revisiting

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I knit it up in August 2009 in Oslo. I photographed it in September 2009 in Zagreb. I have been wearing it since October 2009 in London. It’s my favorite hat. We go places together.

We strike poses.

We visit museums.

And botanical gardens.

We celebrate together (happy 2010!)!

We visit new places (like Oxford).

And make friends. :)

And sometimes we even soak up the sun together (especially if one of us hasn’t washed her hair but needs to look presentable;)).

The pattern is Rose Red by Ysolda, made in DROPS Alpaca (amazing yarn, my absolute favorite). Though the pattern is partially lacey, it still offers great warmth in the winter, while also letting my head breathe on warmer days. And it’s just perfect for the rain – this hat has kept my head dry (I hate umbrellas!) for the last six months. It is gorgeous and works well both with fancy and casual styles. As for how it’s sustaining the frequent wear – I can barely see any difference in its appearance between July and now. I think this hat and I are gonna keep having adventures together for years to come… :)

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location, location, location

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Let’s say this loud and clear once and for all: I’m a public knitter and I love it! Knitting can be a pretty solitary activity, which I don’t mind, but I also love to be surrounded by other people when I knit, whether they are with me or just around me.  The only thing I don’t like, and this goes for all my activities including knitting, is doing things in short snippets of time. I don’t like taking out my needles if I have to put them away in 10 minutes, and the same goes for a book, a jog, or a telephone conversation.

Here’s the list of all the places where I’ve knit so far:

  • a fjord (definitely the most exotic location)
  • a mountain (after climbing, I kept motivating myself – another 20 minutes, then a knitting break ;)
  • cars (I thought I’d get motion sickness, but I was fine)
  • trains (ideal for long train-rides)
  • cafes (especially open-air ones)
  • park benches (obviously)
  • the grass (one of my favourites)
  • the beach (sand and wool are not the best combination)
  • the floor (you’d be surprized how often)
  • my bed (but not lying down)
  • armchairs (difficult with straight needles)
  • hotels (I don’t like hotels, I get terribly lonely in them, knitting helps)
  • a museum (one girl stopped watching the movie on the artist and stared at me for 20 minutes straight)
  • pubs (a totally British thing – luv it!)
  • a library (there is one library at my school where people go to sleep. I go to knit)
  • a yarn shop (skeins are always trying to sneakily jump into your lap and make you take them home with you)
  • a bookshop (probably the most magical bookshop I’ve ever been to)
  • at my desk (when I’m trying to figure out a technique from an online tutorial)

Interestingly, there aren’t many photos of me knitting, and in those that do exist – I’m usually frowning. I think that’s just my concentrated face… :) But, instead of that, you get a smile today (I’ve been waiting for an excuse to show off my new hairstyle ;)

Hugs all round! :)

a new skill

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I’m guessing that today many people are going to be writing about steekingentrelac and spinning. I, however, have a much simpler skill whose lack looms over my head like a dark cloud. It’s not so much a skill, actually, as knowledge. Knowledge of yarn.

Where I started knitting, in Croatia, there aren’t that many yarns on offer. There is one yarn factory which mainly does wool-synthetic blends in various ratios, and the range of weights is pretty limited (I never saw real bulky yarn nor lace-weight). So, when I started, being ignorant of the different weights and compositions of yarn, life was pretty simple. I chose yarn primarily on the basis of colour. It did not even occur to me that you couldn’t make any project with any type of yarn! I would use the needle size recommended in the pattern, but I didn’t worry about the yarn weight… This resulted in some interesting outcomes, such as this hat below. I was making it for myself, but while I was working on it in public, a lady came up to me and asked me politely if it was for a baby!!! Erm, I managed to get it onto my head eventually, and wore it for quite some time, but in hindsight I think I know what she meant!

And then I started noticing the swatch instructions in patterns. The indications of what yarn to use. The world of weights and fibers opened up to me. And I was completely lost. I found some good guides, like the one on Ravelry, or this one, but I can’t carry them around when I go to yarn shops and whenever I am choosing yarn I am always terrified that the shop assistants are going to realize that I don’t have a clue! Now, why, tell me why, aren’t yarns organized by weight in yarn shops?! I still don’t get it!

