Monday, 16 September 2013

A multiplicity of projects

This year I absolutely promise that I am not going to turn my back on the garden and just sneak off inside.  I am going to clean the greenhouse and cut back and mulch and all those good things.  Honestly.  But there is nothing like a rainy day to set me thinking about winter projects.  I am not one of those people who carefully finishes one thing before starting another but even I was surprised at how many things I seem to have on the go or waiting.  Confession time.


It is a bit of a giveaway that the basket which holds all the wool waiting to be worked is my  parents' old log basket, i.e quite a big one.  The bag on the top contains the project which at the moment is at the top of the queue.  Younger son and his wife are expecting their first baby in November and I am making a blanket. Not a delicate white blanket for a newborn but a cheery, cosy blanket for the car and the pushchair.


The wool is a soft merino aran and the pattern is from Ravelry, Amirah by Katherine Vaughan.  I am really enjoying knitting this and there is nothing intrinsically difficult about it but it is not TV knitting.  You have to follow the pattern and you have to count.  The baby is due right at the beginning of November.  Must keep knitting.


I have already finished one thing for the baby, this little jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman.  It is called the Baby Surprise jacket and is knitted as one piece.  The surprise is that something which looks when you are making it like a twisting rectangle can fold into a perfect little jacket.  I really loved knitting this one as it was unlike anything I had ever done before and required some real thinking as I went along.  I just have to sew on the buttons and it is done.  I know many of my blogging friends, Pondside, Materfamilias, Annie at Knitsofacto and Stephanie at Millefeuilles to name just a handful, combine high intelligence with a talent and passion for knitting but I think that as a society we have lost our respect for craft and skill which is based in domesticity. We do not revere it as we could.  Somehow we associate it with our grandmothers and we do not give it due admiration.   Even the current and very welcome revival of interest in making and creating things can sometimes be a bit twee - tie a ribbon on it, cover it with buttons, cut out a flower from a piece of wrapping paper and stick it on a tray - all no doubt good fun but a long way from the thoughtful and tricky process of acquiring a real skill.  I don't mean to be dismissive.  We have to start somewhere and any activity which involves creating something rather than buying it is for me far more satisfying than simple acquisition.  To make anything is to know it and to understand it and, often, to love it.  I am by no means at the creative end of being a knitter.  I couldn't design a pattern (yet) but I am fascinated by the process by which a ball of wool and two needles can magically make warmth and beauty and pattern and texture.  Knitting may not be art but it can be craft of a high order.


If the blanket needs attention, you must also have something that needs very little: knitting for watching the TV or chatting with family.  This is some very beautiful yarn which I bought last year from the Colinette factory which is not too far from where I live in North Wales.  The yarn itself is quite complicated so I wanted to make something very simply constructed which would allow the yarn itself to be the star.  This will eventually (I hope) become something between a shrug and a slim, fitted poncho.  I copied the pattern down from a friend's book of patterns from Vogue from twenty years ago.  It is all a bit of a leap of faith.


Carry on down the basket and we find some purpley pink wool spun and died by the same friend from local fleece.  I think I have enough to make a hat or a cowl.  I had a bit of a love affair with cowls last year so I do have three which are just waiting for the cooler weather but you can always manage to find room for another one.  Or maybe two.


It might have to be two because I also have this yarn which I brought back from our holiday in the Outer Hebrides.  It is handspun on the Isle of South Uist and is all the colours of the sea in sunlight around the islands, blue and turquoise and green and blue again .  I have already identified a cowl pattern for this so yes, it will have to be two.


And here is another project: the ingredients for a knit your own chicken teacosy, sent to me for my birthday by my younger grandson Joseph and his other grandmother.  I can hardly wait  to get started on this but I might have to!  It will be good to have a new chicken without trusting eggs to the vagaries of our old incubator where they need thrice daily turning.  Mind you, it works very well as the six new chickens out in the nursery henhouse testify.  But none of them would be much good as a tea cosy.  I had a bit of theme going for my birthday as younger daughter bought me two lovely knitting books, one of which was a whole compendium of knitted farm animals.  I am particularly tempted by a Holstein cow.  That could be something else for the new baby if I can knit fast enough.


But turn around and what's that, not in the basket but looking up reproachfully from the corner?


It is a very nearly finished jacket, knitted top down and just needing the sleeve to be finished and the addition of a shawl collar.  This is another Ravelry pattern called Iced.  I made one as part of my coming back to knitting three years ago after a working life when time was always so very squeezed that the pace of knitting was simply beyond me.  Being able to spend time like this was one of the many complicated reasons I decided to leave my job and try to live a simpler down sized life.  I am not so sure I have achieved the simpler life but I do have time to knit!  I don't know why I haven't finished this.  It has been waiting for a year or so.  I like it.  I like the wool and the pattern and know I will wear it when it is done.  Somehow I have simply gone off the boil with it.  I will do it this winter, when the blanket is done, and the hen, and the cowl.....  Does this happen to you?

