Hello to all my readers! I have had a couple of recent requests for information on how to knit peggy squares so have decided to do a couple of posts...intention being to photograph some squares as I do them to give you a visual aid, but if you are after instructions for the basics of knitting then I understand U-Tube to be the place to go. Grin. My instructions in the actual art of knitting will be brief, to say the least. I personally re-learnt from my mother-in-law after being initially taught by Granny when I was a young sprat.
So firstly, who do I knit for? I knit for Operation Cover Up, which is part of Mission Without Borders here in New Zealand. You can find them here: http://www.operation-cover-up.org.nz/index.html, although their web page is not updated often. There are often groups of knitters in towns, and you might either find out about them through calling the local churches, or seeing a write up about them in your local free paper (here in Tauranga I read a write up which told me where I could go to look at finished blankets and drop mine off). Their blankets are put into big wool bales once a year and shipped to Europe where they are given to children in orphanages, and sometimes families who need them too. Countries such as the Ukraine, Moldovia, and Romania can be recipients. I have seen videos of children receiving these blankets, and their joy is incredible. I imagine they don't have many pretty things, so must love the colour and patterns of the blankets just as much as their warmth.
I don't personally know of an organisation in Australia that does knitted blankets like this, but there will be other organisations who would also like knitted items, including blankets I'm sure. For instance, Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes of Samaritan's Purse (http://www.samaritanspurse.org.au/) are sent into the Pacific Islands. They LOVE to get handmade items, so you could knit a square, then sew it together and give it crocheted or plaited handles to make a bag. Here are some specific bag-making instructions by an old school friend of mine: http://narelleworboys.blogspot.com/2008/07/shoulder-bag-knitting-patterns.html. You don't have to fill a whole shoe box with goodies in order to be of help, you could just make a few knitted bags and get them to your local coordinator - they can them pop them into any shoeboxes that need an extra gift or two.
Now, to get into the knitty-gritty (like my pun?!).
Operation Cover Up guidelines recommend:
* Use 8 ply (aka double knit)
*Use pure wool wherever possible (handwash only is okay - no washing machines anyway) - if you can't get 100% pure wool then try to get 80%+ as pure wool is warmer for it's weight than acrylic, and also wicks moisture better, dries faster, and lasts longer (look on the ball's label for the breakdown of contents). For many children receiving these blankets, warmth is essential - they are in orphanages in areas that get heavy snowfall, have little money for heating and definitely do not have the luxury of an electric blanket! Pure wool is more expensive, I know, but I have yet to make a blanket square that uses acrylic for these reasons. Look around for specials. In NZ, $3-4 a ball is really good. I used to shop at Spotlight in Australia, and get it below $3 a ball using my discount card when they had specials. Other options include asking any knitters you know for any they don't want, looking in second hand stores, finding woolen jumpers and undoing them to reknit, and asking your relatives for wool for your birthday (my personal favourite! I got some gorgeous wool this year!).
* Use 4mm needles. Your choice what sort.
*Knit 40 stitches across, by 80 rows up, in plain garter stitch (it is nice and warm and thick). Don't knit too tight, or really, really loose. If you knit nice and evenly, you will make a square. Realise that different wools do end up knitting to slightly different sizes, even if they are all 8ply - some are just thicker than others, doesn't matter as long as you stick with 4mm needles and 40stitches by 80rows when it all gets joined together you can pull the squares to line up with each other.
*It helps to cast on and off fairly loosely so the crochet hook or needle can get between stiches to join squares together.
*Each blanket is 7 squares by 8 squares. Totalling 56 squares. A lot, in case you are thinking of making one on your own. I average one blanket per year. I don't think I'm really fast, and I knit during ad breaks while watching tv, when sitting at the doctors (yup, that one gets a few looks!). Basically I do a few rows at a time, but would hope to be knitting a little bit most days of the week. I allow at least 40 balls of 50g weight per blanket. I think it is a bit more than that, but haven't checked recently because I keep using up scraps here and there along with my purchased wool.
The great thing about these squares is that anything goes! You can do one colour. You can do 20 (I might have been close when using up a whole lot of scraps one time!). You can do a whole blanket yourself, or knit one lone square and send it off to your local group to get joined to 55 others. You can knit a square in a day, then forget about it for weeks. Or you can do a bit at the same time every day. It's flexible. I love the time to think and reflect while I knit. And that otherwise wasted time is no longer wasted. And I love that it goes to children who have so little.
So, there you go. I suggest you find someone who can knit and learn from them or have a look for some U-Tube videos, as that is much easier than following written instructions and photos. You only need to know how to cast on, cast off, and knit garter (plain) stitch. And how to count your rows. Nice and easy. Another post will follow this with a few other hints and tips on peggy squares.
Thursday, 13th January, 2011