Sunday, 11 November 2018

Diversity in Knitting and Beyond

Diversity in Knitting and Beyond

Recently, the topic of diversity in knitting* has become more prominent and it's been on my mind for a while now.  It is such a complex topic that I didn't quite know how to tackle it in a blog post and this one may well sound like it's all over the place. However, it is an important topic and I hope that it will make you think.

White as default

Most knitters and designers we encounter in our craft tend to be white and from similar cultural backgrounds (i.e. Western). To my surprise, I never really paid attention to that - and what surprised me more, I didn't realise that I am actually not part of that dominant group. 

I am multicultural, multiracial and multilingual. I have lived in three countries, two of which  are predominantly white. I spent part of my childhood in Bangladesh and know just how different the cultures I have experienced are. And still, I somehow never felt I was any different from other white people. I suspect that's because I have been surrounded by whiteness most of my life and that I haven't struggled with my own multicultural heritage in a way that many do.

Considering the amount of racism I experienced in Germany in the 1990s, that's surprising even to me in retrospect. It was the hardest, most dangerous time of my life because I looked foreign in my own country of birth. I did not believe I would get older than 14 at the time, given the violence at the time. (The political atmosphere in the UK and US currently remind me very much of that time and Germany is not far behind at the moment.) And yet, unlike many who are made to feel different, I always felt very secure in myself, so the struggle was never really one coming from within me. Instead, I knew that it was a problem only for other people, something they tried to force on me from outside. This caused all kinds of issues at the time, but it never made me think less of myself, feel unworthy or out of place. Unlike many, I did not feel like I was not at home where I was, though what exactly constitutes home for me is hard to pinpoint to this day.

A sense of home

For me, there was never a doubt about who or what I am. It is more a question of finding home in a physical sense that is difficult. Geography. I moved so much between countries and cultures that home is hard. For me home is temporary and ever changing. It is where I happen to be at the time. Home is not one place or even a person or group of people. Instead, home is something intangible, maybe a state of being that, like everything, is fluid and ever changing. Maybe home is simply within me.

Brexit is a good example of how your sense of home can be suddenly denied, altered or removed by external forces you cannot influence. Many EU nationals in the UK (and, similarly, UK nationals in the EU) are now experiencing this loss for the first time due to the threat that Brexit poses to their lives in the countries they've decided to call home.^ It's because of the vulnerability of home that all we have is ourselves, so we need to be comfortable with who we are.

Creating your own space

Nearly a decade ago I worked on a book about multicultural identity in Maori novels (you can hear a little bit about it in the Fiber Muse podcast), which taught me a lot about the struggle of people who feel like they don't fully belong anywhere. In the book, I write that people like us create our own space, a third space, that draws on everything we are. This way, we find ourselves and create something new, drawing on the different strands that make us who we are. We create a unique blend that is us, and just us.

So what does that mean for us multicultural knitters? Do we incorporate elements of our heritage in our knitting? Do we use traditional designs, stitch patters or techniques in our work? Are we aware of them at all? Do we demand our place within dominant knitting culture? Or do we focus on simply making others aware that we are here, that we exist, that the knitters, just like knitting itself, is diverse, colourful and challenging if you allow it to be?

This is for each one of us to decide and we may never find a definitive answer. And we don't have to. Personally, all I know is this:

The one stable thing in my life is my sense of self. I have always known who I am, a being in flux, but confident and trusting in myself.

And that sounds pretty good to me.

Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @KnittyNadia.
*Follow #diversknitty on Instagram and other social media to find knitters from various cultural backgrounds.
^If you want to help people affected by this, please join me in becoming an EU Citizens' Champion

Sunday, 8 July 2018

British Wool Show 2018

Absoknittinglutely: British Wool Show 2018
Image: British Wool Show

Get out your diaries! The British Wool Show is coming to York again this August. Supporting the Campaign for Wool that champions British wool, the show offers a sheep shearing demo, vendors selling all manner of woolly things for everyone, and a lot of wool for spinning, felting, knitting, and crochet.

You may remember I visited the show in 2015 and very much enjoyed it. I especially loved the Sheep Show Man and highly recommend watching one of the three daily shows. They are educational and entertaining at the same time - what more can you as for? I hadn't expected to learn so much that day.

