I’m not sure I’ve shared this here before. It’s the Sennen Cove gansey from the book Cornish Guernseys & Knit-frocks by Mary Wright. I started it last year on my way down to Cornwall on holiday and it’s been a loooong knit.
I’ve wanted to knit a gansey for ages but it seemed particularly timely to start it when I did because we lost my mum last year and it’s through her I get my Cornishness. My ancestors lived at Vellandreath; the men fished out of Sennen Cove for generations, and, amongst much else, including raising squads of children, the women would have earned money by knitting gansies.
Mine has been languishing at the bottom of my wip basket, awaiting its second sleeve (second sleeve syndrome, like second sock syndrome, is definitely a thing, right?), but, I realised with mild panic last week, that it isn’t long until we will are down in Sennen Cove again and I’d planned to wear my gansey on any bad weather days, to property put it through its paces. So I’ve had to get a wiggle on.
Knitting this has given me such a huge amount of respect for my ancestors. Those women were tough! Never before have I felt I might not be able to finish a piece of knitting. I don’t mean that I was bored and might give it up. But, the actual knitting was so physically demanding, I didn’t think I could do it. My poor hands have really suffered. It’s knitted on 2.25mm needles and I haven’t been able to find any that could take the weight of the garment and not wear through my finger tip, including the traditional steel needles. There have been callouses galore, blood, and a good deal of swearing. I now need to wrap a plaster around the top of my index finger on my left hand before I even think about picking up the needles, or else, I haven’t done 20 stitches before my finger tip has a painful split in it.
The knitting has also made my hands ache. I’ve never suffered from sore hands, no matter how long I’ve knit. And there have been occasional weeks, where pretty much all I’ve done is knit. But now I understand what it’s like to get sore hands when you knit. And I’m over it.
Anyhow, like I said. Respect. Heaps and heaps of it.
So, I’m about half way down the second sleeve now and I’m really motoring. There are quite a lot of ends to deal with and I doubt I’ll have time to soak and block it. It’s so dense, I’m not sure it will dry out if I were to block it the way I normally do – pinned onto a towel laid on my bedroom carpet. I’m thinking I need one of those sweater blockers you see used for Shetland knits but given I’m unlikely to ever knit another gansey, that’s quite an indulgence.
So blocking aside, with luck it will be finished before we go on holiday. I look forward to sharing pics of me modelling it in front of fishing boats, in due course!
A week from today, I will be showing my yarn, for the first time, at Unravel, at The Maltings in Farnham.
I can’t tell you how excited I am. For the last few months, I have been naturally dyeing up a storm in my cottage kitchen, trying new to me colours, new to me techniques, endlessly experimenting and learning. I have just one indigo vat to go and I’m ready.
I have also designed three hats to compliment the special qualities of my Saucy Dorset Horn DK yarn (300m/100g) and these patterns will be launched at the show. All three patterns are inspired by my west Cornish ancestry and our family visits to Sennen Cove, a small fishing village about a mile up the coast from Land’s End.
The first of the hats is Gommon, which takes name and its inspiration from the seaweed, thrown up onto the sandy beach, by the wild seas of winter. My children just love the curious, other worldly, shapes of the seaweed. The stitch used in the hat is a super stretchy mix of knit and purl, and an initially nerve wracking, but quickly satisfying, yarn over and drop stitch repeating pattern, ideally suited to the grippy quality of Dorset Horn wool.
The second of the hats is named Hasen (the Cornish word for seed) and is named for the myriad dried seed heads found, in late summer, in the sand dunes above the beach by the tiny hamlet of Vellandreath, about a mile along the sandy bay from Sennen Cove. My ancestors and wider family, lived in three of the seven small cottages at Vellandreath for generations. My mother, when she was alive, told me vivid stories of visiting her great grandparents there, so it’s a very special place for me. It’s wonderful to linger in the dunes, toes in the soft sand, looking for snail shells and listening to the sounds of busy insects and the gentle breeze rustling the dried seed heads. Hasen is a super stretchy rib hat, with an easily memorised twist, and a pretty bobble brim.
