The Dutch Pixie

It’s taken me quite a while to get around to writing this pattern up.  It’s been such a success that my little Dutch Pixie absolutely loves this cape and hasn’t stopped wearing it ever since I gave it to her.

I think I started knitting it back in the Spring.  It was just an idea I had for a simple cape that I thought my eldest daughter would get some wear out of. You know what kids are like, they often don’t want to wear a coat, even when it’s freezing cold outside.  My daughter often doesn’t even want to wear a jumper either and to be honest there isn’t enough meat on her bones to keep her warm without one!  (We do feed her plenty, she just never sits still)  So, I thought a cape could be a good solution.

I think that I actually half knitted this cape and then pulled it out and started again at least twice. Sometimes I get a little indecisive about how I want the finished item to look.  Eventually I realised that time was moving on and summer was rapidly approaching and that if I wanted it finished for our trip to Holland in the summer then I needed to get a move on.  The next time I started it I decided to double up the yarn and knit with it twice as thick.  It would be quicker (and warmer) that way.

 

It was the detail that was slowing me down though I think.  I tried several styles and kept changing my mind.  In the end I chose just a few lines of lacy holes, down the sides, down the back of the cape and across the top of the hood.  Just a little bit of interest and really good way of hiding the increases to give a lovely shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plus, I wanted it to have a pointy hood. 

 A proper pixie cape should have a pointed hood after all.

 

 

 

 

So, finally, on the ferry on the way to Holland, (nothing like leaving it until the last minute),  I sat sewing the ends in and adding the button fastener until the cape was completed.

We had a fabulous holiday and my little Pixie danced around the canals wearing her cape the whole time.

The only tricky part was getting her to stand still long enough to get a good picture!

 

If you’re interested in knitting a Pixie cape, the pattern is available from Etsy.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/LouTheWoolMonkey/listing/654458115/dutch-pixie-childrens-hooded-cape?

It’s a fairly straightforward knitting pattern and just uses stocking stitch.   The yarns are worked double so that you can create a nice blended looking set of stripes.   If you have questions, do get in touch.

 

 

 

Opuntia Cactus

As you may have realised by now, not only do I love crochet and knitting, but I also love cacti and succulents.

So, I thought I would start to create some patterns to go with my cacti, as well as giving you a bit more information about the plants themselves. Whilst I was thinking about doing this recently an old customer got in touch with me completely out of the blue, to see if I had created any cactus patterns yet.  What a pleasant surprise and  coincidence. 

She asked if I would create a pattern for an Opuntia.  So, that was my plan, but then as I started to look around, I realised that there were so many knitted and crocheted cacti patterns already out there for free that it would perhaps be a better idea to just have a look at some of those instead and see if any were worthy.

First thing is first though.  

I have to tell you a little bit about Opuntia.  (Sorry it’s the cactus geek in me)

So, the cactus genus Opuntia contains many different species, with many different common names, such as the prickly pear, bunny tails, beaver tails and the barbary fig.  You must have heard of some of them at least.  It’s really widespread, originating throughout the Americas, but with man’s help has now been spread worldwide.  In some places it is even considered to be a weed.  They do grow exceptionally easily.

This is a cutting I planted in January this year. It was just a couple of paddle shaped leaves then, but started to sprout new segments straight away. (Sorry about the sideways picture). This is how much it has grown up to now (June).

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 It might not look like much to you, but it’s fast for a cactus.  

 

Opuntia are easily recognised by their usually flat, paddle, oval or round shaped stem segments.  The spines are often densely clustered on the areoles.  These are the areas on the cacti where you usually see the spines coming from  (the spotty bits on the pictures above) and trust me, you don’t want to touch them.  They often look like soft, fluffy little pads, but really, they’re not that soft, they are composed of hundreds of tiny spines which will almost definitely get into your skin and they are really, really, really irritating!   Some of them also have long, deadly looking spines in addition, as if they needed the extra protection!?

Like most cacti, they do have the redeeming feature of beautiful flowers and they come in an array of colours. Some of the species also have fleshy fruits, which can be harvested and turned into deserts,  jellies, drinks and delicacies.  (I think this is where the name prickly pear came from).  In many places, especially Mexico, the flesh of the cactus itself is also eaten like a vegetable.  I can’t say that I have ever tried it, but there’s a first time for everything…

    

(Images courtesy of Pinterest – please click links to original posts)

Here are a few of my old Opuntia cacti:

 

So, now you know what an Opuntia cactus looks like.  I have done some research for you so that you can make your very own. (Without the prickly bits)

Here are some of the best Opuntia crochet patterns I found. The first few are free too, which is always a plus!

