Friday, 30 April 2010

knitcroblo5 - Location, Location, Location

Where do you like to indulge in your craft? Is your favourite arm chair your little knitting cubby area, or do you prefer to ‘knit in public’? Do you liek to crochet in the great outdoors, perhaps, or knit in the bath, or at the pub? TAGGING CODE: knitcroblo5

About a year ago, we decided that our spare room was just too small for all the things we wanted to do in there. Not only am I a prolific collector of new hobbies, Mr. Jelliebeans is also a musician and needs his own desk space for other things. We decided to swap - the small room is now our bedroom, and the larger one is what we call our 'office' though we could just as easily call it a den or creative space. We wanted it to be adaptable, depending on whatever we needed space for at any given time, but also fairly minimalist. Plus, we were on a tight budget!

When Mr. Jelliebeans is recording his music, I'm often curled up here with either my needles or a book in hand:

I made the 'rug' under the sofa - it's actually a quilt. The sofa faces a big window.

Nowadays, though, Hurley often claims this prize spot, so I often knit at my sewing/painting/writing/general craft table.

The painting on my easel is a creative exercise from the book 'Painting Abstracts' by Rolina van Vliet. My fabric and yarn stash, along with all my other supplies, are in the cream chest of drawers and the plastic roll-out drawers. The cupboard behind houses, among other things, my canvases.

Most of my knitting is probably done on the living room sofa though, watching TV or listening to music and accompanied by this little gremlin:

That underbite is outrageous.

Odessa Hat

I finished this a couple of weeks ago, and despite the warmer days, it has been great for keeping my head warm when I'm out on early morning dog walks.

This is knitted in leftover blue acrylic with some beads that I already had. I thought they were a bit big, so I only did three 'rows' of them.

It was a very quick knit and an easy to memorise pattern. I plan to make another in some Sirdar Luxury Soft Cotton. I've already bought some beads for it and a proper 'big-eye' beading needle. Hopefully the cotton will make it suitable for summer!

knitcroblo4 - A New Skill

Is there a skill related to your hobby that you hope to learn one day? maybe you’re a crocheter who’d also like to knit? Maybe you’d like to learn to knit continental, knit backwards, try cables or attempt stranded colourwork. TAGGING CODE: knitcroblo4

If I started listing all the skills I would like to acquire, given that I am such a new knitter, I could be here all day. I’ve mentioned cables this week already, plus the fact that I’d like my tension to improve. I’ve dabbled with crochet, but I would really like to learn how to do it properly. I want to learn how to knit the different types of heels in socks, and one day get a kick out of knitting two at a time. Maybe even – gasp – design a few things myself.

But to do any of that I need a more basic skill. Let’s call it ‘stick-to-itiveness’. I have a flittish personality and too many hobbies. I throw myself into a pursuit, but a few months later find myself drawn into something else. I’m like this with everything – a Jill of all trades. I read a little history, a little popular science, too much self-help. I draw a little, paint a little, sew, quilt, write, and now knit. I’ve dabbled in computer programming, gardening and a bit of cookery. Knitting feels like a perfect fit right now. I can be challenged when I want to be, or just keep my hands busy while watching TV.

I’ve heard it said that you learn 80% of a skill in 20% of the time it takes to master it. What sorts the dabblers like me from those who are masters of their art is that they have stuck-to-it for that final 80% of the time to master the final 20% of the skills. I’m good at lots of things, but not great at anything. I can tell you the difference between a perennial and an annual plant, what the golden ratio means in painting and the hero’s journey in storytelling, but can I show you an accomplished painting, novel or garden border? I could show you some of my attempts – and you may even be impressed – but look closer and you will still see that veneer of inexperience that tells you a deeper truth about me.

What may be different with knitting is that there is a wonderful community online. That may keep me going for a while longer. And I am getting better at sticking with things. Unlike other pursuits, knitting lacks the snobbery that causes tension in other creative communities (I know there are accusations of yarn snobbery, but that’s nothing like the arguments that come up in artist or writing communities, trust me. I don’t know how you could accuse a knitter of ‘selling out’, for instance). There’s a desire to share and learn from each other in the knitting community that is just so welcoming.

This blog is called ‘Jelliebeans Makes’ and not ‘Jelliebeans Knits’. It’s primarily a knitting blog at the moment, but it may not always be that way. I know myself! But I always come back to things. It’s like a revolving door where I revisit old pursuits, introduce new ones, and others fall away.

Perhaps what this will mean is that I’ll reach about 50 and all these skills will blossom all at once and I’ll become a master of lots of things - or some sort of mixed media artist with a wide range of techniques to draw upon. Perhaps I’ll always be a Jill of all trades, master of none – but I’m pretty much at peace with that. My curiosity and interest in trying new things is something I like about myself and I don’t really want to lose that.

