Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Skill + 1 UP: 2KCBWDAY2

Day 2 of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week and I'm looking back over the last year and what I've learnt in that time.  I don't know where to start!

A year ago I was the same beginner knitter I'd been for a couple of years.  Knit stitches came with ease, purling entailed a little more effort, and I could knit into the front and back of the stitch to increase and knit two together or slip slip knit to decrease.   The greatest part of my skill lay in an even tension.

Last year, suddenly, the yarn addiction really took hold and with it the confidence and desire to learn new techniques.  I decided to knit a few chokers and used them to learn beading and simple lace based on yarn over increases.  Next up was to try some simple pattern writing of my own; I wanted some wristwarmers to match a hat so adapted the pattern accordingly, then I knit another hat making it up as I went along and was pleased with the result.  Fortunately my family all appreciate homemade gifts, as this glut of experimentation created the bulk of my Christmas presents.

If I had to single out one thing that is the best thing I've learnt in the last year then it's this... the longtail cast on.  I love it.  I find it easier and more even than a basic cast on and it's much quicker to do.  Also it gave me the building blocks to grasp my first provisional cast on technique,  and I think if I'd tackled that only knowing the basic cast on I would have been a little perplexed.  Longtail cast on you are my hero skill of 2010.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns: 2KCBWDAY1

Stylecraft Gypsy and Tivoli Ocean 
The first yarn I bought to knit a shawl and the first yarn I knit a shawl with.

Gypsy  was the first yarn I bought to knit a shawl.  She sat, preening in purple, at the back of the craft shop, her tactile texture tempting my fingers. I was a new knitter and couldn't resist her, espescially when I found a capelet pattern to accompany her home with me.  Alas, I was overstretching my newly acquired skill.  I'd previously knit one project, a poncho in ribbon yarn on 12mm plastic needles; it hadn't prepared me for Gypsy's quirks, or for the fact that she would be adored even more by another member of the household than she was by me. Slippery metal needles and feline inquistiveness led to me regularly dropping stitches, and how was I to see to pick them up through all that wonderous fluff? Little Meezer couldn't resist her, if I took my eye off the ball for more than a moment it would be carried off to a cat bed and snuggled down with.  Reluctantly I admitted defeat and gently put Gypsy into hibernation at the back of the cupboard. So disillusioned with my knitting ability was I, I didn't pick up needles and yarn again for over a year. 

Eventually I regained confidence and knit several projects in easier yarns to improve my skill.  Gypsy began calling to me, and I knew I could not ignore her forever.  I added a ball in black to my stash and knit a choker succesfully. Unfortunately I'd lost the capelet pattern but I knew that, when I find it again, I'm ready for the challenge that gypsy presents.

Ocean  is the first yarn I knit a shawl in. I first encountered her in a red/purple/green mix in 2010.  Being of a slightly more colourful character than I usually wear I kept her for small pieces and knit myself a pixieish hat with some pointy wristwarmers to match; these served me well all winter and I knew I'd made a good yarn choice.  Last month I came across a simple shawl pattern and, Mr Goth in tow, headed into town to find the right yarn for it.  I picked up Ocean in a black/magenta/sea-blue mix and knew she was the right choice when Mr Goth said approvingly "that's different".  On 10mm she was a joy to knit and I took great pleasure in watching the way the colours blended one to another.  She did have one surprise for me though, which momentarily made me doubt my choice... a bright, grass green.  Fortunately the green was fairly minimal in the blend and as I completed the shawl I realised that I could live quite happily with it.  The shawl is a delight to wear and when I'm not wearing it I find quiet pleasure in seeing it draped attractively over the back of my rocker.  I've since knit a tight fitting strappy number, yet to be blocked and seamed, to wear under it; fortuitously I started in the right place in the ball of yarn for the top to be mostly balck with just a hint of purple and some very dark green, like that of a magpie's wing.  Ocean and I have become firm friends and I'm now considering knitting for my sister in the blue colour blend of it.