Wow, it’s been a while since I posted something here, hasn’t it? But this week I have some fun news to share, and it seemed like a great opportunity to jump back in… Especially since it involves something else which I haven’t done in a long time.
What’s that, you ask?
Well, it’s been aaaages since I indulged in some social knitting – which is strange, because there was a time when I’d be out at knitting events at least a couple of times a week! So this year, when I remembered that World Wide Knit in Public Day was coming up, I decided it was high time I got involved again.
What is World Wide Knit in Public Day?
It’s a day for knitters across the world to get together and share their passion for their craft with each other and their wider community. Everyone is welcome at these events, whether they’re a complete newbie, an experienced knitter… Or even a crocheter! World Wide Knit in Public Day has been running annually since 2005, and you can find out more about its history on the official website, here.
This year, World Wide Knit in Public Day falls on Saturday the 10th of June – yes, that’s next week! And my plan is to fill my whole weekend with yarny fun. Here’s how!
If you’ve never been to Richmond Barracks before, you’re in for a treat! It’s a super venue, and not too far out of Dublin City centre.
Saturday 10th June
Then, on the day itself, I’ll be joining the Dublin Knitwork WWKIP Day event in Iveagh Gardens, Dublin 2. What a great location!
We’ll be knitting in the park from 1-4pm, so if you’re local please come along and join us! You can find full details of the event here.
And if you’re not lucky enough to find yourself in Dublin on the 10th of June, fear not! It’s WORLD WIDE Knit in Public Day, so perhaps there’s an event planned somewhere near you. You can find a complete list of Knit in Public events on the World Wide Knit in Public Day website.
So, perhaps I’ll see you soon for some public knitting! Or, if you’re overseas and planning on attending or organising a public knitting session on the 10th of June, be sure to tell us all about it in the comments.
Well, this is pretty cool – I’m going to be on TV on Monday morning!
Back in June, I went to a market as my monster-knitting alter-ego CrawCrafts Beasties… And I got chatting to a man who, it turned out, works on Ireland AM, Ireland’s longest-running daytime TV programme. He said, “We’ll have to get you on the show!”
And then I got a callback on Thursday!
So, I’ll be heading over to the Ireland AM studios in time for my segment at 9.45, in which I’ll be chatting about what I knit when I’m not teaching classes, and hopefully getting the presenters to have a go at a bit of monster-making themselves. I’m going to try them with these super-simple little creatures, which are a quick, easy project. They’re a great first make for kids and really fun to customise, too!
Join us on Monday morning at 9.45am on Virgin Media One to see how we get on – hopefully I’ll be able to keep all these monsters under control!
Well, here we are… The last full week of August! Where did the summer go?
Still, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s looking forward to the cooler days ahead, and all the autumn colours, drifts of fallen leaves and (most importantly) cosy woollies that come with them.
And speaking of knitwear, now is the perfect moment to make a start on a new knitted project… Or to pick up those needles for the very first time. If you’re not sure where to begin though, don’t worry! I have a whole heap of class options coming up over the next few months – why not join me and take your knitting to the next level?
Weekly Group Classes
New season, new timetable! This schedule will lauch in the week beginning the 5th of September. My group classes are suitable for beginners and intermediates, and I can either guide you in your choice of project and get you started, or help you with a pattern you already have. The group size for each session is limited to 4 students, so please be sure to book your place in advance here. Each class lasts 90 minutes, with a short tea break at half time, and the Knit With Helen yarn store will be open for in-class stocking up of yarn and needles!
For anyone based in North Dublin, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching the Knitting Beginners Class at Malahide Community School, starting next month. Malahide Community School has an extensive Adult Education programme, and their dedicated knitting class for beginners kicks off on Thursday 22nd of September. The course runs for 10 weeks, with a midterm break in late October.
So, in this class I’ll be starting at the very beginning, helping students to get to grips with the knit and purl stitches, plus other essential skills such as casting on, casting off, shaping and sewing up. We’ll be completing two projects together along the way, and the good news is that enrollment is already open!
