May I begin by taking this opportunity to wish you all a very, very, Happy New Year.
No doubt, you'll have started 2015 with one or two (or maybe more) resolutions, some of which may be yarn-related, some may not. Needless to say, I also have mine. Top of the list is to work on correcting my posture which, and this is an official, medical description, is "awful". I cannot argue. This diagnosis might have been slightly easier to hear had the therapist not voiced almost the exact same phrases that my mother has been using for most of my life, but it does not shake the truth: My posture is awful and, if I don't do something now, it might seriously affect my quality of life in the future. Now these words, these will make me sit bolt upright.
The ensuing lecture on the perils of modern living wasn't, I have to admit the most enthralling: Yes, we're all using computers more, sitting badly at desks and keyboards more, slumping across our sofas while reading / typing on our phones and tablets more, driving our cars more and, as a consequence, turning back into Neanderthals, but it seems that this particular primitive is exacerbating the problem by knitting more while sitting badly, often in the car (though not driving, obviously). Being the coward that I sometimes am, I didn't mention this significant "other" in my life for fear that he recommended some limiting measures, such as 'not knitting as much'. Onset of these most recent symptoms has been preceded by running (albeit slowly) and whilst he hadn't told me to quit this (quite the opposite, in fact), he wasn't to be trusted to make a similar prognosis regarding the sedentary practice of needle holding.
Given that I'm a 21st century gal, I had hoped that he could fix my postural problem with a few appropriate re-adjustments of the spine or similar but apparently the trouble is beyond that kind of instant repair. Apparently I'm looking at years to correct the issues. So what does this mean?
Well, apart from expecting to see this resolution at the top of next year's list, I have been more mindful of the way that I stand and sit and although this usually ends up with me not knowing how to do either "properly", I hope that my awareness will help me find the right path to, err, backfulness.
I am more conscious of my posture while I knit. I usually knit sitting down (although it wouldn’t be so unusual to find me knitting, standing in front of the cooker while waiting for the kettle to boil) and adopting the correct posture when sitting against a chair back is easier than when standing surrounded by air. I have never been one of those knitters to secure a needle under one armpit, so I guess I've saved myself a twist or two (though, no doubt, child birth has removed any potential brownie points so let's not compare). I tend to knit with circular needles, even when knitting a flat piece of fabric, and so by trying to raise my hands off my lap while knitting, I hope to stop my head constantly looking down quite so far (which has created a "near-permanently bent neck, which makes my head look detached from my body". All in all, I think I'm taking these analyses quite well.) What this new position is doing to my wrists and arms, I really don't know, but it doesn't ache and, perhaps more importantly, I'm aware that my shoulders are less rounded.
I have enrolled in a Pilates class (first one next week) in an attempt to re-educate my muscles so I might, at last, re-learn how to stand up straight. Going to this class is a bigger deal that you might first think because, unlike the daytime versions I attend, this is an evening class, and not just any evening, but Wednesday evening. This means that I'm going to have to leave my fortnightly knitting group early. Yes, I'm that committed to Project Back. Don't worry though, I plan to get around this inconvenience by going to the knitting group earlier so overall it'll balance out, but that doesn't stop it having an impact on our family life and the increasing number of night-times that I'm out knitting, by which I mean working :-) But who knows, maybe I'll be brave enough to ask the Pilates instructor the best way to hold my needles – coming straight from Woolly Wednesday, I'll have them to hand.
I also plan to go back to the aforementioned Voice of Doom for further re-adjustments and some good ol' fashioned plain speaking.
And in the meantime? I knit, obviously (and I look forward to sharing a few fruits of my needles in the next day or two). I type on my laptop (I'm Old Skool! How else do you suppose I did this). Read / send messages on my phone and tablet, drive my car and basically carry on with my 21st Century life. I've also been running and, perhaps you should sit down for this, have remained pain free. The road to (near) complete back recovery may be a long one, but with my needles and yarn to accompany me, it'll also be an enjoyable, satisfying and who knows? Maybe even a productive one too.
