Monthly Archives: April 2013

Optimistic Knitter

Optimistic knitter

I wrote this for Alana Dakos’ Never not Knitting podcast when she was asking for contributors. At the time the cardigan I talked about wasn’t finished. Now it is, so I thought it would be fun to include the transcript in a post with some pictures of how it came out…

Knitting teaches us a lot about ourselves. Me, I think I must be an
optimist who likes a challenge. I wouldnt have said that about myself
before I became a knitter, and before one project in particular, but
there’s only one other conclusion..

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About 18 months ago I sat down with my mother in law and we chose a
project and some yarn. A cardigan for her, to be knit by me, with
yarn she bought. The pattern is an all over lace cardigan, to be made in one piece and the sleeves thenadded, in a cotton based yarn. We chose an Eco wool. It’s nothing
like cotton. You can probably see where this is going.

Then I got pregnant, and spent 9 months throwing up. Yep, the whole 9
months. Not the time to be working on a cardigan for my mother in
law! So it languished in a project bag, just the first few rows of the
first sleeve completed. I finally had the baby, a little girl and
began thinking about this project. Particularly during the night
feeds.. I wasn’t going to knit my baby anything until it was complete.
Otherwise I would never complete it.

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And I started work on it in earnest. It went slowly. I decided to do
the sleeves first to get the hang of the lace pattern before I started
on the main piece. Thing is, I love lace knitting, and the yarn is
good, and the pattern is great. But between the baby and the three
year old, the night feeds and the nappy changes I got to thinking
about those 400 odd stitches that would make up a row of the body of
the cardigan. And I got to looking at the sleeves and the lace
pattern.
I decided this really wasn’t going to end well.

I’d had Ysolda’s Little Red in the City book for my birthday and was
quite keen on the idea of a little designing of my own. So I decided
this was the project to begin on. I’d knit it in pieces and the body
would be stockinette stitch with a kind of belt of the lace pattern at
about the waist or just above.

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I’m really starting to enjoy this knit. It’s going well. Then i get
to thinking. I’m an English knitter, the kind who takes her hand
right off the needles to do a great big looping arm around to form a
stitch. I should learn to knit continental. And I’ll do it half way
up the back of the cardigan. So the gauge might change a little, it
probably won’t show, right? Right, actually! I am now a continental
knitter and I no longer have a big long loop
around. And all that stockinette stitch is going fast and getting me
some good practice.

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So it’s going to end really well, right? Well, you can see for yourself.. I think she was pleased with it and I think it looks pretty good.
I believe it is.

Knitting teaches us a lot about ourselves. Turns out, I’m crazy.

 

Special arrival

Our family are on tenterhooks this week. My younger brother’s wife is expecting their first baby, due ten days ago now. So we know it’s going to be this week… We just don’t know exactly when yet! This will be my mum and dad’s 8th grandchild so to some extent we have all been here before in some capacity or other. For me there is an extra special first about this baby though. Of course, I’m really excited for my brother and his wife, and to have a new nice or nephew myself. But also I’m excited because this has been the first baby I have been able to knit for. I took up knitting around the time my son was due but was too ill to knit anything for him before he arrived. And once he’d arrived there was a lot less time for knitting than I had expected! Similarly with my daughter I was really poorly during pregnancy so she was without a hand knit to be snuggled in when she made her entrance into the world.

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This baby will be different. He or she has a hand knit blanket ready and waiting for them and it was my great pleasure to knit it for them. I chose Anne Hanson’s Hourglass (I know, more Anne Hanson..) in a natural cream merino wool. The wool was nice to work with and the pattern an absolute delight. I had not considered before how a blanket is the perfect blank canvas for beautiful stitch patterns and intricate design. Of course, I didn’t want too much fiddle for the little one to get their fingers caught in but enough to keep things fun and interesting. I think this is one of the largest single piece knits I have completed but it wasn’t in any way arduous and didn’t drag at all. The whole project was a joy to knit.

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And my joy was completed by my sister in law’s reaction when I gave it to her, carefully packaged up and labelled. She was quite overwhelmed. A magic moment where I could see she appreciated what it was I was giving her. She’s not a knitter herself and I have given the occasional hand knit item to a non-knitter who hasn’t really been that thrilled. I guess if you don’t knit yourself you don’t quite know the love that goes into choosing the yarn, the pattern, knitting each stitch, each row, each pattern repeat one by one. Which is not to say any of that is a chore. This is my hobby and I love it. Just there’s been a lot of thought gone into the choices, and a lot of thinking time into the creation of the item. If someone shrugs that off you really feel it. There’s some of your soul in that. But when you can see that someone gets it and feels it, that is something very special. There’s a bit of your soul in that, and they noticed it there. And they were glad of it.

I have a suspicion that when I see this new precious life wrapped up snug in something I made them, I might just cry like a baby.

Mitts and mitts

IMG_5728I just blocked two pairs of mitts, one an old pair that has had a lot of wear, and the second a brand new pair for my husband. Both are Anne Hanson patterns of www.knitspot.com
I am a slightly crazy Anne Hanson fan. Which is to say, if she came to the UK I would try to persuade her to stay with us and would follow her round her yarn shop crawl and sign up to every class she was giving. She would be pretty freaked out! But her patterns are just so beautiful! And so clearly written. And so much fun to knit. She has over forty years of knitting experience, whilst also having trained as a speech pathologist which is what I am too (although here we go by the title speech and language therapist). Maybe it’s to do with that training that she writes such clear patterns. I often find I’m wondering what a designer means in an instruction and end up trying it out to see, or trawling the internet for clarification. Not so with Anne’s patterns. Beautiful, intricate stitch work written without ambiguity. You can sit back and watch the patterns magically emerge. You bind off and you have a gorgeous finished object which you’ll wear and wear.

