... Today was the last ever Rowan coffee morning in John Lewis Edinburgh. I could be optimistic and say the last ever planned coffee morning but I'm not sure I can allow myself that much hope. This is the last full month that we will be able to benefit from the wealth of knowledge, experience and inspiration that the Rowan Design Consultants have shared with us. From the beginning of July – and much sooner in many cases – our John Lewis's will be without the central core of their haberdashery departments. I don't mean to belittle their JL colleagues but I'm sure that I wasn't alone in making a beeline for the person on the shop floor wearing the glorious knitwear and sporting the purple name badge to answer my yarn-related needs. These women have inspired me and countless, countless others. These women live and breathe their craft and have shown me how to do the same. I hope that this change in their employment status will not change that. I do not underestimate the shock, hurt and grief that they may be experiencing; I just hope that their enthusiasm for all things wool will not be so easily lost. But know that the draw of the John Lewis haberdashery department is not the same. Know that I will miss you. Know that I am among many who will feel the same.
So desperate was I not to miss today's coffee morning that I took Youngest Son. Obviously we both wore Rowan. Obviously we both did some knitting on the train. Obviously we had cake (or, more accurately, the icing in and around the cake). Obviously we got more yarn. Less obvious – though completely in character – was the kindness that the JL Edinburgh Rowan Design Consultant, Lindsay – her name is Lindsay! – showed us, both of us. She immediately recognised and complimented Youngest Son on his little denim jacket (thank you again, Grandma). She was enthusiastic and interested in his knitting (to be a scarf for teddy). As the youngest attendee in the history of her coffee mornings, she was nothing but kind, wonderful and so, so thoughtful – to both of us. For example,
... I missed a wonderful photo opportunity. Picture it: My friend and I both wearing our versions of "Harwood" with a Rowan, denim-wearing toddler between us. That's Lindsay for you: She correctly predicted that I would be wearing my jacket so brought hers. Invited me to share the floor with her so we could twirl together. I thought of asking someone to take a photo but knew that in the time taken to set up the phone, the moment would be lost. Not that I would have really minded. My memory is pretty awful and such moments – semi-contrived or not – are precious. I look forward to the next time that I can welcome Lindsay here – and perhaps she would wear her Harwood and we could try that again?
... When does Big Wool Colour make a beard for a teddy? And seriously, what does Youngest Son expect me to do with it?! Other than find a special place to store it and call it his stash?
... Speaking of stashes, I had to raid mine looking for more yarn for my version of "Svala". This jumper is the reason that I'll be over-ordering the yarn for my next commission: It's just too stressful, and pleasure-less, knitting without the guarantee that there's enough yarn to see you through to project's end. Anyway, while I found some more "sheep" colour, I discovered that didn't have any felted tweed "pine" (hence the destruction of the Christmas decoration: Ding, dong the bell really is gone). Unexpectedly, I also found two more UFOs: (1) The first, and incomplete, glove of the pair I planned to knit for Husband and (2) the front and back of a summer top for me. Yep, I could have cried. So much for the joy of casting on New Project with only two approved WIPs on the needles. However... The Plan can be modified to accommodate at least one of these abandoned pieces – the summer top, obviously. And the gloves can go onto the autumnal list. Or something. This is, perhaps, fortuitous as the organisers of the Yarn Retreat that I'm teaching at in October are running an informal KAL: Knit for points between 1st June to retreat start. So it would be silly to cast-on something new before Monday – plenty of time to finish Oldest Son's jumper and the summer top (hee, hee).
But I'm not going to cry. Instead, I want to thank you – thank you all for contributing so positively to my life. For it wouldn't be as good as it is without you, and, of course, I include my fellow Rownaites, past and present. Lindsay, Bev, Karie, Freddie, Jeannette, Alison, Jo and the many, many others that I've had the pleasure of meeting before knowing your names: Thank you. Thank you all. And you don't need a purple badge to knit with me – you know how to find me and you're always welcome xx
A couple of weeks ago, we were in Duns for the boys' dentist appointment and as we were leaving, all stickered-up and new toothbrushes in hand, I got distracted by this sewing basket displayed in the window of the vintage / antique shop. Given its colour, I know that you’re not surprised but, with my nose up against the glass, I decided that it was a little too forlorn for me – and really, what did I need another sewing basket for? But, my curiosity piqued, we crossed the threshold in search of other treasures.