 

www.paperandlandscapes.com/crochet-cactus-free-pattern/

 

 

 

 

I think this one is my favourite.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/opuntia-cactus  

 

 

 

 

 

www.coolcreativity.com/crochet/10-desert-cactus-amiguru

mi-crochet-patterns/3

 

This one is nice, but one you have to pay for.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cactus-03

 

 

 

 

This is a nice pattern, but I’m not sure what language it is in.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cactus-fico-dindia

 

 

 

This is really nice pattern too,  but it’s in Spanish or Portugese (I think). 

https://www.tejiendoperu.com/amigurumi/cactus-nopal/

 

 

This is quite a chunky opuntia.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cactus-18

 

 

 

 

These patterns are super cute, but you have to pay for these.

https://www.amigurumipatterns.net/shop/Super-Cute-Design/Cactus-Friends/

 

 

It turns out that there aren’t that many knitted cactus patterns that are particularly Opuntia shaped, most of them are crochet patterns. Here are a couple that I did find and at least they are free. 

 

http://sewingbarefoot.blogspot.com/2012/11/knit-cactus.html

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/woolly-cacti-one-pattern-three-looks

 

 

 

 

If any of you are desperate for a knitted opuntia pattern which is better than these then let me know and I will write one.  In the meantime I hope you enjoyed the opuntia!   

(now, which cactus to do next…)

 

 

 

Blanket Sizes

Blankets

I have often been asked the question ‘how much yarn do I need for a blanket?’  To which, of course, there is only one reply, ‘depends how big your blanket is going to be’.

Then of course the next question is usually, ‘how big does my blanket need to be?’  Sounds silly, but there are no fixed rules about how big a blanket should be, just make it to the size you want.

OK, so that sounds like a bit of a slack answer I know.

I have done a little bit of digging to find out what sort of sizes people generally consider to be standard.  Or standard-ish at least. Some people have their own personal set of sizes that they tend to work to and others like to make it up at random.  I know I have a rough guide in my head and I tend to vary it depending upon the project.

One thing to bear in mind, if you are making a blanket for a bed, UK bed sizes and US bed sizes are different!

Baby Blankets

So most of you will have at some point made a baby blanket I suspect.  The sizes do vary a little bit, but most of them out there seem to fit into the same categories and approximate sizes.

 

Adult Blankets

Not necessarily for adults, but it just gives a different category from babies.  These can vary quite a bit more, especially between the continents! So, I had a look at the bed sizes first as the standards seem to vary slightly.  Here is a comparison between the USA and the UK.  Obviously there are many other variations around the World, but there is a limit to how many I can list and these two seem to be pretty common.

 

When it comes to the blanket sizes, as oppose to the actual bed sizes there seems to be a lot more discrepancy as to how a blanket should fit a bed.  Should it just reach the edges?  Should it overlap the edges and drape down the sides?  Should the top be long enough to cover the pillows? Is it just a decorative thing?

I still believe it’s all just personal preference.  There are no right and wrongs, but here are some guidelines to what appear to be the most common blanket sizes out there.  Most of them allow for some drape over the sides of the bed.  This is NOT a definitive answer as to the size a blanket should be, NOR is it an instruction that you must create your blankets this size.  It is simply what my research has found…

 

I hope these help some of you a little bit.  If not my advice when making blankets is to make them big and just keep going until you’ve had enough of making it and then it’s big enough.

 

 
There are loads of lovely books containing patterns for blankets out there, but these are a couple of my favourites: (click on them to look inside and check out the latest prices)

Knit and Chatterers

Here is just a quick post in celebration of the Wool Monkey knit and chatterers.

(I call them chatterers as they always have plenty to say and being quiet is definitely not one of their strong points).

The groups started when I originally opened the Wool Monkey shop. They started small in number but have grown in strength since.  New members join from time to time, which keeps the group growing and keeps adding fresh ideas and new impetus.   We have had many, many giggles, some cracking outings and some great gatherings.

   

These were from last years Xmas knit and chat, in the pub.  The ladies are such great sports considering that I made them all knit with toilet paper, followed by a knit behind your back competition.

