Knit a Neutral

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the Knit a Rainbow series, it was a great way to explore the shop and focus into a single colour. But how can I forget neutrals!

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The fleeces of animals that we spin to make yarn are infinitely varied when it comes to colour. Undyed and neutral shades offer us an experience to create something as naturally as possible. It’s also quite nice to see how the natural colour of the yarn effects the dyed shades, which can be seen quite clearly in the grey of the Hillesvåg Pelsullgarn and the G-uld undyed white and greys. Natural shades are earthy and warm and these inviting tones vary from blacks, to browns, to greys, to creams. Natural shades can also be blended to create a whole tonal palette which can be seen in the amazing number of shades of Garthenor Number 1 (there are more, I just couldn’t fit them in).

So here we have them, my pick of the neutrals. For more details of each brand look below. Or if you would like to search out your own neutral, follow this link to the undyed section of our website: UNDYED.

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G-uld – alpaca in Undyed Grey and Undyed White – 4ply 50g – 100% Alpaca. Naturally dyed and oh so soft alpaca yarn from G-uld.

Hillesvåg – Sølje in Naturgrå – 100g 4ply – 100% Norwegian Pelsullgarn. Traditionally spun by the family owned mill Hillesvåg, in lustrous Norwegian Pelt wool, Sølje is an 4Ply weight yarn in a colour palette which richness is unlike anything else.

Växbo Lin – Lingarn in Unbleached  – 4ply 100g – 100% Linen. This 100% natural pure linen yarn, traditionally grown and spun in Sweden, is certified with the Swedish Good Environmental Choice label (Bra Miljöval) because of its durability and environmentally friendly processing.

Purl Alpaca Designs – Medium in Champagne and Copper – DK 50g – 100% Alpaca. A classic weight, luxurious yarn with a lovely stitch definition which shows off lace and cabled garments for adults and children perfectly.

From The Mountain – Afghan Cashmere in Dark Brown and Light Brown – Sport 100g – 100% Cashmere. A 100% cashmere yarn hand spun in Afghanistan by women being paid fairly for their work. It is deliciously soft, with a hand you have to feel to believe.

Hey Mama Wolf – Schafwolle #03 in Natural Grey – Worsted 100g – 100% Organic Wool. Schafwolle #03 is a natural dyed, worsted weight organic wool yarn from Hey Mama Wolf.

Hillesvåg – Sol – DK 100g – 100% Norwegian Lambswool. Traditionally spun by the family owned mill Hillesvåg, in 100% Norwegian Lambs Wool, Sol is the finest white fibres in a DK weight yarn.

Garthenor – Number 1 in  Chalk, Pebble Shale, Oartmeal, Moorit, Chalkboard – Lace 50g – 100% Organic Wool. All British and certified organic! Garthenor Number 1 is a laceweight yarn suitable for practical wear as well as for very special heirloom pieces.

 

Woollen or Worsted?

Woollen or worsted? You may or may not have come across these terms before, they sound like so many others in the knitting world. Woollen does not necessarily mean something that is wooly and worsted is not just a yarn weight found commonly in America. What I’m talking about here is the way the yarn is spun. Woollen and worsted spun yarns have very different properties and are great for different projects. But how do you identify them and what are they good for. It’s taken me a while to puzzle that out but I will share with you what I have learnt.

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There are two distinct ways in which fibre is spun into yarn and this twist gives different qualities, from plumpy and fibrous to strong and smooth. The shelves of Knit With Attitude contain a selection of all these types and hopefully after reading this post you will be able to identify them.

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Woolen examples above are Kettle Yarn Ramble and The Fibre Co. Lore.

Woollen

Woollen spun yarns are lighter and airier, are a lot more squishy and often fuzzier or more fibrous. The twist is often quite loose and the yarn has less strength. Woolen spun yarns are carded and the fibres spread out evenly but they are not combed and don’t all lie in one direction. They face all directions creating the bouncy airy quality. This process also does not remove fibres of different lengths, which gives you a yarn with more of a halo and more likely to bloom after washing. As they are not combed to remove the shorter fibres you often find bits of hay and vegetation within the yarn.

