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Why Learn to Knit?

To many people this may sound like a silly question! All the same I thought it was worth thinking about it.

If you’ve been taught a skill such as knitting, crochet or sewing at an early age then it can seem like the most natural thing in the world. If you’re not that fortunate then you may be thinking ‘I love making things for myself or as unique gifts and I’d like to learn a new craft so why would I choose knitting?’

I believe that knitting can be a relaxing hobby (maybe not so much at the first steps, but certainly when you get the hang of it) which engages the mind and fires creativity. There is always something new to learn or try if you wish to push yourself, on the other hand, some really easy straightforward knitting can be just the tonic when you’re feeling tired and stressed. You have the brilliant satisfaction of being able to spend your relaxation time productively with a beautiful finished item to be proud of as the end result.

Most people seem to have the desire to learn to knit for a specific purpose. The most popular one is probably the arrival of a new member of the family which seems to spur people into action and get them picking up the needles. For other people, the desire can be sparked by a specific item they’ve seen and really want to make for themselves. This is the reason I myself wanted to learn the ‘sister’ craft of crochet so that I could make things which had previously been untouchable for me because I didn’t know how to use a crochet hook.

Still need some inspiration? What might you be able to knit with just a little bit of knowledge?

Simple scarf like this one can easily be made with just basic stitches and you can make it for yourself or give as a gift!!

If you attend one of my Beginners Knitting workshops you will make one of these. You will take away the materials and pattern to make one for yourself, and when you’ve done that you can make more in different colours 🙂


These teddies are a really lovely easy knit which would be great to make for a new baby or small child.

Why not try making a baby blanket in a soft chunky baby yarn they’re really easy and quick to do for your new arrival.

You can make cushions for your home or as gifts. Try one of my simple but effective chain stripes cushions in beautiful but hardwearing Jakob aran yarn.


Will I need lots of expensive equipment?

Basically, no you won’t. Having said that, you will need some core items to begin with, and there are lots of products out there to tempt you, but it is up to you. If you would like to have lovely needles and notions you can do, but you don’t have to you can just stick to basic items.

A simple starter kit should probably contain –

  • a selection of smooth inexpensive double knitting weight yarns (you can move onto the fancy stuff and gorgeous natural fibres when you are more confident)
  • needles – again nothing too fancy needed unless you really want to, just some basic needles in the size appropriate for your yarn ie double knitting yarn 4mm needles or check your ballband to see what needles are recommended
  • pins
  • scissors
  • tape measure
  • yarn needle
  • safety pins
  • row counter and/or pencil and paper

There are lots and lots of other things you could have but you’ll probably decide for yourself as you go along what you would like and what you need and what you can very easily live without!!


What’s the best way to learn?

This is another question to which there are probably as many answers as there are people who are looking to learn to knit!!

There are a number of options or combinations of options.

Most people would prefer to be taught by someone who really knows what they are doing. If you have a family member or friend close at hand who can get you started and then be called upon when needed for further assistance then you are probably very lucky and should make the most of it!!

There are lots of books available Vogue Knitting – The Ultimate Knitting Book, is a very good book and has clear instructions and illustrations.

Youtube has many videos which will show you what to do and I have met lots of people who have successfully taught themselves to knit this way.

Make the most of any resources you can find such as Ravelry, twitter, facebook. Find out what works for you, give things a try and don’t be frightened.

As a small business, I am always happy to help people out with any problems they are experiencing and it is one of the best parts of my job to be able to show them the answer. You may not get this service from some of the larger retailers out there but I’m sure most small yarn shops are able to provide a similar service to customers and with the same joy and pleasure!!

I run regular Beginners Knitting classes in Knaresborough and York, for those who would like more focused attention. These are for one full day which is generally enough to go through casting on, knit stitch, purl stitch, rib stitch, casting off, changing colours or joining in new balls of yarn. The aim is to equip you with the basic knowledge you need to start knitting and we provide enough yarn for you to make a simple rib stitch scarf which you will start making during the class and then take away to finish at your own speed.

Because different people will have different aims for their knitting, each persons next step will be slightly different, however I do run a Beyond the Basics workshop.

If you have learnt knit and purl stitch and are ready to move on to knitting something more than straight scarves this workshop is for you. The aim of the workshop is to give you all the knowledge you need to make a simple garment. You will receive a kit containing 50g of quality double knitting yarn, 1m ribbon & 14 buttons.

You will learn different increasing and decreasing techniques to create some triangular pieces in stocking stitch.

We will look at blocking the work you have produced, and we will pick up stitches to make a buttonhole band.

