A year of knitting and losing my heart to pointy sticks and yarn…..

 

row 7 of Open Sky Shawl with Jamieson's of Shetland wool

For the past week or so it’s slowly dawned on me that it must be coming up to a year ago that I cast on those first handful of stitches that become my Open Sky Shawl by Andrea Mowry….since making those rather hesitant and rather wobbly stitches I think I’ve knitted almost every day and can honestly say I’ve well and truly fell down the rabbit hole of knitting.

While I had had various dabbles with knitting growing up, I’d never really felt particulalry comfortable, I struggled to tell the difference between my stitches and as for reading my knitting….I’d have had more joy trying to translate a page of Latin.  Over the past some years I’d just about managed a couple of very simple garter stitch and rib scarves, some don’t look too closey at them wrist warmers and about half a dozen rather bright and gaudy coathanger cosies but doing anything more was a distant dream…..

my Kenny Everett leggings

I also knitted some dishcloths which I was rather pleased by, though these too took forever and I’d have to whisper knit,purl,knit,purl to keep up with what was on my needles…… Around about this time I met Anne, who is both an amazing friend and a wonderful knitter….she kindly gave me a few lessons but nothing seemed to stick and as soon as she’d go home I’d promptly forget what she had taught me though I did end up with the beginnings of a knitted tea cosy however I had a bit of a mishap with the gauge (which is putting it mildly) and so that’s still waiting in a cupboard upstairs to get finished…….but I hadn’t written knitting off….I’d pin beautiful knits on pinterest, I’d read knitting blogs, I’d hoarded a small libary of books which I’d flick through and sigh with wonder at the pictures more than anything else and I even purchased a fancy skein of yarn for ‘one day when’……

Then a couple of things happened….firstly I was nominated for a couple of blog awards which involved answering lots of questions and I even answered  one of the questions someone else had been asked …”what do you wish you could do/do better”…straight away I said “I wish I could knit”…and that got me thinking….this wasn’t something only a fairy godmother could bestow, it was something I could make happen if I really set my mind to it….. so I started practising…a little every day.  I started off with really simple stitches and made some swatches…and then I saw a shawl…..all soft blue stitches, ripples of squishy garter stitch which completely captivated me…..I couldn’t stop looking at it and while part of me thought “I wonder if Anne would knit that for me” another part of me said “just do it”…..

wrapped in golden sheepy blissSo I did it…. I bought the pattern and a pair of circular needles which I’d not used before, found up some Shetland woolly  yarn I’d had all tucked away and with the help of numerous youtube videos, slowly but surely began knitting the shawl….. and finally after all those years of false starts and forgetting what I was doing, the stitches began to make sense…I could actually tell the difference between knits and purls…. I was knitting 2 stitches together, slipping them and passing them over….. it all felt a bit like the first time I rode a bike down a hill without my dad holding the seat for me (though that ended up with me falling off at the bottom into a rather cow patty and muddy smelly crossing between two fields)…however the feeling of “whhhheeeee” was no less great.  I joined the Ravelry group for Andrea’s patterns and had loads of help and encouragement from other knitters and also from Andrea herself….no-one made me feel daft by some of the silly questions I asked and my confidence grew with each row.

WYS socks on Brittany dpns

My knitting wasn’t perfect, I had to un-knit rows and correct mistakes and slowly I began to see what needed to be corrected…there was a bit of an end of the world moment when I made a right bodge up about 2 rows before the end but then after a bit of a cry I managed to sort that out (watching this video by Stephen West made me laugh and that helped me to stop fetting) … then I cast off my wonderful wonderful first proper knitting attempt….and I half near strangled myself.  I’d made the shawl far too tight and ended up having to un-ravel the whole damn thing….but like falling off that bike when I got back on…. I began knitting it again after on a somewhat larger needle and this time when I cast it off…..such happy-ness (spelt like that for Eva)….

spindrift damson socks

Since then I feel like I’ve been on a real journey of discovery with my knitting…around the time I started knitting my shawl (the first attempt) I read a post by Felix Ford which led me to discover the amazing Knit British podcast (I defy anyone to listen to this awesome podcast and not want to pick up a pair of pointy sticks and go grab a ball or skein of British yarn) and spent a very happy month immersing myself in the wonderful celebration of wool that is Wovember…..

