Recently, a friend gave me a book called The Mindfulness in Knitting by Rachael Matthews, and I now think it should be required reading for anyone who ever joins a knitting group run by me (it is a huge ambition of mine, to run a knitting group again). I’m not as spiritual a person as I would sometimes like to be, so sometimes I wonder if she’s getting a little carried away, but I admire and envy her optimism. It doesn’t actually have too much obvious mindfulness stuff in it, it’s mostly just about how soothing and empowering it is to knit. And just how much sincerity and dedication it requires. If you’re laughing at me right now, you Simply Don’t Get It, and I don’t really have time for you unless you pick up a copy sharpish and hope to heck there’s some yarn and needles nearby for when you inevitably decide you actually do want to be one of us awesome humans who knit. In all seriousness, though, as Matthews describes: ‘creating beautiful things not only moves great mountains within us, but it affects those who surround us in ways we may never fully discover. For a non-craftsman, the process looks like magic. Making truthful objects heightens others’ belief in your abilities; fills the home with other-worldliness, taste, and knowledge. I have witnessed constant sparkle, as knitting triggers enlightened thoughts in people.’ pp. 34-5. So yeah. Prepare to be enlightened, folks.
‘Conversations with ourselves are deepest here. A solitary knitter ceases to feel isolated as they develop a deep meditation through their work.’ p. 34. I suppose this is what I’d like to achieve. Although a big part of me is also rather fed up of having conversations with myself just at the minute. Things are not good, and I’ve been busting a gut trying to keep busy, but there is only so much busy I can get away with while I’m still recovering. At some stage, perhaps, the exhaustion will catch up with me again, but then at least I can knit my way through it.
I left off last time with a paltry patch of messy blanket – several squares were the wrong size, many of those were on back to front because I’d forgotten how to do mattress stitch, and it was trailing enough tails to make anyone who hates sewing in ends (i.e. me) want to hide underneath the sofa and cry. It’s come on a little way since then:
I feel like at this stage I should point out to newer readers that part of the charm of this blog is that I am a terrible photographer. The colours do not come out as well as I’d have liked, but nevertheless the eagle-eyed among you should be able to spot the original fourteen squares from last time. This blanket is just about my least-favourite thing to knit, especially since my memory is still so poor – I don’t actually know off the top of my head how to knit a blanket square, I have to look it up again for every one. I sit on the sofa with an enormous bag containing the blanket itself, about twenty balls of yarn, five sets of needles, and all the squares I’m yet to sew on. Each time I start a new square I have to first choose a colour and pattern I haven’t done in a little while so as to keep it varied, then find the correct yarn and needles, fish out the piece of paper which tells me how many stitches I need to cast on depending on yarn weight, scroll through my phone for a pattern, make sure I’ve got my row counter… and then because squares are so quick to knit it’s really not long before I’m agonising over whether it’s really truly a square (perhaps a rectangle, or a rhombus?), rummaging for a bigger needle to cast off with, and then I have to start the whole process all over again. Not to mention the long hours plugged into an audiobook putting it all together. So we’ll see whether or not the blanket makes an appearance in my next knitting post, since I now have another, far less complicated using-up-yarn project in the works that I’d much rather be doing.
Next is something you may also have spotted in that first picture of the blanket: I made Fairisle cushions! I designed them myself from scratch, knitted them, made cushion pads with my sewing machine and the huge bag of clouds that lives under my bed, and here they are! I even, for the first one, took inspiration from a Scottish landscape, because I first came up with the idea while I was on the Isle of Lewis in summer 2016. Although I highly doubt I am the first person to draw this fairly obvious wave pattern in this way. So here we are: my ‘Rain at Sea’ cushion! (Background: my fancy Greek rug which I sadly absolutely did not make myself.)
Next is a red and purple one that I didn’t really base on anything, I just put some shapes together that I liked. The yarn I’m using for all of this is by a company from Shetland called Jamieson’s, which is widely available online but was bought on location by my aunt Jenny who passed away in 2014, so it’s very precious. She got me absolutely stacks of it, but in loads of different colours, so it’s ideal for big Fairisle pieces. I’d used quite a bit of it on several misshapen hats back when I was still learning and not a very good knitter, so I decided to save the rest until I was a bit more experienced, to make some things to really treasure. And here is the result! I figured cushions would be good because I didn’t have to factor in any increases or decreases, I just knitted tubes and sewed the ends closed. However I was admittedly a little too cautious in my designs, and these two Fairisle ones are very small as a result. But I also did a big one in varying stripes, and the three go together nicely.
‘Why am I doing this? What do I want to become by doing this?’ p. 27
Next we have the latest in the sock saga. Acrylic wore straight through, cotton wasn’t the comfiest, and I have finally figured out that you’re supposed to use yarn that’s a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres, as that’s the most hard-wearing. I’ve also finally figured out that when I knit rib, it probably isn’t supposed to be looser than the main body of the work, so the quality of my socks is now set to improve immensely. I opted for some fancy green and purple self-striping yarn and knitted these socks for my mum, which I think she enjoyed modelling in her summer 3/4 length trousers. (As ever, I seem to finish all my warm knits in spring.)
And lastly, I’ve been baby knitting again! As I’ve mentioned previously, this is an excellent way to practice the shaping for adult-sized jumpers whilst saving a vast amount of time and money. So I did this stripy tank top for my teeny-tiny cousin’s 4th birthday (her parents aren’t very tall either), and this cardigan and matching booties for her brand new sister! Yellow and green have been my go-tos for all gender-neutral baby knitting, so I think I need to come up with some slightly more exciting colours next time. But for this one I couldn’t resist this rather lovely lime which again didn’t show up as well as I’d have liked on camera.
All this is very much in contrast to the jumper I am currently working on, which is going to be rather different, and which I look forward to showing you next time. Also watch this space for Christmas knitting, some of which is finished, but obviously has to be kept a secret for the time being.
‘The diversity of knitted outcomes, made by many heads, hands and hearts with all of their peculiarities, temperaments and aspirations, are what make me love the culture of knitting. Textiles hint at the lives and loves of people.’ p. 28