Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This Saturday, I was lucky enough to be able to go along to the second knitting workshop at GBY (read about the first one here) on Steeking.

I know what you're thinking - if you follow this blog at all you'll know that I am a total beginner and am in no way ready to be steeking. I shared your thoughts, and hoped to go along and merge into the background lest anyone ask me about cabling, thumb cast-ons or other such things I know nothing of. I planned to hide behind my role as photographer, and, as I didn't have time to prepare any sample swatches, I figured that the likelihood of me having to actually get involved was a slim one. Oh, how wrong I was.

The fateful moment!
Before I go any further, I'll explain to any fellow beginners what steeking actually is. It was explained to me several times before I actually got the hang of it, and even then, doing it was something else all together. It is as mad as it sounds so I'll say it slow. Steeking is where you cut. Your. Knitting. As you can imagine, this strikes fear and horror into the hearts and minds of knitters world-over. Well... apart from Norway, where they apparently tend to be snip happy when it comes to jumpers and such like. So, brave Norwegians aside,  the concept of cutting your knitting seems to be entirely superflous and a rather scary procedure. But, there is a reason to do it, and many fairisle patterns use steeking as a way of making armholes and seams where the pattern can continue as normal. I know, I know, I'm not a very good explainer - head here or here for more comprehensive guides. Basically, it's a very handy little technique which can turn the meekest of knitters into a scissor wielding maniac. Don't be put off any horrendous photos - they look like open chest cavities, but believe me, it needn't be that scary!

The workshop was run by the mighty Ann Kingstone, whose glorious website you can visit here. I was pretty anxious about going to what I knew was going to be a full workshop, having inadequently prepared and lacking the knowledge to even feign the confidence I needed!

Copious amounts of tea were needed.
To be honest, having had to be told what steeking actually was, I wasn't at all sure what to expect. I was even afraid to wear any knitwear on the day in case I was forced to cut it apart. Thankfully, once we had all arrived and said our hellos (and had a good look around the shop, it has to be said!) Ann was very clear that she wanted the day to be fun. She gave us an introduction, but it wasn't long before we had to get down to cutting our samples. (Lucky for me, Sharon had knit some spares!)

Ann, and all the lovely ladies who shared the steeking experience with me, were all super encouraging. It was also nice to be there on my own terms - as much as I love doing these things with my mum, it was really interesting to be there by myself. It meant I couldn't rely on the person next to me to help me out when I made a mistake, and forced me to speak up when there was something going on I didn't understand. Thankfully, everyone was so lovely, I found myself being a little too honest about my inability to pick up stitches, but they all encouraged me to keep at it and I had the hang of it pretty quickly, helping me to keep repeating it until I had it dialled.

Weirdly, even though I was by far the least experienced person in the class, I didn't feel left behind at all. I may not have been the quickest, but I achieved the same amount as everyone else and managed to even pick up a few bonus skills! We learnt three different ways of reinforcing knitting, and I'm so completely confident that I feel fully able to attempt a pattern with steeking in it. I don't know when one will come my way, but I know the skills I learnt will help me when one does!
Machine enforced knitting - weird, huh?

The experience overall was so edifying. Just when I reach the end of my patience with a project, or get bored with knitting swatches, an experience like this will come along and completely restore my spirits. I cannot recommend the workshop experience enough! The combination of great teaching and great company really added to my enthusiasm and I'm still buzzing! I'm trying to refrain cutting up everyone's projects - apparently "just because I can" isn't a valid reason for doing it!

Fairisle steek sample.
Anyway, I know I've rambled long enough... I'm off to Wonderwool this weekend and if anyone else is going please do pop by and say hello - I'm there with my mum [Jillybean Yarns] and would love to meet you!

Monday, April 16, 2012


So, remember ages ago I talked about some mittens I had been wrestling with?

Well, the other day I found the confidence to pick them up again and actually get them finished. I had developed a strange kind of phobia of them – I had such traumatic memories of throwing them across the room, screaming at the pattern and generally getting too emotionally involved in the whole thing.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed working in the KnitPick’sCity Tweed – it’s a lovely soft wool and knits up with a subtle shine which makes the finished product really forgiving and malleable. As I was making mittens/wrist warmers, the softness is much appreciated. Okay, so I may be a few seasons off for appreciating warmness, but with global warming and all that you never can tell what the weather is going to do!!

The project, on the whole, was fairly mental. I think my problem was taking on too much too quickly. I struggle to find things that I want to knit, and it took us ages to find a pattern. Eventually we came across Simple Knitting by Erika Knight, which is a really lovely, well-published guide to knitting.

 It suited me perfectly, it is full of lovely, timeless patterns which I know I will knit in the future. It seemed like a sound investment, as it also acts as a guide to all things knitting, with a beautifully illustrated guide to stitches, seaming and other such larks. So the mittens pattern was rated at 2 out of 4, and what with my previous hat and scarf attempts, I felt like this was a good step up.

Turns out, the pattern was a lot harder than anticipated, and I had to get my mum’s help when shaping the thumb gusset. However, I did learn so much over the course of the project. I learnt the importance of patience! I realised that I don’t have to be the quickest knitter in the world, and I learnt that it’s more important to keep going at it rather than to get mad and try and forget all about it. 

Anyway, here they are:

I chose not to block my mittens as the author suggests, mainly because my hands are small and I knew that the length would irritate me. I really like the rolled back look at the top, and it means that they’re a bit more useful when it comes to actually doing stuff whilst wearing them. I can’t wait for autumn to bust these out! 
Modelled by my unnaturally tanned mother.
  Even though there were times when I thought that these mittens would spell the end of my hobby, I am so happy with the finished product and I feel like it was a real achievement to get through it. The only thing I would say is that the rating on this pattern should be moved from 2/4 to 3/4. Shaping the thumb gusset is really hard and there were a few mistakes in the pattern that only a knitter with a few years of experience could determine.
   If you’re a beginner or want to learn more about knitting in general I’d really recommend this book, and the project! I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to publishing, and I find many of the glossier knitting books brash and garish. Thankfully this one has really been thought about, and the book as a whole is lovely, It’s got a really homely feel to it, and the photography by Yuki Sugiura is really complimentary. I love it that the publishers haven’t cut corners, and I’m glad to start off my collection of knitting books with this gem.

All in all, overjoyed at how they've turned out. I'm going to be the only girl at the beach this summer with mittens on!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter etc.

The past week or so has been absolutely mental. What with Easter and all, and the impromptu moving home of my sister, I've barely found time to knit, let alone blog.
I will rectify this as soon as possible, please bear with me and keep your eyes peeled!