I've started knitting Sarah Hatton's stunning "Harwood
", part of Rowan Studio Issue 2. As you can see, this is a long-line, beautifully cabled jacket. I am, of course, knitting it in blue.
Now, this is a completely new style of project for me in that it's longer (in length!) and straighter than anything that I've knitted before, but I have the yarn and like the look of it so thought that I'd give it a go – although it may be that this perhaps isn't the cleverest of ideas.
For those who know me, you know that my body shape is pear. You also know that I'm quite tall. In her book "Knit to Fit
", the brilliant Sharon Brant actually cites this jacket as a good example for someone who is petite (oh dear) and "is a great design for athletic shapes" (oh dear, oh dear). Perhaps I should stop knitting now? (It's a serious question.) However, the reason behind purchasing this book was because Sharon shows you how to adapt patterns to make them fit properly and so I have just referred to it for advice on adding some shaping around the waist. Which is a possibility. So, so far: Option One is to scrap the project; Option Two is to add some waist shaping.
In her description of 'Garments that suit Pear Shapes', Sharon recommends "shaped, short sweaters and cardigans" (i.e. most of what I've been knitting for myself, which is kinda reassuring), so an Option Three could be to shorten the jacket as well as to shape it. However, she then goes onto say that "belted cardigans are good, as are patterned garments" – is this not "Harwood"? Any shorter and the jacket wouldn't need a belt, right? So Option Four is to knit as stated in the pattern, without any alterations.
What do you think? My needles are poised as I wait for your answer.....
You know me: I'm not a one project girl. A small part of this is due to trying to balance my work knitting with that that I knit for pleasure, but the largest part of this is my moth-like tendencies to new yarn, new patterns and the glorious new cast on. For this reason, it is only recently that I've been able to justify casting on a new garment project for me. Yes, I have two pairs of socks on the needles, one headband and a scarf but since these are only small projects, they will be completed in only a few knitting sessions.* A larger project – of the type on which I used to thrive – now that requires real commitment in these days of very limited knitting-for-me-time, and so there was no small amount of pressure to ensure that I correctly chose The One.
Part of the motivation for The One is my diminishing wardrobe of knitwear. It's like I woke up one morning and suddenly realised that I didn't have enough jumper-type garments for every day wear. If memory serves me correctly, this happened last autumn too – but since this season quickly passes into winter (especially for a cold soul such as myself) – the panic was short-lived. This year, however, it seems that I could no longer ignore the problem and clearly hand-knitting new transitional garments was deemed the most sensible way forward.
On one level, this solution does hold certain merit. After all, I do have quite a lot of yarn and several patterns to choose from. I also have the skills necessary to knit the things I want to – it's just the small question of time. (Apparently the success of most projects is in the details.... Ahem.)
Now normally, I would go straight to my beloved Rowan
for both pattern and yarn. Not only am I guaranteed to find something that I'll love but the finished garment will also serve as work-wear so it's win win. This time though, I thought that I'd try something different: A whole new designer and some non-Rowan yarn. (Don't underestimate what a Big Deal this is for me. It's like going off Cadbury's chocolate.) As is often the way with these things, I stumbled across a lovely pattern in Ysolda Teague’s new book "The Rhinebeck Sweater
" and it's Ysolda's own "Pumpkin Ale
" that I took a fancy too (if you too are interested, note errata
for this pattern). The jacket doesn't look like much from the front but one glimpse of the back and you're in for a real treat: Beautiful cables, flattering shaping – it really is stunning. On a previous visit to Kathy's Knits
, I'd picked up some of Rennie
's Carnation Supersoft 4ply. Okay, I'll be honest: I bought her out of it. The colour is an exact match for a treasured (but now worn out) jumper gifted to me by one of my brothers but since I didn't have a pattern, I took all that she had – wouldn't want to run out! Since this wasn't the yarn suggested by Ysolda, I carefully knitted up several swatches until I found the correct needle size using two strands together to achieve the required tension. And then the knitting could begin.
