Rookie Mistakes

The Dream: You found a nice pattern online for free and you print it out.  You look in your Knitting Notebook and see you already have the correct needle size and you know you have plenty of markers.  The pattern calls for 10 balls of Crystal Palace Nubbles – Icestorm Yarn. You notice this yarn has been discontinued. You ring up the local yarn store and the lovely lady thinks she has some in a basket in her cellar. She will ring you back as soon as she counts it. Ten minutes later you are on your way to the yarn store to collect the 10 balls. It’s discounted and you save 66%! You have a cup of coffee with the owner of the yarn store and begin knitting the piece right there and then.  You spend the next two weeks knitting whenever you can and in the third week, you have completed the project and make it all up. It’s a perfect fit. You only have two inches of yarn left over and this goes into your Knitting Notebook and the area marked “Samples of Yarn”. You take a Poloroid picture of yourself in your finished project and insert it in the Knitting Notebook. You take another picure on your phone and post it on Ravelry and all the social media platforms you are on. You get a culminated 1000 likes. The finished project goes well with your skinny jeans (you’ve been doing Pilates, after all!), Ugg Boots, the tan Michael Kors handbag of the year, Oakley sunglass and Channel scarf. Your hair and makeup are on point! You look like a “How-To-Accessorise” model on Pinterest. Happy days!

The Reality: Buy another pair of needles because you can’t remember if you have them. Find the exact same pair in your knitting bag. Couldn’t find the 10 balls of yarn at the local shop. Google search brings up a discontinued yarn shop that has 10 on sale at $2.72 each from $8 each. It’s a saving of 66% but it still needs to be shipped from America and you live in the UK. You read the shipping information and get confused. You end up paying more than full price. Oh well. You bought it so now knit it up. Your gauge is off and you wind up with a shortage. Gotta frog it. You start with sleeves. They look great. You mess about with the length of the front and back and when you finally finish it, you reckon it looks like a crop top jumper from the London Fashion. You put it on.  You look like an out of work busker. You rationalise. It’s good to wear when you wash the car. Meh.


Yankee Yarns Fearless Leader, Sara, said this can happen to ANYBODY.  “Sit down. Let me tell what I did,” she said. “This is what is happening right now.”

Sara decided she would make herself something, for a change. She picked out expensive 100% chunky wool. She needed 13 100g balls to make a cardigan. She cost it up and placed the order. When they arrived, she nearly collapsed.  What she thought were 100g balls turned out to be 50g balls. She made a slight error. She had to order more.

“It was supposed to be a £40 cardigan,”she said. “Now it’s a £80 cardigan. OUCH!!!” The moral of the story, she says, is ALWAYS double check your yarn.

  • ALWAYS double check your yarn
  • ALWAYS double check the yards
  • ALWAYS double check the grams
  • ALWAYS make sure how much the pattern requires. If you have any question at all, double check with your local yarn store…

“I cannot believe I made a rookie mistake!” Sara yelled.

“Like, do you even KNIT, bruv?!” I said.

“I know, right??!!” Sara said.

Whilst she was on the rant, Sara described how, in her need to not waste the wool, she needed to find an alternative to the Long Tail Cast On.

Sara really hates that method but it gives you a good stretch where you need it. “The problem is that it wastes so much wool! And it looks a little loose.”

Well Sara found the best cast on technique!

“You need to check it out. I school you!!!” she said. There may be another name for this cast-on but Sara calls it the Stretchy Ass Cast On. This cast on method gives your project the stretch without being sloppy. Sara said, “Step away from the long tail!” 

Also! Be sure to come in and check out Crochet Now! We are in the magazine! Spend £15 and get a free gift from Crochet Now!



Go Forth And Knit!


The days are growing longer and it is almost time for the clocks to Spring Forward in the UK. The anticipation of the extra light has us all abuzz like fantastical little buzzy bees. Although there are still the same 24 hours in the day, the perception that we will all have so much more time to go and do stuff is down to how far up we are in the hemisphere. The sun just goes on and on. Those of us lucky enough to live in Scotland will enjoy the daylight far into the wee hours of the next day! This just makes me happy. In addition, there is the promise of a plethora of social events coming up. There will be music festivals, art festivals, food festivals and car festivals. The things that all these festivals have in common is there is plenty of downtime to sit, have a natter and work on our projects. As they say, Spring has sprung!

The energy is through the roof, yo.

I’mma gonna slap me a stitch!

knit purl to do listMaking a “To-Do” list.

