Saturday, April 16, 2011

Planning your projects

Well, here we are again - winter is coming up, and suddenly our shop is full of people planning projects. So, since I haven't finished my next wool report project, I thought now would be a great time to share some tips on how to find the perfect project for winter 2011. The main questions you need to answer are:

How patient are you/how much time do you have?

I had a bad moment a couple of months ago when a lass who'd just purchased a ball of 4ply wool asked how many rows she had to knit to finish a garment. I went through the pattern with her and when she realised she'd need to knit about 100 rows, she nearly passed out in horror! Unfortunately, she'd already started to knit the yarn, or I'd have taken it back and exchanged it. The moral is, always have a good think about how much time (or patience) you have before you select your project!

  1. Unlimited (not working or knitting/crochet/tricot is your number one priority - or you are using public transport to travel!) - buy anything. Buy 2, 3 and 4ply yarns, lace patterns, complex intarsia - whatever takes your fancy!

    Designers: Try Marie Wallan or Kim Hargreaves (Rowan) - both favour very feminine designs in fine yarns. There are also some good books available from Interweave with very fine, intricate lace patterns (knitted and crocheted).

    Yarns: Misti Alpaca 2ply and 4ply have been flying out the door lately - try Rowan 4ply cottons for summer or Kidsilk Haze for a light, warm winter knit.

  2. Moderate (knitting is one of several hobbies - need time for work and family!) - stick with 8 (DK) or 10 ply (Aran) projects with the odd chunky weight hat or scarf to give yourself a quick win or for an emergency present. A reasonably fast knitter should be able to finish an 8 or 10 ply garment over winter (I'm an average knitter and crocheter, but I can usually knock over a garment every six months - three if I'm using public transport a lot or involved in a show).

    Designers: Jo Sharp has a good range of DK and Aran weight patterns. The Sirdar Eco Wool pattern books have also been popular, and the recent Cleckheaton pattern books have some really nice 8ply patterns that are also quite easy to knit.

    Yarns: the Jo Sharp Silkroad DK and Aran Tweeds are probably our most popular yarns at this point. Filatura di Crosa's Zara range makes a nice change if you want something with a smoother, less "woolly" finish, and the Sirdar Eco Wool has a lovely range of gentle, natural shades. At a lower price point, we have the Heirloom Merino Magic, which is lovely to knit and has a great colour range.

  3. None (you are flat out with other things, or you just cannot handle chipping away at a project for months and months) - chunky weight yarns are your friend. So are big needles and small projects such as hats, neckwarmers, slippers, amigurumi toys (any toys!), shrugs and so forth. Lace patterns with fine yarns can be another winner, but some knitters find these too fiddly. Hint: learn to crochet or tricot. Both these crafts are usually faster than knitting!

    Designers: try the Rowan design team again - any of the Big Wool pattern books will be perfect for you! The Garnstudio site is another good resource - look for projects in Polaris, Ice, Eskimo or Igloo (select search groups D, E or F on the search panel).

    Yarns: Big Wool, Misti Alpaca Chunky.

What is your goal?

We often get knitters and crocheters in here who want to learn a new technique. If you are learning a new technique, please let us know that you are looking for a beginner project! Generally, if someone is starting with a techique, I point them towards Cleckheatons and Patons - both brands have very clear, simple patterns aimed at the beginner. If someone is looking to move on to more challenging patterns, I would suggest that they might want to look at some of the Rowan pattern books, where you can find some very complex colourwork, beaded patterns, tricky lace patterns and cable combinations. Some of the advanced Jo Sharp projects are also good if you are wanting a challenge. Anyone who wants the knitter's equivalent of climbing Everest will find Kaffe Fassett's colourwork patterns in our shop and on the Rowan website ( Good luck! :)

Oh and by the way (shameless self promotion time!) - we offer regular classes in knitting, crochet, tricot and broomstick lace. So we can get you started on your challenge with a class, as well as with wool and patterns...

What are your likes/dislikes?

If we know what you like, we will be able to recommend other, similar yarns and designers. And we won't waste your time by waving chunky weight, undyed wool in your face if we know that you love bright cottons!

Can you help us to help others?

Another quick self promotion moment - please use the Reviews feature if you visit our website ( It is very helpful for others to be able to see comments and feedback from people who have actually worked with the yarns and patterns - whether good or bad. I'm not going to censor the site - however, I will email unfavourable feedback to our suppliers and pass it on to their sales reps!

All the best for your winter projects!