Finally, on the cliff path from Sennen Cove to Land’s End, where the land meets the sea, magnificent cliffs of granite endure against the wind and salt spray of the pounding Atlantic waves. These cliffs, and the submerged rocks nearby, have claimed many ships, and are the inspiration for Kleger, the last hat in this short series, which combines simple knit and purl stitches to create a super stretchy, cosy hug of a hat.
If you are visiting the show, I’d be thrilled if you came to say hello. I will be upstairs, in the Barley room. I look forward to meeting you.
I know that many of you are sad that the fabulous gals behind Wovember aren’t running it as an organised campaign any longer. However, knitters and crocheters are still celebrating all the woolly goodness this month and, in recognition of that, I have a coupon running for 25% off all my non naturally dyed British wool. If you click here the coupon should be automatically applied when you checkout.
Coupon runs until I decide to stop it, or the stock runs out. Naturally dyed yarn is NOT included in the coupon offer.
Last week, I was talking to a very experienced knitter about different breeds of wool and I casually made a comment about the characteristics of a particular breed wool. She asked me what I meant, so I explained, but at the same time it occurred to me that I’ve done very little to record my knowledge on the different characteristics of each of the breed yarns I stock, and that this knowledge might actually be helpful to other knitters.
So I’ve resolved to do a little write up for each of the breed wools I stock. This is the first one.
Jacob sheep have a very distinctive fleece with patches or spots of dark coloured wool on a white wool background. The breed is thought to be one (or at least related to one) of the oldest breeds, probably originating in The Middle East around 4,000 years ago. There are examples of spotted sheep in ancient Egyptian art and there is also a bible story which attempts to explain how the distinctive coloured fleece came into being.
The breed first came to Britain in the 17th century as an ornamental sheep to graze in the deer parks surrounding stately homes, and consequently they don’t form part of the U.K. stratified sheep farming system (more on this to come in a future post) but with the changes to society after the First World War, many flocks disappeared and by the 1960s, there were very few Jacob sheep left in the UK. However, a small number of dedicated breeders and enthusiasts formed the Jacob Sheep Society in 1969 and saved the breed from extinction.
Their fleece makes Jacob sheep one of the most easily recognisable breeds of sheep. They always have horns, either two on top of the head, or four as worn by this formidable fellow.
They make good mother’s, who have a high lambing rate (commonly having twins) and generally easy births. They are also hardy and long lived, so they easily over winter outside and attract few disease problems. Their good health means they can rear lambs for a long time; 7 years or more is not uncommon.
As I’ve already mentioned, Jacob sheep have a variety of colours in their coat, from creamy white through to dark brown/black. The colours appear in well defined patches so it’s possible to sort the fleece into light and dark, and also to blend the yarn to give graduated shades of the natural yarn.
The individual fibres of the fleece are quite thick, with a good degree of springiness and a staple length of between 75mm to 180mm (3 inches to 7 inches) . The micron count varies from 25 to 27.5 for fine fleece to 30 -33 for regular fleece.
The thicker individual fibres mean the fleece isn’t generally suitable to be spun into lace weight yarn but it works particularly well spun into a double knit or aran weight yarn. It is these two weights which I stock in my shop.
Jacob’s wool takes the dye beautifully with the potential for a nice tone and a good depth of colour. The wool is crisp, but not scratchy, and smooth rather than fluffy. These characteristics make the yarn very versatile and it can be knitted and crocheted into a wide variety of items, from blankets, to sweaters and hats. I have a sweater in Jacob wool and find it very comfortable and warm. I don’t tend to wear my sweaters next to my skin (preferring a layer underneath) but I don’t notice any discomfort around my neck or wrists where the wool touches bare skin.
I’ve heard it said that it probably isn’t suited to baby clothes and I’d tend to agree with this. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to use my Jacob base for my children’s clothes, especially if it’s not intended to be worn next to the skin, for example sweaters etc.
Fabric produced in Jacob’s wool is hardwearing with very little piling. Additionally the garments retain their shape when hand washed and dried flat (no stretching or shrinking). These qualities mean that any garment made from Jacob’s wool will be long lasting, which is a quality I’m especially keen on as larger garments generally take a lot of knitting, so I’d like them to last, more or less, forever.
