Designing may require some fairly accurate maths, but it’s not by any means an exact science. Or more specifically, designing things that other people like is not easy to predict. For me, having fallen at least a bit in love with what I’m making seems to help, but there have definitely been times when I’ve thought ‘Wow! This is great, it’s got to fly!’ only to find the response when it’s out there is lukewarm.
The Mimi Clochette demonstrates how the reverse can also be true. It started off as something of an improvisation. I had a generous amount of Artesano Aran left over after making the sample for Colour Pop Snood and wanted to make a hat for my little girl, then aged 18 months. However, the yarn being at the thick end of the aran scale, I thought that a beanie style would end up looking too bulky, so I dreamed up this cloche and named it ‘Mimi’, since “me! me!” was one of the things she said a lot at that time.
This first version was made by knitting a double width strip for the brim, then picking up stitches along most of the top edge and working in the round up the crown while doing some fairly rapid decreases. With the thread pulled tight through the top I then folded the brim under and stitched it in place, doing the same with the ends of the brim and putting a faux-button closure on the overlap.
I was pleased with the result and considered releasing it on Ravelry. Then my knitting group saw it and the common response was ‘It looks so warm on your ears! Perfect for dog walking! Make a grown-up version!’ Shortly after that my MIL saw it and her response was ‘It would be perfect for lambing season! Make me a grown-up version!’ So, before long various members of the knitting group were pattern-testing a version that included baby, child and adult sizes and my MIL had a hat complete with the ‘I Love Granny’ buttons she happened to have lying around…
By the time I found myself writing up the design for Knit Now Issue 8 (in the shops now), I’d realised that I could simplify and improve the design by knitting the brim in the round, meaning even less sewing- which as far as I’m concerned is always a bonus- as well as a neater finish.
Its evolution might have been a bit of a happy accident, but when it comes down to it, this is a warm and cosy hat with a bit of a difference. It knits up in next to no time and would be easily tackled by a confident beginner. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that this was a formula that worked…
I’m not usually very good with New Year’s Resolutions. If I ever make them, mine end up abandoned long before the dreary dregs of winter have gone. The start of this last haul through the gloomy cold months is just not the right time to instigate policies of self control or self denial are they?
This year I thought I’d do things a little differently, and instead of promising to give up chocolate after 9pm or take up yoga again, I promised I’d give knitting a shawl a try.
Shawls seem to be a little bit like socks in the knitting world, in that there seem to be groups of people who make them endlessly. They casually refer to designs by name to one another and create pieces of intimidatingly awesome complexity while joking about how the cat kept sitting on their work while it was in progress. Another group have never tried knitting them, and have no intention of doing so as they don’t see how they’ll ever have use for them in their wardrobes.
When it comes to socks, I’m somewhere between the two camps, veering nowadays towards the latter. While I love the sweetie-counter effect of the 4ply/sock section of yarn shops and admire the technical expertise that goes into patterns, I’ve made a couple of pairs, got very bored by making the second each time and never really worn them.
As for shawls, I’ve never really got on with stuff that drapes around my shoulders but could see myself wearing them more like scarves. What scares me is the idea of tiny needles and skinny, skinny yarn (I’m a DK+ girl in general) not to mention the fact that whenever I’ve glanced through patterns in magazines I’ve been unable to make head nor tail of them. Nonetheless, being a curious knitter who likes to try out new things and also quite stubborn about resisting intimidation by scary-looking pattern, I decided that despite my qualms, in 2012 I would make a shawl. It was mainly a matter of finding time and a reason.
This was the reason. Or one of them. This ball of gorgeousness is Skein Queen 4ply Squash yarn in ‘Fairytale’. It’s a superwash wool that came into my hands as leftover from a yarn tasting my knit group did recently. I adore the colours and was going to use it for my Beekeepers Quilt. However, since I had nearly a full skein it seemed a shame not to make a whole item with it. Then it occurred to me that it was a dear friend’s 40th birthday coming up later in the year…and a reason to keep my resolution appeared.
I’ve chosen (on the recommendation of those friends who name-drop shawls) Liz Abinate’s Traveling Woman Shawl. I’m told it’s an easy one to begin with, and it looks lovely. So far I’ve begun on the ‘set up rows’ and already I can begin to see how shawls work. It might sound dim, but I didn’t even know where you began with a shawl- top? bottom? one of the corners? It’s the top, apparently (or at least, it is with this one). I’ve yet to hit the lace yet, when charts, repeats and multiple stitch markers will kick in, but so far it’s not been as bad as it looks. I may never become fluent in shawl-speak, but I think I’m going to keep this resolution. I might also add that, even without a resolution, this year I’ve taken up running…
It was a case of keeping the breathing even and giving it a go today. This was true for trying spinning yarn on a wheel for the first time ever and also for bringing both babes along to an event like this. A new friend, made at a local knitting group I’ve been attending recently with M (thank goodness for the smoking ban that means I don’t feel guilty taking her to a pub/restaurant at night time!) organised the day at her home, invited us and assured me that she truly didn’t mind me turning up with a lively toddler in tow. True to her word, when we arrived her sons had sorted through childhood videos to find things P might like to watch, there were toys out for him and some very young rabbits and a rather old cat for him to make friends with. Coupled with the fascination of wheels used in a way he’d never seen before and rather more biscuits than he’d usually get his hands on he had a whale of a time. M meanwhile was passed from one pair of arms to another, was hypnotised by the gentle rhythm of the pulling of wool tops and treadling of wheels, eventually giving in to sleep under my Manu cardigan.
As for me, I finally got to try out spinning and unsurprisingly I loved it. Yes, I struggled with the wheel going the wrong way, let my yarn get too twisted, found it hard coordinating pulling out the fibres, pinching the thread and keeping the treadles going, got lumps and bumps in some parts then went so thin that the yarn snapped- in other words all the issues a newbie spinner has apparently, but I loved it all the same. It’s definitely something where you have to get into the ‘zone’ and be somehow aware of what’s happening, while letting go and almost ‘listening’ to the yarn. I love the idea that you can go right back to the source, creating the yarn and then knitting the garment from it- the connection with craftswomen of the past seems even stronger than with knitting alone.
I don’t think that now is quite the time to be acquiring my own wheel and starting up with spinning, but it’s firmly on the long-term wishlist!