Knitting - making what we need

11 April 2011
As you know we're enjoying Autumn here now. It's my favourite season.  It's cool, with the certainty of colder weather to come. Bliss!  I knit all year through and generally knit with cotton in summer and heavier yarns, like wool and alpaca, in the colder months.  This year is an exception to that rule because I'm knitting for the babies and some of the lighter autumn jackets and booties call for cotton.  I am using the Ecoyarns organic natural dyed cotton from Peru.  The colours are subtle, the cotton is strong but very soft, and in addition to being paid fair trade wages for processing the cotton, the women are given a litre/quart of milk each working day.  I really like the idea of that.  

I'm now half way through a blue cotton kimono jacket for Jamie.  The pattern is from the Cute and Easy Baby Knits book which is very easy to use, even for a beginner.  When he came to visit on Saturday, he wore the blue cotton shoes I had knitted for him, with blue and black striped socks - bee feet and very cute.  I must say it makes me feel good knowing the knits I make for our babies, while being soft on their skin, are not harmful in any way.  I like supporting businesses producing organic materials too. Many of them are swimming against the current to get their products out to us.  

This little jacket is an ideal step up project for a new knitter.  It could take you from "beginner" to "intermediate".  All it requires in the way of stitches is cast on, knit and purl, cast off/bind off, and the additional of two new stitches - "sl", which is just slipping a stitch from one needle to the other and "inc" which is knitting into the front and back of a stitch, instead of just into one side of the stitch.  It's a bit fiddly when you first do it but it's not complicated and is easy to remember.  Doing these stitches, along with the knit and purl, makes the curve in the front of the jacket you can see in the photo above.

My good friend and long term helper, Sharon, started a dishcloth swap at the forum and here on the weekend.  Sharon has been very sick for a long time so it's really wonderful to have her back, both here and at the forum.  The swap serves a couple of purposes.  It provides a challenge, a way of engaging with others and it is an encouragement to those who don't knit or crochet to think about working on a simple and quick project.  There are a few new knitters in the swap, so if you're unsure about your knitting capabilities, don't be, you're not alone and, as usual, perfection is not a requirement.  Making dishcloths is an excellent way of improving your knitting while making something useful.  Even if it doesn't look great it is still useable.

If you decide to join, when you start work on your dishcloth, keep the label from the cotton you use and clip that to the dishcloth before you send it.  It will show the recipient what you used and these labels often have washing instructions on them as well.  It's a good habit to get into if you're knitting for others - send them that label, or a hand-written label stating what materials you used and how to care for them.  It's a lovely little touch that I'm sure most people  appreciate.

Another tip: modern yarn is usually sold as a ball.  The old fashioned way was as a skein. The yarns above I got from Ecoyarns as skeins and before you start knitting with them, you form a ball; it's easier to knit that way and you get no knots or tangles. You'll need to hook the yarn over someone's hands or two kitchen chairs and just wind the skein to form a ball.  

Knitting is one of those distinctive skills of simple living.  It's similar to learning how to make bread and soap.  You can get by without it but if you take the time to learn, the quality of what you make is much better than what you buy and in the case of knitting, you can knit useful items for the home like dishcloths and tea cosies, and then progress to mittens, scarves and warm winter clothing.  It's just the most relaxing thing to do, it will give you a portable project to take with you when you go to work or when waiting to pick up the kids, and it makes your relaxation time, both calming and productive.

Happy knitting everyone!


  1. I'm knitting at the moment with homespun alpaca, that my son's girlfriend's mother sent to me. She likes to spin and a neighbour gives her the fleece but she doesn't like knitting, hence the yarn coming to me. I haven't met this woman yet, but am about to over Easter...hmm, maybe I'll have a daughter-in-law soon? I'm knitting that alpaca into scarves and gloves for her and her husband.
    I'll be in the Blue Mts too next week Rhonda, so might bump into you in a quaint shop somewhere...enjoy your time with your sister.

  2. Ecoyarns is awesome. I love their products, I love the excellent service. I enquired about some hemp and they sent me some samples as I was looking for a particular type to make crochet soap scrap scrubs. I love the textures and beautiful colours. Two thumbs up from me. Have a lovely week at your place.

  3. I can remember Mum buying skeins of wool from the woollen mills not far from where we lived....I was a skein holder as well as a wool winder....certainly brings back memories.....Thanks for the great to check out Ecoyarns

  4. You've just made me so much more excited about our plan to grow and sell our own brand of organic wool. I can't wait.
    I do know a lot of wool farmers that are actually certified organic but sell their wool on the converntional market because it is easier. I think this means we must support those trying to do the right thing by their land and their animals and buy organic, good wool where possible.

  5. Making bread and soap is easy --- but knitting is still challenging for me. I often do fall in love with all the beautiful yarns out there. They have coaxed me into trying again --- and your post encourages me as well.

  6. I always have something on my needles to carry with me and keep my hands busy. I love all of the baby things you are knitting. I like to make baby things for friends when they have their babies and look forward to knitting for my grandchildren some day.

    When I wind my skeins into balls and don't have chairs or extra hands, I drape the yarn around my feet. It's a little awkward but it works.

  7. I just love knitting. Like you, I knit all year and have recently discovered lace knitting. Be careful though, it becomes an addiction!:-)

  8. I'm looking forward to checking out Ecoyarns Rhonda, the yarn you are using looks delightful and the principles they do business by are very appealing. I have reached a stage whereas soon as I sit I grab my knitting. :)

  9. I now have a yarn swift my dear mother found in a second hand shop but before that I would put the skein onto an upturned laundry basket - very handy for winding yarn into a ball!

    Michelle in NZ

  10. I was having this conversation with an old family friend just yesterday! I'm a novice knitter - just coming up on my first year - but I'm well and truly hooked and I'm always looking for nice yarn. I also dye my own so I have a windmill swift and yarn baller to help. I look forward to trying some of the Ecoyarn stock. :)

  11. I enjoyed reading your knitting chat, Rhonda. I've just put aside my first project with homespun alpaca (!), to work on two birthday presents that are coming up in the next couple of weeks - both hats. I love the patience and meditativeness (a word?) that knitting brings.

  12. In the last 6 months I have fallen in love with knitting. Right now I am knitting a pair of socks for my 13 year old son,to be followed by socks for hubby and my brother in law.I also have knitted mittens. I am still getting the hang of it,but each piece looks better than the last,so I must be doing something right!!!

  13. I like knitting more simple things but have never taken time to learn how to knit just anything even though i think it would be fun.


  14. Nice information here Rhonda. And thank you for encouraging beginners (which I am) to try something other than a knit/purl stitch. That's all I have mastered so far. Would be lovely to sit with an experienced knitter to see/grasp a few more stitches. Congrats on the new grandbabies.

  15. I am an avid crocheter and a fairly new knitter. I love to create useable things to use in my and my children's homes. I remember as a child sitting for what seemed like hours holding my Gram's skein of yarn while she rolled it. Ahhhh... wonderful memories. :-)

  16. mine will be crotchet, i hope that's ok. knitting is beoynd me atm

  17. Hi there, I'm a new follower to your blog and I just wanted to say I'm looking forward to learning new skills. I love knitting and I'm never without a project. As you say it's great for productive relaxation (and it stops me biting my nails :) ) Jaqui x

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