It’s extremely difficult to felt Jacob’s wool, which is a commendable feature, should your hand knits inadvertently end up in the washing machine, as mine do from time to time. However this does mean the wool wouldn’t be useful for items that require a degree of felting such as slippers or bags.
I have also found that it holds its shape well whilst being knitted, so if your needle should accidentally slip out of a few stitches, they tend to stay in place awaiting the needle again, rather than running away down the fabric. The wool also takes frogging and reknitting well. This makes it a good learners wool.
My Jacob’s wool base is called Brazen and is available in both double knit and aran weight here.
My first purchase was a gorgeous giant skein of Corriedale chunky from Hedgeknits. My stand was next to Rita’s stand and I’d spotted this giant heap of woolly gorgeousness pretty early on, but was trying to restrain myself. But it’s naturally dyed, and I kept seeing other people pick it up and I couldn’t bear the thought of it going home with someone else AND it goes really well with the purple skein I bought when I last visited Flock on the Plain, so I caved and it has come home with me.
I also bought some funky vintage purple buttons from the lovely display by Hailstone Heritage which will go brilliantly as decoration on the garment I intend to make from the Hedgeknits yarn.
My next purchase was from Mahoodly and I just love the depth of Becca’s colours. I bought a gorgeous deep dark blue 4 ply and a brighter blue mini Skein which will become rib socks with contrasting heel and toe.
I spent a long time mesmerised by Girl’s Own Store’s sock knitting machine. It was a wonder to beyond and I would really love one. But alas, the budget won’t stretch that far and so, instead, I bought a pair of her super cosy socks dyed with onion skins.
From Woolaroo, I bought some lovely balls of Shetland wool which are from a flock near her home and hand spun by a lady living in the village. Such precious wool. I don’t have a project in mind but I think Knit British is going to have a Natural Shades KAL later this year so I’ll save these balls up for that.
I also swopped a skein of my Radical 4ply for this lovely Bonnie Prince Charlie yarn from Somerset Soda. Just look at those colours! I don’t have a project for this yet. I might pair it up with other skeins in my stash and make one of Boyland Knitworks gorgeous sweaters.
So, quite a modest haul by my standards. Did you make any purchases on Yarn Shop Day?
Eep! How can it be the second week of May and I still haven’t shown you my March and April makes? To be fair to myself, I’ve had a lot to process emotionally. I’ll tell you all about it in time, I’m just not ready to share it quite yet.
But I will share my makes. First up was my Siri Cardigan. I just adore this. Knitting the textured yoke was hard on the hands but once that was done, it was a speedy knit. I love the patten so much, I’m planning a Siri sweater for next year. The yarn was from Skein Queen but, alas, has been discontinued.
Next to be finished were some socks in my Dad’s team colours (Brentford F.C. Go Bees!) in a fun self striping merino/nylon mix from Devon Sun Yarn. My Dad’s circulation isn’t great due to a long term disability so he was delighted with hand knit socks.
Also finished in March was a hat of my own design for my brother in Ryeland wool. I knew as soon as I cast on with this yarn, that it wanted to be a hat. It’s such a naturally stretchy wool that it’s great for things that need some negative ease. I dyed the hat, after I knitted it and the one consolation to a late Spring was that my brother was able to get some wear out of his hat straight away. He has declared it very warm which is another plus for Ryeland.
I knitted the first of what has now become several Sweater Bunts for my hand dyed yarn business. They are so cute, I love knitting them. This one is in my Brazen DK base which is British Jacob Wool and would make a great full size sweater. You can visit my shop here.
My final finished item in April was my Stronachlachar sleeveless sweater by Kate Davies Designs knitted in Brune by Daughter of a Shepherd. This was the first garment I’d knitted in naturally dark coloured wool and it is lovely; properly sheepy. However, the combination of darker yarn and a pattern that required concentration right to the end meant it wasn’t a particularly easy evening knit.