And finally – an option for any beginner knitters based in Dublin city centre! My Knit School Hat Workshop is the perfect way to get started with knitting in a fun and relaxed setting. Over the course of 5 weeks, beginning on the 10th of September, we’ll make a classic beanie-style hat… And learn a bunch of useful knitting skills along the way. All materials are provided, and as with my group classes, numbers are limited to make sure that everyone gets plenty of help with their project.
Hopefully there’s something there to pique your interest… But I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for knitting-related classes and workshops, so if there’s something you’d like to learn, be sure to tell me all about it in the comments!
It doesn’t take much to put a smile on my face. Happiness is a good pair of knitting needles!
Some of my all-time favourite knitting needles are my metal Addi circulars. Back when I became seriously hooked on knitting again, Addi needles were the norm in Dublin’s better yarn stores. I bought a good few pairs, but my most cherished ones were a pair of 4mm circulars with metal points. For a few years, almost everything I knitted was done on those – until one fateful day I lost them. When I went to pick up a replacement set, I discovered that there was no longer an Addi stockist in Dublin city centre, and I was gutted!
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself trying to source knitting needles to sell in my own online store… And I was having some difficulty. I didn’t want to stock anything I wouldn’t use myself, but a lot of the needle brands I rate most highly were only available through non-EU wholesalers, and that means import taxes. Not ideal if you’re only starting out!
So I thought, “What about Addi? They’re good quality, and made in Germany – maybe I can reach out to them.”
So that’s what I did. And now, finally, I can offer a range of my favourite metal-tipped circular knitting needles for sale to you, my lovely customers!
I have two cable lengths available (40cm and 80cm) and a range of needle point sizes, which will cover you for most projects. I also made sure to buy in the recommended needle sizes for every yarn I sell, so whatever you’re making, I can get you kitted out to make a start on it!
Take a look at the full range of Addi circular knitting needles in my store now! And if you’re not sure about which needles go with which yarn, you can always reach me here – I’m happy to help.
And that’s all from me for this week… Now I might just go and treat myself to a fresh shiny pair of 4mm Addi knitting needles! See you next time, and happy knitting!
Hello everyone! Today’s post brings exciting news – I’ve been adding to my yarn stocks and I’ve loads of lovely new things to share with you. First up…
100% Cotton now available!
After the post I did a few weeks ago on eco-friendly knits for your home, I decided it was high time I sourced a nice chunky 100% cotton yarn that would work well with those patterns. And here it is! Katia Easy Knit cotton is lovely and soft, and its Aran/chunky weight thickness means it knits up nice and quickly, too. I ordered 6 colours:
… Three brights and three not-so-brights! You can find them all in my online store, here. And next…
Irish Yarns are here!
I love to buy local and work in 100% wool, so I’m delighted that I can now offer not one but TWO yarns that tick both of these boxes. Say hello to Studio Donegal’s Darnie, in five colours…
Both yarns are spun in beautiful scenic County Donegal, in the northwest of Ireland, and each colourway has multicoloured tweed flecks running through the strand alongside the dominant colour.
Soft Donegal is the thicker of the two yarns – it works out as a DK weight, or light worsted, and is ideally knitted up on a 4.5mm needle. And because it’s 100% merino wool, you know it’s going to be lovely and soft against your skin! Meanwhile, 100% lambswool Darnie is a lighter weight yarn (4-ply/fingering weight, with a recommended needle size of 2.25-3.25mm) which is perfect for accessories, shawls and fine-guage garments. It’s also meant to be great for colourwork, although I haven’t had a chance to test this just yet!
Both yarns are available in 100g skeins, and I’m happy to wind your purchase up into cakes for you before I mail it out. This service is free of charge – all you need to do is mention that you’d like to have your yarn wound in the order notes at checkout*. And if you’re looking for pattern inspiration, be sure to check out Ailbíona McLochlainn’s designs, here! Ailbíona lives in Donegal, and Soft Donegal or Darnie are listed as recommended yarns for many of her patterns.
* Please note: Once a skein is wound, it cannot be returned for refund or exchange
New and restocked colours in Katia Merino Aran!
Katia Merino Aran is my go-to yarn for beginner knitters – it’s easy to knit, easy to care for and easy to rip back if things don’t work out first time around. The top seller recently has been this lovely tropical Cerise colour, which is now back in stock after the last lot was completely snapped up!
