Charity Knitting:10 Ways Of Helping The Poor, Sick & Vulnerable

Around this time of year lots of us are thinking of those less fortunate than us.  Chatting with the ladies in my knit and natter group (Yarning) the other day it became very clear that we’ve all run out of people to knit or crochet for. Our confessions amounted to the same thing. That we would LOVE to have new victims, ahem, “recipients” for our yarn-y efforts. That put me on a mission to find groups that want your charity knitting or crochet.

10 Ways of helping the poor, sick and vulnerable via charity knitting this winter.It turns out there are loads of charities who can really be helped by knitters or crocheters. To make things interesting I’ve tried to include a wide range of projects.

It is amazing the hugely inventive ways which charities are using yarn talent.  This list is just a small taste.  “Let’s Knit” magazine features a different charity each month so it’s worth checking their website regularly.

Without further ado, here are my favourites:

(All these charities are actively looking for donations at this time. If you are reading this weeks or months after the original post, December 2016, it is definitely worth clicking on the links and double checking that they are still taking donations).

My Favourite 10 Charity Knitting/Crochet Seekers:

  1. Hampshire Hospitals10 Ways of helping the poor, sick and vulnerable via charity knitting this winter. are looking for people to make “Twiddlemuffs” to help people with dementia. They even have a PDF with all the information that you need to make one.
  2. Naomi House and Jack’s Place accept donations to their shops to be sold to raise money for their local work.
  3. Bliss (A Charity For Babies That Are Born Premature Or Sick) have knitting patterns suitable for premature babies. They do ask that you contact your local hospital directly to give your donation. If you don’t feel able to contact your local hospital Preemies UK will distribute your makes if you send them to them.
  4. Knitted Knockers UK recruit volunteers who knit cotton prosthesis for women who have single or double mastectomies. You have to apply for this one!
  5. The Big Issue sponsor The Big Knitathon around November each year. You can find details of how to join in by clicking on the title.
  6. Project Linus supplies blankets to children who really need a sense of safety and security. It’s named after the character in “Peanuts” who is permanently welded to his blanket (how cute is that!).
  7. Oxfam need a range of items, mainly to sell in order to raise funds. They are catering to the trendy festival crowd and can get up to £35 for a nicely made blanket!
  8. Knit for Peace match donations with charities. They send out a monthly email newsletter to keep you posted on where your items are being used and have a range of pattern suggestions for a range of abilities.
  9. Loving Hands is a similar organisation to Knit for Peace but you may choose to go with this one because it focuses on UK charities.
  10. Finally UK Hand Knitting have a brilliant list of charities that need knitted items and links to what they need.

10 Ways of helping the poor, sick and vulnerable via charity knitting this winter.So, Do You Feel Inspired?

Hopefully there’s a cause in amongst this lot that tugs at your heartstrings. Who knows, some of your “downtime” over Christmas may mean a charity knitting boost for someone who really needs it.

If you know of other charities looking for knitters/crocheters (especially in Hampshire). Please do leave the details below or on my Facebook Page.

The Easy Way To Block Your Granny Squares

Blocking knitting or crochet (pinning it out to the correct size whilst damp) is tedious and time consuming. When you have hundreds of granny squares for a project it assumes nightmare proportions. I thought I would share with you today easy way to block your granny squares. The way that I do it saves time, effort and sanity!

This is the easy way to block your Granny Squares to the right size and shape for your projects.

I’ll keep this short, and to the point. You will need:

  • Four knitting needles (metal or plastic ones and make sure they are fairly fine).
  • A fairly sturdy cardboard box (I used one that holds my cat’s food sachets!)
  • A felt tip pen
  • A ruler
  • A craft knife
  • Spare cardboard (heavyweight)

This is how you use them to block your granny squares:

This is the easy way to block your Granny Squares to the right size and shape for your projects.

