Saturday, 31 December 2016

Goodbye 2016

Saturday 31st December 2016

Last post of 2016! So I'm writing this en route to my best friend’s flat in London for NYE! I've never been too fussed about NYE, I guess I was only bothered back in 2012… It  was the first time I had a boyfriend over the Xmas/NY period and I was happy to get my first NY kiss from a boyfriend rather than one of my friends (sorry, Lauren!). As the years have gone by I've cared less and less about NY but it gave me a good excuse to travel up and see my best friend. I probably shouldn't be writing this as I get really badly travel sick… Oops!

So 2016. There's been so much that's happened; a lot of change and, sadly, a lot of deaths. Lots of people I admire have passed away this year, but I was most devastated by Alan Rickman’s passing. He's an actor I've admired and been inspired by since I first saw him in Harry Potter. He portrayed Severus Snape so well and there's no one who could have played the part anywhere near as well as he did. The second was Carrie Fisher. My thoughts were with her and her family when I heard she had had a heart attack during her flight and was heartbroken when I found out she'd passed away. Carrie Fisher was incredible; she was an unapologetic beautiful, inspirational badass who is the definition of a female role model.

Moving on before I start crying on the train… My fellow passengers already think I'm a bit odd because I accidentally snorted when I sat down (who does that?!). My year has been pretty awesome actually. Here's my highlights:

- Graduated from university with a 2:1 in English Literature.
- Been to the theatre LOADS
- Explored the Midlands
- Got a proper job!


My theatre trips this year have been amazing, my favourites being Aladdin and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I've also seen:
- Jane Wenham: Witch of Walken
- Red Velvet
- Sunset Boulevard
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Mrs Henderson Presents
- Bernadette Peters
- Doctor Faustus
- Funny Girl
- Disney Broadway Hits
- Jurassic Park in Concert
- Aladdin
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


My new job is going really well; I've finally found somewhere I feel comfortable, and though it'll take some time before I'm fully grounded, I've definitely found my feet. I love the job, the school, my colleagues, it's all a wonderful package! I've worked out what career path I want and the ways I can go about achieving it. Being a teacher is what I want to do but I want to do my Masters before I consider doing my PGCE. There's a long way to go, but I'm beyond happy to finally being on the way to achieving my career goal!

I've written a blog post about my holiday and what I've learnt from my degree, so all that's left of this post is for me to wish you guys a happy New Year!

Lots of love xx

Monday, 21 November 2016

Book Reviews: From Trains to Pirates to Wilmington.

21st November

This post is ridiculously overdue, but as they say: better late than never!

I bought so many books over the last few months that I'll have to take five years off work just to be able to finish them. I wanted to write a few reviews about the books I've read since the start of summer and I will warn you now: spoilers may exist throughout!



The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Pretty much everyone I've spoken to over the last year or so has either read this book or expressed interest in reading it. Now I'm not usually one to jump on the bandwagon, I usually wait a while before I start reading or watching something that everyone's raving about (Breaking Bad and Lost for example). I did have high expectations for this novel, and I admit I did watch the trailer before I read the novel so that could have had an influence on my opinion of it.

Narrative: “The Girl on the Train” is a mystery and suspense novel by Paula Hawkins. It follows the lives of three women – Rachel, Anna, and Megan – and the events surrounding Megan's murder, ultimately bringing the lives of the three women together. (Summary from Book Rags).

Out of 10: 7

Opinion: I did enjoy the novel as it's well written and flicking between the characters allowed the reader to delve into the minds of several characters and understand their emotions and the journey they've been on. Having a protagonist who isn't idealistic and has a substance problem was a breath of fresh air from novels who feel their protagonist has to be likeable and idealistic.
However, I did get bored with the repetitive way her mind worked and her obsession with her ex. It felt long winded and made me pity her rather than want her to succeed in the novel. Some parts of the novel seemed to be stumbling around in the dark and I must admit the outcome was quite predictable. Now, I can't be certain if this is just because I saw the trailer first; the trailer does highlight the general idea of "whodunnit" which surrounds roughly 5 characters. With this 5 or so characters it became easy to distinguish who were the "good" characters and the "bad" characters, and therefore easy to realise who the murderer was.
Overall, I did thoroughly enjoy the novel and it certainly has been written in a suspenseful way, however I found the protagonist too pitiful and the outcome too predictable.






Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton


This book is brilliant and is written by the same author who wrote Jurassic Park. Had I known this before I bought the book I could have braced myself for the incredible journey I was about to take. My love of pirates comes from the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, and The Princess Bride, and this book just added to my list of amazing swashbuckling adventures.

Narrative: The story stars the fictional privateer Captain Charles Hunter who, hired by Jamaica's governor Sir James Almont, plots to raid a Spanish galleon for its treasure (narrative summary from Wikipedia).

Out of 10: 10

Opinion: It's so accurately written to the period it's based on that I had to check several times to see whether it was in fact a nonfiction text. It's not sugar coated to suit the "glamourised" piracy era that we've come to see in the novels/films that I've stated above; it shows the gritty side of piracy. This novel reminds me of the TV series Black Sails, as they both portray what pirates were really like.
Crichton is a fantastic author who knows exactly how much information to let his readers have, and he offers the perfect amount of suspense without boring the reader. Like The Girl on the Train, the protagonist isn't likeable at all, and I honestly didn't care whether he succeeded in his quest or not. This didn't take away from the novel though; Crichton's writing ensured that I stayed interested in the novel no matter the outcome.
This is one of few books where I have no criticism, other than the novel wasn't long enough!






See Me by Nicholas Sparks


I'm a sucker for Nicholas Sparks novels. A lot of people always say "oh they're all the same" but it's not true for Sparks' novels! As a writer, I find it difficult to come up with the plot for two romance novels, let alone the countless ones that Sparks has written. Every one of his novels is, admittedly, slightly similar (in the same they're based in South/North Carolina and usually involve a tragic and/or inciting incident), but they're all written so differently and make me feel every single emotion humanly possible.

Narrative: A chance encounter on a rain-swept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria's lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria's past begin to surface (summary from Goodreads).

Out of 10: 9

Opinion: Like I said earlier, each Nicholas Sparks novel has something different to offer and this surpasses any expectation I had for the novel. The running theme with this blog post seems to be novels with a suspenseful element and See Me fits perfectly into this theme.
I didn't expect the novel to go the way it did.
I loved the careers that both characters have (well Colin is on his way to becoming a teacher), and I thought it suited the characters well. Colin and Maria were brilliant characters and I found it easy to like both of them. Their backstories became apparent early on and this allowed me to justify their actions. I loved the development of romance between Colin and Maria and at times I found myself going "oh I want that!" or "that's adorable!". The plot twists that occurred alongside the suspense made this novel an easy read, I think it took me a few days to finish, and the description is so well written that at times I felt I was watching a film rather than reading a novel.






The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks


After I finished See Me I remember I spent the weekend watching all the Nicholas Sparks movies I owned and then going to Waterstones to find a new novel of his to read. I found The Longest Ride on my bookshelf and realised I'd bought it a couple of years back and hadn't got round to reading it.

Narrative: the book centres on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City's art world (summary from IMDB).

Out of 10: 8

Opinion: Okay, so first of all I need to say that I have a massive love for anything to do with country boys, particularly those who wear cowboy hats. This love developed the first time I listened to Rascal Flatts' "God Blessed The Broken Road", a song that opened up my heart and ears to the amazing genre that is country music. I had no idea that this novel was about an actual cowboy (a modern one anyway) and if I'd known that then I definitely would have read it sooner. I love this novel. It's brilliant, it's unique but also offers the familiar style of Sparks' writing we all know and love, and it also offers a fresh writing style. A lot of Sparks' novels have characters that are early 30s or older, but this novel shows young adults who are mature and have a plan, which goes against a lot of stereotypes surrounding young adults. The struggle that these characters face is relatable in terms of jobs and money. The desperate and dangerous measures that Luke takes has to get money to help his mother is both sad yet justifiable. Sophia's difficulty in securing a job is something that all young adults can relate to. Art is one of those subjects where jobs are few and far between, and I'm glad that Sparks has highlighted this issue yet given it a happy ending. It does serve as some inspiration, although I must admit that Sophia's job prospects are due to luck more than anything else.

My only problem with this novel is the constant flitting between Ira and Luke/Sophia. I love the 1940s and the stories about how Ira and his wife fell in love was an adorable read, however, as the novel progressed I found myself skipping his chapters so I could continue reading about Luke and Sophia. I think Sparks could have cut down a lot of Ira's parts and focused more on Luke and Sophia's storylines, but I did love how the characters' lives linked. The last couple of chapters had me in happy tears, it was so beautifully written. I must also write how pleased I was at the movie adaptation. It's so rare to find a film adaptation that resembles at least 70% of the original novel, and the film worked beautifully alongside it's origin.





