Feeling cold and gloomy this winter? Why not knit yourself something warm?

IN ABER it’s a well known fact that if you walk from your house to anywhere that’s more than two minutes away, you will most likely stop and chat to at least one or two acquaintances. This same thing was true for me as I was making my way to Claire’s on the high street to buy myself a new set of no. 4 bamboo knitting needles. Both people I stopped to chat to asked me where I was going, and both seemed to find my errand old fashioned and almost funny.

I understand that knitting – and I suppose a lot of other crafts, such as sewing and crochet – tend to be associated with old ladies sitting alone in their houses and listening to the radio. Rightly so too, I suppose, as both of my grandmothers do this. But my mum, my aunts, my cousins, my sisters and several of my friends, both at uni and at home, will also sit down with a piece of hand-craft.

As I have grown up with home-made woollen socks, hats and gloves, I suppose it has always been in my blood a little bit. The knitwear you can buy in shops never seemed quite real to me. I learnt to knit at a young age, but didn’t quite take to it until my late teens. I find myself wanting to take it back up again every couple of years, usually during the colder seasons. Lately, one of my favourite activities has been snuggling up with a TV-series marathon, good company and my current project.

Knitting is not very difficult, and it’s completely possible to pay attention to something else at the same time. Once you get the hang of it, you really don’t have to pay much attention to what you’re doing at all. Patterns are usually repetitive, so once you’ve gotten through the first part, everything else is very easy.

It’s also surprisingly sociable. This is not an activity like reading, for example, where you need to be on your own, or at least where it’s quiet. Sitting around and having a chat is more than possible – I would actually encourage it!

Recently, a new society, Aber KnitSoc, has been set up. They organise meet-ups where people can bring along their knitting, crochet or sewing and enjoy each other’s company. I know for a fact that I will probably be frequenting these meetings myself.

There are lots of online shops where you can get your wool and needles from – something which I often find slightly easier than trying to figure out the labels in shops. Patterns will almost always suggest what yarn to use, and pages to get them from. My favourite is woolwarehouse.co.uk; their deliveries are always very prompt, their stuff is cheap, and they carry all varieties of drops yarn, which is what they use on garnstudio.com, my favourite (free) pattern page.

You’ll find that a lot of patterns, regardless of where you find them, will use a lot of complicated knitting terminology and abbreviations. I found this difficult to begin with – sometimes it’s almost like another language. There are guides that you can find that explain them, however, and garnstudio.com also have a bunch of very helpful videos that show you how to do the things they mention in the patterns.

Here is some advice on how to make some of my favourite knitted creations. Happy knitting!

Cardigan

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I made this from a pattern on garnstudio.com, and used three different colours of pure wool bought from Claire’s in Aberystwyth. I changed the way of doing the arms, as I found that the ones in the pattern were too tight. Also decided to lift stitches from the body of the cardigan, rather than knitting upwards from the sleeves and sewing them on – the less you have to stitch together, the better!

The square patterns were made by simply changing the coloured yarn back and forth, two stitches at the time, for two rounds. I then the same thing again, but alternating the colours.

This pattern took longer than I thought it would, and I ran into quite a few annoyances, but I’m really happy with how warm and snug it came out in the end!

Skirt

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This is one of my warmest pieces of clothing, and was made from another pattern on garnstudio.com, and was done in Drops Fabel yarn.

It was really easy to do, though the wool is quite thin and it took a while to get anywhere. The pattern mainly consists of purling (inside-out knitting), with one knitted line in between each purled space.

As purling one stitch takes longer than knitting it normally, I realised later than turning the skirt inside out knitting it like that would have saved me quite a lot of time!

Bag

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This was another really fun and colourful pattern from garnstudio.com. The pattern asks for Drops Alaska, though I used two different brands with similar qualities. Because I did this, some of the patches have come out a little different from what I intended, but all in all I really like the way the bag came out.

It is knitted in five long strips of square patches, and then sewn together using the brown yarn that is also used for the top of the bag. After sewing them together, I lifted stitches from around the edges.

Pure wool gets felted if you put it in a washing machine with washing powder on 40 degrees – this is why you usually wouldn’t want to wash your woolly clothes like this, though some pieces come out very nice if you felt them.

Socks

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Most of these are actually made by my mother – I get given a pair or two every year for Christmas, so I’ve got a bunch of varieties and colours. The brown one in the picture is actually the only sock I have ever knitted myself. Socks are pretty straight forward, the only annoying part is usually the heel. There are many helpful patterns that will show you how to do it.