Article written

  • on 17.02.2010
  • at 10:25 AM
  • by admin

The newest hobby 1

Way back in September I wrote a post about my knit wish list on Etsy. The longer I thought about it, and with encouragement from my pals Lauren and Sarah, I realized it was finally time to give knitting a shot. How much could I really hate it, I wondered? And I did expect to find it frustrating, maddening even, and maybe slightly dull. Well, what a dullard I was for thinking that. It’s been a revelatory, meditative, exciting, and happily communal hobby from the start and I’m thoroughly smitten.

Here are some things I love about knitting, aside from making stuff for me and the people I love:

1) The math. Yeah, I like pattern counting and altering designs based on gauge swatches…I like now having something fun to do with math, instead of just pricing quotes and doing my taxes.

2) My needles. Shortly after I started knitting my mom sent me some of her sister Mieke’s needles, and I’m pretty sure Auntie Mieke’s love of and enthusiasm for knitting transferred directly by osmosis from her needles into my hands. Then I got another package from my grandma, filled with a few straight needles, some double pointed sets and lots of circulars. Again, I’m pretty sure I was able to overcome my fear of knitting in the round recently by using needles my grandma once held. And then last month I won an eBay auction of vintage Boye colourful aluminum needles in a wide variety of sizes; there’s not much that makes me as deliriously giddy as using those festively bright and noisy sticks. Maybe Susie’s Classic cupcakes. Spotting a new bird at the feeder. Any Sloan song that includes handclaps or horns. It’s the small things.

3) The wonderfully unselfish and generous knitting community. From pattern designers, to the experts who taught me all the basics via YouTube videos, to the fellow enthusiasts on Ravelry, you would be hard pressed to find a more welcoming and encouraging group of people to share a hobby with. Not to mention all the encouragement I got from my mom and B’s mom Doreen, and my friend Angela. Oh, and the fabulous knitting-night gals (a group that includes the aforementioned Sarah & Lauren, and also felting-artist-extraordinaire Erin). Everyone has been so helpful.

4) Knitting was made for winter. My overall better mood this winter isn’t due just to the fact that we bought enough firewood and have managed to have the driveway shoveled after every snowstorm. Making a cheerful scarf to wear in a blizzard makes the blizzard more fun.

What follows is a pictorial record of my life as a knitter, thus far.

Project #1, from a pattern I bought from Alpaca Yarn Shop on Etsy. It’s called the “Urban Harvest Neck Cowl” and it taught me casting on, the seed stitch, and binding off. So prefect for a beginner.

Project #2, which I started about two days after I started project #1 (thereby setting a precedent for having at least two patterns on the go). This is a simple checkerboard pattern scarf that I made for B, from my own ‘design’. I knit a similar one for my brother for Christmas, but by that time (2 weeks after this one), I knew enough to add a garter stitch edging all around it to give it a better finish.

Project #3, the ‘Circular Shrug’ pattern that is a free download on Ravelry. It involves some math (yay!) as the pattern is more of a recipe, allowing you to customize your shrug. I knit it in seed stitch because it’s my favourite. The big lesson learned from this project is that I really need to take time and practice seaming, instead of just rushing through to get the project finished and wearable. The spalted north Carolina hickory shawl pin was purchased from Etsy seller WoodenTreasures.

Project #4, my first hat! I really liked using the Noro Silk Garden yarn, because it’s self striping. I knit this on straight needles and did a pretty good job with the mattress stitch seam. Lesson learned from this one: buy enough yarn to finish your project. I live in the sticks, about an hour and a half from the yarn shop where I purchased the Noro (the great Gaspereau Valley Fibres), so I can’t just pop out to get supplies. Sarah picked up another ball for me when she was in the area, but the three days that the hat was on hold waiting for yarn were agonizing. And I had only 10 more rows to go until the end!

My mom sent me some brilliant baby alpaca yarn for my birthday (and again at Christmas) and in and amongst the 7 scarves I knit as Christmas presents, I managed to knit this cranberry one for myself. Another checkerboard because I appreciate checkerboard’s reversibility, this time with the garter edging.

Hat #2, also on straight needles as I hadn’t conquered my fear of circulars and DPNs yet. This is another Etsy pattern, “Le Weekend Hat”, from CraftConfections. I knit it in a day, thanks to the super bulky yarn. Here’s what it looks like from the other side:

Now, the real lesson I learned here was to pick the right kind of yarn. All bulkys are not created equal, as evidenced from my first attempt at the hat, knit with a very different bulky yarn (I apologize for the unfocused photo, but you’ll soon see why I wasn’t able to adjust the lens properly):

Poke some eye holes in that, and guess who has a Dumb Donald costume for hallowe’en?