Of specific interest was another, slightly smaller and less worn sewing basket, a set of Durex dpns, a child's toy high-chair that reminded me of one that my Granny used to have and two matchbox cars. In fact, so enamoured was I by the police and bright orange racing cars, that I could only part with them into the hands of my very accommodating and patient little boys. But back to the blue sewing basket.
Having made a small mound of potential purchases, and benefiting from the assistance of the owners in seeking other textile-related delights, the blue sewing basket was brought forth from the window for my inspection. And opened. And I nearly wept. For this was not an empty shell of a sewing case but it still held all of its tools – just as if its previous owner had closed it after completing the latest repair - but, of course, had never returned.
Being the sentimental old wotsit that I am, I couldn't leave it. I couldn't bare to think of it being abandoned, unappreciated and unloved. It needed to go home to that of a sewer and, in the absence of anyone else, that was mine.
It's taken a while to start exploring the contents for although I bought it, it still doesn't really feel mine. There's a name on an old medicine (now pin) tin suggesting that its original owner lived in St Boswells and there's still a part of me that would like to return it to her family as its part of their history. But I'll have to assume that if such family existed, its appearance in the vintage shop was no mistake. Other people are more pragmatic, sensible perhaps, about the allocation of such items. Clearly not me. This is the crafter who stores her knitting needles in an old corset box and a plastic, tartan case that she would never consider owning had they not belonged to her Granny. This is the crafter that has an old sweetie jar of reels of thread also belonging to her Granny: You can see her writing on the front label and, if you're very careful, you may catch a whiff of the musty store room where they were once stored when you release the lid.
I also have my mother-in-law's knitting box, and it's where I can always guarantee to find a needle for sewing up and the last remaining embroidery scissors when all others have gone astray. This is the crafter who uses her mother's old sewing machine case to store her stash, has fabric generously donated for workshop emergencies and treasures other examples too numerous to list, constant reminders of her mother’s crafting history and early family years. I would willingly exchange these for a few more minutes with my loved ones, but while death and distance prevent such frequent visits as I would love, I take comfort from their ever stoic presence and contribution in this important part of my life. But back to the blue sewing box.
And so I have had tentative look, opening tins to find a life-time of collected odd buttons, amassed needles (and there are a lot of them), tape measures, pins and more. So much more. I'm amused – and a little relived - that this sewer, like me, could never operate with only one of everything, that a spare – or spares! – form an essential part of the kit. They point to a thrifty woman of who shopped in Woolworths (which, after my brief spell working for them, will always be a special place), one who kept the free gifts from magazines (don't we all?) and who seemed proficient in a wide range of repairs and alterations. There's no indication that she was a knitter – but if you were to find my sewing basket, you'd probably reach the same conclusion.
I cannot treat these as museum pieces. If I hide them away, then I know that when I next stumble across them, they will no longer be seen as a pleasure, more of a burden, taking up both physical and emotional space. This is not what they were created for and I suspect that any crafter would want them used. So the buttons will be sorted and some, maybe all, will be assigned to the boyss craft drawer for embellishing pictures or like – and I will think of this unknown sewer every time I glance at the finished collage once pinned to the wall. The pins and needles will be sorted and absorbed into my own collection for both home and work – and I will be thankful every time one of these is put to use. We plan to get the boys a sewing machine of their own, so they will obviously be in need of their own sewing kits, the basis of which may be formed by some of these items. And the sewing basket? Well, as Husband wonderfully suggested, this will now live in the motorhome – after all, no home, even that on four wheels, is complete without its own sewing basket.
Do you ever have one of those days when going back to bed would seem like the most sensible course to take? Like when you're already pushed for time to get to school and your front offside tyre is flat. Again. Like when you're finally at school and youngest Son falls flat on his front (and into the only circle of mud in the playground) as we're rushing to our respective class rooms. As, once nursery open-morning complete, and less than one minute into your run, the battery on your iPod dies (even though you checked it before leaving the house and it showed over half remaining). That on arriving home, you find cat vomit to greet you... I'm having one of those days – and it's barely lunchtime.
For most of us, going back to bed – no matter how desirable – just isn't an option. We all have lives and demands and tasks that we need and want to complete. But sometimes it can feel as though the world is out to get you and that the safest place – perhaps for everyone's sake – is under your duvet! But that's not how you get your children to school. Oh no: You become a dab hand at re-inflating said tyre, always carry your RAC card around with you and start saving your pennies for a military-style tank (or at least an alternative vehicle that doesn't have run-on-flat tyres; except they're not – and there's no room in the boot for a spare.) You accept that you're going to get covered in mud while you give the necessary cuddles to comfort. And you run despite the lack of music and take pleasure from the bird song and the rhythmic sound of your feet pounding the ground. You try to be positive and to remain positive.
