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.