INSTAGRAM CONTEST | Help me choose…

INSTAGRAM CONTEST | Are you on Instagram? Perhaps you follow me already and have seen this? But for those of you who haven’t I’m running a mini contest to win a copy of my next shawl design for FREE.

I have several shawls that are as yet unpublished and I can’t decide which one should go out into the wild next. So I am asking my Instagram followers to help me choose.

What do you look for in a shawl design? Is it the colour that attracts you to the pattern? Is it the stitch pattern itself? Or perhaps its the shawl shape?

This is a sneak peak at the designs and to enter all you have to do is follow me on Instagram, leave a comment which shawl should be published next (Red, Blue, Yellow or Green) along with your ravelry name. Remember to tag a fibre friend because #sharingiscaring of course.

Entries close on Sunday 1st October 2017 at 9pm GMT and then I will analyse the comments and see which shawl is the most popular. The majority wins and if you have picked the winner you will receive a copy of the shawl for FREE in your ravelry library when it is published.

As of lunchtime today I can see the yellow shawl seems to be coming out on top so far but there is still time for this to change. Click here to participate.

Simple | Stylish | Stitches
www.minalovesdesigns.com

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KNITTING KIT | For beginners

BEGINNER KNITTING KIT | What would be the essential things you would recommend to a beginner knitter? Knitting has become hugely popular again and supplies for the craft have swamped in the market (which is amazing!).

If you’re a beginner knitter getting the right ‘kit’ can be overwhelming. Choice can be a really good thing especially when you’re on a budget but what really are the essential supplies that a new knitter needs to buy to get started?

YARN | Well obviously you need yarn. And when I say yarn you’re probably thinking wool – that stuff you get off a sheep – right? Oh no… shakes head the choice of yarn that the knitter has today is way bigger than just wool. You can knit with just about anything. You can get alpaca, camel, angora, silk, cotton, linen, bamboo, dog hair (yes you can and it’s called chiengora!). In fact some people even knit with fabric or old plastic bags cut into strips. The t-shirt yarn is trendy these days.

Having said all that most beginner knitters start off with good old acrylic yarn. I must admit I did myself but I’m not a fan these days. I do prefer natural fibres. If you’re going to spend time and money learning a craft I would say invest a little and start with a brand that is affordable like the drops range (they do great sales and you can buy a ball of merino for around 2 quid).

Personally I’ve always preferred quality over quantity when it comes to choosing yarn (in fact I’ve been called a yarn snob!) but the choice is totally down to your own taste.  But I do think you’ll get a lot more enjoyment from working with natural fibres and the end product will be more wearable than that neon acrylic you bought in the bargin bucket of your LYS (unless neon acrylic is your thing!).

I think that Aran or DK is probably the best yarn weight for beginners and for me Debbie Bliss Rialto DK or Rialto Aran is an excellent choice. But if you are on a tight budget but still keen to use natural fibres then Drops yarns are best – especially when the sale is on and you can get balls of yarn for as little as £1 – now how tempting is that for building your stash.

NEEDLES | Okay so you can see a theme happening here already! Of course you need some knitting needles to go with your yarn (although you can knit with your fingers and hands – I’ve not tried this yet myself tho).

Now when it comes to choosing needles you’ve got different materials – wood, metal and plastic; and different types of needle – straight, circular and double-pointed.  This is a lot of choice for a beginner.  I would always recommend that you follow these three simple steps:

