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Category Archives: Yarn

It’s Complicated

PatsyIn August last year I began knitting Patsy (or “Lumley” as I call it) by Kim Hargreaves.

It’s now April and I am still not sure what I am going to do.

It’s complicated.

I chose the pattern because I knew it would flatter my body type: a deep-V neckline and an emphasis on shoulders and waist are textbook examples of what someone with an hourglass figure should wear. I also liked the vintage feel to the design and knew if I lengthened the sleeves a smidgen, I’d live in this cardigan.

I hedged my bets and substituted the suggested Felted Tweed with Baby Alpaca DK (so if anything went wrong, I could knit up another design from Kim’s book). The Baby Alpaca turned out to be a very, very good idea. It knits up beautifully but I had no idea just how magical it would become post-blocking. I’m getting ahead of myself here, but keep this in mind: the yarn substitution plays no part in why I am writing this post.

I began knitting the cardigan having swatched like a good girl. The back knitted up in no time. I was pretty happy. I began the front. Things fell apart (the center could not hold; mere anarchy was loosened upon the world – hello Yeats). I wrote up a spread-sheet to keep track of the pattern. The fronts looked pretty and also pretty small. I had also reached mid-November at this stage and my mojo was gone. Forcing myself onwards, I finished the sleeves in early January and did a quick crocheting-together of the body so I could see what it all looked like and maybe regenerate some of my mojo.

Mere anarchy was indeed loosened upon the world. Textbook examples for the hourglass body had combined into possibly the least flattering garment in the world. The fronts did not swooped gracefully down my bust: they flapped around the outer realms of my general bust area. The back looked absolutely brilliant and the shoulder area looked great. But those fronts..

.. so I put Lumley back into my knitting basket. I pulled it out again last week, undid the crocheted seams and blocked the easter bunny out of the pieces. As previously stated, the Baby Alpaca just turned into the most amazing fabric. Wow. Seriously, WOW. So I adjusted my hopes and fears for Lumley. I sewed it all up like a proper knitter. And finished sewing in the last sleeve at my knitting group.

The response could not have been clearer. “Uhm,” said Paula, “I can see why you were .. ambivalent.” Meanwhile Lilith tried to channel a Middle Eastern diplomat: “.. maybe if you wore it open..?”

I still haven’t sewn in the collar nor have I woven in ends.

Pro:

  • The shoulder and upper-arm areas fit like a glove. Without doubt the best fitting garment I have ever made as far as those areas are concerned.
  • I love the fabric (you weren’t in doubt, were you?). It is soft, drapey, beautiful, silky, smooth.. wow.
  • The colour is great as is the vintage feel. Lumley fits right into my wardrobe.
  • And I have perfect buttons waiting to be sewn on.

Con:

  • Nobody above an A-cup should wear this garment (or B-cup if you are super-willowy). I am very much not an A-cup nor am I willowy.
  • The lower part of the sleeves look very odd (presumably because I lengthened the sleeves). In fact, they look like chicken cutlets swaying in the wind.

It’s complicated. It really is.

I am so tempted to just stitch that collar in place, weave in the ends, sew on the buttons and call it a day. Maybe sew & cut the offending chicken cutlets from the sleeves if I’m feeling particularly grumpy. I have spent so much time and gone to such lengths with Lumley that I just want the cardigan finished. FINISHED AND OUT OF MY KNITTING BASKET.

But it’d be a waste of good yarn, wouldn’t it? Oh, I could think of other projects in which it would be so delightful and useful..

Oh, Lumley. “That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all.”

Day Six: Aspiration

Last year I wrote about a sweater I wanted to make:

My grandmother has been knitting me jumpers and cardigans all my life. My all-time favourite jumper was one she knitted me when I was eleven. I chose the colours myself – forest green and dark red – and I wore it until my gran decided she had better knit me another one. Unfortunately I did not get to choose the colours second time around as I was living in London, not rural Denmark, and I ended up with a beige/fawn combination which I loathed.

(..)

