Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Endings... and Beginnings

Apologies once again for having been very remiss of late here - especially to those of you who posted comments after November's entry.
They've finally been published!

Please do keep visiting the blog, I'm planning to keep writing in 2009.

I've also finally finished my throw. The "dog days" between Christmas and New Year have been used to good purpose for once, in sewing together the three sections and the cat is already enjoying his new bed, as you can see. I'm really pleased both with the results and the process of creating this piece. It began with a simple moss stitch sample and grew from there in a very organic and unplanned way, going where the knitting suggested it wanted to go. Inspired by the colours and wools of the Shetland Isles, it also resonates with other landscapes as the picture below, from my visit to Helsinki last month, shows. This ending inspires me to new beginnings in knitting as we stand on the bridge between the old year and the new. Love and peace to you all.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A Knotty Problem

Apologies for the very long delays between entries at the moment. No exotic trips this time, just lots and lots of work and lots and lots of stress related to that. Very little knitting has been done at all. But a little story from yesterday illustrates its continued importance for me.
I was desperate to find some time to knit, took my latest project on my commute, only to find that the yarn (lovely bamboo from Rowan) had got massively tangled. So I spent most of my journey to work in unravelling mode, trying to keep very calm and not to feel at all annoyed or frustrated. Having worked enough of the knots loose to knit a couple of rows I did that then carried on untangling. As I was doing this it struck me what a huge metaphor this was for my current work challenges: helping to contribute to massive organisational change and some tricky politics. I'm very up for it but it is also emotional draining and quite dispiriting at times. Untying my yarn knots made me think about how sometimes you really want to just get on with the task but there is preliminary untangling to be done. That can be very frustrating. But then it isn't always necessary to unravel everything before you continue. Sometimes you can knit a couple of rows and then carrying on tackling the knots. By the end of my commute I had completely unravelled my ball of yarn.
The knitting metaphor continued when I arrived at work. One of my colleagues asked me to knit her a couple of extra days so that we could fit in all the meetings and other "stuff" we need to do next week! And at a lunchtime meeting to discuss some knotty work issues I noticed that there was a pot of knitting needles and some yarn on the windowsill in the restaurant, which seemed an encouraging sign.
All this felt very encouraging and at home again I was looking forward to an evening of knitting. I followed my pattern while watching a film and realised that there was an error as I'd cast off the back far too soon - the pattern says cast off after 30 cm when I think it should say 60 cm. So now I'm going to have to unpick my cast off stitches and knit the rest of it to the right size. Another metaphor about not rushing to the end point, not slavishly following the pattern and making sure that the work being done is fit for purpose? I don't know, but it does seem that knitting has a lot to teach us about our lives if only we can connect into what it is saying to us. Meanwhile it's back to that unpicking and carrying on with the work...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Bhutanese Blues...

...and reds, greens and yellows. Like Monty Python's parrot I am pining for the fjords. The fjords of Bhutan that is. It was a wonderful trip, with stunning scenery and lots of learning about Buddhist culture and practice. There was also a feast of colours, textures and textiles - all wonderful design sources. Here are a selection of my pictures from the trip. (You can see more on Other Half's blog: More about the textiles next time.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Heading for the Hills

Today we begin our trip to Nepal and Bhutan, so I won't be posting for a few weeks. We've both had lurgies over the weekend so I'm hoping this won't be a repeat of last year's Antarctica fiasco when I spent two weeks on a boat with air conditioning you couldn't turn off and a bad bout of sinusitis. If all goes smoothly it should be a fantastic trip, including a visit to the Bumthang Valley, pictured here. Bhutan, also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, has a fantastic textiles' history, which I hope to explore along with its landscape and its variety of Buddhism. It was closed off until the 1970s and even now manages its tourism industry very carefully. Gross National Happiness is included among its economic indicators. A benign monarchy led by the Wangchuk family has recently ceded power, voluntarily, to a form of democratic government, so it is an interesting time to visit. We also get a chance to look at Kathmandu as we fly in through there. Although by all accounts it's not what it was in the unspoiled days of the "hippy trail", I'm interested in seeing something of the Tibetan culture in exile. It would have been great to have included Tibet on the itinerary but it didn't fit this time round. I'd really like this trip to work out well as my attitude to travel has become somewhat ambivalent of late. We're bombarded with mixed messages about safety, the importance of tourism and damage to the environment. I do have concerns about the mass movements of people around the planet and some of the bad consequences of this, particularly when packaged up as a consumer "experience". On the other hand I always feel a closer connection to those places that I've visited, and, cliche or not, have had my horizons broadened.

