When bad things happen to good knitting

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Just when I think that I am getting quite good at this knitting lark something happens to make me feel like a complete novice. I am very embarrassed to show you what a cock up I have made.

I have been knitting Red Shift by Jared Flood which is a fantastic pattern.  All my favourite things; stranded knitting, steeking, knitting in the round.  I didn’t use the recommended yarn because, as you know, I am on a yarn diet.  I chose two yarns from Gomitolis in lambswool and lambswool/cashmere from my stash.  They are typically Italian spun yarn with multiple ends and very bouncy.

I really enjoyed knitting the body of the shawl.  It looked great and the steek went really well.  I cast on the first part of the edging but when I finished it one side was a bit cockled.  I knew I had picked up the correct number of stitches so figured I would just block out the irregularity.

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Then I picked up the hypotenuse border and noticed that the gap between the decrease shapings and the edge of the steek was really showing with yarn grinning through. Yuk.

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Normally I would simply unravel a project.  I believe not being afraid to frog your work is one of the most valuable things I have learned.  But this work is steeked so it simply isn’t possible.

At the moment I am considering unravelling all the borders and trying to tweak the pattern to compensate for the overly lofty yarn that I chose. Instead of just getting on with it, I am trying to find as many other projects as possible to take my mind off my mistakes. I need to convince myself this is a learning opportunity rather than beating myself up for working in the wrong yarn.

Ho hum

Allsorts

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I have to admit that being on a yarn diet is not as bad as I remember, especially when you get a gorgeous little package like this from Baa Ram Ewe.

Titus is a lovely yarn to knit with and although I find it a bit slippery for Fair Isle knitting it’s just perfect for lace and cabling.  The colours are wonderfully balanced and have evocative names like Eccup, Dalby and Aire.  Now they have created these dinky Pick ‘n’ Mix taster  packs so you can try out more of their colours for yourself.

The little tube has 6 balls weighing 12g – enough to knit the fingerless mitts pattern that comes with the yarn. I wasn’t really feeling stripes and wanted to try something a little more adventurous.  A quick trawl round Ravelry and I found a great pattern called Escalator Mittens by Tiina Huhtaniemi

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I only finished the first one yesterday but I was so excited I thought you might excuse that I haven’t quite gotten round to the thumb!

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And I still have all this lovely yarn left.

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If you haven’t tried Titus yet, this set of mini skeins could be perfect for you.

Sugru – Juliet’s Little Helper

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A few years ago (it must be more than 6) I came across an amazing inventor who had created something called Sugru, a mouldable silicone ‘putty’ which looked a bit like BlueTac but which self cures into a strong ‘rubber’.

It is so hard to describe, which might be why it isn’t as widely known as it should be.  The lovely people at Sugru have just sent me their latest pack – a tin with 4 little sachets of this magic substance to have a play with. They have also produced a great little booklet with lots of ideas for crafters.  What I didn’t know is that Sugru is strong enough to stick things to walls like small shelves and coat hooks.

IMG_20170321_092739I have used it to protect charger cables, mend the handle of a pair of scissors and fix a knife blade back in to a handle.  With the latest pack I thought I would try something for a knitter with lots of DPNs.  Keeping my DPNs organised is always a bit of a problem.  Sometime I put them in a tin or use rubber bands but I wanted something that looked a bit more tailor made.

Each sachet holds enough of this miracle product for a small project. Here is the Sugru rolled out in to a little sausage.  I recommend doing this on a flat surface to get it nice and even.

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I then secured the DPNs with a cable tie and rubber band to hold it in place while I wrapped the Sugru round them.

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Then because I had some left over I popped a couple of the balls on each end to protect the tips.

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Now I need to leave it for 24 hours to self cure and we’ll see how it fares. I’m sure it will make great needle tip protectors for my circular needles as well.  Ooh and I could bury a magnet in it so I can keep track of all my pins. And my scissors are always getting caught up….  Looks like I’m going to have fun this afternoon.

#wearenotinvisible

Last week I was on a shoot for one of my clients, Yarn Stories.  I met a woman called Kate Goode who is an art director, stylist and all round amazing person.  She is a similar age to me and, as often happens when women in their 50s get together we chatted about the problem of being who we are at a ‘certain age’.

