Lively and crazy aren’t always the first things that come to mind when we think of knitting. It’s the kind of thing you sit down for, quietly stitching for hours on end. But people who think that probably haven’t worked with Can Can yarn—a line of yarns, patterns, and knitting tools whose products are the farthest thing from boring.
The Can Can line is made by Rico Design, a German yarn maker known mostly for its colorful designs and its wide variety of patterns. It stems from the same lively range as their fluffy Pompon yarns, which make great scarves and socks. Rico products range from classic soft colors to chunky, textured and multicolored designs, as well as specialized materials such as merino and organic wool. Although the styles and colors are their main selling point, Rico yarns are more than just eye candy—each strand is made first and foremost to be strong and comfortable.
Can Can yarns are excellent proof of this rule. Thick and comfortable yet surprisingly sturdy, they make top-quality scarves and accessories that can rival their pricier machine-made counterparts any day. And they don’t let style suffer either—Can Can scarves come in a wide variety of colors, from simple neutrals to eye-catching brights and fluorescents. The textures appeal both to the eye and the skin, adding lots of personality to your everyday fall outfit while keeping you warm.
The yarns are designed work with 8-mm needles and are surprisingly easy to work with, despite their thickness. Basic solid colors include black, brown, gray, turquoise, red, cream, and purple, and make great everyday pieces. You can also go for a “mix,” a two-tone thread with a striking gradient pattern. Red and black, green and blue, black and blue, blue and pink, green and black, pink and purple, and black and white are among the most popular. Each ball has enough yarn for one standard-length frilly scarf and sells for about £10 ($16) online.
Can Can yarns are a great choice for intermediate to advanced knitters who want to try their hand at bolder designs, although the patterns are perfectly manageable for beginners as well. Each ball of yarn comes with a scarf pattern, so all you have to do is pick up your needle and knit away. Make a couple for yourself or give them away—it makes a unique, inexpensive gift for the holidays!
Sirdar is a UK-based manufacturer of yarns and other knitting products. Established in 1880, it started out as a spinning company run by two brothers whose sole goal was to produce high-quality knitting products. By 1934 they had built a steady market and moved to their present location in Alverthorpe, passed the business on to their sons, and decided to focus largely on knitting yarns. At the same time they renamed themselves after the title of an Egyptian king, and made it a point to show this glory in every product with rich colors, beautiful designs, and top-grade material.
Although yarns and knitting tools remain their main products, the company is perhaps best known in the knitting community for their project patterns. Sirdar patterns are credited with making knits fashionable, running the gamut from baby sweaters and hats to stylish cardigans, shirts, shawls, and scarves for both men and women. This is because they update their collections regularly, following trends from the catwalk to the high street. When well-made, Sirdar creations can outdo their factory-made counterparts in terms of craftsmanship and style.
Babies’ clothes are especially popular in Sirdar’s line. The soft, warm feel of their yarns lend themselves very well to babies’ sensitive skin, and parents around the UK and beyond attest to their comfort and quality. They have patterns for baby coats and ponchos with matching hats, tanks and waistcoats, baby blankets, and a wide range of accessories, including caps, bootees, and mittens.
They also have a varied range of children’s clothes, from sweaters to scarves and hats. The patterns and colors are very age-appropriate, and the finished products make for an excellent school wardrobe. For adults, the line includes sweaters, tops, cardigans, and waistcoats, with designs for both men and women. Beginners will especially love the small accessories such as hats, socks and gloves, as many are particularly easy and come in attractive color combinations. Parents can even create matching pieces for their children—a perfect gift for the holidays!
The secret to the longevity of Sirdar patterns is that they are made to keep up with the times. It’s not just about dressing for the seasons—it’s about reflecting the needs of people. Their decades-long collections have included wartime pieces from the 1940s and colors and frills from the 1970s. If you’re looking to knit something that’s just as meaningful as it’s fashionable, a Sirdar pattern is a great start.
Homemade jewelry is back in fashion—not that it ever left, but we’re seeing so much of them these days that they’re practically a summer staple. It could have been the recession or just another come-and-go trend. In any case, it’s a great time to learn how to make beaded jewelry, whether to start a business, save yourself some cash, or just add a little something to your look. It’s a lot easier than it looks—here are some tips to help you start out right.
Create a workspace: This may sound trivial, but beading is intricate work, and you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible. Get a box with several small compartments to sort all those little pieces, and set up a space with good lighting (you’ll need it to thread small beads and see color combinations well). Line the space with soft foam or felt to keep beads from rolling off.