In April I also cast on a Flukra hap by Gudrun Johnston. In a burst of madness that I can only blame on my overly emotional state, I decided to make the hap square instead of triangular, as in the pattern. Being a novice hap maker, this has meant lots of head scratching and frogging but I’m onto the lace now so I’m hoping it will be relatively straightforward from here on in. I’m knitting it in a Teeswater lace weight yarn. It’s the first thing I have ever knit in lace weight yarn, so on reflection my pattern choice and it’s subsequent adaption now seems even more crazy. It’s slow progress but it’s mindful process knitting (I’m averaging 2 to 3 rows each evening) rather than speedy product knitting. Although I’d be fibbing if I denied doing the mental maths to see how long I will be knitting this for. I’m guessing it will take me until at least the end of May. But the Teeswater is gorgeous with a lovely lustre so it is hardly a chore!
I also don’t have a travel project on the go at the moment so must remedy that by casting on soon. I’m thinking socks. But am in a quandary over which pattern to choose. There are just so many beautiful ones. I have a high twist beautiful Blue Faced Leicester/Nylon mix in a peach shade already balled up. Which sock pattern is your go to favourite for an easy knit?
As ever, mine was filled with yarn. I finished my Alocasia sweater and it is a delight, although rather to fine to be worn everyday. It’s a merino/silk mix so I can’t really see myself doing the housework or walking the dog in it (my two daily activities aside from knitting), so I haven’t worn it yet. I don’t really hold with saving clothes for best but, in this case, given the amount of work put into it, I’m willing to make an exception. This was also the first large garment I’ve made for myself from yarn that I dyed. So, I’m really not kidding when I say I’m saving it for best!
I also managed to finish my Dad’s team socks with self striping sock yarn from Devon Sun Yarns. They were a challenge as my Dad had polio when we was a child (in the days before vaccinations) and the disease as left him with rather odd shaped feet. So, consequently they aren’t my prettiest make ever but they were made with much love and my dad is delighted with them.
Last up was a hat made from Ryeland wool. Those of you who follow me on Instagram might know that I’m taking part in the Knit British Wool Exploration during 2018. Each month is a different breed yarn. March is Ryeland so I was getting a bit ahead of myself and I meant to cast on a swatch but by the time I’d cast on, I was making a hat. The yarn was so deliciously springy I knew it would be great for a hat. And being aran weight, it knitted up really quickly. The hat pattern is one that I wrote called Curlew. The hat, after being dipped in some blue dye, has been gifted to my brother and he was so pleased with it, he wore it home. Of course, this means I still need to knit a swatch and get trialing it’s wearability next to the skin (although I’ve a pretty good idea already as I’ve already worn the hat a bit).
I also have a confession to make. I got a serious attack of castonitis and actually had these three things plus another pair of socks on the needles at the same time. This was an interesting test to my usual monogamy and it’s not one I will be repeating for a while. I felt a disproportionate amount of anxiety about having extra wips hanging about. I also felt like it took ages to get things finished as I was splitting my knitting time between the various projects.
So what do I have on my needles currently? The forth project mentioned above are some Tin Can Knits Lumberjack Socks I’m making in a gorgeous British Falkland Islands Merino/Silk double knit but I’ve hit a snag in that I’ve lost all but three of the needles and this isn’t enough to knit in the round.
I’ve also cast on and knit a good part of a Siri cardigan. I’d like to finish this before I go to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival (squeeeee – I’m soooo excited) which is now in less than two weeks, so I need to get a wiggle on.
And on that note, I’m going to say goodbye and see you on the other side of Edinburgh Yarn Festival xxx
Mine was, as they always are, grey, cold and strewn with coughs and colds. But, on the knitting front, I have been on fire! I have six finished objects to show off. Admittedly two were very well under way at the start of the month but I’m finishing the month with two well under way so I’m including them in January’s count. I also had a lovely meet up at Flock on The Plain with a group of ladies who are my woolly tribe. We call ourselves the Possiwools, after one of our members put a “possible wool meet up” in her family diary and her teenage son shortened it, and they really are the best sort of people. I want to gush on about them and tell them all how much I love them but I’m not sure I could do them justice. Maybe I’ll save that for another day.
So…. my finished wips.
First off the needles was my Whitehorse Sweater by Caitlin Hunter of Boyland Knitworks. This is the second sweater of Caitlin’s I have made and I was as pleased with this one as I was with the first. The yarn was a lovely soft blue faced leicester double knit from The Uncommon Thread. I adore the finished piece and have worn it several times already this month.
