And so it is time to embark on my first even properly written down knitting pattern. I say first written pattern because I have invented some things like a beanie and mitts, off the cuff so to speak. In those cases I made no records and knitted along according to whim at the time. The results were quite lovely and I highly recommend this kind of free-to-flow knitting. But today we’re all business.
As I am a pattern maker for cut and sew garments, making a paper pattern to follow seemed the most natural place to start. I measured a garment I like and drew up a true to size paper pattern to use for both front and back of a vest or slipover. A vest seemed a good place to start as the pieces are few, similar, and simple to conceptualise flat. Below is a photo of the paper pattern. I imagined that the front and back armscye would be different as with woven garments. I am aware that that is not how hand knitted garments are generally made but I just can’t figure out why. Why oh dear reader? Surely hand knitters still have chests that are larger at the front than the back? Busts around which you might remove gape at an armhole? It is a mystery. But after many times ripping back trying to get a satisfying curve at the back armhole I gave in and copied the front.
Below is a photo of the knitted front. You might notice that I drew in the rib for the armholes but at the neckline the rib will be added on top of the drawn line, which is an outrageous inconsistency that wont be repeated. I found it very useful to have the paper to lay my work on to check the shapes and lengths. The knitting being slightly wider than the pattern was planned. But I have since had a realisation about using the paper pattern as a template. Which is – if my washed and blocked fabric ends up larger or smaller than the dry in-progress item, then the measurements might end up way off. Would that mean calculating the difference between a dry and a blocked swatch and then making a template that is a scaled percentage larger or smaller than the desired measurements?
The front and back pieces are both finished and ready for seams and ribbing now. So I will continue with what I have while I mull over this new idea.
I have not been knitting for long. A casual observer might even wonder if I have purposefully and stubbornly avoided knitting despite many an opportunity and encouragement that has come my way. And there have been many.
Certainly in my private life I have been an ardent pursuer of hand crafts. And when spinning, which I do a lot, I have fielded the question “what do you do with your yarn?” more times than can be put in a basket. My go to reply is “look at it”. A little besides the expected use for yarn, maybe. But “what do you do with it?” is a question you could ask of any art form. And you might give a similarly blasé answer if someone asked you about Art, on which you have Opinions, but feel like an A**hat going on about. So I am not going to go on about it today.
What I am going to do is tell you I’ve bitten the bullet. Crumpled under the onslaught. Flat out given in and accidentally gotten addicted.
I am officially a knitter.
I’ve decided it’s official since I finished my first garment a month ago. One lovely plain jumper. And surely becoming a knitwear designer and pattern writer is the next logical step. I hope that it will be an advantage that in my professional life I am a pattern maker for woven garments, but you never know which way it will go. So come along for the ride as I learn new knitting techniques and then immediately incorporate them into new patterns intended for whichever level of knitter I happen to be at the time!
I always knew about ice-cream with cream on top from my Mum. That is, that it is a) amazing and b) just the best. It never occurred to me to wonder how she knew of such a miracle. But now it all makes sense. That once upon a time, over fifty years ago now, at Westward Ho! on the west coast of England (the only town in the UK or possibly the world with an exclamation mark in its name) a young girl had an ice-cream from the Hockings van, with cream on top, and never forgot how fantastic it was. I don’t know if this is actually the case. It might be her own Mum invented it, and let slip to the Hockings guy.
I was too distracted by living to take a photo of the ice-cream eaten this day in 2020, from the same Hockings van, which still only serves vanilla ice-cream, with or without cream on top. But here is a photo to demonstrate my reaction.
Scones were also eaten, but they weren’t as good as the ice-cream.
Near hipster hideout Frome there are some Castlemilk Moorits I have the pleasure of keeping an eye on for a week, as well as two free fleeces that escaped the fire. (The fire designed to get rid of unwanted things, not an unwanted fire designed for purposes known only to itself.)
This delicate breed grows only a small fleece – up to 1kg per animal with a staple length of 4 – 8 cm. It is very soft though and reminds me of yak down, which I have seen spun on a tiny drop spindle not 10cms long.