So there they are, the winter projects, all lined up and ready to go.  There are crochet projects too and sewing ones but at the moment it is the knitting which sits by my chair waiting for the fire to be lit and the curtains closed and the garden put to bed.

39 comments:

  1. I knitted a very similar jacket to that Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern nearly 25 years ago. I do hope I still have it. Thank you for reminding me of it.

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    1. I had no idea it had been going for a while! Still looks very fresh and new as a pattern.

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  2. That baby jacket is fab! Now you've got me thinking about all my unfinished projects lying around - togas for school, crocheting with strips of plastic bag (oh yes,) a three quarters finished cardi that I don't even like any more, half sanded table that I pulled in from the alley. Ye gads.

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    1. Half sanded table is getting quite serious! I don't feel so bad now.

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  3. Your nearly finished jacket is gorgeous Elizabeth.
    I never did score highly in the completer finisher stakes. It's always more fun to start something new. But then when something does get finished, especially if it has been sitting in the cupboard for years rather than months, and the moths have got to it before you even reach the sleeves, how exciting is that?
    Looking forward to a long winter of knitting, and to comparing notes..

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    1. Ah yes about the completer/finisher thing. I do finish, eventually, but I do love a new project.

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  4. You are a real knitter, if you are thinking of designing your own patterns! That is not something I see myself ever doing. I am a slave to a pattern - I love the little blanket you're making and will have to look up that pattern!

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    1. I am a long way away from being able to make my own patterns but I would love to know how. I can weave my own colours into someone else's structures so that is the way to start for me!

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  5. Tapestry work seems to hit the spot for me as it requires no thought at all and I still get the thrill of working with beautiful colours... but there is a limit to how many cushions one house can stand so perhaps I'd better take up knitting too!

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    1. I have a tapestry which has been going for about eighteen years. This is worse than any of my slow knitting by quite a long way!

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  6. We have shed loads of finished garments which I knitted and we never wear. It took me far too long to realise that I find wool far too tickly round the neck to wear happily and knitting with cotton is not so pleasing (lacks the flexibility).

    What to do with the heaps of wool still under my bed and all the finished pieces which we hang on to?!

    I did design my own patterns - not the basic structure but the colours and pattern of the colours (other problem - besides, in the end, the dreadful cost of wool - is that using many colours adds unwanted weight and warmth).

    Pleased to say though that I knitted what we got married in! Brave man, Charles. We put them on again for a recent wedding anniversary - here: http://veddw.com/about-us/

    O, nostalgia. And problems - like I said - what to do with it all??? Xxx

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    1. Went to look at your pictures and they are utterly marvellous! Can't you just turn down the heating so that the extra warmth is a positive bonus, or move to a colder place? Love them. xx

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    2. Thank you... Hmm...colder......? !!!!!!

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    3. wool is too hot and itchy to wear, but I loved knitting with variations on cotton and mixed natural fibres. (Always made my own patterns with inspiration drawn from magpie sources). And there are still 2 guilty dismembered jerseys in waiting. And a pile of fabric, Liberty cottons and Italian linens. One day ...

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  7. Hear, hear, dear Elizabeth to everything you have written. I too am fascinated by the three-dimensional construction of knitting and by the simple fact that learning to knit (crochet, etc.) requires the ability to accept error and to unravel as much as to create. Knitting has taught me patience more than any other skill. Maybe real gardeners feel the same way about gardening?

    Now, judging from your post we do differ in one clear way. I am a bad multi-tasker and prefer to work on one project at the time. I have a fairly long list of projects I would like to make nestling in my head but only one of the sticks!

    You wrote once (as a comment on my blog) that with each passing year you were learning to embrace the end of summer and the onset of autumn. I'm, again, the opposite. As a child and young adult I loved the colder seasons, and still do for their poetic value, but find it harder to accept the end of the long days spent outside. It's biological, I think, and also I strongly believe there are more and more viruses to be caught in public places and with my three children at school there is plenty of opportunity to catch a mish mash of minor illnesses over winter!

    Well, that was a LONG comment.

    Have fun with all that knitting ;-)

    Stephanie

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    1. I am still fundamentally a spring and summer person Stephanie. The learning to love autumn is I think part of becoming a bit better at living in the moment. When i was younger autumn was so much a prelude to winter in my mind that the coming winter overshadowed it and got in the way of feeling its pleasures. I can't say I always manage it but I manage more often to relish a glorious september or October day without feeling the chill of November over my shoulder!

