Monday, December 18, 2006

Sock it to them.

The Kelso jacket is complete, after several reknits of sleeve ends, collar and button bands. I can't decide if it will become a wearable item as the fabric is stiff rather than cosy. In some lights it looks colourful, and in others very dull.

Also complete now is a pair of socks from sockyarn sent to me as part of a prize by Wendy of Wendy Knits. I knitted four cat blankets and was entered in the draw. This sock yarn has crossed the Atlantic twice, which is more than I have.

Just started are socks in the lovely Vintage Floral colourway from Pieces of Beauty. I've done a picot edge and am trying an eyelet flower pattern on them. I'm also using dpns, something I said I'd never do again. I'm trying just four this time instead of five and I think I'm getting the hang of it at last.

At the weekend, a trip to Sudbury: cones of wonderful silk thread at 50p a cone. I just need to work out how to ply it up to a usable yarn. And then, cones of knitting yarn for charity knitting at 75p a cone. How could I resist?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Finished objects

So long since I last updated. The Print of the Wave stole is complete - as I predicted, it became a rather tedious knit over the final two foot or so. Then there was the mystery of how to complete the final corners and border.

At last I reached blocking, often the moment of revelation with lace. It went well, although perhaps the weight of the yarn prevented it being as elastic as a laceweight might have been. Now, of course, I can't decide if it looks like a bedjacket or a thing of beauty.

Since then, I've knitted five hats for the Dulaan appeal and three in plain Aran for the Cancer Research fair. I've knitted five little reindeer inserts for cards and two pairs of thrummed mittens, just to experiment with using raw fleece.

I'm almost finished knitting up the blue tweed yarn I bought at Ally Pally. It's "my own design" in that I have no pattern, but it is really just make it up as you go along: a plain cardigan with moss stitch borders and collar.
I was determined not to put the yarn in the back of the cupboard because it may never have seen the light of day again. It's a tad scratchy.

Next project? Could it be finishing the taupe jumper? Or shall I experiment with mittens in tapestry yarn?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Print of the Wave

Making good progress now on a stole using a pattern from Gladys Amedro's book on Shetland Lace. As usual I don't have the right yarn, but a cone of what purports to be llama, bought in a charity shop for two pounds has suddenly found its purpose in life.
I had always wanted to try knitting on a lace border and just didn't realise how easy it would be once the pattern was set. Now I just have to keep going for the required 60 inches.

Holidaying in Central France recently we came across an antique fair where I was able to buy a lovely knitted lace doiley for three euros. If that had been antique bobbin lace it would have been many times that amount, but knitting? No one but me wanted it. That region of France has a long history of wool production, but the only knitted garments on sale were a sort of basic Aran sweater in a speckled beige wool. Sheep there are now kept for their milk which can be made into cheese. Some appear to be kept intensively in barns for this purpose. But wool was nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Aye, it were a reet good do. The crack were grand and as for t'la'al hoggs, well, Ah've niver seen sae menny in yan place like.

The money that was changing hands! And when you think that farmers are paid £1.50 per fleece by the Wool Board, then a little more dependent on the market. That's per fleece! In 2000 we were amazed to hear of wool being dumped in the sea in Shetland, and we saw some being burnt in a quarry in Cumbria.

The Fest itself was a sensory delight: so many colours and lovely textures. In a way it was less amazing than last year just because of the repetition. But to see so many enthusiasts under one roof was a joy.

What did I buy? One back issue of Interweave Knits, and two beautiful glass buttons, iridescent, with metallic dragonflies. Just lovely. Then we went off up Fleetwith Pike and breathed the sweet mountain air just as the football was starting.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Knitting in groups

On monday to my local knitting group. Knitting being a process I associate with long evenings in front of the telly, the whole idea of a taking my knitting to a group was alien. However, I needn't have been concerned as it was a real treat to be in a room full of people for whom "knitting" is not a synonym for "tedious activity only done by those incapable of more active pursuits".

The range of projects in progress was very wide and the group newly formed. It will be interesting to see how it develops once the aim is to acquire new skills.

I'm making good progress now on my WIP. It's just that taupe is not a very stimulating colour.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Finished object.