To get a taste of what awaits you at the show, have a look at the photos of my visit. Sadly, I can't be there myself this year, but if you love wool shows and can get to York for the weekend, have a look! you'll find all the details on the British Wool Show website

If you go, let me know how you liked it!

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Knitting: A Positive Addiction

Knitting as positive addiction

When we think of addictions, we usually think of the kind that cause a wide range of problems and potentially destroy lives. But can there be such a thing as a positive addiction? Some psychologists think there is.

In Psychology Today, Dr Mark D. Griffiths looks at knitting as a positive addiction. As knitters, I am sure we have heard someone in our circle jokingly say they were addicted to knitting, maybe we've even said so ourselves. 

Hobbies such as this "could be deliberately cultivated to wean addicts away from more harmful and sinister preoccupations." Taking up knitting could therefore keep us happily occupied and take our minds off other, less healthy actions. In order for this to work, these "positive addictions must be new rewarding activities that produce increased feelings of self-efficacy."

There have been several articles in the papers about the health benefits of knitting such as reducing stress and creating a feeling of purpose. In other words, knitting can be a coping mechanism for the usual stresses we experience in life. We can find a new sense of purpose in knitting, which can be seen in the surge of craftivism (guerrilla knitting and pussy hats, anyone?). We love to create things, and it is even more satisfying for some if there is a greater purpose behind it. Knitting for charity comes to mind, for example. In these cases, it is important to us that there is a greater purpose behind what we create than simply the act of creation.

However, Griffiths relates that knitting can indeed be as addicting as a drug. We even have an ever growing stash and we can't stop ourselves from buying more, using terminology with a "clear crossover to the drug culture" (Etherknitter). We may not always feel we are in control of our yarn-buying habit, we spend a lot of time pursuing our craft, and for some of us not being able to knit can cause actual symptoms of withdrawal.

Griffiths concludes that it "is theoretically possible for an individual to become addicted to anything if there are constant reinforcements (i.e., rewards)", which makes sense. As long as knitting doesn't have detrimental effects on your life, there's nothing to worry about. Enjoy your WIPs and yarn stash and the joy they bring! 

Would you say you are really addicted to knitting? I have to say I am not, though I enjoy it. It's never interfered with anything else and has always been a nice way to spend my free time. I enjoy creating things with my hands, especially if they are intricate because I like the challenge. And yet none of my creative hobbies have ever had a negative effect on any other aspect of my life. That's just how I like it.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Pattern Inspiration: Beach Days

There's no denying it, summer is here and I can't stop thinking about holidays at the seaside. While I won't get away until later summer or early autumn, there's no reason I can't enjoy looking at all things that remind me of the beach. So this week's pattern inspiration post comes as no surprise, inspired by a longing for sea, sun and lazy days. Enjoy!

1. I absolutely love Life's a Beach! The fossil pattern looks amazing in the blue yarn and this cowl is just what you need on a windy beach walk. The pattern is available in English and German, and if you have two balls of 4-play, you're good to go!

2. If you've got your hands on issue 89 of Knit Now, you will have seen these fun little Beach Bears. I love those little life preservers and the seashell necklace one of them is wearing. While toys are always fiddly to knit, these would be a fun distraction from your usual projects. 

3. Amanda Berry's Beach Hut pattern is absolutely free. Yay! In my eyes, nothing is more British than the sight of colourful beach huts, so this knitting pattern is perfect for lovers of the British seaside. Why not knit two or three in different colours for the full effect?

4. This light jumper is a-ma-zing. Jellyfish is only available in Russian, sadly, but I had to show it to you because I am intrigued by its ethereal quality. It looks like some rows are knitted with a transparent yarn or thread so the sleeves and neck appear disconnected from the rest of the garment. I can imagine that if you are an experienced knitter and don't read Russian, you can probably wing it without the pattern. I just love the whole look of it.

Have you discovered any interesting patterns lately you'd like to share? Post them here or over on Twitter @KnittyNadia. See you there!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Happy Worldwide Knit in Public Day!

Worldwide Knit in Public Day

Happy Worldwide Knit in Public Day, everyone!