I want to knit that jumper. I want my forest-green/red jumper back and I have the pattern right here in front of me. It is a 24-stitches/37-rows repeat, and fortunately I have Gran’s marginal notes so I can follow her math. I plan on knitting it in the round as well, but I am not sure about the sleeve construction. Should I steek for drop-shoulders? Should I attempt to re-chart the pattern for a round yoke? I know I will be wanting a high-turtleneck.

Mitts

The Vicar's Fields Mitts

Ah, one day.

At least my Vicar’s Fields Mitts are knitted in the right colour combination in a pattern reminiscent of the geometrical Faroese patterning used in the cardigan/sweater.

Maybe this time next year I will have taken yet another step towards a project which feels Terribly Important.

As I explained:

I am actually a bit afraid of undertaking this project due to its many layers of meaning. By undertaking this project I will be admitting that Gran is no longer able to knit me a jumper and that I am, in a sense, “taking over” from her. In fact, I am now knitting her things, not the other way around.

By knitting this jumper I am also reaching out to my own younger self – that young girl who feared so many things and felt so horribly out of place. And I am attempting to replace something which meant a great deal to me and I am afraid that my recreation will not measure up.

I maintain that handmade things have layers of meaning that mass-produced items cannot possibly emulate (Walter Benjamin? I have a head full of swirling fog today, so I will leave it up to others to write about auratic art. No, I’m still not well). Certainly this future project of mine holds so many implications for me that it feels like a truly aspirational project rather than any old colourwork project.

One day. I promise.

You can find more blogs participating in the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week by googling 2KCBWDAY6.

Day Four: Worn

March 2011 313I am wearing two handknitted garments in this photo:

1. My Nev Shawl.

I have found a big grey shawl incredibly wearable to my great surprise. I shall have to make more neutral-coloured accessories. This revelation comes as no surprise to nobody but me: neutral colours go well with many things.

2. A handknitted sweater I have never mentioned before.

This is indeed handknitted but not by me. It is an ex-display Rowan sweater – Sarah Hatton’s Beatriz from The Lenpur Linen Collection – which I was lucky enough to pick up in Yorkshire last year during one of Rowan’s garment sales. It is an incredibly comfy sweater and I wear it often (usually without my bra strap showing – sorry about that). The Lenpur Linen has softened a lot with each wash and the entire garment has a beautiful drape. If you have ever wondered where display garments go to live, you have your answer now.

I am slightly incredulous that I am wearing something knitted to sample size as I am apparently too large for any of the New Look sewing patterns. And before you ask, yes, I have tried on various other (ex-)display garments and can fit all but the most fitted ones. Sizing seems very arbitrary at times.

I do wear all my handknits but some knits get worn more than others. The two knits mentioned are worn often as are my Snorri sweater, the Forecast cardigan, the Haematite shawl, and the Art Deco shawl. I wish I knew what make these knits so darn wearable..

.. which brings me to the pertinent question: what makes you wear a handknitted item over and over again? Is it fit? Colour? General it-goes-with-everything-ness?

Find more blogs participating in the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week by googling 2KCBWDAY4.

Dust From A Distant Sun

March 2011 152What a lovely day.

The postman brought me the April issue of UK knitting magazine Let’s Knit in which I appear. Elaine from the editorial team contacted me back in January and after my busy few months I had actually forgotten I was going to be featured. A nice surprise. I spent an hour in bed looking through the magazine. I particularly liked the editorial on how to tie knitting into the key fashion trends of the season. Sometimes I think knitting likes to live in its own little fashion-bubble so it was nice to see how knitters can relate to, ahem, the normal world.

The postman also brought me some clearance-priced yarn from Kemps (that place is responsible for about half my yarn stash, I swear). I stocked up on RYC Cotton Jeans for some forth-coming baby-knitting projects as well as some RYC Natural Silk Aran which is earmarked for a stashbusting project. Lovely textures and colours at a good price. I was chuffed.

March 2011 153I continue to be chuffed about my Fancy jumper too. The combination of an Estonian lace stitch and Kidsilk Haze = heady stuff.

The stitch pattern is now so intuitive that I can knit it on my commute, at knitting group and in front of the TV. Madness. I’m really enjoying working on it.