At last I have a finished project, started and finished after my hand surgery.

I bought two balls of Jaeger silk, in a light turquoise, on e-bay, largely on the strngth of seeing Wendy knit a top in the same yarn. It's quite a heavy yarn without much lustre, but the thought that it was 11.50 per ball originally does create a sense of luxury.

I've knitted a scarf in travelling vine pattern and,although it is heavy for a summer scarf, the colour is light and summery. More than that, of course, is the relief of being able to knit at all.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Stash yarns

It never ceases to amaze me to see what other people will admit to having in their stashes. Hundreds of pounds worth of big name silk, baby goat, Japanese imports....

I was brought up to thrift, and fatally acquired jumble sale syndrome when I was 14. I started grammar school just as my older sister left it, so I was able to inherit her gymslip. I'd like to see the 12 year old nowadays who would wear something which had been worn daily by someone else for four years before they got it. However, that never occurred to me. What rankled was that, in the last year of junior school my brother had been bought a bottle green gaberdine raincoat. But boys at the grammar wore navy-blue, a fact that had eluded my parents. So this same raincoat was passed on to me. It was a boys' coat, straight and fastening the other way. I wore it for three years.

When I was 14, at a jumble sale, I lighted on a Robert Hirst school coat: bottle-green, belted and with a purse on a chain still in the pocket. It was half a crown. That is twelve and a half pence in today's money, but then it was the price of two visits to the local cinema - so I guess that's at least ten pounds in today's money. I had it cleaned and wore it every day until I left school at eighteen. Eeee, it was a different world.

But, my point is this: I always value things more highly if they have been bought as a spectacular bargain, in a charity shop or at a boot fair.

Greatest bargain to date? A sealed pack of Rowan Cork and one of Kidsilk Haze, along with the issue of Rowan magazine which had inspired their purchase, in an Oxfam shop in Penrith for ten pounds the lot.

What's your biggest bargain been?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Picture Knits

Some of my most enjoyable projects have been intarsia picture knits, I don't quite know why... Could be the incentive to keep knitting as the picture emerges, or the simplicity of the stocking stitch back and sleeves - so quick to knit up.
Most memorable - A navy sweater with a pink pig face on the front and the pig bottom with curly tail on the back, for my nephew then aged about six. Caused a sensation in the dinner queue, I was told. But then my sister was asked to embroider on some black tusks, as being called Miss Piggy didn't go down too well.

A sweater with a sheepdog, customised with the name "Mist", which was the name of their dog.

A dark green sweater with a big red tractor, like the one they had, again for my nephew, aged about eight. Then it occurred to me how an adult version for his dad would be fun, so I knitted in their names as well. Pattern was in the "Farmers' Guardian" as I recall.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Who knew?

So who knew that the very moment I start a knitting blog is also the moment my knitting career was doomed to end? (Or perhaps not, if you're an optimist, which I'm not)

I find myself suffering from a condition known as trigger thumb, which gives me limited grip with my right thumb and, at times, extreme pain and immobility. You know, you use that thumb for all sorts of things: gripping, turning keys, writing... But I only have to reach into my bag for something and it feels as if I've been bitten.

So, of course knitting, at least the way I've always done it is not recommended. I grip and release the yarn between my finger and thumb. Not any more though. Surgery is scheduled to release the nodule on the tendon, then we'll see.

Not a lot of progress on my work in progress meanwhile.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Alice Starmore

I came late to Alice Starmore, though I'd had her Celtic Knitting book out of the library many times, just to enjoy the colours and landscapes. Then I was in a yarn shop called Silkstones in Cockermouth - now, alas, defunct. There was a pamphlet called "A Scottish Garland" which I had to have, even though it cost £6.95. Who knew that this same booklet would be going for 77 dollars on e-bay? I should have bought six.

In fact, I've only knitted Arans from her "Fisherman's Sweaters" and "Sweaters for Men" books, because I'm basically a two needle knitter and have never ventured into the territory of the steek, though it seems straightforward enough when explained by Wendy et al.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Kaffe Fassett

It's the late 80's. "Glorious Knitting" is a dream of a book, with photography to drool over. I knit the Toothed stripe waistcoat in many shades of blue for my sister and then in browns for my mother. In fact I don't need to buy much wool for these because 2Ply jumper weight seems to breed by itself, and these projects use very small amounts of each colour.