Woollen spun yarns have these qualities:

  • It is warmer due to more air trapped in the fibre.
  • This airy trapping along with the irregular direction of the fibres creates a plump squishy yarn.
  • It’s more likely to bloom and have a halo due to the various fibre lengths, this may give slightly less definition to textural stitches.
  • It is much lighter but weaker than worsted spun yarns

How do you identify a woolen yarn? Characteristics to look for are: Light bouncy twist, irregular ply, more fibrous with a halo or fuzzy, squishy. It’s a great yarn if you are looking for something warm and cosy with a softer definition and less drape.

worsted-web Worsted examples above are John Arbon Knit by Numbers and Hey Mama Wolf Schaffewolle #03.

Worsted

Worsted spun yarns are denser and strong, they are often smoother, closely plied and lustrous. Worsted spun yarns have an extra process which involves aligning the fibres and combing out shorter hairs. This leaves you with an even fibre with a tight twist, where air is squeezed out. This results in a yarn that is much stronger and denser, owing to the alignment and evening out of the fibres and less likely to bloom or be fuzzy because of this. All this gives you great definition and drape.

Worsted spun yarns have these qualities:

  • Great stitch definition due to tight twist and even fibres.
  • A smooth even yarn with less halo.
  • Strong due to the longer fibres and less air between them.
  • Often softer due to smaller fibres being removed.
  • Not as warm as woollen due to being denser.

How do you identify a worsted yarn? Characteristics to look for are: A tight even twist, very little halo or fuzz, more lustrous, denser. It’s a great yarn if you are looking for superb definition and durability and more drape.

Needle in a Yarn Shop – Knitting needles and their materials

Wood, bamboo, metal, carbon fibre! At Knit With Attitude we stock a variety needle types made from all sorts of different materials, but what to choose? In this post I will talk a little bit about the different materials and what qualities they have.

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We do four different types of needles in Wood, Bamboo, Metal and Carbon. In these we have circulars, double points and straights. Let’s take a closer look at each type.

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Metal

Metal needles are probably quite familiar to most of us. They are strong, durable and super smooth. This smoothness makes them a good go to when tackling most yarns, from the fibrous to the smooth, as stitches glide with ease. This makes for speedier knitting.

Metal are one of the pointiest, making them great for projects that involve a lot of decreases or picking up, as the point is perfect for slipping between stitches. That being said yarns that tend to split like ones that are loosely plied can be easily split by the pointedness of the metal needles.

Metal is one of the heaviest and hardest, this makes them more durable but can also cause hand fatigue with some people over long periods of time.

In the range of metal needles we stock are the Knit Pro Zings. These strong and smooth needles are colour coded to easily identify between sizes. They all have bright silver tips which stand out against your projects. We sell the 35cm Straights, the 20cm DPN’s and fixed Circulars in 40 or 80cm’s. Along with the Knit Pro, Soft Grip Metal Crochet Hooks.

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Bamboo

Next we have bamboo, bamboo is softer and more yielding in the hands than metal. Not to say bendy, but with a little bit more bounce which can make them more comfortable in the hands. Also much lighter than metal so when working on heavier projects you are less likely to feel weighed down.

One quality of bamboo that really sets it apart from metal is their grippyness. By that I mean the slight textural nature of Bamboo holds the yarn but doesn’t snag. This makes them the perfect needles for slippery yarns like silks and bamboo fibre.  Their grippyness gives you more control so stitches are less likely to slip off, or the needle sliding off and flying across the room. This is definitely a bonus if you are knitting with DPN’s. In this regard they are perfect for beginners who are just getting to grips with the basics. Slightly less pointed than Metal, so less likely to split looser yarns.

In Bamboo needles we Stock Clover 33cm Straights, 20cm DPN’s and Fixed Circulars in 60 and 80cms. As well as Bamboo Crochet Hooks.

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Wood

Wood sits between bamboo and metal when it comes to hardness, weight and grip on the yarn. Wood are warmer in the hands with a little bit more weight than Bamboo. Great for those who are looking for a more comfortable alternative to metal with slightly less grip than Bamboo. Wood are great all round needle and work well with most yarns. Similarly not as pointy to avoid splitting, but pointy enough to cope with complicated knitting projects.

Wood like bamboo are not as strong as metal so smaller sizes are more likely to snap from careless use. But well looked after will reward you with hours of comfortable knitting.

In wood we stock Knit Pro Symfonie range, a strong and durable needle made from laminated birch in attractive multicolours. We have 30cm Straights, 20/15cm DPN’s and Interchangeable Tips in short and standard sizes, which work with the Knit Pro Cables.