Knitty First Fall issue is out

Whether you are actually out and about with your knitting today or at home, this is the perfect day to knit in company. Incidentally, this is also the day the latest Knitty magazine is out, so check out the new patterns! (I can't believe it's already the autumn issue. It's not even summer yet.) Maybe you've even cast on one of them especially for today?

To MAGA or not to MAGA

You may have heard about Karin Aida's latest hat pattern that has been causing quite a stir! If you are a Trump supporter, it definitely isn't for you, as the name makes clear: the Not for Trump Fans Hat piqued everyone's interest and the comment section is quite something to behold. It's very different from the usual comments you find on pattern pages and in a way I am disappointed that it now reads like all other political comment threads, but that was inevitable, I suppose. So if you fancy a peek, go ahead and remember the popcorn.

Your thoughts

Let me know what you've knitted today and if you have knitted in public. Leave your comments here or find me on Twitter @KnittyNadia. 

Speaking of Twitter

On Thursday evenings at 7:30 (UK time) you can join me and other knitters for our weekly #knittinghour chat. We're just a small bunch who like to talk about yarn and all sorts of other things going on in our lives at the moment. It is promo-free, so there won't be any unwanted spam.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Smaug Socks in Walcot Yarns Opus

Smaug socks in Walcot Yarns Opus

Some time ago, I knitted a pair of Smaug socks that I absolutely loved. Sadly, I only got to wear them once or twice before the moths got to them and they couldn’t be saved. Even though I dislike knitting the same thing more than once, I knew I would give these socks another go.

2014 is far enough away for me to not mind revisiting this pattern, but the main reason I chose it is because I got my hands on Opus by Walcot Yarns, my LYS’ very own brand (I love that Art Nouveau style label, by the way). A Yarn Story has created a range of beautiful colourways and I was tempted from the start. My stash is already making me feel guilty, so it took this long to finally buy a skein, and I think it is worth it.

Opus would look best in shawls, I think. I can imagine using it for lovely, soft gloves as well or a light, but warm top. It feels wonderfully soft and is fairly loosely plied. I love the fibre content on the label: 70% Falkland Merino, 30% Baby Alpaca, 100% Awesome. Seriously, how can you resist 100% Awesome? Despite the softness, this 4-ply is described as hard-wearing, so I hope it stands up to being worn on feet. I deliberately wanted to use a yarn that does not contain nylon, just to see how well it lasts (the environment will probably thank me, too).

The yarn knits up very well, though using 2 mm needles means I have to be careful to get all the strands of each stitch while knitting. Sometimes I miss because of the loose ply, but using the recommended 3 – 4 mm needles would make it easier.

So Smaug is coming along nicely and I am enjoying the pattern. I made a mistake right at the start, however, and ended up with a much longer cuff than called for. Never mind. The original length was a tiny bit too short for my liking, so this mistake isn’t a biggie. I particularly enjoy knitting the "scales" the cuff consists of. It’s very easy to do and memorise, so don’t be afraid to give this pattern a go.
I am in no rush to finish these socks and am enjoying the process. The yarn and pattern certainly make for a good, calming experience. 

Have you tried Opus yet? How did you like it? Let me know here in the comments or over on Twitter @KnittyNadia.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

I Am a Planner Convert

I love my planner! Last Christmas I felt like I'd give a planner a try. In the past, I never saw the point in things like bullet journaling and elaborately decorated planners, especially for the sake of being more organised and saving time. I thought it was a serious waste of time (still do, really), considering how long it takes to do all of this. My colleagues will tell you that I am far too efficient already (how very German of me), so I didn't want a planner to help me with that. However, I liked the idea of a planner as another creative outlet. Being able to actually record all important dates is simply a bonus.

So I asked Mark for a specific planner for Christmas and got this beautiful limited edition Kikki K planner in light blue with gold polka dots. It's even got my initials embossed inside, which is very special to me because they are for my married name, which still feels incredibly new. The planner is an A5 ring binder with a few dashboards, sets of paper, and perpetual calendar included. I like the practicality of being able to put pages in or take them out as needed. Very helpful if I mess something up!

