Tag Archives: Knitting

Quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep…

It is a constant dilemma. Not how much to do housework. For me there’s only one answer to that: only as much as is absolutely necessary. More, how much to devote my time solely to the entertainment of my children. At four and one, they would be played with and read to the whole day. There’s a big part of me that would like to spend four out of five days doing that. The bit that loves that precious time, and knows how quickly they grow up and how soon they won’t want me to play with them or read to them. Thing is, what I do with them isn’t about what I need. It’s about what they need. And they don’t need to be entertained all hours of the day. What they need is good quality time with me every day, and good quality time with themselves and each other every day. Time to play and to occupy themselves. Time to learn and explore independently and without adult direction so they really can find things out for themselves.

That is how I first discovered my love for knitting. There is something special about mornings and about knitting. I discovered that on pyjama mornings (the kind where you don’t get dressed until lunchtime because you’re not going anywhere and can do whatever you like)Red loves to play, with me sitting in the room with him. I don’t have to be playing with him, he can get on with his game as long as I sit with him, knitting. Then his game is creative and develops into a great adventure. I can dip in and out of his adventure as he allows me to without it becoming my adventure. I get to come along for the ride. That is really special.

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There’s some other things I want to teach them too though. That it is good to be industrious. That relaxation time doesn’t have to mean sitting in front of the television. That it’s worth learning new things even if they are hard at first and when not everyone always expresses an appreciation for what you are doing. That you can keep learning your whole life, maybe more after you leave school than while you’re still there and tied down by homework. Sometimes Red gets his yarn and a needle (he believes he has discovered a new one needle knitting technique, and maybe he has…) and sits by me and we both sit and knit. Often one or other of them come and sit by me at the spinning wheel and hold some roving or spin the wheel for me. They are really precious times when that happens and I hope there will be long term benefits for them. I hope they can see that grown ups still play and still learn just like children, and that it’s really fun to do that together.


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I think this is the answer to my dilemma. That making isn’t a solo activity that I get on with while they do something else. It’s something to do with them there, joining in as they are able to. Learning and working together. Now that is something precious.

 

 

Curious Creature

It has become a curious creature. A slightly alarming one that I will no doubt come to love during the comfortable hours of car journeys ahead. Not that we are planning any long trips. The car cushion is complete. The rational part of my brain informs me that it is quite an unusual item. Not the sort of thing to share beyond close friends. Not really something to be proud of. I can see the faces as I present my cushion and people wonder whether it’s a joke or just a bit of practice for when the kids come home with some mangled bit of tissue paper looking for admiration.

And yet despite all this, my heart is absurdly pleased with this peculiar beast. Right through the bit where I shoved in the pillow I had planned on throwing away and held the seams together to stitch it up. Clearly the pillow is quite a bit bigger than the case, but you know, the stretch shows the pattern. My own design. Completely simple and uninspiring and yet I am delighted. No, I really am!

I think I am so pleased because this pillow speaks to the success of my spinning adventure. The red and brown at the end (I know, the colours don’t exactly go..) is the very first yarn I span. There it is, in all it’s knobbly bobbly glory, used for a real thing. Then there’s the two tone yarn, again, an unusual choice, but a lot smoother than the first red and brown I produced.

And now check this out… From a car cushion to my next lot of hand spun yarn making a not too knobbly bobbly top. It even has back shaping now. If there aren’t any devastating disasters this might just turn out really well!

So car cushion, when I sit in comfort with you in the car I shall remember this journey. You were the first step…

A house like Jack’s

This is the roving….

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…that became a single…

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that became a skein…

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…and then a ball…

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…and then a swatch (lesson learned)….

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…and the beginning of a jumper of my own design!

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Quite quickly I realised that I’m probably not going to have enough yarn. I’ve decided to spin up some more of the cream merino roving I bought at Wonder Wool and give my jumper some stripes. I’ve also got a plan that probably my jumper is actually going to be a body warmer/tank top/vest kind of thing as I think the alternative is probably to have cream sleeves which definitely wouldn’t work for me. I’m much too messy. I’m quite happy about that though as that is the kind of thing I would like to have in my wardrobe and which I don’t have at the moment.