But that can take a lot of resolve, sometimes needing us to dig deep and find core strength to face yet another challenge. And sometimes we can't do it. Sometimes we utter those four letter words, melt-down in such a manner so as to put any stroppy toddler to shame and raid the chocolate tin. Surprisingly, today doesn't yet seem one of those days. And I find myself wondering if there are any predictable factors that cause us to swing from one direction to another. Sleep would be up there at the top, but life is never that simple and I suspect some kind of response pattern as set by recent and distant events will contribute.....
Take, for instance, this weekend. I was away in Aberdeen teaching a sock knitting workshop at "Wool for Ewe
" and it was brilliant. Met some really wonderful people and discovered a whole new yarn shop that is honestly worth driving all those miles to reach. It is packed with a gloriously large selection of yarn and a very distracting array of accessories. I didn't buy any yarn. This is a double-edged truth as yes, it's good in terms of staying on-track with The Plan
but then, I didn't buy any yarn. And there were some lovely options. And I don't have any socks on the go – and it would have been so easy, so justifiable, to get just one of those brightly coloured 100g balls and cast on a pair (so portable, so satisfying, so relevant to the day's teaching) but I didn't. Others did – and whilst that is the whole point of running a yarn shop - I will admit to feeling a little envious. I left the store feeling happy, pleased with the day's workshop and relieved that I had not succumbed to any yarn. (If the owners of "Wool for Ewe" could refrain from divulging the details of any purchases I may or may not have made, I would be most grateful: Husband does occasionally visit me here.)
Less than 24 hours later and the sense of euphoria had left me. I was bored by my current knitting project and I wanted something new. In my mind's eye, I could see the beautifully arranged shelves and feel the bulging bags of yarn rub against my back as I circled the table in the workshop / stock room and I started to regret that none of it had made it into my hands. Classic yarn envy. This was unhelped by photos and messages from D excitedly sharing her recent scrummy yarn purchases, pattern links and invitations to join a lace KAL and, although I stuck to my knitting guns, I felt flat and uninspired by the offerings on my needles.
I suspect that I'm not alone in such feelings and this certainly isn't the first time for me – and probably explains the large number of projects that I have on the go. Or rather, had
on the go. It's at such moments that I would make a hollow promise to myself not to forget the current project and then greedily cast on something new. But not this time. No. I am going to finish "Svala" before I lift any new needles for any new (non-work) related knitting. And last night, I did just that. I ignored the call of new yarn from the studio and I carried on knitting - despite the predicted lack of main colour yarn (this was why we first completed the body of the jumper). And despite having to adapt the colour pattern "on the hoof" so that I can have a matching pair of sleeves (they may not match the original pattern but it'll be a step too far not to have identical sleeves!). And what did I find? By bedtime I had completed 16 of the required 30 cm – and all of a sudden, I'm re-inspired! There is a dim light at the end of the tunnel and by golly I'm going for it.
So what have I learnt? That, somewhat surprisingly, there is a determination inside of me to see projects through to the end – sometimes even in a timely manner. That I can, sometimes, force the cry of new projects to quieten to almost non-discernable whisper. That that thought of casting on my next project is oh-so-much-sweeter since I know it'll only happen once Oldest Son's jumper is complete. That these small changes are actually making me happy.
Wish me luck!
Wee Cria is off the needles! So close to project's end, I'm afraid that you're going to have to wait for a photo. Unfortunately, this might take longer than planned as I can't find the buttons. Baby's mother has been most noble about the loss (she chose the buttons along with the yarn and pattern) but clearly there's only one course of action: I have to turn the house upside down to find them. Or else play psychological button warfare i.e. buy some new buttons so that the new-old ones will immediately present themselves. Yes, you playful emerald-green buttons: As gorgeous and perfectly coloured as you are, you are not irreplaceable and I will finish the garment. (That ought to have them rolling out of their hiding place quicker than you can say "Hmmmm... don't you have a button box? ".)
