You may have seen Catherine around this blog. She’s certainly a familiar knitter for me and a total sweetheart to boot. (To boot: what does that even mean? I am resisting googling etymology or I’ll come back to this post three hours later with no idea what I’m doing.)
Catherine has helped me out with the Kickstarter campaign last year and along with a little gift through the post (soon), I’m sharing her website with you. It’s called Sparrowpost and it is just delightful.
Now, she doesn’t always write about knitting – or even that often. However even the most dedicated of knitters need time to think about something else and if you’re going to do that, go to Sparrowpost. Catherine writes about such a variety of subjects and, more importantly, she does it well. Just look at a quote from her recent post:
Summer is a claustrophobic time and winter is the great opening. We’re all exposed now, to the sun and wind and elements. Gracious green canopies no longer spread out in umbrella formations, bestowing dappled light and easier breathing. No, it’s time for sullen scolding winds and scudding clouds.
I don’t know about you, but I’m entranced. Go check out the rest of her blog for lovely almost dreamlike writing on a wild range of topics, and check out the featured image from this post to see how beautiful her photography is too.
Remember that talk about definitions and identity last week? It was fascinating and I have a whole post planned on the eloquent responses I received. As I started gathering book-related knitting patterns on Ravelry for this month I realised we don’t use the term ‘reader’ nearly enough.
Bookworm is a good substitute, yes, but it doesn’t cover the breadth of how I read. Yes, I read books. I devour them, to drag out an oft-used metaphor. I read seven books in January alone and I’m about to finish two in the next couple of days and yes, KN Reads will be returning soon. Books are great and I love them but I also read copious amounts of magazines, newspapers (easy access through work), and online news sites. I read poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. That’s not even getting started on the amount of blogs I read.
So why don’t we call ourselves readers as much as we should?
(Yes, I do have the Jane Eyre quote running around my head every time I write that word: Reader, I married him.)
Regardless of definitions and my usual noisy brain, Lord of the Ring feels like a core part of my being. The movies were my gateway drug into the lush, expansive worlds of Tolkien; enchanted, I walked away from the first movie and buried myself in the huge three-in-one tome my uncle had bought me a couple of years before. The size of it intimidated me and I put it aside until I realised the wonders it held.
In fact my name, Polo, is a nickname I picked up during my time in the old MSN chatrooms roleplaying as a hobbit. So yes, it is a core part of me.
I almost called this collection ‘Lord of the Rings edition’ but, considering the size of his world, I have changed it to ‘Middle Earth’.
I had to have this pattern at the helm. The level of detail and nerdiness enclosed in this double-knit scarf makes my geek self so, so happy. I don’t actually like The Hobbit all that much (book or movie); I read it after Lord of the Rings and was disappointed, but the story is important to the world and why not learn to double knit for such a worthy project? I would make it for my Dad if he wore anything other than dark blue.
Since I started with The Hobbit, let’s continue for another project. Mirkwood was the one place in The Hobbit that caught my imagination. There was a small wooded area near my home as a teenager that always smelled damp, even on dry days, and the trees were dense enough that not much light got through. It doesn’t exist any more (sacrificed to the New Road Gods) but in my head I knew it as Mirkwood. Even if I didn’t see any Elves.
What is it about fandom that brings out the crazy complicated fair isle mittens? Whatever it is, I want more of it. We’re moving on to Lord of the Rings now and standing in front of an impenetrable wall held closed by a riddle. When Frodo calmly gives the answer, mellon, I realised that Hobbits were far more awesome than I had heretofore realised and would need many of them in my imagination for the rest of ever.
A good leaf motif in knitting is always pleasing, especially when you say ‘leaf motif’ aloud. Even better is having one named after the greatest of Ents. My friend and I used to walk around the library at school doing big, dramatic, slow strides and announcing that we were Ents, which should give you some kind of an idea how popular and cool I was back then.