So here we go. There are a few things we might want to do to plan our hazy lazy days in the sun. After all, winter comes around so quickly. We need to make the best of the light we get! Now, I know what you are thinking (and you are right.) You are factoring in those days of Spring showers that always threaten us with darkness. There is one happening right now. But when the showers come, I use the time to think and make lists. Remember, all showers pass! Here is my list so far

  1. Make some chicks for charity. These are little hollow chicks that are quick to make. You can fit Cadbury Cream Eggs inside them and sell at church or school fundraising events. I bought some years ago. After Easter, I sewed them onto a Memory Quilt for my son. Every year I add on to the quilt. The idea is that it will grow with my son.
  2. Learn how to make my own patterns. Knitwear and crochet trends for this Spring are all over the fashion blogs. So many of them feature pretty lacework or loopy designs with contrasting colours. Our Resident Designer Jenny says it really is quite satisfying making your own designs and it really just takes a bit of patience. Yankee Yarns plans to deliver a workshop on patterns soon. Keep checking back!
  3. Attend a Worldwide Knit In Public Day event on Saturday, June 18th.
    Last year, Our Fearless Leader Sara organised the event at the Redgate Pub next door to the shop. There was a raffle with great prizes. This year promises to be an even bigger event as the knitting & crochet community has grown exponentially.
  4. Recruit Knitting/Crochet apostles! There is nothing like getting some newbies onboard and then taking them to the knitting in public event! Once they are in… THEY ARE REALLY IN.
  5. Hitting my steps and counting my stitches ON-THE-GO! I read a story of a runner who knitted whilst running in the New York Marathon! Now, I don’t think I could go for a run and knit at the same time but I could definitely walk and get my 10k steps a day whilst I knit. The key is to make a yarn holster that would hold my ball of wool. I need the exercise but I need to knit even more. This will be perfect for the long days!
  6. Plan a Knitting Holiday with the ladies in the circle.

You may chuckle at the last one, but is it so far-fetched? What could be better than finding a really pretty place, pouring some prosecco into a glass in the middle of the day and knitting with my gregarious posse? It is actually a thing! It could be as simple as getting our camping equipment and striking out in the Big Country with our WIPs and needles. Or it could be something more structured like the Knitting Retreat In France.

lamb chop

Last year, I booked into Southpark House   in Locharbriggs. The breakfast is amazing there! I went to visit the Valais Blacknose Sheep. It was a love affair.I did get a bit distracted by other lovely activities at the time. The visit was all too short. I think the next time I will make sure I stay longer and wear comfier clothes. The sheep were super friendly at feeding time!

So, there. I’ve given you plenty to think about. Let’s get out there and knit all the things!!!!

knit all the things

The Seven Deadly Sins of Knitting/Crochet


You may or may not know that Our Fearless Leader, Sara, is from Louisiana. A few weeks ago in the run up to Ash Wednesday, Sara got rather thoughtful and went into a bit of reverie about home. She spoke of how her kinfolk would be gearing up for Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday.  There are similar colourful celebrations in Brazil and Venice where people don masks and feathers. Festivals carry on into the night with all the colours, lights and sounds. There is so much food! There is so much drink! People dance, sing and have fun! There are also tales of so much dissipation!

In England, it is a bit more subdued (collective sigh…).  The faithful call it Shrove Tuesday.   But it is affectionately known as Pancake Day. It was called this because the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday was the day when everyone is supposed to use up rich foods, like eggs, milk and sugar before the 40 days of fasting during Lent.

As is the way in most of our conversations in the shop, we went from nostalgia to factual to surreal as we mused on the secret (and not so secret) behaviours of all the knitters and hookers we know. Basically, we talked about our (unhealthy?) interest in all things to do with our hobby. We talked about the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. This is when we came up with the Seven Deadly Sins of Knitting & Crochet.

Lust–Wool Kleptomania or the intense desire or need to buy ALL THE YARN! This is really signified by a secretive demeanour when buying and bringing yarn into the house without the spouse knowing. You spend hours walking around events like The Nottingham Yarn Expo or some other event with your grocery money or the Secret Bank Account money that you keep and use to embezzle from the joint account…. Hypothetical, of course!!!!



