For the last few years, I’ve knitted miniature woolly hats in August and September to support Age UK’s fundraising with Innocent, makers of fruit smoothies. I’m happy to say that the Big Knit is happening again this year. For every hat-adorned bottle of smoothie that is sold next February, Innocent will give 25p to Age UK’s campaign to keep older people warm in winter. Last year this raised over £200,000 and it has been going on for a decade.
Patterns are available on both Age UK’s and Innocent’s Big Knit websites, ranging from the ridiculously easy to miniature works of art like this Prince George one. (I’m hoping no one at Innocent or Age UK will mind me copying the image, seeing as it is all in a good cause.) There are crochet patterns as well. It’s a great way of using up leftover bits of yarn, even tiny scraps. £200,000 at 25p per hat equates to 800,000 items of headgear, which is a huge target but perfectly achievable when you consider how many knitters there are in the UK. You need to post your hats to arrive by 14th November, so get going!
Another charity project that I’m knitting for is the Little Yellow Duck Project. It will use up the yellow acrylic DK that I have left over from the Tour de France bunting. I like this project because, not only is it a stash-busting way of supporting a worthwhile cause (promoting blood, bone marrow, organ and tissue donation), but it involves random acts of kindness (RAK). Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of even a small RAK from a complete stranger will know what an uplifting and heart-warming experience it is. The Little Yellow Duck Project highlights life-saving RAKs (altruistic medical donations) by leaving hand-made little yellow ducks in public places for passers-by to find and, if they wish, take home. Each duck bears a label inviting the finder to visit the project’s website to learn more about it and record where they found their duck. So far, over 1,200 have been reported in 40 countries – unlike the Big Knit, this is a worldwide initiative. The ducks can be made from anything as long as they are hand crafted.
Electrical cable to jewellery
I can’t help but think about what I will knit when my gansey is finally finished. I’m on the cuff of sleeve no.2 so it won’t be long now, although I’m going to re-knit cuff no.1 to make it a little bigger. The neckband needs to be done but I should still have the gansey off the needles in a couple of weeks. I already have patterns and a stash of yarn for other projects – show me a knitter who doesn’t – but I came across a marvellous cardigan on Ravelry the other day called Nanook.
It requires a shawl pin to close it at the shoulder, which got me thinking how to make one. Instructables came up trumps with a Viking-style penannular design. I hadn’t come across such a thing before, but I love its simplicity and practicality. The pin hinges on the ring and is lined up with the opening in the ring to fasten it through the fabric, then the ring is rotated to keep it secure. Not only is it pretty much guaranteed not to fall out, but there’s no separate pin to get lost.
A few weeks ago a friend who knew I’d recently fitted an outside light onto the house offered me half a roll of 2.5mm² twin and earth cable that had sat in his garage, unused, for years. This is the size that is used for ring mains and I took it gratefully, because copper cable has become quite expensive and it will only be a matter of time before I decide to add another socket. But now that I have plenty of cable, I thought I could afford to use a bit of it for something more decorative. It is nowhere near as thick as the wire used for the ring part in the Instructable, and that one used brass welding rod for the pin, so I had to make some minor changes.
DIY jewellery anvil
First, I needed an anvil. On a jewellery course a few years ago the tutor suggested using the soleplate of an iron as an anvil substitute. It has to be a non steam iron, of course, it’s no good having loads of holes in the surface. I kept an old iron of my mother’s for this purpose, and a couple of days ago I removed the soleplate, ground down the protruding bits of metal and cut a piece of pine to sit it on. I waxed the wood to make it easier to clean and then stuck it to the back of the soleplate with two-part epoxy. Unfortunately, it came adrift after concerted hammering of my penannula and I’ll have to try using a glue with some flexibility instead.
To stiffen up the ring section of the shawl pin, I gave it a bark finish by hammering with the cross pein end of a lightweight hammer. I treated the pin part in the same way, having flattened most of it first for added stiffness. The end result is reasonably pleasing and it should mean that I get more wear out of my modest collection of shawls.
Knitting needles from bamboo skewers
The other thing I made this week was a pair of double-pointed knitting needles out of bamboo barbecue skewers. I just rubbed them down with sandpaper until they fitted through the 2.25mm hole in my needle gauge, then tapered the points and finished off with a coat of wax. They made knitting the narrower part of the gansey sleeves a lot easier, when used with my two circular needles. The diameter of the largest untouched skewers is about 3.25mm (UK10, US3) which means they could be used to make any size of needle from 3.25mm downwards.