On the knitting front, I've submitted Module One of my City and Guilds course to my tutor Loraine. Visit her website at for more details about the course. So Module Two and the assessment of my work on Mod One should be waiting for me when I get home. In the meantime I've been working on a top in bamboo yarn from Rowan's last but one magazine. I felt the need of just following someone else's pattern after thinking such a lot about design lately. I've finished the sleeves but the rest will have to await my return. I love knitting in bamboo: it has a lovely feel and drape, although quite heavy to wear. I'm interested in exploring these newer yarns as lots of the wool I've got in my stash is full of dust and aggravating to my troubled sinuses. It is bliss to knit with bamboo and not get covered with dust and fibres - it feels so clean and fresh.

I'm taking socks to knit on bamboo needles as my travel project as they're so very portable and shouldn't upset any airlines. They're also the perfect no-brainer. And I should get lots of colour inspiration, the theme of Module Two, on my travels.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Knitting challenges I have known

It's time for The Big Knit once again and my knitting group is busily knitting little hats for Innocent smoothie bottles. They will then by sold in Sainsbury's to raise money for Age Concern ( Here are my efforts from last year.
There's a long strong tradition of knitters using their craft for charitable works, from blankets for premature babies to shrugs and knitted breasts for breast cancer patients. On the whole I think this is a wonderful reflection of both the community aspects of knitting and the nature of women's concerns. I have to say, though, that knitting a hat for a bottle of juice is certainly one of the strangest things I've been asked to do! Nevertheless, it's a fun evening (or two - we're doing it again this week) in return for free drinks at Oxford's Jam Factory where Andrew is the best of hosts and an avid supporter of our knitting group (
Sometimes the knitting itself can be a bit of a challenge, though, when my cat decides that he really must give me a hand (or paw).

Friday, 29 August 2008

Back from Hols...and finally finishing a few projects

A bit of a gap for a coastal interlude at Dunwich Heath in Suffolk, overlooking the wonderful RSPB reserve at Minsmere. Lots of walking and birdwatching and a little bit of knitting but mainly a real switch off.
On the knitting front the good news is that over the Bank Holiday weekend I finally finished my cardigan! This is my first real design project so I'm very pleased. It's not perfect by any means, mainly because it's slightly too small and the fronts don't meet. Also I rather rushed the front bands and have some doubts whether I can live with them or will need to unpick them and re-do. But at the moment I'm just enjoying wearing it. I've learned a lot through doing this project. I could have planned things out a lot more in advance, particularly working with a limited amount of balls in each colour. On the other hand I enjoyed just starting to knit and seeing where it took me. And I took a great deal more care over the blocking out and sewing up than I've ever done before, which must be NO BAD THING.

I've also finished a pair of ballet bootees for my ballet teacher's newborn - it took me a little longer than I intended so I'm hoping that they will still be a good fit!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The Mathematics of Stash Reduction

How can buying more yarn reduce your stash? As I've mentioned before, my stash is now absolutely enormous. So much so that I made a pact not to buy any more yarn this month. Guess what?

Yesterday I went to Get Knitted in Bristol for a fabulous second day with Debbie Abrahams learning all about design. This was the non-knitting day, when Debbie taught us all the calculations we need to adapt patterns or write our own. As we struggled to get our heads round her various formulae (which it has to be said are very simple, really, and are clearly set out in her book Design Your Own Knits) I wished my school maths teacher had told me how useful I would find his lessons in my late forties!