Envy–Wanting the wool others have or “painful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage”.  You will be sitting at your knitting circle and everyone is having a good time. Then someone comes in with a delicious looking yarn that is softer than a baby’s bottom. The colour swirls into a lusciously variegated riot of beauty and all you can think of is that lovely, lovely day at the seaside when you watched the sunrise and that glorious warmth on your face…This leads to…

Gluttony–Wool Hoarding or the excess in acquiring such skeins, balls, cones and cakes for one’s own pleasure.  Such acquisitions are “earmarked” to be used “at some point” to make “presents” for everyone “this year”.   Heard in the shop: “I don’t really need another ball of yarn but I FEEL I need it…” That sums it all up, really.

Greed— Not wanting to share your wool with anyone or unnecessary or shameful hoarding.  We have either been on the receiving end or the delivering end of this when we are ok to offer up that bargain bucket wool we found at the charity shop, that DK in white or baby blue, to the newbie in the circle so they can practice casting on. But answer truthfully; would you part with the hand-dyed skein of Paco-vicuña called Inca Sunrise? Hmmm? … Hmmmm?!

Sloth— Not doing anything because you need to finish that one more row or disinclined to activity or exertion. “Here comes summer, we need to hit the gym. There is a beginner’s aerobics on Monday night… NOPE! I need to be at the knitting circle. Oh well…. “Or how about this scenario:

Mum: Daughter of mine, you need to learn how to run a household now. It’s time.

Daughter:  Before or after my GCSE homework? What do I need to do?

Mum: After the GCSE homework. Wash the dishes first, dry them, put them away then do the same with laundry. So you understand what it is like, remember to clean the rooms as you go. Don’t worry about the garden. Your brother needs to learn how to deal with that and to throw out the trash.

Daughter: But he’s three.

Mum: Don’t worry. I will be out in the garden supervising whilst I make this jumper for him. Then I need to make your hat for winter so… oh! can you put the kettle on for me?

***Please note, no children were hurt in the creating of this scenario***


Wrath–The emotional response to perceived wrong and injustice done to us in the course of our knitting or crocheting. There are two instances when one loses their temper when working on a WIP. The first one is shouting at your pattern, needles or yarn for not cooperating. This is often followed by chucking said materials across the room or down into your knitting bag and then storming off into the kitchen to flip the kettle on. In the time it takes to brew the tea and pad back into your comfy chair, you soften and seek to make amends with your pattern/needles/yarn. Usually, that bit of time to step away gives one clarity and progress is often made in the second (or third) pass. All is then well with the world because our hobby is a very forgiving hobby.

The second instance of wrath is more serious. This is when we lose our count. This is often preceded by someone walking in, seeing you sitting there (apparently doing nothing) and deciding to engage in some kind of conversation with you. What they do not seem to comprehend is that you are mid-row working cables in an extraordinarily complicated array of mental math.  Vengeful anger and serious indignation bubbles under the surface and then you unleash your fury like a sorcerer releasing fireballs. Now, I know I have waxed lyrical about knitting being therapeutic. But everything has a dark side. Intense concentration in anything can make the most tranquil knitter/hooker raise a hornet’s revenge when interrupted mid-row. I am not making excuses. I am simply stating facts here….

Pride — Showing off your stash or showcasing finished projects on some social media platform. The actual sin is the quality or state of being proud and possessing an inordinate self-esteem. Ok. For me, I do not think you can have too much pride in your work. Think about it. You spend hours honing your craft and someone comes along and appreciates it. Sometimes they even ask you to make them something! Part of you thinks you are the bee’s knees. The other part of you wants to charge them up the yang (unless they are family and then you kind of just agree.) Some of us get so good we open up an Etsy shop or sell on Ebay. I think it is a lovely thing to be so confident and proud of your work. I cannot and will not count this as a sin. Go ahead! Snap a picture and show it to the world on our preferred social media platforms! Make a video and upload it! Celebrate it!

But do remember, sometimes we think everyone feels the way we do about yarn. We think we can leave our stuff everywhere. We hijack a corner in our living room or take over areas meant for other family members. We believe our way is the right way.You leave your stuff out because you are sure no one will disturb it and then here comes the cat, toddler or dog!. In minutes, your work comes off the needle or the yarn becomes an unrecognisable tangle of shame! This is when, actually, Pride comes before the fall.

So with this, just take care and understand that with all the bright and light side of our craft comes the darkness… We really do need to be balanced and understand our foibles no matter how funny they can be.

To quote our Fearless Leader Sara “REPENT!  THE END OF YOUR PROJECT IS NIGH!!!”




Knitting Pretty: Stress Relief

glamour knits

Going through Pinterest one Sunday afternoon, I saw the funniest little meme. It simply said, “I knit so I do not kill people.” I nodded, solemnly and saved it to my board. That one meme contained all the gravity, complexity, turbulent vexations of my soul.