The next item finished was a pair of socks in Regia yarn in the pattern A Nice Ribbed Sock. I don’t usually buy commercially produced yarn, preferring small independent hand dyers, but this, and a couple of other balls, fell into my basket after a lecture by Arne and Carlos about their life and home in Norway and their design inspirations. The pattern is my go to pattern for socks. I always worry that a plain sock will go baggy with wear, so the little bit of rib in this pattern provides a bit more ping back, and its not such a in your face pattern that it disturbs the colour of the yarn.
Next to be finished were these socks for my mum. The pattern is the Diagonal Lace Sock from the book Socks from the Toe Up, and was my first toe up sock. I learned, as most people do, to knit stocks cuff down but always worried about knitting the leg too long and not having enough yarn to complete the toe, but with toe up, you just knit until you’ve used up your wool, or reach the leg length you desire. The yarn is a Merino/Nylon mix hand dyed by Norah George Yarns and the combination of yarn and pattern is so pretty, I stopped knitting often to admire them. They would have been finished a lot soon had they been less pretty!
Also knitted this month was this cute hat for my little boy. Obviously my little boy already had a lovely hand knitted hat but this was “lost” at some point over the Christmas holidays, so he needed another. I won’t dwell on the fact that, a few days, ago, I found the missing hat, at the bottom of the hat basket, presumably where it had been all the time. This hat was a super quick knit in an aran weight yarn that I dyed myself. The yarn is a Merino/Donegal Nep mix (I just love all this little woolly neps) and the pattern was my own Curlew pattern, although I did a modified brim and crown decrease.
The next finished item took a lot of knitting. It’s a wrap made using a Thirty Shades pack I bought as a 6 month club yarn from Jo Knit Sew last year. I’d been on the look out for a pretty knitted pattern, that would do justice to the yarn, for a while and knew I’d found the one in Melanie Berg’s True Colours. However, I had 30 colours to work through and so the shape of Melanie’s shawl wouldn’t have worked, so I took the repeated pattern from her chart and used that to create a rectangular wrap. It really is one of the most beautiful things I have ever made. Light and airy with the lace work but, at the same time, warm and cosy as its made in a light double knit weight merino yarn, and all the colours of the rainbow. I’ve yet to get a decent photograph (good natural light in my cottage is non existent in January) so here is a picture of it on the blocking mats. I’ll post more pictures when light levels improve!
Last to be finished were my Polgooth Socks in Blacker Yarns Classic Double Knit. These socks are incredibly special to me as they represent the first item I have made in wool grown, spun and dyed in the UK. The wool is a mix of white fleece to which Hebridean, Black Welsh Mountain and Blue Faced Leicester are added, and after all the super soft merino I’m used to, the texture of this yarn was challenging. I knitted the first sock and it was so stiff I was really worried so, before I knitted the second, I washed and blocked the first, and, what a difference that made. The knitted sock became soft and squishy and a pleasure to wear. The socks fit really well too and the gusset decreases are so lovely to look at, its a pity they are hidden in my shoes.
So, that was my January. I can’t promise to keep up this blistering pace throughout February but I have plenty of patterns and yarn already lined up for future projects so you can be sure my needles wont be idle.
And before I leave you I wanted to wish you a good Imbolc. This is, according to Wikipedia, an Irish Gaelic traditional feasting festival, celebrated at the beginning February, marking the beginning of spring. I’ve been noticing some signs of the start of a change in the season; the snowdrops are out in perfusion in our valley and I realised, with thud of joy in my heart, when I closed the curtains at 5pm last week, that it wasn’t yet completely dark. The long light nights of summer are returning. I imagine our ancestors noticed these things too and it gave them good cheer. Happy Imbolc!
I spent most of 2016 feeling that things were out of control. Primarily this was down to events in the wider world; the political shocks in the UK and the US, terrorism, war and the desperate situation of millions of refugees. None of these are things I have any real ability to influence so in the words of Reinhold Niebuhr, I’ve been seeking the grace to accept with serenity these things that cannot be changed (while continuing to shout at the news and rant at my husband each and every time I read a newspaper). But in the same vein, I have been looking for the courage to change the things which should be changed. And for this, I have to address the mess and chaos at home.
