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.