But it would be nice if there was something that I was quietly but consistently working away at in the background. Something at which my skills were growing at a steady pace while I’m otherwise distracted by shiny things. I’d like that thing to be knitting – it fits into my life so well and I don’t have to make special plans or change my clothing in order to do it. But I do need to master a new skill – one which needs a clumsy word to describe it: stick-to-itiveness.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

knitcroblo3 - One Great Knitter

Write about a knitter whose work (whether because of project choice, photography, styling, scale of projects, stash, etc) you enjoy. If they have an enjoyable blog, you might find it a good opportunity to send a smile their way. TAGGING CODE: knitcroblo3

I’m going with a designer for this entry – or more precisely one book by a designer that has caught my attention.

French Girl Knits by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes recently made its way onto my book-buying wishlist, and may end up being the first knitting book that I buy. Kristeen’s designs are a combination of feminine, romantic, with a bit of 60’s inspired styling that I really love. I’m quite close to being a tomboy in the way I dress, but when I do go a bit more feminine it’s this sort of style that I feel comfortable in and Kristeen designs this wonderfully.

Most of the designs incorporate lacework, and I’m sure that I’ll end up trying my hand at a couple of these. There aren’t a huge number of projects on Ravelry – I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps the book hasn’t been released in all countries, or it’s just not very well known. Whatever it is, I find Kristeen’s designs to be different and very appealing and if you haven't seen them yet, I definitely recommend taking a look at the Ravelry book page. 

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Progress piccies

I'm steaming along on Cherie Amour.

There are lots of comments about problems people have had with the top half. I haven't run into any yet, other than my own mistakes. I had to 'unknit' two rows last night to fix places where my lacework had gone out of line.

It's a fun pattern, but it's not TV knitting! I am using Patons Sorbet, a cotton/acrylic blend bargain from Kemps.

Also, I've been working on the Incredible Top down Raglan. This is in my Ravelry notebook as 'First Jumper'.

This is in cheap acrylic DK from Aldi! I had put this aside because I thought it was going to be massively too big, but I just compared it to a jumper that I do wear and it's not that different. The sleeves are on the big side - perhaps I will make them batwing sleeves given my new affection for Ashes to Ashes styling!

I cast on for this without even planning to. I bought the yarn, decided on a pattern, swatched and cast on just to see how it knitted up - and I ended up this far! Then I got cross with myself because I'd been planning on Cherie Amour as my next project so this got shoved to the back of the shelf when I thought I had sizing issues. I'll probably start back on it again now - after all, endless stocking stitch is great TV knitting. :)

knitcroblo2 - An Inspirational Pattern

Blog about a pattern or project which you aspire to. Whether it happens to be because the skills needed are ones which you have not yet acquired, or just because it seems like a huge undertaking of time and dedication, most people feel they still have something to aspire to in their craft. If you don’t feel like you have any left of the mountain of learning yet to climb, say so! TAGGING CODE: knitcroblo2

I wasn’t sure what to write for this entry in Knit and CrochetBlog Week. The pattern that I’ve wanted to make ever since I saw it was CherieAmour and I’m working on that at the moment.

To a certain extent though, I’m hiding behind the chunky lacework. It means I can hope to get a wearable piece despite my problems with uneven tension. I have not cracked this yet, and I’m hoping that practice, practice, practice will sort it out.

Then it jumped out at me. There is a pattern I would love to try, but that intimidates me. Central Park Hoodie. It is not just the cables, which I haven’t tried (well, apart from back in 2002, but my attempts were never very good), but also the swathes of stocking stitch, where my tension problems will be visible to the world! Plus, it would be a more time-intensive project than anything else I've done.

I love this hoodie – it is the kind of thing I could imagine pulling on every day. Judging by the number of projects on Ravelry I'm not the only one who feels this way! It is definitely what I am aspiring to. Maybe I’ll try Fetching first, which is described as a great pattern for cabling beginners.

Speaking of the 80s. . .

I went out wearing a batwing jumper yesterday.

I blame Alex Drake.

Monday, 26 April 2010

knitcroblo1 - Starting Out

How and when did you begin knitting/crocheting? was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?  

For the first day of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, the topic is Starting Out. This is an odd one for me, because I consider myself to be a new knitter.  I picked up my needles in October 2009, which – amazingly – was six months ago.

But this wasn’t really the beginning of my relationship with knitting. I remember a set of little red needles I had as a kid, whining at my mam to put some stitches on them so I could copy what she was doing. She, no doubt, was knitting a school jumper for me, which I’m sure was far more common in the 80s than it is nowadays.

My mam only ever knitted out of necessity. It was cheaper to knit a school jumper than to buy one. These were the Thatcher years, and families in the small industrial town where I grew up didn’t have much loose change in their pockets. There were two types of school jumpers in my primary school. There were the ‘proper’ ones, which were sweatshirts with an embroidered school badge, and then there were those like mine. Hand-knitted in the approximate shade of red with a school blazer badge hand-stitched onto the chest. The badge was heavy canvas, so it made the jumper wonky on one side. Some of the girls had cardigans instead with cute buttons (one of mine had ladybirds).