I haven't read a new book in a while; at the moment I'm balancing rereading War Horse and The Hobbit. The next books I hope to read The Magicians, The Butcher's Hook, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and The Strange Affair of Springheeled Jack. Keep an eye out of my review of these and I hope you enjoyed this post! If you've read any of the novels I've just reviewed then please drop me a comment and tell me what you think!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Autumn Fashion

October 2nd 2016

Hello! It's been a month since I last posted, and what a busy month it's been! I started my new job which has been absolutely incredible, but it's so exhausting. I've made some really lovely friends with the people I work with and I feel really settled; it's as if I've worked there forever. As I've been working (almost) full time, I've barely had a chance to do anything, and so there's not really been anything to blog about. But, as it's now October and we're officially into autumn (my favourite season), I can get excited about autumn fashion! 


I absolutely love autumn. I love jumpers, leggings, jeans, boots, scarves, hats, gloves, all of it! I went a bit mad with shopping after I got my first paycheque (isn't that what you're supposed to do?) and got some new clothes to update my wardrobe!



Black Fine Knit Contrast Panel Tunic Dress, £19.99, New Look




Mustard Knitted Jumper, £10, Primark




Jumper in Wool Mix with Button Detail in Forest Green, £35, Asos





Wide Fit Suedette Western Boots, £27.99, New Look




Cable Knit Tights, £2.50, Primark




Burgundy Ring Strap Wrap Front Mini Skirt, £19.99, New Look




Red Fine Knit Colour Block Tunic Dress, £19.99, New Look




Velvet Slipper 'Matte Me' lip cream, £4.99, Sleek in Superdrug


 I adore matte lipsticks/creams and this is such a beautiful colour. It is, however, really sticky when you close your mouth so I recommend buying this product called 'lipcote' which you can get from Boots and Superdrug. Lipcote is a lipstick sealer and it keeps your lipstick on for you. As soon as I put on lipcote it stopped the lip cream from being sticky. The colour (when you use lipcote) lasts all day and night, I only had to top it up when I had lots to drink and the part of my lip that's inside my mouth (if that makes any sense) lost the colour. 



I love wearing baggy, knitted jumpers in autumn, and I also love tartan! I'm going to be wearing so much tartan over the next few months. Burgundy is a new colour I've gotten into to try and add a bit of colour to my wardrobe! I realised my wardrobe changes dramatically when it comes to autumn. In summer and spring I wear bright colours and floral patterns, opting for a vintage style look. As soon as it turns autumn I go to block colours, tartan patterns, and black. I need more ankle boots, there's no want involved! I've got about 5 pairs but it's not enough. First world problems, ey?



Anyway, thank you for reading this long overdue post! Hope you enjoyed it, and happy October!






Thursday, 1 September 2016

Autumn

September 1st 2016

Autumn is finally here! I adore the autumn and winter so much. They're just better than spring and summer!

Inspired by so many posts I've seen, I thought I'd write one about what I'm looking forward to over the next few months!

1. Starting work
I've entered the adult world and have landed myself a full time job in education. As much as I've enjoyed this summer, I'm excited to be working and earning, especially as it's a job I'm passionate about and my colleagues all seem really nice! After living off a student loan for the last four years I'll be glad to be earning my own money. I need to get myself a new laptop as mine is completely falling apart, plus I need to save money for a car, a house, and, more importantly, to be able to pay for my Masters'.

2. Jumpers and boots
I live in jumpers and boots, and every time the sun comes out in the spring/summer I cry a little inside as I realise I can't wear jumpers or boots unless I want to overheat. I've got a huge collection of jumpers and cardigans I love living in and I can't wait to wear them. In fact, I'm already in one right now! I've also knitted myself several scarves, hats, and gloves and it's almost time to wear them again! I'm sorted for my autumn/winter wardrobe but I do need a new pair of knee high boots...

3. The weather
My favourite weather is when it's bright sunshine but it's freezing cold, with the added bonus of a mist. This comes from that scene in Pride and Prejudice when Mr Darcy is walking across the field towards Lizzie and the weather is sunny but cold with a glorious mist. That's the weather I love! I also adore the snow, but I don't like being out when it's snowing. I like it after it's snowed! Weirdly enough, I'm one of those people who loves being in the rain. Obviously I don't like it when I'm caught in the rain unprepared and I get soaked, but I like being wrapped up and under an umbrella going for a walk in the rain.

