Knit a heart for Covid-19 patients

On Saturday 4th April, we’ve just seen the following message on the BBC news website asking for our help.

Laura Kirby-Deacon says the hearts will help those who lose loved ones

Nurse Laura Kirby-Deacon wants people to send small handcrafted hearts to give to patients who contracted Covid-19 and their families.

Laura, who works as a sister at the Great Western Hospital’s intensive care unit in Swindon, said the hearts could bring comfort to families who have not been able to see a loved one before they die.

She said it was important to use clean yarn and seal the hearts in a taped bag, such as a freezer bag or bin liner.

She also asked for the bags to be dated because 72 hours must have elapsed before they are safe to use.

Laura urged anyone wanting to post hearts to send them to:

Brighter Futures at the GWH, Great Western Hospital, Marlborough Road, Swindon SN3 6BB

The link is

Learn to machine knit

Learn how to use a machine and make your own knitwear in a four-hour, one-to-one lesson with designer Ria Burns. She’ll teach you the basics and talk about the different machines available. If you’ve a bit more experience, she can tailor a workshop to suit, such as punchcard pattern design. Workshops are in Ria’s studio at Bristol Textile Quarter at a date that’s convenient for you. Email for details. Bristol Textile Quarter is at Ground Floor, 1A Barton Road, St. Philips, Bristol BS2 0LF.

New machine-knitting course in Basingstoke

Gillian is a fashion and textiles technician in the Art & Design department at Basingstoke College of Technology in Hampshire. She tells us that they’ve recently started to run evening courses covering various disciplines including sewing, crochet, painting, screen-printing and pottery. A new machine knitting course is running in May. Taught by Antonia Sullivan, knitwear designer and owner of Sprig Knitwear, this course is four weeks in length and will take place on Thursday evenings from 6.00 to 8.00 pm. Costing only £125 and with a small class size (enrolment is limited to 8) it’s a great introduction to machine knitting. Here’s the link for more information and online registration

More hints and tips

Turning circle

Dear Anne

Please could you explain what you do with a garter bar? It hasn’t got any machine instructions, so can I use it on my Brother machine, or is it for Toyota or Knitmaster? I’m sure you’ve been asked a million times, but I feel a bit embarrassed. The lady who gave it to me seemed really disappointed that I didn’t jump for joy, but I’d no idea what it was for or what to do with it. Please help or point me in the right direction. Thanks and best wishes, Maureen

Garter bars are wonderful accessories, but if you haven’t used one before, you may be slightly nervous. Yes, we’ve included similar instructions before, but it won’t do any harm to give them another airing. Follow these helpful hints for trouble-free turning!

1) Remove yarn from feeder and use a ruler to push all working needles to holding position.

2) Pull knitting slightly forward and put needle movement stopper in place.

3) Remove all but two small weights and make sure that latches on needles are open.

4) Hang garter bar onto needles, with indent groves facing upwards, lining up end needle on right onto end tooth.

5) Pull the garter bar towards you and at the same time pull knitting onto the teeth.

6) Lift garter bar off needles and push stitches down to base of the teeth.

7) Open latches of needles, make sure the latches lay flat against shaft of needle and then turn the garter bar.

8) Line up end needle and end tooth then, holding each end, push garter bar onto needles and pull it forward slightly.

9) Tip garter bar up slightly and check that all stitches have been caught on the needle hooks.

10) Pull both towards you downwards, then push knitting back behind latches and remove needle movement stopper.

Look out for our new 3-part series on the Garter Bar, starting in December 2018. Many knitters think a garter bar is only used for garter stitch, but there are many other uses and we’ll show you what else we can do with it.


Up the slope

Dear Anne

I stopped to realise that all those ideas we passed to each other years ago are probably not written down anywhere. Clubs have closed, so how do newbies find out the tricks of the trade? You’ve got to keep this going in MKM, Anne. I saw this idea many moons ago, I think in To & Fro, but can’t be sure. There’s no casting off and I’ve not shaped shoulders on a machine since.

1) At top of both back and front, add a good half inch (about 1½ cm) to the knitted length and take off on waste yarn.

2) With right side uppermost, sew all around the shoulder and neckline shape, in one operation either on a sewing machine or overlocker and cut to shape after finishing. When using my overlocker, I thread one end of 2/30s yarn through the upper looper to match the fabric.

3) Put the shoulders together, as you would a dress or jacket and using a small stretch stitch with a zigzag, or any stretch stitch for that matter, with light pressure on presser foot sew on a sewing machine about half an inch (1 cm) from the edge.

4) Fold back and catch down to the wrong side to produce a neat, flat seam. It can be stabilised with a non-stretch narrow tape or stranded cotton, which you fasten off securely.

5) Complete both shoulders before adding the neckband for a jacket or join one shoulder, then knit the neckband and complete the second shoulder for a sweater. Attach the sleeves and join the side and sleeve seams last.

