Knitting a hug

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I have been knitting for so long I cannot actually remember when I learned to knit. It just happened. My mother could knit and then so could I. There have been “times of no knitting” – I found it very difficult to do any crafts after my father died, probably because in the last few months before his death I used to sit and stitch beside his bed whilst he slept. But I have also found that crafts have brought me solace when times have been tough, such as when I discovered I had inherited my family’s rubbish heart genes. Knitting – and all crafts – still bring me much joy and peace but recently I have been discovering the power of my craft upon the lives of others.

Two of my friends have recently celebrated the arrival of baby daughters and I decided to knit something for each child. Miranda’s parents chose the pattern I eventually made for their daughter, Miranda, from an old Pingouin baby knits magazine I bought back in the 1980s. OK – I haven’t actually had a baby in my own family since 1991 but you never know when these things are going to come in handy – or that is what I tell the Old Man. The truth is that I am a Maximalist – the oppositie of Minimalist – and I don’t like parting with old knitting patterns, but I don’t tell him that. Anyway, back to Miranda: my friends chose a dress pattern (from Sporty Layette in magazine issue 54 for those who care about such things), but asked that I made it in something other than pink.

pingouin-dress-2miranda-in-pingouin-dress-yoke

I used Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK, which gave a nice thick, warm fabric, perfect for winter.

My other friend was given a couple of skeins of wool to look at and he and his wife chose the colour they liked best – the yarn is Rowan Fine Art yarn –  but I chose the pattern (Little Oak by Alana Dakos). Then, in between starting the cardigan and finishing it, Baby Isla fell ill and has now been diagnosed with Angelman syndrome.

isla-and-cardigan

I look at this picture and it makes me want to cry but Isla’s parents were so grateful for this cardigan. They just loved having something beautiful and practical that they could put on their baby. Apparently the seamless construction also helps. I know nothing can take away the pain that Isla’s diagnosis has brought but I also know that this is probably the most important thing I have ever made. It didn’t start out that way; it was a gift for some friends with a new baby when I first picked up my needles, but this cardigan has now become a sort of knitted hug; an expression of love and solidarity.

Don’t get me wrong. Miranda’s parents are absolutely overjoyed that I made the dress and that gift was important too. But this little cardigan says so much more than just “Congratulations on your new baby”.So , currently on my needles: another Sporty Layette dress – in pink – for little Isla….You can’t have too many knitted hugs.

 

Yarn – sharing the love for 700 years

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it is 700 years today since Tring became a Market Town (charter granted 1315) and we’re celebrating for the entire week. Today there will be a service in the local church, followed by a barbeque and a beacon will be lit on top of the church tower. Apparently there are also some fireworks but the blurb says it is a small firework display, so I’m not getting over-excited at the prospect.

There has, however, been a major transformation of the town centre and there are loads of happy people wandering around – because yarn makes people happy and today the centre of Tring is covered in knitting. So, pictures to follow – including one of my own paltry effort (a few poppies – now firmly attached to the church gate).

Poppies - pre gate

Poppies – pre gate

And on the gate

And on the gate

Is it bird, is it a plane - no it's a park bench disguised as Elmer

Is it bird, is it a plane – no it’s a park bench disguised as Elmer

This is normally a fairly ordinary bus stop

This is normally a fairly ordinary bus stop

Yarn bombing – share the wooly love,,,

Sheer Decadence

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I have been playing around knitting odds and ends since the beginning of the year and haven’t really settled down to a “project” but I have recently started to knit “Lush” by Tin Can Knits.

This is a cardigan, knitted (largely) top down and (again largely) in one piece – so no sewing up (woo hoo). I say (type??) largely because there is a lace panel which forms part of the yoke and that is made first and then the rest of the cardigan is knitted above and below this. It’s all very sweet and the fact that large parts of the cardigan are knitted in stocking stitch make it pretty quick to complete (famous last words – I have the sleeves to go and as they are only 3/4 length they should make up fairly rapidly but some of my knitting has been known t go into hibernation from time to time so I had better not count my chickens, or buttons, or stitch markers, or whatever it is that knitters count before they hatch).