You will understand, then, that I needed some respite at lunchtime and it being a very wet day outside what was there left for me to do but browse in the shop? "I'm not buying any yarn", I said to my companion, Zoe. "Of course not", she said, herself sticking womanfully to a very strict budget. So, I picked up a Rowan magazine I haven't got and which happens to fill a gap in my run, looked at and rejected some Big Wool for my friend Lyn, which was at full price, and then wandered by the Sales Bin. I had a little rummage, just out of interest, but with absolutely no intention to buy. Then, right at the back of the bottom shelf, behind something I thought might have been reduced Big Wool but wasn't, I found three balls of Natural Silk Aran, just enough to complete a project that I've been wanting to knit for some time. And it was the same dye lot. "Guess what?", I said to Zoe. "I'm buying some yarn." It was at this point that she, brilliant woman, explained how buying this yarn was in fact reducing my stash because it would enable me to complete a project. I have now named this Zoe's Formula of Stash Reduction: S + Y / WIP = CP, where S is your existing stash, Y is an additional purchase of yarn, WIP is work in progress and CP is your completed project. Go figure!

Sunday, 3 August 2008


It seems accepted that there are two kinds of knitters: product-and process-oriented. I definitely fall into the latter category. I like exploring what knitting can do and where it takes me and I'm not all that concerned about completing projects. It's what leads me into yarn stores to buy odd bits and pieces and see what I can do with them. I've even more excuse for this now that I'm doing the City and Guilds course and need to try out lots of new stitches and techniques. My stash has grown so enormous that I've made a bargain with myself not to buy any more yarn in August!
On the other hand, there is a guilt element to all the uncompleted swatches and half knitted bag and sock projects I've got lying around, not least all the space they take up. I would like to get them finished - some day. I tell myself that it's part of the creative process to be working on lots of different things at once. I think there's some truth in this but there's also something to be said for concentrating on one project and seeing it through to completion. Which is what I've been trying to do this week at the Oxford Summer School - Monday to Friday totally devoted to knitting. On Monday the tutor Susette Palmer showed me how to do the calculations for altering the sleeves to a three quarter length (there's also help on doing this in September's Knitting magazine). Once I'd got the maths sorted I spent most of the rest of the week working out the best proportions of each colour to knit the sleeves with. There were some constraints because of the amounts of yarn I had left in the different colours and at one point I decided to re-knit one sleeve when the class consensus was that there was too much white in it. This took up rather more time than I would have liked but I did enjoy the process of working it all out and deciding which version looked best. I've now finished both sleeves and also picked up and finished off the neck band. The neck also got done twice because there were holes around the shoulders that were obviously going to sag. Susette gave me the tip of picking up slightly less stitches than you might think and knitting two together across the shoulders. It seemed worth re-doing to get this right and it does look hugely better. I used a suspended cast-off for the neck line, which is much more stretchy than the ordinary cast-off, and is one of the most useful things I've learned so far from the C&G course. I also needed to decide what to do about the side seams which in a fit of stupidity I sewed up with much too large a seam. At about 5 am this morning I realised that I would have to unpick them. So they're being done for the second time too... I've completed one and unpicked the second ready to re-sew. No disastrous cuts into the knitting so far and only one swear word used. Amazing! Then I just need to seam and sew in the sleeves and do the front bands for it to be finished.
But I'm not going to achieve that today, although I really did want to. And I've realised that it doesn't matter. Not because I'm a process knitter and don't like finishing, in both senses of the word. But because it's important to me to get this project right and to spend as much time on the finishing as on the knitting. Like loads of other knitters I don't enjoy the sewing up bit, but it is rather silly of us when you think that knitting is precisely the creation of a fabric that needs to be made into something. Unless we're just going to make scarves and socks all the time. So I will learn to like and value finishing as much as I now like and value blocking - I will, I will.
I finished the week with Susette by having a break from the cardigan and knitting an entrelac swatch, something I've wanted to try for ages. I really like the result, although it's a stitch that requires a good deal of picking up stitches, which was good for me to practise in the context of the finishing theme.
And a week of spending time sociably with others (nearly) as crazy about knitting as me ended on a high note yesterday morning when I hosted a Knit and Browse coffee morning. Several local knitters, mostly from my Tuesday evening knitting group, came along to discuss our current books and projects. It was great to spend a bit longer together and share our passion.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Knitter's Block