I also began taking part in the Knit British Breed swatch kal on Ravelry where I started exploring the beautiful and different types of yarn that are made by using British Breed sheep… to which I must say a huge thank you to Isla at Brit yarn for stocking such a wonderful variety of yarn and also to the incredible team at Blacker Yarns…..luckily yarn is calorie free or I would now be as fat a mole from all the testing and sampling of your fine delights……the feel of a really sheepy yarn, one with a bit of character and the whole world of charm has this year made me feel like my heart will burst.

socks for the beloved

Something I’ve noticed time and time again this year are the happy serendipitous chances and coincidences that turn up with my knitting…I wanted to buy some knitting needles and to test out a few from different brands…I found Meadow Yarn which is a nice on-line company which stocked all the ones I wanted to try..when my parcel arrived I just glanced at the return address before doing a proper Cary Grant double take…they are based in Bramfield which is just one village over from where I grew up…and in emails since with Anj she’s told me how she walks her dogs over Blackheath and will sit on a bench with a little plaque on it to do her knitting…she’s often wondered who “Brian” was…..well he was my dad and the bench was put there after he died.

working the fourth section of pips

Another knit a long I took part in was the Nature’s Shades kal (organized by the lovely Louise and Isla) …this meant knitting something using just undyed British yarn….and one of the creamy woolly pips in the shawl I knitted for it came from Wensleydale sheep just a few miles down the road at Ilketshall.

I really don’t think I’d be where I am with my knitting if not for the wonderful and warm community of knitters I’ve met on Ravelry….I’ve had unfamiliar techniques explained or have been sent links to videos which show what to do, been encouraged by so many people and get cheery messages from people all over…. I’ve had different needles and yarn reccomended, patterns suggested or gifted….seeing Julia‘s gorgeous socks (she must have the warmest toes in Scotland)and Claire‘s shawls and cardigans,  Mazzy‘s beautiful knits using Blacker Classic yarn, and receiving Gail’s chats all the way from Nebraska (she creates the most breathtaking ceramics…the colours are incredible) ….have been really special and have really inspired me.

tapestry wool pips

After I’d knitted my shawl, my lovely friend Anne showed over the course of a few weeks how to knit socks…on some little old double pointed needles, which sort of looked like cocktail sticks…at first it was a bit odd and felt more like trying to hold a very wrigglesome hedgehog…but then, something seemed to click and make sense….

I don’t think I’d ever thought I’d be able to knit using those pointy pointy, pokey at both ends needles, but thanks to Anne’s patience and a bit of practice….I now love using them.

WYS Owl socks for Anne

Along with knitting 4 pairs of socks for myself I’ve also knitted a pair of socks for my boyfriend…just seeing him sit on the sofa and wriggle his toes in his new socks made me feel so proud and happy…. and possibly even better… after years of receiving gifts of beautiufl hand knitted socks from Anne for my birthday and Christmas, I knitted this pair of socks for her…there were a few tears as we’re both a bit daft like that….

second sleeve on my Ramona cardigan

And I even knitted a cardigan…it’s probably not the prettiest looking knit in the world but ooh, it’s so warm….the yarn was some I’ve had for years and was something like 10 pence a ball from a charity shop….it’s all wool yarn and it feels a bit tickly but I like how those dappled colours remind me of the pebbly beaches and the cold North sea of the beaches of my childhood….what was really interesting though and nice as a beginner was recognizing the same techniques I’d used to increase the first shawl, and then knitting the sleeves on double pounted needles like I’d do for socks….

finsihed karise

In the Spring I won a gorgeous skein of Tamar from Isla at Brit Yarn, which is a rather fancy new yarn from Blacker Yarns, it’s a beautiful blend that is really luscious to the touch and lustrous to the eye….after lots of squishng and sighing, I decided to buy a couple of skeins of it to knit my boyfreinds’s mum a shawl, she used to knit herself but now has trouble with her hands so it’s not very easy for her to anything fiddly.  She’s wonderfully kind and I wanted to make something special for her…to be fair the yarn is so lovely and the pattern by Karie Westermann is so very well written and easy to follow that really the credit is all theirs….

morning sunlight on Tamar yarn

Because I liked the shawl I made Kathy so much I then wanted to make one for me, actually I wanted to make one for me within a few stitches of casting on Kathy’s shawl…again I used the Tamar blend by Blacker Yarns…. the stitches seem to glow and the yarn was a real treat to knit with.

