In a knitshell

December 4, 2012 at 11:54 am Leave a comment

(Knitshell works better if you say it with a NZ accent – oh, go on, you know you want to!)

This past year has been an interesting one and taken a surprising direction.

It started with the alpacas. They were just meant to be lawnmowers. Really. We started with two, then a third, then a couple of girls. And now somebody might be having a baby. Or not. (Apparently it’s really hard to tell with alpacas; prey animals tend to hide their weaknesses.) In the meantime I’m calling the maybe-baby Shroedinger.

So last November we had the lawnmowers (aka the alpackets, thanks to offspring #2) shorn, and we had three bags full of fleece sitting around taking up much needed space in the spare room. So I found an old Ashford on gumtree and learnt to spin. As you do.

Once the sound of cursing and sobbing settled down (which took a little while I confess) it began to be fun. (This is end of January  now) Then it got to be addictive! The perfect pre-sleep unwinding activity, or a quick treadle while #2 was napping, or dinner was in the oven, or, well every minute I could spare!  (February) Then it got to the point where there were balls of wool breeding in little mounds on all the horizontal surfaces (only by now I’ve been told to call them ‘yarn‘ because ‘wool’ is only from sheep and apparently ‘yarn’ isn’t just for Americans, it’s for everybody..)

It was time to start using some of it before the situation got out of hand.

I hunted around on Ravelry looking for something simple but interesting to knit, having decided crochet would be too chunky with handspun, and decided to start with a Hitchhiker (like pretty much everyone else, it seems.) That was when I remembered I didn’t really know how to knit. I had made the obligatory dolly scarf with Grandma when I was 6, and I had another crack at it when I was breeding #2, and got as far as a couple of very dubious baby cardigans, then realised I was somehow knitting backwards and therefore couldn’t do most of the interesting stitches, and so I let the lethargy of pregnancy carry me away on a sea of dreamy whateverness.

So, back to March and Hitchhiker, there I was with Grandma’s old tortoiseshell needles* and my very ‘interesting’ yarn, trying to get started on this pattern, and tabbing back and forth between my PDF, and various YouTube clips of casting on, knitting and purling. And eventually a scarf was knitted up. Albeit a rather small one.

Here it is hanging out with the lettuces.

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By this stage (April) I was hooked on spinning fine thin wool (apart from the challenge, it’s much more economical this way!) which I had no idea how to use, but as the magic of knitting began to seem more attainable, I spent many hours trawling around Ravelry looking at patterns, and strangely the lace shawls caught my imagination. Something about their mysterious delicacy, the whiff of other centuries and age-old craftswomanship, their sheer ethereal beauty really struck me and made me sigh. They seemed so — and impossible! Could I ever make something like that? Could I bribe someone else to make one for me with my wool yarn?

Next (we’re in June now) I  made a Trillian, it had little holes in the border,that sort of counts as lace, doesn’t it? Thus emboldened, I tackled a Holden. Much stitch counting, recounting, cursing, pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth followed, but (like labour) afterwards all the pain was forgotten and only the love remained.

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Holden in Three Waters Farm BFL/Silk fibre, Olive Medley. The stockinette body is 2-ply and the lace border is a 3-ply.

September was an Old Man of Storr. After this, after note, I discover that there are for or five different ways of making a left leaning decrease, all of which are about twice as quick as the technique I had used (approximately 4000 times) in my shawl!

More Three Waters Farm, this time a 2-ply spun up from Polwarth/Silk blend (which I hideously overtwisted!) in one of the Fall Foliage colours.

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Well, onwards and upwards. In October I cast on for a Cassandra and a Cloud Illusions, because I  couldn’t decide which I liked more, or which yarn to use for which project. I even hunted down the teeny tiniest little crochet hook in existence and experimented with beads. I was getting braver now, and had little inklings of trying to sketch out my own ideas and tweak things. I learnt to read charts. I tinkered with cup cosies as practice pieces to learn cabling, and wrote up my first pattern.

Cloud Illusions in BFL/silk, Coffee and Cream colourway (and the most amazing critter to spin, all these gorgeous stormcloud purple/greys gleaming from the clouds of browny pink!)

As a roving

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The little ball left over after finishing the shawl, hanging out with it’s big cousin Carmine, also TWF fibre.

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And finally off the needles!

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Cloud illusions was such rush, and yet also so beautifully simple in design that I started really reading about pattern design and shawl construction. It gripped me and rolled around in my head while I slept, creating strange and wonderful dreams about knitting up a storm and sinuous flowing patterns. But how to get them onto my needles? My respect for the creators of these gorgeous patterns grew the more I looked around.

I began jotting down ideas for patterns and shapes but the task seemed impossible until happened to stumble across a reference to stitch dictionaries. How I hadn’t heard of these before, I don’t know, but you can imagine the rush I felt when i flipped through the first one and found literally hundreds of pattern bases with written instructions, and sometimes even charts! Book after book filled with patterns… I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face all night. Or since really. It’s like a switch has been flipped on in my head and ‘pattern mode’ has been engaged. I just wish I didn’t have to sleep, it’s such a waste of time!

So as a thank you to the knitting world in general, I will humbly offer my first pattern, an owl cup cosy, just as soon as I’ve done another test knit, just to make sure..

(*She doesn’t need them anymore, dear old soul, but I do wish I could show her what her needles are getting up to now!)

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Entry filed under: Crafty Stuff, In the Home, Spinning and Knitting. Tags: , , .

Dipping a toe in.. Tortoiseshell Needles

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