4. Themed drinks
Coffee shops are amazing during autumn/winter for their menus! Gingerbread, toffee, mint chocolate, all these glorious flavours that appear during these two seasons. Going into a coffee shop after being out in the cold and getting yourself a gingerbread latte is one of my little pick-me-ups. I'm also a sucker for a pumpkin spiced latte!

5. Halloween
Not only do I adore dressing up, but everything about Halloween is wonderful. Halloween parties, trick or treating (I don't think it's begging and I don't want to debate this!), Halloween films, and Halloween special episodes. Brooklyn 99 always do an amazing Halloween episode (every time I type Halloween, I'm doing it in the voice of Captain Holt on board the party bus in S2!), and I'm looking forward to the Scream Halloween episode! Last year I dressed up as a pirate, so I need to start thinking of what I'll dress as this year!

6. Firework night
I haven't been to a firework display in years and I am determined to go to one this year. Playing with sparklers is good fun, and for me there's something quite romantic about a firework display.

7. Wrapping up warm
This is similar to jumpers and boots, but for this I'm talking about the amount of layers I can put on my bed. I sleep with about 7 layers (not in summer when it's boiling hot, mind!); I've got a huge kingsize knitted blanket (that I made), a fluffy pink blanket, two patchwork quilts (made by me!), my duvet, and then two throws. My bed is really cosy in the autumn/winter and I'm waiting for that first chilly night so I can chuck all my layers back on the bed!

8. Reading
I read all the time so what I mean here is coming back home from work and snuggling up in my bed with all my layers on, fluffy socks and a jumper on, and reading with a cup of tea. Reading isn't the same without all of this, for me anyway!

9. Disney Broadway Hits
I'm going to see this on 23rd October and I am so excited!!

10. Harry Potter
The release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as going to see The Cursed Child? Hello November!

11. Blogger Friends Meet Up
I've made friends with such amazing girls since I started my blog and I can't wait to meet up with them in the upcoming months! We've got lots planned and I'm counting down the days!


So that's why I'm excited for it to be autumn. What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Living With Food Allergies

August 31st 2016


This post is in response / inspired by my good friend Emily (check out her blog here: love-emily) who has written two blog posts about being allergic to dairy. 

I found out I'm allergic to gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast, millet, sesame, lychee, kiwi, and agave. 
The first thing I thought was "how the hell am I going to eat anything?!" Luckily several supermarkets do a "free from" range of foods that are perfect for me! However, as someone who doesn't like making a fuss, it's been difficult to find food I can eat when I go out and about. I can always have jacket potato and baked beans, that's a safe option for me, and I can also have steak and chips, providing the chips are skin on as some chips are made with wheat flour. I love eating out because I'm such a foodie! I love trying new foods and going to new restaurants but I'm restricted now which has made me a bit sad.  

Living down south is really difficult for someone with these allergies because few places seem to realise that I'm gluten/dairy/wheat etc free because of an allergy. They seem to think I'm just following the latest diet trend. Well here's a newsflash: people can cut foods out of their diet without it being a fad! And yes, I will be that annoying person in coffee shops that has to have a long order. #sorrynotsorry. 


When I was on holiday in the Midlands, every other cafe/restaurant offered gluten free or dairy free food and on a few occasions they offered both. Signs were put up saying to speak to them if you have an allergy and they would be happy to cater for you. It was so lovely to be looked after like that after the looks and eye rolling I often receive here in the south. I do love the Midlands and I may have to venture back there...

I'm on a new diet for 3 months where I've cut out everything that had dairy, gluten, wheat, and yeast in to give my body a break. After the three months I can start introducing the foods again, but slowly. It would be a little bit of milk in my tea and then wait a few days to see how I am, for example. This diet is difficult for me because I can't eat what I used to love. Afternoon tea is out of the question because I can't have bread due to the gluten, wheat, and yeast (even gluten & wheat free bread often has yeast in it). It's also difficult as I discovered many things actually have yeast in it. I did my research after I found out I was allergic and the amount of things I can't eat is ridiculous! 

Foods containing yeast found on Yeast Allergen List
Foods containing gluten can be found here: http://www.drperlmutter.com/eat/foods-that-contain-gluten/
Foods containing wheat can be found here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/spotlight-wheat-free

I must admit I haven't been avoiding peanuts, "aged meats" or mushrooms because I love them too much, but luckily I haven't been ill from it. With the "aged meats", it's interesting it's on the list of yeast allergens because I've found gluten, wheat, and dairy free sausages and yeast isn't listed as an ingredient. But the rest of the foods I've had to avoid has been horrendous. When I go food shopping I have to read every single packet for the ingredients used to make sure they have got anything I can't have in them. It's been eyeopening how much is put into food, and how much of it is foods I can't eat. 


