Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Re-inventing the wheel...........

I am not normally a social knitter - having in the past avoided 'Knit and Bitch' clubs like the plague..  But recently my social circle has expanded to include women that knit and we are meeting up on a regular basis to chat, knit and explore each other's stash!  So really for the first time I have been confronted with different styles/methods of knitting.

I really don't remember learning to knit, I know it was before starting school because my first real memory about knitting is my Grandmother's amazement at the way the school had shown me as the way to knit - I know now that they were teaching the English throwing method - she dismissed it as rubbish, new-fangled and worst of all the method lack tension.  She wasn't a lady to argue with so I immediately forgot the teacher's instructions and continued knitting my way.

At school once I had established that I could knit and didn't need the attention of the teacher I was left alone to my method of knitting and churned out cotton dishcloths by the dozen. Having mastered knitting, purling, increasing and decreasing my Great Aunt took over from my Grandmother as my knitting guru.

She was a maiden aunt, she'd had offers of course but none ever came up to her exacting standards, so she lived a relatively free life, driving around Hampshire in an open topped car and playing bowls for the County.  A sort of lady of leisure except for the hundreds (or was it thousands) of pairs of socks she knitted for her father's business.  Great Grandfather was a master tailor, just has his father, before him and his father's father for time immemorial - literally!  I have researched my family history and for at least ten generations the family had been tailors in Oxford, generally marrying the daughters to cordwainers (shoemakers) thus keeping most of the under-graduates warm and well shod!

Knitting Madonna
Great Aunt's long socks were done in an argyle pattern (three colours) and were for wearing with the tailored plus fours made by my Great Grandfather.  She knitted at great speed, very seldom did she actually look at her knitting and she turned the heels without losing the intricate pattern on needles that were fine steel and with wool that resembled what today we would probably call cobweb. 

Once I had proved, to her satisfaction, that I was fairly adept at knitting she taught me to knit socks - not fancy ones, but plain socks top-down with a neatly turned heel, finished off with Kitchener Stitch.  Perhaps because she was such a good teacher that I have never feared that stitch and can happily join any number of stitches.

That was it really, I knitted in a certain way and never gave a thought to the whys and wherefores until I became friends with the Swiss wife on a Austrian chef.  Her method of knitting was so different to mine - she held the yarn in the left hand, I held mine in my right, she knitted from left to right, I went from right to left - this meant that we couldn't share patterns and as neither of us were prepared to try the other's method we agreed to differ and spent many happy hours chatting and producing yards of knitted fabric.  I realise now that she was a continental knitter of sorts.  Over the years I saw many other knitters but none knitted as I did until I met Sarah - total amazement!

She told me that I 'lever knitted' which is sometimes called pivot knitting or Irish Cottage knitting!  I had thought my method was a form of English throwing, but apparently not - this was a style all of its own and was/is/had been used by those who knitted to survive - the English throw was designed by 'ladies' who wanted to show their skill but didn't need any speed.

Since this revelation I did some research into the different forms of knitting and found that nearly everyone was accrediting my way of knitting to an American women who based her style on her Irish grandmother - but in every case it was referred to as her style. But strangely she held her index finger out at angle that look so uncomfortable I can't imagine wanting to knit for very long like it!

There are numerous videos on YouTube (just Google 'lever knitting') and you will what I mean - there you will see women gasping in amazement at a style of knitting that is as old as time and not some innovative method that will transform the world of knitting.  But I can understand why some continental knitters are amazed - picking or continental knitting is fine if you knit in round and only do knit stitches, the purl stitch is a nightmare and if you want to purl into the back of a stitch be prepared to spend lifetime perfecting it!  I even found a video of lever knitting the continental way - why?

In fact if you look into the history of knitting you will find that there are nearly as many ways of making a knotted fabric (for that's what knitting is all about) as there are people, no one way is right, but the world's fastest knitter knits my way!

My advice - don't reinvent the wheel, its already been done!


Monday, 28 April 2014

I went to Wonderwool and.....

I bought 36 skeins of undyed yarn, two braids of Polwarth and Silk top, 14 buttons, three extra tips for my Chiaogoo circular needles, two cones of Toika Tencel, and an emergency crochet hook - I also met loads of wonderful people,  and had the most fantastic day!

