Learn to knit with colour

Yesterday saw me back at Hopton House in lovely Shropshire  for our colour work workshop. We were starting knitting the lovely Manzanita Tam by Gardiner Yarnworks and there was a lot to be learning! Our fearless knitters Helena, Lynne and Lynne had come to learn not just the colour work side of things but the art of working in the round and the super stretchy cast-on. 

First we tackled a bit of theory and history and then looked at the different ways of working in the round. I had decided that using circular needles and the Magic Loop method would be easier than doing battle with double-pointed needles – at least with circulars you can’t lose stitches quite so readily. And Magic Loop is a great technique to learn – it’s basically where your circular needle is longer than the stitches and so you pull the extra cord out midway along, knit to the midway point and then pull the cord out again at the start of the round. Note I said “pull the cord out” not “pull the needles out” – there’s a world of difference between those two! You might ask why not use a circular of the correct dimension? Unless you happen to own a knitting supply shop (and what bliss that would be) you will find that you never have the correct length of cord for whatever project you are thinking of casting on – it seems to be one of the laws of the universe. There are kits that supply interchangeable cord lengths and needles but I’ve not liked the ones I’ve used – the smoothness of the join between the cord and needle makes a big difference and certainly the ones I used had an awkward little gap where a fine yarn could and did get lodged.

We had ordered yarn in various colours for people to choose from plus the circular needles and of course individually bought patterns – we supply all the course materials. The beret calls for a pale colour and a darker one to enhance the wave type pattern made by using the two colours. The colours and the feel of the yarn – the tactile nature of knitting – always makes me feel excited and can sometimes lead to having multiple projects on the needles as enthusiasm carries me away and I forget that my knitting time is very limited due to the need to work! Everyone eventually made their choices then Karen realised she hadn’t brought all the yarn in so we had to have another look. We were using an alpaca and wool mix, so with the extra stranding along the back of the work that this type of knitting uses, those hats will be very warm indeed.

Then we turned our attention to various methods of casting on. If you remember forcing your head through your school jumper that your granny had knitted you will know the unpleasantness of that and so a stretchy cast on and cast off are useful, if a little fiddly. All you are trying to do is effectively get an extra bit of yarn into the equation to give you a bit of extra stretch and sure enough, it worked very effectively even if it took a bit of getting to grips with. 

We stopped for a delicious lunch, Karen’s handmade quiche, soup, smoked salmon, cheese, bread and salads – it was fabulous and very welcome. I have forgotten to mention the lemon drizzle cake, chocolate brownies, raspberry muffins etc that we started the day with and of course the industrial quantities of tea and coffee we guzzled. Karen’s dog Murphy came in to say hello and his nose caught the smell of a still-warm croissant – with the skill born of long practice he reared up and snaffled it before we could blink! At the same time as enjoying the food we watched the birds on the bird feeders and the hens busying themselves and of course the famous Hopton House view, seen on many weather forecasts including BBC breakfast this week. 

So – back to it after lunch and work commenced in earnest with knitting the ribbed part of the hat. Karen came to join us and led the mathematics discussion round why knit 2, make 1 by picking up the yarn between the needles was not the same as knit 2 and knit front and back. This reminded us all of the need to follow the pattern and read ahead and do exactly what the pattern says. The afternoon passed with pleasant chat in front of the log fire until before we knew it it was 5 o’clock and that was another workshop finished.
Knitting is an absorbing and relaxing thing to do and helps to focus us in the here and now – or find ourselves unpicking our mistakes. It’s always great to meet new knitters and to find new ways of doing things – no-one ever knows it all and helping people to get started on the learn to knit journey is a good way to spend a Saturday. We will be asking our Facebook readers to vote on what we should do next – we’ve got a sock knitting for beginners workshop in February but we try and slot another into January if there’s enough demand.

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