And since I was looking at the range, I picked out some new shades to add to the family! Just added to the lineup are (left to right) Dark Rose, Turquoise and Cornflower Blue.
Is there anything in the new expanded selection that’s calling your name? Let me know in the comments, and tell me what you’d make with it! Or, if there’s anything you’d like to see added to the range over the coming months, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
With life returning to something like normal, a lot of people are starting to make their way back into the office. And that means many of us will once again be spending long stretches of time in trains, buses or trams.
A few years ago, I spent a brief stint as a commuter myself. An average day saw me sitting on the bus for up to two and a half hours, and I was always trying to find ways to make that time pass a little more quickly. It was impossible to concentrate on a book – in fact, when I revisit anything I read at this time, it’s like I’m dipping into a completely new story! For a while, I tried doing my makeup on the morning run, but Dublin’s roads are really a little too winding and bumpy to manage convincingly unwobbly eyeliner.
In hindsight, I can’t believe I didn’t think to pack my knitting. I always do now! Dublin isn’t really a driver’s city, so I never got my licence and I still spend quite a lot of time on public transport. Although I’m not commuting as much as I used to, I’m still happy to have my latest project handy when my work takes me further from home than I can easily walk.
So, based on my own experience, here are my top tips for knitting on the move!
Make it portable. Circular needles pack away much easier than straights, and your neighbour will thank you for not poking them in the side repeatedly for the whole journey. Small projects are also best for travelling – so socks or a hat, not that bulky-weight throw for your 3-seater couch.
Make it easy. Checking charts or complicated patterns on a moving bus is no picnic, so something plain is better.
Choose something you can stop. Breaking off in the middle of a long row so you can scramble for the door can lead to sliding-off-the-needle dramas, so I usually work on a small project or one knitted in the round. Then I can stop anytime.
Invest in good storage for your tools – a zip-up wallet or bag means you can bring all your favourite gadgets along without losing them between the seats or dropping them on the floor.
Be prepared to have at least one person ask what you’re doing… It happens every time!
This one should really go without saying, but just in case – if you’re the one doing the driving, you probably should park your needles until you arrive at your destination!
… That you can make with very little knitting knowhow!
Hello there everyone! Eeeek, it’s been a busy few weeks since I last posted here… I’ve had a couple of markets and workshops on in the meantime, and prepping for those tends to squeeze out everything else!
Anyway, if you can cast your mind back to the end of last month, I was talking about sustainability, and how learning to knit can play a part in lessening your impact on the planet.
But what if you’re really only just learning, and you’re not sure where to start?
No problem! Even your very first knits can be put to use in your home, helping you to replace some of the disposables that lurk in our kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
All of these simple eco-friendly knitting projects use an Aran-weight 100% cotton yarn, paired with 5mm knitting needles. Cotton is great because, as well as being a natural, biodegradable, plant-derived fibre, it’s super soft and easily washed and reused.
Project 1 – Face Scrubbie
These couldn’t be easier! The scrubbie is just a straightforward knitted square. Use yours with facial soap to gently cleanse and exfoliate your skin.
Cast on 12 stitches
Knit until piece is 7cm long
Cast off and weave in ends
Project 2 – Wash Mitt
I love a good wash mitt, and handknitted ones are my particular favourites. The bumpy texture of the knitting makes this handmade mitt a perfect substitute for plastic shower puffs, too!
Cast on 20 stitches
Knit until piece measures 34cm, or until it fits comfortably over both sides of your hand
Cast off, fold in half and use the tails to sew up each side
Project 3 – Dishcloth
Commercial dishcloths are so often produced using man-made materials, and they’re basically designed to be disposable. Switch things up by hand-knitting your own – these simple squares are a great way to try out new yarns and stitches! Knit them from durable cotton yarn and see how much longer they last. You can pop them in the washing machine to freshen them up, too.
Cast on 40 stitches
Knit every row until you have a square (about 26cm)
Have you any go-to knitted items that have replaced commercial disposables around your home? Be sure to tell us all about them in the comments! And if you’re interested in giving any of these projects a go, I’ve included a printer-friendly version of the patterns below.
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.