  1. On the top of your box draw out a square that is the size that you want your finished squares to be.
  2. In each of the four corners use the craft knife to cut a small slot.
  3. Push the knitting needles through the slots, make sure they are straight and mark where the point of the needle touches the bottom layer of the box.
  4. Cut slots in these four points too.
  5. Push the knitting needles through all four slots (both layers).
  6. Having the two layers helps them to stay straight and the right size.
  7. On the spare cardboard mark out two additional squares the correct size.
  8. Cut slots in the four corners of both square for the knitting needles.
  9. Check the squares fit.
  10. Load all your granny squares into a pillow case (this stops things unravelling!)
  11. Wash your granny squares according to the washing instructions on your yarn.
  12. Thread the damp granny squares onto the knitting needles in a stack. When the stack is half way up the needles thread on one of your card squares. Then continue until the needles are full.
  13. Once you have blocked your granny squares it is time to put them on a window sill to dry.
  14. Once you are sure they are dry take them off of the knitting needles. They should be square and a regular size ready to put them together!

No individual pinning onto towels, space saving and inexpensive. This is my idea of easy but I am always on the lookout for ways to make things easier, all tips and tricks welcome!

5 Of The Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet

Now that my social “knit and natter” group “Yarning” has been running for a few weeks (If you love Yarn crafts come and join us, more details here) I have found myself posting links to videos in the group Facebook page so that attendees can check them out in their own time and come back to them repeatedly if they need to. Five of the videos have stood out as being useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet in particular so I have decided to corral them into this post for easy reference.

The 5 Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet like this (and this includes left handers too!)

There are loads of useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet but as I am left handed I wanted to make sure that (wherever possible) there are decent left handed versions available as well.

Before we start I have to point out that most of these Tutorials are American. That means they use US crochet terms. If they are using UK crochet terms I will make it clear in the title. If you don’t know how US crochet terms translate into UK ones you can download my free guide here.

Without further ado here are my…

5 Most Useful YouTube Videos For Learning To Crochet

Crochet Slip Knot – Beginner Course: Lesson #4 (by the Crochet Guru)

I like the fact that she takes you through THREE different ways to tie a slip knot and that this video will work for you whether you are left or right handed. Her explanations are really clear and don’t waffle. I have to admit that I’m a pretzel girl myself 😉

Crochet basics – Chain stitch & Foundation chain (by Bella Coco)

This is the same in both the UK and US.

Ok, you can let out a cheer because this video is BRITISH! She starts by giving you yet another way to tie a slip knot and then de-mystifies the chain stitch. I particularly like the fact that she puts the pattern shorthand (ch) on the screen AND the UK and US terms. In this case they are no different but it’s still nice to have this reinforced.

If you are LEFT-HANDED and want to learn this most of the videos are disappointing because they are either poor quality or they are the same tutorial as that for right handed people where they have just mirrored the footage (cheats!).

The best of a bad lot is another video by the Crochet Guru. The video is really clear and easy to follow I personally just find it disappointing that it isn’t being done by a left hander!

Crochet basics: US Single crochet (UK Double Crochet) starting a foundation chain (by Bella Coco)


The single crochet stitch is one of the basic building blocks of crochet. A lot of the patterns you see are made up of different combinations of chain, single crochet, double crochet, half treble crochet and treble crochet stitches.

Disappointingly I couldn’t find a single video that I felt both explained the process of putting single crochet stitches into a foundation chain clearly AND that had decent quality video. I may have to resort to making one!

US Double Crochet Into A Foundation Chain (UK Treble Crochet) (by Crochet Guru)

Both the right and left handed versions of this video are lovely and clear.  The video deals with making US double crochet stitches into a chain to give a square(ish) result.

This is the left handed version of the video

How to Crochet Magic Circles: Double Crochet (The Crochet Crowd)

This video shows you how to start any circular project (including Granny Squares) in the simplest way. I particularly rate it because he shows you how to tie a slip knot clearly and is very clear about how to finish off stray ends or “stragglers”.

