I told my husband that I was going to do an interview with myself on my blog. He said, "That's a bit self indulgent." Well, that may be so. But nonetheless - here goes...
Learning to Knit
I learned to knit when I was at Primary School, probably at about the age of 8 or so. One afternoon a week we did various arts and crafts activities that included knitting, and both girls and boys learned to knit. The first thing I made was a small, bright red scarf with fringed ends for a teddy. I don't think I particularly enjoyed knitting at that stage as I remember getting told off for talking, as well as trying to stretch my knitting to make the teacher think I had done more than I really had! (Note to non-knitters – this does not work!). After the scarf the knitting we did tended to be soft toys. I don't remember doing any knitting outside school although my Mum and Gran would knit things for me and for my dolls.
Early knitting projects from Primary School
Once I left Primary School I didn't have an interest in knitting until some years later – about 2005. At that time I was living in a flat with a friend who started knitting. I bought her the 'Stitch and Bitch' book for a present and then began knitting again myself. After making a scarf and a hat I tackled a wrap cardigan, which turned out pretty well. My boyfriend (now husband's) mum gave me a big bag of wool and all her knitting needles, and I used the wool to make the cardigan. After that I picked projects I liked, and learned new techniques through them.
What's so good about knitting?
I knit for two reasons; because I enjoy the process and because I like the results. Both are of course inter-linked. I find that knitting can be really absorbing and compulsive – it's exciting to see your knitting develop as you knit row after row, to the point where I tell myself “I'll just knit one more row...” I like simple patterns because they don't require much attention and you can watch TV at the same time but I also like to get stuck into a more complex pattern with different colours and stitch patterns.
Knitting on holiday and on the train, 2010
I love that knitting can be easily portable - I relish train journeys because I can take my knitting with me, and always knit in front of the TV. I feel as if I am reclaiming that time by doing something useful. My hands feel idle if I am watching TV and not knitting!
I also love to be able to create hand knitted items. Now I can knit I feel that I can't buy any item that I could potentially make – this is really a bit of a pain! I'd much rather wear real wool, and there isn't so much of this on the high street at a reasonable price either.
Favourite things to knit
Favourite things to knit
I like to knit items of all kinds, though probably jumpers, cardigans and hats are my favourite as they are the items I wear the most. I enjoy knitting cables and fairisle but sometimes you can't beat knitting a big section of stockinette for zoning out! I like knitting in the round if it means cutting down the amount I have to sew together. Things I don't like to knit are fiddly and small things which might require to be neatly sewn together – I hate doing this. I also like to knit useful items so NO knitted cakes or tiny hats for smoothie bottles (I'd rather just give the money to charity).
Fetching fingerless gloves, knitted for a friend's birthday
Knitting for others
I like knitting for others if I know they will like it and appreciate the work that has gone into the item. It's lovely to be able to make something and give it to an appreciative recipient! I am planning to make a jumper for my husband which is quite a big undertaking as I have only knit hats and mittens for him before, but we can decide on a pattern and wool together so it will be nice to know it will be something he really wants.
However more so than with other hobbies and crafts, knitting seems to be something that people think it is OK to ask you to make something for them! Perhaps this is because traditionally people do knit for family and give away knitted items. But as knitting is something I do as a hobby so I think it is perfectly acceptable to spend my free time making lovely things just for me if I so desire.
Stitch detail from Traveling Stitch Legwarmers
Favourite knitting resources
Book-wise, Stitch and Bitch is obviously a modern classic and is great because it's completely non-scary. Another book I love is Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti, discovered via the book list in the back of Stitch and Bitch. This is one I frequently turn to with questions and I like Maggie's simple and straightforward approach – I view her as something like the Delia Smith of knitting. On the net, I love Ravelry as a great way to look for patterns and record my own knitting projects. It's such an amazing resource. For admiring beautiful knitwear I browse through Vintage Fashion Knitwear by Marnie Fogg. So much amazing knitted fashion!
Knitting triumphs and disasters
Bleurgh - Marilyn Jacket
Ha! Let's start with the disasters. I made a cardigan in super bulky from the Twinkle's Big City Knits book, which was horrible. I spent over £50 buying wool and big needles and hated the resulting item. Clever photography in the book made it look nicer than it turned out, as you couldn't see the big holes caused by the yarn overs.
I also made a cabled beret that turned out incredible tiny. However rather than listening to my gut instinct whilst knitting, I finished it and blocked it, hoping that it might magically grow during the process. Guess what? It didn't! I ripped it out and made it again, adding an extra panel. Thus the project was rescued, and I still wear that hat a lot.
Triumphs – my recent cabled cardigan. It's cosy and stylish and I absolutely love it. I also love my Beautiful Sea Green Sweater. I love the colour and shape, and always wear it with a brooch that used to belong to my Gran. My first circular knitting project, fingerless gloves, were a triumph - eventually. These are a little wonky but felt like a real triumph because I had to teach myself to knit in the round. It was only when I went to begin the knitting that I realised they were made in the round, so I had to try and find a way to learn. This caused much exasperation and a close-to-tears moment as I just COULD NOT get how it worked! This now seems very silly, but at the time I could not find anything in books or online which showed how to do it clearly enough.
Beautiful Sea Green Pullover aka Oatmeal Pullover
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started knitting?
- Gauge swatch! So important. It's not worth skimping on this, as I have learned from experience. Plus, keep checking your gauge whilst you are knitting, to make sure.
- Trust your gut instinct – if something looks like it might be too big or too small, or the pattern looks wrong, stop and re-assess. You should try to learn to 'read' your knitting and look at the fabric as it emerges
- Sometimes knitting patterns have mistakes! Don't follow blindly.
- At some point you will need to rip out, and this is OK. It's better to rip out half way through than knit the whole thing wrongly.
- Use the best wool and needles you can afford – it's worthwhile and makes the process nicer.
See you tomorrow!