  1. Consider what you want to make for your first project.  Is it a scarf? Well then perhaps straight needles would be best.  Or are your a really adventureous beginner and want to knit a hat in the round.  Well then you’re going to need some circular needles. Be realistic in your choice of first project.  Start with something easy and then you won’t get overwhelmed.
  2. Choose the right material.  Wooden needles are a good choice for beginners as they are smooth but not slippery.  If you are a tight knitter or to put it politely a little heavy with your hands then metal might be better option as although they weigh heavier they are stronger and do not easily bend.  As for plastic well, they are cheapest option if you’re on a budget.  Plastic needles are very light but depending on the needle size they may be more prone to breaking than wood.
  3. Choose the right size / length.  Needles come in different lengths and sizes to suit pattern requirements.  So consider this when buying your needles.  You will want to build your kit slowly over time as you work through different projects.  So best just buy the needle size & length that is recommended in the pattern.
  4. Fixed vs. Interchangeable. There are pros and cons to both.  If you are on a budget buying interchangeable needles are a good way to build your needle kit quicker. You may only need a few cables and then slowly collect the different sized tips as you need them for projects.  The downside to interchangeable needles is that I’ve found with certain brands they untwist while you are knitting (no matter how much you tighten them!) and this can mean your yarn may catch at the join or worse the stitches might fall off the needles.  I have both types in my needles case but these days I’ve been swaying towards fixed circular needles.
  5. Notions. Essential notions such as scissors, darning needle, crochet hook, row counter and stitch markers come in all different shapes and sizes.  You don’t even need to visit a yarn store to buy them either.  In fact you may already these things around your home already like scissors – most homes have scissors.  But there are some cute notions that you can get these days.  As a beginner I’d say don’t go mad.  Buy the basics and then splash out of the querky things as you can afford too.  

PATTERNS | Paper patterns are great as you can make notes as you go along but I much prefer the benefits of having them as PDFs on my iPad these days. Much more easier to transport and storage isnt an issue. Check out Ravelry as a good source for both free and paid patterns. You can search based on your requirements of yarn weight, needle size, project type etc.

I would encourage you to check out your local library. Most libraries have a craft section with a good selection of books to get you started. Borrowing a book is FREE and a good thing to do when you are on a budget. Plus you can get an idea if you like the book before you buy it. Starting out small and build your knitting library as you grow your knitting skills.

NOTEBOOK | Every knitter needs a notebook. Its an essential piece of knit for keeping a record of where you are in between knitting time. You can sketch notes about project, record your yarn details and little snippets of information about the pattern.

JOIN A KNIT GROUP | Knitting is one of the most effective ways to help with anxiety, depression and pain management. Joining a knitting group can increase your mood, help you build friendships and increase your social circle. Its fun to meet other knitters and sometimes you can

Look out for a knitting group in your area through your local yarn shops and libraries. You can also find knitting groups in your area on Facebook and Ravelry.

YOUR THOUGHTS | So what would you recommend for a new knitter? Did I forget anything? Love a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts about this.

Simple | Stylish | Stitches
www.minalovesdesigns.com

New Pattern | The SOS Shawl

UPDATE | Pattern is now live on Ravelry. You can get it HERE and remember its FREE when you sign up to my newsletter until Midnight GMT on Tuesday 12th September 2017.

HELLO MAKERS | I’m back. I took a little vacation to recharge and of course I did a lot of knitting during that break. Its September now and here in the Northern Hemisphere its officially Autumn – so its getting colder and that means knitting season has finally arrived!

The leaves are already dropping (I love Autumn 🍂 🍃 🍂 🍃 ) and people have started to stress about their Christmas knitting plans (eek!). My local Tesco store was actually putting away the back to school essentials and bringing out the Christmas sweets and chocolates this evening! (WHY!!!!!!)

Now is definitely the time to take a little moment for you. After all you’ve worked hard this year, the kids are back to school and the dark nights are just round the corner.  So why not make September a time for some selfish knitting for yourself.  I have the perfect new shawl design for you to…

THE SOS SHAWL | Designed with mini skeins or leftovers in mind this shawl is a traditional shetland hap construction with a modern simple border of garter and stocking stitch “Stripes On Stripes”.

Play with colour and relax as you take a break from your knitting schedule to create some Simple | Stylish | Stitches

WHAT DO YOU NEED | One skein main colour of fingering weight yarn (400 metres) and seven small 20 gram minis for contrasting colours OR you can go wild and blend your own colour combinations from your leftover stash.

“…definitely a shawl that you will want to knit again and again.”

HOW DO I FIND IT | I’m releasing the pattern on Ravelry later this week and the shawl will be FREE for 24-hours after it goes live to all my newsletter subscribers who are Ravelry members.

So if you are already on my newsletter list you don’t need to do anything you are already in! Whoop! But if you are aren’t sure  if you provided your ravelry name when you subscribed to the newsletter then just fire me a message to support@minalovesdesigns.com and I will check for you.

