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The Knitty Kitty

Well WIP Wednesday may have to wait until a) I’m paid and can afford materials for a new project and b) my camera resurfaces from the depths of its hiding place.  Fortunately, I have outsmarted my camera’s intentions for I have pictures of my first ever knitting project.  Let me explain: knitting has always been a big bug bear for me.  Although I never had any parental tuition in crochet despite both my parents apparently being able to, although I never saw either of them crocheting, when I started teaching myself it just seemed to come naturally. I understood fairly quickly how to read patterns, but more than this I quickly and easily found my own way of controlling the yarn, holding the needle.  I still made mistakes, but more often than (k)not, I could seem where I had gone wrong and correct it.  Knitting, however, is an entirely different matter.  My mum tried to teach me on several occasions, but I never got beyond knitting scarves that were far too small for even the smallest human being and they were too big even for my dolls, essentially straggly, holey swatches.  I couldn’t find a comfortable way to hold the needles or control the yarn, and mistakes appeared out of the blue and it just took so bloody long to produce anything.  I never tried to knit again for another 20 years and then I discovered crochet.

Knitting and crochet seem to be inextricably intertwined.  As I got more into crochet, the more I saw about knitting.  I’d be searching out patterns for crochet and find knitting patterns that I prefered.  Not being able to knit had me feeling left out: all those beautiful thing that I could make if only I could knit!   I even owned knitting needles, after expressing my desire to learn I was given some for Christmas presents.  So a couple of months ago, mired in the frustration of the poverty portion of the month where there is not enough month to buy lovely yarns, I decided to have a look through my stash and found a pair of still packaged 5mm needles.  “Enough is enough” said the inner voice, so I grabbed some needles, some aran yarn and a knitting tuition book (also a gift), marched downstairs and began, once again, to teach myself to knit.  Within a couple of hours, somehow, I had picked it up.  I had to work at it much more than I did crochet and mistakes were frequent, but the tuition book really helped me to see what I’d done wrong, and came with a the sage advice ‘never be afraid to undo your work and start again’.  I discovered that I knit tightly, a problem I had when I was 8.  I just couldn’t get the needle through the stitches after my first row so I had to force myself to knit loosely.   After a couple of holey, and subsequently unpicked, swatches later a perfect one emerged.  Oh the pride, the joy!

In a flurry of excitement, I bought my first knitting magazine.  After flicking through various patterns for sweet little baby clothes, a beautiful fair isle type red dress for a little girl (that I will make one day!) I realised I still didn’t really know how to follow a complex knitting pattern.  Tucked in the last pages through was a pattern for a toy,  a sweet little cat.  All stocking stitch with a few increases and decreases.  The yarn was Drops Baby Merino which is so soft and quite fine so I bought new needles, and set about the pattern.  The magazine had conveniently come with a free row counter, a piece of kit I’ve never had cause to use before.  It was like it was meant to be!  I discovered that I enjoyed knitting with finer needles and yarn.  I can understand why chunky needles and yarn are recommended for beginners, so that mistakes can be seen and whatever you’re knitting knits up quickly, but I found I much preferred the opposite.  Little knitted stripey legs and arms appeared on the side of the sofa and not long after I started I was ready to assemble and stuff the knitty kitty, as he came to be known in my home.

knittykitty

Here he is.  I’m so pleased with him.  After not being able to knit for so long, and feeling almost left out, I’ve begun to make inroads into knitting.  I’m also quite pleased with my fairly ropey embroidery skills as the mice, claws and facial features, apart from the eyes are all embroidered.  I’m desperate to improve my skills though, and I’m not particularly a scarf person, but I think I’ll have a go at some mittens and a blanket, and then hopefully progress on to knitting some clothes.  I’ve read that local knitting groups can be a good place to learn new skills, but I feel a bit bad just turning up to mooch instruction, so I’m going to try working on it by myself for a while.  I love cardigans and I’m rarely spotted not wearing one so would love to knit my own selection of cardis.  I also love knowing that when I eventually get round to having children, I’m sure I’ll be able to knit them something.  Indeed my first child will be the one to have the Knitty Kitty.

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Making for yourself.

“Why is yarn so expensive?” I ask my mum rhetorically over the phone.  “Oh I know” comes the response.  Debbie Bliss yarn is mentioned.  I needed DB Como for a crochet blanket I’m making -£10 a ball , my mum had bought DB Cashmerino, I’m guessing £5-£7 a ball, for a hooded jacket she knitted for my nephew when he was a toddler.  Mum: “I don’t think they ever put him in the jacket.  I wish I’d kept the yarn for myself”.

We’re both on tight budgets.  Indeed, I write this now mainly because I’m putting off paying the council tax for another hour or so.  I was paid yesterday and I want my hard-earned money to rest in my bank account for just a short while before I send it to be spent on councillors’ biscuit supply or to fill a pothole.  As a fairly recent newcomer to crocheting and buying yarn, I took off my training wheels and decided on a project from a book, that being the blanket mentioned in the previous post.  Excitedly I head to the website with the intention of buying all the yarn I need to make it.  Add it all to the basket, and £200 is the total.  A whole third of a month’s wages for me.  I’ll have to do it in stages.  How many squares can one person crochet in a month anyway? I reassuringly ask myself.  Still, this is my first big project for my new-found hobby, I will bite the bullet and buy the suggested yarn because I want it to be just how it looks in the book.  I buy 5 balls of Rooster Almerino DK per month for a few months and eventually I got there.  I made it for my family, for my home, but ultimatelyl I made it for myself and not being one for expensive clothes or shoes and seeing as I don’t wear jewellery, I don’t own a car, drink or eat out, I do have my hobby and I wanted nice yarn to make a beautiful blanket that I hope will be in the hands of my grandchildren one day.  If I were making for someone else, I don’t think I’d have been as finikity about it.

The thing is, when you’re new to the world of yarn buying, you haven’t the confidence to break rank, trust your knowledge of weight and colour in order to break rank and buy a cheaper option.  You want it to look just like the pictures, to feel as soft as you imagine and last forever.  All are qualities you’re not entirely sure cheaper, usually synthetic, varieties of yarn will supply.  Then comes the day when your hand is forced.  The Debbie Bliss Como mentioned above is discontinued  the peril of owning pattern books.  I research it and find it to be a superchunky, blissfully soft blend which also has a tendency to disintegrate over time.  Whether that last part is true or not, I feel rewarded for not desperately searching for stash sales.  I need 22 balls of the stuff! My knowledge is limited, but as with most things in life, when you’re limited, start with what you do know.

The DB Como is 50g a ball and superchunky.  Online shopping, for all it’s great points, has its limitations.  Pictures can’t tell me how it feels.  So I search  out local yarn shops and find one I never would have discovered otherwise.  In it I find a yarn that I think will make a fine substitute.  It’s not the same, and is what I would call ‘hairy’ yarn.  I buy one ball for £3.15 as a tester, go home make the first bit of the pattern and while it doesn’t of course look exactly like the pictures, it looks close enough for my liking, and I even prefer it.  It looks more rustic (translation; messy, far from perfect).  In the book the DB Como blanket is draped over a huge pristine cushioned coffee table/giant footstool in equally immaculate neutral surrounding.   If I were photographing my version for a book it would look more at home in a little room with mismatched, tea stained furniture, sagging misshapen cushions, scuffed coffee table and with cat fur on every possible surface.  Which is just as well because that is exactly where this blanket is going to find itself.

I guess I’ll go pay the council tax now.  I know I can’t get through the day without a chocolate digestive.  Oh wait. Yes, I can.

I hate you local council.