Saturday, 27 August 2016

Basic Knitting Knowledge

August 27th 2016

When I was chatting to the girls on FB chat this morning about knitting, I realised I had a post about basic knitting knowledge I had yet posted! I should have posted this before the one about how to cast on, but never mind. (Those who followed my previous blog "The Knitted Cupcake" will recognise this post).

Here is everything you need to know before you start knitting.

The different knowledge areas are as follows:
- Knitting Skill
- Choosing a pattern
- Choosing your yarn
- Choosing your needles
- Knitting needles
- Knitting equipment
- Knitting abbreviations
- Knitting journal.

- Knitting Skill Level

There are four knitting skill levels:

Beginner; basic knitting for new or early knitters.
Easy; repetitive knitting for early knitters.
Intermediate; adding colours to your work, shaping and finer details.
Advanced; all kinds of knitting.

- Choosing a pattern.

There's 3 ways of doing this:

Choose your wool first, then get the needles and pattern to follow.
Choose your needle size, then wool, then pattern.
Choose the pattern, then get the wool and needles to match.

I tend to either choose my wool first, or choose my pattern. But to tell you the truth, I rarely use the exact wool that the patterns recommend. I normally get the same weight and needle requirement, but never the same wool.

If you're first learning to knit, I suggest that you knit something flat like a scarf, as this requires no shaping.

- Choosing your yarn

Before choosing your yarn, you should decide upon how much yarn you want as well as the weight of the yarn. If you are knitting from a pattern that you have found, it will usually tell you what yarn you need. But, if you are brave enough to make up a pattern of your own, like I usually do, then this gives you much more freedom to choose.

You can usually walk into a craft shop and pick out a colour yarn that you like, and work from that. Make sure you have a look at all the yarn, and make sure you like it. I have to be careful what yarn I get, as I've got very sensitive skin and can't wear or handle anything itchy.

Natural Fibres:

1. Wool
Wool is very warm and is perfect for winter wear such as cardigans, jumpers, hats, gloves and jackets. Some wool can be rough though, but it will soften the more it is worn, and after it is washed.

2. Merino Wool
This wool comes from Merino sheeps, which is one of the softest types of wool out there. It can be worn easily against the skin, as it is not too rough or too itchy.

3. Mohair
This is from an Angora goat, and it is quite difficult to work with. Mohair is very frizzy and it can be quite hard to see the pattern of your work as well as any mistakes you have made. This wool makes amazing oversized jumpers and accessories. Not suitable for baby wear.

4. Alpaca
It is very warm and is great for ski hats, socks and thick jumpers. Baby alpaca yarn is available as well.

5. Cashmere
Cashmere comes from a goat and, like the merino wool, it can be worn against the skin. Cashmere wool makes amazing scarves, snoods and jumpers.

6. Angora
This comes from an angora rabbit and is quite fluffy. It is extremely delicate and makes great hats.

7. Soya
This does seem very unusual to use soya to knit, but soya wool is best suited to making light, summer wear like shrugs and floaty cardigans.

8. Linen
Linen is very similar to soya wool, as it is best suited to making summer wear.

9. Matt Cotton
Suitable for homeware, knitted pouches and shoulder bags, and it lasts a long time.

10. Mercerized Cotton
It has a reflective quality, which allows you to make evening bags, cardigans and throws that have a shiny quality.

11. Bamboo
This is an imitation of silk, and is airy which makes it ideal for lightweight shrugs and shawls.

12. Hemp
Hemp makes great shopping bags, placemats and coasters and hemp softens with age and wear.

13. Ramie
This plant comes from the nettle family and is strong with an airy quality, making it suitable for bags. 

14. Acrylic
Ideal for toys and novelty gifts.

15. Nylon
Can be used for socks and it does not shrink easily.

Wool Blends

1. Wool and Cotton Mixes
Ideal for those with sensitive skin and babies

2. Natural and Synthetic Mixes
Helps to bind other wools like mohair, and prevents shrinking, which makes this wool perfect for socks and gloves.

Speciality Wools with Textual Effects

1. Chenille
Made up of cotton and synthetics, and best suited for plain-knitted garments for adults, hats and scarves.

2. Slubby Wool
Can make unusual accessories and outerwear jackets.

3. Tweed Wool
Most traditional in fishermen's jumpers.

Wool Weight:

Here is a chart of different types of wool weight, what they can knit and what needles you should use.

And here is a breakdown of knitting with different weights of wool:

- Lace/2-ply is extremely light and produces a very fine knit. If needed, a slightly larger needle can produce a more open knit.

- Superfine/3-ply/Baby requires very thin needles

- Fine/4-ply/Sport/Baby this uses slightly larger needles than superfine, making it more comfortable to knit with.

- Double Knitting/Light Worsted/5-ply/6-ply slightly thicker than using fine and knits up quickly.

- Aran/Medium/Worsted/Afghan/12-ply commonly uses 5mm needles, and it is not heavy at all.

- Bulky/Chunky/Craft/Rug/14-ply makes great outerwear and hats.

- Super Bulky/Super Chunky/Bulky/Roving/16-ply + this is ideal for beginners as mistakes are easily seen.

- Labels

1. Needle Size is represented by two needles that are crossed, and underneath it will be written what needles the wool requires. For example, double knitting wool usually requires needles that are 4mm.