Tennis champ Bjorn Borg used to wear a T-shirt that said "Remember, to a tennis player love means nothing". The different meanings we attach to words has been on my mind this week as I've been enjoying using my wonderful new blocking board (mucho thanks to Other Half for wielding the staple gun!). In cricket, blocking is a defensive stroke batsmen play to stay in the crease. Writers talk about being blocked when they are stuck, unable to progress their work. As a knitter I can recognise this phenomenon but for us the words blocked and blocking also have another meaning - the process of pinning out a completed piece of knitting to its correct size and applying water and/or heat to facilitate sewing up. I have to confess that I've always been extremely lazy about blocking. Once the knitting is completed all I want is to get the sewing bit over as quickly as possible. Recently, though, I made a pair of baby bootees with a stocking-stitch sole which, in the nature of that stitch, was curling up. Being so tiny this was making sewing up a challenge. Pinning and blocking by waving a hot iron over the dampened piece of knitting and leaving it to dry made it really flat for sewing up. Now I'm hooked.
Far from representing stuckness, knitter's block can create progress. Having my swanky new blocking board (two towels wrapped onto chipboard and covered with a cool green check tablecloth) has also "unblocked" my languishing cardigan project. I've pinned out the back and two fronts ready for sewing-up before going on to the next difficult bit: working out the pattern for the sleeves, which I want to make three quarter length. I've also finished knitting my throw and begun Module 1 of my City & Guilds course. This connection between the two types of "block", has been made by setting goals to complete various projects and a commitment to having the right tools to make this possible. Another recent acquisition has been a leather knitting belt, which I bought on Shetland the other week.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Stunning Shetland and Fabulous Fair Isle

This is just a quick update on my return from another week on Shetland. Had a fantastic time, although not nearly long enough, just short of a week. The weather was really kind to us - I've never known it to be less windy on Shetland. Only one full-on rainy day, during which we toured the knitwear design outlets - unusually for me I spent my money on knitwear this week rather than wool! Didn't manage to make it to Fair Isle itself this time but managed to buy a couple of lovely Fair Isle hats and a cardigan (see photo) that fitted me perfectly and wasn't something I was ever going to make for myself. Looking at the Shetland landscape again I can see that it's where all the inspiration has come from for my throw, so I need to press on and get this finished soon.

I've also just signed up to to the City & Guilds Level 3 Hand Knit Textiles course with Loraine McClean via her new enterprise Knit Design Online. I was very impressed by the way Loraine got in touch so quickly after I left a message for her and I've heard good reports of the course from a friend who is already signed up. I've been thinking about doing this for some time and it feels good to have finally taken the plunge. I think it will be really helpful to give me some structure and focus for my knitting and design work.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