And it's been going on for quite a while. But this is all to be expected given the small amount of actual knitting time – and whilst it would be nice if I had an occasional visit from the knitting fairy, I'm okay with the slow speed of progress.
Fast forward a few months to last weekend when I was chatting knitting with my aunt. Like my mother, my aunt knits a lot but and it's great that we have this in common. It's always interesting seeing what others are knitting and browsing through their knitting books. My aunt is knitting a jumper for one of my cousins from Debbie Bliss's "Land Girls
", more cables but after that the similarities to "Pumpkin Ale" quickly end, and whilst pretty and wholly appropriate for its recipient, the jumper is not for me. Another design from this book caught my eye: Think Red Riding Hood for grown-ups. A lovely hooded (red) cabled jacket, perhaps mid thigh length. It's very appealing. However, further study revealed that it has no way of fastening: No buttons (although it has straight edges so it might not be too difficult to add a band), but probably best suited to a belt fastening – only I'm not. And then I took my aunt to show her my project, my cabled jacket with – wait for it – no way to fasten the front. And it's shaped so adding a button band would be impossible, belts are a no-no – but then so are edges that just flap around, letting in the cold and making me cross my arms in desperation to keep in the heat. Was I knitting this to "wear around the house"? What, as some glorified bed jacket? No, I don't think so! I'm not putting in all those hours of toil for a woollen garment that I can't wear out because I'll be cold.
And now, on reflection, it seems that I won't be putting in any further hours at all. I have reached the conclusion that this garment isn't for me. Yes, it's very nice but it's not Katherine. So there remains only one course of action: Frog the work.
And then find an alternative The One. And I think that I've found it: "Cullin
" by Mary Henderson (again, note the errata
). And I think that I have some suitable yarn: Rowan's felted tweed chunky Not quite the break from tradition that I was aiming for but for me, but perhaps this is a start.
I am left wondering how I would feel after knitting much more – or even all – of Pumpkin Ale. Would I be quite so willing to discard it? How often would I wear it if complete? I think my maybe my hesitant knitting has saved me from a big disappointment. And given me time to concentrate on my socks. Win win.
* Provided each knitting session is several days in length, undisturbed and fuelled by endless tea and cake = totally improbable ever to happen.
Twas the night before Stitch Gathering
and the only sound in the house
Was the whirr of a sewing machine as fast as a mouse.
While the menfolk all lay resting, asleep in their beds
The crafter among them pulled the hairs from her head!
For the time that she thought she had to sew for her friends
Had gone out of the window and was almost at an end.
One needed a name badge,
Another a bag.
And the other preparation made Katherine's shoulders sag.
"A window", she thought "now that would be fab!"
"Of the cathedral variety on the front of the tag.
I'll cross-stitch the name (it's nice and it's short)
And finish the piece with a knitted i-cord.”
Initially the bag was to be knitted in yarn
But the idea was abandoned as it would be too heavy – oh darn!
So some bright, cheerful fabric was selected as a base
And a pocket knitted to keep precious things safe.
With fabric cut out for her projects of choice - apron and bag -
She picked up her sewing machine and tried not to lag
As she put away her tools, all tidy and neat,
At last excited and looking forward to the quilting retreat.
So, it's done. And yes, I'm pleased – and if we stop feeding Oldest Son, it might last him more than five minutes!
How long has it taken? I checked my calendar as I know exactly when I bought the pattern and yarn: Saturday 2nd March 2013, John Lewis Sheffield, immediately following a colour workshop with the wonderful Bev. I can't remember when I cast on but let's be realistic, it could well have been on the train on the way home – if not, it'll have been shortly afterwards. So a mere 13 months then.
As with many projects, it's not just about the goal, it's the journey to get there. Now I'm not going to get all morbid as I recollect knitting this in hospital corridors but think on the positive and how mother-in-law was among the many who kept me company on this path. Of the many car journeys whose monotony was broken with knitting "Kurt
"; of the pleasure knitting with the yarn (Baby Merino Silk DK
, in case you're interested) and the satisfaction with becoming so quickly in tune with the cabling pattern – after a short while, it became almost instinctive. The delight in discovering a new yarn shop
in which to purchase buttons (and a delightful shop it is too).
