yaaaarn

A really busy day – I have a deadline tomorrow which I was planning to be late for, but now it seems I might be able to make it, if I focus and work veeery hard! I’ve barely done any knitting in the last week, and I miss it so much. So while I’m working away at my computer, I am thinking of these happy times, about a year ago. That’s me, in my last apartment’s kitchen-slash-living room. One night my roommate caught me sneaking in, with two huge bags, like a true shop-a-holic.

And here’s what was in them. As I said: happy times. :)

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my first

I’m the kind of person who likes to have clear instructions for everything I do and I’m usually not too happy when I have to improvise something. Most clearly this comes out in knitting and cooking. I despize a recipe that tells you to “bake it in the oven until it’s done” as much as I appreciate a pattern that takes that extra effort to explain a technique you might not be familiar with. Which makes it all the more surprizing that my first ever knitting project was done almost completely out of my head.

As is usually recommended, I started with a scarf. And I completely extend that recommendation to all aspiring knitters. I often hear “oh but that’s so boring, I want to make something more interesting”, and then a few weeks later “oh the project was a complete failure, it was too complicated for me”. My answer is: knitting is a skill. The ABCs of that skill are knit and purl. No better way to practice a skill than a simple exercise of repeating it over and over again. Thus: make a scarf.

In the spirit of ABC, I embelished my first with letters. The book I was learning from had patterns for all leters of the alphabet, and the “complication” was minimal.

As you can tell, there were many things I didn’t know then. E.g. that stockinette curls at the edges. Or how to join a new ball of yarn (the scarf is full of little knots – it seemed like the only possibility – my grandma was apalled when she saw it :). But by the time I finished it, I had gotten two things damn right: knit and purl.

People often ask me if the letters make up a word. They don’t. I simply chose those I found interesting visually.

I think I worked on this for about six months. I hadn’t been infected with the knitting bug completely yet, and it was also an extremely busy period in my life. But I still remember that every time I sat back in my bed and picked up the needles, my mind would clear, I could feel my muscles relax and my breathing calm down. This was a very stressful period of my life, which helped me appreciate the relaxation and comfort knitting can provide.

The thing is huuuuge, and I don’t wear it too much (it’s incredibly warm, even in the strong continental European winter), but I could never make myself rip it. It was my first. I love it.

What was your first?

Pajunkissa

I am still mesmerized by this hat’s beautiful name. I just looked it up, and it appears to mean “catkin”. Then I had to look up catkin. :) Wikipedia says it’s a cylindrical flower cluster (and shows some nice pictures, though I can only barely relate them to the pattern).

The original pattern was created by Memmu for Ulla, a Finnish online knitting magazine made by Finnish knitters for Finnish knitters, if I understand correctly.

However, I fell in love with it when I saw Handepande’s version: take a look here and try to resist the urge to cast on immediately! My hat was based on Handepande’s modifications to the original pattern, which were essentially just a change in gauge. You’ll find them on the project Ravelry page.

I personally cast on after I offered to knit a hat for a friend and she chose this pattern, based on seeing the photo of Handepande’s project. There was even a “Scandinavian connection” since I started working on the hat while in Norway last summer. During the class presentations at my summer course, I would sit back and knit away, listening to the presenters. My (about to retire) professor Jan couldn’t help but recall the ’60s, when apparently it was quite usual for his female students to knit in class. The story as he told it to us took an interesting turn, however, when the male students also decided to take up this hobby. The females were apparently offended and in protest stopped knitting in class altogether. :)

Unfortunately, the version I knit up during my classes had to be frogged – this was the first onslaught of the transfer of my usual perfectionism into knitting as well. I had simply gotten the needle size wrong, the hat came out too big, the stitches were ugly, and I just couldn’t live with giving it away in such a state. Frogged and knit again later that summer, back home. This time to my utter satisfaction. :) The pattern is super-easy and fast. And of course I made another one shortly – remember it? :)

help

On Saturday I went to the I Knit London Haiti Fundraiser Tea Party, a nice opportunity to contribute a tiny bit while also enjoying plentiful tea, cake and knitting. I am in one of the photos, but my cleveage looks giganteous so I’d rather not link to it :D

In one of the fundraising games, I won this:

beauty

It’s a 50g hank of merino organic wool, handspun (double knit) and dyed using only natural plant dyes, from Nurwool. Pretty cool, eh? But what do I do with it? It’s such a small amount and the yarn is pretty scractchy! Yet so beautiful… Project ideas and pattern recommendations pleeeease…

the bits

On so many Ravelry project pages will you find variations of the following two sentences:

Almost done, just have to make myself weave in all the ends…

&

I couldn’t be bothered to do a gauge swatch so the size is off.

That’s right, it seems the two most odious activities that unavoidably accompany knitting are the very beginning and the very ending: checking gauge and weaving in ends. I experience them as much as the next person. Just today I finally decided to weave in the ends on Veyla mitts – the tiny little things had six ends to weave in each! I had finished them about ten days ago and just couldn’t force myself to get on with it. And guess what? It was done extremely quickly. After all the postponing, I am always shocked at how little time and effort it really requires, even if there are six ends to weave in on a single mitt. It’s kind of like going to the dentist: I always get somewhat scared and uncomfortable just before I’m supposed to go, and start looking for excuses not to do it. But on several occasions I have written down in my diary after going: Don’t be scared next time! It was a piece of cake!

Consider how much time it really takes you to make a gauge swatch (which is usually not more than 20 rows of 20 stitches). Weigh that against the anxiety of working through an entire project (even if it is just a hat, it takes much longer) and the frustration at realizing in the end that it is too small. Consider how difficult it really is to weave in ends (my 12 ends on a tiny project took no longer than 10-15 mins). Weigh that against that nagging voice you have in your head when you know that the project is almost done and the satisfaction of clicking finished on Ravelry. You’ll probably realize these activities require just tiny bits of time and effort. I’ll certainly try to next time.

short rows

Today I decided that I should learn something new – something that has been troubling me ever since I first encountered it: short rows. I resorted to my favorite knitting companion:

– clicking the photo takes you to the Amazon page where you can see more photos and/or buy it –

I really cannot recommend this book enough. I have found that I am very picky when it comes to books on knitting, whether they be instruction manuals (like this one) or pattern books. I have very few of the latter ones because most disappoint me when I give them a thorough look. As for manuals, I only own a Croatian one from which I learned my first stitches and this one. The Ultimate Knitting Bible is really what it says: all you need. It is thorough and is not afraid of using all the space it needs to explain each technique in detail. It has helped me with silly simple questions (e.g. How do you join a new ball of yarn? This had been a total mystery to me for a very long time.), complicated techniques (Well, is anything in knitting really complicated once you learn it? I guess an example would be What the hell is a skpo and how do I do it?), it has taught me the importance of gauge swatches and the difference you can make with blocking, and it has bailed me out when I was utterly desperate (e.g. when I realized I had dropped a stitch 5 rows below – it taught me how to fix it without ripping). The sections are really logical and it is easy to find whatever you need. I don’t really think it’s a book you’d go through from beginning to end (though you could), but more for looking things up when you need an unfamiliar technique or when you’re just stuck. It also offers instructions for small practice swatches, like the ones I used today for finally mastering short rows.

Oh yeah, and the photography – gorgeous. As well as the design. Someone really put a lot of effort and (at the risk of sounding cliche) love into it. I thank them for it.