The Fabric of Knitting

It's easy to forget sometimes that with knitting we are creating fabric, a piece of material that has particular qualities as a textile. The stitch we choose, the colours, texture and pattern all contribute to the quality of that textile, its drape and stretch, its suitability for purpose. Perhaps knitting is the ultimate meeting point of form and function! Alison Ellen, in her wonderful book, The Handknitter's Design Book (David & Charles 1992) makes the point that sometimes we only discover the truth of this when we stop slavishly following knitting patterns and begin to create our own designs. She invites us to begin afresh and think of knitting as a completely new way of making a fabric. That sounds to me like a good resolution for the Summer Solstice...
As I develop my own knitting designs I'm finding that I prefer projects that rely on stitch and texture for their effects, working in colour through stripes and slip stitch patterns or fair isle techniques. I'm less interested in using Intarsia to paint pictures out of wool, in the manner of Kaffe Fassett or Sasha Kagan. Of course this is partly because I've come late to colour work. In my early knitting days I much preferred to work with texture: moss stitch and Aran patterns in particular. Now I do enjoy very much working with colour but quite frankly I find Intarsia stressful and irritating. I've been reading Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac (like Elizabeth David's cookery writing she can be read for sheer pleasure as literature) and she quite happily dismisses Intarsia because it interrupts the rhythm of knitting. I can go with that.
Of course, as well as fabric, there is the three-dimensional aspect to knitting, which I found a bit of a challenge this week as I tried to assemble the pieces for a pair of baby bootees (see photo). These were not my design, I hasten to add, although I added in the stripe pattern, but came from Jeanette Trotman's lovely book Easy Knitted Socks. Easy to knit, yes, but not so easy, for me at least, to figure out how to put them together! In the end I had to ask my more spatially aware neighbour if she could assist me. Despite a large glass of red wine I managed to complete the project with her help, and it made for a nice convivial evening. It never ceases to amaze me how knitting enables community, a different kind of fabric.
In the meantime, a trip back to Shetland beckons at the end of this week. I'm not going to resolve not to buy any more wool because that would be foolish. But I won't have a car to load up so I'll have to keep things within the BA baggage allowance. I gather the weather up there is a bit wild at the moment, so there may be plenty of time to knit and purl!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

When does knitting happen?

As usual work commitments have taken over lately. Perhaps because of this I've been pondering the question of how do we create time for knitting?
It seems to me that we need to be just as creative with this as with the craft of knitting itself. At the moment for me this involves have a number of projects on the go, some suitable for the commute to work, some for crashing out in front of the telly and some for days when I have more free time to plan out a design or work out a complex pattern.
However, it's also important that the time we do manage to create for knitting is of good quality. I lost a knitting needle at one point on my commute this week and being deprived of an ability to knit felt very frustrating. Although I rushed off to get another pair of needles at lunchtime (and a nice new bag to put them in!) being "knitting-less", however briefly, turned out to be an opportunity to take stock of how I can turn it into just another busyness. On the one hand I know how scratchy I get when I don't have the basso continuo of rows of knitting to support the soundtrack of my life. At the same time we sometimes need silence, which is expressed in musical scores by pauses and rests! It's very important to me that there should be a meditative aspect to knitting, sitting with the yarn and needles as a form of spiritual practice. It's not always like this, of course, but it is part of the process for me and one that I'm trying to develop. I'm always struck by how my relationship with my knitting reflects my relationship with whatever else is going on in my life: times when things seem to flow well and there's a sense of rhythm and being in tune with the universe; other times when things are stuck or frustrated and generally feel out of key. I need to make sure that knitting happens in the good spaces whenever possible.
It was my birthday on Monday and my darling husband heeded my request and managed to track down two (eco-friendly) glass heads to show off knitted hats. The one on the left has a hat I bought on Fair Isle last summer and the one on the right has a hat I knitted ages ago, plus the North Star scarf I made from Donna Druchunas' book Arctic Lace.
And finally as they say, the good news is that my blog is now interactive. So if you've read this far, please leave a comment. Let me know what you think about the blog , tell me when knitting happens for you and what projects you are working on. I will send a free pattern for my lacy leaf collar to the sender of the best first comment I receive.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Midwinter Inspirations

Brilliant design course with Debbie Abrahams yesterday, held at Get Knitted's shop in Bristol. We were asked to take an inspiration with us and I took this Midwinter saucer, designed in the 1960s. I've been wanting to do something with this as a piece of knitting for ages and this seemed a golden opportunity. Debbie showed us how to sketch out some ideas and then develop these into a knitted swatch so that we could begin to work out the tension and then do the calculations for a whole project. The pattern was too complicated to copy exactly and in any event I'm not a great fan of Intarsia knitting, which is what an attempt at the starry flowers would require. Debbie suggested browsing her pattern books to find a suitable Fair Isle design. Amazingly the stash she had brought with her for us to use included some Rowan Handknit Cotton in exactly the right shades of turquoise and pink, plus some grey and black. I picked up some cream from the shop downstairs and got to work on my swatch. I'm really pleased with the end result and am now working on the actual project, a small purse/spectacle case.