strawberry pink Blacker Classic sock

I think using a good woolly yarn to learn to knit with really does help, stitches (even the most wobbly ones) will still look a lot nicer than using anything that is all cheap and nasty…and it doesn’t squeek or seem to pull so tight…..and one of the reasons that I like Blacker Yarns so much is not only is their yarn all British, often being made from some rare and endangered breeds but that they have yarn that is suitable for every budget…. their Blacker Classic is nice and affordable and knits up so brilliantly….I used it for my strawberry ice-cream pink socks and they are so warm and toasty.

karise detail

Along with using woolly yarns I’ve also tried knitting with some non woolly ones…I knitted this shawl (another Karise by Karies Westermann…I’m currently knitting my fourth one…the pattern is very easy to follow and the finished shawl is so pretty…I’d definitely reccommend it if you’d like to try your hand at lace knitting) ] for one of my sisters and the yarn is a blend of alpaca and silk…. I didn’t find it so easy to knit with as the Tamar, the yarn was a lot slippier on the needles and I found it a lot harder to see what my stitches were doing….however I loved the colour.

ishbel lace with life line

As I mentioned way back at the start of this post, I’d had tucked away a very special skein of yarn that I’d bought on a bit of a whim…it was so beautiful and proper charmed it’s way into my heart….for the past 5 years or so it’s been sleeping, just waiting to be woken up….. and this Summer I finally wound it up in to a ball (on the most un-glamourous looking old homemade nostepinne I think you’re likely to see) and cast on…. I first saw the pattern for Ishbel about the time I bought the skein and I don’t think I ever really thought I’d be able to knit it….. I don’t think I’ll ever quite get used to the amazing difference that a little soak in warm water and a couple of days being pinned out onto a board can do to any sort of knitting but especially to lace knitting…… I’m trying to keep the finished shawl for fancy, but I love it so much that I’m wearing it now almost every day.

heel-and-instep

My last finished knit from my first year of knitting are these bright and cheery Butterscotch socks…the pattern is called Hermione’s Everyday socks and is by Erica Leuder and it’s a free pattern on Ravelry (the generosity of knitters is just beyond words…. there are so many really nice patterns on there that people have taken the time to create and share for free which is really kind and just one example of knitters being lovely people.)…there is also an interview with Erica Leuder in the online magazine Olann and which should be published on or abouts the 27th of September.

Anyway, I wanted to say such a huge thank you to everyone who has either commented on my blog over the past year, either giving me encouragement with my knitting or just stopping by to say Hi to me and Bernard, to all the lovely people I’ve met on-line via Ravelry and also a huge thank you to Andrea Mowry for creating a shawl that made me pick up those pointy sticks and get knitting (I’m afraid my house doesn’t get hoovered now quite as often as it did before but I’m sitting here with a huge pile of brightly coloured knits so don’t mind a few dust bunnies)……

I wanted to send a little love Andrea’s way for being such an inspiration and also offer you the opportunity to try one of her beautiful patterns so, if you’d like the chance to win one of Andrea’s patterns then please pop over to her Ravelry store  and have a look at her beautiful knits, then leave a comment below telling me which of her patterns you’d like to cast on……  The draw will finish midnight Sunday October 2nd….if you aren’t on Ravelry then you can pop over to Andrea’s on-line store via the link and see the patterns there……

 

ETA  please feel free to still add a comment below if you like but the giveaway has now finished….

 

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21 thoughts on “A year of knitting and losing my heart to pointy sticks and yarn…..

  1. As you know, I can completely relate to your knitting journey so far. You have accomplished so much in a short period of time and have produced some amazing pieces. Your confidence to frog your work gave me the confidence to do the same and of course, to start my Ishbel. Andrea’s designs are all beautiful but we have just returned from a camping trip in the beautiful, rugged, autumnal countryside and her Rudbekia hat just jumps out at me for so many reasons. The knitting techniques would be new to me but hopefully manageable in a hat sized project. As for the yarn, I’m going to have a go at some plant dyeing and I see the yarn Andrea used was plant dyed too so it would good to put my trials to good use. Just think, a year ago I’d have run a mile at the thought of knitting a basic hat, let alone such an exciting one!