Since their birth in 2010, I have used my twins as a convenient excuse to explain away the general untidiness of my home. I am too busy looking after them to tidy and children are mostly mess makers. This was very much true when they were babies, and mess and chaos of the toddler years nearly finished me off, but it’s not so much the case now. Even so, the house remains a mess. Kinder visitors to my home have described it as “lived in”. Even as I type these words I am cringing in the knowledge I’ve generally spent at least an entire day clearing up before their visit, and that “lived in” is the best I can hope for even after pulling out all the stops.
The untidiness at home is not helped by my personality – I have long known that I am a serial starter of new things and not a completer finisher. It’s like a switch goes off in my head when I’ve 80% completed a project and suddenly it’s lying unfinished and forgotten, and I’m off onto the next thing. Sometimes this is circumstantial, like when I think I’ve got enough time to finish something before the start of the school holiday and a child gets ill and the school holidays start in a rush several days earlier than expected. But mostly I just do it to myself; by simply getting bored and starting something new or generally getting distracted. How often have I thought “ooh I’ll just cast on to see how the yarn works in the pattern” only to find myself several inches down the leg of the second sock, trying not to dwell on the wip I abandoned for this one, but also thinking “I wonder if that poncho pattern would work in that new yarn I bought last week”, before caving and casting on the poncho.
But I’ve been finding this behaviour increasingly frustrating. There have been plenty of occasions this year when I’ve wanted to get involved in a KAL but have taken a look at the wip pile and realised I just can’t justify it. Then when I see all the finished pieces others have produced, I feel sad because, now the KAL is finished there is virtual chance I’ll ever get to make the item.
Also, this behaviour means a lot of unfinished stuff lying around cluttering up the place. This never used to bother me, but earlier this year, tiring of the mess, I resolved to Konmari my house (this is a way of tidying that asks you to consider every item in your house and ask yourself whether it sparks joy). This started straightforwardly enough. I deposited car loads of clothes, shoes, ornaments, toys, baby equipment and books at our local charity shops and donated still more to the jumble. I dragged long forgotten boxes from cupboards and threw out endless phone charges and other electrical paraphernalia. I Ebayed chairs and tables and cupboards and decided that the country cottage look we had going on just wasn’t for me, and I was going to go where my heart lead towards the simplicity of scandi living with a mid century twist, irrespective of the fact we actually live in a country cottage.
But none of this made any real difference to the levels of clutter in my home. In fact, and it seems ridiculous to say it, but all this tidying actually made things worse as I often neglected the day to day stuff (like filing the enormous amounts of paperwork we continuously accumulate). And so, I’ve been forced to confront the true reason for our perpetually messy home. And it’s me. Or more specifically my inability to finish anything. I can’t even finish the tidying!
So I’ve been analysing this aspect of my craziness and I’ve come to the conclusion that I usually think I’ve finished a task several steps before it is actually complete. The laundry is a good example of this. It should be obvious when the laundry is complete – when the dry clothes are folded and neatly put away in the drawer. However, sometimes my head will tick off this item on my mental to do list, when I’ve merely folded the clothes but not yet put them away, so they languish for ages, usually in a basket on the stairs or the spare room. Sometimes my head does this at the point where I drag the clothes out of the tumble dryer and put them in a basket. When this happens the basket usually ends up in the living room, and often, I’ll need the basket to gather more dirty laundry so I will empty the clean (still unfolded) laundry onto the couch where the children will spend a couple of days sitting on it, and using it as cushions and blankets, before it occurs to me I’ll need to fold it (and, by now, iron it or sometimes even wash it again) and get it upstairs into the drawers. If it were just the laundry, I could probably live with it. But it manifests itself in the way I’ll cast off and block a shawl but won’t ever get around to sewing the two ends of yarn in. Or that I’ll vacuum but not put the vacuum cleaner away afterwards. Or that I’ll load the dishwasher but take days to get around to the handwash items. And, in countless other ways. I’m not proud of this behaviour. I’m just putting it out there, (partly in the hope that I’m not the only one. Please tell me I’m not the only one!?).