If you aren’t on my newsletter list you can sign up here. GO DO IT NOW so you don’t miss out on getting your FREE COPY of the SOS Shawl.

If you don’t have a Ravelry account then you can join for free here

WHAT’S COMING NEXT | I have what feels like a kazillion patterns to release. I have been knitting like a maniac all summer and will be releasing them gradually between now and Christmas. So keep eye out here on the blog and on social media for more announcements soon.

Remember don’t stress because Every Row Makes a Project Grow

Simple | Stylish | Stitches
www.minalovesdesigns.com

10 Knitting slang words for Non-Knitters…

I thought it would be useful for non knitters who read my blog to touch on knitting slang – aka abbreviations and terms we use that might mean something completely different in real life!

  1. Frogging: Otherwise known as ripping (rip-it – see get the frog connection!) back when a project has gone wrong or you just aren’t enjoying the making any more.
  2. WIP: Pronounced Whip. And no its not some kinky knitty term. Its is an abbreviation for Work In Progress. Otherwise known as a project you are currently working on.
  3. Fingering: (There seems to be an underlying subtle hint of naughtiness in these words doesn’t there – right who invented the term fingering! I think we need to sit down have a word lol) This is a weight of yarn. Fingering weight yarn is termed for 4-ply (four ply and not foreplay mind!) yarn. (I feel like I’m digging myself into a hole here with this list! lol).
  4. Naughty Corner: (Oh dear god this is getting worse!) Okay this is NOT Mr Grey’s room of seduction – I promise! You will hear a knitter say this when they have had enough of a project, its gone belly up and they are having problems with it. So its being put in the ‘naughty corner’ for a while to allow the yarn to have a think about how its stressing its poor knitter out – like a knitting project time out.
  5. Flash the Stash: Show me your new yarn purchases.
  6. RAK: Pronounced RACK. This is an abbreviation for Random Act of Kindness. This is when a knitter gifts something randomly.
  7. Cake: This is what a wound skein of yarn is termed – because it looks like cake of yarn!
  8. UFO: Abbreviation for the term UnFinished Object. A knitting project that has been abandoned, so an neglected WIP. Some knitters even have UFO bins in their house!
  9. ISO: Abbreviation for In Search Of. When you hear a knitter say this please sit up and listen. They might be in panic mode ISO a yarn for a project. Non-knitters support your knitting friends and family! And if there are sounds of wailing it might be best to back away because they might just have discovered that sweater they’ve been working on for the last 6 months is knit in yarn that is discontinued (always check your yardage folks!!)
  10. Yarn Chicken: This is when you are coming to the end of project and slowly running out of yarn. So playing yarn chicken. Will the knitter win or with the yarn run out?

Knitters: Do you know of any other abbreviations or terms you use that are funny to non-knitters. Leave a comment! I’d love to hear them.

Non-Knitters: What did you make of those? I bet you were ROFL!!

What makes me buy yarn?

So for today’s blog post I thought I would touch on yarn – otherwise known as ‘stash’. We love our stash don’t we?

In the timeline of stash development most knitters (but not all knitters!) start off with good old acrylic, in mostly pale solid colours. For perhaps baby gift knitting such as cardigans, blankets and hats.

Overtime (and this period of time varies depending on the knitter) we visit yarns shops and gradually meet more and more new pretties (yarn) and slowly our stash grows from acrylic to merino, from merino to alpaca, from alpaca to silk or cashmere (the good stuff!). Our fibre exploration grows and grows. There is so much natural fibre options out there these days and once you are hooked on the natural stuff it is very hard to go back to squeaky acrylic (IMO).

When you get to this stage I was told that means you are a yarn snob. But I say stuff that label. It just means you embrace the natural beauty of the world. Acrylic does have its place – personally I just can’t knit with it any more as it makes my hands itch.

So as you discover new fibres for knitting you also gradually get to grips with colour. I absolutely adore colour. For me colour is life! Why just have dull pale shades of black and white when you can have rainbows!

And colour is a huge thing to. There are deep tones, brights, pale natural shades and neons. There are solids, semi solids, speckles and gradients.

In fact the choice of both colour and fibre is mind blowing!

