Not your granny’s knitting guide: tips, yarn + more

Birmingham, Brick House Fiber Arts, knitting, crocheting, yarn, fiber arts
Knit one, purl two. Photo via Brick House Fiber Arts

Fall is the perfect season to learn how to knit. From scarves to blankets, transform loose yarn into neat stitches with beginners tips and more from local companies and enthusiasts around Birmingham.

More Than an Old-School Pastime

Birmingham, Brick House Fiber Arts, knitting, crocheting, yarn, fiber arts
Those colors though. Photo via Brick House Fiber Arts

When you think of knitting, you may imagine an elderly grandma with balls of yarn and knitting needles tapping to a rocking chair’s creak. And, while my nana was the best knitter I’ve ever known and could whip out a pair of adorable baby booties in the bat of an eye, knitting is definitely more than an old-school pastime.

“Fiber arts have definitely made a comeback in the past few years—especially in 2020. Hello, quarantine knitting!”

Danielle Moore, Co-Owner, Brick House Fiber Arts

Did you think baking, gardening and Netflix binging were the only hobbies going down during quarantine 2020? No way, Jose. People have also gone to the crafty side.

While yes, this definitely helps liven up the hours everyone is spending at home, it has also led to some nifty health benefits. With its repetitive rhythmic movements, knitting has the magic powers to calm, relax and center us.

Birmingham, Brick House Fiber Arts, knitting, crocheting, yarn, fiber arts
What’s your favorite stitch? Photo via Brick House Fiber Arts

Along with lowering stress levels, knitting also leads to some totally cool projects. Here are some things you can create with a simple ball of yarn:

  • Blankets
  • Ponchos
  • Sweaters
  • Scarves
  • Socks
  • Toys

Dyeing Yarn

Birmingham, Brick House Fiber Arts, knitting, crocheting, yarn, fiber arts
A good color palette makes all the difference. Photo via Brick House Fiber Arts

One of my favorite things at a craft store is the yarn section. All those endless balls of yarn in every imaginable color—it’s a paradise of possibilities. But how exactly does yarn get its magnificent hues? Through different dyeing techniques.

Brick House Fiber Arts located in Chelsea, for example, hand-dyes all of the yarn they sell. Though the shop primarily focuses on wool, cotton and blends, they have also dyed yarn made from milk, soy, corn, bamboo, linen, silk, mohair and Angora.

How do they decide what colors to use? 

“We tend to dye yarn to match the changing of the seasons. We also dye yarn for specific themes like Halloween and superheroes.”

No wonder sweaters are always in season. 

What’s the dying process like?

Birmingham, Brick House Fiber Arts
Photo via Brick House Fiber Arts

The process of dying yarn and how long it takes to get those magical colors depend on the type of yarn and dye you are using.

According to Brick House Fiber Arts , the process can take a few hours to a few days. 

“Wool is the most forgiving fiber to dye, while cotton is the most stubborn. Because of this, cotton yarn has to be presoaked in a dense sodium carbonate so our fiber reactive dye can bond to the cotton fibers.

“We have also experimented with natural dyes and even Kool-Aid. Yarn is a great blank canvas to experiment with color.”  

The cool thing is that it’s not just fiber arts companies that can dye yarn. Knitting enthusiasts like yourself can also do it.

Meet Sarah Langford, a local teacher at Alabama Waldorf School and knitting enthusiast. Her approach to dyeing yarn is holistic in nature.

“I use plant matter—bark, flowers and black walnuts, etc. The process involves soaking and pre-treating yarn fibers with a dye fixative, harvesting and preparing the dye bath, then dying the yarn.”

Sarah Langford, teacher, Alabama Waldorf School

Knitting is for Everyone

Brick House Fiber Arts
Dyeing yarn is for all ages. Photo via Brick House Fiber Arts

One of the awesome things about fiber arts like knitting is that it is a craft anyone can learn.

Sarah, for example, teaches Handwork to kids in grades 1-8. 

“[Students] learn to knit, crochet, cross-stitch, embroider, knit socks and use the sewing machine…I am a firm believer that you can make just about anything with the knit stitch…Anyone can do it.”

Sarah Langford, teacher, Alabama Waldorf School

Dying yarn is for all ages, too. Danielle from Brick House Fiber Arts has taught the dying process to her 10-year-old daughter who now has a unique skill to show off. 

Knitting for Beginners

New to the art of knitting? Here are some tips:

  1. Use knitting needles sizes 6-9. They are the easiest to hold and work with when just starting out.
  2. Visit a local yarn shop for information and camaraderie.
  3. For the more isolated knitter, the internet is your best friend. Check out Craftsy.com for classes, YouTube for tutorials and Ravelry.com for patterns. 

Where to Shop

Birmingham, HolySkillet, Etsy, yarn
Photo vis HolySkillet’s Etsy page

Whether you are an online shopper or someone who likes the in-person experience, collecting all of the supplies you need for knitting or other fiber arts projects is within easy reach.

Are you a knitting enthusiast? We’d love to see your creations. Tag us on social at @BhamNow on Facebook and Instagram, or @Now_Bham on Twitter.