It is a long video and he doesn’t feel the need to fill in any gaps of information with chatting (which I find confuses me when I am following instructions).  At 11 minutes in he shows you how to turn a corner and at 19 minutes he gives a valuable “rule of thumb” for making sure that included stragglers don’t get unwound.

And the same thing for left-handers-

I hope that you find these videos all nice and easy to follow. In my opinion these were the most useful YouTube videos for learning to crochet although there are a lot of others. If you have any links to videos you think would be clearer please feel free to post them in the comments section or in our Yarning Facebook Group.

How I Found Out That Yarn Is The Best Medicine

 

Post Header Image Showing Yarn And Knitting Needles

I am one very happy bunny at the moment and a lot of it is down to Yarn! How has Yarn become my medicine of choice?

I have enjoyed both knitting and crochet for a long time but now I am working from home I find that some of my craft hobbies needed a little added something to make me happier. That something was other people!

I know that while I prioritise making time for creativity many people don’t have that luxury and after reading the work of Brene Brown recently one of her statements resonated with me so strongly that I have almost adopted it as a mantra!

“I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.”

With that in mind I set about creating a group locally to where I live that embraces all types of Yarn craft and means that members will have a definite  time in their calendar which is just for them to exercise their creativity.

So far we have had two meetings at Sacher and Strudel, a local Viennese Patisserie. It was important to me to get myself and attendees out of the house, away from the chores, family and petty distractions. Plus, hello! VIENNESE PATISSERIE! Home made Apfel Strudel and gourmet coffee!

Luckily Antonia, the proprietor and pastry goddess was on board and we decided to charge £5.00 a session including a hot drink of choice and away we went!

The Viennese Patisserie in Shawford that is the home of the Yarning group

Yarning (as we decided to call it after a Facebook poll) is open to everyone. It doesn’t matter whether they are old or young, beginner or experienced they can pop along, and just lose themselves in their projects, good conversation and amazing eats.

I am there to answer questions, help with patterns and provide resources that can be used by everyone. Attendees can bring their own projects or I have put together two kits. One for knitting, one for crochet that attendees can buy. These contain EVERYTHING needed for the project from beginning to end and are based on patterns freely available on the internet.

Beginners kit contents and final projects for knitting and crochet

There is also a library of books and patterns (both knitting and crochet) that attendees can borrow simply by signing them out.

A Library of knitting and crochet books to borrow

I have also started a Yarning Facebook Group which I am really enjoying finding fun and interesting content for.  Members can ask questions, share useful videos and any yarn related humour is always welcome.

Yarning has its own Facebook Group Where Members Can Post And Ask For Help

 

I brought along my crocheted spotty blanket to work on and even managed to get a few stitches in between helping others.

Members of Yarning can bring along their own projects, like my spotty blanket shown in this image.

So far this has been a place where new friendships are begun and expertise is shared freely. Click To Tweet

So far I have had a huge amount of fun at the Yarning gatherings. The idea was that the time is relaxed, enjoyable, inspiring and rejuvenating . Where solutions to other problems present themselves because they have simply not been at the forefront of your mind for a while and it is proving to be exactly what I was hoping for!

If you think this sounds like fun and are in the Hampshire area come along. I’d love to see you and we can enjoy the atmosphere together.

For further details, dates and prices please find our Yarning Facebook Group and get in touch!

 

 

The Knitting Tip Book I Wish I Had Bought Years Ago

The Knitting Tip Book I Wish I'd Bought Years AgoScarily I have spent at least £500 on craft books in the last 3 years. Gorgeous, but useless books. Do you know what my single most used knitting book is?

Front Cover - Tips For Knitters by Debbie Bliss

Disclaimer: I purchased this book at full price for my own use. I did not receive it as a 
gift nor was I asked to write this review. All opinions are my own.There are no affiliate
links in this post.

