For the Dads

As another Father's Day approaches I began to ponder my gift options. Finding things to make for a man always seems somehow harder. My mind was a blank and I've been making presents for so long that I couldn't possibly buy a gift. What would people think ;)

After much deliberation and male interrogation I settled on a few ideas. There are plenty of knit and crochet options for all these so whichever your preference, you'll be sure to find something for that special man :)

Knit and Crochet Father

Good old socks - sure to please if you have the time to make them.

Tie - something a little different and could be made to match a pair of socks.

Tablet case - always useful as most men have some form of gadget that needs protection from bangs, scrapes or sticky little fingers.

Cup cozy and coaster in one - protect your furniture and keep the coffee warm in style.

Beer hugger - for those who prefer their drinks cold, a can or bottle hugger will stop those chilly fingers.

Guitar Strap - personalised style for those musical Dads.

Scarf - a little warm for the summer weather but will certainly come in for those colder days.

Dish cloth - a cheeky little present for all those who enjoy a bit of housework.

Sewing Father

If you need something quick and prefer a bit of sewing, the PurlBee have instructions for handkerchiefs, a wallet, a quilted laptop sleeve or tie. Make them as bright and cheerful as you dare.

Only a month to go to Father's day so better get busy. Happy making :)

Pearls

I've been knitting and crocheting for years and I love it, love it, love it. Every project is exciting: picking the pattern, the anticipation of the yarn arriving and ripping open the packet to see the perfect colours and feel the lovely soft squishyness . . . ahem ;)

Throughout my knitting exploits there are a few things I've discovered that made me sigh heavily and declare with despair "If only I'd known that before". These are my 8 pearls. They are by no means the best or only methods, just my favourites. Most of these are small but all I hope are useful.

1. Casting on. As a child I was taught to knit with the trusty cable cast-on. It was only when I rediscovered my knitty side a few years ago I found that there were lots more options. These are my 2 favourites. There are oodles of great instructions and videos online for these. With any cast on method, try to keep it loose and don't tighten too much.

Long Tail Cast on

Long tail - this my preferred method, and is very quick to do once learnt. It's stretchy and works well with stockinette, garter or ribbing. It also incorporates a knit row so if you're working in stockinette, start with a purl row.

German Twist Cast on
German twisted - another of my favourite methods. Almost identical to long tail but adds an extra twist. I always use this method for socks, casting on over 2 needles held together.

Bind Off

2. Casting off - as with the cast-on, there are different types of casting off (also know as binding off), but I've found that the basic knit or purl methods work best. The secret is to keep these loose. Use a needle 1 or 2 sizes larger to prevent this looking like a gathered edge ;)

Last Stitch

3. The dreaded last stitch - the edge above is nice and neat but the last cast off stitch can often stick out rather ungainly, almost taunting you and spoiling all your hard work. Deal with this by casting off (loosely - see above) to the last 2 stitches.

Knit last 2 together

Knit the last stitch together with the stitch below it. Pass the previous stitch over, cut the yarn and pull through. Weave in the ends thoroughly.

4. Splicing - if, like me, you would rather be knitting than sewing in ends, then this is for you. Splicing is simply joining the ends of yarn together so that a new ball starts seamlessly. No sewing required. This really only works with yarns that have more than 30% wool.

Thin yarn

Thin about an inch of the ends of the joining yarn.

Adding twist

Twist these together, overlapping the thinned strands and whole yarn. Now wet this section and apply friction by rubbing between your fingers and palms, gently at first so these don't slip.

Splicing

After a minute or 2, the yarn ends will be 'felted' together. Cross your fingers and give them a little tug just to check :)

Tension Square

5. Tension square - your pattern's picked, your yarn's arrived and your needles are almost jumping out of your hands in anticipation. All you want to do is get stuck in. But wait .... a tension square is a must for any wearable item. Each pattern will tell you the tension needed using specific sized needles, stitches and rows. I know the thought of using this precious knitting time makes you groan but imagine how big the groan will be if you get to the end of your project and it doesn't fit :(

Blocking

6. Blocking - a project doesn't look like the glossy image in the book unless you block this at the end. Blocking is simply a method of smoothing out the wrinkles and re-shaping, sometimes stretching out the pattern for lace knitting. This really helps with seaming and joining as everything is level. You can steam or wet-block. I usually steam for small projects and cardigans, jumpers etc, but wet block for projects that need more relaxing, such as lace shawls, or softening such as hats or socks.

Stitch Marker

7. Stitch markers - invest in different sizes of these if you can so you have some for every project. For knitting, I like the ones that stay on your needles. You don't need to keep counting stitches and just slip the marker when you reach it.

Ravelry

8. Ravelry. This is an amazing source of patterns and ideas. There are more than enough to keep you busy. It's also a great community of crafty people. You can join forums and ask for advice if you're stuck. You can also record all your projects so you can see just how much loveliness you've created.

Knit Happy

Enjoy every project and knit happy.

Easter Hooky

So, it was Easter again. Time for bunnies, chicks and baskets and baskets of chocolatey delights.

Easter in Italy

We planned a holiday to Italy for the 2 weeks prior to Easter, which was present making time. We were venturing on the train so travelling light. I had to choose my portable projects wisely. Last year I made little baskets for the kids filled with flowery hairclips and chocolate coins. This year I've opted for something different. Easter cuddlies.

Amigurumi

My choices were floppy and spring bunnies. As with most Amigurumi, a small hook (usually 2mm) is used. I opted for a 3.5 mm hook to make this a good size and easier to crochet.

I tried making an amigurumi rabbit last Easter but failed miserably. I've done lots more crocheting since then and have learned a lot. Apart from practice, practice, practice, there are 5 things that have helped me along the crochet trail.

Stitch Marker

1. Stitch markers - This little friend marks the beginning of each round, or any important point. Pop this through the top of the relevant stitch so you can easily see where to join.

Magic Ring

2. Magic ring - I much prefer this method than doing a chain joined with a slip stitch. You can control just how tightly closed your centre should be. This is a good little tutorial.

Neat ends

3. Neat and tidy ends - Crocheting in ends as I go is now second nature. It can be quite demoralising to get to the end and have to go back and thread all these through. Simply lay these on top of the following round, and crochet around them.

New colours

4. Starting new colours - using the slip stitch and chain method to join a new colour can sometimes leave an obvious difference. By crocheting a standing stitch, you can join another colour seamlessly.

Sew through the V

5. The final stitch - pulling the last stitch through with the hook never looks quite right. Crochet to the end but don't join the last stitch. Cut your yarn and pull the tail through this 'last' stitch. Thread through a needle and insert this under the 'V' of the stitch you wish to join - note that at the very end of a project this will be the first stitch of the previous round, but this creates an extra 'stitch'. If joining with this method during a project, connect to the second stitch of the previous round.

Neat final stitch

Now insert this over the top and down through the middle of the 'last' stitch, thus creating a new V.

Final Stitch

Nice and neat.

Smartie and Cutie Pie

Meet the bunnies, Smartie and Cutie Pie, as named by their owners. They've already been on many adventures and had plenty of hugs and I'm sure there'll be more to come :)

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