Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hand in Glove, Caps and Crochet Knitting Challenges

I got a lovely knitting book recently called How To Knit which does exactly what it says on the tin - and it has some lovely patterns as well as tips on everything you wanted to know about knitting but were afraid to ask. I thought I was a cool knitter who knew all the basics - which I do - but this book has really opened up a whole new world of knitting tips I knew nothing about.

This includes putting names on the different methods of casting on, and different ways of casting off, and about the different types of seams which was all news to me. I guess I was a casual knitter who just got on with the job and didn't think too much or at all about the details like finishing off and seam-sewing,and yet ended up with reasonable end results. So I hope this book will enhance thewhole knitting experience for me and not inhibit me into a stressed-out striving for perfection type who ends up fretting over the minutiae of a project instead of going all out for something because it appeals to me.

Terminology is a whole new world to me - American vs. British/Irish terms which I didn't even know were different - but binding off/casting off, and stockinette/stocking stitchare two that I discovered here. The needle sizes would wreck anyone's head as there is no correlation between the US/Metric/UK sizing. They appear to be completely random and thought up by some hungover sadist having a bad Monday, and I am constantly referring back and forth between various charts.

I've made a lovely cricket vest for eldest cricket-madson, and realised after reading this book I should have used a so-called Backstitch Seam (?) for strength, and I didn't - I just top-stitched the side seams. Now they look fine and I guess they are fit for purpose, but it would be stronger with the correct backstitch one. I would correct this in future, and will do so on my next cardi or jumper. So I have learnt a whole lot of new stuff in this book - and I'll take it on board as needed.

I learnt to knit from my mother and she knew it all in her head, so I never needed to learn from a book. Techniques like blocking and pinning and pressing are Greek to me, and tension squares are only of theoretical interest - more a suggestion than a necessity. Now I do try to match yarn and project within reason, and will aim for the correct yarn and needle size on the pattern, but I've never let such considerations get between me and an interesting project, be it a crochet pot holder or a pair of gloves or a hat.

I have made a nice cap from cotton yarn from Lidl, cheap as chips with a lovely finishand soft texture which washes like a dream, and I decided to make a pair of gloves from the same yarn. I used the pattern in this book, and totally changed the specs.

Result - a terrific pair of gloves of which I am inordinately proud, and which will probably be useless for keeping me warm in winter as they are a) cotton which is a summer fabric and b) a bit big which means they won't be snug fitting. On the plus side,they match the cap, which was also knitted totally off spec, and turned out just fine, and I love it - it's quirky and different and very cosy - so maybe the same will apply to the gloves.

I actually made a glove according to the pattern, using wool and correct tension and guess what? I didn't make the second one because it was a) scratchy and woolly and b) uncomfortable at the seams. So I am unconvinced by the merits of being too bound by patterns - use as a guide and let your imagination flow a bit. I made three bolero cardis last year and love them all - one is cream baby wool with a hint of a shiny thread running through it and is a perfect summer evening cardi; one is the correct wool as per the pattern, and is fine but has a few mistakes I didn't notice till itwas finished, but as I wear it with jeans it doesn't really bother me, and the third is black mohair which is quite classy - all turned out fine and as it's a lacy openwork pattern it has some flexibility built in.

Here are some photos of the gloves and cap - and the book. I made some cool crochet pot holders from leftover cotton yarn, and put a picot edging on them - just to see if I had any memory of crochet left as it was years since I did any and I aspire to make a granny squares throw this winter!

I hope this post inspires you to give theunusual a shot and not be daunted by a seemingly intimidating project - I found the gloves great fun to make and even though they were listed as challenging I made them in a few evenings. There are wonderful sites out there like Ravelry and Garnstudio, so just get Googling for millionsoffree patterns and ideas for inspiration.


Stephanie V said...

Kudos on your gloves and hat! I like them, too.
I know what you mean about learning to knit in simpler times. All those very fancy Victorian knits were created without a need for 6 different cast-ons, weren't they? And I learned with British needle sizing in a US-pattern world. I quickly became a bi-lingual knitter. UK and US needle size 5 was the same and I knew it just reversed from there. That was my simple code for many years.

Then metric hit and we had to learn a whole new language. The better US magazines do include metric sizing. It would be nice if the whole world just got on with this system - now that I know it. Well, sort of. Since I sew and knit I'm really good with those measurements and weights. Buying veg at the market? I'm still working on that!

Rudee said...

First, let me say I love those gloves and the hat. You have a right to be proud after knitting itsy-bitsy tubes for your fingers!

Secondly, I am just as flustered by the differences in needle sizes and terminology. I do have some gadgets that measure my needles in both metric and US sizes, but even this can be deceiving. Only a swatch gives me the correct answer. To save sanity, I wish it was all one unit of measure.

Garn Studios has great patterns that I often have difficulty interpreting due to units of measure. Not all patterns are spelled out for us backward Americans.

Keep on knitting, my friend. Your work is beautiful!

Irene said...

It does make me want to go out and get a similar book and buy the yarn and the knitting needles. I know knitting is a very calming activity, but I never learned to do it properly and there's much I don't know, but that I will have to learn. I can see myself doing this. Thanks for the encouragement.

Deniz Bevan said...

Gorgeous gloves and hat Catherine! I learned from my mother too, and to this day I'm surprised I can knit :-) She was diligent about showing me, but did everything in her head, while I need super detailed patterns. My grandmother's worse - I keep asking her to teach me to crochet (all I can do is make a chain) and she just takes it from my hand, whips up a doily and says, "here, just do that."

T. said...

I am so impressed that you made gloves! I never seem to get beyond knit/purl, alas.