I added the colourful index tabs to separate the pages by month. The paper that comes with the planner consists of basic lined pages, so it's great for creative people who like to make their own weekly or daily spreads.I have a week on two pages, added a water log to make sure I drink enough every day, and I decorate each day with a sticker or drawing. I can't tell you how many stickers I've been buying! And washi tape. Oh, the washi tape! I needed to buy a separate box for the rolls and really need another.

Of course I have some knitting-related pages as well. The one above shows my list of blog topics to help me come up with new content. This way, if I have an idea, I can jot it down instead of forgetting it before I have a chance to type it up on here. Soon I'll need to do another brain storming session to add to the list. 

I especially like my WIP section of the planner. I created a dashboard collage that leads to a month-by-month calendar where I mark off the days on which I have knitted. I also record what I have been working on, which will be a great way to look back on the year once completed.

As you can see, I tried my hand at some fancy script, which is harder than it seems. It looks a bit shaky there, but I still like the overall effect. I have bought a few new pens in the meantime, including a fancy Tombow brush pen that I need to practice with so that I can add a few more pretty touches to the planner. Kikki K planners come with paper that is sadly too thin for markers and brush pens, so I am bit restricted now. It's easy to buy suitable planner paper, though, and I found some great packs with rainbow-coloured lines or simple dots. I can't wait to use them!

So I have been thoroughly bitten by the planner bug. Do you have one that you use for knitting in some way? Do you have any recommendations for stationary? Let's hear them! Comment here or tweet me @KnittyNadia.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

FO: Pixelated Pullover

It is done! At long last, after two years and nearly a complete reknit, I have cast off my Pixelated Pullover. It isn't perfect and far too fitted for my liking, but I am very proud to have managed a full-sized garment that I can actually wear. I even got to wear it for a full day before the British heatwave started. (See, I told you it would get warm once I cast off!)

I tweaked the pattern a bit and am happy with most of it. I decided against waist decreases, which is a good thing, but I wish I had made more hip decreases. Right now the jumper is a little too tight at the hips for my liking. You can't tell from the above photo, but it is obvious from the rear. I should have started the red section at the hip earlier to match the sleeves. It's not bad how it turned out, but it would have looked better, I think. I don't like the ribbing at the hem and may alter it one day. For some reason, one of my sleeve cuffs is shorter, too, so I will lengthen it at some point. In fact, I would like to make both a bit longer.

I like how the stranded knitting has turned out, even from the back. It looks good, though it took a long time to knit those sections. Believe it or not, I have already cast on a jumper for Mark based on this pattern, but I am not going to knit the pixels. To save time, I will knit stripes. Given how long it took to finish mine, Mark said he expects it to be ready to wear by 2024. Sounds about right.

The collar isn't lying entirely flat, but I hope that will change with time. I have to admit I haven't washed or blocked the jumper yet because of a lack of space, so the fit may become more relaxed afterwards. I used Cascade 220 Superwash, so it is likely to stretch a little bit. Have you used this yarn before? Let me know how it behaved after washing.

Because I didn't know how much yarn I would need, I bought enough for two jumpers, it turns out, which is why Mark is getting one, too. My jumper is nice and warm and I suspect I will get a lot of wear out of it next winter. There is a severe shortage of warm garments in my closet so this is a welcome addition. I just wished it didn't take so long to knit a jumper in my size - I would like to have more.

Do you enjoy knitting jumpers? What do you like or dislike about it? I look forward to hearing what you think - here or over on Twitter @KnittyNadia.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Holiday Time means Knitting Time

I am back from very windy, very cold Brighton!

Mark and I spent nearly a full week at the seaside to celebrate my 40th (no idea how that happened). While I had no intention of taking any knitting along, the prospect of spending a 4-hour train journey with idle hands changed my mind.

Believe it or not, I finally finished my Pixelated Pullover just before the mini-heatwave this April (details to follow in a later post). This freed me up to knit something new and I promptly cast on… *drum roll*… another jumper. This one is for Mark, though, and is basically the same I just finished, but in another size and with stripes instead of pixels. You’d never know I was sick and tired of my jumper just a little while ago.

Still, no longer having my long-term WIP on the needles made me want to start something smaller, too. Luckily, my first hank of Opus from WalcotYarns arrived and I decided to reknit my Smaug socks that fell prey to moths a while back. They made for perfect travel knitting, too, and I am happy to report I knitted on all but one of the days I spent in Brighton.