Add a few pretty buttons and you have your own knitted bunting!!

Just a final warning. Knitting can be addictive. Once you’ve started you may not be able to stop and I think that’s absolutely fantastic!!!

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Another Beautiful Day – book review

This book arrived in our shop just before Christmas and we were immediately inspired by the fantastic collection of little girls cardigans it contains.

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Anyone excitedly planning a wedding, or special occasion, this year can’t fail to find just the thing for any little girl involved. All the designs can be knitted or crocheted for ages 2-13yrs.

All the designs are shown in white yarns such as Cotton dk, Cotton 4ply, Soukie dk with its sequins for extra sparkle and another sparkly yarn Ella dk.





The first design shown in the book is a pretty lacy crochet ballet wrap which can be made with short sleeves or long sleeves. It has been made up here in Wash ‘n’ Wear dk shade 251(long sleeves) and Cotton dk shade 501(short sleeves). It would look great made in Hayfield Baby Sparkle if you would like something shiney.


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Next we come to 2 long sleeved cardigans, one with a lace yoke, the other a cropped, boxey style with knitted flowers appliqued around the bottom edge and cuffs, both are knitted here in snuggly pearls dk.


The short sleeved version has been knitted in sparkly sequined Soukie dk and really shows off how effective the yarn is.


2442shortThis crocheted cardigan has a single button fastening at the neck and again is embellished with dainty flowers around the bottom edge. We can see this being a very useful little cardigan for the summer made up in snuggly 4ply or Cotton 4ply. She can just as easily wear it with a special party dress or use it as a cover-up on the beach!

2439 Make either long or short sleeved.2439 long(2)Looking for a little Bolero? What about this one? Again long or short sleeves. Shown here knitted in Wash ‘n’ Wear, or use Tiny Tots for some added texture, but can be knitted in any of our dk yarns. The Bolero shape is great for providing some extra warmth on a chilly day whilst still showing off that gorgeous dress.


Or, similarly, you could make this lacy cardigan in a shrug style. Again this could double up as a very pretty holiday cover up.2441short2440 long

This simple V-neck cardigan is actually very stylish with it’s raglan sleeves and peplum, it is extremely flattering and looks amazing here in Soukie dk.

2436Finally this 3 tier cardigan is fun and frilly. We would love to see it knitted in the vibrant colours of Hayfield Fiesta.

2437long  2437shortSo if you are looking for a selection of cardigans suitable for all occasions however special you can’t go far wrong. When your little girl is all dressed up and ready to party in her lovingly created knitted or crocheted cardigan it is always going to be a beautiful day.

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Summer is on the Way!

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Here’s another message from Karen, our sewing expert.

Judith is coming round to see me, later in the week, for a spot of lunch as it’s time to get together and plan the next batch of three Sew it’s Fridays for the summer term. Summer hey, and to think there may be snow again later this week!

Back in January, group of ladies met up for the first Sew It’s Friday workshop of the year, they produced some lovely sausage dogs and butterflies in shadow quilting.


It’s a great evening out with like minded people. You can work at your own pace and don’t need to be an experienced sewer in order to enjoy yourself. Judith provided some lovely chocolate and lemon buns to go with our teas and coffee so will hopefully do something similar next time!

Anyway I’m hoping Judith will give me the stamp of approval as I’ve come up with some lovely summer ideas (well I think so!) of things that are fun to make as well as useful. How about beach bags, a holiday journal / notebook and maybe a sunglasses case too? All things that can be made for yourself or given as gifts. These workshops will be scheduled to run at some point in April, May, June and July – check out for the dates here.

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My Life in Fabric by Karen Willatt

The Sewing Bee is back on our screens again, inspiring lots of people to get stitching so we thought it would be nice to tell you a bit more about our lovely friend and sewing teacher, Karen Willatt.

Karen and I run our sewing club, Sew It’s Friday, once a month on Friday evenings from 7pm-9pm. I asked her to write a little bit about herself and her stitching experience. So, over to Karen…

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My name is Karen Willatt and I’ve been running the sewing workshops at Needlecase for around 2 years.

Before that I taught Needlecraft for Tadcaster Grammar Adult Education and for a number of years prior to that I ran workshops at home and took stands at craft fairs across the region.

However my love of fabric goes back much further than all of that.

My earliest childhood memories are of playing with my mother’s button tin and lengths of fabric which would soon be turned into clothes for me and my two older sisters. I would drape fabric around myself and find buttons to go with my creations. I never grew tired of stacking the cloth in colours or making ‘collections’.

Mum taught each of us to sew and for our twenty first birthdays we were given sewing machines.

