knittingKnitting. What images does that word conjure up?

Knitting. What images does that word conjure up? ‘Grannies’ is an obvious one, ‘the lonely’ is a possible second and a few years ago I may have thought the same, but then I had to quit smoking and with the fear of gaining vast quantities of weight looming over my head I took the advice of a friend’s mother and picked up a pair of knitting needles and a few balls of wool and learned the knit stitch. I found that I had something to do with my hands that didn’t involve cigarettes or food and I liked it.

I sat for a weekend and knitted up a very long, lumpy scarf that was filled with holes and a myriad of other mistakes but I didn’t care, I had made it myself and I was proud!

The years passed and I became more and more entwined in my knitting, not only had I found a way to make nice things for myself and my friends, but I had also discovered a form of therapy that cost hardly anything. I had become more relaxed, my concentration had improved and I was filled with a sense of pride that comes with having achieved something.

I was happy and pleased with what I was doing, my close friends and family knew about my new passion and supported me but I hadn’t really come completely out of the closet. I couldn’t bear the thought of taking my knitting into the public domain and this meant that I was missing out on having a social life. My knitting was becoming an obsession and I was facing a new life of social leprosy: It was not an appealing idea.

I needed to work, I needed a social life and now I needed to knit. I was either going to have to give something up or live with everything in balance. I decided to make the move and knit in the open air. It was a nerve-racking moment when I sat on a quiet train and took out the pinwheel blanket that I was knitting for a friend’s baby. I was nervous about people’s reactions; although I don’t know why? It’s not like I was settling into the skin of a cat. In fact, the journey passed event-free. I breathed a sigh of relief and was able to move on with my life.

The next step was to find someone to knit with. It was easy! People who craft are desperate to meet others; they want to be free to take their projects to the public eye as well! We found a small gallery in the centre of Amsterdam and started meeting there every Wednesday night. Eventually, this little gathering began to grow. There were plenty more people out there who had the same desire to create their own clothing and accessories, to do things with their hands and be a part of a caring community. Women and men from all walks of life who love nothing more than to sit about in a circle and create something with yarn.  As the group grew and my passion for knitting and other fibre crafts like crochet and needlepoint developed I decided to start up my own company and bring knitting to the world. I didn’t want to sell things I had made myself, I wanted people to pick up sticks and learn the craft I love so much. I would rather be knitting; perhaps others out there would too?

Idle Hands came to life in 2008 and now I see the company growing and that fills me with as much pride as my first ever hand-knitted scarf. It’s working too, people have learned and people have become proud of their talents! Last weekend I met with a group of knitting friends and we sat in the window seat of a busy Amsterdam bar and knitted. We weren’t the only ones either, it was World Wide Knit in Public Day and we crafters were everywhere!

People took photos and made friendly comments, someone even signed up to join our Wednesday night knitting circle. I don’t know what worldwide knitting figures would be but I liked to think that there were several million other fibre-fans doing their bit to make knitting a more socially acceptable thing to do in the great outdoors.

Want to get in on some of that knitting magic? This cute bandanna is made from cotton yarn and is perfect for keeping your hair off your face as well as providing some protection from the sun in summer, and something cozy in winter. You will have to be a slightly experienced knitter but even if you aren’t the diagrams will help you get the moves you need!


The Idle Hands knitted bandana

You will need:

1 50g ball of DK weight cotton in your favourite colour

1 pair of 5mm needles (about 40cm long)

A pair of scissors

Large sewing or yarn needle

A rubber band

Skills needed:

Make a slip knot

The knit stitch

The bar increase

Bind off

How to make:

Wrap the rubber band around the end of one of your needles, this is the marker that tells you to increase your stitches as you knit onto this needle. This is your first stitch.

Slide the slip knot onto the needle without the rubber band

Row 1: Bar increase into the first stitch, you now have 2 stitches on your needle

Row 2: knit across both of these stitches

Row 3: Bar increase into those 2 stitches, you now have 4 stitches

Row 4: Knit across

Row 5: Knit the first stitch, bar increase into the next 2 stitches, knit the last stitch. You now have 6 stitches

Row 6: Knit across

Row 7: Knit the first stitch, bar increase into the next stitch, knit until there are 2 stitches left on the needle, bar increase into the next stitch, knit the last stitch

Repeat rows 6 and 7 until your bandanna is about 25cm long or however long you want it to be, this could be about 66 stitches, count up the number of stitches you actually have then bind them off.

To make the ties for your bandanna cast on half as many stitches you just ended up with, then just bind them all off. Make another and tie a knot at the end of each and sew the other end to the corners of your bandanna.