Grandma and me, 1974, St Anne's
Every now and again I pick up my knitting needles and make something. I love the effect of those perfect rows of knitted stitches and it certainly is less of a yarn guzzler than crochet. Knitting always brings me closer to my beloved maternal Grandma, who sadly passed away when I was 7. When I knit, I feel like she is peering lovingly over my shoulder, it feels good.
Vintage dolls' clothes knitted by my Grandma, early 1970s
She used to knit my teddy's and doll's clothes; so precious are they to me that we still have them and they live among the dolls' clothes belonging to my younger daughter....along with baby doll clothes knitted by my Mum and me.
Doll's clothes knitted by my Mum, 2007
Doll's cardigan knitted by me
Generations of dolls' clothes, vintage and modern, all living together, I hope my daughters will add to the collection one day!
My paternal Grandmother (Nanny) was also an avid knitter, she passed her needles and a wonderful folder of vintage patterns on to me. I suspect my daughters will eventually love knitting, as their Nana and Aunt on their father's side are both skilled knitters, I guess it will be in their genes.
Patterns from my Nanny (I love vintage patterns & photos!)
With such a passion for knitting in the family I decided that I would re-kindle my interest in knitting by improving my knitting skills over the Christmas holidays. As, truth be told, I am a terribly sloooooow knitter, arms and elbows flailing every where - not very relaxing a pursuit - more of a wrestling match with two needles and a ball of yarn. This is why I always jump to the crochet hook!
Being an avid DROPS fan I had seen in their excellent Video Tutorials section on their website something called 'Continental' knitting. Now obviously being from the UK I had learnt the UK style of knitting. Imagine my delight when I watched the video to discover that the yarn is held in the left hand, like in crochet, what a revelation! No more flapping of elbows, slick knitting here we come. Have a watch of the video and all will be revealed!
So immediately, I set to and in no time I had managed this...
....get me, look at that fancy bit too! I love this method!
In case you would like to try, here's the video of how to cast on Continental style....
...and how to purl Continental style.....
...and here's how to cast off!
I hope you give it a try sometime! I have a friend who loves to knit socks; she switched to Continental style last year too and is speeding through her socks now!
(I really must knit some socks next!)
In my crochet workshops, once I have taught the basic stitches I always encourage everyone to start a basic project to practise the stitches. Getting stuck in with a project right away allows you to practise a stitch over and over to develop some muscle memory, so that eventually there is no longer any need to think about how you are creating the stitch. Getting stuck in with a project means that instead of just creating mindless rows back and forth to end up with a nondescript piece of fabric, you end up with a useful piece of work and this spurs you on to practise. So, taking my own advice, I decided to begin knitting a bag, that I would eventually felt in the washing machine.
The Bag Bit
Using 5mm knitting needles, I cast on 50 stitches, using DROPS Alaska (light grey) and completed 4 rows in garter stitch (garter stitch = knit rows only).
Then I switched my yarn to DROPS Big Delight and started creating stocking stitch rows (knit a row, purl a row) following this pattern to create the stripes = 4 rows Big Delight (Atlantis), 2 rows Alaska (light grey).
I continued until my piece measured approx 75 cm long (approx 34 cm wide).
Ok, I dropped a couple of stitches here and there, you can see them if you look really closely (but who's looking?), when the bag is felted you won't know. Plus it is curling under in this picture....it is actually straight at the sides! The main thing is, I cannot believe how quickly this grew and it was so much fun!
The Bag Handles
I wanted to experiment with the handles on this bag. So I adapted the concept of a Japanese Knot Handle bag to create one thick strap and one thin strap - to close the bag you pass the large, long strap through the thin short strap.
The Long Strap
I created the long bag strap using garter stitch; using the Alaska - on 5 mm needles, 10 stitches wide and 110 cm long. (Garter stitch is a bit stretchy, so next time I might do stocking stitch straps instead).
The Short Strap
I created the short strap by making an I-cord loop using the Big Delight and 5 mm double pointed needles. The I-Cord is 30 cm long. See video below on how to make an I-cord.
HOW TO ASSEMBLE THE BAG
Sew sides together:
- fold bag in half - right sides together
- use stitch markers (or pins) to hold the edges together
- back stitch the seams - both sides - using the DROPS Big Delight
Sew on long handle:
- position and fix (with stitch markers or pins) handles in place approx 5 cm from the outside edge of the bag and 5 cm down from the top
- sew handles in place, I used a whip stitch in Grey Alaska
Sew on short handle:
- wrap the i-cord around the large handles and secure on to the opposite side of the bag than the long handle
- sew into place using the Big Delight
Felt the bag in the washing machine:
- add the bag to the washing machine with a few clothes or a towel to aid agitation (although please note you can put it in on its own but it will be more environmentally friendly to get a bit of washing done at the same time!)
- wash at 40 degrees, I find that is ok to use a spin cycle, some people prefer not to
The bag will shrink to approximately two-thirds its previous size.
Reshape, you may need to tug and stretch the bag into a desirable shape and flatten the long handle if it has curled.
Dry flat in a warm place.
Sew on a toggle to help keep the bag closed.
I hope I have inspired you to try Continental knitting and brave the felting process! I would love to see your makes and hear your felting stories too...please share on my Cotton Pod Facebook page or use the hashtag #cottonpod on Instagram.
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- Tags: Continental Knitting, DROPS Alaska, DROPS Big Delight, Felting, Knit & Felt a Bag, Knit an I-cord, Knitting, Learn to Knit, Project Inspiration