To give you a bit of background, Kate and I must have bumped into each other in the heady days of London in the 80s.  Post punk and just about post New Romantic it was an incredibly creative time in the fashion industry.  Within 3 weeks of starting my job at Courtelle I had met Paul Smith.  Lynne Franks (Abfab) was our PR and Lamb and Shirley did our graphics.  In my second year I worked with Jean Paul Gaultier and in my third John Galliano.  The parties we went to were ridiculous and I loved every second of it.  I didn’t earn much so I mainly shopped from the High Street, but whatever I bought was chopped and changed to make it individual and trendy.You could wear anything and it was accepted as you being you.

Over the years I have struggled with my look.  Having been a Sassoon house model I have always focussed things on my hair as a starting point – do you remember my mohawk from a few years ago? – then my shoes and now my glasses, but clothes have become harder and harder to wear.  For a start I am a good 2 stone heavier and my bust has got significantly bigger since becoming a mum.  But I also have a  super-sensitive mutton alert that seems to go off if I even go near a Miss Selfridge or Zara.

What further complicates things is my age.  Now that I could technically be a grandmother I have become invisible.  I used to get appreciative comments or looks when I walked in to a room but this just doesn’t happen now and its amazing how much this has dented my confidence.  These days I would rather don a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, and cocoon myself in a voluminous cardigan so I can merge in to the background.  I have  a fantastic pair of mock leather culottes I bought from Zara in my wardrobe.  I would love to team them up with ankle socks, killer wedged suede boots and a man’s shirt but I just can’t get past the fear that I would look ridiculous.   I never used to worry about this so what has happened to me? Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to be or look younger – I am happy with my age, I just want to be a bit more me.

This is what Kate and I talked about, the dilemmas of the ageing woman.  I don’t really have any answers because it is a very personal thing, but seeing how great Kate looked and following our chat I am determined to take a few more ‘risks’.

The day after we met Kate commented on an image on Instagram and used #wearenotinvisible at the end of her comment.  Brilliant!  This is now my mantra so watch out!

Yarn diet

stash220Well, that’s it! The time has come for me to go on another yarn diet. You may remember that I did this a few years ago when I was still at The Knitter. It was an unpleasant experience, that’s for sure, but not quite as bad as giving up smoking.

Today I once again find myself in a situation where my stash has become, well, flabby, and the number of WIP’s is shameful, so I am taking myself in hand. Yes WIPS that haven’t been knitted for more than 6 months definitely count as stash.

I did learn a lot from not buying any yarn for a year so I thought I would pass on a few tips, Just in case you are in the same boat as I am.

Set aside a good day for yourself to go through your stash, when you are feeling positive and enthusiastic for the task ahead of you.  If yours is anything like mine it could take a while to find it all.

Get your stash out and take a long long hard look at each and every hank and begin by dividing them into porn, love and meh! Immediately get rid of the meh! or ‘what was I thinking’ yarn by giving them to charities or knitting friends-If they accept your gift that ball of yarn is no longer your problem. I reckon if I’m ruthless I can get rid of at least 20% this way especially if I include part balls from finished projects that I really am not going to be able to use.

I have a fixation with Noro yarns but recently decided that four or five balls of sock yarn were not really my colour. It was a painful process giving them  up but now they have a new forever home in Scotland and I’m sure they are being well looked after. It’s kind of paying it forward in a yarnie way. OK, I am trying to make it sound like a more positive experience to motivate myself and you, but desperate times and all that.

Look at the amounts of each yarn you have and try to picture what you can make with it. To make this process more fun I will be spending several hours in (and I do mean in, up to my neck) Ravelry and my bookshelves. BE CAREFUL not to get sucked in to rearranging your books as a diversionary tactic.  You are here to sort yarn! When you have made your choices you can bag up the yarn with a pattern ready to knit.

Now look at what you have left. Is it really still porn ? Do you still really love it or is it looking more meh! that you can get rid of. By this stage I hope to have my stash sorted by 70% but that 30% is going nowhere.  I need to have something to fondle and inspire me.

I could go on and mention boxing and cataloguing but I already feel a bit overwhelmed so I think I might leave it for now. There is nothing wrong with having stash, but if you aren’t going to use it at some point it’s just loft installation.

