Knitting: keeping me sane in strange times

Times are strange.  And scary.  There is an odd kind of stress associated with being hunkered down watching a calamity spread, simultaneously slow-slow-slow and incredibly fast and picking up speed.  We have been in isolation for nearly two weeks now.  In between learning how to work and teach remotely (not as easy as it sounds), I have been passing the time with knitting.  Quelle surprise!  As I’ve said on here before (like here and here), it grounds me.  (See also this post on mental health and knitting.)

I have started two projects this week.  Having finished my last project and not having any WIPs at hand (gasp!), I needed to quickly get some quarantine knitting on my needles.  If you remember, a few weeks ago (it seems like it happened in another world), Doug and I went to Unravel ( a knitting and yarn show in Farnham, near London), and I bought six skeins of Beyul DK from Kettle Yarns:

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I had in mind a project which I have wanted to knit since I first saw it in 2006, Hatcher by Julie Hoover:

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© Julie Hoover

This is proving to be the perfect yarn for this project.  It is crisp and shows off the cables perfectly, and it has a fantastic feel to it.  The yarn is a mix of Baby Yak, Silk, and Ethical SW Merino, and is such a springy, soft, glossy yarn.  I love it.  The colour is called “yurt” which really doesn’t do it justice.  It is a very urban, sophisticated shade, with bits of pewter and grey and taupe.  I am very happy with it and it is knitting up quickly:

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The second project should actually be classified as a “glimmer of a project” as it is still in a formative stage.  I have frequently gone back to look at the pattern Fragments Cowl by Trin-Annelie:

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© Trin-Annelie

I think the stitch pattern is totally cool and in the back of my mind I have been noodling around with the idea of using the stitch pattern from this cowl to knit a vest for Doug.  I can’t get to a yarn shop right now (for obvious reasons) and so I enlisted the help of Jen and Jim Arnall-Culliford.  I told Jen what I was thinking of doing, and that I wanted to do some swatching with Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight yarn, which they carry in their online shop.  Despite being in isolation themselves (with kids), they jumped in to help.  Jen picked out a palette of shades which she thought might work, and arranged them in many different combinations of five and photographed them for me. She suggested that I might want to just order one each of eight shades and then do some swatching.  Jim managed to get the yarn packaged up and in the post for me.  Here is the palette:

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And I spent part of yesterday doing a preliminary swatch, mixing and matching parts of the stitch pattern with different shades to see how they work together:

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Why does the swatch have all of those ends hanging loose on the side?  Because I was swatching while knitting flat for a project in the round, using the technique whereby you cut the yarn at the end of each row, slide the knitting back to the other side of the circular needle, and attach new yarn for the next row.  When swatching this way, you will be knitting every row, rather than alternating knitting and purling rows, so that you will be able to get an accurate gauge for circular knitting without having to actually knit a huge swatch in the round.

I blocked the swatch last night, and after careful consideration, Doug and I decided….. that I needed to do some more swatching!  So stay tuned to this channel to see how the story progresses, as I try every conceivable permutation of colour and pattern.

I am also planning a third project to cast on.  I want to knit Koko by Olga Buraya-Kefelian:

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© Olga Buraya-Kefelian

When I was at Unravel, I almost bought some yarn to make this.  Luckily, I took a photo of the yarn.  I am still thinking about it, but am wavering towards yes.  

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I think that this green has such a cheery “pop” and combined with the navy and cream will look very nautical and spring-like.  What do you think?  Yes or no?

Please take care everyone.

 

 

Colour me happy

I am so pleased with how my newest project turned out.

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I knit this tee using the pattern Knit Me Baby One More Time, designed by Mary Annarella.  This is a fantastic basic tee pattern, which has lovely features, and a beautiful fit.  Here is Mary’s pattern photo:

© Mary Annarella

I did my own interpretation of the colours, using some bold contrasts for the ribbing and not striping the body, but otherwise followed her pattern exactly.  I just love the way that the pattern lends itself to experimentation.

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I re-purposed the yarn from an old knitting kit to make this tee (see my last post for more details).  This turned into a fun intellectual exercise in colour.   The kit uses the yarn Titus, a fingering weight wool from baa ram ewe, which comes in 100 gram hanks with 320 metres/350 yards.  The kit had one skein of the Aire (the light blue-grey) and three skeins of the Endeavour (the rich blue), and a bunch of tiny mini-hanks for the contrasts.  The mini-hanks were 5 grams each, and there were two each of three colours, and one each of another four colours.  This meant that I had seven colours to fool around with in determining the ribbing, with the additional condition that the bottom ribbing needed 10 grams, so that constrained further the choice.  It was like putting together a puzzle, and was very entertaining.

