How to decide what to make - Choosing knitting and crochet projects
The Journey of My Latest Knit!
I was recently asked by a customer in the Craft Barn, how on earth do you decide what to make, there’s so much choice? It got me thinking. I used to be a serial starter, starting so many things and not finishing many. I was always dazzled by something new but didn’t really put much thought into it. I liked it so started it. I am now much better at finishing off my makes, so what changed?
I think the secret for me is that I am much better at planning my makes. I wear something hand made every day and this has changed over the years from a shawl or cowl, with my uniform, to sweaters and cardigans every day. I now treat my projects like I would a new item of clothing. I ask myself a series of questions:
1. How long will it take to make?
2. How many times will I wear it?
3. When will I wear it?
4. What will I wear it with?
5. Is it (relatively) easy to look after?
The time spent making is important. I don’t like spending too long making something, I get bored and put it away only to discover it months if not years – later. I love fair isle but I know if I start a full- on fair isle jumper It will never get finished. I might choose a pattern with a small amount of colour work but lots of quick stocking stitch too.
I want to wear my makes, so it needs to be practical. I am not going to wear a spaghetti strap crochet top no matter how much I love it. This also influences the clothes that I buy – will it look good layered with a knitted cardigan?
When I will wear it and what I will wear it with can narrow down my choice. At the moment I want to make a couple of easy jumpers I can wear at the weekend with my jeans. Nothing too chunky, I will need to be able to wear a jacket over the top – I live in England after all. So, I’m looking at finer yarns, a relaxed fit but nothing too bulky.
Is it relatively easy to look after? Knitwear needs looking after, it’s a fact. But how much care you need to take can change. This may horrify you but … I really try not to wash my knitwear much. I very rarely wear it next to my skin so, unless it’s got a mark on it, I hang it outside to air. When I do wash it, if it’s a blend I think can be trusted (high acrylic content), and it says machine wash on the label, I use the hand wash cycle on the machine. However, I never use a standard detergent I always use Eucalan a wool wash. Other than this I hand wash and dry it flat. Yes, it’s a pain and I always have a little stash of hand knits at the bottom of my laundry basket that I will get around to washing one day!
After asking myself all these questions last week I arrived at my latest make. A free pattern from Sirdar for a 4ply V neck sweater in Country Classic 4 ply. It’s a classic shape, not too short, in a fine yarn that’s machine washable. The colours are lovely, the patterns easy, a good TV knit.
Now there’s no point making something that doesn’t fit. I go to the back of the pattern and look for the schematic, most patterns have them. I measure every measurement on myself and make notes on the pattern. I am a UK 14 and only short and I usually knit a 34 inch. However, I check every time. I have also measured other garments in my wardrobe and know what sizes to aim for. I want to wear this jumper with jeans and a blazer so I want it to be long enough that I don’t have to pull it down but not too long that it will be longer than the jacket. I want it to be roughly the same length as my much-worn Rowan Gemma sweater. The sleeves will be slightly too long so I’m going to take about 5cms off them but I will try as I knit and see what I think nearer the time.
Now what colour to make? I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone with colour at the moment. At one point everything I made was grey or blue. I have been known to cast on knit a couple of centimetres and then do a late-night dash to the shop for a different colour! What do you usually wear, will it go with you other clothes?
The next bit is my needle choice and tension. I want to knit on circulars, my shoulders are aching at the moment so I’m going to use Lykke fixed circulars. All the weight from the knitting will be in my lap and I love the smooth join of fixed circulars.
If I am making a garment, I always knit a tension square. Your tension can change according to your mood, the needles used, the type of yarn, even the weather outside. I like the process, I like playing with the yarn, seeing how it feels, how it takes the pattern etc. I cast on more stitches than I need, do a small garter stitch border and knit a square. I then block it and leave it overnight. It sounds faffy but it’s much better than knitting a jumper that doesn’t fit.
If your tension is out – too many rows and stitches to 10cm then use a larger needle, too few and use a smaller needle. Two stitches out can add a couple of inches to your garment.
Once your tension is right, you’re good to go! Phew!