Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why I Love Knitting

Also, I'm not so great at titles. They just kind of, well, hang there. I promise to work on my title-coming-up-with.

Today, I want to talk about knitting. I love it. I love it with a vigour that startles me. I learned to knit when I was 15 or so, mostly out of a perverse sense of 'no one else was doing it'. I wore my huge, multi-purple scarf with tassels all over school for years. My mum is an extremely talented seamstress, and can make just about anything from almost anything. So I was learning to sew as well. I knitted sporadically, and would occasionally have glory days of sewing, where a day or two of solid sewing would result in a fantastic coat, or some skirts, or whatever. But on the whole, I was really not that good at sewing. I couldn't be arsed making things perfect, so I lot of my projects were about a million yards short of useful. I can remember a fair few unmitigated disasters, too, including pattern sizes that didn't fit quite right, seams that frayed, and just plain cock-ups. It was discouraging, and I don't know why I persevered with sewing for as long as I did.

Then came the huge knitting boom of the 2000's, which was just as I was starting uni. I openly admit, here and now, that I was lured by the evil song of fun fur. I bought balls and balls of the stuff. I couldn't help it; it was all so feathery and soft and flittery. And the colourways of Patons Feathers were fantastic. I knew better than to make a whole item out of fun fur, so I bought plenty of smooth, plain wool as well and made gloves and hats with fuzzy trim for about a year.

And then, one fateful day, it occurred to me that I should snoop around on teh interwebs to see if anyone else knitted. And, lo, I found, and the Yarn Harlot, and so many other people who knitted. I found knitting blogs. I found out who Elizabeth Zimmermann was (praise be!), who changed the whole damn shooting match for me. I learned about making socks and tops and even - gasp - summer wear! In short, I found enough about knitting to turn my ironic 'nobody else is doing it' knitting into a full-blown passion.

I loved how it made use of otherwise idle time, such as waiting for pages on the net to load, or while I watched TV. I loved the range of things you could make, from socks to quilts to tiny baby things. When I learned about knitting in the round (and hallelujah, wasn't that a day!), the simplicity of it blew my mind. But most of all, I loved the portability of it, the variability; you could carry a glove or a sock in your bag, and work on a sweater at home.

Sewing required you to clear your day, to clear a workspace, to 'set up' for ages. Then you had to trace the pattern, cut it out, and overlock all the pieces -- all before you could even begin to start putting it together. And if you found it didn't fit *quite* right, heaven help you; you had to pull the whole damn thing apart, only to find that the mistake was in the cutting-out stage, at which point, you're well and truly fucked.

But the biggest difference is the undo-ability of knitting. As someone with a pretty well-ingrained tendency to plunge straight in and say piss off to the consequences, the ability to redo, do over and repair on-the-go is a blessing. Knitted fabric has an enormous amount of forgiveness, by its very nature. But, oh mercy, you can fit as you go and it's just beautiful. And if you screw up -- even when you've got to the end of a sweater that cost you tears and a whole spring -- you can start over. The raw materials are still there, waiting to be de- and re-constructed.

Over the weekend, I finally starting balling up this:

This had, once upon a time, been a bundle of fresh balls of South West Trading Company's Bamboo. Oh, it's blissful, silky, slinky yarn. I knitted it up into this pattern which is gorgeous, despite Stitch Diva's dreadful pattern layout. It's purple. But it wasn't suited for that pattern: the sleeves draped out and down, down down, until you felt like the bulk of the pattern rested on your wrists. (Plus I kept dipping it in my lunch) It wasn't for me. So now it's in balls. Above are the skeins, unwound, washed and dried, waiting in line to turn into neat little yarn cakes.

And you can't do that with sewing. You can't say "Damn, this sleeve is stuffed; I'm going to unravel it and start over." You have to say "Uh-oh, this sleeve is stuffed. I'm going to have to buy more fabric." That's why I love knitting.

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