Then came the types of yarns by composition. Ok, I’m not so ignorant to not know what silk, cotton and wool are, but then there is also tweed, mohair, malabrigo, alpaca and heavens knows what else! Well, heavens may know, but I don’t. So when buying yarn, I try to wing it as much as I can and figure out what is what.

I am utterly annoyed by the fact that different companies have different names for the same yarn weights, and that some do not mark them at all! I pray that the shop assistants think that I am just unable to decide for colour while I am furtively trying to figure out if the yarn is even approximately the right weight for what I need! What I usually do is check on Ravelry before I head out shopping, but once I reach the shop (especially the lovely local yarn shops here in London), I am faced with a bunch of unfamiliar and bewildering (while gorgeous and irresistible) yarns! I recently considered applying for a part-time job at a yarn shop, but one of their requirements was that you were “a good knitter”. That scared me off – not because of my stitching capabilities (I am pretty confident with those), but because I was scared they would expect me to know a good deal about yarns and that I would have to retreat in shame… On the other hand, working there, if they had accepted me, would have been a great crash course in yarns. Otherwise, I’m afraid, it’ll take me years, probably even decades. You don’t really know a yarn until you’ve worked with it, and there are so many to discover.

So, that’s my big secret. I love yarn. I am eternally grateful for the huge variety and choice I have here in London. I could spent hours in the yarn shops. But I am still clueless about it. :(

Do you have any good tips? How did you get your yarn knowledge? Am I really going to have to be patient and only able to say I know yarn when I’m like that grandma from the beginning of the story, or is there a shortcut?

one great knitter

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Most knitters have heard of Kate Davies. Her Owls pullover is, after all, one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry. You may remember that I recently made the child version of it for my niece’s birthday (hopefully I’ll be able to show you photos of her wearing it soon).

What I love about Kate, is, first of all, that she is not only a knitter. Her blog is equally enticing to fans of sewing, walking, designing, hiking, literature, beer, Scotland, the history of textiles (and knitting – so educational!), allotment gardening and photography. Despite my recent rant against people who want to do everything (or because of it), I love this about Kate. The thing is – she does it all amazingly well. In fact I’d say that she’s a bit of a professional in everything she does.

About her designs: They are playful yet flattering. Thematic and creative. Infallible, both in style and performance. Full of small thoughtful details.

About her knitting: She picks the most gorgeous patterns and gives them her own special signature. She chooses yarns special both for their quality and history. Her needlework, and especially finishing, is impeccable. My favorites are her simple sweaters which she made without a pattern.

About her other hobbies: She writes about them with endless enthusiasm, but is also realistic. She doesn’t hide the underside of allotment gardening, but she loves to share the rewards of it. She contemplates the best outfits for walking and complains about the fact that they are not suited for women. She shares glimpses of her academic work and she backs it all up with enchanting photography. When you read about the things she does, you will get a realistic look at both the good and not-so-good parts of it, an idea of why you should try it and of what you should consider before you try it. And inevitably, you will fall in love with it.

About Kate: She is quite private about her personal life and I respect that. She shares enough of her activities for us to feel perfectly happy! She recently suffered a stroke, but has carried on strong – I mention this because you are bound to come across it on her blog,  but keep in mind – it does not define her.

One day, when I am big, I would like to be a blogger like Kate. :)

All photos except for first one (which is mine) from Kate’s blog and linked back to it.

an inspirational pattern

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I’ve only been knitting for about two years. Meaning, there is still plenty for me to aspire to. But when the topic came up of some particular pattern that I’ve never attempted because I don’t have the skill, I had to think hard. My custom is to acquire new skills in knitting as they come up in the pattern I’m currently working on. So, for example, if the sweater I’m working on requires short rows, or seaming, or grafting, I won’t practice it before. I’ll just tackle it when I come to that bit. I think the most commonly read comment on Ravelry goes something like this: “This was a great project, I learned so many new skills while doing it.” and it is certainly true for me. Learning while you go along with the project is great – because you’re learning and creating something at the same time. Ok, that something might not be perfect that first time, but chances are that it will look decent. And after it’s finished, you will possess two new things: a new sweater and a new skill. :)

That said, I’m terrified of socks! They seem to be very fiddly and require a bunch of little skills that I don’t possess yet! Patterns for them also contain lots of seemingly mystical words, like ‘turning a heel’ and ‘gusset’. I’ve been planning to make my first pair of socks for a while… But whenever it gets to it, I end up picking some other type of project.

