For most people who have believed on our precious Savior, Jesus Christ, Christmas is a season of joyful celebration. It celebrates the incarnation—the incredible gift of God taking on human form and living among us so that He could ultimately redeem us through His death and resurrection! Our joy at this great gift of God overflows into our giving gifts to others around us and seeking ways to reach out to those in need as He reached out to us in our need. As our joy is not restricted to a single month of the year, so our giving should not be confined to the Christmas season. Sadly, as our economy worsens, many feel that giving to others is beyond their abilities. If you have ever wished you could give more to charities, but felt limited by your skills and resources, this project is for you.
Knitting and crocheting have enjoyed a revival of interest in the past decade, which is a great source of delight for me personally, since I really love working with yarn! Some people have learned how to knit using the standard knitting needles, but for others interested in knitting, the solution was to use a knitting loom. A knitting loom makes it easy for anyone, including children or adults with arthritis, to knit. This makes the loom a wonderful thing to have for individuals or groups who want to make items for charities. The only downside to the using looms is the expense of buying the materials. My goal in this project was to remove the financial burden for those who need an inexpensive way to loom-knit
Since a loom is simply a ring with pegs sticking up, I decided to try using a large vegetable spread container to form my loom. This idea worked very well with this exception: Not all containers are created equal! The first spread container that I tried to use had very thin plastic which was too flimsy for my purpose. However, at the time of this writing, the 45oz Blue Bonnet spread containers are sturdy enough to work well. You could also try home-brand spread containers or containers from whipped topping if a Blue Bonnet container is not available. Just look for a sturdy plastic container with at least a six-inch-diameter rim.
The first thing that I had to do was to make a “peg” pattern that would fit around the spread container. Since the container had sloping sides, this turned out to be a little tricky. Instead of trying to tell you how to manage that, I have made my pattern available as a download. Simply print the pattern ( moms-loom-pdf.pdf ) on card stock, cut it out, tape the pieces together, and follow the rest of the instructions.
After I had the pattern cut out, I wrapped it upside-down around the lip of the spread container and taped it in place so that it would not move around. Then I traced the outline of the pegs directly onto the plastic using a permanent marker. When I had gotten all the way around, I had twenty-six pegs evenly spaced around the lip. Once the traced lines were in place, I removed my pattern and carefully cut away the bottom of the container. (The bowl-like bottom was very handy as a holder for my yarn ball once I began my project.) Now I had to cut out the lines that I had traced onto the container. I was able to use regular scissors for the vertical lines, but I did have to use a craft knife to cut the lines that were parallel to the rim. When I had the whole thing cut out, I went back and used scissors to round off the points on all the heads to my pegs. This made them look a little like golf tees. My reason for doing this was to ensure that there were no sharp edges or points that would catch my yarn while I was working with the loom. Any part of the pegs that I thought would snag the yarn was sanded down with a nail file. I also used a Q-tip and some nail polish remover (with acetone) to remove any remaining marks from the permanent marker.
After the pegs were smooth, I snapped the lid that came on the spread container onto the loom and traced along the inside edge with a permanent marker. I then removed the lid and cut along the line I had marked. The remaining ring would serve two functions on my loom: to strengthen it, and to serve as a base for the anchor peg, a small peg that sticks out from the side of the loom. To make the anchor peg, I made a small vertical cut in the outside edge of the lid ring and pushed a brass paper fastener halfway through the cut. I opened up the back portion and snapped the lid ring back in place on the loom. The back of the paper fastener was then sandwiched between the ring and the wall of the loom.
I now turned my attention to making a hook to use with my loom. Although these are not all that expensive in the stores (about two dollars each), I wanted to see if I could make a completely homemade set. I thought about using a paper clip, but then I found a better option. I had purchased some of these specialized flossers back when I had injured one of my hands and could not use both hands to floss. There were still some in the package, and they were just the size and weight that I needed for this project. Using a pair of heavy-duty scissors and a nail file, I cut the flosser into the hook shape I needed and filed down the edges to make them smooth. Finally, I sandwiched the flosser between two craft sticks and secured them together with masking tape.
Making an inexpensive loom and hook is helpful, but even buying yarn to use with it can be cost-prohibitive for those on a very tight budget. Fortunately, there is an economical solution which, I think, is even better than buying new yarn—take apart an old sweater. For this project, I used what would have been a beautiful lady’s sweater, except that in the knitting process the yarn had made an unfortunate pattern in a rather conspicuous location across the front. Despite this flaw, the yarn itself was beautiful. This would be the yarn I would reclaim. Sweaters like this one, flawed or out-of-date in their style, are perfect subjects for projects like this as long as the yarn is in good condition. They can also be gotten very inexpensively at yard sales and thrift shops. Buy the largest-sized sweater with nice yarn that you can, and you will be amazed how many projects can be gotten out of it! The only drawback is that you do have the extra step of taking apart the sweater and returning it to a ball of yarn. I did this by turning my sweater inside-out and using a seam ripper to remove the seams that held it together. Then, starting at the top of whatever piece I grabbed up first, I began unraveling it, rolling the yarn up into a ball as I went. I did this with the entire sweater. Now, for the investment of some time and maybe a few dollars in the purchase of some yarn (mine was free), you are ready to create with your loom.
Unfortunately, I do not have space in this article to demonstrate how to use the loom, but the Internet is overflowing with tutorials for it. Simply type “how to knit on a round loom” into the search engine of your choice, and you will have plenty to choose from. However, I will offer a few pointers. Essentially, the idea is the same as in the spool knitting that many of us were taught to do as children; wrap the yarn around the pegs and using the hook, to lift the bottom set of loops up over the top set of loops and off the pegs. On this loom, it is easiest to do this by lifting the yarn over one corner of the peg and then the other. My photo shows the yarn passing through the center of an empty pen casing, which makes it easier to cast onto the pegs if you have large hands. Also, loom knitting works better with a bulky yarn, but if the yarn in the sweater you want to use is thin, try using several strands. I did several projects with my homemade loom and in most of them, I was using two strands of yarn at a time.
It is possible to make any number of things with a round loom—pretty much anything that you can with regular knitting. You just have to change loom sizes for larger objects. The sweater I had was plush velor in a lovely cream color with a contrasting thread of gray running through it. I decided to try my hand making things that I could give to a pregnancy center or a shelter for battered women and children. All of the items in the photo above were created on my spread container loom and the same upcycled sweater. I still have a little yarn left over that might make a third hat; all the items completely free! The hats and the bunting are designed to fit infants—that is, I know that the two hats will fit them. The bunting is my design and was made without my having any infants on hand to try it on. If I find that it does fit, I will try to post my directions for it on my blog sometime next month. It was created by working flat pieces on the loom and then sewing them together. The small drawstring purse can be made by following the instructions on the Internet for making a backpack with a knitting loom. On this size loom, it becomes a purse! If you would like to make larger items, use the same down-loadable pattern as you used on the spread container on a large, round, plastic ice-cream container to make a larger loom that is still free!
The Bible tells us that true Christians are known by their love (I John 4:7). All through the Bible we see love demonstrated and defined for us. We are to love our families, fellow Christians, and even our enemies. Starting in the Old Testament and going forward into the New, God constantly demonstrates His compassion on the most helpless members of society, and we are directed to follow His example. James tells us “to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27), and Paul writes that when James, Peter, and John accepted him into their fellowship, their caution to him in his ministry was that he would “…remember the poor…” (Gal. 2:10). At this season of the year when we rejoice in the graciousness of our God, I encourage us all, “as every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same… as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:10, 11).