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Tag Archives: The Knitting and Crochet Bible

Crochet Waistcoat: A Blast from the Past

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Multi-coloured crochet waistcoat

That pink was a mistake!

While tidying out a cupboard during last summer’s holiday activities, we unearthed one of my handicraft items from the late 1970s. As you can see from the illustrations it is a waistcoat made up of multi-coloured crochet motifs. I have never been a real whizz at crochet but I did manage to teach myself a few stitches all those years ago. After mastering some of the basic stitches, I looked around for an idea for a practical project to give my endeavours a focus. There are only so many coasters and tablemats that you can usefully crochet without running out of (willing?) recipients. But what next to crochet? A toilet roll cover perhaps? The idea of making squares for a larger project appealed to me, as I had previously had a go at patchwork with scraps of fabric quite successfully. I’m not sure how I ended up making a waistcoat, rather than a cushion cover or a throw for instance, but a waistcoat I did make (and subsequently frequently wore I might add).

Close-up of teh crochet motifs

Colours Galore…

When I began compiling squares, I didn’t really have a pattern or a colour scheme in mind so I simply used up whatever wool I had to hand. Then I worked out a very basic layout to create the shape of a waistcoat. I made all of the motifs from double knitting wool and I think I probably used a 3.5mm crochet hook. I really enjoyed making the squares, as it was satisfyingly quick to produce a reasonable quantity of pieces. Once I had sewed them all together, I took another colour (I do now regret the choice of pink!) and crocheted an edging of double crochet stitch all around and made strips of chain stitch for ties. I am almost sure that no two squares are identical in colour, though that wasn’t intentional. I later went on to make a sleeveless top with square motifs, but this time in planned set of (I think) three colours. This garment failed to stand the test of time, it was just too ordered and uniform. I always preferred the exuberance of the random colour mixes in my waistcoat.

This nostalgic delve into past craft activities prompted us to have a go at some crochet practice during the summer. Having done all of this crochet so long ago, when I came to look at the squares again, I had to consult Verity’s book, The Knitting and Crochet Bible to remind myself of how to do the stitches. I found it difficult to get back into the swing of it at first and to remember my double and treble stitches. However, once the little grey cells started to work, I found that the stitches began to come back to me. I started to show Verity how to make the basic stitches (double and treble) and we practiced with a few odd balls of wool. You can see from the illustration that the book is well laid out with stage by stage diagrams for the stitches. Book pages showing instructions for basic stitches

That was as far as we got last summer, so I would like to pick up a hook again and make some more of the square motifs. Ideally this would be a stepping stone to taking the crochet a stage further than I have managed previously. I don’t think I am ever going to become expert at crochet but I would like to develop more of a skill than I have now.

Watch this space for an update! Any crochet lovers out there?

A real ‘all you need to know’ book

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In an earlier post, I mentioned The Knitting and Crochet Bible. Now I am going to dedicate a whole post to this excellent book. The Knitting and Crochet Bible claims to be ‘ The Complete Handbook for Creative Knitting and Crochet’, and I am inclined to agree with it. The book is written by Claire Crompton and Sue Whiting and its details are on Our Resources page if you are interested. I had better say now that I can’t crochet, so half of the book is utterly wasted on me and therefore, this will be a rather one-sided review. However, when I get around to learning, I have a great resource ready and waiting. A lot of the time, I skim through the ‘Bible’ just to look at the pictures, of which there are many. The knitting section is divided into Getting Started, Creative Options, Exploring Choices, Stitch Library and Projects.

The Knitting and Crochet Bible

The Knitting and Crochet Bible by Claire Crompton and Sue Whiting

The Getting Started section is what you would expect, basic instructions. After that, it begins to get interesting. In the next two chapters, techniques such as fair isle, cables, circular knitting, lace knitting etc are introduced with appropriate instructions. Later, more options like embroidering knitted fabrics, beaded knitting and tassels and fringes are explained.

Next is the Stitch Library, where over one hundred stitches are presented with instructions, charts and pictures. They range from basic knit and purl stitches, to Gansey patterns, texture stitches, cables, lace and edgings. Some of them are so complicated, that I get confused just reading the patterns, let alone trying with wool and needles!