Monday, 5 May 2008

To Spin or not to Spin...

There hasn't been much time for knitting lately - lots of nights away for work and leisure have led to very slow progress on my throw and I've also been feeling very tired. I've missed having solid blocks of time to get on with my knitting projects and I'm looking forward to giving it a bit more attention over the coming weeks. A trip to Bath last weekend led to a walk along the Kennet and Avon canal where I was struck by the patterns on this bridge: there must be a way to translate these interesting colours and textures into a piece of knitting! It just goes to show that inspiration can be found all around us, if we care to look. As well as working on my throw I want to finish off the written pattern for the lacy leaf collar that began this blog last October. This, and two of my lace scarves will be on sale at the Oxford Artweeks show of my local Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers at the end of May Bank Holiday weekend. Details at:

In the meantime, I've been wondering what to do about my own efforts at spinning. I've not made much progress over the past few months and have thought maybe it's not for me. But I didn't want to give up on it without making a further attempt. So on Saturday I joined up with Kate and Sarah from my knitting group for the afternoon and had another go. This was really helpful, as I learned that a lot of the problems I was having with my wheel were things they struggled with too. By the end of the afternoon I'd certainly made some more progress and there were even aspects of the process that I enjoyed! I'm still not sure that all the preparation of carding, washing, spinning and dyeing a fleece is for me, especially when I could be knitting instead. But I can see that once the skills are acquired there is something satisfying in working a piece from scratch and I won't give up until I've had another go, with Carol, in a couple of weeks' time.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Design Your Own Knits

As you know, I've been having a go at my own knitting designs for the past few months. I guess knitters have always adapted and altered patterns to some extent but there can still be an element of following slavishly someone else's ideas. Going beyond patterns and exploring my own creativity is a big part of how I want to explore knitting today. My impression is that this is also part of the zeitgeist of the resurgence of knitting in the modern era. So I've been really pleased this week to acquire a copy of Debbie Abrahams' long-awaited book Design Your Own Knits.
Although there have been some US publications on this topic and also Alison Ellen's excellent books, this is the first UK publication to offer a really straightforward introduction to knitting design. The book is clear and well laid out, moving from creative inspiration to putting ideas onto paper, then knitting swatches and mapping out a design project for completion. There is advice on using proportional graph paper and on how to use different yarns and needle sizes for particular projects and to get the look you want. I particularly like the fact that the book covers bags, cushions, hats and socks as well as sweaters and cardigans. The sections on calculating yarn quantities and writing up patterns are very useful, especially if you want to be able to make your designs available to other knitters. One obvious omission is how to work out the number of stitches to be picked up for the front bands of a cardigan, and the font size, which varies a lot, seems unecessarily small in some cases. Overall, though, this is a generous book, building on the design courses Debbie runs around the country, and offering a professional's guidance to the amateur knitter who wants to express her or his own creativity.
On the actual knitting front I have made some progress on my throw, moving from brown to yellow on the big piece and, because it is getting a bit unwieldy to carry about with me, starting a smaller side panel in Irish moss stitch. I've not done any spinning: this is becoming a hurdle to be overcome. Although I've booked another lesson with Carole next month, there's a wider question about commitment to learning to spin that I need to think about.
Meanwhile I've finished off the socks I was knitting for my sister-in-law's birthday on Wednesday.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Nurturing the Artist Within

Not a whole lot to report on the knitting front this time, as I'm working on the main part of my throw. This is the workhorse bit of the project - solid knitting of ball by ball across 200 stitches on circular needles. There's something satisfying about this; I'm trying to do at least 1000 stitches a day. It's a good thing that it's an interesting stitch pattern, though, otherwise it might feel quite boring. I'm really pleased with the look of this diagonal moss stitch, which I adapted from a pattern in Knitting magazine.