When I was in middle school my auntie Lizzie knitted school cardigans for me and my sister. She got the colours the wrong way round – I got the red cardi, my sister got the blue – and I was silently relieved because by that time no one was wearing hand-knits anymore, and I didn’t want to be the odd one out. I’d already made a social faux pas on my first day at the new school by bringing a little tin Garfield briefcase for my schoolbooks, which stood out among the smart black business briefcases that everyone else had. (Briefcases, by the way, were not the best idea my school ever had. While it may have looked impressive to visitors, do you know how long it takes for a teacher to unlock a briefcase when another kid has changed the combination?)

So I came out of childhood knowing that knitting was something you did to save money. Plus you could put cute little buttons on if you wanted to.

As with so much that I do, I decided on a whim back in about 2002 to take up knitting. Up to that point I’d been a cross-stitcher, but I was getting bored. I remembered seeing wire baskets of wool in the shop where I bought my Anchor and DMC threads. As is so often advised, I asked the shop assistant what I should buy to get me started. After some hesitation, he sent me away with some aqua acrylic DK and a pair of size 10 plastic needles. I got a ‘vintage’ book from the library about techniques and sat down with a desire to learn and lots of patience.

Over the next couple of months I made swatch after swatch – garter stitch, stocking stitch, moss stitch – I even had a go at cables. I added some white, lilac and navy wool to my miniature stash – acrylic DK, since I didn’t know there was anything else out there – and got busy with colourwork.

This was quite exciting for me after the comparative monotony of cross-stitching. I got out graph paper and started making my own colourwork and stitch charts. I think in the back of my mind I had the vague idea of sewing all these swatches together to make a blanket.

This was knitting as far as I knew – as I had always known it. I don’t think I had any plans in mind – I just wanted to see if I could do it.

I was enthused, excited. But when I sat down to find a pattern for something to actually make, I gradually lost my enthusiasm. The only patterns I could find were garish or novelty, or just plain old-fashioned. It didn’t take long before I put my needles down for good. Plus, I’d never quite lost the feeling that knitting wasn’t something a twenty-something should be doing.

Fast forward seven years to Autumn 2009. I’d showed my DH a scarf in a catalogue that I thought he’d like, but he balked at the price. On a whim, I said ‘I’ve still got those knitting needles upstairs. I’ll make you one’.

It was partially a joke, but the idea took hold. I found some wool in a charity shop – they had quite a bit of choice, so I picked out a bag of 6 Rowan Damask in bluey-green (‘Serpentine’) for me, and some navy Jaeger Ascot for him. They also had some other lovely yarns, including some Debbie Bliss, which I left behind not knowing what a treasure trove it was. I kick myself about that now, since I haven’t seen anything like that since. Someone must have had a stash clearout!

I knit a scarf for each of us, and in searching the internet for a reminder of how to cast on, how to form the stitches, I discovered a whole new world. Knitting wasn’t just to save money – knitting could (as I’d suspected in 2002) be done for fun. It was also kind of cool – girls with tattoos did it (I have tattoos, but mine are cutesy and hidden).

And so it is different this time. I’m sitting here six months later wearing handknit socks and writing a blog post about knitting. I am knitting my current project on Knitpro circulars which are made of wood and have a level of multi-coloured prettiness that nowadays I take in my stride. Well, of course knitting accessories are cool, and cute, and funky. So are knitted things. So are knitters!

Knitting is no longer the same for me. Now that clothes are so cheap, it’s no longer something people do to save money. A knitted garment can (and probably will) be more expensive than buying something on the High Street. But, of course, there is so much more to the handknit – it will be one of a kind, made to fit you, embellished or minimal to your taste. Plus, once you’ve got the skills (I’m still working on that bit) it will be better quality than anything you can get off the rack.

There are wonderful designers out there, and with the internet you can find them all.

A major part of my continued interest has to be Ravelry. In this wonderful website I have found more information than I could have ever dreamed of, organised in a way that is so intuitive and inspiring. The members and project pages are an endless source of inspiration, and I have found all those patterns I wished for the first time around. I have made things I am proud of, and that I actually wear. I haven’t blogged about them all, but they include a shawl, fingerless mitts and – of course – socks!

I can wield a set of DPNs without poking myself in the arm (too often) and am currently test-driving the relative merits of metal versus wooden needles. I am working on my first full size garment – Cherie Amour.

I think my Nightsongs Shawl is the most beautiful garment in my wardrobe. I haven’t worn it yet – it’s been too cold – but I take it out and wrap it around myself just to feel it and look at it. There is no way I could ever have owned something this lovely if I hadn’t made it myself. It's not perfect - of course it's not - but I love every inch of it.

One of those quotes that pops up everywhere is by William Morris:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”

Knitting has always been a useful skill to have. What I have discovered is that it can also be a way of creating something beautiful. Because of that, I believe - I hope - that this story is just the beginning of a long journey to come. 

Friday, 16 April 2010

Some gratuitous puppy pictures

Making has resumed - I have an Odessa hat and some Basic Fingerless Mitts finished, though not yet photographed.I also have some projects from earlier in the year, like my Nightsongs shawl, that I should get some nice pictures of now that the weather has turned nicer.

So, with the lack of creative pictures, and so that this blog doesn't die, here are some pictures of Hurley, who is currently attempting to help me write this post by jumping all over my keyboard.


These pictures give the impression that he lounges around far more than he actually does!