Maybe it’s the depressing lack of female characters in Tolkien but Galadriel captured my imagination more than most when I was reading the book. Lothlorien is an eerie, beautiful place, and Galadriel’s struggle against the ring matched its surroundings well. She fought against her own nature and won. Though we see little of her extensive history there are enough hints to make her well-rounded and, let’s face it, Cate Blanchett did a fantastic job in the movies.
Yes, she isn’t technically in the book, but she gives me an excuse to talk about something else: the appendices. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where, upon seeing a small novel worth of appendices, I got excited and dove right in. The story between Aragorn and Arwen was sweet, yes, but there were also words on the languages of Middle Earth and tidbits about hobbits. If you search the appendices carefully you will figure out where I got the name ‘Polo’.
“We’re going on a bit too fast. You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: ‘Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.’” – The Two Towers
Do you have any favourite Lord of the Rings patterns?
Okay, I’m going to admit to a TINY bit of bias here: Kniterary is my LYS (local yarn store) and I love it. It is run by my yarn dealer, Martina, who has become a good friend over the years of me turning up to fondle her wares. So to speak.
Martina has an online shop which you should check out. You can find it here.
With a whole bunch of different excellent yarns on sale there, you can also pop by the store yourself if you live in the Greater Toronto Area/Durham Region. It’s in downtown Whitby. To explain what an excellent store it is, let me tell you this: I lived in Whitby for six weeks, maximum, back in 2012. Yet I still go there. When I was stuck in the UK before my permanent residency came through I visited Ontario for two weeks and made special time to go to the yarn group on the Thursday night, even taking a few hours away from seeing my girlfriend. That’s how good it is.
The thing is with yarn stores is that they can have the best yarns in the world but without the community and the friendliness you’re not getting anywhere. Kniterary has everything you want in a LYS.
After a bit of a hiatus (sorry guys!) I am back to posting the featured blogs from those kind, lovely souls who supported my Kickstarter last year. I’m working hard on the knitted gifts and there are a few other blogs/shops to feature in the meantime.
If you’re expecting a gift it’ll be there in the next couple of months – as I said before, the response was much larger than expected so my timeline kind of flew out the window. But happily.
Today I’m featuring Fiber Sprite, a website by Pamela. It’s relatively new but there is tonnes of excellent content. In her own words:
Fiber Sprite is a new blog that focuses on all kinds of fiber art (mostly knitting, spinning, and weaving). You can also find the “Legend of the Fiber Sprite,” which is the story of my fiber journey.
I’m all about knitting origin stories as you know.
First up: the blog is adorable. I mean, way cuter than mine. I’d be jealous except I love it too much. It’s clean and bright but not at all sparse; it’s got enough content and pretty pictures to feel cosy and warm. Just what you need from a knitting blog.
If you’re looking for some post highlights, check out these links:
Doctor Who is one of my favourite shows. It’s been a part of my life for a long time: the first joke I heard on the playground as a British kid was a sign of how deeply the show is embedded in the national psyche:
At the time I had no idea what the joke meant or who The Doctor was beyond a vague impression of time travel, blue boxes, and daleks, yet I laughed at that joke and hummed to the theme tune if I heard it. This was the 90s, bereft of any steady Doctor, and they were dark times indeed.
We are lucky as geeks today to have so many shows to choose from and though I love so many others, it’s Doctor Who that nestles closest to my heart. I may have abandoned ship from the UK but there are things I miss: one thing (aside from the Indian takeaway near my sister’s house) is the buzz of excitement whenever something happened on the show, i.e. a new Doctor or a new showrunner. I can absorb some of that glee from the internet but it’s nothing like sitting on the bus and seeing two blue-haired old ladies discussing Matt Smith’s potential as a Doctor.
All that to say… I love Doctor Who. It means a lot to me. Going through all the Doctor Who patterns on Ravelry has been a joy and I will be revisting this compendium one day. Next month I’m moving on to book-related knits, but Doctor Who is never far from my mind. You’ll be seeing this again.