Years on I am still in the throws of a love affair with fabric. Much to my husbands dismay I seem to have inherited my mothers hoarding gene for all things fabric. Some may see old curtains where as I see a lovely ‘A’ line skirt, notebook cover or draught excluder; a pair of torn cords could make a fantastic hand bag, soft toy or contribute to some sort of fancy dress costume for the children.

photo-C-125x300It really doesn’t help me to keep a tidy home though as I may have ‘vision’ and ideas I just struggle to find the time or the energy to make everything that I keep fabric for.

I have taken courses in art and design and interior design and after working in interiors I now have to justify my existence as a long term fabric hoarder and turn these wonderful lengths of textural delight into something useful.

photo-A-224x300In the last few years I have gone back to making more of my own clothes and have started to make some of my children’s clothes too.

I had changed course for a while and got in to patchwork and quilting as well as interiors.

I really enjoy the satisfaction of making something that is either useful or wearable or best of all both. It’s also hugely satisfying to make something for the children and to hear nice comments made by other people or to make something to give as a present. Whilst my family are the most important thing in my life finding time for sewing has become more significant and now I really can’t imagine life without fabric an idea and a needle photo-B-224x300and thread.

Do come along to a Sew It’s Friday workshop as it’s a great chance to get together with other people who enjoy making things, have a slice of cake and a cuppa, I’d love to meet you.

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For the love of Knitting

It’s a beautiful day here in Tadcaster. Other parts of the country seem to have snow but here we just have gorgeous sunshine which is streaming through the shop window and really heating things up in here this afternoon!!

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Our lovely knitting circle ladies have been trying their hands at a bit of i-cord knitting the last couple of weeks. Using Hayfield Superchunky yarn, they’ve made lots. If you’ve never made  i-cord, it couldn’t be easier and there are such a lot of things you do with it to make decorations or fastenings. We used great big 9mm dpn’s and cast on 5 stitches. You then knit the stitches and push them to the other end of the needle. Without turning, you then need to begin knitting at the other end of the row. Carry on like this until you have the desired length of cord which is similar in appearance to what you get when you do French Knitting.

Using our finished i-cords we made some simple pictures with hearts on for Valentines day.


Have you thought about knitting a valentines gift? We think our basic ribbed scarf from our Beginners knitting class would make a very acceptable gift for your loved one to wrap themselves up in.


Another idea would be to knit something and decorate it with a heart motif as I talked about in last weeks blog. I’m still playing about with the knitted motif I did and thinking about other ways of incorporating hearts into my knitting. As knitting is often done for other people there’s a lot of love in those stitches any way and what better way to symbolise this than by placing a heart within the work itself?

These cute heart decorations are from a Hayfield book called Knit Christmas but we all know that hearts are not just for Christmas don’t we?IMG_0001




I knitted a beautiful lace heart blanket for my first baby and he loved snuggling with it. Sadly it had to be washed and didn’t survive my laundry efforts, so I can’t show it to you (must dig out some old photos to see if there is one with it in) but I do love this Sublime baby blanket with hearts in reverse stocking stitch.


We also have some fabulous sewing kits if you would like to make some decorations for your home. These look great all year round and are very popular with adults as well as children learning to sew.







When we first opened Needlecase, we didn’t have many patterns for knitted cushions and several people were asking for them. Cable knit cushions were very popular in all the shops and people wanted to make them for themselves. I decided that I would make my own design and I chose a heart cable stitch that I found in The Knitters Bible. I added some really simple cable stitches either side and worked out how to make the cable pattern sit nicely on the front of the cushion. The cushion is knitted all in one long piece with ribs at either end. It is then sewn together so that the ribs overlap at the back and I use some rustic looking cocoanut buttons to fasten it up.


The popularity of this design with our customers has been amazing and I have been selling this design in kits ever since and have offered the pattern to customers when buying yarn if they didn’t like the colours available in the kits. Many people have told me that they’ve loved knitting the design and some have made multiple versions of the cushion. You can now order a copy of the pattern directly from our website should you wish to make one for yourself.

Whatever you’re knitting and whoever it’s for we know you’ll be putting your heart and soul into it so keep knitting, it’s good for you!!

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Adventures in Intarsia


As I’m working on a large cushion for a garden bench with a ‘sun’ motif on it which is repeated 16 times, I’ve been doing a lot of Intarsia recently!

This is a technique often used for sweaters with large, solid-colour features or ‘picture jumpers’ with designs such as fruits, flowers, geometric shapes or Christmas motifs like snowmen, reindeers and robins.

