The early stages of knitting insanity (no, make that the secondary stages, who's kidding who, this girl has been in the early stages since she first picked up a pair of old-fashioned steel knitting needles several centuries ago), have definitely set in. The other day, when I could have been attacking the ironing mountain (it's the kind that gets bigger when you turn your back, you know that sort?), washing dishes, giving the lawn a winter haircut before it gets entirely out of hand (the grass never quite stops growing here throughout the darker months, just to be annoying), even, heaven forfend, tackling the frightening number of copy deadlines looming, what did I do? None of these, you chorus, and quite right too. I decided to join yet another Knitalong. And this time I did it purely and greedily (can you pair those two adjectives?) because I wanted the button. It's a cute button and since it has to do with Irish I felt it should be mine. Immediately. And it is. Now. After a bit of struggling in the HTML sector and having its passport queried and lots of officials saying 'you can't do that 'ere, nohow', it got through Checkpoint Charlie and on to my weblog sidebar. Where it's made friends with the Red Sweater KAL and the Knit Some Holiday Cheer KAL. See what I mean? I've got absolutely nowhere with the Holiday Cheer department, although there are some ideas lazing around on sofas in the back of my brain, and the Red Sweater (laughs hollowly), well you know some of the history there. So why another one? Well I wanted to, you hear? I wanted to. The hell with the fact that it's rarely really cold enough here to warrant an Irish Hiking Scarf or indeed any other nationality of neckwarmer. I'm Irish, pureblood Irish (well, on my mother's side anyway - on my father's I suspect a little input of Breton or Norman blood around the 11th century), so if there is an Irish Hiking Scarf Knitalong on the go, then shouldn't I include meself in? Don't know what yarn to use yet, but there are two important aspects here. Firstly, as any knitter knows, all cable patterns should be in a fairly firm and preferably light-coloured yarn, to show off the stitch definition. Secondly, all scarves should be in a warm, soft, pliable yarn, to snuggle the neck. Do we see a conflict of interests here? We certainly do.
No help for it, it will have to be that divine silk/cashmere which looks like dignified string but feels like heaven on earth. It has to be admitted that this has been hoarded, because there is never a project quite worthy of it, but someday it really ought to be brought out and used. It's too beautiful not to be.
This is the yarn that has a faint scent of a manure heap when you hold it close, a scent which magnifies into a serious social problem when you wash it (gently, gently, barely squeezing, barely swishing, this is a royal blend after all), but which then, mercifully, fades into the background once more on drying. That's fine, it's the prerogative of royals to do as they please and our gratefully thankful duty to accept its quirks and oddities. It will display a Celtic patterning on the Irish Hiking Scarf stunningly - remember that swatch I did in the Saxon Braid which Dog Lovin' Knitter seduced me with - well she showed a stunning picture of her own work on her weblog which comes to much the same thing?
Oh stop being pedantic there at the back! I know it's called the Saxon Braid. If you're going to be difficult I'm going to go and have a hot chocolate with shortbread petticoat tails on the side and not play any more. If I say it's the Irish Saxon Braid then that's what it is. For now.
I see this as the central pattern with perhaps a two-stitch twist either side and some garter or moss stitch at the edges. Wonder if a slanted cast-on would look good or would it be a bit frivolous for an Irish Hiking Scarf?
Anyway, listen, back to the Red Sweater! You can check on that KAL for my posting there recently, to read the Scary Story of Starmore And The Series Of Unfortunate Events Which Led To The Frog Pond - suffice it to say here that I saw the light and am now working with, not a doubled strand of gossamer-thin cashmere, but a quintupled strand of same, which gets along quite a bit faster, I can tell you - especially when worked on lovely comfy 6mm needles!
Howzat for an evening's work? There is a band of moss stitch at the hem, and then the plainness of the back is slightly offset by two-stitch cable twists with a purl either side, which serve the double purpose of breaking the monotony and keeping the work slightly more elastic, and less likely to bulge/flop. Once the armhole level is reached, we can go mad on patterning - some ideas from Starmore, some from other books on Guernseys. Yes, one does feel a little guilty, rather like when you snatch something from the prepared-meal counter instead of slaving over a hot stove for hours - but heck, we didn't have until Tibb's Eve to get this done! It is to be worn at Midwinter and we're not all that far away from December 21 are we?