Finally there is the projects sections, which is my favourite. There are projects using the techniques described earlier in the book, so that you can try out different options as you learn them. I find this very handy, for example, once I had grasped how to knit a motif and strand wool at the back of the fabric, I could use the pattern to knit a sachet with a heart motif. The sachet was supposed to hold lavender, but I put bath bombs in it to to give as a gift (you’ll be hearing more about the bath bombs in later posts). I have my sights set on bigger things though; I am going to try to knit a fair isle patch as the front of a cushion, but I may need to save up for a bit first. The pattern uses eight colours of wool and I will need fabric for the back, plus a cushion pad for stuffing it at the end! I also fancy knitting the cable throw but I might need a bit more practice in cables before I start.

Knitted purse

Knitted purse with a heart motif, made from a pattern in the book.

The more I read The Knitting and Crochet Bible, the more I love it. I suppose I am a bit biased because it was my first knitting book, but still! Actually, as a first knitting book, it is a good choice as it covers everything from how to hold the needles, right up to the complexities of intarsia knitting. All in all, a useful companion book with clear, well-written instructions and excellent illustrations and photographs which would be a handy book for the first-time knitter or the experienced wool worker.


Photo Credit: for the picture of the knitting book, with thanks!


A Colourful Corking Cushion

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This post will return very briefly to the subject of cushions. I have recently finished making the round cushion that I mentioned in my earlier post. This cushion has a front of French knitting (also called tomboy knitting, spool knitting and corking) and the back is part of an old jumper.

French knitting is très simple! The hardest bit is the casting on. This was the first time I’d done French knitting for a while and the casting on took me a while but I got it in the end. Spool knitting is done on a ‘doll’, a hollow wooden tube with metal pegs on the top. These can be bought in craft shops. The knitting is worked around the pegs and pulled down the tube. There are also plastic French knitting dolls and there are variations on the number of pegs it has, either four or six, I think. Corking is a great way to use up small wool ends that are too short for anything else. Even better, it’s possible to change colour loads of times because all the ends are simply pushed into the tube, nothing could be easier! The front of the cushion is made with a piece about six metres long, it sounds a lot but it builds up quite quickly once you get started. I then sewed the tube in a coil to make a circle and the front was finished. A coil of French knitting can be round or more oval-shaped and it might turn out slightly domed. The coil could be made into a mat, pot holder or a small rug instead.

The cushion and three of my French knitting dolls.

The cushion and three of my French knitting dolls.

The back of the cushion is also wool but made in a very different way. It was originally an old jumper with holes in it. I felted this as an experiment and some of it has been put to use in this cushion. Before I continue, I have a point to make about the word ‘felting’. I am not very sure that it is the correct word to use in this context because it says in a knitting book I have (The Knitting and Crochet Bible by Claire Crompton and Sue Whiting published by D&C) that felting is felting raw wool whereas ‘fulling’ means felting wool that has already been spun and knitted. However, other sources use felting to describe both techniques. I’ll use the word ‘fulling’ in this post because I think it is technically the right one.

Anyway, you can full any piece of knitting as long as it was knitted in 100% pure wool. Acrylic wool and other mixes have been treated so that they don’t shrink and therefore they won’t full properly. You can full old garments, like jumpers or pieces of knitting that you made specially for fulling. There are two ways to full a piece of knitting: by hand or in your washing machine. To full by hand, you need warm water and soap flakes. Gently wash the knitting in the soapy water. Knead the piece to full the fibres. Be careful and check the piece frequently as you work. You may need to experiment with samples before you do the real thing in order to get the best result. When you think it’s done, rinse the soap out in cold water. The fabric should look dense and fuzzy, it shouldn’t be distorted or matted. Wrap the fabric in a towel and then lay it out flat to dry.

The finished cushion, showing the side of French knitting.

The finished cushion, showing the side of French knitting.

The other fulling method is the washing machine method. This is best for when you are fulling several things at once. Add towels to fill the machine to provide friction. Run them a short hot wash and a cold rinse but don’t spin dry them. The washing machine method is great except for the fact that it will fluff up your machine after a while. Fulled fabric is very useful because it won’t fray so there’s no need to hem it when you use it.

For the cushion, I cut the fabric with a paper pattern and dressmakers scissors. The cushion is  oversewn at the edges with white wool, but blanket stitch would probably look nicer. I stuffed it with loose stuffing as I couldn’t find a round cushion pad in any shop. I suppose it is an unusual shape for a cushion.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough so I’ll just finish by saying that this French knitting project is easy. The cushion is a perfect way of using up wool scraps and some old clothes, why not have a go?

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