I am still worried about the sizing though. I have gone down a clothes size but it still looks very wide. As a result I’m changing the garment a tiny bit: the jumper is supposed to hit you around the lower hip-area, but I’m going to make it shorter so it has an almost cropped appearance and I’m going to shorten the sleeves too. Hopefully it’ll sort out the dimensions. I still wonder if it weren’t meant to be knitted on 3.5mm needles instead of the recommended 4.5mm?

March 2011 137 I want to share a project made by a friend from my knitting group. I was lucky enough to see this crochet blanket in person earlier this week and I was blown away.

It really makes me want to sit down and make my own crochet blanket .. but that way madness and stash-enhancement lies.

Plus I’d go slightly nuts after the first twenty motifs.

March 2011 139My main knitting group is actually so big that it has several divisions: I met the blanket maker when I happened upon the South Side division at the Tramway. I was only there to take down my knitted sculpture but was very, very pleased to see so many familiar and lovely faces. My partner was on hand to help me and was so amused by what he called “a tribal encounter” that he had to take a photo..

.. I have no idea what he means!

Finally, get yourself ready for Knitting & Crochet Blog Week 2011! I participated last year and found some new favourite blog reads. I’m in two minds whether I will participate this year (time constraints plus I feel like I have already written about some of these topics) but I know I’ll be reading a tonne of fabulous new blog posts as a result of K&CBW.

Homebound: Who We Are

Homebound 6Homebound: Who We Are is my knitted artwork currently on show at Glasgow’s Tramway Arts Centre.

Using site-specific materials I have created a piece asking how we understand ourselves, how we become who we are, and how big a part gender & geography play.

I was inspired to make this piece by my own journey as a knitter, as a woman, and as an immigrant. I am myself but I am also previous generations of ordinary women crafters. My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother and my great-great-grandmother are all represented by this piece.

Homebound 1

My "momse" - my great-grandmother Lilly.

It was important to me that I only used yarn I already owned and which was tied to specific geographical areas. I used yarn from a farm just a few miles from where my great-great-grandmother lived. I used yarn from the Faroe Islands because my paternal grandmother is Faroese. I used yarn spun locally to Glasgow because I live here now.

I used undyed Aberdeenshire yarn for the hand. I have family living in Aberdeenshire now and I wanted to include them in the piece.

The hand is very significant to me – and my partner helped me construct the hand, so he is included in this piece too – as it is the giver and holder of identity. Not only does it hold all the strands together but the strands also spring from the hand. As a crafter I make things with my hands; my hands turn ideas in my head into reality. People much cleverer than I would be able to tell you about the notion of creation. The hand holds that concept for me.

Homebound 5As you can see, photos are included. I have found photos of all five generations.

As I was looking through the photo albums I was struck by how gender-segregated my family seemed. The women were all pictured holding babies or wearing nice dresses or cooking. The men were all pictured sitting at tables drinking beers or playing football or standing next to cars. I rarely found pictures of women and men together – except wedding photos or pictures of couples dancing.

I found several photos of both women and men wearing knitwear. I could only find two photos of anyone knitting. One of them was of me.

Finally, the title. I chose Homebound because while it means two mutually exclusive things (travelling//constriction) my project suggests there is an additional meaning lurking within the word, a meaning linked to the notion of creating. Home-bound – to bind or to tie or to make within the home.

I am really excited about this piece and I want to thank the people behind Loop: Garterstitch100 for giving me the opportunity to be a part of their amazing event. It has been an incredible journey for everyone concerned – me included.

The Day Before the Day

Loop At Tramway

Late night stitching effort at Glasgow's Tramway arts centre in preparation for Loop: International Women's Day Centenary.

I’m so excited about tomorrow! The Tramway was heaving with activity today: stitching, story-telling, music , and beautiful people creating beautiful things.