Funnily enough, loss of the buttons has also coincided with a loss of my knitting mojo. The final eight rows of Wee Cria were only worked yesterday after several days of nothingness. That said, I have got all excited about "Alda", sock two! Really, really enjoying the lace work. I seem to remember it being more complicated and having conversations along the lines of "It's only a four row pattern repeat – and two of those are knit rows – but if I don't knit it when I'm properly awake, then it all goes horribly wrong". Can't really explain it. Maybe I am getting a little more sleep? Maybe my little grey cells are making a slow recovery?
But, again, I seem to be working in stops and starts. To be absolutely honest with you, I'm afraid that I'm going to run out of yarn. To accommodate my Katherine-sized feet, I'm knitting the largest size and worked an extra couple of rounds on the foot section (if the sock ain't going to fit, it ain't worth knitting) and I've convinced myself that this adaptation is going to exceed the yarn allowance. I could do something sensible about this predicament (like weigh the completed sock and the remaining yarn) but instead I'm knitting s l o w l y. Because clearly if I knit s l o w l y the yarn will last for l o n g e r.
I face a similar predicament with "Svala" but this time I know that I don't have enough yarn. And that's fine, all part of the plan. There's enough for the front and back to be knitted in the same Cornish clotted cream yarn loveliness and I've several plans B's up my sleeve should they be required for the garment’s own. I find the uncertainly doesn't really lend itself to knitting quickly – but I should just get on with it. No, I really want to get on with it.
Reading this, you might think that it's been a relatively successful week, that whilst not uber productive, I've not strayed from the established knitting path. Well yes, that may be true on the needles, but in my head.... First off, that Rowan
have a lot to answer for with a Magazine full of summer goodies. When Mag 57
first landed on my doormat, I spent hours and hours analysing the designs, mentally listing their individual merits, aligning patterns with stash and imagining myself in a glorious new summer wardrobe. "Alexus
", a cotton tunic dress, made it to top of the knitting list and there it stalled, not having a stashed resource to allow immediate cast on. But the idea remained. And then allowed itself to be shelved, along with its magazine, to facilitate the more likely success of The Plan.
And then "The Knitter
" arrived, it too full of springtime wonderfullness - including "Alexus". Seriously, what is a knitter to do? Okay, so it won't be the quickest of knits but, since I'm always going to be wearing the dress with leggings, it doesn't have to be ready for the height of the summer, it will be a highlight of my summer-autumn transitional wardrobe. (See what I did there? Moth to the proverbial yarn light.) And when am I going to knit this, you ask? Okay, now it gets a little tricky. Definitely not until "Svala" and "Alda" are finished. In fact, perhaps it would be wise to avoid addressing the lack of HK cotton until those are finished? And then knit some more of "Isis Tailcoat" while I wait for it to arrive, knit "Alexus" in the new yarn and then finish "Isis". All in time for autumn. Job done. And quickly now, moving on.....
Yesterday I had the pleasure of the company of other crafters for tea upstairs in my studio – and one of the wonderful things was the variety of work that they brought with them. One crocheted blanket sections....
..... another sewed a unicorn (using up some of my near-ancient "Yarn of the Month" collection for its mane – Blue Sky Alpaca!!! – see, I always knew it could come in handy for something) and then there were the knitters.
J is perhaps the most dangerous of these – partly because of her willingness (pleasure, even) to experiment with new yarns and designers and partly because she is so very productive. (That jumper she was knitting last crafternoon? She was wearing it yesterday.) So J was knitting a Shetland Hap Shawl – and very yummy it was too in its Jamieson and Smith wool worked in swigey, springy garter stitch. And then, quite literally out of her bag, she pulled some of the latest offerings from Ginger Twist
: "Muddy Daffodil". Not normally one for yellow yarns, Jess’s combination of grey and white with the mellow yellow was just stunning. It took my breath away. A was a far better guest - working with some of my own patterns – until she wanted ideas for her next project. Oh dear….. More knitting research, lots of wonderful new projects discovered and rediscovered. A is a such a thoughtful, dedicated knitter so I suspect we won't be seeing any of these until she's finished her current work, which is beautiful (and since I seem to have lost the photos, sorry A, you'll have to take my word for it) – and not just because of your choice of yarn colour!
Speaking of blue yarn... "Byatt". Oh my. It's not even made it onto the list. Yet there it is, pattern stacked neatly under the chosen skeins of yarn and over the blue linen in which I'm going to make a dress. An entire outfit, just waiting. And with delusions of wearing it this (Made It) May. Seriously Katherine: How many hours do you think there are in a day? Or, more importantly, how many hours can you knit in one day? You're lucky if you manage two. Wanna make this happen? Can you increase this to three? Without detriment to your family and sleep (and therefore your family and everyone around you)?