There are two knit and chat groups these days, Saturday evening and Tuesday mornings, both of which have continued long after the Wool Monkey shop has closed. They really are a great bunch of ladies.  A somewhat eclectic mixture without a doubt, but very caring and very supportive of each other.

knit-and-chat-cubley-hall

They go on outings together, (almost always involving some kind of woolly event of course), they’ve helped me yarn bomb on the odd occasion, they teach and inspire each other and they looked after me when I had to close my shop.

 

Oh, and they’re always up for showing off their knitting!

So, thank you ladies for being such a fab group, let’s keep it going.  I am looking forward to seeing what sort of stuff we can get up to next year!

closing-day

If you are interested in joining our knit and chat groups, do get in touch so we can let you know where we are meeting, newcomers are always very welcome.

You don’t need to know how to knit or crochet to join, we will teach you…

 

 

Trinity Infinity Scarf

Trinity Knitted Scarf

Talk about lace knitting and many knitters will squeak quietly, retreat into a corner and hope nobody asks them about it.

It can be a very daunting challenge for the novice knitter. All those complicated stitches, in complicated patterns, with yarn that is so thin you can barely see it.

Lace doesn’t have to be like that though.  You don’t need many lace stitches to give a beautiful lace effect and is doesn’t have to be done with lace weight yarn.  After all, lace knitting is simply a matter of creating strategically placed holes in your work and holes are holes regardless of the thickness of the yarn.

Personally I love lace, but then I love complicated stuff in any form, I can’t help it. More satisfying than creating my own complicated stuff though, is helping others to gain a bit more confidence with the complicated stuff too.

So, back to the project in question.  The Trinity Scarf.  It’s a lace infinity scarf, made a bit thicker than normal and with an easy pattern repeat.  Don’t panic about the infinity bit, all that means is that the ends are joined together to give you one complete loop, which doesn’t need to be complicated at all.

I believe I actually made this scarf well over a year ago with the intention of using it in a beginner workshop and it has been sat on my desk ever since, waiting for me to write the pattern up.  I don’t know why it has taken me so long, I guess I have quite a large pile of work on my desk and this one kept escaping back to the bottom.  That’ssuch a lame excuse, but no longer, it’s finished now.

The pattern is only four rows and the main stitch repeat is only eleven stitches. That’s right, just four rows and a handful of stitches, so no getting lost in massive lace charts or having to write down every single row.  The rows don’t even take that long to do.  There are lace patterns I have done in the past with 500+ stitches on a row which have taken me up to half an hour to do one row.  It’s a bit demoralising when you go to bed after an hour of knitting and you’ve only done two rows.  Not with this pattern.

Trinity Knitted Lace Scarf by Wool Monkey

Here’s a brief look at what the stitches look like.

The other thing I love about this pattern is that it is very versatile.  You can easily make it as long or as wide as you like.  The instructions are all there and easy to do.  Plus, it’s worked in DK yarn, giving you a whole World of choice about what yarn to use.  I used Rowan Alpaca Colour for mine, mainly because I had it to hand, but also because of the lovely and very gradual changes in colour that is gives.   Of course, it’s also lovely and soft because it’s alpaca!

It’s totally your choice what you use and it doesn’t use a lot of yarn, so you can afford to be extravagant if you wish.  I think  something with a little bit of weight to it is nice, as it gives  a good drape, but then again, you could go for the light and airy feel…

If you do want to complicate things then there is of course one way to make the pattern tricky.  When you knit your scarf you have the option to either sew your ends together to make the infinity, or GRAFT your ends together.  I can picture some of you shuddering at the thought, or looking at me slightly bewildered.Trinity Knitted Lace Scarf by Wool Monkey

Grafting is a form of sewing up, but in such a way that you try to create a row of extra stitches between the two pieces which completely hide the join.  If you’ve never had a go before try it, with two pieces of stocking stitch first, so that you have an idea of what it is all about.  There are plenty of instructions out there on the web that should help you get started.  Eventually I will post some notes in the tutorials section, but I haven’t written them yet, sorry about that. Be warned though, that when it comes to grafting lace stitches things can get a bit gritty.  Be prepared for a lot of concentration and most likely a little bit of creative language to go with it.

So, if you would like to have a go, the pattern is available from my Etsy shop

Trinity Lace Scarf Knitting Pattern

Or, if you have any questions, do get in touch, it’s always good to hear from you.

