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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Bags of Big Button Style

Helen reports on the latest workshop at Toft...

From talking to visitors to Toft studio it seems that a lot of people discovered us by eying up the Giant Button Bags at the craft shows we attend, a definite fashion statement- they certainly stick in the mind.

Ooooh, where did you get that bag?!
As soon as I started working here I quickly formed a mental note of all the Toft patterns I wanted to make, and there's a lot of them believe me, but this was the one at the top of my list so I was very glad to support Carrie during this workshop as I got to learn all her top tips!

The Button Bag is a fun project to make as it uses a number of different techniques, none of which are overly complicated but they're enough to provide a little challenge to build up your skills bank, such as knitting straight on circular needles, working in the round, decreasing decoratively to create its beautiful bulb shape and knitted felting. The chunky size needles used means that it knits up really quickly, so it satisfies all requirements for speed, interest and unique finished product!

Knitting on circular needles has a number of benefits, firstly there's less sewing up involved (which in my book is always a bonus!), but also the weight of the project is always balanced in the middle resting on your lap which is handy, especially if you're making the Giant Button Bag! It's also convenient for knitting on the move as it fits in your bag easily, stitches are less likely to accidently slip off the pins and when knitting on the bus, for example, you don't repeatedly jab the person sitting next to you in the ribs. You can see our range of circular needles for sale on our website if you fancy giving them a go.

Top tip for newcomers to circular knitting:

Knitting Stockinette Stitch in the round is super easy as all you do is knit, knit and then knit some more! Because you're working around in a circle (or rather a spiral) you're always on the right side of the work so you don't have to do purl rows like you would on straight needles. However, if you want to make Garter Stitch you have to knit 1 round, then purl a round, then knit a round. It's just the opposite of working on straights - simple.
Circular needles - nothing to get wound up about

If you try the Button Bag for yourself you'll notice that the needle size you use is much bigger than the one recommended for the yarn type this is because the bag is felted once you've knit it. So it starts off really loose, open knit and floppy, then in the magic of a 2 hour 40 degree wash cycle the fibres shrink and compact down to create the dense, firm felt structure.

Top Tips for Knitted Felting:

Now, normally we'd recommend you to handwash your alpaca knits with a gentle wool detergent and dry flat away from heat, but because we want to deliberately shrink our knitting we need a more vigorous hotter wash and a standard non-biological detergent, be sure to use a non-bio though or your bag might turn out a little fuzzier than you expected! You'll also want to avoid using soapflakes like Lux as these will hinder the felting process.
Once the bag is felted, future washes can be done on a 30 degree wool cycle.
The finishing touch

Lots of workshop attendees decided to upgrade and go for the Big Bag size, rather than the workshop's standard mini size, and after choosing colours and a beautiful handturned Toft Button they set to it. Although the workshop isn't quite long enough to knit the entire bag (unless you are a very confident quick knitter!) everyone left having had experience and tuition of the techniques involved, feeling confident they could finish up and felt it when they got home.

The next Button bag workshop is on Sat 15th September so do go to our website and book a place if you fancy a go yourself or know someone who would like a fantastic gift day experience.

If you can't wait that long to visit Toft in our brand new studio, we have lots of other workshops you can try before then, such as our new Intro to Crochet on Sat 9th June, and our Intro to Colour Work on Sat 16th June. Visit our website for a full guide to our exciting new workshops, including sock making, quilting and spinning.
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