Saturday, 1 April 2017

Top ten tips for happy knitting and crochet

Knitting and crochet gives me a huge amount of pleasure and, many therapeutic benefits. Today I thought that I would share with you ten tips to make the process of knitting and crochet even more happy - and stress-free!

1. Have a plan
I find goal-setting incredibly valuable in many aspects of my life, including crafting. I like to have some stretching but achievable goals to focus my energies on and some clear, realistic stepping stones to achieving those goals. I find that my most enjoyable and inspiring makes are always those that help me achieve my goals and this really informs my choice of projects or the way that I approach them.

2. Swatch, wash and block
I always wash and block my gauge swatches because its a great way to understand what the finished fabric will feel like and crucially when making a garment whether my finished object will fit. It will often specify to do this in the pattern, but if it doesn't, I always find its helpful to record the gauge before washing and blocking and after, so that you can keep track of your gauge during the project.

Four gauge swatches

3. Ask a friend to measure you
This is another garment-making related tip; it really does make a difference if you can ask a friend to measure you so that you can properly determine which size to make and as you'll be spending so much time making the item, it would be so frustrating if it didn't fit.

4. Gather your tools together
I keep all my key tools and notions together in this beautiful robin bag and it saves me hunting round for a tape measure, needle or a stitch marker when I need one as I know exactly where they'll be - it's great and I wish I had done it ages ago!
Notions pouch and contents including tape measure, needle case, pencil, highlighter

5. Find your 'right' tools
I find it fascinating to watch videos of others knitting and crocheting; there are so many different ways to hold a hook or knit and they all work. I really love that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to knit or crochet but I do think that we all need to find the 'right' tools for us personally. For me, with my hook-hold, I know that I need to use soft handled crochet hooks to have the most relaxed and comfortable time but for others, a soft handled hook would be incredibly awkward or uncomfortable. I think it is really worth experimenting with different hooks and needles until you find the most comfortable and natural feeling tools for you.

Hand holding a range of soft handled crochet hooks

6. Yarn choice
As lovely as it might be to always use the yarn recommended in the pattern, it isn't always possible. If you haven't come across Yarn Sub - it is a really great resource for knitters and crocheters looking to substitute the yarn recommended in the pattern with another yarn they might already have in stash, is more affordable or perhaps is more accessible locally.

7. Practice makes perfect
If I am working on a project with a new stitch or element I'm unfamiliar with, I will often work up a mini-test piece, practicing a stitch or technique until I'm happy with it and then ready to incorporate it into my project. This week I have been really struggling to make my M1L and M1R purl-wise look neat so I put this tip into practice;

Mini-test piece of knitting

8. Skein winding
 I don't have a yarn-winder or swift and until recently my husband and I would wind skeins of yarn into balls together, because every attempt I made to wind the yarn on my own ended in a complete pickle. However, I have now discovered that I can do it by myself and not end up in a hot mess - here's how;
- open the skein up until its one big loop
- carefully snip off the waste yarn holding the skein together
- drape the skein over your knees and stretch until taut
- find the end and start winding the yarn into a ball

Hand-wound skein of yarn

It sounds so simple, but it's quick and really works - the trick is to keep the yarn taut as this prevents it tangling. You can use two dining room chairs instead of your knees but I found this to be really uncomfortable and awkward for me, however, its worth trying if the method above doesn't feel right. It is so relaxing and satisfying winding a skein of yarn into a ball and helps me feel really connected with the yarn I'll be using for my project.

9. Blocking
Almost everyone - including me - talks about the importance of blocking a finished object and this tip is really about not being deterred if you don't have a blocking board or mat. You can block an item really well on a towel pinned on to the carpet, foam yoga or play mat. I would however advise that you test that the colours don't run on any towel or mat you plan to use before you start pinning your precious object on to it!

10. Just enjoy!
I really believe in trusting your instincts with making and if you're not enjoying a project, just pop it down and work on another W.I.P. until the time feels right to return to it. I put this patchwork project down last year and earlier this month I had an urge to pick it back up and I am loving it so much more than if I had forced myself to work on it when my instincts told me otherwise.

Patchwork hexagon pieces

Those are my practical top tips for happy and stress-free knitting and crochet. I'd love to hear what tips you have and what you would share with people new to knitting or crochet.

Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you have a great week x


  1. Great tips Helen! #7 is my favorite. It becomes so much easier and much more fun with practice. I'd also recommend finding a group to craft with. You'll receive lots of encouragement, inspiration and it will motivate you to keep at it. Ask at your local yarn store or find an active group on Ravelry to join.

  2. Thanks Tamara, I'd agree re. active Ravelry group, they can make really supportive and creative communities x