The merino is going to be quite a different texture to the Blue Faced Leicester / baby camel but I think that will work out. I’ve decided to do stripes of two rows thick. Partly because I like the look of thin stripes, and also it means I don’t have to count rows which also appeals to me. That has been something fun with doing my own design. It’s really simple, and it’s nice to be free of a pattern. I can just knit away, figure out what I want to do when, and do it. I’m knitting in the round, also partly because then I don’t have to make notes of what I’m doing to get the front and back to match. I’m going to divide at the sleeves and work the front and back separately from there but as the front and back will be different from one another I still shouldn’t need to be troubled about making lots of notes.

I’m knitting the top on 2.5mm needles, which explains why I’m going to be short on yarn. A lot of yarn gets used up with such small needles but I have been increasingly coming to that view that you get a better finish if you use small needles. Sometimes you want a chunkier look, but not me today.

Alas! Alackaday! Woe is me!

I’m trying to keep things light hearted with that title. It’s only knitting after all. But HOOOOWWWL! My beautiful Dark and Stormy cardigan is beautiful no longer. It is about the right size for a child of about two. Fortunately I will have one of those within the next six months (Myrtle is currently approaching 18 months old).

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After I finish a knitted piece I block it. Always by giving it a soak in some lovely smelling stuff called Soak, unless the yarn advises otherwise. The yarn did not advise otherwise. It said it was suitable for hand washing. I wouldn’t have bought it if not. I always feel aware that when you knit the yarn passes through your hands, rolls around on the floor a bit, gets handled by small children, sits in my bag for a while. I try to be clean about it, but if someone offers me a chocolate whilst I’m knitting I’m neither going to say no, nor am I going to get straight up to go and wash my hands. It seems like a nice clean thing to do, to give it a good wash. And I noticed how much it helps. It straightens everything out, makes it hang better, gives you nice sharp edges if you pin it out. It really makes a difference.

Except when it makes all the wrong kind of difference. After the wash, Dark and Stormy was everything I hate about the wrong kind of hand knitted garment. Didn’t fit really at all, all misshapen, hanging odd and looking worse. Everything that justifies the position that says ‘isn’t it better just to buy a jumper from a shop’. I don’t think it is better to buy one, but I also don’t think it works to wear something that is all wonky and looks awful.

I felt things were fairly dire at this point. There wasn’t a lot to salvage. I’m not anything like skilled enough to be able to steek and remove yards of fabric from the right places, which is to say, most places on the cardigan and even if I gave it to an enormous person (I don’t know any big enough) it would still be really wonky and dreadful and they might feel obliged to wear it.

I had a go at giving it a wash in the sink with warm water, then hot water. Nothing happened. So I just shoved it in the washing machine on quite hot. I had asked for advice in a ravelry group and basically was getting the impression there really isn’t much you can do with any success and also that this is happening to other people with this yarn. That is really, really annoying. It’s lovely yarn. It’s mislabelled. They should fix that. And I should swatch.

I’ve learned some things from this.

1) Swatch. It’s not a waste of time. It’s how you get to know your yarn so you know what it will do. If I had thought this yarn was not washable I would not be making a cardigan with it because cardigans need to be washed fairly often, especially when you have small children, but also if you are a human which I am.

2) Listen to that really tiny voice that was saying, ‘this will grow in the wash’. Somewhere inside I thought this could happen but the Optimistic Knitter inside me said it would be fine.

3) Sleep on things a bit sometimes. I’m thinking I dived into shoving it into the washing machine I think because the ordeal would be over sooner. If I hadn’t done that, I could have salvaged the yarn. Maybe even one day I would have come back to it and made something else with it. That’s £50 of yarn all squished in to a tiny jacket that I’m pretty sure Myrtle will hate. Ok so right now I never want to see that yarn again but I could have gifted it..

4) I’ve wondered a bit whether I’m actually just a terrible knitter who should try a new hobby. I have had a few disasters. But not that many and I’ve had some good successes so I’m sticking to it, in
the belief that you shouldn’t let one time of getting knocked down put you out of action forever.

