The Resourceful Knitter’s Guide to the Summer (revised and updated!)

This guide first appeared in 2021, since when we have had the good fortune to get even better at our barefoot knitting skills. And given how many new knitters may be travelling with their knitting for the first time this summer, it feels like high time we posted a revised version of the guide..

Socks on the beach, cables in the glow of a head torch by a camp fire, zoning out with rounds of plain knitting under a tree by the paddling pool.. summer can be the perfect knitting season. It can also confound us with unexpected challenges, particularly if it’s happening far away from your box of trusty tools, and not within easy reach of a well stocked yarn store. Now thanks to the following ingenious list of tips and hacks collected from east London’s most resourceful knitters, even the lightest of backpacking knitters can improvise their way over these challenges..

Welcome to The Barefoot Knitter’s Guide to Contented Summer Knitting..

Challenge: making a centre-pull ball of yarn without your yarn winder

Solution: follow’s brilliant instructions for winding a centre-pull ball using the built-in ball winding equipment that you’ve got at the end of your arms.

Challenge: Measuring your knitting without a tape measure

Solution: In all our adult test cases we’ve pretty consistently measured 1″/2.5cm from thumb knuckle to the top of the thumb. This handy 1″ measure is going on holiday with you, whether you remember to pack it or not, and can be very handy (!) when you need to check you’ve done enough ribbing etc.. Hand span is another good one for longer measuring but shows more variance between knitters, so worth checking what it is (why not do it right now?) so you can have it ready for longer lengths.
(Brontë adds: for more extreme knitters who are in it for the long term, you could consider a longer measure tatooed on your arm. I’m not quite there yet, but can see it would be more useful than a climbing rose or the kids’ names)

Challenge: Crocheting a provisional cast-on with no crochet hook

Solution 1: Ask a passing 5-year old to show you how to finger knit a chain. Then maybe teach them how to knit as a nice way of saying thank you :o)

Solution 2: In case there are no passing 5 year olds and no waste yarn to play with, Judy’s magic cast on will give you the live stitches you need on a spare needle plus the ones you need to knit up from.

Challenge: Unexpected cable in the pattern area and no cable needle in your bag.

Solution 1: grab a tooth pick from the bar, a shortened kebab skewer from the kitchen, a match from a smoker, or use your pen knife to sharpen a pencil at both ends

Solution 2: make friends with this brilliant technique for cabling without a cable needle.

Challenge: Contraband scissors confiscated by a non-knitting security guard.

Solution 1: Nail clippers: they work just as well for snipping your yarn ends when you arrive, and airport security don’t seem to mind them at all.

Solution 2: Dental floss dispensers (we’ll get to the floss itself shortly), but the nifty little blade that cuts your floss is also great for yarn ends.

Challenge: It’s a pattern with a raglan yoke, and you forgot your stitch markers. 

Solution: Safety pins, earrings, washers, spare yarn tied into loops – basically anything that’s small and will slide along freely.

Challenge: It’s time to separate for the sleeves and you’ve got no spare waste yarn to put the sleeves on hold

Solution: Dental floss has a perfectly smooth and glidey surface so works even better than waste yarn to use as a stitch holder. Plus the dispenser has that handy blade for cutting. See our bobby pin hair slide tip below for how to get it through your stitches without a darning needle.

Challenge: You’ve finished knitting and need to weave in ends but you don’t have a darning needle.

Solution: Tie your yarn end onto a bobby pin hair slide and and push it through the stitches.

Challenge: Knitting’s finished, ends are woven in and you really want to block but there’s no wool wash.

Solution: Fairy liquid is perfectly pH balanced for wool and a tea spoon of conditioner will relax the fibres perfectly.

Challenge: Knitting is nicely soaked but there’s no spare towel to roll it in.  

Solution: If your holiday place is furnished with a salad spinner, you’re home and (almost) dry.

Challenge: no blocking board!

Solution: lay your salad-spun damp knitting on a yoga mat or a smoothed out towel in a sunny spot, and nudge it into the same shape as the schematic diagram in your pattern. Leave it there while you go off to the beach with a good book or your next project. The knitting will be beautifully blocked and ready to wear on your return.

Fleur cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge blocking on a blanket in the Ngong hills sunshine overlooking Kenya’s rift valley

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