In the final week I’m sharing the random bits and bobs I’ve seen that don’t fit in any of the other sections. Enjoy.
“We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.” – Stephen Fry
Do you consider yourself a knitter? Or do you just knit? A spinner, or someone who spins? A crocheter or someone with a penchant for hooks?
I’ve been thinking about this quote for a while. Stephen fry is a wonderful, intelligent man and much of what he says rings true. Perhaps this does too. I’ve been struggling with what it means to be certain things (a writer, a blogger) and Mr. Fry made me realise that it’s not that simple. Yes, if you write you are a writer, and if you knit you are a knitter.
But is it healthy to define yourself that way?
Spoiler alert: I consider myself a knitter. There comes a point in any hobby when it’s taking up so much of your time and attention that it has to become a defining part of yourself. I’m also a writer: I have been writing roughly two decades longer than I’ve been knitting and it’s not easy for me to stop. It’s compulsive. These are two of my defining attributes and I’m comfortable with that, but I still take something away from Stephen Fry’s words.
That is: labels are not everything. Calling myself a knitter does not negate the fact that I do other things than knit. I do not have to write at every opportunity to consider myself a writer. Our identities flex and change and that’s all right.
Maybe one day I won’t be a knitter any longer. I can’t imagine that day coming but it’s possible. Perhaps one day I’ll consider myself only a person who knits.
There is a forum on Ravelry where you can test-knit patterns for people (on a volunteer basis). It’s not for the highly technical side of editing but rather to check the pattern works and there are no glaring mistakes, and I’ve read the threads with interest for a long time.
About a month ago I loved one of the patterns I saw so I agreed to test knit it. There will be photos when it is blocked and the pattern is up on Ravelry, but for now let me explain JUST HOW MANY CABLES THERE WERE.
MANY. There were MANY cables. Upper case essential.
Aside from never wanting to do cables or bobbles ever again, I have enjoyed knitting it. I have not so much enjoyed the amount of times I’ve messed up cables and had to ladder my stitches down to the relevant row and redo the cables, though I have to admit it makes me feel like a bad-ass.
At one point I realised I had messed up about ten stitches two rows back and had to carefully drop the stitches in two catches, crossing the cables correctly and hooking the stitches back up to the current row. It took about half an hour of scowling at the yarn but somehow I managed it. If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen my efforts in real time.
And when it’s fixed…
Most knitting doesn’t bother my hands but I have to say cables make my fingers very sore afterwards. I think it’s time for a crochet project to give them time to recover.
Or I could just put down the yarn for a few days but let’s face it, that’s never going to happen.
You know what the problem with socks is? No one sees them. Especially in a Canadian winter; I have never once taken my boot off in the -15 Celcius weather to show someone my fancy handknit socks, and it’s a damn shame. Solution? Mittens.
Mittens aren’t very good when worn on your tootsies but they’re great for keeping your fingers warm while simultaneously being much easier for people to see. With that in mind, let’s fly our TARDIS geek flag high and have a look at these wondrous Doctor Who mittens in the latest of this series of Timey Wimey Knits posts.
There’s some fabulous patterns out there, people. If you do any of these, let me know! I love them all.
That’s it for today, but pop by next Wednesday for a jammy dodger and the last of this series of posts.
As an aside for those who got this far: I just finished Amy and Rory’s run of the show and I miss them terribly, but my sorrow is somewhat lessened by the lovely Clara Oswald. I had forgotten how much I like her.
The first time someone suggests you should learn to knit you may be baffled. People still do that? Do I look like I’m eighty? Etc etc. Put aside all your prejudices and try knitting on for size because there are many things to please you.
At least… if you’re me.
One: Rows and rows of stockinette.
It’s one of the most basic stitches. On straight needles it’s knit one row, purl the next, but when you’re knitting in the round (like I almost always do)? It’s just knit stitch over and over. People complain about the miles of stockinette some projects have and even I have been known to gripe, but let’s face it: this is what knitting is all about. Anything else is gravy.
