Sunday, November 12, 2006

Did I Actually NEED More WIPs?

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.


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.


Anonymous said...

Jo, thank you for several things. First of all you have helped to alleviate the twinges of guilt that were afflicting me the past few days whenever I looked upon the growing number of wips surrounding me. Secondly, my thanks for your soap box rant on knitting technique. As one who was persecuted by the knitting police as a child I now fiercely defend any knitters right to a personal method of knitting. I've met too many knitters who've been told that they don't knit "correctly". Heavens! Now I've forgotten the other thank yous. The Nora Gaughan sweater looks as soft and luscious as it must feel. I don't think there is any yarn to match the drape of alpaca as well. So thank you Jo for the daily pleasure you afford me.

pacalaga said...

So, the Irish Hiking Scarf knitalong doesn't require you to knit the actual Irish Hiking Scarf pattern?
I love that Irish Saxon Braid. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Boy, do I ever agree with you about there being no wrong way to knit as long as it turns out the way you want. However, I do have a couple of pet peeves.

One, it doesn't matter which hand you hold the yarn with or whether you throw it or loop it, but I hate it when people refer to those methods as left-handed and right-handed. Here's why. When called left or right-handed, people get the impression that you have to knit a certain way depending on which hand you normally write with. NOT true. People of either handedness (that is so a real term, didn't you just see me use it?)can knit with either method. I use both, with a yarn in each hand, when I colour-pattern knit. Normally, I knit Continental. I was taught by my Irish grandmother who was taught by her German mother-in-law.

Two, when knitting with all knit on one side and all purl on the other, it's o.k. to knit in the back of your stitches, thereby twisting them, if you like the way it looks. But don't call it stockinette stitch because it isn't.

Three, knitting backwards, from the right hand needle to the left needle, can be very handy, like when knitting entrelac, but doing it all the time can make knitting from a pattern pure h***. And don't think you have to knit that way if you're left-handed, you don't!

I'll get off my soapbox now. Wow! Where did that come from?

LaurieM said...

Feeling feisty today are we? Does this have anything to do with the missing hubby?

I do believe you are preaching to the choir with this gang. :-)

Fiberjoy said...

The choir is singing in harmony on this one with you Jo. Isn't it good music to your ears? I watched a lefty being taught to knit at the LYS last week. She'd tried to learn as a kid but gave up in frustration. The teache, as well as knitting drifters, showed her various ways that people knit. She doggedly hung in there when, voila - she found her style and we all cheered.

Ms. Knitingale said...

The advantage to teaching myself how to knit, alone with just a knitting encycolopedia and a pattern, is that there was no one to tell me I was doing it wrong! I have a very unusual knitting style but it's fast and it, it's right. I know, because Jo says so.
Love the alpaca, love the red cashmere sweater. And Jo, you fit in just right in my book!

Anonymous said...

Jo, you just make my heart light!
I love reading of your fiber wanderings and life in your corner of Ireland. The pictures (both yours and DH's) complete the mind's eye snapshot you have already given me.
My Mom taught me "English", a patient showed me "Continental", but mostly I use a method I thought to be mine alone , but recently discovered has been used by Annie Modesitt (described in Interweave Knits Fall '06).
I must plan to start some more projects so I can have a backlog of WIP...I feel so behind having only one just now.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Indeed - there is no 'wrong' way to knit! I thought someone had stabbed the knitting police with a steel needle ages ago!
Love that silk and cashmere and what a perfect yarn for the Irish Hiking Scarf. You are like me - the need of a heavy winter scarf is only for about 2 days out of 365, but don't ever let that stop a girl from knitting!!
Oh the memories of the shortbreads with petticoat tails!
Also the knitting police need to be stabbed in the heart, as how does s/he know how many is too many WIPs. Give them a little thing like watching out for indiscretions on how to hold the needles while knitting and they run amok and start to make rules about WIPs. Do you still have a long steel needle, Jo, if not I do and I will be watching for KP anywhere that knitters gather!
Still no pattern or yarn for Red Sweater KAL, but not to worry, it will all come together - that's my theory and I am sticking to it!

Joanna said...

Hi Jo, I would like to know what the slanted cast-on is that you speak of? I am doing my C & G Handknitting and we are doing different cast-ons at the moment but it is not one I have heard of.
Nice to see so many projects on the go!

knitspot anne said...

i think the irish hiking scarf sounds de-lish. a scarf is my quintessential winter garment (though as i get older, i am more willing to wear a hat too . . .)
the red sweater looks a treat now jo! good for you for restarting.

Dez Crawford said...

Jo, thank you so much for your comments on your knitting style -- and your right to have it. I was merely curious whether you knitted "English" (perish the thought) or Continental, or some oher method (which you do) and I appreciate the time you took to answer my question. I'm sorry I opened an old hurt, but your response was lovely.