Hmmm... Let's see what happens, shall we?
I can't believe that it’s been almost a month since our first Crafternoon Tea! Like me, I imagine that you've been very busy, hopefully enjoying some of this glorious Spring weather and maybe even spending more time outside? Perhaps, like me, you've now stumbled upon some of those external jobs that had been forgotten over the winter (out of sight...), and are now trying to get a handle on those while balancing all of our other daily demands. And still trying to find to knit.
I'm looking forward to hearing about and seeing progress on your projects – knitting or otherwise. Is the jumper complete? How's progress with the blanket? Though I believe there are now several of those on the needles. Have the bootie and wrist warmers got matching pairs? The cardigan a front? Is the shawl still on the needles? And the crochet...?
You probably won't be shocked to hear that I've still yet to complete "Wee Cria" – the baby's cardigan that I was working on when we last met, although I'm almost there. It’' turned out to be a much more satisfying knit that I had first imagined: My first top down, knit-in-one-piece garment. I suspect that I'm going to feel a bit lost when I cast off and there's no joining to do - maybe I'll have to comfort myself with a hug from Wee Cria's recipient (if she is up to joining us). If, by any miracle, I have finished this by Sunday, then I'll be back to knitting "Svala", the Icelandic Jumper – and if you see me knitting anything else, you have my permission to challenge me, sternly!
I'm on a bit of a mission to complete some of my unfinished projects as I've decided that two, maybe three at an absolute push, is an acceptable number to have on the go. Not seven. Two projects: One main, one mindless, that's my aim. I finished a pair of socks last week, aka the "motorhome socks" - so called as I started them on our trip to Orkney last August (on our first holiday in the motorhome, aka the "Lymer Hymer"). Only nine months to complete (my friend D has a lot more to show for her last nine months – and she's beautiful). So that leaves:-
- One lace sock, "Alda", started summer 2013 (for me)
- One Icelandic Jumper, "Svala", restarted winter 2014 (for Oldest Son)
- One beaded hair band, started a million years ago when I attended a Debblie Abrahams workshop at McAree Brothers.
- One cardigan, "Isis Tailcoat", cast on at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival last month.
- One lace dress, cast on Autumn last year.
Would you like to hear the Plan? It's somewhat unrealistic and will perhaps give you some insight into how I can delude myself about the knitting time available / how fast I knit / how I'm not going to look at any other yarn or pattern in the meantime (/ the pressure I choose to put myself under / how I set myself up for disappointment). But here goes. Since my life is now arranged into termly blocks, I will have finished "Wee Cria", "Svala" and the missing pair from "Alda" by the summer holidays (which start here on 1st July). This will allow me the summer to work on my "Isis Tailcoat" – so that it'll be all ready for the autumn – and then I can resume work on the lace dress. The 4ply lace dress. Hmmmm.
The reality: I'm starting a knitting group in school next week and I'll have to knit up a sample for that, so there's an extra project before we've even started. I'm teaching workshops in both old and new venues, which is always very risky as they tend to sell yarn and patterns, both of which can be very, very tempting. It also means that I'll be talking to other knitters and they can be very inspirational – which is also very dangerous. The summer holidays, though long, mean that I actually have even less time that now to do anything productive – although, of course, the longer days meaning that I have more knitting time (and the energy to go with it, ha, ha!).
So, if you do come on Sunday, perhaps you could bring a time machine with you?
Looking forward to seeing you soon,
Such a glorious day! Bright sunshine giving a gleam to all that its light touches: The increasingly blue sky, the awakening grass and the oh-so-beautiful daffodils and their other bulb-like friends. It's windy, of course, very windy. I've just run around Reston and can most definitely vouch for the wind – and its stubborn reluctance to change direction to help push me up the home 'straight'. Definitely the kind of day that encourages thoughts towards spring knitting. Suddenly, we want to bring the colour and lightness that we’re experiencing outside onto our needles. No more heavy wool; we want silks, linens and cottons (though we'll probably have to settle for blends of each of these!). Rest your cable needle a while: We're going to be knitting lace, going for delicate prettiness over elegant texture.
