Thursday, 24 January 2013

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Knitting and me

I was taught to knit by my Gran, aged 8. She instructed me in the ways of garter stitch but it never really became part of my everyday craft vocabulary. Frankly nothing seemed to happen. Loop, stitch, loop, stitch, yawn. Cue confessional music: to me, knitting was the craft equivalent to watching paint dry. I abandoned the needles for nearly thirty years.

When I started reading craft blogs back in 2007 it was clear to me that I was missing something. People were creating swirly, twirly, ferny patterns with their yarn. They were making exquisite socks. They were knitting in three dimensions! I had a yearning to do the same but the gap between my knowledge and the knitting I was seeing on the screen seemed just too massive to bridge.

Last Spring I went along to Teen Granny's first ever knitting workshop in London to try to remedy this sorry state of affairs.  I was spurred on by her excellent tuition and afterwards I MADE myself make a small pink bunny using Julie's wonderful teeny tiny toys pattern. Three dimensions! Tiny arms! Progress! Surely I had cracked it and would soon be yarnbombing telephone boxes and knitting myself a three piece suite. Alas, it was a woolly flash in the pan. It had taken me about three hours, during the whole of which I wore an embarrassing concentration face (the Mr tells me I even stuck my tongue out at on point). On consideration I realised that I actually had to knit regularly in order to broaden my knowledge. I needed to practice.

The opportunity came in the shape of the Twitknit scarf swap organised by the very same Teen Granny. Back in October the call went out on Twitter for participants in a virtual knitting bee. We would be divided into teams and knit a section of scarf for each of our team members and send them to one another. We would each end up with a scarf knitted by the whole team. Genius. 

I saw the scarf swap as an opportunity to crack this knitting malarkey. I had to knit a whole 60cm of scarf! For me this was the craft equivalent of scaling K2. I decided to try to master a different stitch for each section. Cue many more hours with the concentration face and gazing at endless youtube knitting tutorials trying to fathom the woolly loopy code. 

The astonishing thing is that it worked! I can now claim to be able to knit *insert drum roll*: moss, basketweave, Irish mesh, and even the the fancily named 'wheat in the wind' stitch (which, I'm told, has elements of lace knitting and a faux cable. Blimey.). I also know how to add a leaf in relief to a stretch of garter. It has boosted my confidence no end. As I thought, practice was needed, and despite these scarf sections being mere trifles to seasoned knitters I feel a small sense of achievement. The scarf swap has changed my attitude to knitting: I now realise that not only is it captivating, it's also soothing, much like woolly yoga. I can add texture and make leaves if I want to. I may still be somewhat restricted in the number of dimensions I can manage but several more people now have cosier necks. A very good thing.

My own scarf is nearly completed. I will be posting pictures...

That's not all, though. Eldest (just 7) saw me knitting the scarf sections. She wanted to join in. She asked for 'a knitting set' for Christmas. On Boxing Day I cast on five stitches of sparkly pink yarn using the sweetest little bear-topped needles and we started to knit a scarf (in the early stages it was a beard, obviously) for her toy monkey. We're knitting alternate rows and we're a day or two from finishing. She is extremely excited. (the photos were taken just as she mastered making stitches - it was after dark).

Massive thanks to Teen Granny and to my fellow Twitknit scarfswappers with their lovely knitty emails. The whole experience has been utterly heart- (and neck-) warming and not only has it brought knitting back into my life it has also inspired a brand new generation of knitters.

Note: I have added a new date, Saturday 4th May, to my 2013 beginners' silver clay workshops and there is a New Year sale in my Etsy shop for the next two weeks. Enter SPEBBLENYS1 for 15% off all my current designs.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

2012 in pictures

January: resolve.

February: sledging and meeting with good friends.

March: Spring cleaning the studio and some unseasonably warm weather. 

April: turning forty and a wildflower safari with Celia.

May: walks amongst the cow parsley and enjoying the Spring garden.

June: a visit from a dear friend and a feature in Country Living magazine.

July: Making the most of any sunny days and Cambridge Open Studios.

August: Holidays in Suffolk and a visit to a real live beach hut (Lucy's bag came too).

September: Drawing with a new fountain pen and picking bullaces from the hedgerows.

October: An illustration project at the Sedgwick museum and walks in our village wood.

November: Finally learning to knit and marvelling at the beautiful pieces made in my workshops.

December: Lead angel, apprentice angel and the holy pig.

These are some my favourite images from last year. It was a bit of a curate's egg for us. There were truly joyful and wonderful moments but there has also been the slight shadow of concern about someone in our family.

I do have that fresh, hopeful New Year feeling though, especially today as the sun is shining and there are good things to look forward to, including something very exciting I'm working on with Ros Badger

If in doubt, pop some tiny daffodils in a teapot:

Friday, 4 January 2013

Woodland walk

I've written a new post over on Sarah Raven's blog, Garlic and Sapphire. It's here if you fancy popping over. Happy happy New Year.