Wishing you all a most marvelous New Year, fingers crossed it’s a year over brimming with happiness, laughter, good times all round…we can but only hope and do our best…after what was at first a bit of a rubbishy start to the Christmas holidays, we actually had a nice, restful break, just the three of us, some old tv box-sets including all the lovely BBC Narnia Chronicles which I don’t think I’d actually seen in their entirety before.
Christmas Day afternoon saw me sitting on the sofa with a fat pot of tea by my side, and after a deep breath, and big hug to give a last fond farewell I began un-ravelling my Open Sky shawl…as readers of my blog know, I’ve pretty much just learn to knit, while I could do very simple garter stitch or stocking stitch for dishcloths though even then I needed a lot of quiet and if mistakes were made then everything would have to be un-ravelled and I’d just have to start all over again…..this all began to change at the end of the Summer, after deciding it wasn’t very likely a fairy godmother was going to magically appear and swoosh her wand, if I was going to learn how to knit I’d better start by practising and teaching myself…so with the help of an old Harmony knitting guide I slowly began to cast on, and generally just have a little play to see what I could do…and you know what…something seemed to just click and my knitting looked okay.
Then I fell in love, hook, line and sinker…I saw this shawl on Instagram and was right on the verge of asking a very kind knitting friend if she’d be able to knit if for me, then I stopped and thought, no, I wanted it so bad I thought I’d just have a try and knit it myself.
So I bought the pattern, and slowly cast on to began to knit the shawl…it felt amazing knitting it myself…the best way to describe it was like when you first learn to ride a bike, turning round to see your dad isn’t holding your seat anymore and you’re actually cycling all by yourself….wheeeee.
And that’s just how I still feel to be honest, I still can’t believe the slowly growing fabric in my lap is something I’ve knitted, there’s a pattern in the stitches, holes that are meant to be there and it doesn’t look like something the cat has coughed up (my first attempt at crochet looked particularly grim).
The wool I used was from Jamieson and Smith, I’d bought one of their shade-cards at the start of the year and had been half dreaming of making something with their wool, though back then it had been crocheting an edging for my grannies paperweight blanket. The wool I’ve chosen for the shawl was their Shetland Aran, which sadly is now discontinued but I’ve just checked their site and they still have some left and the colour range is so nice.
It feels lovely to use, it sounds quite raspy and shuffly as it moves through my fingers and over the needles….and when I’ve needed to un-ravel then it holds the stitches very well so I can slip my needle back in before they slip away to the row underneath.
Finally I cast off the last stitch and had hoped to be all Isadora Duncan and be shawl flinging and dancing around…and ended up half near strangled, I’d knitted up the shawl far too tight and hadn’t even thought to do a gauge/tension swatch…So I was a bit cross with myself but wasn’t going to give up quite yet. I’d already made some mistakes while knitting, and for the most part learnt to correct them myself….actually I learnt to correct all my mistakes…to begin with I’d un-knit the row and keep count of the stitches, and before too long I could see what I’d done wrong…then one of those lovely serendipitous moments happened, I found the funniest video by Stephen West…and was determined to not be a waffle or a quitter.
I’m not sure if Bernard thought all the un-ravelling was the greatest game in the world, he pretty much buried himself under the wool and made the loudest purrs….then Boxing Day I got up very early and began to cast on the shawl again. When I knew I’d knitted the first shawl wrong, I made some swatches with the remaining wool in a series of different needle sizes, and am thinking I’m a bit of a tight old knitter. The pattern has called for a 5mm needle but to get the gauge asked for I’m having to knit using a 6mm. I sort of twigged I wasn’t going to have enough wool so bought 4 more balls before Christmas, thinking any left over can be used in a hat or pair of wrist warmers.
When I began trying to cast back on I kept getting in a bit of a pickle and after I think the third attempt decided to start off with one of the rich sheepy scented new balls then work in the un-ravelled wool as I progressed…… I think I spent nearly all the holidays on the sofa with a gradually increasing shawl and a big pot of tea never that far away….and yes, there’s been a few mistakes, often daft ones where I wasn’t paying attention…and after knitting up some swatches for the Knit British British Breed Swatch KAL over on Ravelry, I’ve gained a bit more confidence so at one point where I’d made a mistake about 15 rows earlier, I just went “oh do it”, slipped out my needles and just un-ravelled….just down to where I needed, and then carefully, picked up my stitches and carried on, quite happily with a rather impressed looking boyfriend sitting beside me. (okay, I like to think he looked impressed, but I suspect the reality was he thought I was a loon for un-ravelling as he couldn’t tell where a mistake had even been made.)
Something I’ve found helps me keep my place better is to use plenty of stitch markers, and almost every row they’ve saved my bacon as the odd yo or psso seems to get forgotten about.
I love this wool so much, it smells so good, and I can’t help think of that as the “baa ram ewe” factor….I’ve tested one of my swatches by pinning it under my thermals to see how it is against my skin, and while there is a first ripple of feeling something there, it’s not unpleasant and once I’ve made this shawl I’ll certainly be thinking of something else to knit with it next…..I’m hoping there’ll be enough wool left to knit a matching beret style hat or something. I’ve also tied pinning a swatch to my clothing to see how it wears and it’s still looking good so I’m thinking this would be rather splendid for a cardigan.
I’m thinking my knitting looked nicer when I used a smaller needle, my original shawl was knitted on a 4mm needle (which explains why it was so tight), the wool is rather less forgiving on the larger needles, but I’m sure it’s going to look grand when it’s wrapped round me a few times.
Sorry for waffling away, I’m just so happy to be knitting this shawl again (and it’s feeling a long more drapey and shoulder flingy than the first one.)