So what does this mean for me? Quite honestly, it means the usual conflict of trying to finish existing "winter" projects while failing to delay casting-on new spring-like designs. Currently, top of the priority list is Ysolda's
", which I'm knitting in the gorgeous "Deeply Wicked... Haylupp" from easyknits
– doesn't the colour just sing to you? This is for D's baby girl who, God willing, will be making her appearance into the world in the next couple of weeks. And no, I'm not ruining any surprise by sharing the project with you as D chose the yarn and pattern herself. I only hope that the finished work lives up to her expectations.
We also have "Svala" on the needles. Not only superseded by the timeline of an unborn child, but the knitting has grown-out of the "fit in my handbag" criteria and so now spends most of its time at home with little progress being made. But this is only a temporary state – I've come to learn that almost everything in my life is a phase and we'll be back to this in a week or two.
What else? Well, I was at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival
a couple of weeks ago where I had the honour of teaching a couple of workshops. It was a truly fantastic event, bringing together those involved in all stages of yarn production, from the animals, the dyeing and spinning, right through to the designs and master-classes. It would have been rude not to have visited some of these lovely people in the market place and even rudder not to have supported their great efforts by not buying anything. Which is how we ended up with "wee cria" and easyknits. And Purl Alpaca Design's "Isis Tailcoat" and the 12 balls of alpaca needed to knit it. Oh, and the two pairs of KnitPro "Karbonz" so that I could cast-on the work immediately. (You can imagine Husband's face when he saw the needles – at least neither of them are 4mm!) I did try to explain the fortune that I'd saved by not buying the completed garment as displayed on the Purl Alpaca stand – even though it was a perfect fit. How satisfying would it have been to walk away with a completed garment – but the button was in the wrong place. (Was it five rib sections that it needs to be moved up?) It was stunning though, and I'm so looking forward to completing my own version. Clearly, the weather is ideal for wearing it now – but hopefully it'll be ready for the autumn-winter transition at the end of the year. If not sooner.
In classic celebration of these lighter, brighter days, I will also be knitting a shawl. D very kindly treated me to Karie Westermann's
" for which I'll be using some of my precious last skeins of Yarn Pony
's Mustang, probably "uniform" and "denim". Having bought the pattern, it was interesting seeing so many versions of the shawl at the festival – the different colours, the varying number of repeats. Also lovely to see a pattern designed not only to revel in the skills of the designer and knitter but also the colour qualities of the yarn, with a large garter-stitch section allowing the yarn and its dyer to have a voice of their own (rather like "wee cria"). D is using some "Old Maiden Aunt
" and has already made significant progress with her version – perhaps "Svala" will be shunted further down the knitting list as I'd really like to have at least cast on my shawl before D casts hers off.
How about you? Has Spring inspired a new approach to your knitting?
I really enjoyed reading Stuart Heritage's article
on his cheese-making experiences – not least because I have an unexplored cheese kit of my own (a Christmas present from my sister), which may now soon, see the light of the board. Or, as Stuart so deliciously suggests, the top of a pizza.
However, the title of his "Homemade Life" got me pondering.... "Homemade" is something that I too often aspire to produce: Baking, jam, other food... but not hand knitting. I like my knitting to look handmade
, not homemade. Same for my sewing. I'd like to be able to surprise you with the fact that the well-made, well-fitting garment / bag that you've just complimented me on is a product of my own hands – as opposed for you to be able to guess from the hanging threads, mis-matched seams or any other poorly disguised clues that would point to its origin.
I find it an interesting distinction. My baking is, most definitely, home made. "Rustic", is more accurate. Happiest making gingerbread or fruit loaves – used to love Madeira cake but its inexplicable fall from the "pretty-much-guaranteed-to-always-work" tin has made me fearful of trying again. Cakes with very little or no icing, cakes I often serve straight from their greaseproof paper: These are my friends. There's a different kind of happiness when baking the predictable chocolate cake with my boys: Two layers of sponge with two layers of a simple chocolate icing – and two beaters licked to shining "cleanliness". It’s not elegant but it's tasty – and who can be disappointed with a wedge of freshly-baked, delicious cake?
Ditto my jam. Spend hours and hours growing, collecting and preparing the fruit – but lose interest at the final hurdle: Presentation. Of course the jars are clean and sterile but, once sealed, they're lucky to be labelled let alone decorated. Again, I assume that the tastes and flavours will speak for themselves (although that's not always the case!). Why this lack of interest in the packaging? When I could so easily crochet a cover, cut out some pretty paper or even just neatly write the date and contents on a label.
