beach.
    The Eco cotton is so lovely to use, everyone who touches the washcloths wants one, sooo soft, and the colours are beautiful.
    On the needles at the moment, a corner start baby blanket, 2 pairs of socks 1 of which is cotton, made from recycled denim jeans, a washcloth and a 2ply Merino and silk lace scarf/shawl soft and squishy enough to stuff in a handbag for travel......so much fun.
    Also starting another folded rectangle shrug/shawl (see forum) to use for class sample, sooo easy for begginers.

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  12. I had to smile at your different fingerless gloves as I am knitting them for the grandchildren & I suddenly realised I had made 2 right for my grandson! Now I will have to make 2 left, anyway I will have an extra pair to give to charity as he won't want 2 pairs the same colour.

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  13. Do you know Rhonda I tend not to sit down to just knit, I'm always doing something else, talking to someone or occasionally watching recorded TV. I do knit a lot but not alone, this post gives me something to think about.

    Your shawl is lovely, I love the dusty pink.

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  14. Rhonda, just wondering do you have a pattern for the shawl? I love it. Will you tie it at the front or use something to hold it together? I am currently knitting squares with different patterns that I'll sew together to make a blanket. I'm loving knitting the different patterns and different colours, it keeps it interesting. The perfect winter activity. Enjoy xo

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    1. Julie, there is no pattern I just made it up as I went.Traditionally these shawls where criss-crossed over the bust and tied at the back so the shawl could be worn when working without it getting in the way. You decide how long you want it. Just cast on two stitches, then knit one row. On every second row, increase one by knitting front and back. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sX-YkOXBtE
      Note that in the video, she's increase at both ends. On the shawl, you'll only do it at the beginning of every second row. Then you'll have one side curves and one side straight.
      Keep knitting like that until you want to knit that straight bit at the back. Measure it on yourself and when it feels right over your shoulder, stop increasing and knit straight plain until it covers your back. Measure it on yourself and when it's right, start decreasing by knitting two stitches together at the end of every second row. Mine took two skeins - 4 balls of cotton. Good luck!

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    2. Thank you so much Rhonda. xo

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  15. I've just finished a man's vest (haven't quite got up the courage to knit a man's jumper yet - they are so big!), and am looking around for my next project. I'm very excited, though, because I have just come back from my Mum's with her entire stash of wool - 5 large plastic containers of it - yippee!!! So many possibilities, so little time.

    Mum sadly has early stages of dementia and hasn't knitted for quite some time. I'm wondering, though, if knitting might be a good thing for her, to keep her occupied and not dwelling on her fading memory?

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    1. I was given all the vintage needles and wool that belonged to the 85 year old mother of a friend. She didn't have dementia but she couldn't concentrate on her knitting. Maybe you could start your mum off on some simple projects like dishcloths that don't require a pattern.

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    2. I've heard a story about a lady with dementia who stated she was not interested in knitting then someone gave her some needles and wool and she hasn't stopped... I guess it just came back naturally for her....

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  16. Japan is very craft-friendly in a lot of ways. There are so many reasonably-priced books and basic materials available, that it's easy to try different things and find out what you'd like. I just have the trouble that my Australian exhibitionism finds the modesty of Japanese patterns a little too concealing....

    I'm stocking up on every size of crochet hook I can before we head back to Australia next month, even though I've never learned to crochet! Would you recommend bamboo for this as well?

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    1. I bought a bamboo crochet hook when I was in the Blue Mountains (House of Wool, Blackheath) last time and it feels great in my hand. Although I don't do a lot of crochet, I would use bamboo over any of the metal hooks.

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    2. I bought bamboo crochet hooks to use on a long-haul flight as my metal ones were confiscated on a previous flight (a possible offensive weapon!), but found they gave me blisters. I would recommend the Clover hooks with the ergonomically designed handles as the best ones I've ever used.

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  17. I often find it hard to sit still in front of the telly in the evenings (I like to watch the cooking shows) and end up with my laptop sitting in my lap doing two things at once (naughty, naughty!). I used to sit and knit/crochet so I need to get back into that habit. Keeping my hands busy calms my mind. I find repetitive activities, such as swimming laps and reading, to be very meditative as well. Activities like this are called 'flow activities'. They are fantastic for mental health as they require concentration (you get lost in the 'flow) and you can see your progress providing a sense of achievement. Will be digging out my knitting needles (with the half finished dishcloth still on them!) tonight :)

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  18. I enjoyed reading about your knitting, Rhonda Jean! I started up again last year after nearly forty years without knitting. I made eight scarves and then tried to make a small afghan. I had never tried a circular needle before, and a couple of feet in, I got lost and knitted it together. Now I have a gigantic pile of yarn in a big box because I couldn't get all the stitches picked up and going again. But it is so relaxing, so maybe I'll tackle that daunting pile!

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  19. As usual I usually have about three things on the needles. Dishcloths for their ease and portability, a small baby garment and something a little more involved. At the moment some fingerless gloves knitted in the round and a very simple baby cardigan knitted in one piece.

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  20. Greetings from malaysia! Knitting yarns here are expensive.wonder wether its frugal to knit here..hmmmmmm

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  21. Lovely post as always I must admit I am hit and miss with knitting would love to get better at my husband brought one of those kits to try and get me to make a bed spread have not even touched it as yet may be one day have a blessing of a day

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  22. I love to knit, but really struggle with tension and thus sizing, but I have managed to knit socks, gloves and a few jumpers. I agree, there is something so relaxing about knitting (when it goes right, that is, lol!).

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  23. Your hanks of yarn bought back memories of when my Mum and I used to wind them into balls, she with the hank strung out over her hands and me winding. Most yarn comes ready wound into balls today and I miss that part of the kitting experience.
    Briony
    x

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  24. I have a wool jersey and a couple of dishcloths on the go. It has been too hot to knit wool lately so l have been enjoying the soft cotton of the dishcloths. Come Autumn l will bring out the wool again. Don't know what l would do without a bag of knitting in close proximity :-) Pam

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  25. A little bit of knitting here and there really gets me through my long days as a stay at home mum. Often I feel like I am a cat chasing it's tail so the short break is so welcomed and gives me a creative outlet. I also prefer bamboo needles. What is japanese needles?

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  26. I am such a slow knitter it takes ages just to do dishcloths or slippers for winter. I cannot concentrate on anything whilst knitting else I go wrong. When my son was a baby (the only time I knitted for him as Nana was a very quick knitter), I had to knit 3 months in advance to stand a chance of finishing!

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  27. Hi Rhonda, your post makes me want to start knitting again, I have such fond memories of being a child and my mum teaching me how to knit. I was never very good though and never finished a project. My mum is currently knitting me a beanie for my first baby arriving in September. She has also passed down to me a knitted baby cardigan and some knitted baby blankets that my grandma made for my twin brother and I. My grandma lived in Canada and she would always send down jumpers and slippers she had knitted for us kids for Christmas, in fact I am wearing a pair of those slippers right now. Handmade things just mean so much more than cheap throwaway fashion and last so much longer too.

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  28. I usually have a few projects on the go at once. At least one has to be portable so I can take it with me when I go out and about with the children. I am currently knitting a shawl for a friend and a tee for myself. I am in the process of teaching my son to knit he is making a scarf for himself.

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  29. I feel the same way about knitting and I love to give away knit or crochet gifts (always small projects). I am teaching my grandgirls how to knit. The five year old is knitting a prayer shawl with double yarn on big needles, she knits only one row then is done till next time. She is doing very well and knows when to do her yarn over pattern. I love sitting with them as they learn!

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