I slowed down on this blog for a bit. But I don’t want to stop. I suppose it’s good to admit that I’ve been busy with other things.
It’s all rolling forward, even if the day to day still feels slow. Like I’ve curled my toes around the edge of a swimming pool. And now I stand here, swaying, not quite time to jump. Though I wish it were time to jump.
I thought perhaps I should perk up the tone of my posts, a bit. I don’t want to lose the melancholy, exactly, just add a bit more cheerfulness in alongside. And I want more variety, a greater spread of different things, busy-ness and brightness. And at this point I’m beginning to wonder if I am talking about my life or my blog, so without further ado: I thought I’d write about something completely different this time. A friend suggested to me a little while ago that I write about our mutual pastime, and I’ve been dithering about it ever since. So it’s time to write about knitting!
One of my favourite things about Queen Mary is the knitting society, of which I was president for nearly two years. When my flatmate told me she’d joined the society, in fresher’s week of my first year, I very nearly didn’t go with her, despite the fact that I really wanted to get better at knitting. I think I thought there would be other societies and activities that I’d prefer? How wrong I was: Knit-a-Soc is a beacon in a somewhat uninspiring selection. A few years previously, I’d decided at Rangers (Guides for girls who are too old, really) that it would be a terrific idea for us all to learn to knit, and make scarves (I spent the rest of that particular meeting drawing a scarf so long I’d probably still be knitting it now if I’d actually started it at the time). I purchased yarn and needles, and a leader rashly agreed to teach us, and I’m not quite sure how my barely-started scarf ended up under my bed in my first year student flat, but thank goodness it did. I dusted it off and took it along to Knit-a-Soc, but I was too shy to ask anyone for help so instead I taught myself everything from YouTube.
Around a year later, I arrived early for my first proper meeting as Knit-a-Soc president and promptly had an asthma attack – wasting all the time I’d put aside to set up. Somewhat flustered, with sore throat and shaking hands (side effect of my inhaler), I stuttered and stumbled my way through my first teaching session, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Miraculously, people kept coming back. It seems utterly rational that the best part of my university experience has been spent sitting in a lounge off a little chaplaincy, surrounded by tea, cake, fluff, and the most eclectic bunch of people ever to not sling hooks. (Knot sling hooks? Although we do have our fair share of crocheters.) The next year, by the way, I managed to avoid both the fresher’s fair and the first meeting by having a severe episode of vertigo. Never let it be said that social anxiety is a barrier to leadership roles. All you need is a chronic illness or two to help you along!
If I had a pound for every person who’s told me that their gran/mum/insert elderly female relative here knits, I could afford to support myself while I spend the rest of life knitting. (Although anyone who can tell me about an elderly male relative who knits, and there have been a few, should get a pound from me.) Knitting is not a revolutionary act, even if it was one of the less upsetting aspects of the French Revolution. It’s like telling me your grandma used to make cakes. (A fascinating discussion regarding gender roles and craft activities could, at this point, be embarked upon, but I don’t want to get distracted from the matter at hand.) Everyone used to knit, not so long ago, because that was how you got knitwear. If you wanted a hideous cropped fluorescent jumper (as so many people, bewilderingly, seem to) you couldn’t just nip down to Topshop. You had to make it yourself. Similarly, if you wanted a hideous cropped fluorescent t-shirt you had to run it up on a sewing machine with a little handle that you turned yourself to make the needle go up and down, and that was if you were lucky. No horrifyingly underpaid factory workers for our ancestors!
What follows is an eclectic selection of the few projects I have remembered to take photos of, some of which are actually useable. My approach, as with all things in life, is haphazard and stubborn, asks ‘how hard can it be? I’ll figure it out for myself’, and focuses more on the glory of the journey than the end result.
This is first thing I ever knitted, the infamous scarf. It was ripped back and restarted so many times I’m surprised the yarn didn’t all fall apart. As with many beginners’ pieces, it varies in width from where I didn’t know how to avoid adding stitches. I can spot from a mile off the row where I tried to knit and read at the same time, and the row where I’d been away for so long I’d forgotten to pull the old stitches off. It’s nearly as wide as it is long, and it’s stupidly long. I don’t like skinny scarves, but that’s no reason to drown myself in fabric. It has now begun a new career as an oddly shaped blanket, and lives on my beanbag in my university bedroom.
The best thing I’ve ever knitted was a blue and purple merino beret for my mum’s birthday last year. She keeps telling me I should make sure I have photos of everything I make before I give it away, so I can compile a portfolio. Naturally – and this is typical of my family – she lost the hat before I could get a picture of it.
The weirdest thing I’ve ever knitted has got to be a three-dimensional heart, complete with vaguely realistic tubing. This was for the Knit-a-Soc, when some of the Barts medics requested we make organs to go inside a giant teddy bear. I am seriously considering making a second one to go in my bedroom, but I don’t know if I am quite ready to reach this new low.
One of my favourite things is to knit in the round, a technique in which tubular items such as hats and socks fledge fully formed before your very eyes, which is unbelievably satisfying. My first pair of socks were not knitted in special sock yarn, and thus they are now desperately in need of darning.
Just under two years ago, I was delighted to be provided with a baby cousin, and thus I discovered the absolute delight that is baby knitting! You can make entire garments, but in miniature, so that they are both adorably tiny and much quicker than adult size! This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. In all seriousness, though, this baby cardigan was my first attempt at making a top from separate pieces and then sewing them together (as opposed to knitting in the round), and I’m really glad I did a teeny-weeny one before I tried an adult’s jumper.
And now for my most recent triumph! Once I finished the baby cardigan in time for last Christmas, I began a full-size jumper. This was actually the second jumper I’ve knitted, as I did one in the round around this time last year. I keep starting jumpers in winter, thinking they’ll be ready pretty soon, and then not finishing them until summer. I did this one in super-chunky yarn, which knits up really quickly, but that did not increase my overall speed. I was too embarrassed to show anyone the first jumper I made, which was enormous and black and fluffy and makes me feel like a bear whenever I wear it. So jumper number two is, of course, enormous and sea-green and fluffy and makes me feel like a bear whenever I wear it. One of these days, I’ll knit one that actually fits me.
Header: tree at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Mevagissey, Cornwall, April 2012.