Happy knitting!

Trinity Knitted Lace Scarf by Wool Monkey
Trinity Knitted Lace Scarf by Wool Monkey

 

If you would like to try a little more lace knitting then I know several people who found this book really useful…   (click on the link below for more info)

Knitting for Charity

So, Christmas is over and like many of us you might have spent the last few months knitting Christmas presents for friends and relatives.  It’s something we all do from time to time when we feel the need to be creative and need an excuse to make things. Plus, it’s nice to give presents that you’ve made.  But then suddenly, after Christmas, you have fulfilled all your gift requirements and no longer have any projects to make.  Panic!

You need a new project, fast.  But what?

Well, nobody you know needs anything and you already have a full wardrobe of woolly goodies, so how about making something for somebody unknown?  Somebody who needs anything you can give because they have nothing. Or, somebody who needs a bit of a hand up in life.  After all the excesses of Christmas maybe a bit of charity would be good for the soul.

knit-for-charoy2

Knitting, or crocheting for charity is a lovely thing to do.  There is nothing more soothing when you’re in a bad place than something warm and cosy, handmade by somebody else and filled with love.  It offers comfort and sometimes a bit of hope that the future is not always going to be bleak. Plus of course, the good feelings and sense of well being that it generates for you.  Sometimes you can be in need of that warm cosy feeling just as much as the person receiving your knitting, you just don’t realise it. Like I said, it’s good for the soul.

So, there are many different ways you can join in. Blankets, hats, clothing, twiddle mats, toys to name but a few. There are lots of organisations out there asking for donations and it’s up to you to decide how you think you could best contribute, but here are just a few things to consider before you go leaping in headfirst.

Check your Charity.  By this I mean do a bit of research and find out about the charity that you are going to donate to.  Make sure they are real, that their motives are genuine and that all your hard work is going to get to the people that need it the most and not be wasted or worse. Most organisations have websites and you can also check their status using the charities register and similar.

Make sure that the charity wants knitted or crocheted items.  (Some don’t).  Look for any specific requirements they have for particular items or  sizes and make sure that what they want is something that you want to make.  Don’t put yourself in a position where the making suddenly becomes a burden for you.  Also check if they have any specific yarn requirements, such as acrylic or machine washable or similar that you need to consider before starting.

Lastly, be aware that they are not going to pay you to donate your work to them.  You are going to have to cover the cost yourself.  Don’t set out to create a pure wool blanket for refugees in Syria for example, without taking into account not only how much the yarn is going to cost you, but also any postage costs you might have to incur to get your item to the charity!  If you’re lucky you may be able to get somebody else to donate you some yarn. Local businesses or a friend who has her great grandma’s stash in the loft but never learnt to knit maybe.  Don’t be afraid to ask around, give somebody else the chance to get in on the act and you may be surprised how many people will want to contribute.  You could also team up with others, spread the cost and the work and make it a group project!

So, if you fancy a go, here are a few ideas for you to think about and websites that you might find interesting.

knit-for-peace

This is a great organisation, which I have worked for on several occasions.  They always have lots of projects on the go, for a large variety of different causes, often with patterns available for you to use for free and loads of interesting stuff on their website.  I can highly recommend going and having a peek.  It might just spark your interest with projects you never knew existed.

Knit for Peace

knit-a-square-new_0

 

The knit a square group is a great one to get involved in if you would like your projects to be really quick and simple. Lots of my regular customers from the Wool Monkey shop used to bring me squares on a regular basis to send away to these guys. They have ladies who then sew all the squares into blankets to be sent away and handed out in places where they are needed. They also have requests for other items too, always with instructions and patterns to help you get started. This is a great project for beginners, knitting squares is a good way to practice.

http://www.knit-a-square.com/

 

loving-hands

 

Loving Hands is a bit more of a forum type group, who focus onbringing like-minded crafters together to create for charities.  They aim to make sure that all handmade work goes directly to the people/animals who need it.  They have lots of information on local groups, free patterns and projects to join in with.

http://www.lovinghands.org.uk

I could go on listing all the charities that need knitted items all day, but then this blog would become rather long.  But, you get the idea, that there is more out then than what you perhaps first thought.  A simple google search brings up hundreds of different ones. Or, you can visit the UK Hand Knitting Association website, where there is a list of charities for you to have a nosey at.

http://www.ukhandknitting.com/knitting-for-charity

 

I hope some of this sparks a new interest for you, so that your crafty hands don’t get bored. If you need anymore help or are unsure with any of it, get in touch and I’ll see if I can help you out.

