When we started building our new home in the country I packed away most of my sewing equipment, thinking to myself “I will just do a bit of knitting while I wait for my sewing room to be constructed.”
Knitting has absolutely sustained me, excited and amazed me, during this time. I made a dozen or so items – mainly jumpers – and I have learnt so much.
Each item has been enthralling for me. I used nice patterns – both ancient and modern – to start me off, and then I found an approach, via Elizabeth Zimmermann, which freed me up to personalise my patterns, and take control of the design process. And although I have yet to make a cardigan, and perhaps a skirt, to tackle cables and lace, I absurdly feel able to do anything on the knitting front now, if I want to. Knowing that it will be an exciting challenge (can’t wait to have a go at steeking…), and that I can make wearable clothes, finding that yarn appears to be reincarnateable, has made learning to knit a complete joy, and one that was unexpected. I was actually so scared of failure that I avoided it for years. Knitting has been, for me, an awesome and magical process. Not only unknitting, but also lengthening, shortening, pulling out and redesigning – it is so much easier than with fabric which once cut never heals.
So I knew what I was doing last August when I packed away my tools and bought a bit of wool and some knitting needles. Knitting appealed for many reasons, but mainly as it was portable and sociable. I also was attracted to the fact that the basic equipment was very inexpensive. I bought my first needles from Sharon on Clitheroe market – £1 a pair with proceeds to Claire House, a children’s hospice. And while nice yarn is expensive I have found good suppliers at reasonable cost. And yarn is never wasted.
Post hoc alterations
One really important thing about knitting, that I did not originally understand, is that alterations are quite possible. In my 12 months of learning to knit I have now shortened and lengthened jerseys and changed necklines, and made the sleeves longer, and released tightness, and various other changes. I could have shortened sleeves too, but haven’t yet. Are they any other alterations that have worked for you? I noticed Karen Templer wanting to make an Aran sweater smaller which she is attempting to do with blocking and heating. Sounds scary to me. I would be interested to know if you have good techniques for making garments smaller or larger or a different shape.
Here is an example.
I knitted the Elizabeth Zimmermann “Seamless saddle-shouldered sweater” from Knitting without tears. But I didn’t really understand how to get the fake seam stitch to do my bidding. So it came out wrong.
I was going to try again, and then I remembered that all four versions of the Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless sweaters start in the same way – with the three tubes – two arms and a body. So I ripped out the knitting until I got back to three pieces plus one inch of yoke knitting, and then I changed course and made the Seamless Raglan Sweater. Here I am trying it on with the neck hemmed but no finish at the sleeve or waist hem, and the underarm seams incomplete. At this stage I am asking myself is the jersey too small? Not in the body width, or the arms, but it looks too short to my eye. I like shorter sleeves and I don’t want my jerseys too long, but this looks like a boy’s jumper worn by a woman. So what are my options?
I decided to lengthen the sleeves. I did this by knitting fairly long 1×1 ribbed cuffs. I also finished the underarm seams and hemmed at the waist. I am happier with it, but the jury is still out on the body length. There is no embarrassing flash of belly flesh (I am wearing a long sleeved pink Uniqlo top underneath). But maybe I should remove the hem and add a couple of inches of ribbing? Incidentally it is made from left over small balls of grey cashmere and it is lovely and soft and pleasant to wear.
The next item requires your feedback. As we are now in the country more I have been investigating charity shops. There are some good ones in Cirencester, including a hospice shop with a huge tin of buttons, and nice fabric offcuts. Last week I saw a cute child’s hand knit, with navy ribbing, for £2.50 which I thought might do for 6 year old Ted when he stays here. I took it home, and on a whim, tried it on. Of course it looks like a woman wearing a child’s jumper.
We can immediately see this as it too short in the body and the arms. I could lengthen the arms and keep it cropped. I would lengthen the body but leave the arms short. Or I could lengthen both. This would involved detaching and unravelling the navy blue ribbing and finding some remnants to fill in the remaining inches. The jersey is seamed but I think I could add the alterations by using a circular needle. Obviously as it is made up of a range of shades this should not be too hard. I would then re-rib the hems.
I am not sure I want to wear these colours and the yarn is not top quality. And I have now got alot of sweaters. And I bought it for Ted. But I quite fancy doing the job. What do you think?
And I forgot to mention that the cupboard behind me is Nick’s new cupboard in my sewing room. This is due to be painted soon. I will share some pictures in a week or two.