With the growing popularity of Christmas Jumper Day in December more and more people are looking at trying this method out for themselves.


If you’re a bit nervous then why not read our information page which describes the process and gives advice to help you try to avoid some of the pitfalls. Then I would suggest getting out your needles and some spare yarn and trying out a simple geometric shape and knit yourself some samples.

As we approach Valentine’s day we’ve been thinking of making some decorations for the shop window and I took some inspiration from this wallpaper. IMG_0609





Drew a simple chart and knitted this sample.









Now I need to decide how it’s going to be displayed and also playing with variations on the motif.

I used Bonus Aran for the background and Giselle Aran for the motif which has a hint of sparkle in it for that extra special touch. I’m imagining the different uses I could make of this simple but effective design such as little gift bags, cushions, blankets or you could use it on the front of a sweater. The possibilities are probably endless!!

We’ve had a lot of people in the shop during January who’d like to knit something like this – soldier tank top

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Sirdar recently produce this version of their lovely tank top pattern suggesting that we could sirdar train tank

‘’Knit the little prince in your life this gorgeous Snuggly DK tank in the style of Prince George’s! To make this cute little tank we’ve used our train tank pattern 4443 and changed the shades to Snuggly DK 353 Indigo Mix, 242 Flamenco and 303 Cream, we think its royaly adorable!’’


So if you just want to jazz up a plain jumper or make something for someone very special, why not give Intarsia a try for your next super cool knitting project?



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Can Crochet – Will Crochet


At Needlecase we like to share our passion for all forms of needlework. We love working with people who are experts in their area, such as Helen Jordan, who runs regular crochet classes at Needlecase.

My own personal memories of wanting to learn to crochet go back to seeing my mum and grandma doing it when I was quite young. When I was about 10 years old they taught me to knit and I talk about this here and I thought that crochet looked like fun, I’m not sure why but I was unable to persuade either of them to teach me crochet.  I remember my sister and I wearing garments crocheted by my mum when we were very young and I also remember one occasion whilst staying at grandma’s house she said in the evening that she was going to crochet a blanket and when we woke up the next morning she seemed to have done loads. It was just one big granny square and all different colours as she was obviously using up all her spare yarns but I thought it was amazing that it was possible to create something like that in an evening and it seemed a little bit like some kind of magic!!IMG_0533

As my passion for knitting grew, I kind of forgot about crochet a little bit, but it was always there in the background. Mainly, I would see something in a magazine and think I would like to make it and then realise I couldn’t because it wasn’t knitted, it was crocheted, or even worse, it was knitted but you needed to be able to crochet as it had a beautiful lacy crocheted edging. I was in my forties before I finally did something about it though. Not long before Needlecase was born, one freezing cold day in January, I went to a yarn shop in York for a beginners crochet class. These classes were really popular and I had to book my place ages in advance. There were quite a large number of us in the class all really excited to be gaining this new skill. The teacher was a very nice, enthusiastic lady who had an obvious passion for the class. She taught us the basic stitches and we enthusiastically got to work practising and making little samples. The people at the class had a mixed level of experience, much as those who attend the regular classes at Needlecase. Some were knitters like me who wanted to add crochet to their repertoire, others had tried before and forgotten what to do, and still others had no knitting or crochet experience at all. I noticed that some people really took to it very quickly and others struggled to ‘get it’. I had a fantastic time. Yes I struggled at first but, once I got into it, I loved it. Everyone was chatting away about this and that, comparing their stories, comparing their progress. The best part was in the afternoon when we made our own granny squares. It was just really good fun. Putting the stitches together, seeing how the formed the familiar but previously slightly mysterious pattern and you got to experiment with different colours of yarns!! What more could you want? That is one of the things I think is really lovely about learning to crochet. From just one day’s tuition, most people go away with the ability to make granny squares. If you can make granny squares you can make all sorts of things. Blankets are the obvious one but what about scarves, simple garments, bags, cushions, seat covers etc etc.


After that I went home and I was able to follow a pattern for a motif which formed a border for a garment which I wanted to knit.

12102010038 12102010037I used this motif to knit a scarf  and even made the top which had previously been unattainable for me because I wasn’t able to crochet!! I haven’t done lots of crochet because my passion is still knitting (things have also been a bit busy growing a certain little yarn store) but I have made (and sold) some granny square blankets and crocheted lots of flowers to make some decorations for the shop. The main thing about crochet for me as a confirmed knitter is it is just so much fun and I hope in the years to come I will develop and do more of it because this is one good thing it I believe it isn’t possible to have too much of!!crochet flowers (2)






This is what my mum, Jean, has to say about her own experience of crochet…

When I was young, growing up in the 1940s and 50s crochet was popular among ladies who like to make household items such as table mats (for displaying your ornaments), chair arm and back covers to protect your furniture, trims to beautify bed-linen, and to decorate shelves in the kitchen: there was a wide range, as well as decorations for garments, crocheted gloves, collars and so on. ????