So for 2017, I’m resolving to fully finish tasks. All tasks. This might take a while as there are almost 46 years worth of unfinished tasks to get too. But, specifically, I’m going to finish all my yarny projects, and then I’m going to use up my stash. Yes, you heard me say it, I’m going to USE UP MY STASH. I may also be opening an Etsy shop to sell some of the yarn I’ve dyed myself but which I’ll never get around to using. The using up of my stash also means not adding to it, so I’m cancelling my yarn clubs (sob!) and will not be buying new yarn at yarn shops or shows (how? how?). In tandem, with this I’m going to do the same thing with my fabric stash.
I’m also only going to work on one wip at a time, and am not going to start the next thing until I have finished the first, and that includes sewing in the ends. This will be quite a challenge for me as I do always flit from one thing to another. But earlier this month, I gave myself a test. I knitted a pair of mittens from start to finish without picking up another project. They were an easy knit, just stocking stitch, in DK yarn so they didn’t take forever, but I enjoyed the focus and felt huge satisfaction in completing a project, so hopefully more of that feeling will spur me on.
So, here’s to a tidy (tidier?) house and mind, in 2017.
Erm. Yes, I know what you are thinking. You know those words are English but, what am I on about???
Well, after a couple of years knitting socks and shawls and hats and clothes for the kids, I’ve finally summoned the courage to knit a garment for myself. Courage was required because a garment is a big undertaking, it’s a lot of knitting, and it’s got to fit (unlike the kids clothes when you can just knit a size up knowing they’ll grow into it eventually). Getting a garment to fit requires two things. A tape measure and a tension square.
The tape measure is for measuring oneself. Alas knitting patterns rarely come in standard sizes 8, 10, 12 etc. Rather, they give various measurements for each size and you have to pick the one that best meets your own measurements. But it was a surprise to me to learn I am not the size I imagined I was. In fact, I am several inches bigger than the size my bra would have me believe (and now I actually understand all those numbers and letters!).
My measurements taken and duly noted, I compared these with the pattern I had selected (the Heliotropic Pullover by Mercedes Tarasovich, chosen because I thought it would be versatile, with ot without another top underneath dependant on the seasons. And also, I only had 300g of the yarn I wanted to use so I was never going to be able to make something with sleeves). And here is where the confusion starts. The pattern says the smallest size of the finished garment is 45 1/2 inches bust measurement. Now my bust is nowhere near this, so I read on. It turns out that this is the finished size at the hem not the bust. Eh? The design of the pattern makes it a ‘functionally smaller garment at the bust’ so the smallest size is for a 37″ bust. I’m a bit bigger than this but nearer to the smaller size than the next size up, so I opted for the smaller size, because of positive ease.
So what is this positive ease I speak of? Positive ease is simply where the garment is designed to be a bit bigger than the wearers measurements (compare this with negative ease on socks where the sock is narrower than the foot so it doesn’t go all saggy and fall down with wear). The pattern in question talked of several inches of positive ease, so I went with the smaller size.
Next up is the tension square. Many knitters I know have never made a tension square. And I don’t often, but given my dilemma over pattern sizing and the sheer amount of knitting involved in the finished garment, it seemed prudent. For the uninitiated, a tension square is just a small knitted square made on the suggested needles and with the yarn of your choice (in my case a really rather scrummy yak from the January Yarn Club by Daisy at Devon Sun Yarns. Gorgeous to knit with, cotton like in feel but warm like wool), to check your gauge against the designers. The theory goes, if your tension square is too small, you go up a needle size and knit another square to check again, repeating the process until you get the correct gauge. You go down a needle size if your square is too big. Well, the goldilocks effect reigned supreme because my tension was just right.
But. Even though I’d gone through all this preparation, all the way through the knitting, I still doubted it would actually fit (and I cannot tell you the dispair that filled my heart when I read the words, “Continue in stocking stitch for the next 14 1/2 inches”. It was a lot of knitting!). You see, I wasn’t really reassured by the potential positive ease because on the circular needle, it looked really quite small. And, even worse, everyone who saw it in progress, quietly thought the same thing (I could see it in their faces; they would only confirm their thoughts when I shared my own fears). So, it was with some nervousness that, after the final cast off, I tried it on and, hurrah! It fitted, if not exactly like a dream, certainly like a dream with some positive ease. And, as first knitted garments go, I’m pretty pleased with it.