With my knitting, however, it has to be the entire package: Thoughtfully chosen, beautiful yarn and a diverting pattern lovingly knitted and then carefully put together. Why? Because I'm aware that so much can be lost with a badly-constructed garment? Because my standards as a knitter have risen? Because I'm a professional knitter? Because I'm a Knitter?
Which, by the same argument, means that I'm not a Baker – or indeed any other kind of Domestic Goddess. My home is mostly clean and mostly tidy, but you don't have to look too far to find the imperfections. My garden is, erm, a work in progress: Occasional elements of "ta-da" – depending on the season and energy exerted. My cooking, while under seasoned (thought I'd get that in there before anyone else did!) is usually edible – and the list goes on.
Oddly enough, these rough edges no longer cause me the distress that they used to. There's no doubt that having a young family has forced some of this (clearly a freshly vacuumed carpet is for emptying the entire contents of the Lego box) – but I find that there is a certain amount of satisfaction in being able to complete a task, and complete it well. Not all my tasks, clearly, maybe only one or two. And I guess it speaks volumes that of these few, my knitting is one.
If, like me, you feel like there are never enough opportunities to knit with friends, then join us between 2pm – 4pm on the last Sunday of every month (during term time) for "Crafternoon Tea with Katherine". For £3 you’ll get a cuppa, cake (or another sweet treat) and the pleasure of my company and that of other crafters in my studio / workshop at Deanfoot, Grantshouse TD11 3RR.
The first of these Crafternoon Tea's will be on Sunday 29th March – a perfect way to recover from the shock of the start of British Summer Time!
Our afternoons are completely informal, as in there'll be no workshop-style teaching but obviously I'll be on hand to assist – where I can! – with any of your knitting queries. This also means that you don't have to book – just turn up as and when you're able to – but it's always nice to know that you're coming (and is helpful in terms of the baking schedule!).
I look forward to welcoming you to Deanfoot! Katherine x
As I sit enjoying the warmth of the fire and a cup of tea, I hope that, twenty-five miles away, you are sitting enjoying the warmth of your friends and a cuppa on this, the last ever Woolly Wednesday (WW). I am so sorry that I'm not with you to share in this momentous evening – Husband's work-related absence from home is annoying on many levels, though this is perhaps the most significant "miss".
We may not be in the same room but, nonetheless, I thought that I would share this time with you to say "thank you". It is no understatement to say that meeting you, our subsequent professional collaborations and, most especially, the WWs have changed my life, and for the better. For so much the better.
Yes, WW ticked the obvious boxes: I knitted, ate cake, drank tea and chatted with a lovely group of people. I have been inspired, so very inspired, to try new designers, embrace new ideas and knit with new yarn. However, the real gift of WW has been the friends I've made, and I very much count you among them. It was beyond my wildest dreams to think that I would be so fortunate as to find such a wealth of true, honest, loyal, stand-beside-you-and-be-counted friends, but there you go: It happened. And once all the cake has been eaten, the tea drunk, the knitting completed (hah!), we will remain.
Please do not take the closure of the shop as a reflection on you, because it isn't: It's a wider reflection on us, your customers, and probably has a lot to do with our departure from the physical shopping to the virtual – a habit that has now forced your business along a similar path. You have always shown tireless energy and insight in your ventures (shall we talk again of the success story of your crafty kits
?) and, perhaps after a wee rest to re-group, I suspect you’ll be up and at it again.
Sometimes we don't help ourselves, being the fickle lot of crafters that we are. Not me, obviously, it's knitting all the way with me – can just about bring myself to brandish a crochet hook from time to time (...though I do like a whirl on my sewing machine...) – but often as not, you'll find a crafter who has all the makings for needle-felting, beading, vintage furniture painting and more - in addition to her love of yarn. And though you catered for us all, we failed to meet your expectations. And for that, I am very sorry. You supported local crafters by providing them with precious shop-space to sell their own creations; you supported teachers such as myself by inviting us in to do workshops; you support local and national crafting events while wearing a number of hats, including that of owner and manager of your wonderful shop. It is true to say that the loss of The Handmade Store
is too big for any number of beads to fill.
But we have not lost you. I will not be alone in taking comfort from the fact that it is only the shop that's going: Jo, the entrepreneur, the astute business woman is continuing her crafty work and, on whichever path she chooses, will triumph.
And so I wish you goodnight, and in words far better than mine:
"You never know what's around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you've climbed a mountain."
