Sunday, 22 March 2009

Crunch knitting

Cycling back from seeing a friend just now a further thought occurred to me about lace - surely it must be the recession project par excellence? I paid 11 euros for the yarn to make my Swallowtail, and ended up using less than half of it. So effectively this warm, elegant, heirloom piece cost less than a t-shirt from Topshop. Of course, this is merino we're talking about - 11 euros might not get me that much silk or cashmere. Even with these more luxurious fibres, however, the price-per-yard tends to be much better than heavier yarn, not to mention the price-per-hour of knitting time, if we take into account the dizzying complexity of some lace patterns.

As I was pondering and pedalling, a chorus of sweet spring birdsong provided a soundtrack to my journey. I don't know whether I have become hyper-sensitive to birds after knitting Owls and Swallowtail, but I'm glad I was up to hear it.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Tale of a Swallow

Oh dear... is that some kind of drain fungus?
No. It's a Swallowtail lace shawl, about to embark on its magical blocking journey. Here is a rubbish photo taken in my dingy basement of it pinned out on my bed (I really wish I had read this Yarn Harlot post before I did it on how to avoid those scallops along the top edge with an ingenious piece of string).
It's easy to see how people get addicted to lace. It was quite astonishing seeing a lumpen, mossy bundle that I was a little embarrassed to work on in public ('It's going to look better than this when it's finished') transmogrify into this.
The Emma ducks that you may be able to see through the shawl were most intrigued by my antics. 

I learned a great deal knitting this. Some of the buds towards the beginning have a somewhat Chernobyl-like aspect. Despite this, it is a thing of great beauty. I had been a little worried about whether I'd actually wear it, but as it is I've barely taken it off. The yarn is Ornaghi Merino Oro, and feels like a soft, sage cloud around my neck - not bad given that I chose it mainly because it had a friendly panda on the label.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Fallout Stashing

I responded to the international debate our prime minister is attempting to start on nuclear weapons by purchasing enough yarn to see me through the first few months of a nuclear winter. 

Monday, 16 March 2009

Monster Mittens

Here is a mitten I've been working on. The pattern is Bird in Hand by Kate Gilbert, so-called because a little bird is worked on the thumb. I adore this pattern - the swirling garlands and flowers...
... the snowflake-like palm with its own surprise flower...
... and I love the interplay of the colours I chose - the blue-y purple seems to lend the pale grey a lunar glow - I knitted this with the purple in my right hand and the grey in my left so the latter would stand out more. The yarn is Laines du Nord Dolly, and not only is it as soft as a kitten frolicking on a bed of angels' hair, but it is also imbued with happy memories of the shop where I bought it, tucked away down one of the twisty medieval lanes of central Genoa. 

I used wooden needles for the project so that I could take it on planes, so this mitten has been all over the place with me, garnering stories along the way. There was the air steward who asked me if I could stop knitting during take-off and landing in case I... at this point he mimed 'stabbing oneself through the heart with a knitting needle' (surely all the people using pens are in similar danger?). Then there was the old lady on the train back from Milan airport who was so mesmerised by the mitten that she decided I had to become friends with her daughter who, I discovered over the course of an awkward and protracted evening, was not a knitter but was a total mentalist. Yes, we've had some interesting times, this mitten and I.

As you may be able to see, it is very near completion. All I have left to do is to graft the top few stitches together and pick up and knit the thumb. Despite this, it has been languishing unfinished for quite some time. So what am I waiting for? Where are my skates, and why don't I get them on? Well...
... here is why.
Pretty early on I became aware that the mitten I was creating was not only waaaaaaaaaay too big for my wee hands, but quite possibly also too big for ANY HUMAN BEING. But there wasn't much I could do about this, as I don't have own smaller wooden needles, and couldn't find any in Genoa. So it was a choice between having nothing to knit while travelling (the horror) or continuing with these monsters. I have been on the look out for any chilly-fingered ogres who might be able to give them a good home, but my search has so far been fruitless, and anyway not in keeping with the Year of Selfish Knits. Sigh. I must confess that I have slightly lost my mitten mojo. If I were ever to be able to wear these myself I would have to unravel this one, re-knit it and knit it a sister, by which time it would probably be too warm for mittens. So I'm afraid it will continue in its dejected state, so near completion and yet so far from usability, for quite some time yet...


The Year of Selfish Knits got off to a flying start...
I came across Owls on Ravelry and fell in love. What could be a more appropriate garment for a student than one with the avian symbol of wisdom clustered round the shoulders?

I ogled the pattern for a while, and mentally knit it in plethora of different yarns. At last I settled on the one it had been designed for, Rowan Purelife British Sheep in Steel Grey Suffolk. I loved the sturdy softness of the fabric it produced, and the subtle natural variations in colour. 

What with being at home in Edinburgh for a week with nothing much else to do, this fairly rattled off my needles. I cast on on Monday afternoon, and by Friday evening it was finished and blocking. Today the owls had their first outing, to Dean Gardens where these photos were taken.

I totally love this, and can't quite believe I made it! I'm so glad it's still chilly enough to wear it.
Hoot hoot!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Year of Selfish Knits

Gift-knitting  is a most satisfying process. While non-crafty gift-hunters are shackled to whatever happens to be in the shops, we gift knitters are limited only our creative capacities, yarn supply, and the stitching time available. I enjoy selecting yarns, which involves either virtuous stash-diminution, or guilt-free shopping – ‘It’s ok: I’m buying this for someone else…’ I love perusing the thousands of patterns available on-line and in magazines looking for just the right thing for that particular person. I delight in knitting the thing, and the clandestine fun of keeping it a secret from its intended recipient. I savour packaging the finished item, laying it in a rustling bed of tissue paper, wrapping it with the finest paper I can find, and, usually, topping it off with a massive bow. Seeing them love what I have made for them and use it all the time is surely the ultimate knitting badge of honour. 

But what, other than a hypothetical badge, another project on Ravelry, and a warm fuzzy feeling, are you actually left with, after the hand-over of the gift? Nothing tangible, nothing… knitted. Exhausted after a flurry of knitting for other people that started in November and ended in mid-February, I had a small epiphany. Just because I can knit gifts doesn’t mean I am obliged to. I realised I was tired of others feasting on the fruits of my needles while I went hungry (or rather, cold). And while gift knitting undoubtedly has its joys, as described above, it can also be a stressful business - birthdays, weddings, and Christmases all constitute fairly rigid deadlines which, as an expert procrastinator, I never seem to allow myself enough time to complete to meet comfortably.

And so I have made a late New Year’s resolution to redress this balance by re-dressing myself. I hereby declare the remainder of 2009 to be, for me, the Year of Selfish Knits. By the end of it, I would like to be swathed in knitted gorgeousness of my own creation. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my progress…

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