Now I’m going to set you a task – this weekend have a really good dig through your stash. What do you see? Do you see any trends? Do you have lots of one particular colour? One particular fibre? Do you have lots of every colour and fibre? Stash dive and explore. I promise you will be surprised when you look at the bigger picture.

For me colour goes along side my mood. So some days I crave bright pinks and reds (like a hug) and other days I need calm so I’m more drawn to blue. There is a psychology behind colour too. And as an holistic practitioner colour also means healing (I will talk more about this soon).

My colour palette used to focus on shades of reds or pink. Actually I would knit a lot with red. But over the last couple of years I have noticed this has changed and I’m exploring colour more & more. But not more muted tones. I’m actually growing a deeper bond with warmer tones of colour, although I’m still not sure about wearing neons. I have knit with them but I think you need a particular confidence to wear them and I’m not quite there yet. But Stephen West knows how to rock those beauties!!

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen me posting about my purchases last weekend at a yarn festival. Here’s a flash below. As you can see I really do love colour! I think its the colour that draws me to yarn purchases the most.

Did you know if you’re a member of ravelry and you have your stash uploaded there you can do in a colour search in your stash. I will put up a tutorial on how to do this over the weekend.

So take an hour this weekend. Review your stash. Explore what you have and come back next week to find out more about what your stash says about your personality.

Enjoy!

PS. I bet you find yarns you forgot you had too!!

 

Is yarn cheaper than therapy?

The more people meet in the fibre industry, the more people I find with a common connection – anxiety and mental health issues. There is a terrible taboo out there about mental health issues in general but its more common than a lot of people realise.

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with advertising, who we should be, how we should look, what we should buy, what we should be watching on tv… the list goes on. There is a lot of pressure to conform to the ‘norm’ which causes stress – and this stress sometimes leads to anxiety and mental health issues that can have a huge impact on your life.

I say this from experience. I have suffered from anxiety for several years now. I have always been open about this, in the view that talking about it helps people to understand and break the taboo – although a lot of people still judge you for it (trust me on that!).

My anxiety started when I was very ill in late 2008 and I had terrible days of pure panic. I couldn’t breathe, I was on the floor gasping for air at times. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack from palpitations in my chest. But after seeing my doctor it was all down to stress and anxiety.

Thats when I got back into knitting.

I’ve always been a knitter really. My mum taught to make a garter scarf when I was about 4 and I remember going through primary school being crafty. In secondary school I loved art but sadly had to ditch that subject when I started GCSEs because it was in the same choice block as child care & development (and the time I wanted to train as a nursery nurse so I could either work in day care or be a nanny). So when I left school I drifted from this craft for many years, although I did make the odd baby gift for friends.

But when I developed this anxiety I knew that I needed to do something to distract my mind. Knitting just seem to click (forgive the pun! lol). It helped me focus, it helped me feel calm and it helped me feel in control again – and believe me that is the biggest challenge when you are having a panic attack! You feel really out of control of your body and you feel like the room is spinning around you. It is a terrible thing to experience and some panic attacks were worse than others.

So how does knitting help?

Knitting is a form of mediative mindfulness and research has shown that mindfulness is a very effective method for treating depression and chronic illnesses. The repetitive nature of knitting creates harmony and its rhythmic movement distracts your chatterbox (brain). Similar to yoga, knitting allows you to switch off to daily stresses, focus on the stitches/pattern, and calm your mind to allow your body to relax.

Knitting has many other benefits as well including increasing your self esteem through learning and creating, improving your mood, and reducing loneliness through involvement in knitting groups and social activities.

So is yarn therapy?

I would say yes 100% but I’m bias I guess as I’m a knitter and us knitters love yarn, don’t we. But as knitting is proven (through research) thats its good for your health & wellbeing, then that must mean yarn definitely is therapy.

 

Question is it cheaper than therapy. I’m on the fence with that…if you had 10 sessions of therapy costing 400-500 pounds would you spend that much on yarn? I’m saying nothing…my lips are sealed!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you ever experienced anxiety or stress and felt the benefits from knitting (or crafting in general)? Please leave a comment. Lets all getting talking abut this more to take away the taboo of mental health issues.

In my next few posts I’m going to talk about some of the other therapies that have helped me deal with my anxiety, sharing some techniques that you can try out yourself.