Surely the Irish Saxon Braid is appropriate for the Irish Hiking Scarf. Don't you know that pattern goes back to the Saxon invasions? :-)

I love scarves and am scarcely found without them in the winter months. You don't need to live in Sweden to be a scarf addict. In our moderate climate, I find that a scarf-sweater-hat-handwarmer combo, along with a light windbreaker, can be varied enough to get you through our windy, humid days in the 30s and 40s fahrenheit. Or, add a raincoat for sleety rain without over-dressing in a big, heavy coat. Also, a wide scarf is just enough to keep a light chill off your shoulders when you are wearing a cotton turtleneck.

To be honest about school? I still get a little nervous crunch in my stomach every time I see a nun or a schoolbus, and am very glad that I am not on it. I was a shrimp when I was a kid and could only retaliate against bullies through sneak attacks, and other guerilla tactics.

And of course you need more WIPs. One always does.

Thanks again for your lovely and always uplifting blog!

Anonymous said...

There are no knitting police, there are no knitting police, there are no knitting police,.......Keep writing that on your mental blackboard.

I learned "throwing", can continental, but have to watch my work more, instead of multi-tasking. The throw is fast for me, and comforting, and I'm perfectly content with it. Have a tendency to split the yarn with continental, and am more tense, not the purpose of knitting for me. A knitter paid up for courses at one of our LYS, and in the first lesson was told they wouldn't teach her if she kept knitting "wrong". They wouldn't refund her money either, or credit it toward yarn. Needless to say, we don't go there anymore.

Love the new red sweater, love love love the charcoal and drool over that regal yarn for the Irish/Saxon hiking scarf, an object one can only dream of in Texas.

Mother's side of the family are Welsh with Norman names, save a Scot in the 17th century. Think there is a lone Irish woman in the bunch, too. Interesting history.

Anonymous said...

Hear-hear there is no correct way of knitting.I am not sure what I do but in the past people have said 2you knit rather odd don't you?" .I must admit it's continental to me ...or as Holly would say just "mental mum" . Holly who learnt by watching me knits another way but we both get cloth!!!That Irsih scarf looks gorgeous .I am hoping to make Holly something red but I have so many things on the go and she is too busy with her Moose .For some reason I always thought Dez was a man yet I think I posted a note to her cat ( who is gorgeous!). Well as I feel less achey I hope to get on with the "Organza" which looks much better hung in our L.Y.S than on the pattern . If Mrs Moose gets her antlers today I shal try to persuade Holly to knit a scarf for My sister in the "Tapestry" I got cheap. She might go out hunting down a list of books on W.W 1 she wants for Christmas . If Jeff asks our L.Y.S just got Brittany needles and I want some plus the cute crochet hooks .

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with you on the 'right way to knit'. I use either hand, depending on what type of knitting I'm doing and where the needles are placed for what type of stitch manipulation needs to be done. But, the knitting police are still out there. A lady in my lunch knitting group at work just returned from a trip to Germany. While on the plane across the pond a lady from a European country that shall remain nameless - to protect the innocent - smiled at her and told her that, "you Americans work to hard at knitting." She then 'helpfully' took the knitting out of my friend's hands and showed her the 'better way' of knitting continental style. My friend smiled at her, took back her knitting and resumed her usual method which results in nice even stitches.

The Irish Hiking Scarf sounds great! I look forward to watching it being knitted.

Martina said...

Jo, I am so glad that you addressed the method of knitting issue! I too have alwys dropped my working needle for a split second while wrapping the yarn although I have my own sort of strange finger wrap for the yarn. I agree if knitting gets done the method is correct! I am sure though if speed is of prime importance to the knitter then maybe one of the "correct" methods may work better! I am an unorthodox knitter and I am proud of it!! (UOKA (unorthodox knitters anonymous) here I come!)

Roggey said...

Silly thing, of course you need more WIPs! It keeps you fresh for your projects... look at it this way, when one is giving you a serious bad time, you can put it down and work on another one, until it gives you a bad time. Then you think back to the first one and appreciate it for what it is and go back to it.

It's like polygamy without the headaches of figuring out who's the chief wife. You get all the good benefits AND the knitted items!

Anonymous said...

If you still know what all your WIPs are, you don't have too many.

Anonymous said...

p.s. - 'sock yarn stash'. Isn't that a lovely phrase to use? Hee.

rho said...

Oh, I am sooo glad I don't have those school memories YIKES!!

I am still suffering brain drain after the wonderful Knitters Retreat - oh you would have loved it!! I will write and send you pics of the wonderful beginning of a stash I got - AND I got a quick lesson on using my Spindle that Ed Jenkins made - everyone was raving about how perfect it was. I must take a minute to write Wanda about it tomorrow too.