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I’ve heard some people complain about the Titus.  My impression is that it wouldn’t work as well for stranded knitting, and I think the fact that I didn’t strand this (as in the original kit) but instead used bold blocks of colour, meant that the yarn was much more suited for purpose.  I loved knitting with it.  It is a mix of  50% Wensleydale Wool, 20% Bluefaced Leicester Wool, and 30% British Alpaca, from Yorkshire.  It comes in very rich, vibrant shades, and was fun to knit with.  It washed and blocked well, dried very quickly, and has a nice feel to it – wooly, yes, but not overly itchy.  I don’t know whether it will tend to felt or pull and will have to report back on that.

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This is intended to be a tee that I can wear casually or to the office.  I styled it above as I might wear it to work.  Since we are self-isolating and the university has switched to remote working for at least the next 12 weeks, I am unlikely to get a chance to wear it anywhere but on my sofa for quite some time!

One of the things that I really like about having the green ribbing at the hip, is that I can then wear this with a variety of blues and not worry about a blue/blue mismatch. I find that blues are notoriously hard to match, but with the green to break up the blues, it doesn’t really matter.

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This was my first time using a pattern by Mary Annarella, and I was very impressed.  You know how some patterns just work for you and others don’t?  Sometimes you don’t even know why.  But, I have to tell you that this one worked for me in a big way.  It was very comprehensive, but not in an annoying way.  She provided photos of the difficult stages right at the beginning, which made such a difference!  (The very beginning of the pattern is a bit tricky – it takes some concentration – but then it is smooth sailing.)  She gave advice about shaping and customizing.  It may sound strange to say that a pattern – I mean here the writing of it, not the result – can be charming, but this was definitely written in a very charming manner. Also, the details are amazing.  Just look at the line of this shoulder and armscythe!  It’s practically swoon-worthy!

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I particularly like this little stripe from the colour blocking under the arms.  (Note that I exaggerated it just a bit by casting on the underarm stitches using the light yarn, and then switching to the blue, so that it has two rows of the light blue, instead of one, under the arm.)

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I highly recommend this pattern.  Mary designs some beautiful things and this won’t be my last of her patterns.  (And wow!  All of her designs are on sale right now on Ravelry – until March 24th – to help out those who are social distancing and could use a bit of calm; just put them in the cart and you’ll get 40% off when you check out.)

Keep safe everyone!  And remember that knitting is good for your mental health!

Failure, resilience, and knitting

I have been thinking a lot this week about the nature of resiliency.  Why?  As Programme Director for a global MBA, it pops up a lot on the job.  It turns out that resilience is important:  it is a key quality of effective leaders and managers, it is vital for companies trying to survive in fast-changing business and technological environments, and it is an important factor in whether students will flourish and grow (not to mention graduate) during their MBA studies.  Given how crucial resilience is, we might think about how one develops it.  How does one learn to be resilient?  Well, it often derives from failure.

I once read an essay written by a professor at an Ivy League university who had served for decades on admission panels. He commented that these elite schools have a tendency to accept students who have never failed at anything.  These students arrive at university and suddenly find themselves in a high-stress environment filled with high achievers who have always been at the top of their class. The point of the essay was that these students often turn out to have very poor resiliency; one little setback and they crack.  A history of continual success can lead to perfectionism and unrealistic expectations.  On the other hand, exposure to failure often leads to resiliency and the development of skills which allow you to pick yourself up and flourish. This professor speculated that accepting students who had overcome barriers or difficulties would be a better barometer of success.

One of the things which I try to impart to students is that failure can be good; that success is built upon learning from mistakes.  This is true of business and true of design – a good design usually develops by prototyping, an iterative process which often consists of getting things wrong in order to get them right.  Many successful companies develop this way too, starting small and building on mistakes, a type of constructive prototyping analogous to the design process.  I try to give students skills to help them become more adaptive and more resilient; I encourage them, in the safe space of the classroom, to push past their comfort zones and embrace risk.

Why am I blabbing on about resiliency and failure in my knitting blog?  Well, we knitters can tell you people one or two things about failure! Knitters positively crow about their failures!  Ripping and frogging (that is, pulling out your work by unravelling it) is almost a badge of honour.  We learn by doing, and often that means learning by doing it wrong. It helps, of course, that knitting is so intrinsically unravel-able (I made up that word!): if you don’t mind the loss of time and effort, almost everything in knitting is fixable by ripping it out and starting again.

Not only are we knitters experts at failure as a part of the learning process, but we do it with a sense of humour! If you don’t believe me, you can look at some of my posts detailing failed efforts, like How to be stupid at knitting, How not to block a sweater, and Stupidity strikes again!

Business consultants, self-help gurus, professional coaches – even futurologists – make a fortune by teaching people to be resilient.  We knitters have no need to pay for such advice.  We learn it the natural way!

Knitters of the world, stand up straight and proud, and repeat after me:

“I AM A KNITTER!

I LAUGH IN THE FACE OF FAILURE!

RESILIENCE IS MY MIDDLE NAME!”