Sunday 24 May 2009

Different stitches

Just the other day, I was talking with fashion student Charlotte, whose major subject is knitwear, expressing a vague desire to take up knitting again after about 100 years away from it. Some people post the most beautiful knitted items on their blogs, filmy tops, glorious socks, jolly hats; not a pink nylon crinoline lady toilet roll cover amongst them. I aspired to this, but tempered with a harsh touch of realism; how much could I remember? Could I miraculously turn into a Completer-Finisher type? I know from experience that there is a Slough of Despond moment in the progress of many knitted items - even Charlotte often gives her obliging grandma things to finish for her.

Charlotte would refresh my ailing memory and teach me to cast on with needles, she said. Alas, I had charity-shopped my large bag of assorted needles years ago (see, you shouldn't really ever get rid of anything!) and would have to start collecting the basics again. Yarn and needles seem to have evolved fantastically since my primitive knitting days, and patterns have certainly improved too. Yet I have stayed firmly stuck in the early '70s, when I had actually managed quite a lot of a cable sweater for the Lovely (little) Son, but hadn't the staying power to finish it.

Then today, when walking the dog, I passed two German ladies sitting on a bench in the sunshine, each knitting the loveliest striped sock. I was drawn magnetically towards them, the dog too, although she just wanted to see if they had anything to eat, this bench being close to the local sandwich shops. We chatted about their work and they strongly recommended bamboo needles - the
equivalent in the knitting needle world of cashmere versus acrylic sweaters, they said. We talked and talked, and had they not been waiting for their taxi to take them to day 2 of their Indian friend's wedding, we might well have ended up round my kitchen table drinking tea. I had a feeling that they might be knitting throughout the lengthy ceremonies of the day.

Encouraged, I will pursue the notion of taking up the needles again, but first I want to send
out a plea to you skilled and creative knitters - where to start? What patterns are good for someone who is starting over, is easily daunted, tends to look twice her size in handknits, and wants to create pretty, wearable things that don't look like Great-Auntie Gladys has made them from scratchy cut-price Shetland wool leftovers. Sandra knits, but her taste is towards the utilitarian - balaclavas, mittens, warm cardigans; Charlotte is altogether on another plane, too avant-garde and artistic for a born-again novice, at least for now.

All advice, comments, biased opinions, suggestions and useful links exceedingly welcome!

(BTW, the picture is of a little cupcake I
once made for Charlotte; marzipan knitting is so easy to do, and if it goes wrong, you simply pop it into your mouth and start again.)


BumbleVee said...

that's me...all for the marzipan knitting..... lol...

Charlotte said...

You can get a set of bamboo knitting needles on eBay pretty cheap and I'll have a look at what books and patterns I have in my bookcase. I also have loads of knitting magazines and patterns that I got off a fellow freecycler in my car boot. When I finish uni I want to make a massive blanket of all different stitches (hopefully with some croched (sp) squares if I can learn it). We could make a knitting group with Sandra lol. Mum said there was this group of ladies at Alnwick Castle that knitted the most random things, one even knitted a grandma shopping trolley! One day I shall be at the standard of those ladies. x

rogern said...

I foresee some sensible little winter bootees for Millie.

Marie said...

Do you know this blog?

Lisa has just gone wild on spinning, but she's really a knitter.

I don't knit, or spin. I just like to live vicariously.

rachel said...

Thanks, Charlotte. I love the idea of a knitting group; maybe we should get your grandma over too!

Had a look at that blog, Marie - now there's a wonderful new toy to play with!

But, you know....I'm a bit of a nine-day-wonder person; maybe I should get to grips with my neglected new sewing machine first. Or finish sorting that dresser? The house?

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