    1. Sending you a huge hug for your kind words. I think all her patterns look so squooshy which is what tempted me so much with the shawl.
      Hand dying yarn sounds really interesting, I plant dyeds some fabrics several years ago now and made a quilt. Mostly the colours were variations on mushroomy browns with a couple of very soft yellows xx

  2. I am so far behind with my first knitting venture. The only thing I’ve cast on (after three froggings) is a very basic blanket. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the shawls you’ve made. I think I’ve said before that I’ve got a thing about shawls (I crochet mine, rather than knit)… You’ve definitely made learning to knit look incredibly easy. I’m thinking about picking up the needles again! x

    1. I think you just have to be patient with yourself, like all things once you’ve got the hang of it then the world is your woolly oyster. Put over to Andrea’s site or ravelry page (she’s dreareneeknits) as she has some really nice simple knits, I certainly found her Open Sky Shawl pretty easy to follow and the support from her ravelry group was terrific.

  3. What a lovely, lovely post and I hope you’ve inspired a lot of beginning knitters to persevere and keep expanding their skills. Even after knitting now for about ten years, I still get awestruck by how much there still is to learn and try – it’s a never-ending, wonderful rabbit hole of creativity and inspiration and I too am so in love with the knitting and woolly community and humbled by their generosity and warmth. As to Andrea’s lovely patterns – it was definitely the Modern Mukluks that stood out for me – the floors are starting to get cold now!

    And here’s to your next wonderful year of knitting and exploring new yarns!

    1. Thank you, I think seeing something that really captures your heart makes a big difference in really sticking with it when you learn a new craft, and nice yarn obviously helps a lot too.
      I love slowly learning all the new things and then seeing those same techniques crop up in other ways…hoorah for knitting (and for chilly days like today when I can go out wearing two hand knitted knits!!) xx

  4. Greetings Ericka, well done for your perseverance and for your many achievements. I have popped over to Andrea’s ravelry page and there are so many lovely items there … I particularly like the mitts pattern..Wish I could buy those lovely British wools you mention but never mind I think I might use a Cascade 220 worsted instead as I have that on hand. Please give a large hug to Bernard and wishing you a lovely week ahead. Best wishes, DA
    PS I attended the first crochet lesson last week and am back tomorrow for another…. the teacher says we will learn how to do a granny square (not sure I am up to this yet but let’s see).

    1. Well you have some beautiful yarns there in Tazmania too…what is the Tazmanian Wool Centre like? mmm her mitten pattern is so toasty and cosy looking. Hoorah for going to your crochet lesson and look forward to hearing all about the granny square progress.
      Bernard just stomped up the stairs and has sprawled himself out on the bed….he’ll be there now til midday….it’s like having a teenager in the house!

      1. The Wool Centre is situated in Ross, approximately 2 hours drive from us. Actually its rather a lovely place to visit and we try and get up that neck of the woods once a year at least. (There’s a wool museum there too). Otherwise there is the Wool Shop (not far out of Hobart) which is a pretty good place to buy yarn and we have another shop in town called the Stash Cupboard who sell Cascade, Brown Sheep and lots of other overseas yarns including NZ ones too. And of course there are handspun yarns around the traps when one is visiting markets etc. The Granny square (well its not exactly square……) is still in progress. I basically just did what the teacher told me to do so haven’t got into working it all out myself yet but I have a couple of good books to help me – I am a slow learner! Our two cats, Lily and Jas, are inside today as we have torrential rain. They send a warm and friendly pat and kiss to Bernard. Best wishes to you.

      2. The Wool Centre looked nice from what I could see of it on-line and the wool museum sounds really interesting. I’ve got two fat skeins of handspun yarn that I bought at the start of the year, I’d like to buy some more of that to knit up for a cardigan or little top as there have been comments on how many shawls do I atually need….. if I could show you my first granny square you’d laugh so much, it was more a granny rhombus, my “corner” ended up being in a middle of a row…the lady who taught me to crochet used to say “just stick the hook in a hole, it doesn’t matter which one” just to get me in the hook/hand rhythm and that then gave me the giggles……being a slow learner is fine, once it all clicks and falls into place you’ll laugh and say “oh it’s so easy” and then you’ll be taking your crochet everywhere (on car trips to The Wool Centre)….it was so sunny here yesterday, not very Autumny.
        Bernard isn’t as sensible as Lily and Jas, he often goes out into the rain, gets soaked then comes back in demanding to be towel dried before he runs off out again…he also likes to shelter under some plastic sheeting that was covering salad leaves until the cats next door trashed the lants….as always huge hugs xx