That’s been the fate of the wussy pillow mitts, made from gorgeous yarn from Babylonglegs. The yarn has worn really well and is soft and has a depth of colour which is striking and which it hasn’t faded over time.

I hope that will be the fate of the Peu Borgeons mitts, made in yak yarn from Anne Hanson’s Bare Naked Club 2012. I have to confess that I did get second mitt syndrome on this one. It’s a satisfying pattern and really simple. Maybe a bit too simple on this occasion, although I did make an error (the row of purl you can see half way up. My husband agreed we could make it a design feature; this way they really are unique… I’m pleased with how they came out though, and that yak wool is really special. So warm, and check out the colour – these are undyed – that’s how it comes off the animal. Ben always has cold hands so these are going to get lots of use, especially while he works on his computer.

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I’m definitely a convert to fingerless mitts, especially long ones. I’ve found they are pretty versatile and I feel a bit special in them! And just the right kind of project for a special single skein of yarn.

Manos del Uruguay

So Dark and Stormy is coming on a treat. It has been such a fun pattern and I can now try it on. As long as it doesn’t grow too much in the wash it is going to be a good fit.

I did want to just provide a bit of a review on the yarn I am using. It’s the colour way Leo, 30% silk, 70% , merino wool. It’s quite variegated which I thought for a while that I wasn’t keen on but the longer I knit with it the more I love it, and I loved it quite a lot to begin with. It’s really soft and squooshy but also has a lovely sheen to it. The stitches stand out so well that even though it’s variegated you don’t lose the cables in the colours.

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It wasn’t that cheap, although I did get it on offer, and I’m totally a yarn snob. There is difference between cheap and expensive yarn and it is not only in the price..
The other thing I think is worth mentioning is the ethics of the company. Manos del Uruguay is a cooperative of artisan yarn dyers and on each skein is the name of the artisan who created your yarn. The idea is that these women working in rural Uruguay create something beautiful and they get paid a wage that reflects the skill and work they have put into their work. And I think you can feel that in the yarn. This is something that a person has made, not a machine. Which is central for me to what knitting is about. I’m really enjoying using this beautiful yarn and I am hoping that what I make with it will be beautiful too.

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Dark and Stormy

Last summer I bought four skeins of Manos del Uruguay variegated silk blend as a treat for my holiday knitting. An odd choice possibly as we were going to Canada where it was over 30 degrees, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that it didn’t arrive in time. As it turned out there’s a huge yarn store in Toronto so it was a good excuse to get a whole heap of yarn, and when I got back the yarn I had ordered was ready and waiting for me. All good. So 9 months later I’m just getting round to knitting with it. And it’s a different pattern from the one I had bought it for, but sometimes it’s good for things to sit, right?

So here’s what I’m doing with it:

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The pattern is Dark and Stormy by Thea Colman, a top down cardigan with quite a bit of cabling. Last year I discovered cabling without a cable needle which has been pretty revolutionary. YouTube is the place to go to find out how. I get the feeling that some people love it, others hate it. I am a loving it kind. Maybe that’s to do with my tendency to lose things anywhere they can be lost. I’ve lost cable needles up the sleeve of my jumper before, and only found it again when I got ready for bed at the end of the day. That kind of thing happens a lot to me. Also, I’m the kind of knitter who just kind of does things. In the, I don’t read the pattern through before I start knitting, don’t really swatch apart from measuring my knitting as I go, try new techniques half way through a project kind of just doing things. It usually means a couple of false starts (two before I got the hang of Dark and Stormy) but it’s all an opportunity to learn, right. So when the instructions for cabling without a needle said to do a little pinch and leave the stitches hanging, I had no problem with that. They won’t go anywhere, and they didn’t. I love it. Which is good, because Dark and Stormy grows until you have four cables on every row, and an extra four on three of fourteen rows. For someone like me, who loves making cables and loves how they look it is totally excellent.

Also handy for demonstrating how to cable without a needle. I went to my first Knit and Knatter group this week which was pretty exciting. A yarn shop has just opened about ten minutes from my house which I am very excited by and they have three Knit and Knatter groups a week. Turns out that’s a bit ambitious. I was the only one there this week! I wasn’t that bothered actually. The girl who runs the shop is friendly and chatty and there were lots of customers popping in and out. And I can talk about knitting for several years without taking a breath.
What did surprise me though, was that my fellow knitter had understood that to cable without a needle you would have to knit the floating stitches as they float. I can see why people wouldn’t get on with that. Just rearranging your stitches on the needle before you knit them seems kind of tame in comparison. Maybe it’s time to develop a technique where you do knit floating stitches. Maybe the whole of a wrong side could be floating. Or if you have to rip some back instead of picking up the stitches again you just knit them as they float there. I have a suspicion this might end up in a similar tangle to the one I got into when I wanted to see whether you can knit straight from a skein without winding it into a ball. Turns out you can’t…

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