So has finishing Pixelated got the knitting juices flowing again? I hope so! I just hope I didn’t speak to soon.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Make! Craft Britain

Make Craft Britain
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

Last night I got sucked into Make! Craft Britain, the 3-part BBC Four series all about crafting. Have you seen it?

I noticed the trailers, but completely forgot about it all. If you've missed it, you can still catch up on iPlayer, and I heartily recommend it!

You will see a variety of crafts, with groups of beginners learning to knit, make mosaics, create silver clay jewellery, cross-stitch and more. In between, advanced crafters show their makes and briefly talk about why they do what they do. 

Highlights include:

Beautiful mosaics, including one based on a Lowry painting
A baker's silver mini-croissant
Traditional letterpress printing (reminded me of my internship at a printers in 1997)

I very much enjoyed this show. Before watching it, I was worried it would turn out to be just another craft show like Kirstie's Handmade Christmas, but this was so much better. The focus lies on the new crafters, there is no host guiding you through the show, and the voice-overs are pleasant and non-intrusive. There is no hyperbole or overly excited screeching, which is a nice change. Also, there is a good mix of men and women, both when it comes to teachers and learners. I loved that! The whole show makes for relaxed viewing and is informative and motivating at the same time.

Because I was keen to watch the knitting workshop in episode 3, that's where I started watching. In the same episode, we are also introduced to mosaics and, to my surprise, Mark, my totally uncrafty husband, said he would quite like to try making mosaics! Hm, a possible gift idea?

If you've watched Make! and want to talk about it, comment here or tweet me @KnittyNadia

On the BBC Four website, you will find more information about the show, including tutorials, so have a look if you enjoyed the show.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Knitting On the NHS

Knitting on the NHS
Photo by Pineapple Supply Co.

Recently, you may have come across the claim that knitting could save the NHS millions of Pounds (The Independent) and that it should be prescribed by the NHS (The Telegraph). These conclusions have been drawn from a Knit for Peace survey in which knitters stated that the craft makes them feel more relaxed and takes their focus off pain, for instance. 

It's left me puzzled. Quite frankly, I am not sure how anyone could come up with the silly idea that this is an effective way to deal with health issues and that it could possibly save the NHS any money. The Independent indicates knitting could reduce the need for antidepressants, for example. The problem with that, I think, is the assumption that depression is just people feeling a bit sad. It ignores that depression is a chemical imbalance that is often best treated with medication. Just picking up needles isn't going to solve that. 

Of course knitting is calming and relaxing, but it won't help you deal with high blood pressure effectively or I could have stopped taking Ramipril in 2007. Surely with the amount of knitting I normally do, I should be the most relaxed person  in the world!

I can see how knitting can distract you from pain, but it can also make some types of pain worse. After all, you are using your hands and arthritis, to take an example, will make it difficult. Knitting can also be frustrating at times, so the calming factor goes right out the window there. Furthermore, knitting can also be isolating unless you are  happy to go to knitting groups.

I am surprised that nobody seems to have mentioned that any craft would have the same effects as knitting. Basically, it's all about finding something to keep you busy, distracted and agile, mentally and, to an extent, physically. It does not have to be knitting. If you're doing something you enjoy, of course it will make you feel good and calm.

But it is silly to suggest that a craft is the answer to medical problems, because it isn't. (You don't have to believe me, of course. I am a doctor, but not that kind of a doctor.) So crafting on prescription won't work. How would one go about that anyway? What's the prescription for? Would you get classes on the NHS? Yarn? I suspect knitting isn't going to save the NHS money, but would require  even more funding because the need for medication, treatments and appointments won't go way.

It must have been a slow news day or papers are desperate to find something to write about other than Brexit. I can't blame them.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Tea, Tissues and Some Knitting

Tea, Tissues and Some Knitting

It's been a weekend of medicinal tea, knitting and snotty tissues, I'm afraid. Just when I wondered how on earth I managed to get through this long, cold winter without my obligatory cold, it got me. Luckily, this cold appears to be progressing quicker than usual, so I should be back to normal very soon.

The good thing is that I have had more time to knit my jumper because I haven't been feeling as miserable as usual when I am ill. I am well on my way to finishing the first sleeve already and most definitely on the home straight now.