Make your own tools: If you’re going the DIY route, why not go all the way? Beading tools can be expensive, even overpriced, but most of them can be made with everyday materials. Use shells as bead scoops, test tubes to separate your beads, chopsticks to hold your strings—you’ll end up paying next to nothing where others shell out a few hundred dollars!
Invest in quality: That being said, there’s no need to be cheap—some tools are worth investing in right from the start. For instance, you’ll want a good pair of pliers for twisting and cutting. There’ll be a lot of that when you’re beading, so get one that’s light and feels good in your hand. Also look for good-quality beads and strings, the kind that won’t fray or break easily when you make mistakes.
Start simple: Don’t set your sights too high. Start with small pieces like single-strand bracelets and necklaces. They don’t even have to be functional; just string some beads and hemp together to get a feel of it and what the finished product might look like. That way you can see your progress right away, and you’ll be motivated to keep going.
Get inspired: Not all of us have an eye for color. That’s what TV and magazines are for. Look at what the celebrities are wearing, or browse online to see which colors are popular. Or if you’re making your own jewelry, stick to your favorite colors or those you know will look good on you. You can also take a cue from your wardrobe—if you have lots of red, chances are you’ll want a red hemp bracelet!
Starting out in sewing can be tough. A lot of beginners get discouraged when they see lovely patchwork or a well-made dress, and think they’ve got too much to learn. But like any other hobby, it’s really about pacing yourself. Many of those who give up are simply trying to do too much too soon. If you want to learn how to sew, the first rule is to start small.
Think of something small you’d like to make for yourself or someone else—even if it’s an old pair of pants that’s torn at the seams. Starting with the easy stuff helps because you master skills, like straight stitching, that will come in handy when you start making bigger projects. It also keeps you motivated because there’s “instant gratification,” meaning you can see and use your finished product right away.
You’ll also want to work with materials you personally like. Don’t think that just because it’s your first sewing project, it’s no use wasting good fabric on it. On the contrary, working with cheap fabric with an unattractive pattern will make the job boring and kill your motivation to see it through. Even experts agree to this. Invest in good materials that make the job easy and enjoyable.
This also applies to your tools, from your needles and thread to your first sewing machine. You don’t have to splurge, but don’t go for the cheapest brands either. You can save on high-quality gear by renting or buying second-hand. You don’t need all the accessories just yet, but some may come in handy when you’re starting out, such as a seam ripper (since even professionals have to pick out stitches once in a while) and extra bobbins for your working thread.
If you’ve never picked up a needle before, consider taking a sewing class. It doesn’t have to be anything advanced; even one-day sessions can be a lot of help. The point of taking classes is that you learn from the bottom up, often doing things by the book. This will give you some direction in your first few projects and the confidence to experiment later on.
Finally, don’t expect too much—perfectionism has its place, but it’s not in sewing. Remember, you’re starting small, so it’s not that big a loss if you make a lopsided pillowcase. As you go along, you’ll notice that most of the flaws aren’t really that noticeable, and if they are, they often look more quirky than unattractive.
DIY fashion came into the scene in the early 2000s and never seemed to have left. Even alongside classic gold and silver stands, hemp and beads seem to hold their own, its market including students, yuppies, and everything in between. And what’s great about handmade jewelry is that every piece is the only one of its kind—and it takes no more than a bit of practice to start whipping out your own. Get started with this guide on how to make a hemp necklace.
You’ll need two lengths of hemp, one about five yards long and another twice as long as the necklace you’re making. Fold both pieces in half, keeping the shorter one on the inside. The five-yard piece will by your “knotter”—you’ll be using it to make knots on the shorter “carrier” cord.
Tie an overhand knot at the end using the two pieces, then line them up so that the two halves of the shorter one is on the inside. If this proves hard, you may need to untie the knot and make sure they are lined up correctly before redoing the knot.
Now start tying square knots with the knotter cord around the carrier cord. Bring the far right cord to the left, passing them under the two middle ones and over the left. Do the same with the cord on the left, bringing it under the two middle ones and over the right. Pull on both ends to tie the knot. Alternatively, tie on one side throughout to create a spiral.
After about 15 of these knots, depending on how tight they are and how thick your cord is, you should have an inch or so of knotted cord. Slip one bead over the two middle cords, then make another square knot below it using the outer cords to lock it in place. Do the same with the rest of your beads. You can add a pendant by slipping another bead through the bottom cord halfway through the length of the necklace.
Finish off your necklace by tying another overhand knot at the end, leaving about five inches for adjustments. Pat some glue over the cords as you’re tying them to keep them in place—use industrial or craft glue instead of the water-soluble kind. You can also add locks and hooks at this point, although if you’re making a big necklace this may not be necessary.