The fact that someone out there created this meme is proof that we are not alone in our efforts to combat stress through knitting. I showed this to one of my non-knitting friends who quizzically searched my face.

“You are so happy and sweet, though,” she said. “You look so serene all the time.”  All I did was wink and smile. No one needs to know what a hot mess I am. To quote an Alice in Chains song, “Like the coldest winter chill, heaven beside you, hell within.” But when I knit, all the anxiety, all of the stress seems to fall away. When I put my needles down, then I feel I can look at things clearly again. It is like a mini holiday for the soul.

Thinking back into history, so many images exist of women knitting as they waited out some kind of big event. My auntie said she would sit and knit or crochet for her brothers who were fighting in the European Theatre during the war. Being from a warm climate, she knew they would have been freezing their butts off “over there fighting the Hun”. She said knitting was kind of like a prayer to the Almighty to keep them safe and this gave her comfort.  As long as she was knitting for them, they would be ok. I guess it worked for her because they all came back. Also, I found out that in WWII, they actually used knitting as a code!  But I digress…

knitting-skillsElizabeth Zimmermann, British-born hand knitting teacher and designer who revolutionised the way we knit through her books like Knitting Without Tears said, “Properly practised, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit, either.” Knitting is an effective therapeutic activity. Film stars do it in between scenes.  It has been quoted as a “mental-yoga” because it keeps you in the moment, concentrating on the stitch count and musing on the colour of yarn. It brings you out of your reality into a kind of suspended animation.


17-03-09-09-08-03-194_deco.jpgSpeaking of colour and comfort, Yankee Yarns has in stock Swift Knit Tweed by Stylecraft. The colours are bold and rich and give you a kind of colour comfort like when you see a beautiful sunset or walking in nature. The tension is 9 stitches and 12 rows for a 10x10cm tension square using 10mm needles so I am thinking of making a wrap for when I am drinking my cup of tea by a roaring fire on a Welsh beach. After all, when things are going a bit stressful, who doesn’t think of a holiday!?


Knit Happens. YO it.


I find myself floating in and out of the day to day grind. Perhaps I have a touch of Spring Fever. Whatever it is, it has me smack dab in a tangle of existentialism. My head is neither here nor there and I fear that I find myself pondering far too much on what it all means. In an effort to cut through the fog, I find myself digging into my magic bag of hold all— The knitting bag. There is something gratifying about holding on to something tangible and creating something wonderful out of a ball of colour. This “existential knitting” is not something I alone have coined. All I had to do was type Existential Knitting into Google and all sorts of hits came at me. My favourite led to a lovely little pattern called The Ribellion Cable! That set me on to a wonderful odyssey of the mind. I realised I work myself out of the funk when I am engaged in a project (or two or three…) If I am not knitting or crocheting, then I am thinking about it.

The thinking about knitting got me motivated to start planning my knitting more. I suppose this is all in a goal to become more centred and balanced. I began to include it into my working day ages ago when I started a monthly knitting circle at work for those who could not make it to the Yankee Yarns session on Monday nights. I made sure I inserted it into my Google Calendar and sent the Knitting Kninjas a monthly invitation. My non-knitting colleagues got a kick out of this and all I could retort was “Get over it! Knit happens!”


Knitting is a big deal to us die-hards and dabblers. In this age of electronically charged immediate gratification, the fact that we can slow down and take our time with something is more than just a hobby. It’s a way to peace of mind. So I have taken it a step further and have started to keep a bullet journal to keep track of all manner of things   — Life, work, passions–  and I can see how knitting falls into one of my main priorities.


There are all kinds of apps out there and when we are at the shop, we often whip out our phones to show off our knitting photos or knit as we glance at our iPad to follow a pattern we have saved on it. Also, you can keep track of your projects in an online journal on Ravelry. But my interest in my “Bujo” is becoming an obsession. I have decided to go back to basics and start a Knitting Journal based on the Bullet Journal concept. Although online websites, apps and spreadsheets are a boon to organisation and inspiration, there is something to be said about being meditative and quiet with one’s hobby. It is called getting back to basics and knitting “in the moment”.


Now, you can make your own or buy a Knitters Notebook to start you off. This way you can keep track of projects, photos of your work, yarn stash, needles, ideas, samples of yarn, grid paper with charted stitches, conceptions and wishlists. It’s therapeutic. But beware… it can be addictive and in some respect, it has become a whole other hobby!