Oldest Son’s next project is already underway: A Cornish Gansey. If I manage to keep my needles clicking, it might not end up being such a snug fit.
We have been visited by death. This time he insisted on keeping my mother-in-law for company.
On some levels, I can understand his choice: She's interesting, has a phenomenal memory, patient, kind and a crafter. She'll always be a knitter to me, but that undersells her other crafting interests: She could crochet, sew and was a most proficient cross-stitcher. At least three other reasons why you might want to spend some time with her.
I'm clearly in the "denial" stage of my grief. We lost her only days ago or, perhaps I should say, we can't really have lost her, can we? Yet, under instruction from our father-in-law, sister-in-law and I have sorted through her crafty things. This has not made her passing any more real, though it has allowed me to realise how all our treasured possessions are just "stuff" and are, on some level, meaningless. It truly is about the people. For example, I'm now the owner of some rather lovely knitting books. My current reaction? In all honesty: Indifference. Now, if my mother-in-law had personally gifted even one of these books to me, I would have been thrilled. Absolutely delighted. She and I have a shared love of Kim Hargreaves's designs and I've long admired MIL's copy of Kim's first solo publication "Heartfelt" (one day I'm going to knit myself "Darcy
"). Well, now it's mine. Which is nice but in such a flat, emotionless way. And there are others. I'm sure that my attitude will change over time and perhaps, at some point, you'll allow me to share with you these special, new additions to my library.
As for unfinished projects, there were a couple (by which I mean three): One child's cardigan complete except for the buttons; one child's top (in progress); one crochet blanket, finished bar a short section of border. More than a competent crocheter herself, sister-in-law very kindly completed this and the blanket, MIL's first adventure in crochet for years, is now part of our family home and crafting history. An absence of buttons doesn't count as "knitting" so that leaves one, one project. Since we think that the top was destined for her eldest child, sister-in-law has taken the work to complete. And, just like that, the projects are sorted (well, almost).
Then there was the stash, or lack of it. At least that's what we initially thought as her work basket contained only the yarn she was using plus a few other oddments. Sister-in-law and I were stunned to say the least. And possibly shamed (as we compared hers to the complete frivolity of our own stashes). Thankfully – for our own consciences, I mean – over the next couple of days, father-in-law found a few bags of yarn, mostly comprising gifts that she hadn't got round to using. So, not really stash of her own making – but there was enough to give hint to her own tastes.
Despite my earlier ascertains, very quickly it became too much. Books lost their individual identities just falling under the collective heading of "knitting"; yarn became a blur, loosing its composition, texture even colour. I could barely focus. I didn't want to know, didn't want to look, didn't – don't – want to accept the truth of why we doing this. But I also didn't want to part with any of it. Not just randomly: It had value to MIL and I wanted the next person to appreciate that, if not in the same manner, then in a different but meaningful way. But who am I to dictate how other people's belongings should be distributed, handled, cared for? Who I am to set such high, unrealistic and unfair criteria? Seemingly grief can give a false idea of legacy. Enter MIL's friend and neighbour who, understanding everything – the practicalities, the emotions, everything - took the remainder of the collection for distribution among her crafting friends. To only say "thank you" is completely inadequate but I confess that any other, more suitable words, fail me.
Of course, this isn't the whole story. There's the self-reflection that goes with the loss, particularly when you can connect through a common interest. Can you imagine going through my projects, my stash, my books? More to the point, can you imagine what my MIL would say (let alone my own mother!) with the sheer abundance of stuff? What would they do with it all? Would they get any joy from it or would it be a toil – and, in my case, a very heavy toil?
