Throw yourself in

Star cardigan Β© Samantha Groenestyn

This is my favourite cardi, which I knit a couple of years ago, and which has travelled all over the world, gotten its sleeves dirty in cafes, gone out on fancy dinners and taken French classes. It’s an all-purpose winner of a cardi, made from an old 1940s pattern called Charm Star Cardigan. The buttons were a particularly spectacular Etsy find, being hundred-year-old Czechoslovakian buttons–a country which no longer exists! The wool is 100% Italian merino, very fine–lots of teeny tiny stitches. It took some time to knit, but the thin fabric was worth the effort. This was my first colourwork project, and I taught myself to strand the second thread behind the first, from a book!

(The dress I made from a 1953 Simplicity pattern, and the shoes are from Paris).

While J has been in Sydney making physics, I’ve been taking advantage of some extra alone time to do some wicked crafting. I whipped up these modified socks for my brother for his birthday, which each feature a little space-invader:

I’m not an avid sock-maker, but I’ve enjoyed these and will probably churn out some more, especially with winter and the promise of boots coming up. If you’d like to make some, I’ll be adding my instructions on Ravelry in the near future.

My knitting confidence is growing thanks to a relatively new acquisition of mine:

With a deeper understanding of how knitting builds a garment, and a scrap of paper to scribble on, it’s easier to think analytically about what one is doing when knitting, rather than blindly following a pattern. For these socks, I had to adjust the number of stitches to match sock wool (what?–I know, right?), and then work out proportionally where the decreases ought to go, or how wide the heel ought to be. The perplexing instructions I had called for very bizarre proportions with worryingly narrow heels that made no sense to me, and very long heel-to-toe measurements. Perhaps my brother has small feet, I don’t know. At any rate, they fit a treat, even without measurement, since they were a surprise gift!

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s almanac is very different to what I expected, having read plenty about it fulfilling some sort of biblical role in the knitting community. It is essentially a storybook about an old lady who is knitting a different item during each month of the year. Sometimes she is on a camping trip, other times she is out watching extreme sports and napping in the car. She writes a narrative about the construction of her item, and then provides the ‘pithy instructions’ which are what we would ordinarily expect of a pattern. Reading the book is more like sitting down with your Nanna, ‘yarning up’ (Australian pun) and casting on, and being talked through the process of construction. None of the items are really appealing enough to make, but I have picked up some gems in terms of the strict angles created by particular decreases and so forth. In fact, she makes me think of Richard Sennett again, who discusses three ways of providing instructions: the cautionary, which looks out for pitfalls that the follower might walk into; the narrative, which aids understanding and memory by taking the follower on a journey; and the metaphorical, which I referred to here.

My other crafting includes a little black dress, replete with pleats. I always throw myself into projects with far more confidence that my experience ought permit–I have altered a pattern in crucial ways that I’m not sure I can think through the construction of it–but how is one to learn without extending oneself beyond what one already knows?

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7 thoughts on “Throw yourself in

  1. How I wish I could knit, but I’m a far better crocheter πŸ™‚ I can’t quite fathom following a pattern, let alone making a cardi! Sounds like it’s been on one helluva journey with you πŸ™‚

    • I love to crochet berets, but this seems to be the best I can manage. I think patterns are getting better and more explanatory these days–I used to work with crazy handwritten ones by my Oma, that were R1: K. R2: P1, P2tog, rep. and so forth, in her spidery scripted hand. At the end you’d have a carnation! x

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