Lush cardigan - WIP

Anyway, the decadence bit is the yarn. I bought a hand-dyed wool / silk DK at Fibre East in the summer and I am using that for this particular project and it is making me feel seriously good. It isn’t just that the yarn feels nice when I knit with it, although it does, it really does! But I also get a serious injection of happiness just looking at the fabric as I knit it. The colour almost sings, it is so beautiful. It’s called bluebell and, being hand-dyed, the colour meanders through a variety of soft shades, all closely related but still different enough to give the impression of bluebells just as they are passing from their prime; a soft, grey / blue / purple blur, almost as if the yarn had been rainwashed.

The real deal

The real deal

It wasn’t cheap but I don’t care. I dribble happily just looking at this cardigan and I am going to be absolutely unbearable whenever I wear it.

I can hardly wait…

This is the year I will…

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1) Get my Christmas Knitting completed in plenty of time – unlike 2014 when I finished sewing buttons onto the cardigans I had made for Katy and Emily at 23.15 on Christmas Eve (they were even in the room but fortunately did not notice a thing). Furthermore I didn’t manage to finish Rosie’s beret until Boxing Day (which was OK as she didn’t come to see us until 27 December but it was cutting it a bit fine).

2) Destash – got to get the stash under control. This includes the Tokyo Rose kit I have had since I don’t know when (literally – I really, really don’t know when I bought it).

3) Knit gauge squares…maybe. (NB This particular resolution is likely to be broken fairly quickly.)

4) Post details and pictures of ALL of my FO on Ravelry – which I just don’t normally bother to do (the Christmas cardigans and hat, for example, have yet to make it onto Ravelry). This does mean that the socks I have recently finished (peach John Arbon Exmoor wool, lace pattern) will need to be washed (again) and photographed because I put them on a couple of days ago… Well, it was cold and I hate having cold feet.

5) Go to more yarny events – although this may lead to a slight lapse in my ability to complete resolution No. 2 successfully. (Hell, you win some, you lose some…)

Christmas Knitting

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I haven’t updated the blog for several weeks now. Kept meaning to do so but you know what it’s like…

Anyway, now is the Time of Great Panic when I have stuff to finish for Christmas and probably not enough time left to do so. So (philosophical question coming) is it better to have aimed way too high and not quite succeeded or played it way to safe? Not that playing it safe is an option in Woody World. It just doesn’t happen. Jump straight in with both feet and work about finding the bottom later, that’s me. It’s just that I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be super organised.

Every year I swear that I will write the Christmas cards early…and every year I end up queuing at the Post Office on the last day of posting (guess what I did yesterday). Every year I promise myself I will wrap the Christmas presents in good time, as opposed to Christmas Eve (it’s not Christmas Eve yet, I’ve got bags of time). And every year I plan to knit far more stuff than is humanly possible (so many fantastic patterns, so little time). So when does cheerful optimism become delusional?

And as for those people who manage to knit things like snowmen…

Snowmen

How do they have the time? I love it. It makes me smile. But how do they fit it all in???

I passed Birkbeck College in Central London last week. Someone had covered the spikes on the railings outside one of the buildings in Gordon Square in little hand-made Christmas hats. Fabulous. Made me very happy. I am so glad they did this because it brought a smile to my face.

Yarn bombing - Birkbeck Yarn bombing 2

But it still begs the question: how did somebody find the time to knit hats for railings? I have a hat to knit for Christmas – just one – and I’m struggling.

And finally, on the subject of yarn bombing, a photo from our trip to Greece on the motorbike at Easter. We saw this in Switzerland at the Rheinfall. IMGP0209

It is actually supposed to be a an art installation. Personally I think every home should have one. And it’s a seriously good way to disguise the size of your stash. (No darling, it isn’t yet more wool; it’s for the garden.)

