Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hat for Sven

I am still assiduously knitting the Xmas hats (8.5 done now but still lots to go). You can't see them before Xmas - my aim is to get a photo of everyone wearing their hat, if I can.

In the meantime, here's a nice pic of the sort of thing I'm knitting. The pattern is a basic one, from the excellent 2006 book 'Hip Knit Hats'(Carron/Lark) and most of the Xmas hats are variations on this theme. The needles are 8mm dpns. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky. I love the contrasting rhubarb-&-custard colours, which were chosen by the model & recipient, my partner Sven.



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

10 knitterly things you didn't know about me: a meme.

Oh, it seems from the blog of Grumperina and other esteemed knitters that a list of "10 Knitterly Things" is the latest trend. So, here we go.

1. I have knit on and off all my life. My earliest memories include watching my grandmother knitting, and also effortfully teaching myself out of a Ladybird book at the age of about 6 or 7. We also did a bit of knitting at primary school. I am still cross with Miss Smith for making me believe that the only way to retrieve a lost stitch was to rip back all the knitting, and for never introducing me to a crochet hook. Yes, I had only knit a few rows. But a few rows when you are seven years old with 0 manual dexterity is a big deal.

2. My next major knitting phase was in the late 1980s when my son was tiny. At that time I had NO idea about gauge, and I didn't see why anyone should bother learning to hold the yarn wrapped round one finger, instead of using their great big fist to wrap the yarn around the needle. So you can imagine how slow and misshapen my knitting was. This didn't matter too much on Joe's baby clothes as they are small so there's a limit to how wrong you can go. But I must confess I also made a couple of garments for me - a couple of sweaters, a cardigan, and they were a MILE wide. A pity I didn't learn to knit properly at this time as I might never have stopped. But stop I did. Another problem around this time was that I was very, very poor and could barely afford acrylic, never mind wool. I couldn't even afford knitting magazines and had to write off to Richard & Judy on the TV for some free 'This Morning' knitting patterns. Ah, how sad. I use the resulting self-pity to justify buying large amounts of totally luxurious, designer yarn now I have returned to knitting as a middle-aged adult.

3. The current phase of knitting started almost exactly a year ago, at the point where 2005 turned into 2006. In that year I have learned SUCH a lot about knitting, I feel like I've just discovered it properly for the first time. I've learned: all about gauge (a revelation!); to hold the yarn without throwing it, at least on a fine gauge; to make socks and hats; the basics of crochet; and lots more.

4. I like to shop the stash. I can be a big spender, so it's a good job. If I need 1 ball of wool for a hat, I'm quite likely to buy six, two each (one for spare) in 3 different colourways (in case I change my mind). This means my yarn stash is ginormous and the bigger it grows, the more I like it. It is such a treasure trove. I feel I could knit anything.

5. I am now experienced enough to consider socks 'not proper knitting'. Let me clarify what I mean by this. I am not saying socks don't require skill, nor that they are somehow not legitimate projects. What I mean is, there are many times when work or general life becomes so demanding that large knitting projects such as sweaters, jackets and baby blankets grind to a complete halt. This is sad but also inevitable. I have come to terms with the idea that there are some things I have to put ahead of big knitting. However, socks are so portable, and so easy to do in minute portions that they really can be squeezed in anywhere. I knit them at bus stops, in the back of taxis, all over the place. There is no reason why I can't knit socks, despite whatever else is going on. It is this unusual property of socks that makes them a special case compared to most other knitting. Hence thinking of them as knitting that 'doesn't count'. I understand that lots of keen sock knitters have extended this 'socks don't count' quality to include the buying of yarn for unnecessary stash enhancement purposes: if it's for socks, then you're not guilty. I am not quite there yet - but I am sure one day soon I will be.

6. I love Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and want to marry her. Unfortunately she's married already and has 3 kids. So I guess she's not in a hurry to trash her carefully constructed family life in Canada for a complete stranger in London. She is gorgeous though, and a great writer, and a great knitter. Her husband Joe is a lucky man. Steph, if you ever fancy trying lesbianism, you know, drop me an email.

7. There are aspects of knitting I'm not currently that keen on. For instance, I can't see myself making a cabled sweater any time soon, I'm just not that keen on the way cables look on large garments. Not being a fisherman, I've no special desire to dress like one. Although I would consider putting cables on something small like a hat or a bag. Secondly, entrelac knitting - what is that about? I mean - why? If entrelac is something more and better than a lot of faffing about, someone please enlighten me because I must be missing the point. Thirdly, knitted lace. Unlike entrelac, this does seem like it would be fun to knit. The process is quite interesting. But I have next to no interest in the end product. I don't wear lace, nor do I want it decorating my home. Big, bold graphics for me every time. If you ask me, it's lace that keeps knitting's 'old lady' image hanging on.