Happy crafting!

 

twiddle-mats

 

 

 

 

Honley Lace Scarf

Knitted lace

I think it was Spring last year, whilst I was pondering the idea of things to do with my kids in the summer.  We often visit the local agricultural shows and similar and thought about trying a new one.  We hadn’t been to Honley Show before and it’s quite local to us, so I had a look at the website.  I wondered if they had a knitting section.  Or a crochet section.  I like to have a nosey.

It turned out they did.  (It’s always nice to have something to look at beyond sheep, cows and tractors).  Then I started to ponder the idea of entering some of my own knitting.  You never know, I thought, my knitting is as good as anybody else’s.

I had absolutely no idea what the competition would be like, perhaps a piece of lace knitting would be a good thing to enter.  People always seem to ooooo and aahhhh over a bit of lace knitting.  Only trouble was, I couldn’t decide on a pattern.  I often have this problem, so I did my usual and I made one up.  I already had the perfect ball of yarn for the job and a couple of months to knit it…

Findley Dappled Lace Knitting

 

 

Here it is, my yummy ball of Findley Dappled Lace.  I love this yarn, the colours are lovely and it is sooo soft.

 

 

 

 

So, two weeks before the show and quite a bit of effort later, (sometimes I wonder why I enjoy knitting lace, it usually involves a certain amount of cursing and I can only do it one the kids have gone to bed), I had a scrumpled ball of knitted lace.

Honley Lace Knitted Scarf

 

It doesn’t look that stunning does it?

I have always had lots of knitters ask me if blocking is a good idea or not. Usually the answer is yes.  Even though it might be a little bit tedious it’s often worth the effort I reckon. Sometimes it’s just not necessary, but with lace it’s an absolute must.

Compared to the amount of time it takes to knit lace the blocking is really quite quick and the results are always worth it.

Honley Lace Knitted Scarf

 

 

Scrumpled mess becomes beautiful, elegant lace!

 

 

 

I decided it was good enough to enter into the show, which was a good thing really as I didn’t have anything else to enter in it’s place.

 

So, off we went to Honley Show.

If you don’t know where Honley is, it’s a small town/large village near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. It’s quite a pretty area but this was a very wet day to be wandering around on a muddy field. We had wellies and waterproofs though and we had heaps of fun. There was actually plenty to see as well as the sheep. The kids harassed me into letting them have their faces painted, go on rides and eat ice creams, what more can I say.  I think the face painting lady deserved a prize to be honest, she was brilliant!

   

Eventually we worked our way back to the craft tent.  What a surprise was awaiting. I must admit, I was secretly hoping for a third or maybe second place, but that’s not what I got.

Honley Lace Knitted Scarf

 

Somehow my little piece of lace knitting had won the first prize, a best in show rosette AND a trophie for the best handicraft exhibit!  I was stunned.  I guess the judges like lace.  I’d never won a trophie before in my life and it felt quite nice.  I know I have to take it back next year for somebody else, but I can feel warm and fuzzy just knowing that my name will be engraved on it forever.

 

 

After such a successful day I thought that maybe I should write the pattern up , maybe other people would like to use it too.  Maybe somebody else will knit my pattern and win a show somewhere else with it.

I hope so.

If you would like the pattern, it’s available from my Etsy shop.  Happy knitting!

Honley Lace Scarf Knitting Pattern

 

 

School Cardies

These are the pictures taken from the beginning of the school year.  They were a bit of a rush job this year.  I knitted one at the beginning of the summer and then one in the last ten days leading up to the start of term.

Phew.  Made it, just in time.

Thank fully the girls, love them.  It’s really nice when your kids appreciate your knitting!

They both have the same one this year and I am hoping they will last a couple of years. Then I can make some different ones…

eleanor-school-sweater

If you are interested in the pattern, it’s not one of mine I’m afraid.  (Well, some of it is).  It is a pattern from Ravelry, called Gidday, by Georgie Nicolson.  I added a few of my own tweaks, but it’s essentially very similar.  Here is the link:

Ravelry pattern for Gidday

 

And, the yarn is one of my all time favourites, Debbie Bliss Railto DK