I realise that now may not be the wisest time to make any decisions about my "stuff" so I'll refrain from giving away all my stash just now, tempted as I am. But I am more committed to knitting it. I'm starting with the yarn that MIL gave me. Too late for her to see the finished work, but – if I start now – not too late for her intended recipient to wear it: Her Oldest Grandson.
Anne, I think of you with every stitch. And your grandsons will be blessed to be wrapped in the enduring love of their Granny.
It's that time of, err, year? life? when people are starting to make noises about Oldest Child and his contemporaries starting school. You probably don't need to be told that it's turning me into a bit of a wreck.
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not of the mind to keep him at home: Oldest Son, like most children his age, is keen to learn and explore the world and for me, and for my family, we believe that school is an appropriate place to do this, amongst children his own age and under the care and guidance of a team of motivated and professional teachers. But that doesn't mean that this sometimes over-emotional woman and mother can't mourn the dawning end of this current phase of our lives.
This isn't to say that every one of our days together has been Enid Blyton perfect. Daily mysteries of "where did the time / shoe / car keys go" continue to plague us and despite forays into baking and cordial making, my boys still prefer chocolate over fruit cake and have yet to be introduced to the delights of ginger beer. But there's time. Even with proposed changes to the teaching week, school attendance isn't all day every day – and we, like the millions of others before us, will come to value our evenings, weekends and holidays together.
I'll miss him. That's the honest truth of it. I'll miss our freedom, whole days doing something or nothing, as the mood, wind, rain, sunshine, our interests and energies take us. I've just about got used to the few hours that he spends in nursery but both Youngest Son and I are always delighted to see him at the end of his session – and this is regardless of any baking that he might have been involved in.
I also can't knit for him. Okay, yes, of course I can, but from August, Oldest Son will be wearing a school uniform and one that doesn't include hand knitted jumpers. I'm aware that this sounds extremely hypercritical given, as we've previously discussed, the jacket I currently have on the needles for Oldest Son probably won't even fit him, but there would have been a whole lot of comfort in sending him to school in a jumper that I'd made for him. Comfort for me, obviously. This is all about me. In case you're in any way uncertain about the degree of this fixation, I have even considered knitting jumpers for all of his classmates just so Oldest Son didn't stand out - his class is likely to comprise four children so this isn't quite as ridiculous as it sounds. However, that idea was soon quashed – not because it's nonsense (and of course it is), but because all of his class mates are likely to be in receipt of jumpers from older siblings - so anything from me would be totally and completely surplus to requirement. For a brief moment I considered knitting him socks, but seriously, plain black socks? I'll stop right there.
So he'll just have to go to school in the knowledge that I love him even if he can't wear anything I've knitted for him to prove it. Because clearly that's how love is measured, by the quality and quantity of hand knits. But before we know it, autumn and winter will soon be upon us and then my needles will be free to knit, knit, knit away. At least for the five minutes before he starts rejecting anything and everything that I create for him. Mummy's knitting isn’t always going to be cool.
In the meantime, I’ll get used to it, obviously I will. For one thing I have to and for another, it is a wonderful opportunity to have some quality one-on-one time with Youngest Son. Whole days to do something or nothing……..
My wake up call last night was at 02:47 (I'm nothing, if not precise) – Youngest Son does like to mix it up. After popping into his bedroom, and expecting to be in for the long haul, I came downstairs, stoked the fire, put on the kettle – by which time, all was silent upstairs. I hadn't even completed a single round before the timer went off (no, you're not really surprised) and all was still quiet. Trouble was, I was awake. So, too, was the cat imprisoned in the utility room, no doubt for crimes again the sleeping (one of the side effects of "clearing" all the local vermin is that said cat is bored and sleeping more during the day; this makes him restless at night. His midnight prowls might even have been contributed to Youngest Son waking – though last night, it was definitely the other way round.)