I also think that I would just feel bad wearing something I put so much effort into on my feet, where it is bound to get ruined quickly. This doesn’t mean I don’t crave for knitting socks. It seems like the ultimate knitting experience… I even bought a book of wonderful and innovative sock patterns – Cookie A‘s Sock Innovation. It sits on my shelf, I take it into my hands and leaf through it every once in a while, feed on the images, one time I even read through one of the patterns, but then it goes safely back on the shelf. When I was buying the book, the sales lady told me straightforward that it was not one for sock beginners. But I had loved the patterns so much that I decided to buy it anyway.

I’ll get there some day.

All photos from Interweave Press. Click on photos to go to source.

starting out

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This post is not so much on how I started out knitting (for a definitive account of that, just glance over to the left), but about the history of knitting in my family. The two special knitters who passed onto me their genes, their sense of resourcefulness and their creativity, and who provide endless support and admiration for my knitting adventures: my Mum and my Grandma.

About the time when I was starting school, my Mum took up knitting. I have no idea why or how she took it up, but I do very clearly remember several things she made for me and my brother. One was a gentle pink cardigan in seed stitch for my round little girl body. I find it amazing that I remember the stitch type so vividly, but I know exactly why – because I absolutely adored it, just like the whole cardigan. I even remember when we went on a special outing, just the two of us, to find the perfect buttons for it. They were also pink, with something drawn on them in black, I remember the drawings partly-erased, as they became over time, but can’t recall what they were supposed to portray. If I were to ask my Mum, though, I’m sure she would know. She is just like that, she remembers all these little details about our lives and whenever you think she couldn’t possibly remember some little flashback of childhood you had, you just have to mention it to her and she’ll tell you when and where it happened and fill up the picture with a bunch of other details that had completely escaped you. Later, she made my brother and me each a set of gloves, hat and scarf for the winter. His was dark blue and mine dark purple. They were absolutely gorgeous and I loved wearing them. When I decided to take up knitting (in an instant), she knew exactly where her needles and old yarn were (even though she hadn’t touched them in ten years, she had taken up crochet in the meantime) and pulled out that very dark blue and dark purple yarn. They now occupy a treasured place in my stash, waiting for that perfect project to come. They feel, smell and look like – childhood.

My paternal Grandma, on the other hand, had been knitting and crocheting since forever. When we were small, we all wore her handknit sock-slippers, even today all the places we live in are full of her doilies, and at some point in my puberty – she presented me with my “dowry”: a box full of wonderfully handcrafted items, in the traditional spirit of the village she grew up in. It’s been a while now that she hasn’t been knitting or crocheting anything, though, as her eyes are simply too weak for it. There are different treasures I can share with her, though. Every time she sees me knit (and I have taken to bringing along my current projects to our family visits), she will remember some knitting-related story from her life. Like the time when my father fell chest-forward on her needles when he was about three years old. She grabbed him in her arms, and, just as she was, in her nightgown, ran through the snow-covered streets to the hospital. My Grandpa, not having fully grasped what had happened, had the common sense to put on his coat and shoes first and then ran after them. After the relief of being told that the boy was incredibly lucky and that he would suffer no consequence but a superficial scar, my Grandma realized what impression she and her husband must have given to the passers by: a dark winter night, a young woman in a nightgown with a toddler in her arms, running away from her husband who is yelling “wait, hold on”… :)

These two women may not have taught me to knit (though both tried to teach me to crochet at some point, but it was just never my thing), they may not have showed me how to hold the needles or how to make a yarn-over, but they are the ones responsible for my joy of creating, my patience for learning, and my love for giving. I could get the most elaborate praise from the most renowned knitter, but it would mean nothing in comparison to how I feel when my Grandma looks approvingly at my knitting or when my Mum is lost for words surveying in wonderment and pride the last item I made.

marathons

I just spent a few hours watching the London Marathon. I really admire these people. I was planning to stay only for an hour because I have tons of work to do (and I am so badly behind), but it was just mesmerising.

I knew of at least one knitter among the runners, and though I don’t know her or what she looks like (I just know her from her blog), she was in my thoughts as I cheered strangers on. I loved how much the crowd cheered people on, especially if they seemed to be faltering and starting to think they wouldn’t be able to finish, you could literally see people start running again because of the sheer emotional support they were getting.

Maybe some day I’ll be able to join them…