Note to new knitters: gravy is a metaphor. Do not attempt to apply gravy to your stockinette.
Two: Blindingly complicated lace patterns.
Yes, I like to jump through the extremes.
Lace is sometimes to complicated it hardly looks like knitting any more, but even the hardest is much easier than it looks. It’s all just knitting, purling, increasing, decreasing. There may be about a thousand variations of those things before you even get to the ridiculous ones like p5tog tbl (purl five together through the back loop, and no I have never seen this on an actual pattern yet) but even a nupp is just knits and yarn overs and a decrease.
The hardest part is the counting. Seriously, I can do fiddly lace if I use roughly 5,405 stitch markers so that I don’t have to figure out where the heck I am in the pattern.
Three: Casting on.
Once again there are many ways to cast on, but I’m not talking about the technicalities. I’m talking about that moment where you’re done one project and moving on to the next. That moment where you have come to the end of the second sock and seek out a new pattern to start.
Or, if you’re more like me, that moment halfway through a project when you think you’ll scream if you have to do one more bobble so end up casting on something else to keep you sane.
It’s the thrill of the new and the thrill of the familiar all wrapped up into one, and I love it.
I hate them. Really, really hate them. Yet the sense of triumph at mastering something so fiddly and ridiculous is overwhelming. I still fondle the nupps of my Damask shawl regularly. At present it is pinned up on my desk at work to stare at happily until it’s spring and I can wear it again.
Nupps, for me, signify that moment of realising I can knit well. Not just get by, not just churn out a few simple things. I can do something difficult and I can, after a few attempts, do it well. That negates the hate a bit.
Five: Frogging a project.
This may sound counter-intuitive. What’s so fun and satisfying about ripping back a project until it’s nothing but a ball of yarn once more? Doesn’t that mean defeat, resignation, sadness?
Yes, maybe. Or maybe it’s one of my abandoned projects languishing in my drawer for three years before I get it out and now I have a ‘new’ skein of bright red merino/silk sock yarn to play with again.
Besides, I’m a process knitter. I may love most of my finished objects but certainly not all of them.
Okay, okay, try not to faint in shock. I know this is unusual and a little bit baffling. Polo, knit socks? Never! Except for those dozens of times, and all those socks I have planned for the future and all the skeins of pretty sock yarn and all the pairs suffering from Second Sock Syndrome…
These ones are made from glorious Manos del Uruguay. If you haven’t knitted with it before you need to head to your local yarn store and get some as soon as possible. It’s luscious.
The pattern is Business Casual and I’ve kind of stopped looking at it because it’s very intuitive, though considering my recent track record of messing up things when I glance away from the pattern for three stitches, maybe I should reconsider this. (You will be hearing more about that later, since I did the dumb thing and gifted the resultant mittens without getting photos.)
I’ve named them Come Along, Pond. Why? Well. Because they’re ginger, of course.
That’s what they look like inside but in natural light they’re far more red than it seems there. It’s orangey-red rather than just plain orange. This is a closer match to the colour:
Can’t you feel how soft and smooth and fluffy that yarn is through the screen? You know you can. And isn’t it pleasing that the two-stitch cable pattern splits from the 2×2 rib of the cuff? Yes, yes it is. These socks are a dream to knit and my saviour in between fun but difficult patterns.
As an aside: I’m knitting them on my only pair of cubics and they’re great. No better than ordinary DPNs for me, though some people swear by them. The best thing is how they line up so neatly when you lay them down on the table. No more abrupt squats to pick up escaping needles!
Though squats do give you a fabulous derriere.
Amy Pond is one of my favourite characters in Doctor Who because she gets to live out such a huge part of her life and, more than most companions, she has the control. She says when she’ll go with the Doctor and when she won’t. She manages a life with her husband and the rest of their family and yet still gets to go off on adventures with her alien friend. She’s also totally hilarious and a bit mental, so I dig her.
These socks are in her honour as I come to the end of Eleven’s time in the show in my binge-rewatch.