Knitted Folk Cast On’s

Folk knitting from the Northern, Scandinavian and Baltic countries is a fascinating source for decorative, colourful and textural constructed techniques. The Shetland Islands, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland and Denmark all share an inheritance of Viking traditions, a deep rooted love and appreciation of the natural world, a wealth of traditional handicrafts and a unique history of traditional knitting techniques.

I have always found the folk art from these areas hugely interesting particularly the construction of the knitted folk mittens, gloves and socks. These could range from the simple and utilitarian for everyday wear to the exuberantly textural, braided, tasseled, coloured and patterned reserved for holidays and other special occasions – and each knitted piece would be started with either a deceptively simple, or beautifully exuberant decorative cast on.
These decorative cast on’s bring an energy and excitement to the knitting and are fascinating to study – with names like Herringbone, Fishtail and Old Norwegian Beaded, it is easy to see how they are firmly rooted in folk history and culture and you just can’t help wanting to know more. You soon realise that there are many, many different ways to knit a decorative cast on and that there is much to learn.

I am delighted to be teaching an introductory, three hour Decorative Cast On’s workshop at this years Yarn Folk Festival of Wool on Saturday 3rd August – please do come along and find out more about these fabulous techniques and discover how you can create energy and excitement in your knitted projects using folk cast on’s.
Yarn Folk Festival of Wool is a lovely celebration of yarn and the yarn crafting community and I am really looking forward to being part of it again. Take a look at the Decorative Cast on workshop details here and here (as well as all the other things to do at this years Yarn Folk Festival of Wool).

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Twined Knitting

Tvåändsstickat, two-ended or twined knitting is a real pleasure to work.
Both ends of the same ball of yarn are used and are alternated with each
stitch – the yarn is twined about itself and it all becomes beautifully twisted.
Twined knitted fabric is more dense, firm and durable than regular knitting and there are interesting patterned twined stitch techniques to learn which are unique to this lovely old way of knitting.
I shall be teaching two, one day classes in June if you want to come along and find out more – take a look at my workshops page for more details.

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Crochet!

zig-zag-throwButterflieswilbur-whalebeach-bag
I shall be teaching Crochet: The Basics and Crochet Know How workshops at The Crescent Arts – complete beginners can learn the very basics and get going immediately on simple projects or, if you are keen to expand on your Crochet Know How you can take the next steps towards making more adventurous crochet projects.
With just the very simplest of crochet stitches you can get started on many beautiful and colourful projects that are easy to work on and of course make great gifts.

Here is a link to my Kids Learn to Crochet if you want to know the very basics of crochet, and Crochet Designs for Girls and Boys for some inspiring projects.

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Crescent Workshops

The Crescent has been a vibrant hub for the arts in South Belfast for over 40 years and it will be a real pleasure to teach four workshops there this spring.

The first two are one day workshops – Hand Knitting: The Basics on Sunday 3rd March and Crochet: The Basics on Sunday 7th April.

These are followed by a couple of three week workshops – Knitting Know-How from 7th – 21st March and Crochet Know-How from 28th March – 11th April.

Find out more here and by looking at my workshop pages.

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Northern Knits: Steeks and Steeking

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Steeks and steeking are synonymous with knitting from the Shetland Isles and the gorgeously colourful and patterned work from Fair Isle in particular. They are Scottish words given to groups of stitches that will be cut and then ‘fastened or closed’. Traditional style Shetland sweaters worked consistently in the round as a tube, will have pre-planned and specifically placed, knitted steek stitches worked into the pattern. The idea is to use the steeks as a guide for cutting open arm holes, shaped necks or cardigan openings. Other traditional style sweaters including those from Norway, Sweden or Faroe, would also be knitted in the round as a tube and then have openings cut, but they wouldn’t necessarily use steeks – usually the knitted geometric patterns were the only guide for the cutter!

The main advantage to knitting in the round and then cutting openings is that its easier to maintain an even tension. When pieces are knitted in the round and then divided into two parts for the armholes and knitted backwards and forwards on straight needles, the tension is almost bound to change, even if only slightly, as you will be knitting and purling stitches.

It’s so much easier to knit Fair Isle or stranded patterns on a circular needle in the round, using only knit stitches with the front of the work always showing.

And when it comes to fastening closed, or reinforcing your steeks, there are many different ways to do it. I prefer the popular crochet method and, if you want to know more, I’ll be teaching this in March.

The photos are all from the Shetland Museum archive.

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