What I'm going to do is go through a selection of the Free From foods that I eat and where you can get them from etc. just as a guide incase there's anyone else who suffers as I do! There's lots I can eat that's not on this list such as potatoes, baked beans (Heinz), salad, vegetables, beef, chicken, etc. Uncle Ben's basmati rice is really good, but the other rices in his range often have ingredients I can't have. Condiments wise, Chippa do a range of condiments such as sweet chilli sauce, ketchup and mayo which are vegan, and gluten/wheat free. 











These brownies from Sainsbury's are absolutely delicious! There's four in this box but they're divided up into two brownies in one plastic package. They're quite rich so I can only eat one of the two (usually anyway) but they are lovely. 





This is the chocolate I use for my chocolate chip & peanut butter cookies recipe. Eating it on it's own isn't for me, it tastes like the cheap chocolate you get in advent calendars at Christmas. But if you like that stuff then you'll love this chocolate. It's good in the cookies because it melts and it's really yummy.






This bar is really nice! It's a bit expensive so I get it as a treat for myself, but it's definitely worth it. It's literally just peanut butter, peanuts and dark chocolate with a few other bits and it's really yummy. I don't normally like dark chocolate but this doesn't have the bitter rich taste dark chocolate usually has.




Out of all the free from pasta I have to admit that Tesco have won me over. However I've got two big packets of this pasta from Morrison's I need to get through. I like fusilli pasta because it's a funny name to say! This is made out of a rice and it's difficult to tell the difference between this gluten free, wheat free pasta to normal pasta.



My substitute for baking. Well, one of many! This is sunflower spread from Marks and Spencer's that is made without dairy.
Other substitutes for baking I use is "baking fat" that can be found at most supermarkets. It's made from animal fat, so it's not suitable for vegans, but it is for people with a dairy allergy. There's also blocks of lard you can buy, and there's also vegetable oil blocks that can be used as well. I've tried and tested them all and they're all good substitutes but it depends on what you're baking. Tesco offer a "made without dairy" soya spread that I've used in baking as well. Of course, you can use margarine!





I love cereal. Cereal is amazing and I would happily eat it all day every day. I miss cereal the most, like cookie crisp, honey cheerios, special K, oh my god special K is so good! But my Mum found me this cereal in Tesco and it's really nice! It just tastes like normal cornflakes - I can't tell the difference.













I found these in a health food shop in town, but you can buy them in many Free From sections of supermarkets. They are nice, but they get stuck in your teeth a bit! I have these for part of my breakfast.



This stuff is heaven on Earth and I never thought I'd say that about granola! I found it in Waitrose but you can get it in most supermarkets (I've seen it in Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrison's). It's granola with almonds, hazelnuts and raisins and it is really nice. I have half a bowl of this with half a bowl of cornflakes and that can keep me going for about 3 hours. But, what do I use for milk I hear you cry!



I found a milk substitute I like! This has taken me about 2 months to find because I have an "acquired taste pallet" (posh way of me saying I don't like a lot of food which is ironic because I love trying new food). I tried almond milk, hazelnut milk, soya milk (sweetened and unsweetened) and coconut milk but it was all revolting. But this stuff is like drinking vanilla milkshake! I don't use it in my tea, but I have half a cup of it over my cereal as that's enough for me or else it's too sweet. It's perfect for making vanilla lattes at home though! 








Most baking powder is (supposedly) gluten free anyway, but some brands use wheat-starch to stop it going clumpy. This brand is perfect for gluten & wheat free baking ingredients.





Xanthan gum is used in gluten free baking to make the product more doughy so it sticks together. If you've used gluten free flour before you'll know it's very fine like icing sugar and so getting it to stick together is difficult. Crumbly cake is a significant indicator of a gluten free cake!













I used to get these dairy milk microwaveable puddings that were delicious, but I can't eat them at the moment so I'm sure you'll know how excited I was to see these. However, they did have a "reduced to clear" label on them so I'm worried I won't be able to get these again!











Jam tarts are one of God's gifts. I adore them! These are harder than normal jam tarts (I actually cut my gum on one of them before!) but they are tasty. Sainsbury's do their own in their "free from" section which are really good.