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  8. What fun to see all those knitting projects and skeins and balls of yarns, Elizabeth! Like you, I usually have several varying projects going at one time. One project will be the one that requires more attention; the other will be simpler...no counting required.

    It is fun to create one's own patterns. Unraveling parts gone wrong is not too painful, and experimenting can bring some fine results.

    It amazes me to think that I have been knitting for ... oh let's say about 55 years. xo

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    1. I agree about experimenting! It has taken me some time to acquire the confidence to do anything beyond sticking close to a pattern but I am dipping my toes in now.

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  9. I love the little baby jacket! Gorgeous.

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  10. Thanks for the nod! I'll have to do a similar post one of these days, if only to face up to the reality of the numerous projects I'm juggling (can it be considered juggling if the balls have been dropped for rather a long time?). As for the Baby Surprise Jacket, I've meant to make one for each of the granddaughters and that never happened -- so intrigued by the "surprise" construction -- and it sounds like a marvelous stash-buster. One of these days . . . (like "the other Frances" above, it amazes me to think I've been knitting for about 55 years. Crazy!)

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    1. I haven't mentioned the project which has been waiting longest ....

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  11. You're much better than I am! I'm still finishing my newest grandson's blanket, and he's 8 months old! *hanging my head in shame* :)

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    1. Must go away and knit! I have about five weeks.

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  12. You are so right about domestic craft skills being belittled. My granddaughter Kaitlyn was fascinated yesterday when she saw me knitting a little cardigan for her new cousin. She was highly impressed when she discovered that I'd knitted the cushion covers too and said she wished she could do it too. I shall teach her the basics this winter while she has the interest. Love the two handspun yarns - what gorgeous colours!

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    1. I remember very clearly my own grandmother teaching me to knit and the frustration of dropped stitches. Can't really remember becoming competent but I must have done!

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  13. Another grandchild - how lucky are you! (envious sigh.....)

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  14. I'm impressed by your industry and your creativity both in the home and in the garden! I've never had the patience for knitting, although I do paint with watercolors. My cold nights will be spent reading by the fire. Thanks for your understanding words on my blog.

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  15. Many years ago my mum used to knit those picture jumpers for a company who paid her a pittance no doubt sold them for a fortune. They were huge undertakings and I would say they were both art & craft. A pair of swans gliding across a lake and not a single thread at the back out of place! I think she spent more time casting on & off than actually knitting sometimes!

    All your projects make me feel bad. I am not a crafty person. I have tried a couple of times, but it is just not me. So I sit and admire you for your skill.

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  16. Lovely post!

    But, Elizabeth, you have more WiPs (works in progress) than I do, which I consider something of an achievement. However, my stash is undoubtedly larger.. oh dear. It's the spinning thing you see - leads to HUGE increase in stash. Greenhouse empty now, garden is in process of being 'put to bed', so spinning, no, not that, finishing things, here I come!

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  17. I am off to look for that pattern for the all in one piece jacket - it looks lovely Elizabeth.
    Oh and re the doing all the clearing up jobs of Autumn before winter sets in - I always feel the same and then get started on projects - as they say 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions.'

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  18. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I don't have any hankerings to knit (though I wear hand-knits all the time) but reading your post has made me yearn to learn to spin. I could spin my own alpaca yarn and several of the bottle-fed lambs have lovely long, soft, crimped fleeces. Sleeping Beauty beware!

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  19. I do agree that we undervalue true skill when it comes to anything remotely 'domestic'. But there is also a tendency to play down the need to be skilful when it comes to knitting. I guess that, as with so much else, folk want a quick fix, and taking time to learn to do things like provisional cast-ons, grafting, and complicated cables will never be part of that. Which is a great pity because even with the knitting revival skills are being slowly lost.

    That textured blanket is gorgeous ... lucky grandbaby to be :)

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    1. Oops, I hit send too soon ... I also wanted to say thank you for the mention :)

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  20. Hi Eizabeth, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris
    http://chelencarter-retiredandlovingit.blogspot.ca/

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  21. Your post has made me think....I better get stitching and knitting too - no more projects until my sock wool is all knitted, there is no hope with clearing my fabrics drawers though. great blog, I shall enjoying following you. Happy knitting, Elizabeth

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  22. I do wish you hadn't posted this ...
    Having had a brief urge , quickly quenched , to rout out last winter's Knitting , I'd managed to slide it all back into a dark cupboard "till the winter" .
    The gorgeous colours you chose for the little baby jacket ... not to mention that you actually managed to follow an E.Z. pattern ... has made a trip to a wool shop almost imperative .
    Is there an equivalent of A.A. for over-ambitious craft supply gatherers . ?

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