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.