I have written the intro to this post in my head half a dozen times, and none of those versions have been quite right. So. The reason I have been quiet on here for the last month is due to various complicated and difficult family health circumstances, of which the most abrupt and shocking was my brilliant, clever, thoughtful Dad unexpectedly passing away on 2 November. He had advanced Alzheimer’s, which meant he was physically frail as well as mentally lost, but when it happened (he developed a chest infection he couldn’t overcome) we were all utterly sideswiped.
Dad deserves his own proper post, which I am not ready to write yet, but I didn’t want to pretend that nothing else was going on in my non-knitting life. Actually I don’t really have a non-knitting life – knitting has remained a regular soothing presence over the last few weeks while everything else has been complicated and, as it goes, I have lots of knitting activity to share with you. When I am really stressed I sometimes lose my knitting mojo, but for the last two months, when there has been high emotion but also a fair amount of time, knitting has been a huge comfort.
I missed posting on our last once upon a sock date, and apologies to my lovely sock gang for that. You should all go and check out what Paula, Katherine and Stefanie have been working on recently. I do have some sock updates to share though – first off, I finished my helical socks a few days after I posted about them at the beginning of October. They were absolutely a treat to knit from start to finish (not only because I worked on them all over Canada, although that helped) and will have their own finished project post before too long, I hope.
In addition – I managed to cast on for the second of my Twisted Soul socks.
However… this was right in the middle of lots of hospital and care home visits, and I realised pretty swiftly that this kind of clever knitterly pattern requires more concentration than I could provide (I did manage to knit a round or so of it at Dad’s bedside, which means these socks will always have a bit of emotional resonance for me). So, while out with some friends at Wild and Woolly last weekend (more on that below), I allowed myself to activate the ‘sock yarn doesn’t count’ caveat on my yarn ban, and bought myself the kind of self-striping yarn which allows one to cast on a sock and just knit, instead of having to think. And I decided that, right now, I need some proper colour in my life. So that resulted in…
Gloriously lurid, fabulously self-striping, deeply satisfying socks. This is West Yorkshire Spinner’s Signature 4-Ply in the ‘Rum Paradise’ colourwork (part of their cocktail range – love it!). Sock is a basic top-down, ribbed, heel&gusset model – I made the leg a little shorter than I might do normally because I was worried I’d cast on a bit too tight, but it fits just fine. This first sock is now finished, and I have all the relevant notes jotted down so sock two will require even less thinking. What is not to like?
Before all the recent life-turning-upside-down events, I had booked months and months ago to go to a ‘demystifying double knitting’ workshop run by Sockmatician (aka Nathan). I was a bit unsure if I would have the energy or headspace to attend it, but happily my lovely knit friends encouraged me to come along if I was feeling up to it (up to and including driving me to the tube station to make it easy for me, they are so great). In the end I did go over to East London with them for the workshop, and I’m so glad I did – it was the perfect distraction for a few hours, and that kind of intense concentration on a physical learning/doing activity was exactly the right way of using a different part of my brain for a while (and switching off the sad feels for at least an hour or two). Plus my friends are lovely, Nathan was a very engaging tutor, and it’s hard not to enjoy a few hours spent in a delightful yarn shop.
Double-knitting is simple in theory, and a bit fiddly in practice until you get the hang of it. Here is my proudly wonky output from the workshop – it might look like an uneven and wobbly coaster, but it’s my uneven and wobbly coaster. I also think it’s really good for me to have to learn something new and a bit tricky in knitting every so often (and not be brilliant at it immediately).
I am very much a convert, and I had an incentive to do this because the Il Burrato scarf I linked to in my gifts for knitters post is a double knitted one – should I ever be lucky enough to get that kit, I knew needed to crack this technique. With that goal in mind, even during the lesson, I was thinking about my Passerine Hat (the very early stages of which you can see top-left in the WIP photo in this post, or you can see the yarn and pattern hat in my good intentions post). You’ve not seen much of that hat, readers, and it’s partly to do with the fact that I’ve found it a bit unsatisfying to knit. The bird pattern is lovely, but the floats are so ludicrously long (23 stitches!) that there is no way around it other than to catch them – which never makes for a perfect fabric. I also wasn’t entirely convinced it would be that warm. So I was halfway along and it was languishing in a drawer.
If I were to double knit it, however, there’d be no floats, no snagging, and it would be double the fabric so double the warmth. Well well.
Double knitting is a lot, lot slower than normal knitting (given that you’re working every stitch twice – the front one and the back one), and I am a slow double knitter, but here’s the beginning of the brim (inside and out!) after I’d ripped out the original version and started again. The only downside is that I don’t have enough of that original bright bright pink to do a cream&pink double knitted version, so I’ve reverted back to the leftover purple from my Birstwith hat. This may yet turn out to be a glorious failure (e.g. you can’t do ribbing that actually pulls in, with double-knitting, so I’m hoping that the small needle size will work well enough to create a slightly tighter brim, but it could turn out to be huge). We shall see. I am already much happier with this fabric and, despite it taking me the best part of half an hour to do each round, intend to persevere. Watch this space.
And lastly, talking of that work in progress post – writing that post inspired me to dig out a very, very old WIP, which is this self-designed ribbed jumper. I got as far as halfway up the yoke (making it up as I went along, which looking back was pretty brave ten years ago) and then it sat in a bag for ten years, moving from place to place each time we moved and quietly nagging at me. I wasn’t sure how to finish it. The other month I took it out and looked at it, and thought of a better way to do the double-decreases where the sleeves met the arms, and tried it on and realised it was a couple of inches short of how long I’d like it to be now, and before I knew it I was ripping out about 4 inches of work and then working on it again.
I think I know what I am going to do for the neckline now (I’ll be winging it a bit), and with all the other projects on my needles it’ll still take me a while to finish, but with luck and a following wind it shouldn’t be another ten years. Let’s see.
And… that’s where I’m at. Lots of love to you, knitting blog and readers. xx