Friday, 26 November 2010

I used to be a Yarn Snob.....

.... but I'm all cured now.

When I first started knitting at the age of 6, I used whatever left-overs my Mum or Nan gave me and made rectangles which would be sewn into tubes, then had pencils poked through either side to make sleeveless dresses for my Pippa dolls.  Once I progressed to making jumpers (my first proper knit was an aran waistcoat when I was about 12) my Mum would buy the yarn for me after I'd chosen a pattern, which was often from Women's Weekly, Woman's Own or Woman.  Once I was in sixth form, I'd go down to the local yarn shop on my moped and choose a pattern and yarn and pay for them out of my own money (I had a Saturday job).  Note how I say 'yarn' and not 'wool'.  'Yarn' because the range in our local yarn shop wasn't what you'd call extensive, especially the colours.  But.... it was the early '80s and, well, if you're a knitter, you'll know exactly what I mean.

Then, I moved to London and went to college.  Again, the department stores didn't have a great deal more to offer than my LYS.  I did, however, find out that Harrods sold  yarn, went there in my lunch hour at college (in South Kensington, so walking distance) and made a soft orange cotton jumper with a cabled yoke (and dropped sleeves - we're still talking 1980s here!).

Move on a couple of years and I'm now working in Bloomsbury.  A walk of about 3 minutes from Ries Wools of Holborn and a short bus ride from Oxford Street and Liberty.  I'd also read about Kaffe Fassett.  "Oh dear" I can hear you thinking.  For the next, ooh, probably ten years all my knitting was done using Rowan yarns.  The hours I spent browsing the huge selection, especially the 25g skeins of their lighter-weight DK (and I still miss the Designer DK - why they stopped making it I have no idea).  I even made a cardigan for DD1 when she was a toddler using Rowan yarns.  Not that she wore it a great deal - I never seemed to have the time to hand-wash it and she outgrew it long before it was past its best.

That's all changed now though.  The yarn market has changed enormously in recent years.  From turning up my nose at acrylic in a "proper knitters only use pure wool or cotton" way, I now find myself oohing and aahing at some of the yarns that are now available.  Even the budget yarns.  I've made several school cardigans for DD1 from Sirdar Bonus DK (so easy to wash - bung it in the machine with the spin turned down then lay in the airing cupboard), plus a few cardigans for both my daughters using Hayfield Bonus Fantasy DK and Stylecraft Special Twirl DK (it's lovely and soft and the colour variegation is very pretty).  I've got some James C Brett DK in variegated pink to make another cardigan for DD2 and this morning I took delivery of this from Texere:

5 x 200g of James C Brett Marble Chunky in blue/green/purple.  It's destined to be a Sloppy Joe type sweater for me.  I'm going to use Elizabeth Zimmermann's 'percentage' sweater pattern from "Knitting Without Tears".

Don't get me wrong - I still have lots of very nice yarns in my stash (as any of you who have seen my stash page on Ravelry will know).

But.... I don't think I can call myself a yarn snob any more.

I've been cured!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Sometimes a pattern just grabs me...

... and I have a 'Must Knit Now' moment.

This happened to me a couple of days ago. I was catching up on other blogs (ironic really when I neglect this one so shamefully) and saw Grumperina's post about her new pattern, Volna and new that it was something I had/needed to knit. Straight Away. Despite all the other WIPs. I even knew which yarn I'd be using - the Handmaiden Swiss Mountain Sea Silk that my husband bought me for my birthday. It's in the Pansy colourway and is a glorious mix of rich, jewel-like purple, blue and green. The pattern was purchased on Weds evening and the yarn wound with my Sunflower swift (birthday present from hubby). Yesterday morning had me rushing to feed the dogs as soon as the girls had gone off to school, make a cup of tea and sit down with pattern, needle (using my 4mm KnitPro Spectra Flair tips - the pink ones!!) and yarn.

The pattern's not difficult as such, but it does need a bit of concentration. Not because of any difficult stitches (it's garter stitch, with k2tog yo eyelets and short rows), but because there's a main pattern and then two wave or wedge patterns (the main pattern separates each wave) and the repeats of each section don't start at row 1 either. So, I took some time yesterday to make a spreadsheet of each step of the pattern so that I can keep track.

Anyone else planning on making this I'd advise to read through the pattern first and use both the written instructions as well as the charts, at least for the first pattern repeat. Once you get going, everything falls into place - a bit like with socks after you've turned your first heel.

Anyway, I'm having to limit my time on this as a. I have a household to run and b. I have other WIPs on the go that I want to finish, especially the socks I'm knitting for my Mum. She paid for the yarn, so I really should get on with them. Normally a pair of socks wouldn't be a problem, but I decided to do these in a k4, p2 rib on the leg and, quite frankly, they're a pain. Still - I think I've got 35 rounds of the leg to go, then 15 rows of k1, p2 ribbing for the cuff on the second sock and then I'll be free to concentrate on my other WIPs (although there's always the possibility that I'll cast on something else).

I'm also being very firm with myself about stash-busting. I bought 5 x 200g balls of James C Brett Marble Chunky this week (which I'm hoping the postman will deliver today) as I want to make myself a Sloppy Joe type sweater using Elizabeth Zimmerman's 'percentage' sweater from Knitting Without Tears, but then that's it.

That's all for now.