Sunday Craft Thoughts

Quite apart from celebrating my ten-year blogging anniversary, I have also been celebrating my thirty-mumble-th birthday this week. Among the many excellent presents, I received The Perfect Fit: A Practical Guide to Adjusting Sewing Patterns and The Sewing Book – both of which sent my heart a-flutter. I was also lucky enough to be given a sweater amount of ruby Kidsilk Haze and a shawl amount of burgundy Faroese wool. My sewing machine also arrived this week which called for a bit of fabric shopping. I feel very consumerist right now.

shirt plansHowever, my consumerism is linked to a feeling of wanting to become less of a consumerist. My fabric purchases have been very deliberate and are linked to my desire to have an almost self-stitched capsule wardrobe. I’ve been reading Sewingplum’s blog intently and while I’m not yet at a level where I can consider making 6 (let alone 24!) staple wardrobe pieces, I can at least become a much more thoughtful dresser – and crafter.

The photo shows two of the fabrics in my stash. The one on the left is the Liberty cotton lawn which D gave me for Christmas. Right now I feel slightly daunted by this fabric. The fabric on the right is a Joel Dewberry cotton which is earmarked for my first ‘proper’ sewing project: the Simplicity 2501 blouse. It’s a very versatile pattern (check out this very vintage-looking version!) and one I can imagine myself making several times. You might think I am batting above my weight with this pattern. We shall see. After all, I used to be a decent dressmaker back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I’m yet to find an equally versatile pattern for the lower pattern of my body. I’m also trying to decide whether I would ever feel confident enough to wear the Ceylon dress – I’m already pretty sure the Crepe dress will be a go-to pattern: it would look equally nice in neutrals and bold prints (versatility is the key to my heart, it seems).

As I have previously mentioned, I’m going to have a real go at making clothes appropriate for warm(ish) weather which makes knitting and crochet slightly trickier. Fancy is still on my list, but it will probably be the only big knitting project I’ll undertake. I’ll be looking into making a couple of small shrugs – Veronique ticks my boxes but it’s also knitted in KSH and two projects in KSH might be a bit much even for me. Right now, though, I am contrating on a knitted art piece I shall be exhibiting at the Glasgow Tramway art gallery next month (link NSFW due to artistic nudity). I’m behind schedule and need to press on.

Finally: thank you for all your comments recently. I’ll try to get back to each and every one of you!

Wool Week

Did you know that next week is Wool Week? Well, actually Wool Week kicks off this Saturday with tonnes of events throughout the UK lined up for the rest of the week.

Wool Week is part of The Campaign for Wool which seeks to promote the benefits of using wool – here in the UK the focus is primarily on locally produced wool and the campaign is backed by the Prince of Wales and The Wool Marketing Board. As a knitter I am mainly concerned with hand-knitting wool, but the campaign actually focuses on how diverse and sustainable a product wool really is. I also remember the huge buzz surrounding British wool when I was at the Knit Camp marketplace in August and next week I will be part of a Wool Week event – these are exciting times to be a knitter.

Everybody’s already seen this one, but I thought it wonderfully apt..

(Meanwhile I appear to be dying of the common cold. Send me good vibes. I hate being ill.)

Journeys

Yesterday my colleague and good friend LH took me to the wonderful The Royal Edinburgh Repository and Self Aid Society on Castle Street. Kate Davies has written a whole post on it (and weaves in a bit of Jane Austen too), but nothing prepared me for the actual shop.

It reminded me of those summers when I would pretend to be Anglican for one day. I helped out in the home produce stall at the annual summer feté at the Anglican Church in Copenhagen – mostly as a favour to friends, but also because I could grab some really tasty homemade jam and sneak off with awesome homemade cakes (and cheap books). The shop was filled with all sorts of homemade goodies: jams, cakes, fudge .. oh, and knitting.

Oh, but the knitting. I had several moments of weak knees and uncontrollable knitterly glee. Plenty of pretty baby garments, practical gloves and neat scarves .. and then you would uncover one Shetland shawl after another. One-ply Shetland shawls – yes, cobweb Shetland shawls. The most beautiful, astounding things you could ever want to see in your entire life.

LH is holding one in the photo. I think at this point the two shop assistants had decided that we were bonkers, but harmless.

They pulled out more things for us to marvel at: fair-isle gloves and delicate lace scarves. I looked at prices and my heart nearly broke: for a full-size cobweb Shetland shawl (similar to the bottom shawl) the shop asked £75 (a quick price comparison). It is heart-breaking to see people of exquisite skill selling their handiwork at such a price – it is devaluating their work, their skill and their time – and I wonder why a centrally-placed Edinburgh shop is selling the shawls at such a low price? Does this reflect the market for such shawls or does it reflect that they are unsure about how to price the items?