Then I am in a woolshop having a sale and scoop up 20 balls of chunky wools in pale colours for £8. This gives me the basis for a Tumbling blocks jacket, inspired by a tiled floor in Pompeii. This becomes my all-time favourite jacket; in fact, I'm wearing it as I type this.

Later, I collect enough dark, sparkly yarns to make an evening version. This is what I wore to visit the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the V&A in 1988. To be walking around an exhibition of fabulous sweaters is an aesthetic experience - but to be also wearing one yourself was something else. One of the highlights of my knitting career.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Sasha Kagan Experience

It's the early 80s suddenly. I go intoLondon and am totally blown away by the sweaters in the Sasha Kagan Sweater book. At one time I had a flatmate who was into Patricia Roberts but I never liked that sculptural look with the bunches of grapes and so on. But Sasha Kagan! Such great colour combinations, such clever designs. Then, she had a wider range than the floral motifs one sees from her now. And almost all of it in 2-ply jumper weight from Jamieson and Smith in Lerwick. For some reason their yarn remained ridiculously cheap for a very long time, and discovering them was a revelation.. Their shade card was - and still is - a thing of beauty.

I knitted a little waistcoat with running dachshunds on it, now gifted to the Knitting and Crochet Guild collection. I knitted a cardigan called Ribbons twice, once for my sister and once for my friend. The yarn for these came from Art Needle Industries in Oxford, now long gone. Then my friend saw the white cardigan with the pansies running across it. Such a satisfying and luxurious project since it had stocking stitch bands of silver lurex and white mohair running across it.

The Sacha Kagan Experience

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Novelty Yarns

On my last two visits to wool shops I've been amazed by women drooling over some of the novelty yarns on sale and sharing with all and sundry how many scarves of each they had already knit. Handknitting is strange in the way that it periodically becomes a craze. Usually this spawns a crop of garter stitch items in simple shapes. Novice knitters manage these, but it doesn't mean that they will move on to the long haul of the actual craft. Novelty yarns almost guarantee this, because elaborate stich patterns are lost on them, colour and texture being everything.

Personally, I find there's no pleasure in these yarns because the texture prevents the stitches running easily on the needle to create a rhythmic flow.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The boyfriend jumper

In my early twenties I had a boyfriend with very eccentric tastes in clothing. He would appear in a luridly striped blazer, a straw boater and co-respondent shoes - in fact, he had no normal clothes. We spent some time browsing in a wonderful shop called The Scottish Merchant" where he bought a complex, authentic Fair Isle pullover for £11. Now, that's nothing of course, but then it was two weeks wages.
Since I could knit, I bought a pattern and cast on. It was asleeveless pullover in grey and blue stripes and I'd got quite a lot knit when he remarked that he couldn't see himself wearing it. That may have been the moment that I realised it was a doomed relationship.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Wearable Woollies

I did make two items in my teens which became favourite items. The first was advertised as knittable in six hours, because it was on huge needles using six strands of DK at a time. I took a bit longer than that but it was still wonderfully quick to knit. The fabric produced was very loose with a tendency to sag, but I solved this by always wearing it with a long sleeved black t-shirt under it. I think it was, from the start, a home jumper - it already looked well-worn.

In my early teens no fashion dreamt up by Mary Quant and as worn by Twiggy was too extreme for me, although I was never built like Twiggy myself. Yet it was still possible then for girls to dress in tweeds - knee-length skirt, blouse and jumper. Variations of this can clearly be seen on the more studious of the girls on my freshers photo. Very frumpy it looked, even then. I made two sensible tweed skirts, and then I knitted a simple jumper in beige stocking stitch. The fact that it was in Jaeger Celtic Spun, bought in a sale, gave it a timeless quality which I just loved even when it was wearing thin. And just last week there was some Celtic Spun on e-bay. I was sorely tempted.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Fashion Victim

The poncho! Believe me it was no more convincing as a garment the first time round. Somehow I decided that dark brown, lemon and turquoise stripes would be an exotic choice for a poncho. I certainly never saw another like it, and I did in fact wear it once, at a rather dismal party. It was knit in a loose slipped stitch so it was easy to unravel.

