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.