I should explain first of all that this isn’t a detailed “How to knit” book. I think that it works best in partnership with YouTube as probably the best medium for learning how to knit basic stitches and focusses instead on ways in which you can make your basic projects into professional looking articles. I refer to this a lot, especially to refresh my memory after I haven’t knitted for a while.

Boosting Your Knitting Ninja Skills

The retailers recommended price on this is £8.99 (although, at time of writing, The Book People seem to have a good deal on copies) this puts it at up to £10.00 cheaper than a lot of books covering similar subject matter. Plus it is the size of a small notebook which makes it incredibly handy to slip into your knitting bag. My version is paperback, which keeps weight down, although I know that a hardback version is published.

I like the fact that it is clearly written by a Brit and consequently talks in British knitting terms all the way through. It has a particularly useful needle size conversion chart for UK to US sizes but one of the few tricks I think it misses is including a chart to translate UK to US yarn weights. I have printed out my own and glued it into the back of the book for reference

Knitting patterns use abbreviations, you can find lots of keys as to what these mean (including one in this book) but what is often not covered are commonly used expressions, such as “place markers” or “easing in any fullness”. The author covers these common terms too.

The “Fixing Mistakes” section is probably one of my most thumbed. Picking up dropped stitches and untwisting them is something we all tend to need at one point or another! My other gem from this book is the demystification of the fabled “thumb cast on”. I still don’t like it but at least I now understand how it works in both the UK and European version!

I actually bought this book after attending a day workshop on finishing techniques because it has a really clear section on types of seams and where to use them.

The choosing a seam section of the book gives really clear instructions

Beware Of The Knitting Purists

On the negative side it makes me smile how Debbie Bliss covers “Yarns” without mentioning that synthetic yarns exist.  It fits in with her ethos of only using natural fibres but they aren’t all that is out there! Her edging reference section has some gorgeous ideas for decorative finishes for your projects and the book tempts you with more advanced things such as intarsia and bead work. It doesn’t provide an exhaustive guide to these though and you may well want more information before embarking on them.

In short this is a book that I would recommend for any “not quite beginner” which will last into expert-hood.

Are there any knitting books that you wouldn’t be without? I’m always on the look out for new titles to recommend to people attending my workshops (plus I need to feed my book addiction somehow!)

 

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know

Welcome to this post on starting needle-felting and what you need to know.

This is the second post in a series that gives you the facts about a craft before you commit to buying kit, or possibly even before you try it. This post aims to be a “fact file” with the answers to the most common questions.

(Please note that the prices I quote are correct at time of publishing and they are from (almost) universally available sources like Amazon. You may well be able to find cheaper versions by shopping around!)

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Starting Needle-felting; what is it exactly?:

Needle-felting is a process that is used to make two and a half or three dimensional decorative objects. It involves using barbed needles to stab wool fibres again and again which causes them to lock together and the object to become denser, keeping its shape as you work. This happens because wool fibres have scales on them which lock together when they are rubbed against each other. The image below shows a merino wool fibre (top) viewed under a microscope alongside a human hair (bottom).

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

Photo courtesy of CSIRO [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 The material produced as these scaled fibres rub together and lock is what we call felt.  As you know if you have ever washed a “hand wash only” jumper in the washing machine it felts because the fibres are rubbed together by the washing process and lock together into a denser textile.

How Much Time Per Week Will Needle Felting Take Up?:

To be honest, like embroidery, starting needle felting can take as little or as much time as you want. Its sister activity wet felting takes a lot of set up and clearing up but needle felting can be done at any table and the kit takes minutes to get out and clear away. I suggest that you felt onto a surface that will not matter if it gets marked but apart from that small 3D projects can take an hour or less (Hobbycraft have some kits that make a good starting point, I particularly like the penguins). More detailed projects like the ones the amazing Mrs Plop makes take hours each to do (if not days) and require a lot of practice!

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

The simple needle-felted hearts that you can see in my images are done using a mould to help shape them (a bit of a cheat but it works!) and take about 15 minutes each.

