That title’s a bit of a bold statement, isn’t it? But I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability this week, because at the weekend I’ll be teaching and selling at an event which is all about reducing, reusing and recycling.
I’ve especially been considering how to put a sustainable spin on the knitting workshop I’ll be running on Saturday morning. It’s down in the programme as “eco-knitting”, so what if someone asks me “how is this eco-knitting”?
But knitting really can play a part if you’re making an effort to live a more environmentally-friendly life… So really, most knitting counts as eco-knitting! Here are the top 5 ways that learning to knit can help you to change the way in which you brave the murky waters of the clothing industry – currently one of the biggest culprits in global pollution.
1. You can choose your materials.
The majority of high street knitwear is made of synthetic fibres, such as acrylic, nylon and polyester. These materials are basically plastic, so they are non-renewable and non-biodegradeable. Also, every time they’re washed, they release harmful microplastics into the water. When you knit, you get to decide what you use – plant fibres like cotton, or animal fibres like wool and alpaca, all of which have a lower environmental impact than man-made fibres. They also keep you warmer! Even reducing the percentage of synthetics in the clothes you knit, by using a good blended yarn, is a step in the right direction.
2. You can make what you really want.
Ever gone shopping for a new sweater, and ended up buying something you “sort of” liked, because it was all you could find? Knitting puts you in control of the size, colour and fit of whatever you make. With time, you’ll learn what suits you, and you can make everything in your favourite colour. And you’ll consume less – your wardrobe will contain only items that you absolutely love, rather than bursting with stuff you half like.
3. You recognise quality.
When you knit, you learn how much time and material goes into making something… And you realise that there’s no way a sweater that costs €15 can be well made or sustainable. A closer look often reveals dodgy seams or cheap fabric, and you might even think “I could make something nicer than this”! You’ll be quite content to leave fast fashion behind and embrace a slower approach to style.
4. You take better care of things.
If you knitted something yourself, it becomes important to you. After all, you built it up stitch by stitch… Maybe it’s even your own design! You appreciate the effort you invested in creating it, and you want to keep it looking good. And you’d never dream of throwing it away after only wearing it a handful of times!
5. You have the power to mend and remake.
Understanding how knitting works means you can fix your favourite garments when they become worn or torn. And if your handknitted sweater is too big, too small or you just fancy a change – rip it up and reknit the yarn into something new!
How about you? Any thoughts on how knitting (or making generally) helps us to reduce our impact on the Earth? (And yes, it’s entirely possible I might incorporate the best ideas into my lesson on Saturday 😉 )
I’m often asked for recommendations for the best baby knitting patterns – it seems like knitting gifts for babies and little ones is as popular now as it ever was! It’s a great way to give a present that’s a little bit more special and meaningful… And of course it helps that babies and children are smaller than adults, so a handknitted baby sweater project can feel like a quick and easy win, especially for beginner knitters.
That said, it’s not all plain sailing when you’re knitting for babies. While success stories among the students in my weekly knitting classes are definitely in the majority, I do sometimes hear the dread phrase “I’ve never seen the baby wearing it”. And that can be heartbreaking, especially if it’s been a tricky make. There’s also the question of the looming deadline that comes with every baby project – the new arrival is going to grow quickly, so that newborn-size cardigan needs to be ready by the due date!
So, with that in mind, what projects do I usually recommend? Here are my top 5 knitted baby gift ideas, plus a few pattern suggestions.
Blankets are my go-to baby knit. It’s what I suggest first to students, especially beginners, because they’re simple, practical and they last. A beautiful traditional-style matinée coat may only be worn a couple of times before it’s too small for a growing youngster, but a beloved blankie? That can be a cherished companion for years! Also, since there’s no shaping involved, blanket patterns can be scaled up or down easily – one of my students loves to make smaller-size blankets that tuck around a baby when they’re in their car seat, for example.
My all-time favourite baby blanket pattern is the Big Bad Baby Blanket from Debbie Stoller’s book Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook. I made this for a friend’s new arrival years ago, and liked the pattern so much that I made an adult-sized version for myself to carry with me on long-haul flights! It’s easy to customise this pattern too – more, smaller panels in the centre, add an intarsia or textured motif, or use different colours for the central panels, rather than texture. Check out this throw-sized version in Katia Big Merino, made by one of my students earlier this year!
Another favourite baby blanket pattern of mine is this Colorful Wedges blanket, which is available free from Purl Soho’s website. This pattern uses short rows to create those dramatic triangular blocks of colour, and it’s a great way to get to grips with this technique. The original pattern uses a sport weight yarn, but it’s easy to convert the pattern to use a chunkier yarn if you’d like your project to knit up more quickly… As long as you cast on any multiple of 5 stitches, the pattern will work. This super version was made by one of my students recently – she used Katia Merino Aran (3 balls of the cream colour, plus one each of the contrast colours) and cast on 125 stitches.
Hats are always a quick, easy knit – and for babies, they’re small, don’t require too much in the way of shaping and won’t be outgrown as quickly as other garments. They’re also fun to customise with stripes, pompoms or tassels, and will be extra welcome if the new arrival shows up during the winter months! Or, make a version from soft cotton or bamboo yarn to protect delicate skin from the summer sun. Purl Soho have free patterns for three cute baby hats on their website, and one of my students made this gorgeous version as a gift for a friend’s little one.
