Knitting Without Mistakes

Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote the book “Knitting Without Tears” as a guide for knitters to learn when and where to take short cuts. Extremely witty and full of useful tips, it is a fantastic read, not just as a book of information, but as a book of encouragement.

I should have read this book on Friday before I began the task of joining two pieces of my yoga wrap together…

This simple garment comprises of two sleeves and a back. No shaping, some patterning and some rib – nothing hard. That said, I had misread the instructions and found myself re-doing the trellis pattern four times! Once I got it, I was on the home stretch. I knit across the back and then well into the 2nd sleeve before I realised I would run out of yarn. Drats!

So I unravelled the 2nd sleeve and some of the back. Rather than re-knit the sleeve in the current direction and risk running out of yarn again, I decided to knit from the band up and join the two pieces together. Makes perfect sense… until I got to the grafting!

I watched some YouTube videos and set to work. The 1×1 rib on the edge stitches looks a bit messy, but I continued… 2 hours later, I’m still going and whilst the middle section looked fine, those 1×1 rib edges are just not right (tight with a clear ditch). By the time I finish, I decide to that I wasn’t satisfied and so pulled the last 18 stitches out.

I tried everything I could think of – grafting with a wool needle, grafting by knitting, and crochet grafting. How could these stitches defeat me! This is where I needed Elizabeth Zimmermann to tell me in her reasonable voice to put my knitting down and have a cup of tea!

Instead, I pulled the stitches out again and tried making up my own version. Surely if I just glare at the stitches for long enough they will do what I want!! After searching through my books and more YouTube videos, I come to the realisation that the only way to do it is with a two step grafting technique. By now it’s too late and the tears are coming!

Why does a piece of knitting bring out such emotion? For me, my perfectionist streak comes out. I know that finishing can make or break a garment. It can ruin a neat piece of knitting by rushing to finish those dreaded seams. As I am making this garment for myself, I knew that I would be looking at those stitches and feeling disappointment every time I went to wear it.

For now my yoga wrap is sitting unfinished in a project bag. I’ll get to it again soon, after I drink some tea, read some Elizabeth Zimmermann and make peace with my knitting.

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Time for Tea

What is it that makes tea so comforting and warm, like a big cuddle? Coffee can taste good and give you bursts of energy, but tea hits the spot with that “ahhhhh” sound. It can be relaxing and refreshing. It can give you 5 minutes away from your desk (or even at your desk) that clears your head and soothes your soul.

I drink tea all day long. I have a black tea after breakfast. Another mid-morning. Another after lunch. Then for my afternoon break, I swap to green tea (one cup a day is meant to have multiple health benefits). Then after dinner, I’ll have a flavoured tea (with black or green base). I love liquorice, ginger, chai, cinnamon. Anything warm and spicy.

How much of the fondness we have for tea is in the dried leaves and how much is in the ritual of it? Measuring the leaves (or grabbing a tea bag), waiting for the kettle to boil, pouring the water and then having to wait for it to brew and to cool down to drink. And we can only ever sip it.

In a world where everything is so fast, this tea making ritual is the 5 minutes that slows us down and makes us contemplate the world through a steamy lens. All the more reason to get that good teapot out and fill it up!

PS. I might just have to crochet a tea cosy. It could save me pouring so much cold tea down the sink!

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The Common Cold

You can determine when a common cold has got to you by the amount of knitting you are able to do.

The more knitting done shows the better you feel. Less knitting indicates low energy. Knitting with lots of mistakes indicates it’s time to take a nap and sleep it off.

Undoing your knitting for the fifth time indicates a state of delirium and you should not be making knitting decisions during this time.

So instead, I’ll watch some reality TV and drink endless cups of tea. If I’m lucky, I’ll fall asleep and dream that I’m knitting…

Weaving

I’ve been looking at woven wall hangings on Pinterest for far too long! I thought that if I purchased a weaving frame (via Loom & Spindle) then I could have a go at it myself.

I studied weave for 12 weeks or so in the first year of my textile degree, so one would think that it should come back to me quite quickly.