Having said that, I haven't dared to cast on anything new yet even though I can't wait to get something else on my needles. I haven't even dared to think about what to make next. I have to be patient and not let myself get distracted from this jumper. It has taken me two years to get this far and I don't want to make it three!

There is a chance I may not get to wear this jumper as soon as I finish it, but if I keep at it, I will! The weather is finally milder and I do hope it stays that way because I do not cope well with the cold. Then again, I hope it doesn't warm up too soon so that I can wear my new jumper at least once before putting all my winter clothes away.

What knits have you been getting a lot of wear out of this winter? Mine have been my Stockholm scarf, my handspun  Spikelets cowl, and my handspun Hinagiku hat.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Pixelated Pullover: Continued

Knitting my Pixelated Pullover

Yes, yes, it's still going.

It's been two years since I nearly finished my Pixelated Pullover the first time round and right now I am exactly where I was back then. I have reached the end of the body now, but need to try it on and check to make sure. I somehow suspect I knitted it too long, actually, in which case I will rip back a little bit before starting the ribbing. I don't care how much longer it takes - I want to get it right!

Right now I am aiming to finish this jumper by my birthday in late April when I will be celebrating at the seaside and may well need a warm jumper. You never know what the weather will be like at that time of the year. (Actually, I need it right now because even though it is nice and sunny lately, it is also absolutely freezing.)

As you can see from the photo, the sleeves are still missing. They will be fairly quick to knit, so it really shouldn't take me too long to get this done. Of course I will be procrastinating...

What do you do when you work on something that's been going for ages? Do you just want to get it done or do you want to make sure it is absolutely perfect first? Let me know!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Tempted by Portuguese Knitting

Portuguese knitting technique

Being busy knitting my jumper doesn't stop me from looking around, thinking about what I am going to do next. Today my fingers are itching to do some spinning on my beautiful IST Turkish spindle, but it's going to be a busy day and I suspect I won't get to spin. I really need to wash my knitted socks instead. Ah, chores!

Something I'd like to try one day, I realised, is Portuguese knitting. Have you given it a go yet? I think it would be particularly useful for my Pixelated pullover, the one I am working on right now. When I get to the stranded knitting sections, my yarns always get tangled, no matter how hard I try. Another advantage of the Portuguese technique would be that I don't need to hold on to the yarn so carefully. Goodbye death grip!

Having watched some video tutorials, I think it will be hard to get my head around knit stitches, but purling seems to be really quick and easy. (Check Youtube for lots of tutorials.)

I am also curious about whether this technique makes knitting faster. I knit Continental style, so it is already faster than English knitting, but would Portuguese knitting increase my speed even more due to the smaller motions? If you've given it a try, please let me know. 

Are you toying with the idea of trying something new at the moment? What's tempting you and why are you keen to try it?

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Knitting Inspiration: Ready for Spring

Spring jumper knitting pattern

Winter is a tough time for many of us. The lack of sun light is particularly difficult for me so I just can't wait for spring to arrive and get rid of my urge to hibernate. How about you?

A good way to alleviate the winter blues is crafting and right now I feel like planning my spring knits. So today I want to share four jumper knitting patterns with you that will bring a bit more colour and light into your days and get you excited about spring. What's your favourite?

1. The Circular Yoke Summer Shirt by Purl Soho looks simple and stylish in its pastel colourway and minimalist shape. No fuss, no drama, just a plain short-sleeved look that's ideal for spring and early summer. 

2. The colours of Light Wave by Dani Sunshine caught my eye here. They are perfect for lighter days even if the temperatures aren't yet as high as we would like. Cold and sunny days will be all the more fun with this garment.

3. Lemon Pie is for all knitters with a sweet tooth. The lace panel running down one side are reminiscent of lemon pie wedges. Hanna Maciejewska has designed a simple, delicious sweater great for slightly chilly, grey days that need a bit of cheering up.