Then there was the Pinguoin Classique Crylor dress, as advertised in the "Mirror". The idea was to knit a sleeveless top and then crochet a skirt on to the hem. I bought the peach colourway, my friend a deep wine colour. Both needed an underdress of lining material to make them decent. I recall another party, more lively than the first, at which the unravelling potential of crochet became apparent.

I notice that the Knitting and Crochet Guild have a black and silver version in their collection - a sight more sophisticated than peach.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Unwearable Ambition.

During my teenage years, I made many, many things to wear. Some of them must have looked surprising on the remote Cumbrian farm where I was brought up, but I had learned to sew and my ambition soon outstripped the dressmaking skills of my poor mother who acted as technical consultant. In fact, my friend Janice and I, inspired as always by the fortnightly adaptations shown in "Petticoat" for its basic pattern, churned out a garment every week.

Knitting, however, was another matter. It took so long for a start, and it was impossible to alter once it had been constructed, unlike sewn items. Still this didn't stop me knitting a neat little jumper in turquoise nylon four-ply. In moss-stitch, with a square insert at the neck knitted horizontally so as to allow pintucks to be included, it was a challenging knit. So neat it looked in, I believe, "Woman's Weekly", so dainty. "Neat" and "dainty" not words that really describe my own style.

Next up was an Aran sweater, again an ambitious choice. Who knew that blackberry stitch had such apronounced bias pull to it, so that the neckline was pulled completely out of shape? It was also a close fit, not a good feature in an Aran. But I learned a lot from these failed projects, more than from any garter stitch scarf in a big yarn.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Knitting Fashion

Ah, that perfect moment when you have the pattern, the right yarn at the right price, in a colour and texture so lovely you could eat it, and the leisure to cast on right now, row after mesmeric row. Whereas the reality so often is, you pay a fortune for a yarn which is close, but not close enough, to what you had in mind, or, worse, you spot a heap of yarn so cheap you can't pass it up but it's not quite enough for a jumper and far too much for a scarf.

Aged 13, I experienced the perfect moment in knitting my first actual garment. Note the absence of any mention of the pleasure to be derived from finishing, or - my goodness - actually wearing the item. That was some years down the line for me.

I was on holiday with a friend's family on the Isle of Wight when we both decided that sunbathing on the beach was not going to be our thing, hit the yarn shops and I cast on for a top with cutaway shoulders and a huge roll collar, in white with coffee stripes, the collar in coffee too. Doubtless we had seen something along these lines in "Petticoat" or "Honey", which were our style bibles at the time. Curiously, I don't recall ever wearing it, but the satisfaction of casting it on is something I will remember always.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Knitting History 1

January 23rd 2006
I don't remember learning to knit, but I do know what the first thing I knit was: a kettle holder in a thick maroon wool which must have been ravelled back from an earlier item. My brother and I learned at the same time and entered into a race to finish. His problem was that he kept knitting two together without meaning to, so the width of the piece narrowed as he went on. We definitely called these pieces "kettle holders", no doubt because we did in fact still boil the kettle on the open hearth, so they were functional items.
Much less fun was my second attempt: a single mitt in pale lemon three-ply wool, knitted in my junior class over the course of a long winter, possibly one afternoon a week. They really knew something about pace and objectives in those days. By the end of the winter that mitt was a very grim colour indeed, but at least I didn't have to do the matching pair.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

January 22nd
Don't you just love Sunday afternoons - so much precious time ruined by lurking guilt - that essay still unwritten, those files unread. How many projects have been started, how many walks undertaken, just to avoid actually getting down to work when there seemed to be an option.
I've been planning a blog for some time: I'm a committed reader of knitblogs from both sides of the Atlantic. Now it comes to it, what have I to say? Especially as I've just cast on for a rather dull jumper for my husband in a fetching shade called taupe. This so I will have "something to knit on" as Elizabeth Zimmerman has it, in the late evenings when I'm not up to concentrating on that Kidsilk Haze scarf from Knitters. It's not sleep that knits up the ravel'd sleave of care, but knitting, at least for me.