5) I was right, I’m not a process knitter. Just because I’ve been able to find a few things I’ve learned (there are probably more..) I’m not sure it was worth it. I want a beautiful cardigan!

Well, on a more positive note, my dream of hand spun, maybe own design beautiful cardigan is moving forwards. I’m half way through plying my first two singles and I’m really excited by the yarn that’s coming out! I’m hoping that while I plan my design the painful memory of Dark and Stormy will fade. Maybe one day I’ll even find it funny…

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My best of Wonderwool

At Wonderwool there were hundred of thousands of beautiful yarns and fibre related products to wipe out our bank balance on. Fortunately I didn’t buy enough to wipe out the bank balance so the things I chose were all carefully considered and so, I think, worth writing about.

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I didn’t buy anything until about 2pm having arrived around 11.30am. I wanted to buy circumspectly and to adore the things I chose and I’m feeling like that was a great philosophy to go with. I definitely worked for me. I didn’t buy loads, mainly because my stash is fairly full, and fairly full of some really nice stuff that I want to use within the next year. And also because the spinning wheel has been on the horizon for a while and I knew that that would detract from my knitting time and also that I would need to waste some fibre getting the hang of it. I’m expecting lots of over twisted squiggly stuff that probably won’t ever get knit with. And the first thing I bought when we got buying at Wonderwool was a spinning wheel.

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I bought it from Ann Fisher Rhodes. I had already figured out by reading blogs and forums that I wanted to get a wheel with a double treadle and had identified Kromski as a make that gets talked about for both it’s quality and it’s good value. My husband and I had talked about it quite a bit and felt that we didn’t want to go for something cheap if it compromised on how nice it was to use or how long it would last, but we also didn’t want to pay for a name or to assume that the most expensive available is the best. I hunted through the list of stall holders on the Wonderwool website and found Ann and emailed her. When she was so helpful in her response and on the day, I felt like this was a great place to purchase my wheel.

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Having made such a big purchase I was quite aware of not getting tempted by every stall carrying yarn. Quite quickly though there was a stall that really stood out for me. The yarns were really lustrous, beautiful colours. Vibrancy and brilliance shone out from every strand of yarn with some gorgeous colours. And small dye lots. This really looked like yarn that had been loved in creation and it was back to this stall that I headed once I had had a good look round. The yarn is from Juno Fibre Arts and I chose a fingering weight had dyed yarn, 50% silk 50% merino wool.
On making my purchase the feel I had about the stall was reinforced. The lady selling the yarn seemed so pleased that I liked it so much and had chosen to buy it. I don’t know, but I suspect she was the dyer. As you can imagine I was fairly effusive about the whole thing which made her beam which made me beam too. That thing again, of noticing the bit of soul inside..

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I made one other purchase (see, I really was restrained!) at a fibre stall that Sam the Inspiration recommended to me. I wanted to buy a reasonable quantity of a couple of different types of fibre to begin spinning with. I didn’t want anything too special as I’m aware that the fate of at least some of this will be to become tangle but I also wanted something that I would enjoy working with. And something fairly flexible. Which is to say, undyed so that I can ply it together in various combinations, do some experimenting without feeling that I’m going to get something at the end that I wouldn’t really want to to knit with anyway. Like a mixture of blue and yellow or something. So I bought 400g of white merino wool and two 200g plaits of Shetland. we have yet to see what becomes of it but I’m sure next year at Wonderwool I’ll be heading to various fibre sellers looking for something special to spin. I’ll have got the hang of it by then. I hope…

Loooopy…

Dark and Stormy is coming on well. There was a blip; I didn’t pick up enough stitches for the collar but didn’t realise until I had bound it off and then found it was really wonky when I tried it on. A learning process.. So I did one of the sleeves in the in between and have now picked up what I think will be the right number of stitches to get the collar done. Then one more sleeve and a good wash. In fact, it might be time to hunt out some beautiful buttons. I’m thinking dark wooden ones. Think I’ll be heading over to etsy to have a look.