Dez asked what is my knitting style. Her own, mostly-German granny, she says, knitted in the Continental way, while her Irish granny knitted in the English lever-style (although, says Dez, she is likely spinning in her grave at the thought of doing ANYTHING English style...) You know, Dez, when you asked that, I felt an old, old tremor of panic which stems way back to childhood days and girls at school laughing at my knitting and the way I held the needles. It didn't have anything to do with being lefthanded - I learned to knit from my mother who wasn't - but being a Bohemian do-it-my-way, totally inconsistent girl even then, I didn't tuck them tightly in, didn't keep a grip on both needles the entire time, and didn't wind a strand of wool round a finger so that I could tuck it round the needle point without ever letting go my grip of the whole shebang. My casual, happy way was to drop the working needle for an instant to wind the wool round the point, and then pick it up again and carry on. And that, with some adjustments for tension control, is still pretty much what I do today. And every time I see new-to-knitting women being shy about the way they knit, I make a special point of encouraging their individuality and diversity. 'If it works, then it's right,' is what I hammer home. I just wish I'd had the courage of my convictions way back then. Instead I hid my knitting and would never be seen with it anywhere that someone might comment on my 'wrong' way of doing it. Hang on while I find my soapbox.
THERE IS NO - REPEAT NO - 'RIGHT' WAY OF KNITTING. IF IT WORKS FOR YOU, THEN CONGRATULATIONS! I'M ORGANISING A FESTIVAL THIS MINUTE WHICH WILL IDENTIFY AS MANY DIFFERENT WAYS OF KNITTING AS POSSIBLE. SO THERE!
Just think how badly some knitters with disabilities or other difficulties must feel when someone cruelly, smugly, tells them they're 'doing it wrong'. At the risk of lowering the tone of this weblog, one might suggest the gentle rejoinder, 'there's two 'f's in 'off',' but one shouldn't, really, should one?
And just for the record, I always knit into the back of knit stitches when working ribbing, because I think it gives a neater finish. My mother taught me that too.
Gosh, sorry Dez, I went off in a bit of a spin there. I think you awoke an old unhappiness that I'd almost entirely forgotten. That dread of all the huge, terrifying, hockey-playing, purple-legged girls in gangs who mocked anyone that didn't quite fit in. And if you came from a book-loving, music-loving, long- walks- on remote- hillsides kind of background, where each child was encouraged to develop his or her individual talents, then no, I sure as hell didn't fit in. There are still autumn mornings when I wake up and realise with deep thankfulness that I don't have to go to school.
ANYWAY, back to the knitting. The Norah Gaughan is also progressing apace, past the armholes on the back and heading for the home run at the neck.
It looks a little browner here than its soft charcoal grey (see, you can easily tell when DH isn't at home, can't you?), but it's so soft and beautiful that I keep stopping to stroke it. This could turn into a serious alpaca addiction - now I understand the term 'buttery soft'. And speaking of asymmetrical crop cardis, which this Norah Gaughan is (Fall Vogue Knitting International), I'm beginning to see them everywhere in the smart shops. Saw the most stunning little one in a very chic boutique the other day and actually went in to get closer to it. I imagine the price was in four or five figures, but I just wanted to get an idea. Someone was buying it, and one of the lissom exquisite staff put it on and modelled it. Worked in the thickest dark grey wool I've ever seen - way beyond bulky, I would say, and probably spun specially for the French company that did this (Lilith, I think). Huge long sleeves coming right in to the short cropped little body in dolman style, then a separate panel working up the back. The whole thing tied casually with a big kilt pin in front and looked devastating. (Even the pin had been carefully buttonholed in matching yarn, by the way). I sketched it hastily when I got back out into the street and will have to try to reproduce it.
And as if all those WIPs weren't enough, realised this morning that there were no socks on the needles. Which yarn to choose first? So many lovely ones sent as gifts, plus all those indulgences from the Canadian trip. Maybe the delectable raspberry ripple merino from Ms Knitingale ? Or the glorious Socks That Rock in Watermelon/Tourmaline from Angeluna? Isn't it lovely to have the choice? And aren't there wonderful choices out there? Gosh, it makes one seriously grateful to be alive and a knitter right now. When I was a kid, socks were knitted in Nylox (yes, just about as depressing as it sounds) in dark school green, dreary fawn, or end of the world grey. Not much inspiration there! Think I'll go and gloat over my sock yarn stash.