LH said something profound about knitting journeys yesterday and I have been thinking about her words. Whilst I was physically taking my knitting on a journey yesterday, I began thinking about how knitting is also taking me for a journey.I am somewhere very different to where I am just a few years ago when I got back into knitting and that journey has only just begun.

In my head I’m playing around with a complex set of ‘identity markers’ and I am trying to work them out through knitting. I am getting increasingly interested in my knitting heritage (primary Danish and Faroese, of course, but with several detours because I am essentially a flâneur) as well as British textile history. I like to think of knitting as something intensely personal – the yarn runs through our hands and we touch every millimetre of the material we are creating – and I want my knitting to reflect me whoever I am becoming.

And to keep me warm and cosy so I will not die during the forthcoming Scottish winter. My cardigan’s coming on nicely, non?

Saturday Muddle

This is pure unadulterated lust. 1300 yards of peridot green with hints of bronze. Alpaca/merino/silk. Lace. Lust. My brain is galloping through all the relevant patterns. My heart is beating fast. You non-knitters, you have no idea how a knitter’s pulse can race just by looking at some yarn. It is a heady feeling.

Thankfully the yarn is already mine as I actually dyed it myself yesterday afternoon. Woo.

Isn’t it funny how I can always make time for lace knitting even though my knitting schedule is already full? Is that similar to how sock knitters think? Just one more skein of laceweight sock yarn? Just one more shawl pair of monkeys? Maybe I can relate to the sock knitters after all.

I really did not mean to make this yet another post about knitting, but somehow I succumbed. I do have links to share, but first: more knitting!

I finished the first of my The Vicar’s Mitts and I’m overjoyed. Most glove patterns run too big for my ludicrously tiny hands. They are much too wide and then paradoxically too short for the upper part of my hand (“this bit”) which therefore must be longer than the average hand. Witness the joy of designing a pattern that fits you like a .. erm .. uhm .. er..  glove!

If I were to be critical, I’d probably want to extend the corrugated ribbing cuff for added warmth, but I’m thinking a longer cuff would ruin the look. And I love how it looks and fits. I should do this self-designing lark more often. It’s very gratifying.

(I do apologise for the photo. it is the oddest thing: on Ravelry the photo is crisp and beautiful; uploaded to Flickr, the same photo turns overly sharp/defined; here it turns blurry. What gives? And no, the glove hasn’t been blocked which is why it is slightly lumpy.)

So, links.

  • Firstly, a knitting link. I love Patsy. I think a red Patsy & I are meant to be. I have a cunning plan.
  • Persnickety Snark has posted its Top 100 YA Books. Funny how so much YA literature is superior to so-called “grown-up literature” (Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is one of my all-time favourite reads. Ian McEwan’s much-praised Atonement isn’t. ).
  • One of the few sewing blogs I read had a fantastic entry: We Live in a Good Body. I have my own reasons for having assorted body issues, and I found it strangely .. affirming to read Gertie’s entry: “I think so much of our culture is built around the idea of somehow getting another body, as strange as that may sound.(..) I’ve certainly spent plenty of time buying into the idea that I could somehow have a “better body” if I just did something differently. There’s no upgrading to a better body in this lifetime. I already have a body, and it’s a good body.”
  • This Air New Zealand in-flight video made my day. I don’t even think you’d need to be a Kiwiphile to get a kick out of it (although if you are, yes the soundtrack is The Exponents)
  • Karl Lagerfeld amuses me endlessly. I don’t know why. Or maybe I do.
  • AfterElton.com looks at obsessive fandoms. I’m long out of ‘fandom’, but I still have scars to show from my brief journey into X-Files fandom all those years ago. Although I’ve met some great people through my fannish years, I’ve also seen quite a bit of scary behaviour. Really scary behaviour.

And on a final note, I have definitely become Middle Class with a capital Em and Cee. I went out shopping for booze (long story) and I came home with organic ginger beer from a local brewery. Well then.