 

 

Inspiration

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There has to be a knitting Muse. I am not quite sure what she is called: there are a number of options. For example, there is a Greek Goddess, Clotho, who specialised in spinning and weaving. There are also medieval images of the Virgin Mary with knitting needles. Whatever – I need the Muse right now.

I don’t normally do a lor of designing but I have this design going round in my head. Last year I bought some wool from Brackenside Farm in Northumberland. We go there every year so the sheep that provided the yarn are, if not close friends, then at least of my acquaintance. I also rather liked the thought of knitting a garment in yarn from a Cheviot cross sheep which was born and raised within view of Cheviot, which lies to the west of the farm.

Brackenside sheep

Brackenside sheep

Anyway, this has led to the current bout of inspiration because, if you look east instead of west from Brackenside Farm there is a pretty good view on the North Sea. The farm is really close to Holy Island (which translates as Lindisfarne for those who don’t know any better). In fact, the cattle from the farm are taken to graze on the island from time to time. So the design had to be called Holy Island and it is going to be a cabled wonder.

Don’t argue. It just had to be. One glance at the sinuous beauty of the Lindisfarne Gospels and the justification for cables is complete. But there are also the upturned boats which have been transformed into huts down by the harbour and the snaking ripples of sand revealed when the tide goes out and the island joins the mainland for a few brief hours each day. The cables are therefore a given. I know what they look like and I know where they are going on the garment.

The real problem has been the shape of the jacket, which wasn’t even a jacket when I started out. It started life (in my imagination, of course) as a shawl-collared jumper with long sleeves but has somehow gradually been transformed into a short, swingy jacket with a fitted bodice. This thing has a life of its own. I convince myself I have everything settled but then I see something and the design alters. Right now I am waiting for the Knitting Muse to let me know what sort of collar is approriate. I thought Peter Pan (ish), but I could well be wrong. I think the sleeve are mid-length – sort of down to the elbow – but are they wide or fitted? And just when I was fixated on collars and sleeves – and had written half a bog post on the subject – another idea nudged itself to the front of my brain…

Do I really REALLY need to incoroporate a horizontal pleat of stocking stitch at bodice level to give the illusion of braid??? She has to let me know.

The problem is, I know the Greeks didn’t have much to do with Holy Island, which may be making the life of my Greek Muse a tad difficult. Then again, the links between Cheviot sheep and Nazareth don’t seem to be all that obvious either. And neither Greece nor Israel enjoy the balmy climate of North East England, so maybe the Muse is having a few problems sorting the inspiration thing out.

What is it with these gloves?

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Why is it that some things are just determined not to be made? I refer at the current time to a pair of beaded gloves I am endeavouring to knit – for charity I might add (in fact I did add). But I could also be making reference to one particular sleeve of my prized steeky cardigan, which caused me much pain and grief and required more than one attempt before it was right.

Returning to the gloves in question. I have made at least five pairs of gloves using this particular pattern. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing. But the current pair are seemingly determined to go wrong at every opportunity. I drop stitches, get bits of the pattern wrong – and now, just as I have almost finished, I have run out of beads. So, instead of finishing tonight, I’m going to have to troll down to Covent Garden and Beadworks tomorrow to get some more beads. And that is going to be difficult – there are so many lovely shiny things at Beadworks and in Covent Garden in general, so it is always tricky getting in and out without serious damage to my bank account.

One and a half fingerless gloves

One and a half fingerless gloves

There are some items which just fight against their own existence. I have a cotton dolman sleeve jumper which is almost finished – and has been for about 30 years. It’s not that I don’t like it or intend to finish it one day. It’s just that whenever I do summon up the courage to take up the challenge once again the bloody thing goes wrong – AGAIN (and again, and again).

What’s a knitter to do??? Especially when there are so many other projects screaming for attention, all of which promise to be good and knit up without fuss or drama?