After sorting these two I already understand so much more about fleece culture. Like why it is so hard for farmers to get rid of unwanted fleece sometimes. Apparently the owners of this little flock tried to find crafters to take the fleeces but no one would, and I wonder now if I would take any more in such a state.
The formula is this: If you don’t want it why would someone else?
Or put another way, if a farmer does not care about wool enough to keep it in a condition that a crafter could use, why would a crafter want it?
Castlemilks are defined as a kemp free breed, which I suppose refers to it not growing mixed in with their main wool lumps, because they do have a hair and kemp patch on their rumps. This could be skirted and discarded immediately at shearing. Or it could be rolled up with the whole fleece to get rubbed into the wool and make a big mess. A shearer might be informed of the end purpose for the fleece and possibly be paid more to go slower and take more care (as shearers are usually paid per head and try to go as fast as possible). Or they might not be, and make regular double cuts of an already short fleece.
Of the fleece above I am keeping about 2/3rds after removing double cuts and good wool with kemp through it. I expect to discard more that is too short as I go along. And now for a wash!
Alternate Title: In a shocking turn of events, I purchase a scone despite lockdown.
I’m not being sarcastic you know. It really did seem like no scone would ever be eaten again, or at least purchased from a retailer, as I have forgotten how to order in cafes or make room for people on the pavement. There simply are no people on pavements. They may be crossing the road to avoid me, or not exist at all. We’ll never know. It is very possible that no-one else exists anymore, or ever did and I am quietly losing my mind. People gather on the Tor and other places. My light in the darkness hope is that people gather everywhere, in secret and or not, hug and sing and keep each other warm. That is what I hope.
These dried plant parts from the front yard go into the dye pot. Later I learn they are orpine flower stems but that the flowers themselves contain most of the walnut coloured dye. Location: Bonar Bridge, Scotland
Stork’s Bill I identify before trying to dye with, while deciding what is a weed in the new garden. It will hold without mordant (far right) though not the most controlled experiment, on different wool all together. Fresh stems, leaves and flowers simmered all together for an hour. The yellow caught held under for only a few seconds, and the darker simmered for an hour. I wish you could see how bright the yellow is in real life. Almost fluro. Location: Somerset, England
Alternate title: Is the sheep eternal ruler of all animals or only my heart?
Cheviot wool is generally classed as a carpet wool. But so is anything that a new born baby can’t wear directly on their skin. They are a shedding breed so I could collect the wool on the windswept heath, without a sheep in sight, and add accomplished forager to my resume.
And spin it on the drop spindle like a pro. Pictured here with my plying bracelet resting on top as I got tired.
The day before cafes were shut, let’s face it probably forever, I had this scone. You will have noticed that the “we don’t want to make these laws and they will all be removed as soon as possible” rhetoric has morphed into “most of these restrictions will probably eventually be lifted”.
I don’t have high hopes. It almost makes me cry to think of this sunny day on our way to Cromarty.
This scone marked our 1 year and 5 month anniversary on the 20th March 2020
As far a I know you can test anything for dye by boiling it up and seeing what happens. In a whirlwind of new romance with natural dying I scoured the cupboards for mordants to fill the void till alum arrived in the mail. 3 options were at hand- vinegar, bicarb and urine. The internet disagrees with itself on whether vinegar and bicarb will work on wool, or only plant fibres. But in my mania I had a go anyway. The bicarb and urine were used as pre-mordants, the yarn simmered for 1 hour and left to dry. The vinegar was also simmered with yarn but added from that pot straight into the dyepot.
Sphagnum moss from the backyard. I felt a bit sick seeing the hole that was left after pulling this chunk out. Not that the landscape here will miss it, but next time I’ll head out with scissors to trim what I need.
And fern moss from the tree line by the waters edge.
I started out with a grey handspun and the samples above are laid out according to colour gradient, not what was used on them. Only one is from the fern moss which barely had an effect.
All these new dreams of dying have been bought on by the lichen. I knew in theory that lichen was a dye stuff, but I’d never been able to fathom how it was done, till coming to Scotland. For instance, where would you get enough? A lifetime scraping the odd coloured rock till the colour is gone yet nothing seems to have come off, does not get you a jar full of lichen. But a veil has been drawn back from my eyes!
All photos taken by me, in the presence of lichen!