2. Tension is the square grid that is usually next to the needle size. It is a 10x10cm square, which is used as a test square. What this means, is that you should always knit out a tension test square to make sure the wool knits how you want it to. It will usually tell you how many stitches and how many rows you should do for your test square.

3. Shade colour is written near the barcode, and it will say 'SHADE' with the number next to it. This will help you if you haven't bought enough wool and need to buy more. You should always make a note of the type of wool, the brand and shade number.

4. Dye lot number is the same as shade colour and should be next to each other. This works the same as the shade colour.

5. Wash and dry instructions are always written on the label. There are usually instructions next to the image; for example, a square with 30c inside it means the wool needs to be washed on a cold wash. A P in a circle means it can be dry cleaned, a square with a circle and dot inside it means that it needs to be tumble dried cold. An iron with one dot means iron on a low heat, 2 dots means iron on a medium heat.

For example:

- This label tells you the shade (21386) and lot number (51438). Keep hold of this information, as it will come in handy, especially if you didn't buy enough yarn and need to buy more. It will ensure that you get the exact same colour yarn.

- Care instructions state that you should hand wash with similar colours, dry press only, it can be dry cleaned and you should avoid bleach.

- The other side of the label tells you to use size 3.5 or 4mm knitting needles. It also shows you what the tension should be: 27 rows and 20 stitches = a 10x10 cm square.

(Tension is how tightly/loosely you should knit. You should always knit a tension square before beginning a project. To do a tension square, follow the directions on the label; cast on 20 stitches and knit 27 rows. If that square measures to be a 10x10cm square, you have the correct tension.)

Here are some other yarn labels I've used as examples:

Care Instructions - Please click this link for a full assortment of care instructions for various fabrics and yarn.

- Choosing your needles

Choosing your needles depends on your wool; if your wool recommends 4mm needles, you should use 4mm needles. However, you can choose your needle size and then choose your wool, but this method can be quite restricting.
Knitting needles are made out of wood, bamboo, plastic or metal, so choose which ever feels more comfortable in your hands. I tend to use plastic or metal.

- Straight needles are made from various different materials: metal, plastic, bamboo and ebony.

- Metal needles are perfect when using mohair or wool. It is very rare that you will find metal needles that are thicker than 8mm.

- Plastic needles is a mixture of metal and bamboo, and needles smaller than 4mm should be avoided. 

-Bamboo needles are flexible and make great needles. It creates very even knitting, and will eventually mould into the curve of your hand.

-Ebony needles are quite expensive but hold their shape well.

- Double pointed needles are recommended for socks and gloves and are very short, so they cannot accommodate too many stitches. It is best to use double pointed needles (DPN) that are made out of bamboo.

- Circular needles come in various lengths and thickness. They come in 40cm, 60cm, 80cm and 100cm. Hats require 40cm (16"), and snoods can be used by 60cm needles and above. When making a blanket, it is recommended that you use 80cm or 100cm needles as it allows you to hold more stitches. If you prefer, you can buy interchangeable circular needles of the same length, but the needles' thickness can be changed.

- Knitting Equipment

1. Knitting Needle Gauge
Some vintage needles, and double pointed needles don't have labels on them to tell you their size, and so a knitting needle gauge is perfect for you to find out the size of your needle.

2. Scissors
I recommend embroidery scissors as these are very sharp and cut the wool easily to stop it from fraying.

3. Pins
Pins can be used to pin your work together when sewing your work up.

4. Stitch Holders
These are brilliant as they hold stitches together so that you can return to them later. You can substitute stitch holders for safety pins.

5. Needle Organiser
This is a great way to keep your needles organised and protected against damage.

6. Tape Measure
A great way to keep your work accurately sized, and helps you to check tension and measure your knitting.

7. Stitch Markers
This are essential when working with DPN and circular needles as you need to mark the end of a round.

8. Row Counter
This sits at the end of your needle and allows you to keep track of the rows you have knitted.

9. Point Protectors
These keep the needles from damage, stop your knitting bag tearing and stop stitches falling off the end of the needle.

10. Knitting bag
Knitting bags have loads of compartments for you to be able to hold everything you could possibly need in them.

11. Crochet hook
Helps to pick up dropped stitches and for attaching tassels.

12. Tapestry needle
These are blunt to prevent damage to fibres.

13. Cable needle
These have a kink in them to hold the stitches on the needle. Choose a cable needle that is as close to the size of your knitting needles as possible.

14. Pom Pom rings
So that you can make pom poms!

15. Ball-Winder
A quick way to wrap up your wool easily.

- Knitting Abbreviations

All knitting patterns have abbreviations, and the more you read knitting patterns, the more you'll start to remember and recognise the abbreviations. As there are too many to write down, so I've given you a link to a website that has the majority written down. Most knitting patterns should tell you what their abbreviations are, especially the cable knit stitch, because there are many different ways of doing that.


Here is a glossary of knitting terms:

Glossary of Knitting Terms

- A Knitting Journal

This is really handy and something I'd recommend doing if you intend on making your own knitting pattern. I bought a cheap pukka pad and write my patterns in it.

Things you should keep track of are:
What you intend on making; a hat, scarf, jumper, gloves, bag etc.
Where did you get the pattern, or what patterns influenced you?
The size and type of needles.
The size, weight, colour wool you bought.
Problems you had with it and how you overcame this problem
Include photos of your work, especially a finished one!

There you go, a very basic knowledge of knitting for you to peruse over. I hope it's been helpful.

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