4. Finally, Este may not be a cheerful colour, but the short sleeves and lace panels make for a light jumper that will make you look forward to warmer days. Choose a shade you like and cast on! The only complicated bit is the lace.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Craftivism is Not Futile

We hold in our hands the power to kick-start great change. It is a shame that Vanity Fair, when suggesting Hillary Clinton should take up knitting and get off the political stage, seem to ignore how the whole Women's March came about. They have, it seems, forgotten that sea of pink hats marching on Washington. Pity. It's the marches first anniversary soon and I hope people remain vigilant to what goes on in politics, be it in their own country or in the world. 

The only response to "Go knit and be quiet" is to be quiet, go knit a pussy hat, put it on, march, and be loud

Sunday, 14 January 2018

KB100DECK: A Knit British Gathering in Bath

KB100DECK Knit British
Images are a mix of my own and Mazzy's

Yesterday I did something I haven't done in a long time: I went to a meet-up with complete strangers at a hotel. What connected us all is that we listen to Knit British, Louise Scollay's podcast all about British wool. This week saw her 100th episode and a gathering was organised in Edinburgh to celebrate the occasion. Sadly, the southwest doesn't see a lot of knitting/wool events, so a brave person set up a Bath meet-up for anyone who couldn't make it further afield. Thanks again, Mazzy!

KB100DECK Knit British

It was a success! We all had a lovely time knitting and chatting with each other, ogling yarn and WIPs. There were cream teas and sandwiches as well as two pop up shops and a raffle. Becca of Bluebell Yarns had every hue of hand-dyed yarn you can think of as did Rachel of Cat and Sparrow. Of course I couldn't resist buying something, but I did manage not to add to my stash. Instead, I bought two sets of beautiful Fripperies & Bibelots stitch markers. 

KB100DECK Knit British

There was even a two-person (at one point even a three-person) frogging session as a jumper that turned out too small had to be undone. Speaking of jumpers, I am glad to say I got on a bit with my own and have nearly reached the hem. After that, I only have to knit the sleeves. 

I returned from the gathering having met new knitters, marvelled at their skill, and having added a  Knit British name badge to my collection. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Kirstie's Handmade Christmas: The Jumper Challenge

Kirstie's Handmade Christmas jumper challenge

I promised on #knittinghour that I would blog about the Christmas jumper challenge from episode 4 of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas so here it is! It took me this long to put fingers to keyboard because, as you may have seen on social media, this was quite a controversial episode. Have I calmed down now? Somewhat, yes.

(If you haven't seen it, you can still catch  episode 4 here for the next two weeks.)

Familiar faces

I was really excited about this episode because it was all about knitting as the main feature of the show. And not only that! Monique, a Twitter #knittinghour regular, was on it so of course I had to see her in the flesh (sort of) instead of as an avatar online. It's exciting to see people as actual live people, moving and talking, getting a better understanding of who they are.

So I rushed home from work, missed the first few minutes of introductions, and jumped right into the speed-knitting challenge. To my surprise, I knew all but one of the participants! There was Jon from Easyknits whose hand-dyed fibre I've spun, Jess from Ginger Twist Studio whose yarn shop I visited in Edinburgh many years ago and where I discovered Ripples Crafts, and, of course, Monique from #knittinghour. Tiam was the only knitter I hadn't heard of before. Tiam's speciality is knitting with super chunky yarn, so that explains why I hadn't come across her yet. Chunky isn't really my cup of tea, though I have given it a go.

First impressions

Anyway, back to the speed-knitting challenge: Monique also chose a chunky project to save time (very wise, I think), while Jess ( the "Usain Bolt of knitting", as Kirstie called her) and Jon used lighter yarns for their accessories. At this stage, to me there wasn't yet a clear winner. After all, these were small projects and you can't really tell how the knitters will cope with a whole jumper. Still, to me it was obvious that Tiam was not a winner. As the judge herself said, her hat was "perfect for beginners", so it didn't require the skills demonstrated by some of the others. Especially Jess showed a lot more skill at this early stage already, so I disregarded Tiam and focused on the other three contestants. 

After the speed-knitting challenge, they were all sent off to knit their jumpers, ready to be modeled  by them on the show. And this is when things got really exciting - and extremely controversial.

The jumpers

Jon was the first to reveal his Christmas jumper and it was stunning! Full of colour, made from his own hand-dyed yarn, his own design, and it fit perfectly. Even Kirstie was gobsmacked. He was hands down the favourite and it's easy to see why.