This is the brand of flour I use, it's the same as the baking powder and xanthan gum. You can also get rice flour, self raising flour, corn flour etc. Like I said before, it's very fine like icing sugar so you need xanthan gum to help it stick.














I discovered this in Tesco and I was thrilled to see I could eat them! Just zap them in the microwave for about 40 seconds (depending on your microwave) to heat them up. I had mine with chicken, bacon, sweetcorn, and mixed leaves salad.







I LOVE chocolate chip cookies and I am relieved to have found "Zoe Friendly" ones! They're really tasty and are good with a vanilla latte!













These brownies are much better than the Sainsbury's ones because they're more gooey. I love gooey brownies!






These are delicious and it's hard not to eat the whole packet! The dipping sauce is alright but I'm not too keen on sweet and sour sauce!







These are really nice but I haven't seen them anywhere else except Sainsbury's.






There's a fair variety of different sausages that are gluten/wheat/dairy free but I prefer these ones. They're quick to cook and taste like Richmond sausages.






I adore chicken nuggets and these are perfect. With only 20 in a packet it's difficult not to eat them all in one go!




Potato waffles are amazing and I'm really glad they're gluten free!






Fish cakes are a bit hit and miss for me, but these are really nice!





These are another brand of sausages that I found recently. I haven't tried them yet, but no doubt they'll be delicious as they're 97% pork!





Pulled pork is amazing but so often it's made with malt vinegar which I can't have. This stuff cooks in the microwave for 10 minutes and it really nice with jacket potato!













It may sound daunting at first but luckily we're in a time where people's allergies are recognised and people are making food that's suitable for them. I hope this post serves as some reassurance for those who have similar/the same allergies as me. There are lots of options out there, don't worry!

If you need any advice or have any questions, please drop me a comment below and I'll be happy to help out!

UPDATE: I spoke to my nutritionalist who said my allergies are temporary and the result of stress. My food wasn't being digested properly so allergies were formed as a result of undigested food sitting in my stomach (lovely). This explains how I can spend my life eating all the gluten, wheat, yeast & milk I want with no effect, but suddenly I am allergic. The stress was brought on during my last few months of third year of university. 

I've been given the advice to drink liquids 15 minutes before I eat and then an hour afterwards. This will ensure my stomach acid isn't diluted and can help digest my food much better. If you're struggling to digest food or suffering with allergies to food that have been brought on suddenly, then give this a try.

I got my allergies tested by York Laboratories (UK) who offer a fantastic service to help understand and diagnose food and drink allergies. It is expensive, but it's quicker, easier and more accurate than going through your GP.


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Basic Knitting Knowledge

August 27th 2016


When I was chatting to the girls on FB chat this morning about knitting, I realised I had a post about basic knitting knowledge I had yet posted! I should have posted this before the one about how to cast on, but never mind. (Those who followed my previous blog "The Knitted Cupcake" will recognise this post).

Here is everything you need to know before you start knitting.

The different knowledge areas are as follows:
- Knitting Skill
- Choosing a pattern
- Choosing your yarn
- Choosing your needles
- Knitting needles
- Knitting equipment
- Knitting abbreviations
- Knitting journal.


- Knitting Skill Level


There are four knitting skill levels:


Beginner; basic knitting for new or early knitters.
Easy; repetitive knitting for early knitters.
Intermediate; adding colours to your work, shaping and finer details.
Advanced; all kinds of knitting.


- Choosing a pattern.


There's 3 ways of doing this:

Choose your wool first, then get the needles and pattern to follow.
Choose your needle size, then wool, then pattern.
Choose the pattern, then get the wool and needles to match.


I tend to either choose my wool first, or choose my pattern. But to tell you the truth, I rarely use the exact wool that the patterns recommend. I normally get the same weight and needle requirement, but never the same wool.

If you're first learning to knit, I suggest that you knit something flat like a scarf, as this requires no shaping.


- Choosing your yarn

Before choosing your yarn, you should decide upon how much yarn you want as well as the weight of the yarn. If you are knitting from a pattern that you have found, it will usually tell you what yarn you need. But, if you are brave enough to make up a pattern of your own, like I usually do, then this gives you much more freedom to choose.

You can usually walk into a craft shop and pick out a colour yarn that you like, and work from that. Make sure you have a look at all the yarn, and make sure you like it. I have to be careful what yarn I get, as I've got very sensitive skin and can't wear or handle anything itchy.