― Tom Hiddleston
Jo, take this moment to look behind you, for went the clouds lift, and the people disperse, only then will you see to what great heights you have reached xx
A long time ago, maybe three years ago, my mother-in-law gifted me some Cornish yarn to knit Oldest Son a traditional Cornish Gansey. She had provided enough yarn to knit the size for 3 – 4 year olds but, upon reflection, I opted to buy another skein so that I could knit the larger size. No, this wasn't just a ploy to delay the knitting; I was trying to be practical: An energetic, bike-riding, scootering, exuberant five year old would be more likely to get wear out of a thick jumper, warm enough to be worn without a coat, than a three year old. A three-year old without an older brother already doing these activities, maybe.
Whenever it was last year that I broke my toe, I started knitting said jumper and then, after completing the back, I stopped. I can't remember why. There need not be any major reason as this pattern of behaviour isn't so unusual for me (if I ever let you into my unfinished project cupboard...) but I suspect that it might have had something to do with not really liking it. Yet feeling that I should. Or at least feeling that I should knit it regardless of liking it or not. I guess that's what happens when someone you love gives you yarn to knit for another person that you both love and then she dies before said project is started – let alone completed – so there was no opportunity for further discussion. Clearly my issue is with the untimely death and nothing whatsoever to do with my untimely knitting.
And so the jumper sat, untouched for several more months. Then Oldest Son turned from four to five and overnight, he was immediately loosing out on potential jumper-wearing days because I hadn't finished knitting the thing! Yet still I didn't pick up the needles.
This Christmas, however, it accompanied us as my third holiday knitting project. It travelled from here to Manchester, to Lapland, to mid-Wales, back to Cornwall and then home and how much did I knit? Not a single stitch. If I tell you that Holiday Project Number One was completed en route to Manchester and Holiday Project Number Two en route from Cornwall to home then you can correctly surmise that pretty much the only knitting I did was in the car. In fact, it was just as I was pulling out Holiday Project Number Three that Husband announced that it was my turn to drive. (Honestly, these men. Since when does West Cornwall to East Berwickshire require two drivers?!)
But at least the jumper had made it out of the cupboard, and to the top of the "Most Likely to be Knitted" list. And there, in the honest light of a winter's day, I admitted that I really didn't think that it was going to work in the way that we hoped and, as such, it was going to be a waste. In case you think that this is some fluffy get-out clause, here are my very practical reasons:
(1) I don't think the colour will suit Oldest Son. If you think that I have pale skin; he is my delicate English rose-boy. And a creamy off-white does nothing for him except highlight the bags under his eyes.
(2) Have I mentioned that Oldest Son is a boy? A five year old boy? Who eats like a five year old, plays like a boy. In a white jumper?! Err, no. Three mins outside and his cuffs will be filthy. And then there's snack time where, even if we stick to bland treats (warm milk and raisins, for example), he's still likely to be wearing some of it.
(3) I don't like the open neckline. For a jumper that could, in all other respects, function like a coat, the neckline will let in the cold air. Even if Oldest Son claims not to feel the cold, I will be cold looking at him. (I'm still trying to defrost after spending an evening with him and his bare feet. Me: Socks, slippers and umpteen layers. Him: No socks, no slippers and apparently fine.)
And then I was reminded of "Svala
", a pattern that I have long since coveted. Loved enough to put my entire family, including my parents, into a car and drive them for miles in the vein hope that we could purchase both yarn and pattern. But it wasn't to be. (Thankfully, we were able to partake of some rather delicious tea and cake so it wasn't a completely wasted trip.)
So I frogged it.
This time I didn't need the able assistance of a friend to do it for me (thanks again J!) and, in fact, I probably needed to do it myself. To experience first hand the sensation of undoing all of that work, the promise – to myself, my mother-in-law, my son. And while it was easy to return the yarn is back in a usable state, I'm not sure it'll be quite as easy for my conscience.
Jumper number two is under-way. Jumper number two accompanies me pretty much everywhere. It's not the smallest of mobile knitting projects (given that it's a jumper and I'm knitting in double (which means I've got two balls of yarn to transport)) but it is one of the easiest: I'm knitting stocking-stitch in the round. So, yes, I can talk, drink tea, eat cake, keep an eye on the boys and knit at the same time. Its near-constant presence is also providing me with some comfort: I like the fact that it's nearly always to hand, I love the fact that I'm knitting it. I love knitting it, in fact.
So maybe this time Oldest Son stands a chance of receiving his completed jumper. And his grandmother’s wish will finally be fulfilled.
But in the meantime, thank you for the knitting.