Warping the frame was very easy and with the help of various YouTube videos, I was on my way. Tabby weave and rya knots followed by some tapestry triangles. I’m not sure how to finish the piece yet, but I am loving mixing the colours and the simplicity of cotton stitches. Creating geometric shapes is so enjoyable and relaxing.

Slight Delay

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I’m working on a crocheted beanie for myself – a chemo cap. As it turns out I have another week to finish my beanie… chemo has been postponed.

I have one more test to do and then I can begin. This gives me some time to rest, crochet and watch more of RuPaul’s Drag Race!!

First Machine Knit Jumper

After learning to use a Passap knitting machine at university, then buying one and playing around with it, I still felt I had much to learn. I had made beanies, a pair of socks and a pair of bootees. All small items which whilst still challenging, didn’t take much of a commitment from me. So whilst I had some time on my hands, this was the perfect opportunity to make my first machine knit jumper.

Using just one strand of wool (dark navy superfine from Bendigo Woollen Mills), I made some swatches to work out if my tension was on track. I then followed the instructions for Sweater from the Passap Duomatic 80 Manual (p.75).

This project was about learning how to follow a Passap pattern (with it’s unusual terminology, such as +7×1•20R) and learning how to do the shaping (both on the machine and for the garment to work).

Knitting the pieces took patience, knitting one piece per day and knitting the front multiple times over. But sewing the seams was the real killer! I did it all by hand and whilst I started my mattress stitch with stitch to stitch accuracy, by the time the sleeves were on, I couldn’t continue with such precision.

This piece is far from perfect. There were dropped stitches on the front left which when I picked them up, pulled at the fabric. The seams are stable, but I will need to work out a faster way of doing this task. The finished garment fits, but it is a little shorter and tighter than I would like.

All in all, this has been an interesting process which I hope to improve over time (and become faster at). I would love to make more garments and really take these simple pattern shapes and build upon them in interesting and unique ways.

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Wall Hanging

I’ve been lusting after the colourful woven wall hangings that have been turning up on social media. The problem is that many are simple weaves with the focus on the fringing, the yarn and colour. As much as I love these, I always feel like I should try to do a version, but with knitting or crochet?

After mucking around with free form crochet, I was able to create some interesting texture by using a smaller crochet hook and thinking of each crochet row as a string of pixels. Once I added the little piece to some tree twigs and added the fringe, it is complete. I’m happy with the results and would like to make some more in other yarns and colours. These could make great little presents…

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Crochet Cowl – Version 2

As I had such good feedback via Instagram and Facebook to my brown and blue cowl, I wanted to make another version of it, but simplifying the number of yarns used.

For this version of the Crochet Cowl, I used Rustic 8 ply (100% wool, shade 985 Sienna) from Bendigo Woollen Mills and Silky Merino DK 8 ply (90% wool/10% silk, shade 0111 Brick) from Adorn Yarns (available at The Wool Baa). I really like the combination of tweed being matt with small flecks and the wool/silk blend being shiny. These colours sit really well together.

I still have a few cms to go before it is finished, but it’s a great project to travel with and it stays interesting as every few rows the stitch changes. Probably a good second project for someone who has just started to crochet. There is enough stitches to practice and perfect as you go across each row with enough variation to not get bored.

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Inspiring Designers – Liz Clark

I’ve recently taken to YouTube to look up tutorials in all manner of artistic pursuits and that led me to looking at what videos exist that talk about design, namely textile and knitwear design.

YouTube being what it is, you start with a few keywords and then fall into a rabbit hole of related content and it was through this that I found the following video.

It shows the studio and work of Liz Clark who is a knitwear designer and printmaker. It’s inspiring as she has a beautiful studio filled with light, but it shows her knitting by hand, machine knitting and printmaking. I love that she can move effortlessly between these different mediums (and that she acknowledges just how different the knit machine is to hand knitting).

I will keep an eye out for more examples of her work. Whilst I couldn’t find her website, I did find a link to where she exhibits and sells her work – Verandah