Steeks – part deux


And now the final part of the steeky story – my beautiful cardigan. I am sooo smug I would be totally unbearable right now if there was anyone even remotely interested in knitting to talk to…however the OG really only does films (preferably mould old was films) and motor bikes.

BLue & white cardigan 2


My family and other crafting animals


I have been reading Piecework, which is an American quarterly magazine. It isn’t the ususal sort of craft magaizine in that, although there are projects to complete, these are inspired by the historical objects which form the subjects of the accompanying articles. It struck me that most of the writers refer to their family – mothers, grandmothers, even the odd grandfather – the people who taught them how to knit, sew and generally inspired them, which then led me to think about my own family and how they have influenced me.

It is also the 100th anniversay of WW1 and I have somehow inherited a number of “war bits”, mainly from my paternal grandmother. Having decided to excavate one of the bedroom cupboards last weekend, I rediscovered a tablecloth she made from the centre of a WW2 parachute. I have no idea whether it is German or British. I just know it is a parachute and she crocheted a lace edging for it. She also said she and the other women in the neighbourhood used the rest of the parachute silk to make underwear.

I can confirm that I do not possess any of my grandma’s knickers.

My grandma used to crochet – mainly lace. Apparently she used to knit too but was told it was bad for her heart (she had angina in the days before really effective drugs, angioplasties, etc.). No, I don’t understand why knitting was deemed to be so dangerous, despite the title of this blog. Grandma never struck me as the sort of person to stab herself with a knitting needle but there you go. She did crochet instead and I have fond memories of wearing lace gloves she had made for me to church on Sundays. (Odd memory that! Who wears gloves to church as a matter of routine now?)

Grandma as a young woman

Grandma as a young woman

My mum was always knitting. She did some dressmaking too; most of our clothes were home made when I was an infant and I remember being particularly proud of a cotton summer dress with blue roses on it which I wore to the church fete when I was about 3 or 4 (I think I was a flower girl to the fete queen). Mum could crochet and tat too; there were a few embroidered objects floating around our home which she had completed years before, but yarn was the main thing and, like me, she preferred stuff to be complicated. She found acres of stocking stitch a total bore.

My mother on her wedding day

My mother on her wedding day

And then there was Mrs Watson. She was not related to me in any way whatsoever but I always regarded her as a sort of surrogate grandmother and I loved her dearly. My sister and I used to go to her house every Saturday morning where, from 10 until 12, we would crochet, sew, knit, talk, drink milky cofee and eat the world’s best home-made scones.

Mrs Watson, or Rhoda to her friends, is the person who taught me most about handicrafts. She was quite old fashioned in her outlook – very proper and a true blue Tory. She always wore boned corsets, which meant that giving her a hug was a strange experience as no one else I knew even had such a thing. My grandmother had certainly abandoned them. I can’t remember hugging Grandma and feeling a sort of chain mail barrier between us.

Mrs Watson died in 1988. She had no grandchildren of her own and her daughter had died from multiple schlerosis a few years earlier, so I don’t suppose there are now many people left who remember her. But I do and this post is my way of remembering her and all who blessed me with the gift of craft.

Steeks – I finally did it!


OK. I admit it. I was not convinced.

I know Elizabeth Zimmerman knew her stuff. I am prepared to say that hundreds of Scottish women can’t be wrong. I just didn’t think I could cope with steeks. They were my own personal Rubicon.

But yesterday I finally made it and cut the steek.

I have been knitting this really pretty blue and white short-sleeved cardigan. I chose the pattern deliberately because it called for steeks and I actually got to the critical stage months ago (I started knitting it around April 2013, just after my heart bypass) – and then I wimped out.

I am not quite sure what I thought I was going to do with a cardigan than didn’t actually have a front opening – just a checkerboard stripe running up the centre where the gap ought to be. There was nothing rational about my fears. I bought my first knit-in-the-round cardigan kit over 20 years ago direct from Alice Starmore and I still have it in kit form because I couldn’t conquer the steek thing. (Actually, given the Starmore name, it’s probably worth a fortune – but it’s mine, all mine and I can do steeks now!)

Anyway yesterday I stabilised the steek with lines of double crochet and I cut. Then I blocked and now I keep going to look at my beautiful cardigan because I really, really, REALLY want to do the button band – and I promise I have NEVER written that before! But my chef-d’oeuvre is still wet, which is a real bummer.

All of which just goes to prove that you have to face your fears head on. I have spent over twenty years being scared of steeks, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now I think every home should have one.

And I’d like to think I have learned my lesson but I suspect I will find something else to avoid.

But, in the meantime, I am celebrating both steeks and blue and white cardigans.

Woo Hoo!

Birthday presents, Fibre East and other stuff


I had a birthday recently. Not a big one (big enough, however) so guess what my kids / husband gave me. Yes, my very own blog, complete with the first entry, which was written by No 1 daughter. No 1 daughter does not knit (and she can’t spell purl). She is also a psychologist – which explains odd comments about mental health issues. She does, however, capture my feelings about wool.

Wool is the perfect antidote to idiot people. It is beautiful and soft and useful and helps me unwind. There are hanks of wool with my name on them, just waiting to be discovered. They call for me and I will find them because they are meant to be with me. What’s not to love?

Which brings me to Fibre East, a local yarn festival at Ampthill in Bedfordshire, where I have just spent a most enjoyable day tracking down some of my lost yarn. And a yarn bowl. And some stitch markers. Plus the odd pattern. Hey, why should I stop at yarn? There is a lot of yarny stuff out there which needs my love and a place in my home.

I went to Fibre East all by myself last year – first time visitor. This time I took a couple of friends and shared the yarny love. I’m not quite sure how much we all spent but we have jointly rehoused a lot of fibre – not to mention some spindles. (My friends have decided – as of today – to take up spinning, Me, I just want to knit / crochet. Someone else can do the spinning thing – although I could be tempted to try dying my own wool. Just not yet – too much knitting to do.)

Anyway, I do love yarn festivals! Roll on the next foray – although I do have to do a bit of destashing first.

Anthropomorphised Wool


Have you ever heard wool scream? No, neither have I. Wool can’t scream, that would be crazy. It doesn’t have a larynx. But do you think it might, now I’ve mentioned it, if it had all the requisite squishy bits? Perhaps whimpering a little as it is curved around the needles, points gleaming in the half light from a (admittedly slightly dusty) faux-Gothic chandelier as they grab at the struggling strands?

You may call me mad (although I would like to point out this is not a diagnostic term), even a bit of a psychopath (which is). I am not a psychopath, precisely because of the fact I think of wool screaming, not people. The reason I don’t think of people screaming is because I knit. When the urge to think of people rises in my mind (like contemplating offering assistance to Bob-From-The-Office to do something unnatural with his large pile of ‘urgent’ reports), and once my patience begins to wane, I knit one, pearl two. The red mist subsides. Bob-From-The-Office lives to frustrate another day.

I knit. A lot. But, to paraphrase a poet, ’tis better to have knit and not lost it, than to have never knit at all because you’re doing 20-to-life for murder. So to all the psychopaths out there, the frustrated, the aggravated, the disaffected, this blog is for you. This is to help you reach for knitting needles instead of throats, and to (imaginatively, at least) hear the screams of wool rather than work colleagues/neighbours/family/random strangers (delete as appropriate). I have found it useful. Soothing even. And it means I can relax my otherwise demanding nature into to a single request.

Don’t interrupt my knitting.