8. I need to learn to sew, I realise that now. I have never been interested in sewing before - I was rubbish at it at school. But now I'm a good knitter, I realise that if I could sew as well then I could make anything. Anything! I find this thought intoxicating. Some time in 2007 I'll buy a sewing machine and figure out how to make clothes with it. Check out this picture:

It's a Rowan design, the jacket is called Jilly. It's made in Rowan yarn, red Ribbon Twist. I have the yarn and the pattern, and Jilly is quite near the top of my 'to make in 2007' list so that's good. But now look at the skirt this woman's wearing. Check out the bright, clashing colours and bold design. I think we can all agree that the jacket looks twice as good with this skirt as it would with a pair of jeans, which is what I live in most of the time. So I'm thinking - if I learn to sew and find some similar fabric then I could make a simple shift dress to go with the jacket. And that would be stunning. So that's my new year's resolution: learn to sew.

9. I can't quite see how anybody manages to do anything on just one circular needle. I always use two, and I will happily subsitute circs for dpns in sock and hat patterns, no problem. But I can't see how one circular needle is ever going to be enough. Even if you purposely choose a circ that's a lot shorter than your actual knitting (so the stitches are bunched together, not stretched), there still doesn't seem to be enough needle to knit comfortably. Maybe I just haven't tried with a short enough needle yet. If anyone knows, tips are welcome.

10. I am really hoping that yarn stores have January sales, as I am itching to order some more yarn. I'm currently craving some mohair: I'm thinking that a few balls each in cornflower blue and a light chocolate-milk colour would be nice. I have no specific projects in mind, it's just that I can see them in my mind's eye and I want to fondle them. I'm also loving ribbon yarns at the moment: Colinette and Louisa Harding both do gorgeous ones; rich juicy reds, antique gold and silvery, watery green - oh, it makes me drool to think of it. I'll also be keeping my eye on Noro in 2007 as their Hotaru yarn was one of the most unusual I've seen - it's kind of crunchy, like knitting salad! So I'm very much looking forward to seeing what they bring out next year. In the meantime - I have to do lots more Xmas hats.

Two planned projects for 2007

Well, the Xmas hats are not much further forward. I think I've made about 7 in total, which is about half the number on my hat list. I can see there is going to be a mad rush to get them done by next week.

In the absence of any nicely photographed hats, I thought I'd bring up the subject of planned knitting for 2007. Here are two of the many items I have in mind:

'Tammy' by Kim Hargreaves for Rowan

The yarn is Rowan Cotton Tape, the pattern from Rowan's Cotton Tape Collection. I think these colours are great, that's what appeals to me about this item. Squeaky-clean Atomic Blue up against a filthy dirty brown is a very 1950s combination, reminds me very much of my favourite American abstract painters of that period, especially Barnett Newman. I am going to love wearing this sweater and I can't wait to start making it.

'Kitsch' by Lois Daykin for Rowan

Another 1950s style sweater, again in Cotton Tape. This is in a really acidic, eye-watering yellow which is exactly why I like it. The pattern is by Lois Daykin, I think, and it was published in one of the Rowan magazines. I must say, this sweater and the Tammy sweater above were responsible for my buying *large* amounts of Cotton Tape in 2006. The fact that it was already discontinued when I started looking for it only spurred me on. I now think I have possibly the largest collection of Cotton Tape in the world, including yarn shops. The colours are just great: dark and dirty earth tones complement the more zingy, fruity colours. Darkest mould green and eye-popping, sharp raspberry are two more of my favourite shades in this range, and I have plenty of each. Oh yes, I can see a lot of cotton garments being knitted up during the coming year.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thick slipper socks.

I am at work ALL THE TIME at the moment, and when I'm not at work I'm knitting Christmas hats. 6 down, about 7 to go. I am not sure I'll get them done by Xmas and have done absolutely 0 else towards the season apart from a nice tree.

Anyway. To keep things ticking along, I thought I'd add to my photo diary, so here are two pairs of giant slipper-socks. The yarn is Lion Brand Thick'n'Quick and they were not kidding. I made them in June 2006. Ian had the brown pair as part of his birthday present, and Sven had the green.