Apart from this I've knitted a pair of socks in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and have been browsing a lot of books and magazines for other ideas. I'm particularly enjoying a book called Design, A Lively Guide to Design Basics for Artists & Craftspeople by Steven Aimone (Lark Books). I highly recommend it for anyone involved in any kind of artistic endeavour, from painting to photography, pottery to patchwork. It's a book that works on several levels, whether browsing the wonderful illustrations for ideas and inspiration, reading the text on different aspects of design, or working through the exercises to develop your own skills and technique. Another book I've discovered recently is Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered by Quentin Blake and John Cassidy (Klutz). Blake is one of my artistic heroes anyway, and this is a terrific book for anyone who wants to draw but thinks they can't, or who, like me, had their early artistic efforts ridiculed in childhood. Here are my efforts at rain and umbrellas...

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Knitting Circles

Having completed the first panel of my throw, I've developed a version of diagonal moss stitch to do a larger section. This has forced me finally to venture onto circular needles, in order to support the large number of stitches (200). Apart from a moment when I only had 199 (= misery) and some slight frustration about not being able to find bamboo circulars in the right size, this has been a real addition to my knitting world over the past fortnight. Although I'm using them to knit rows not rounds, there are still substantial benefits. The weight of the knitting is nicely balanced as it grows, it's a neater "package" to carry around on my weekly commute and I can spread it out to look at it, which isn't possible when it's all stuffed onto straight needles. My cat is happier, too, as I don't jab him with my needles when we're curled up on the sofa together of an evening.
By coincidence I've been reading a lot about Elizabeth Zimmerman's enthusiasm for circulars this week and there was also a good letter in this month's Knitting asserting their benefits. The writer was keen to promote a vision of knitting garments that is not about knitting, then blocking out, five flat pieces and sewing them together. I can go along with that as the cardigan I've been designing is still languishing in its basket waiting to be progressed. I don't know why I didn't begin using circulars for that project and why I've felt scared to try them out. There's something very strange about these blocks we put on our creative and artistic endeavours, which leads me back to take a look at such helpful books on this subject as Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and Skolnik and MacDaniels' The Knitting Way, which I've mentioned before. There's an odd juxtaposition of fears around both success and failure, somehow, which I've experienced but don't really understand.
Circles have been in my mind in other ways this past couple of weeks, with a very nice meal out with my knitting group, a successful recycling of some of my furniture to a member of the group, and a quick break from my throw to knit a pair of socks. Have also had a link with the worldwide Knitting Circle, with a lovely e-mail from Donna Druchunas, author of Arctic Lace, giving me permission to sell the scarves I've knitted from her book as long as I give her the design credit. Of course, Donna, and many thanks!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Obsessed with moss

Another fortnight has gone by - how? Lots of work preoccupations and, last week, several trips to the ballet, including my first visit to Covent Garden, which was wonderful. Meanwhile I've been continuing to work on my moss stitch throw and have nearly completed one panel strip. I'm quite pleased with the effect - am rather obsessed with these mossy colours at the moment - and think it succeeds in looking like the Shetland picture I posted last time. Now I'm experimenting with other moss stitch based panels to go alongside it.

My cardigan design has rather run aground, I think for several reasons. I've finished the fronts and the back and can't quite work out the best way to do the three-quarter length sleeves. There also seems to be a problem with the fronts not quite matching because the fabric has been pulled too tight on the side where I've changed colours doing the slip ribbon stitch. This has happened before when I've been doing coloured stripes and the thought that I could have avoided this if I'd knitted the project on circular needles is providing quite a lot of inertia at the moment. I'm also really enjoying working on the throw and trying out different samples and ideas and want to concentrate on that for now. This means that I've not been practising spinning either, although I have another session booked with Carole for this week. I've always been concerned about setting aside time to learn to spin when there's so much I want to do with knitting and this is proving to be the case at the moment. I need some incentive, like a sense of making progress from my current complete incompetence at the task!

Meanwhile my Tuesday knitting group is one year old this week and we're having an anniversary dinner. Like the time between these blog entries I can't quite get my head round that a year has gone so fast. It's been such a great addition to my working week, the Tuesday night stop off on the way home to catch up with everyone's news and latest projects.