Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Would you like to knit?

"I wish I could knit" is something I often hear people say. I know many of you have tried knitting but quickly given up. So, because I think knitting is such a great hobby and I'd like to see many more of you enjoying it, I thought I'd design something small and cute that requires only basic knitting skills. I'll be putting the pattern on my blog at the end of the week and hope you'll join me and give it a go. To find out a bit more please read on.

Firstly I'd like to tell you about Lynn in America who recently sent me this photograph of the sweet dolly she knitted using my Polly and Kate pattern. Isn't she just the cutest little thing? Lynn is relatively new to knitting and had been concerned that she wouldn't be able to follow my pattern but by following my step by step instructions and pictures she had no problems.

What I find especially pleasing is the way she has added her own ideas and personal touches. She hasn't made an exact copy of my dolls but has made one that is uniquely hers. The little skirt is made from an old napkin and amazingly the pretty brown hair was added by Lynn's six year old daughter which proves you are never too young to start crafting.

Between the ages of six and ten I attended a small village school here in England where there were only two elderly teachers and they had very fixed ideas about education. These ideas would seem old fashioned by today's standards but looking back I reckon they were pretty sound. Apart from reading, writing and arithmetic the girls were all taught to knit and sew. When I was seven years old I knitted this little shoulder bag. Made from cotton yarn I well remember the frustration as stitches dropped off my sticky needles.

In time I finished my bag (complete with buttonhole) and then stitched on a big blue bead for a button. The strap followed and once that was attached my teacher reckoned I was ready to make the next item (fabric oven mitts which were lined). I was eight years old by then.

Although my mum and granny were both keen knitters I didn't take up the craft again until my teenage years. Happily learning to knit is like learning to ride a bicycle or learning to swim, once you know how to do it you never forget.

I think many people are put off knitting by the wide variety of yarn and needles that are available but these are something you need not consider until you are more experienced.

Here are three yarns which you might have heard about. 4 ply is quite fine, chunky is thick and double knitting (DK) is somewhere in between. The yarn I and many others recommend for toy making is DK (in the US it is often called light-worsted and in Australia 8 ply).

What about needles? I like to use metal ones but I know several knitters prefer plastic or bamboo. The choice is up to you.

For fine yarn you use thin needles, for chunky yarn thick needles and for DK yarn you would use something in between. For my knitted toys I recommend 3.25mm needles (Size 3 in the US). New knitting needles can be expensive so try to find the size you want in a thrift shop (charity shop). In the UK if you can't find 3.25mm try looking for size 10 which is the number used before we went metric, they are both the same size.

So we've established the needle size you'll require for the doll pattern now we'll take a look at what else is needed.

Toy filler for stuffing a toy is obviously essential, pins with coloured ends are useful for marking the position of a doll's features, embroidery floss for stitching eyes and mouth, a red pencil crayon to create rosie cheeks, a tapestry needle for stitching pieces together (with a large eye big enough for yarn to past through) and last but not least, scissors.

I'm hoping by now I will have encouraged a few people to pick up their needles (or acquire some) and give knitting a go. If so then you will want to know what yarn you might need for the little project I'm planning.

The free pattern will be for a tiny doll but she will be a bit special. I won't tell you why at the moment. She could become an extra Christmas gift for a little girl or even a decoration on the Christmas tree.

As she is very small you will only need small amounts of yarn. Firstly flesh colour for her head and hands. I recommend using cream rather than pink (see below).

Yellow, orange, brown, black or beige for hair (very small amount).

Finally you'll need two pretty colours to stripe her skirt. I'll be using the pink and aqua shown below as I know it is a combination many little girls love at the moment. Alternatively you could try lemon, lavender, sky blue, peach, or white.

To make the little doll you only need to be able to cast on, knit and purl. Many of you will have learnt how to do these but might need a bit of practice. If so take a look at the video links below.

If you have never tried knitting then these videos should help you to learn. It's very easy once you know how.

1). How to CAST ON - easy method for beginners
2). How to KNIT
3). How to PURL
4). How to knit STOCKING STITCH also known as STOCKINETTE STITCH. This is simply one row of knit stitches alternated with one row of purl stitches..... easy.

And that is all you need to know. I haven't mentioned casting off (also known as binding off) because we won't be using that.

I shall now work on a pattern for my little doll and hopefully have it ready for the weekend. If you've often wished you could knit why not join me next time and have a go at making a little doll for yourself.

See you next time.