The only downside to this pattern is the fine weight yarn it uses – the finished result is lovely, but it took a surprisingly long time to complete! If you’re looking for a quicker knit, the hat pattern I usually recommend is the Maker Maker Basic Beanie, which is free on Ravelry, has sizes from preemie baby to adult XL, and includes instructions for both knitting flat on straight needles and working in the round. It works up beautifully in Katia Basic Merino, and one ball is plenty for a baby hat, with a bit left over for a pom-pom if you like!
Bootees are another small, quick project that make a great new baby gift. The only reason I rate them below hats is that I’m yet to find a really good beginner-level pattern! The easiest one I’ve found to date is available to view free on the designer’s blog here, or you can purchase a printable version. One of my students put together this cute pair over her Christmas break!
Like blankets, knitted toys will outlast a growth spurt, and may well become a most beloved friend for life as well as being a thoughtful, personal gift. The trick with making good toys is to find a pattern that walks you through the assembly of the pieces, as well as how to knit them, and the best example of this I’ve come across is the book Knitted Animal Friends by Louise Crowther. It also doesn’t hurt that her animals are adorable, and share roughly the same body size and shape… So any of the animals can wear any of the knitted outfit designs, patterns for which are included in the book. I made this fox and sweater last year for a friend to gift to her new nephew – normally I loathe sewing knits together, but the clear instructions, complete with photos and diagrams, made this a breeze!
I was also able to customise it with the little guy’s initials, so he knows this fox is his!
And finally… Garments
Of course, if you have your heart set on knitting baby clothes, jump right in! Here are some tips and feedback I’ve had from students and new mums to help you on your way.
Think about timeframe. Knitting something more often than not takes longer than we expect, especially if you’re a beginner, haven’t picked up your needles in a while, or you’re trying a new pattern or technique. Consider giving yourself a bit of breathing room by choosing a larger size, rather than immediately casting on for a newborn garment.
Choose your yarn carefully. I love to use 100% wool when I knit, but I understand that not everyone has the same tolerance for lovingly hand-washing garments that I do – especially if there happens to be a new baby in their lives! For me, wool and acrylic blends are a good compromise – most will stand up to a delicate machine wash, and any that have a decent percentage of wool in the mix (50% or more) will still keep baby nice and cosy. Help out busy new parents by including washing instructions in the gift parcel, so they’ll know your knitted treasures can survive spills and a trip through the washing machine.
Experiment with colour! One of the best things about making over buying is that you’re in control, and not constrained by traditional baby colour palettes. If the new parents aren’t fans of pastel pinks and blues, consider deep jewel colours or vivid brights instead. Some of the most striking baby knits I’ve seen in class have been made from this deep forest green, and they looked amazing! Or pair neutrals with a colourful accent for a versatile garment that stands out from the crowd, like this student’s version of the Five-Hour Baby Sweater mentioned above.
Have you any go-to baby knitting patterns? Be sure to share your favourites in the comments below! Or if you’ve made any of my picks, I’d love to know how they turned out.
Have a great weekend… And until next time, happy knitting!
One of the best things about getting this new website up and running has been that I figured I could maybe justify adding a few new colourways to my yarn shop stock. Any excuse, right?
You can check out the full range in the Yarns section of my store, but in this post I wanted to give you a quick introduction to the new arrivals.
First up – and something I’ve been after for a while – Basic Merino DK in Pale Yellow!
Basic Merino is just the right thickness when you’re knitting for babies and toddlers, and pale yellow means you can neatly sidestep any tricky issues of “girl colours” and “boy colours” while still keeping to a traditional pastel-y baby palette. Since it’s a wool and acrylic blend, it’ll keep little ones toasty without being tickly… And it will survive a trip through the washing machine as well.
Next up, something bright and punchy for summer! Merino Aran is now available in Cerise.
When I asked my students which colours they’d like to see added to the range, a bright, grown-up pink rated pretty highly. I’m not usually a pink kinda girl, but even I have my eye on a couple of balls of this… I think it will combine really well with my two greys in a colour-block sweater. (Pattern suggestions welcome!)
The darker of the two greys is also a newbie – I love to pair dark greys with bright jewel colours, like mustard or burnt orange, so I reckon I’ll enjoy playing around with this shade!
And last but not least… Time to get some purple in the mix! This Plum Merino Aran has already been a hit in class.
I also restocked some classic neutrals in Merino Aran that have been selling like hot cakes lately – they’ll work alongside pretty much anything, but I really like them together too. What do you reckon?
Do you have a favourite shade from these new picks? Be sure to let me know in the comments! And I’m always open to suggestions for further new additions to the lineup, so if you think there’s something missing, I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve been meaning to set myself up online since the yarn shop where I used to teach my weekly knitting classes closed during Covid. All of a sudden, it became that bit harder to connect with new knitters… And, of course, to keep my stash (and those of my students) brimming over with lovely yarn. My hope is that I can use this website to better reach anyone out there who’s thinking of learning to knit, and to make it as easy as possible for them to get what they need to have a go. The world needs more knitters, after all!
So, how about we take the tour?
If you’re interested in joining a knitting class, either in person here in Dublin or online, you’ll find all the options and pricing on my classes page.
Finally, a real excuse for me to buy yarn and knitting needles in bulk quantities! The store is opening with a few tried-and-true yarns that have been student favourites over the past year or so, and I’ll be continuing to add to the range in the coming months. You can also book places in my weekly group classes and purchase knitting class gift vouchers here too!
No introduction needed here – you already found it! But be sure to keep checking in… I’ll be using the blog to share student projects, patterns and new arrivals in the store. Sign up below and never miss a thing!
And of course, there are the usual bricks-and-mortar sections where you can find out a little bit more about me or get in touch directly.
Cheers for stopping by! And don’t be shy – say hi in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