One of the first projects I attempted, somewhere after Project 3, was this gorgeous shawl/shrug pattern above, which I got from BernioliesDesigns on Etsy. I bought some Brown Sheep Co. bulky yarn in Aubergine, and had my first spectacular failure.

This is the result, turned upside down. I wasn’t liking the way my shrug failed to drape as I had hoped it would, so I flipped it, did a bit of seaming and tried to work it as a cardigan. Um, nope. It’s been frogged. Way back in October when I first started to knit, my mom told me not to be afraid of ripping something if it just doesn’t work. She said, “You come from a long line of rippers”, so with this project I did them proud. As for the shrug pattern, I’m going to get more of that so-called bulky yarn I used for the failed hat, and then redo the shrug with that. I think it will have a nice, looser drape then. And with the Brown Sheep Aubergine yarn, I have plans for this:

It’s a belted cardigan pattern from a book of Rowan patterns I picked up on eBay called “Rowan New Shapes”. It’s out-of-print, but worth picking up if you see it. All the patterns are geared for beginners and use bulky yarns for quicker results.

Recognize this? It’s a testament to the generous nature of knitters. In my ‘Knit Wish List’ post from September, I included a blue fuzzy neckwarmer from AllInStitches, as it was indeed one of my favourites. I found her blog, which not only generously gave away the pattern (with the understanding that the user won’t sell the item), but also mentioned that while the yarn, Rowan Big Tuft, is no longer in production, you can still find it on eBay. And I did. It has turned out to be the neckwarmer I wear most often, it’s so soft and cozy. (B says it looks like I’m wearing a muppet, but to me that only adds to its appeal.) You see what I mean about the generosity within the knitting community? Amazing. Thank-you Kate!

My most recent projects have involved cables. This was a perfect introduction, and took me an afternoon. And look, it has my favourite seed stitch pattern too! It’s from another Etsy designer, HomeMadeOriginals, and I used more of the baby alpaca my mom gave me, this time in charcoal gray.

The search for a bigger cabling project led to this brilliant piece of patterning, from SarahMontie‘s Etsy shop. It’s almost just a long cabled scarf (almost); the real genius is in the seaming. The pattern called for one buttonhole, which is what I did, but I added another button above it; luckily the yarn and gauge were such that I can pretty much put a button anywhere and just ‘make’ a buttonhole wherever I want. Not technically desirable, perhaps, but it works. So well in fact that I added a third button below these two after the picture was taken. (The buttons are also from WoodenTreasure‘s Etsy shop, like the shawl pin above.)

I love the back, especially the waist. I’ve since blocked this, so my centre seam isn’t as noticeable now, and the whole vest lies really nicely. The biggest lesson I learned with this vest is: if you make a mistake, just keep making the same mistake all the way through and you will have created a new stitch pattern. It will appear to be an intentional design choice rather than the result of being too lazy to go back and fix the mistake because you were two-thirds of the way done before you even noticed. I won’t point it out, but I bet the designer of the vest could spot the error!

An action shot of me conquering my double pointed needle fear. I can’t say I like knitting in the round yet, but I do like the result:

Way back on day one of my new hobby, B asked me to knit him socks. The request startled me in its outrageousness (I had just learned the knit and purl stitches), but it intrigued me too. Goals are good to have. So this was B’s Valentine’s Day present, which I just finished yesterday. It was a lot of effort, almost entirely joyless, though it was knit with lots of love for my guy B. I told him I would make its mate for next Valentine’s Day and he appeared okay with that! What a guy.

The truth is I’ve already started #2 and hope to have the pair complete by Friday. I figure the second sock won’t be as challenging as the first, since I now sort of know what I’m doing. But it’s in competition with this:

When completed and sewn together it will be the “Chrysanthemum” kimono/bolero from Tanya Alpert’s book “Haiku Knits”; that’s it on the book cover below. I’ve knit the neck and waist bands, and am now slowly inching my way through the sleeves and back which is knit with lace weight yarn. I got my lace yarn from Turtlepurl on Etsy and it’s mind-blowingly beautiful stuff, a combination of alpaca, silk, and cashmere. I’ll post a follow-up when it’s complete.

This is a lovely book, by the way; clicking on the photo will take you to Amazon.ca, where you can see a few more patterns inside. My next project, which will be started probably today or tomorrow, is the cable sweater “Cocoon” from the same book.

Happy knitting! Or if you don’t knit, ‘happy hobby-ing’! And if you don’t have a hobby, well, I can suggest one I find particularly gratifying. ;-)

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There is one comment for this post

  1. nadipops and sally says:

    OK Jo…. we would like to buy (right now, quoted by Sally)
    the scarf Homemade Originals Steel blue with the two buttons.
    so just let us know when they’re ready.. miss creative queen!
    love Nadia

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