In doing the sleeve of the cardigan I decided it was time to learn a new knitting technique which I have been wondering about for a while. Time to learn the magic loop. I have usually used double pointed needles for sleeves before which I get on with ok. I’m always slightly aware of the potential for eye gouging particularly with the small people in my house and sometimes have problems with train tracks showing up where the changeover between the needles comes. But my main issue with dpns is having to buy a new set every time I make a jumper or cardigan. Somehow they rarely seem to be a size I’ve used before, or if they are I’ve usually lost a couple of the needles along the way. Not that they are expensive or hard to get hold of. It just seems wasteful and frustrating to have to buy a new set of needles for every project. Also I’d seen a couple of pictures of people using magic loop and even without close inspection it looked pretty straightforward. And so it turned out to be. I watched one tutorial on YouTube and then headed out to my local knitting group, tried it out and knitted a sleeve. No train tracks. No eye gouging. No buying extra needles and then losing them.

The premise is that using a long circular needle you can split the round of stitches you are working with onto the two needles with the cable pulled through between the split. So you work half the stitches and then pull the cable through and work the other half, creating a tube. It’s explained much more clearly in the tutorials on YouTube of which there are several. It’s kind of faffy having to pull the cable through each time but not more than jiggling around on a set of dpns particularly. I also found I quickly got into a rhythm with it, and because you can divide the stitches slightly differently each time there’s no issue with getting looser stitches at the changeover.

Magic loop is one I think I will use again, probably regularly. One of those things that I can’t help feeling I would definitely have invented myself if only it hadn’t been invented already. And if my brain wasn’t gently unwound into a pile of tangled yarn by ‘Wind the bobbin up’ a hundred times a day…

Inspiration

I wanted to write a post about how I got started with knitting and what it has done to my life. That sounds like a grand entry but then this has become quite a big thing for me.

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Sam teaching knitting

I have the usual “my grandmother taught me” line to begin with, although I’m not sure she quite managed it. She taught me to do the knit stitch. But not to purl or to cast on or off. I guess maybe as a seven year old I just wasn’t interested enough. More fool me. I hadn’t really thought that about it much since then until I was pregnant with my son. There were some long, sick months with that and it occurred to me that maybe although I couldn’t get up off the bed, I could perhaps sit in bed and knit. I was wrong. I couldn’t. So I didn’t.

Then when my son was a year old we went to the Cotswolds for a weekend with a group of friends. There was a couple there I hadn’t met before. And on the Saturday evening Sam casually got out of her bag a beautiful book of knitting patterns and a pretty blue hat she was working on. Several of us eyed up what she was doing, flicked through her book, chatted about knitting and the fact that we didn’t, and then carried on with our weekend. I spent quite a bit of time that weekend thinking about Sam’s knitting. I hadn’t seen knitting books like that before. It was a Kim Hargreaves one. And the yarn she was using. That looked nice. And squooshy. I like squooshy. A couple of weeks later I picked up a book and some acrylic yarn and within six months I had completed a strange roll neck sleeveless tank top thing, a shawl and a cardigan. Admittedly the sleeves of the cardigan were several miles too long but I had the bug, and the more I experimented the more I discovered. Things like ravelry, online patterns, knit companion, and beautiful yarn. A whole world of knitting.

And from that point I have never really had problems with feeling down and blue again. And that is what knitting has done for me. I had interests before, things I still enjoy now – playing and listening to music, reading, writing – but not a hobby that was a real passion. I didn’t often feel down and blue but it came up every now and again. Now, if I feel any of that coming on I know to head straight for my needles, which isn’t hard. They are never far away.

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Last week I went to Wonderwool and there I met up with Sam and her lovely husband and beautiful children. We had corresponded quite a bit since the weekend in the Cotswolds but hadn’t actually seen each other. It was fantastic to see her again, talk about our projects and the projects we are dreaming of. I will always be grateful to her and her Kim Hargreaves book for giving me a glimpse of the delight that comes from a gorgeous pattern paired with the perfect yarn.