Looking out of my window here at Castle Codd, it is plainly obvious in the breezy golden light that Autumn is here. The crunch through the first few crisp leaves has been a feature of our walks to nursery on this first week back. These […]
There’s an account I follow on Instagram, ViktoriaAstrom, where I have seen the most wonderful little illustrations turned into large carved stamps and used to print wonderful and whimsical pieces of art. I always fancied a go at making one, but like many crafts it […]
Get straight back on the bike you fall off of; get straight back on the wheel when the yarn doesn’t work. I quickly came to terms with the fact that I made an ugly yarn, and in retrospect have decided that it is not that ugly. As a few people suggested, I can cut the white and white-mix portions out and knit from the remaining yarn, and I have learned a decent amount about what I like in terms of colour. I think the last skein threw me a bit as I love rainbows and could have made something a lot nicer from my fibre. I shall work a bit more and see if I can pick up the same or a similar set of fibre in the future, and have a better go at it. But before any of that I decided I needed to jump back on the spinning wheel and have a recovery spin. Something that would bring my confidence back up again. I decided on the same format for the spin, a simple 3-ply: this time in in colours that I couldn’t really mess up too much.
This is spun Pembroke by Hilltop Cloud, a blend of 50% Merino, 25% Shetland, 12.5% Mulberry Silk and 12.5% Baby Alpaca. It was a simple pleasure to spin as the fibres all draft easily and smoothly without feeling like they are running away from you. I spun this with ‘help’ from my two year old, who helped pull the fibre away and helped me to pedal my feet, whilst reminding me ‘up, down. up, down’, pushing my feet with his warm and squishy hands. Despite having this expert help, the yarn turned out quite even throughout the three bobbins of singles and plied yarn. I haven’t given the finished skein a wash yet, but it all seems quite balanced so far, and I’ll see what a gentle soak does to the finished spin.
I feel really positive after making this yarn. It gave me both a quick and very simple finished product that I can use, but also a few hours at the wheel doing something relatively mindless. Recently, another bout of acute illness on top of my chronic illness has brought me quite low, and the meditative action of letting my hands take over where my mind does not want to put in as much effort as might cause stress or mistake has been very therapeutic. I have four knitting projects on the needles at the moment (a large blanket I’m designing, another design I am working on that incorporates both colourwork and cables, the trilobite tank top, and a 4-ply jumper). Each of these is a joy to work on in its own right, but sometimes I just need something for my hands to do whilst I tidy up the library of thoughts in my mind, sorting all of those volumes of ideas and emotions back onto their shelves ready to access when I need to. Producing something complete and useable, whilst allowing myself to spin my ‘natural’ singles weight was very liberating and has put me back in the right place to a bit more concentrated knitting over the coming days.
When Jen from A-C Knitwear announced the A Year Of Techniques project, there was one subject that I really, really wanted to appear in the line up, and that was steeking. Steeks are perhaps one of the more jovially divisive techniques in the knitting skills arsenal, with many people either enjoying the magic process of knitting a piece entirely in the round with no fiddly short sections of colourwork, and just as many wide eyed at the idea of taking a air of scissors to a piece of knitwear. I have kind of been an enthusiastic supporter. That is, I have been completely confident in the science of the stitches, but have never found a project to benefit from steeking until very recently. I started knitting a tank top for my little boy which I would have knit in the round until the neck and armhole splits, and then knit back and forth, but then the opportunity of this year-long play of techniques was announced and I stopped my knitting only a few inches in and patiently waited to see if steeking would be covered, and then crossed my fingers in hope that it might just happen to be a toddler tank top … and it was.
I put my own project aside, in the hope that the Oorik (Shetland dialect for a small person!) tank top would make a nice little primer to then working steeks into my own toddler tank top, which features various trilobite forms. Worked in Jamieson & Smith 2-ply jumper weight yarn, the colourwork and steeks are very easy to work as the grippy fibres of the pure Shetland wool keep everything stable.
The Oorik pattern includes a full explanation of the steeking technique as well as various finishes to the steeks to secure and finish the fabric. I chose to reinforce my steeks using the crochet method detailed, as though I am confident in the stickiness of Shetland yarn, I am also very aware of the boisterousness of my two year old and thought that it would be good practice.
I knit the largest size of the tank top, making it about an inch and a half longer than the pattern by adding a few extra rows of colourwork before the neck and armhole steek stitches were added. Other than that minor change I knit the pattern as written, with no further modification. I still have to find the right time to get a modelled shot, before my son grows out of his first steeked tank top, much like he did the initial one that I cast on.
With its varying forms of trilobites facing in all directions, the tank top I put on hold back in March is now going to work up either too small or at least a bit snug, and rather than plough more hours into knitting something that might not fit on completion, I am going to start again. Though I adore the yarns and colours that I am working with, and the background colour is a nice grabby pure wool, I’m going to get some more Jamieson’s & Smiths and re-knit it in that, as the gauge difference will size up the pattern with not too much extra design tweaking from me (at least, that is the plan) and having a similarly grabby yarn for the foreground colour always helps with the evenness of more complex colourwork and in taming longer floats, which will make the process of knitting this piece a bit more straightforwards. I’m looking forwards to casting on my seconds steeked tank top in the new year.