Yesterday - through wind, rain, sun and everything else the Welsh countryside can throw at an unsuspecting English spinner I went to Wonderwool - not on my own to did take three friends with me - pretty sure they had a good time too!

Two brave souls waiting in the rain for the show to open....

This year I was at my most organized - I had checked out the exhibitors list and marked on the plan the chosen few.  I have to say that I think the organizers had taken pity on me and located most of those on my list in rows J, K and L - isn't that kind of them - of course I did have to check out everything not on my list - but it was very handy to get the bulk of the shopping out of the way in one fell swoop. 

The essential Wonderwool bag sold in aid of the Air Ambulance

Just a few of my buys

Polwarth and Silk - Berry Tart
Toika Tencel - to kick-start my weaving mojo!
Bobbin Winder - bought as a detash from a fellow Ravelry member
I will not, dear reader, bore you picture after picture of undyed yarn - because that forms the bulk of my Wonderwool haul, 'nuff to say I have enough yarn to keep my dye pots busy for many a day!

While I spent the day in fibre heaven Mr S was working on the new decking - well actually a lot of the hard work had been in the week, but yesterday and finally today the last pieces were slotted in.

100% Recycled Decking
We are rather pleased with this find, the material is 100% recycled - using sawdust and old car tyres - with an anti-slip finish.  Just a couple of finishing touches and there will be no more hand break turns as I slide across the old and very slippery wooden stuff - will miss that, but I shall no longer have to worry about Mr S falling and breaking a leg!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Didn't do it like that when I was young!

When I started knitting many moons ago all sweaters (or jumpers as they were called then) were knitted in the same way - you knitted the back, then the front then the sleeves and finally the neckband - after all this the pieces had to be sewn together and like many other knitters I found the sewing up bit was the boring bit that had to be done - something to be endured so that the finished garment could be worn.

Nowadays it is all about seamless knitting - starting at the top you knit down and there are no seams at all! 

What's more once you understand the process it is very easy to adapt a pattern.  for instance this sweater - Lipstick by Joji was originally a short-sleeved cardigan, but I noticed that several test knitters had changed design from the cardigan to a sweater and I thought I can do that and I did!

So now I am really hooked on the top-down approach to knitting sweaters!  I have just finished another - this time in a Sweet Georgia yarn called 'Grape Jelly' - love the colour, but not so impressed with the quality of the yarn.  There were tiny bits of undyed yarn and where the dye hadn't taken the yarn split - very strange - and there were knots - not good when you have paid £19.00 a 100 grams!

Why you may ask this sudden interest in sweaters and cardigans, rather shawls - well over the last six months I have been gradually losing weight - after a bit of a scare over the possibility of being diabetic - my GP set a target weight and I am now less than a kilo off her target - whoo hoo!  So instead of hiding away I am showing off my new found self by knitting some pretty special garments

Next is Boxy and Buttony an oversized top, not to hide the bulges but to show off the new self.  This I am knitting in a very hot pink, so there will be no hiding place in this!  This one is started at the shoulders - with a faux button band!

I have several others queued, with yarn bought and patterns chosen - just need more hours in the day to get them all knitted so I can start wearing them..........

Friday, 11 April 2014

Goodbye and Hello

This week has been a bit of a roller coaster for me having come to the end of my wheel rationalization program agreed with Mr S!

Last week saw the arrival of my new Matchless, the previous week my re-furbed Traddie and old Matchless went to new homes and this week I waved goodbye to three more old friends - my bent-wood Herring - Francis, my not sure who made it wheel, Nellie because I thought she look like a baby elephant and my Country Spinner Hiawatha.  The house is looking quite bereft in my opinion, although Mr S is very happy to have some spare space that isn't occupied by a spinning wheel!

Tuesday morning saw all three safely strapped into my car as I headed to Sheffield to hand them over - and I was feeling very righteous indeed.  But I noticed an advert on Revelry - someone in Wakefield was selling a Journey Wheel, well Wakefield is only 21 miles from Meadowhall in Sheffield!

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