I agree with recent sentiments that we ‘oldies’ have a duty to pass on as much as we know to the newbies, or how else will they ever learn? You get a really neat shoulder line using this method and it’s not just for Passap knitters; anyone can do shoulders in this way. Happy knitting everyone! Mary


Hot tip

Dear Anne

Here’s the easiest hot water bottle cover you’ll ever knit. It’s thicker and more cosy knitted in a Fair Isle pattern and great for using up the stash. Any yarn can be used but 4-ply is ideal. You can vary the stitches and rows but, basically, cast on around 75 stitches and knit 10 rows plain. Change to Fair Isle for about 115 rows. Knit 5 rows plain. Cast off centre 12 stitches with some scrap yarn and then cast them on again. This makes a hole for the bottle’s tail. Now knit the other half in reverse. For the tabs, measure 2½ inches in from each end, pick up 12 stitches and work 30 rows. Sew up the cover and, for extra strength, work a row of double crochet around the top edge and tabs. Sew snap fasteners on the tabs and front to finish it off. That’s it, and I told you it was easy! Best wishes, Ellen


Under the quilt

Hi Anne

Have you reminded the newbies about an easy way to turn their knitting into a quilt? Do you remember (of course you do!) we used to find a diamond-shaped tuck stitch pattern and elongate it. Press the L button if you have one, otherwise make sure the card moves only every two rows. Cast on in 4-ply across the full width of bed, using a suitable stitch size and knit the required length in the tuck stitch. Cast off. Place the knitting face downwards. Cover with a layer of wadding and then with lining material, which can also be knitted. Pin three layers together, starting at the centre and working towards the corners. Tack all around the edge. Now quilt, starting at the centre again and working to the corners to get it even. Follow the lines of the pattern, use a sewing machine or backstitch by hand. Bind the whole thing with a strip of knitting. After I’d made enough cot covers, I plucked up the courage to make a quilted jacket using a bought dressmaking pattern. Since then, I’ve never looked back. Knit happy, Yvonne


Old classic patterns wanted

Comment or Message

I’m looking for early magazines with patterns dating back to 1940s and 1950s. I don’t suppose you have anything? I’d be eternally grateful if you can point me in the right direction please.

Many thanks, Jane

Hand knitting help

Rachel got in touch with us recently, after seeing one of the posts on our website at

She’s a bit of a knitting geek and makes lots of hats, socks and toys – as well as anything you’d care to mention! She thought it was a great read and tells us she’s recently written her Ultimate Beginners Guide to Knitting. If you’d like to know a bit more about hand knitting, take a look at

With so many of us knitting on the Silver Reed LK150 and no ribber available, lots of us like to combine both skills by hand knitting the ribs and transferring the stitches to the LK150 for speed. Do check it out and we’re sure Rachel would be happy to help if you’ve any queries. Thanks a million for sharing Rachel.

Oxford blues

Hi Anne

I’m taking over running the Oxford Machine Knitting Group. The trouble is our numbers have dwindled so much that I’m putting in a plea to any knitters living in Oxfordshire to come and join us. We meet on the second Tuesday of each month at Yarnton Village Hall. We quite often take our machines with us and get useful tips from each other. Although two of our ladies are unable to bring their machines, they have a wealth of knowledge which is greatly appreciated. However, if we can’t get any more members, I doubt if we will be able to carry on much longer. Do please email so, here’s hoping. Best wishes, Angie Reed

As Angie mentioned, Oxford Machine Knitters meet monthly on the second Tuesday from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon. The venue is Yarnton Village Hall, The Paddocks, Yarnton, Kidlington OX5 1TE and you really would be most welcome to swell their numbers a little.

Word search

Dear Anne

From cast off to purlpincushion to tack, there are many words associated with knitting.  As part of the Oxford English Dictionary’s 90th birthday celebrations, we have a host of fun initiatives taking place, including a number of public word appeals.  Our latest appeal focuses on expanding the dictionary’s coverage of the language of hobbies and we would be delighted if you and your readers could help us.

A number of knitting terms are, of course, already included in the dictionary.  For example, we have recently added an entry for FROG (to pull apart a piece of knitting in order to rework it, current earliest date 1996) and are monitoring the word STASH (one’s store of wool or fabric, current earliest date 1992).

We would love your readers to tell us the words they use when they describe a particular technique or a slang and colloquial expression that has arisen in the knitting community.  How do your readers use these words?  Perhaps they have evidence of earlier usage?  What new words and phrases are coming into use?

Words can be suggested via our online submissions form or the hashtag #hobbywords.

Best wishes

Kate Shepherd

Help needed with Brother 260


The 230 was my first machine, after the Superba which I never mastered. I loved it. I put it away when I went into business and coordinated machines with my partner to the 260. I took it out to do intarsia and it was so much fun, but without the ribber on it so I ran upstairs each time to do the ribbing. Eventually I decided to see how inconvenient it would be to do intarsia with the ribber in place. Now the problem is that the stopper pin will not allow the ribber carriage to complete the row to the left. I don’t understand. There’s a stopper pin on my 260 which causes no problem. I look forward to any advice please and wish I could find the wonderful yarns here in the States.

Sincerely, Judy

Garter carriage help needed, please

I have garter carriage KG-95 with a Brother 950i machine. I’m having difficulties getting started for the auto cast on. The Instruction Book says: “990 men button/men button insert 901 m” but the machine won’t accept 901 and the error light keeps coming up. This makes it a problem for the garter carriage to operate the cast on row. Also on the garter carriage when it’s operating, the slide No. 3 keeps changing and this changes the direction of the knitting. Can someone please help me? I live in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and would appreciate any advice. Many thanks.