Natural Fibres:

1. Wool
Wool is very warm and is perfect for winter wear such as cardigans, jumpers, hats, gloves and jackets. Some wool can be rough though, but it will soften the more it is worn, and after it is washed.

2. Merino Wool
This wool comes from Merino sheeps, which is one of the softest types of wool out there. It can be worn easily against the skin, as it is not too rough or too itchy.

3. Mohair
This is from an Angora goat, and it is quite difficult to work with. Mohair is very frizzy and it can be quite hard to see the pattern of your work as well as any mistakes you have made. This wool makes amazing oversized jumpers and accessories. Not suitable for baby wear.

4. Alpaca
It is very warm and is great for ski hats, socks and thick jumpers. Baby alpaca yarn is available as well.

5. Cashmere
Cashmere comes from a goat and, like the merino wool, it can be worn against the skin. Cashmere wool makes amazing scarves, snoods and jumpers.

6. Angora
This comes from an angora rabbit and is quite fluffy. It is extremely delicate and makes great hats.

7. Soya
This does seem very unusual to use soya to knit, but soya wool is best suited to making light, summer wear like shrugs and floaty cardigans.

8. Linen
Linen is very similar to soya wool, as it is best suited to making summer wear.

9. Matt Cotton
Suitable for homeware, knitted pouches and shoulder bags, and it lasts a long time.

10. Mercerized Cotton
It has a reflective quality, which allows you to make evening bags, cardigans and throws that have a shiny quality.

11. Bamboo
This is an imitation of silk, and is airy which makes it ideal for lightweight shrugs and shawls.

12. Hemp
Hemp makes great shopping bags, placemats and coasters and hemp softens with age and wear.

13. Ramie
This plant comes from the nettle family and is strong with an airy quality, making it suitable for bags. 

14. Acrylic
Ideal for toys and novelty gifts.

15. Nylon
Can be used for socks and it does not shrink easily.


Wool Blends

1. Wool and Cotton Mixes
Ideal for those with sensitive skin and babies

2. Natural and Synthetic Mixes
Helps to bind other wools like mohair, and prevents shrinking, which makes this wool perfect for socks and gloves.


Speciality Wools with Textual Effects

1. Chenille
Made up of cotton and synthetics, and best suited for plain-knitted garments for adults, hats and scarves.

2. Slubby Wool
Can make unusual accessories and outerwear jackets.

3. Tweed Wool
Most traditional in fishermen's jumpers.


Wool Weight:

Here is a chart of different types of wool weight, what they can knit and what needles you should use.








And here is a breakdown of knitting with different weights of wool:


- Lace/2-ply is extremely light and produces a very fine knit. If needed, a slightly larger needle can produce a more open knit.

- Superfine/3-ply/Baby requires very thin needles

- Fine/4-ply/Sport/Baby this uses slightly larger needles than superfine, making it more comfortable to knit with.

- Double Knitting/Light Worsted/5-ply/6-ply slightly thicker than using fine and knits up quickly.

- Aran/Medium/Worsted/Afghan/12-ply commonly uses 5mm needles, and it is not heavy at all.

- Bulky/Chunky/Craft/Rug/14-ply makes great outerwear and hats.

- Super Bulky/Super Chunky/Bulky/Roving/16-ply + this is ideal for beginners as mistakes are easily seen.


- Labels

1. Needle Size is represented by two needles that are crossed, and underneath it will be written what needles the wool requires. For example, double knitting wool usually requires needles that are 4mm.

2. Tension is the square grid that is usually next to the needle size. It is a 10x10cm square, which is used as a test square. What this means, is that you should always knit out a tension test square to make sure the wool knits how you want it to. It will usually tell you how many stitches and how many rows you should do for your test square.

3. Shade colour is written near the barcode, and it will say 'SHADE' with the number next to it. This will help you if you haven't bought enough wool and need to buy more. You should always make a note of the type of wool, the brand and shade number.

4. Dye lot number is the same as shade colour and should be next to each other. This works the same as the shade colour.

5. Wash and dry instructions are always written on the label. There are usually instructions next to the image; for example, a square with 30c inside it means the wool needs to be washed on a cold wash. A P in a circle means it can be dry cleaned, a square with a circle and dot inside it means that it needs to be tumble dried cold. An iron with one dot means iron on a low heat, 2 dots means iron on a medium heat.


For example:




- This label tells you the shade (21386) and lot number (51438). Keep hold of this information, as it will come in handy, especially if you didn't buy enough yarn and need to buy more. It will ensure that you get the exact same colour yarn.