However starting needle-felting should come with a health warning. It is SERIOUSLY addictive!

Do I Follow Patterns Or Do I Have To Make Up My Own Designs?:

There aren’t really “patterns” as such for needle-felting but if you search “Needle felting tutorials” on Pinterest you will find hundreds of “how to’s” for every animal and object under the sun. You can use these as your guide when starting to needle-felt.

Once you get confident you can spread your wings a bit.  Knowing basic stuff like pipe cleaner “skeletons” or adding detail with a single needle will give you the confidence you need.

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

How Much Money Does It Take To Start Up?:

This isn’t the cheapest of crafts. You can buy a packet of felting needles for around £7.00 and use them as they are. However I find it a lot easier to mount the needles in a felting tool.  I like the Pen Style Felting Tool by Clover which comes with needles and costs £8.25.  I prefer the way this feels in my hand and it has better control for detail.  A lot of people get on just as well with the more traditional style tool though, which is a similar price.

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

As an absolute minimum to start with you need a felting tool, some wool roving and either a brush style felting mat or a piece of dense foam to use as a surface to work on. Everyone has an opinion on which they prefer.  A brush mat like mine can be bought for £10.63 and a piece of foam is around £5.60. Personally I prefer the foam for 3D work as it helps hold and shape the object being felted.  Having said that the foam doesn’t last as long because the constant punching from the tool breaks it down.

Wool roving (also known as “Tops”) is available in loads of colours and quantities. A quick search on Amazon for “wool roving” yields around twenty pages of results with prices starting at £1.46 for a 10 gram bag.

Any additional moulds etc, are entirely up to you and the tutorial you are following.

Total cost to produce a simple first design is around £15.31 (around $21.85).  This only gives you one colour of roving to work with though so you may want to factor in a few pounds for extra colours.  This cost also is for the foam mat rather than the brush mat.

How Quickly Will I See Results?:

Quickly! As I mentioned before the small hearts take around 15 minutes each. The basic shape of the item you are felting emerges really quickly but the really fine detail takes time and patience (an usually use of a single, fine, needle).

What Previous Knowledge Do I Need?:

No previous knowledge needed at all. There are lots of tutorials and projects out there in cyberspace but I think some of the best are Hawthorn Handmade’s written guides to different parts of the process and their video tutorials.

The Homemakery’s introduction is also worth checking out.

How Dexterous Do I Need To Be?:

It depends on the project. The more detailed the project, the more dexterity is needed to get that detail.  Although small my felted hearts take very little dexterity because there is no detail. When I tried to turn one of them into a Conversation Heart considerably more dexterity was needed to add the wording.  I used a single needle and almost needed a magnifying glass (I know I’m getting old!) Even then I wasn’t entirely successful!

How Much Brain Power Does It Take?:

Not a much unless you plan to take it to a very high standard or make your own designs. It’s also very cathartic after a stressful day to spend some time stabbing something!

One word of warning though.  The needles do snap if you are too rough with them. As they are fairly expensive to replace try and avoid that by paying attention to where you are putting the needles.

How Much Room Will It Take Up?:

(I’ve added this category from the last post at the suggestion of one of my readers who pointed out that she has little storage space at home and this would be a factor for her choosing a craft to try).

Needle-felting takes up a small amount of space. I can keep all my kit and materials in one box (like the one below) from Ikea that measures 27x35x20 cm.

Starting Needle-felting: What You Need To Know - Il Magpie Miscellanea Di S

(photo courtesy of Ikea UK)

Needle-felting is great fun and addictive but I would recommend that you try in for the first time in a class. The kit is then often provided for you to take home (either included in price or for a small extra fee). You should find it quite easy to find a local beginners class and take it. There are quite a few around and learning in a group is always less intimidating.

I’d love to know if this post is useful to you and I am more than happy to answer any questions you have via the comments, Facebook or Twitter.

Happy Crafting!

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