So you can imagine my pleasure at being up, wide awake, listening to the cat scratching away at the door like some crazed, well, animal, in the wee hours. I also know how easy it can be to programme your brain: You wake up in the middle of the night; you "reward" your awake self with a cooked breakfast / episode of your favourite programme / chapter of your favourite book; you eventually go back to sleep. Noting the pleasure of the night's activities, you wake again at approximately the same time the following night for more culinary / cultural delights. Advice is to do something so monotonous that your brain is sooo off-put at the thought of doing it again, you sleep on through. Examples include arranging all of your food tins in alphabetical order or reading sections of the dictionary. No pleasure, no (tangible) achievement, no reward. Examples do not include sock knitting or, indeed, knitting of any kind, blogging, perusing Ravelry or staring at any other bright screen.
And so, anxious to avoid any further night-time nonsense, I downed tools and drank my "Sleepy Tea" in the darkness in front of the fire before heading off to bed.
As for the knitting progress that you can see, well, I cheated. Sorry. I have to be honest, I had never in my wildest dreams thought that this bed-time "re-set" would last long enough to allow even a single, let alone a pair, of socks to be completed. So the socks were going to have to be knitted at some other time, I just hadn't really considered when. Turns out that once I'd started, I found it difficult to put down the needles, to release myself from the pure pleasure of round upon round of meditative socking stitch. And although stopping is exactly what I did on Night One, yesterday evening no other knitting appealed to me – to the extent that I started whiling away the hours online. And then, sensible head engaged, I carried on knitting the sock. Sorry, again.
As for tonight, note to self: Go into Youngest Son's room and then GO BACK TO BED. Simples.
It's with some surprise that I'm able to write to tell you that the night wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. Despite helpful comments from Husband along the lines of 'and if Mummy gets any sleep...", I did, in fact get some sleep, in my own bed and without Youngest Son for company!
The expected shenanigans kicked off a lot earlier than usual (20.53 to be precise) but were all done just over an hour later. And, much to my disbelief, lasted the entire night. In terms of my knitting, I did complete a couple of rounds past the cuff "target" but it turns out that was okay. Much more so, in fact: I really, really enjoyed it – and it was difficult to put down the sock knitting when Youngest Son has settled (I love knitting socks!). In fact, those plan stocking-stitch rounds were probably formed just to be sure he was asleep, to be absolutely sure.
But you know me, I'm a stickler for the rules – and note how I stopped knitting just before the glorious blue colour hit the needles. Now that's control! (Though I suspect I'll get plenty of opportunity to continue this evening.....)
For reasons too boring, too mundane and too predictable to mention, we've got into an unhelpful night-time habit with Youngest Son: We put him to bed at bedtime, he goes to sleep and then, usually sometime between 11pm and 1am, he's awake and crying. For the aforementioned reasons, and in a desperate attempt to get some sleep, any sleep, the next part of the routine is as follows: With head hung in tired and almost hopeless resignation, one of us collects the child – who is by now, standing expectantly in his cot, his little bag all packed and ready to go – and bring him back to our bed. Where I, particularly, can look forward to a night where any sleep I can snatch will be nose-to-nose with said child, with my hair firmly wound around his lovely, little fingers and 'enjoy' a periodic role-call just to check that I'm still there. Obviously the thought of escape has never occurred to me.
But not tonight. No, tonight it's all going to change. Tonight when Youngest Son awakes demanding his bed upgrade, well, I'm afraid it's not going to happen. Tonight Youngest Son will spend all night in his bed.
Yes, brave words, the kind of words one might expect to hear hours before the drama – and associated emotional battle - but I have a plan: I'm going to knit socks through the crying. In a few minutes I'm going to cast on, grabbing these last moments of semi-functioning brain to at least get the stitch count correct, and then I'll continue the knitting while Youngest Son and I "negotiate" the new rule. The fire will be stoked, I'll have cats to keep me company, plenty of hot, decaffeinated drinks to the ready and the wonderful, re-assurance of sock knitting. (If this were to occur, say 12 hours earlier / later in the day, it might actually be a treat! And as much as I'm trying to put a positive spin on this, don't even think of suggesting that this is "me time".)
Tomorrow, I'll show you the progress I've made with the first sock. Any more than the cuff and I'll probably be really, really tired.