- Care instructions state that you should hand wash with similar colours, dry press only, it can be dry cleaned and you should avoid bleach.

- The other side of the label tells you to use size 3.5 or 4mm knitting needles. It also shows you what the tension should be: 27 rows and 20 stitches = a 10x10 cm square.

(Tension is how tightly/loosely you should knit. You should always knit a tension square before beginning a project. To do a tension square, follow the directions on the label; cast on 20 stitches and knit 27 rows. If that square measures to be a 10x10cm square, you have the correct tension.)

Here are some other yarn labels I've used as examples:











Care Instructions - Please click this link for a full assortment of care instructions for various fabrics and yarn.


- Choosing your needles

Choosing your needles depends on your wool; if your wool recommends 4mm needles, you should use 4mm needles. However, you can choose your needle size and then choose your wool, but this method can be quite restricting.
Knitting needles are made out of wood, bamboo, plastic or metal, so choose which ever feels more comfortable in your hands. I tend to use plastic or metal.


- Straight needles are made from various different materials: metal, plastic, bamboo and ebony.

- Metal needles are perfect when using mohair or wool. It is very rare that you will find metal needles that are thicker than 8mm.

- Plastic needles is a mixture of metal and bamboo, and needles smaller than 4mm should be avoided. 

-Bamboo needles are flexible and make great needles. It creates very even knitting, and will eventually mould into the curve of your hand.

-Ebony needles are quite expensive but hold their shape well.

- Double pointed needles are recommended for socks and gloves and are very short, so they cannot accommodate too many stitches. It is best to use double pointed needles (DPN) that are made out of bamboo.

- Circular needles come in various lengths and thickness. They come in 40cm, 60cm, 80cm and 100cm. Hats require 40cm (16"), and snoods can be used by 60cm needles and above. When making a blanket, it is recommended that you use 80cm or 100cm needles as it allows you to hold more stitches. If you prefer, you can buy interchangeable circular needles of the same length, but the needles' thickness can be changed.


- Knitting Equipment

1. Knitting Needle Gauge
Some vintage needles, and double pointed needles don't have labels on them to tell you their size, and so a knitting needle gauge is perfect for you to find out the size of your needle.

2. Scissors
I recommend embroidery scissors as these are very sharp and cut the wool easily to stop it from fraying.

3. Pins
Pins can be used to pin your work together when sewing your work up.

4. Stitch Holders
These are brilliant as they hold stitches together so that you can return to them later. You can substitute stitch holders for safety pins.

5. Needle Organiser
This is a great way to keep your needles organised and protected against damage.

6. Tape Measure
A great way to keep your work accurately sized, and helps you to check tension and measure your knitting.

7. Stitch Markers
This are essential when working with DPN and circular needles as you need to mark the end of a round.

8. Row Counter
This sits at the end of your needle and allows you to keep track of the rows you have knitted.

9. Point Protectors
These keep the needles from damage, stop your knitting bag tearing and stop stitches falling off the end of the needle.

10. Knitting bag
Knitting bags have loads of compartments for you to be able to hold everything you could possibly need in them.

11. Crochet hook
Helps to pick up dropped stitches and for attaching tassels.

12. Tapestry needle
These are blunt to prevent damage to fibres.

13. Cable needle
These have a kink in them to hold the stitches on the needle. Choose a cable needle that is as close to the size of your knitting needles as possible.

14. Pom Pom rings
So that you can make pom poms!

15. Ball-Winder
A quick way to wrap up your wool easily.


- Knitting Abbreviations

All knitting patterns have abbreviations, and the more you read knitting patterns, the more you'll start to remember and recognise the abbreviations. As there are too many to write down, so I've given you a link to a website that has the majority written down. Most knitting patterns should tell you what their abbreviations are, especially the cable knit stitch, because there are many different ways of doing that.

Abbreviations


Here is a glossary of knitting terms:

Glossary of Knitting Terms


- A Knitting Journal

This is really handy and something I'd recommend doing if you intend on making your own knitting pattern. I bought a cheap pukka pad and write my patterns in it.

Things you should keep track of are:
What you intend on making; a hat, scarf, jumper, gloves, bag etc.
Where did you get the pattern, or what patterns influenced you?
The size and type of needles.
The size, weight, colour wool you bought.
Problems you had with it and how you overcame this problem
Include photos of your work, especially a finished one!


There you go, a very basic knowledge of knitting for you to peruse over. I hope it's been helpful.