  5. This was such an interesting read, especially having been on my own knitting journey over the last year or so. I haven’t achieved nearly as much as you, frequently going back to my crochet but finally I’m feeling more confident and finally trying cable and realising just how easy it is had boosted my confidence so much. You’ve made so many lovely shawls that I’m now itching to cast one on but I must finish other bits first! Andrea’s patterns are beautiful, it took me ages to choose but I think it would have to be the open sky shawl (think I remembered the name right, I knew I should have put that bit first!) Are you going to create some lovely knitted gifts this Christmas? Hope you have a lovely week. Xx

    1. Hi Sharon, thank you so much for your lovely words, your incredible support over the last year or so has been really great and you’ve inspired many a blog post detailing a walk or a forgae through the hedgerow.
      I’m just using cables at the moment on a very pretty pattern by Louise Tilbrook… the intentions for knitted gifts started out very high however time is rapidly running out so it might just be a couple of pairs of socks for the boyfriend and his dad (though I have 3 shawls on the go for myself…oh, and a cardigan….)…definitely want to knit up another beautiful Open Sky Shawl as it’s a pattern very dear to my heart xx

  6. Such a lovely post. I’m amazed at your expert knitting after so little time. Using yarns that you really love makes such a difference. Andrea’s patterns look wonderful. I adore the shawls, but also love the simplicity of the Chevy hat. I would make it in a lovely Aran weight from Phileas Yarns, or possibly one from Ginger Twist Studio – in good British Blue Faced Leicester.

    1. Hi Claire, thank you…yes, good woolly yarn makes all the difference, especially if it’s nice and sheepy smelling then if you at least make a mistake you can smell the yarn to stop any fretting before you un-ravel or un-knit)….oooh British Blue Faced Leicester, that’s one soft,squishy yarn xx

  7. What a post! The happy-ness lass from the Adriatic did enjoy every bit of it, including the tempting givaway … (Range will be my choice, have plenty of Blacker yarn left for the project)
    The strange thing is the shared youtuber experience. Being me not realy a lass, more a maam, I started knitting in primary school – would you belive I started writing with pen and ink, the same as Beethoven, just to mention one? – but I hated it so much because my hands were sweating, the needles were creepy nad the yarn was either harsh wool or synthetic. Experience closed for decades. Then in high school, madly in love with a blue eyed guy who happened to climb mountains and descend in caves, places wher you would need a jumper in 1978 – I knitted a piecework for him. ( Honestly, it was a mess, but I was quite proud of my bleah knitting at that time). Being for this or for other thing, he left me for a rich girl – I was the bright one, but does it mean anything? – taking the sweater with him.
    After faux pas number two, I put knitting aside for good. And here we are approaching the you tube issue. Mother of two, while shopping in Klagenfurt ( where Brüno used to mock a local politician, if you remember the otherwise poor movie) I spotted a lovely pair of transparent wellingtons for kids. What a nice thing! I bought two pairs and the lady at the counter insisted to put in my bag, apart from the boots, two strange skeins of variegated yarn and some wooden sticks. My german was not so brilliant, so, once I got it she was adding this at no charge, I graciously thanked her and …. started my adult life as a knitter!!!!! The yarn was a never seen at my latitudes self stripping sock yarn, the sticks were dpns and you tube was my first modern knitting classroom. I started with socks for the kids to be shown through the wellingtons, then off I went and now I am here, boring you with this mediterranean human experience. Lisa, it’s your fault! xxx eva

    1. Eva you are awesome. Actually I used to have to write with a dip pen and ink at primary school too, although my handwriting was so bad (I was so in love with a boy who wrote left handed and I tried to be like him) that I had to stay in for extra classes……transparent wellies sound amazing. When my boyfriend worked in Germany he bought me fabric for my patchwork and the ladies at that shop used to pop in little free things all the time but your yarn and needles sound very posh xx

  8. Ooh, how lovely to read this summary of your knitty journey. Actually, it was your beautiful Open Sky shawl and the way you described the knitting process that encouraged me to really get into knitting. After ten years of working norhing but garter and occasional stockinette, I finally sat down and knitted a sweet lacy shawl. I love your reference to riding your bike down the hill for the first time, because that’s exactly what it feels like! Thank you for being such an inspiration, and such a sweet lady, too :o)

    1. Hi Annemarie
      Thank you, your lovely comment has made me feel so happy and I’m glad to know I helped inspired you to knit your shawl….have you tried knitting socks yet, knitting them is brilliant and I think you’ll really enjoy making them too xx

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