Jess also used some of her own hand-dyed yarn to knit her design, Vintage Winter. It suited her very well and there's no doubt this lady has skills! 

Monique knitted the Port Charlotte jumper by Kate Davies, adding festive words and LED lights to it. Loved the jumper and the new additions went together well, I thought. She is great at knitting jumpers, as I knew from her blog and tweets.

Finally, Tiam modeled her very chunky reindeer jumper. It was so different from all the others and, matching my first impression, didn't show as much skill as others had demonstrated. I was a bit put off by the fact that some bits had been glued on and the reindeer wasn't actually intarsia, but  embroidered. The jumper had tinsel in it, was oversized and shapeless, so it could not be judged on fit. (Shape and fit were, explicitly, two of the judging criteria.) It was just too easy compared to the others, though there's a lot going on as far as types of craft used.

The judging

Personally, I thought Jon would win, no doubt about it. Jess and Monique were a possibility, too, because you never know what the judge prefers. Speaking of judging: At that point in the show I had no idea who the judge was because I missed the introductions. As the show went on, though, I wondered whether she was particularly good at knitting, to be honest, based on how she spoke about the work.

For instance, a lot of knitters would object to being complimented with the words: this looks "like it's from a shop" (said about Jess's fantastic speed-knitted hat). Other zingers from the judge included: "Is it machine-knitted?" (about Jon's jumper), and "Garter stitch is the stitch for me."

The winner

Turns out that the judge, Jade Harwood, is co-founder of Wool and the Gang, who are known for their chunky yarns. I would say that makes her a bit biased. Especially as she chose a winner who needed all of 6 hours to finish her Christmas jumper, used super chunky yarn for the speed-knitting challenge as well as the jumper, and, I feel cheated by not knitting intarsia. Jade announced Tiam as the winner and I am still amazed that anyone on the should managed to keep a straight face at that point.

The social media storm

Social media exploded with people tweeting that Jon was robbed. Frankly, everyone was robbed. Who would expect the quickest, simplest, most shapeless jumper to win this? Compare it to Jon's 160-hour Fairisle jumper! 

To be fair, on its own, the reindeer jumper is fine. However, compared to the skills demonstrated by the other knitters, it should never have won. Mind you, if anyone knits a jumper like this, I'd be thrilled. Managing to knit a garment is an achievement, so well done! It's the kind of jumper I can imagine seeing on the high street. So in a way I can see why Jade chose it. But it holds no candle to Jon's, Jess's or Monique's work.

Over to you

What do you think? Is this too harsh? Did the judge make the right decision? What's your favourite? Let's hear it!

Monday, 1 January 2018

Have a Knitting New Year

Happy New Year with knitting
Image source
I don’t know about you, but for me 2017 was an odd year. It was marked by extremes: politics and health have been awful, but personally it has been perfect. Our wedding and honeymoon were by far the highlight of the year for me. I do hope that 2018 will bring a better balance for everyone so we can avoid such extremes.

I wish you a year full of joy, good health, successes that matter, people you love, and enough time for knitting and all the things you enjoy.

2017 WIPs and FOs

Like many, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, not even crafty ones. However, there are a few things I hope to knit this year. I have said it many a time, but I really do want to finish my jumper! Not only am I looking forward to wearing it, but I want to finally get it out of the way so I can knit something else.

I doubt I will have any more time to knit in 2018 than I did in 2017, but it would be nice to have more FOs this time. I am ashamed to say I only finished two things last year and they were small projects at that: my pussy hat and a pair of socks for my mother for Christmas.

A knitting to-do list

So what’s the plan? I am looking forward to knitting a two-tone hat with Amano Puyu, using this lovely caramel shade for contrast, but I need to design it first. Then there’s the Samite yarn I bought in the hope of knitting a spring/summer top one day. Other than that I have no plans for my stash. Reducing it would be good, too. At the moment I am stopping myself from buying yarn because I just haven’t got the space for another skein.

Over to you

What are you looking forward to in the new year? Did you set yourself any goals or challenges or will you just take things as they come? And have you got something on your list of things to knit that readers should definitely know about?

Not sure yet? Here are 10 New Year's resolutions for knitters and crocheters to get you started.