Friday, 12 February 2010

Close knit

I've picked up my knitting again. It's not unusual in the winter months although I don't really class myself as a 'knitter'. Since childhood my craft of choice was sewing and dressmaking. But over the years the dressmaking fell away and I was left with a 'craft vacuum'. So I started trying to knit. It's not as satisfying as dressmaking. It's slower for a start. And you can't amend your mistakes as you go along. Hence the number of unfinished failed knitting projects lurking around the house in some kind of knitting purgatory. Not quite finished, but not quite allowed to die. If you made a mistake in sewing, as long as it didn't involve scissors, you could usually rescue things with a new seam or a bit of a tuck, or even a 'gusset'! If you finish a knitted garment and discover it doesn't quite fit all you can do is throw it in the bin and mourn the wasted months of your life spent knitting the damn thing. But there is a tactile pleasure in handling the yarn and seeing the colours, so I persist with my half-hearted knitting. It's also a lot more portable than a sewing machine and I can do it on train journeys or sitting infront of the tv (alas, the latter being more important than I like to admit).

Before Christmas, I attended a 'fairisle' knitting class to kickstart my knitting habit again. I've never knitted with colour, believing it to be too difficult, but I love the look of fairisle knitting. It was a delightful few hours, spent in the delicious surroundings of K1 Yarns.  Beautiful yarns in a cosy little shop and biscotti available along with the knitting. It was a tiny class - me, the teacher and one other pupil.  I don't know whether it was reassuring or slightly disappointing to discover that rather than there being some secret, magic knack to coping with all the different threads in fairisle, the only technique seems to be: 'do it carefully'.

What struck me most was just how much of a leveller and social lubricant knitting is. When we first sat down, I felt very self-conscious. I was quite a lot older than the other people in the group. I thought, we'll have nothing in common - except knitting of course. Before long we were chatting away about our lives and left the session as chums. I don't know whether it's the magic of knitting, or just what women do when they get together, but it was a welcome reminder of the ease of social contact when you switch off the tv, get off your arse  and go and do something with other people.

And now I have joined a knitting circle and can be found every Thursday in a cafe in Edinburgh, knitting along with a growing group of women. I confess that not a huge amount of knitting gets done. The discussion isn't really confined to knitting techniques. And sometimes the knitting is disrupted by wine drinking. But it is definitely good for the soul. And my sometimes slightly self-contained life as an emigre in Edinburgh is starting to feel a little more sociable. Thanks to knitting.

Do you want to see my first fairisle knitting attempt?

Ta Da! Isn't it beautiful! The yarn is a divinely soft alpaca, sold at K1 yarns. Can't remember its name, sorry. It's so soft that holding the balls of yarn is like having a little kitten nestling in your palm. But  what are these beautiful fairlisle objects I hear you ask? Are they the cuffs of gloves or socks, or the sleeves of a sweater? No, they are ................

Wrist warmers!?! I can't honestly imagine any occasion on which I would wear wrist warmers. I suspect 'wrist warmers' were invented so people would have something simple to knit at knitting workshops.  Still, they are sitting around my house looking very 'fairisle' and I feel a little burst of pride every time I see them. And they're finished! An achievement in itself. Perhaps I could make little tiny cushions out of them.

I have been sticking to small knitting projects, in the hope that I would actually finish something and so far it's working. 

These are socks for C in a softly marled sock yarn. Knitted using my favourite toe up sock knitting method. This method makes a nicely neat toe with no need for gathering up that little hole you get when working from the ankle down. It also lets you feel smugly skilled and competent using 'wrapped' stitches, a technique I was at first so baffled by, I had to find various instructional videos on the internet. It's easy once you know how!

My current 'knitting circle' project. More socks, from my new Socks from the Toe Up book (because you can't knit for long without needing a new book ...!). This is my first pair of lace patterned socks, with a very satisfying mock cable pattern, which you can't see properly on the picture. The yarn is 'Castle' in the shade 'Ethie', a lambswool/silk mix, spun in Scotland by Rennie  and bought from the rather wonderful Woolfish Yarns near St Abbs, whilst on a little seaside jaunt last year.

End of 'show and tell' session. It always makes me laugh that I am so proud of a few knitted socks. I have no desire to parade pictures of my PhD thesis, or my CV. But my knitting. That I want you to see!

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