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Carbon

Lastly we come to the carbon knitting needles. These are made from carbon fibre. Carbon fibre gives you one of the strongest needles you will find, its also used in aircraft making and spaceships. Strength is not the only quality carbon fibre has, it is also supple, with a slight give making them more comfortable to hold. They are also warmer to touch and lighter in the hand, also contributing to a comfortable knit. They work really well when it comes to using smaller sizes because of this. Carbon fibre is smooth but with a very slight grip on the yarn, allowing stitches to glide with ease but also giving you control. Perfect for working on smaller projects or DPN’s. The carbon fibre needles we stock have brass metal tips giving them a flawlessly point which is helpful when doing more complicated work.

In carbon we stock Knit Pro Karbonz a strong durable carbon fibre needle with pointy brass tips. We have 30cm Straights,15cm DPN’s and Interchangeable Tips in short and standard sizes, which work with the Knit Pro Cables.

Craftivism – The Craftivist Collective

It seems more important now that the tools and skills that we have at our disposal should be used as a force for good. Craft with activism have a long history as a way of harnessing a ‘traditional’ skill to provoke or communicate a message. So if you haven’t come across craftivism or would like to know more, let me introduce it along with the Craftivist Collective.

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Craft is an outlet that can be so many things for so many people. Craft is a voice. You are physically bringing something into the world. It’s how you choose to use this voice which is important to craftivism. For some people craft is a process for themselves and the people close to them. It is a process that can be about the journey, about mindfulness or a way of challenging ones own skills. For others craft is an outlet, a place in which to engage with what matters to them. It’s a voice in an otherwise loud world. Where there is a space to share views and participate in a field where maybe confidence in other outlets, such as public speaking might be a no go.

Craftivsim as a term was coined in 2003 by writer Betsy Greer. She says of it: ‘Craftivism to me is way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.’Though craft and activism have been around for much longer than that. Sarah Corbett in her book ‘How to be a Craftivist’ talks about the origins of craftivism. Like for example Arpilleras in Chile. Which are brightly coloured patchwork pictures created by women during the military dictatorship of Chile (1973–1990). Depicted the harsh living conditions of life under the dictatorship which had a particular impact on women. These were distributed abroad and sold to provide a vital source of income.

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The Craftivist Collective formed in 2009 by Sarah Corbett out of a need for an alternative to other forms of activism. With no projects or groups for her to join, she decided to have a go at creating her own craftivism projects. With an emphasis on a ‘Gentle Protest’ approach to craftivism. An activism that calls for a more respectful and contemplative approach, promoting conversation and collaboration. Using craft to engage, empower and encourage. Sarah uses craft to build connections with people by using a medium that is hand made, thoughtful and often softer than other forms of communication.

craftivist_hanky_kit1 To provide people with the tools to tackle craftivism for themselves Sarah has produced Craftivist Kits. These little ideas give you the starting point for your own craftivist issues. Allowing you a medium to spread what matters to you. Like the Don’t Blow it hanky kit, inspired by Sarah’s frustration with the lack of communication with her local MP. After repeatedly contacting them with very little interest Sarah created a gift of a stitched hanky, asking her MP to stand up to and fight injustices. This thoughtful act bridged the gap between passive emails to active connections on a personal level.

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Or Your Footprint kit which asks you to reflect on the imprint you leave in the world and is centred around this quote by Helen Keller: “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do something I can do.”

If you feel inspired to do some craftivism yourself the Craftivist Collective kits are a great insight into this form of activism. Or if simply you want to learn how to be a craftivist and read Sara Corbett’s story the the ‘How to be a Craftivist’ is a great book. But at the end of it, craftivism is about choosing a craft that feels appropriate and comfortable for you and using that craft as your voice. Then use it to talk through, no matter how small or how big you are using craft to initiate a change and express good.

This seems a good place to remind ourselves of the power of craft in bringing the East London Knitters together for the trump rally.

The Trump Visit Protest March, London 2018. Photo credit ©Vicky Bamforth

The Trump Visit Protest March, London 2018. Photo credit ©Vicky Bamforth

 

 

 

1. Finn, Julie (April 4, 2009). “Crafting a Green World. What is Craftivism? Division over the Definition Explodes Etsy Team”. Crafting a Green World.