These items were usually crocheted in fine cotton.  Baby items could also be crocheted in fine wool.  During the war it was not easy to obtain materials so good use had to be made of what was available and material often had to be re-used.  Blankets were always crocheted using granny squares but these became considered as rather old-fashioned and were not popular as they are now.


When I was young I taught myself to crochet from books that my mother had at home but I was never as successful as I was with knitting so I didn’t achieve much.  When I had my own family in the 60s and 70s there was a surge of interest in crafts.  Can anyone else remember Golden Hands magazines which we all bought to make things for our homes and families?  I crocheted tabards for my girls.  About the same time I managed to crochet a cardigan for myself but was never happy with it.  I’ve no idea what happened to it!





Doing a course with Helen Jordan last year reignited my interest and I have make two lovely scarves, like these made by Helen, both of which I have given as presents.

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Now I am looking at trying my hand at a child’s garment, from this new Sirdar book, to see how what I have learnt has helped me.








We run Beginners Crochet classes with Helen Jordan frequently throughout the year and occasionally we offer a ‘Next Steps’ class for those who would like to develop their skills and knowledge further.



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Sew It’s Friday

Run by Judith Schur of Needlecase and Karen Willatt of Karen Willatt design, Sew It’s Friday is our sewing club which was launched in May 2014 and is held in Needlecase’s workroom in Tadcaster.

Sew Its Friday ladies

We meet every 4-6 weeks on a Friday evening from 7-9pm for a fun evening of sewing. Most of the projects are hand sewing projects for any ability. If you’ve not done much sewing before (or even if you haven’t done any) you’re sure to pick up lots of tips from Karen. If you’re a regular sewer we’re certain you will love all the little projects we have in store for you. We are thinking hard about what to offer and would love to know if there is something you would love us to make as an activity one evening.
Prices may vary depending on what we are offering, but we will try to keep the cost to £10 per person wherever possible.
The aim of these sessions is to relax, have fun and be creative.
Refreshments will be provided as well as everything you need for each session, so all you need to do is book your place and get ready to have a bit of ‘me’ time.

We are looking forward to  celebrating a ‘Me Made’ 2015 with our next 3 workshops and we’d love to see some new faces, as well as welcoming the more familiar ones back! Now it’s 2015, let’s release our creativity and enjoy a sociable ‘me’ time with like minded people, whilst also having the pleasure of taking home something personal and special to you. No particular skills are required and, as ever, we welcome all levels of stitchery and crafting, it’s about having some fun (with a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits or cakes thrown in for good measure!!)

A modern twist on a traditional method of quilting. Three layers are worked together with a transparent fabric as the top layer. You can make the design as simple or complex as you like by adding stitches and beads. You will be taking home a piece that could be made into a bookmark, picture or greetings card.
This useful but simple felt needle case is based on the shape of a luggage label. Adding a heart, or other simple motif, decorates the front ‘page’ and further trimming, with buttons or ribbons, makes this needle case individually ‘yours’.
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Close your eyes and see a patch of wild garden, or a pond with plants around the edge. Think of a hedgerow or woodland scene. Now, thread your needle with some green thread, and start stitching!!
This is a great way to introduce embroidery, and an enjoyable way to use up left over threads for the more experienced stitcher. A ‘relaxed’ way of learning some traditional stitches, making a small piece that can then be presented as a card or picture. Let your imagination and creativity flow and enjoy the freedom that this workshop celebrates!
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Highlights of 2014 at Needlecase

These are a selection of the highlights of our year at Needlecase.



Sewing workshop – we made this fabulous bag with Karen Willatt



Applique cushion workshop with Karen




First Felt making workshop with Bridget Karn


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First ever National Yarn Shop Day


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‘Next Steps’ crochet class with Helen Jordan


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The Tour de France came to Yorkshire and we had our own fabulous woolly bike made with lots of help from our Knitting Circle!!


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Cawood Craft Fesitval



cute chickens at Sew It’s Friday

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British Wool Weekend in Harrogate



Getting ready for Christmas at Sew It’s Friday



Sew Its’ Friday again and we made some lovely mini wreaths

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knitting circle got together to make this amazing model of Tadcaster cenotaph and also had a go at Entrelac knitting