SPOILER ALERT  I will admit I have cheated a bit, I mean taken some precautions, and stocked up in advance of the New Year.  A girl’s got to have something to look forward to.

Hello again

It has been a month since I last posted.  I had every intention of writing while I was away with work and on holiday, but dodgy internet connections put paid to that.  I think I also just needed a break, sitting and knitting while overlooking a beautiful loch on the Outer Hebrides.

But I am back and wanted to share a bit about where I have been. The first week was spent in the Faroe Islands with a group of knitters on an Arena Travel holiday.  We had such fun and learned a huge amount about the islands; they have a population of 50,000 and 75,000 sheep; they  wear their national dress at any opportunity; they like to eat a stew made from ‘fermented’ lamb’s meat; they learned how to cut peat and line fish from the Shetland islanders many hundreds of years ago; many houses have grass on the roof to help protect against the storm; they love to knit.

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We had a fantastic guide who took us to several museums, a walking tour of Torshavn (the capital) and to meet the producers of Snaeldan and Navia wool.  The historical knitted items were fascinating.

He was just so knowledgeable and happy to share the history of the islands.  I loved the lovely little churches dotted around the coast, two of which you can see here.

The ladies I was teaching came from all over the world and learned continental knitting, two-handed Fair Isle and steeking as well as a basic tutorial in Dorset buttons.

We packed so much in to our week on these amazing islands and I would love to go back.  If you want to read more I am currently writing an article for The Knitter

A personal post

This is an unashamedly personal post from me and has nothing to do with knitting, so please don’t read on if you don’t like this kind of ‘sharing’.

I have had an amazing weekend because I took part in the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge with the lovely people from Stylecraft.  I only managed 2 peaks but  I still have an huge sense of achievement.  Not only because we were treated to a couple of feet of snow and a hailstorm but also because what simply being there meant to me.

As I drove up on Friday I listened to Woman’s Hour with Kim Catrall writing about her insomnia.  She is an actress I have always admired and to hear about how her feelings of self doubt and how they impacted on her ability to sleep really resonated with me. She is perceived as such a strong woman but tells how weak she felt inside.

I have no problem sleeping but I have battled for years with anxiety and panic attacks.  I don’t get the palpitations and the feeling that you are having a heart attack.  The way my anxiety manifests itself is through nervous diaorrhea.  Sorry if that is just too much information for you, but for me it is terrifying, embarrassing and debilitating.

I think it started when my brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer back at the turn of the century.  He was very ill as a baby and his cancer must have unlocked something from my early childhood.  Within the space of just 7 years my dad had a triple heart bypass, my mum had a radical hysterectomy followed by breast cancer, my beloved dog was killed, my grandmother died and then my dad died. I had a young family and I remember just being so frightened of just what would happen next.  My business was bigger than it is now and I was responsible for 3 staff.

At it’s worst I couldn’t even walk the 10 minutes to the shops without having to rush to the loo.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have stopped on a motorway to run in to the bushes or asked in shops if I could use their loo.  I never wanted to go out and would come up with all kinds of excuses not to meet up with friends. Anywhere I had to go I carefully mapped out where every loo was.  Holidays were a nightmare because I simply didn’t know where the next public convenience was and even whether I would get there in time.

I was put on anti-depressants, diagnosed with IBS (which I don’t have) and finally given some anti-anxiety tablets which work really well.  I had a friend who gave me a really hard time for taking my prescription drugs but frankly she wasn’t locked up in the hell I had to live with every day.

If you know me or have worked with me you probably had no idea about any of this.  I was so good at hiding my fears which only added to them.

Then my doctor referred me to the local mental health unit for some CBT.  It was really hard work and I was very sceptical, but I was desperate to reclaim some kind of normality. A lovely psychologist guided me through the process and it worked.  Not immediately but gradually.

Today I still have to be aware – apparently if you are prone to panic attacks they will always be with you – so I meditate and use breathing exercises.

Driving up to the Y3P challenge and listening to Kim Catrall I realised just how far I had come.  I was about to scale mountains without knowing where the next loo was and put myself through the kind of physical duress I actively try to avoid. Look at me!

Two mountains out of three is more than I could ever have dreamed I would be able to do. Sadly I don’t qualify for a certificate, but who cares?  Inside, I will be smiling for many months to come.