Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Great expectations

Firstly, a big thanks for all the comments from the last post. I have now got over the maudlin period and am back to being my usual shouty argumentative self - hurray!

I have been knitting socks for the last few weeks and very little else - pictures will appear soon, but I've lost the thingummy doofus that links the camera to the laptop. So in the absence of pixtures I shall regale you with my thoughts on yarn shops. Yesterday I was on a training course in Beeston and so thought I should check out Yarn. This is a shop that I've read a great deal about on other blogs and in knitting magazines and it seems to be universally raved about, so my expectations were high. The shop itself was crammed with yarn and patterns and whilst it was too small to swing a cat in, you could have probably managed to whirl a guinea pig around your head without causing too much damage (to the shop at least - Mr Snuffles may well be traumatised by his impromptu fairground ride). On the face of it, there was a great deal of promise in the shop, and so I was a happy little critter.

However, I do feel that there were several areas that I felt the shop let itself down in. Firstly, not all the needles and notions are easily accessible, and you have to specifically ask for certain items as they are out of the customers reach. For shoppers like me, who enjoy picking things up, having a look and a think and then maybe putting them back again, this isn't a good thing. Secondly, the counter with the till has yarn stacked in front of it. It made it difficult to browse these if anyone was paying, and also felt as though you were being watched by the woman behind the till. Thirdly, and most crucially, the woman herself was courteous, but that was all. I didn't feel especially welcomed or as though I could ask for help or advice.

Overall, I just felt a bit let down. It's always a risk when you have your hopes raised that you may be let down, but I think my expectations were so high because of my LYS. When you're used to a shop where the kettle is always on, the owner keeps baby wipes to clean little people's sticky fingers and crayons to keep the newly cleaned fingers occupied, customers laugh and chat with each other, advice is plentiful and friendly and you're positively encouraged to squeeze and sniff yarn then most other places will pale by comparison.

I hope I just caught the lady in Yarn on a bad day, and that normally the atmosphere is far friendlier, but it did bring it home to me that I am damned lucky to have such a great LYS on my doorstep.

Oh, and a quick point - I seem to be getting more and more questions in the comments, so if you ask me anything then I'll answer you in the comments rather than in the next post :)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Sometimes I wonder why people knit? To reduce stress, quit smoking, give themselves a creative outlet, ensure that they have clothes that fit perfectly, because they find it relaxing, because they enjoy a challenge, because they feel it connects them with knitters who have gone before them are all reasons that I've seen given on blogs and on knitting forums. There are bound to be many other reasons that I've missed, but the one reason that gets mentioned again and again is to do with clothing those we love.

I think this is primarily why I knit. There are plenty of other reasons, but the overriding reason for my knitting is as a way of expressing my love and affection for others. A friend of mine has just split up with her boyfriend, and so I'm knitting her some snuggly socks. It's a way of letting someone know that you're thinking of them, and that whilst you can't always physically be there to give them a hug, make endless cups of tea and just sit with them, when they pull on a pair of cashmere socks then you're there with them.

I knit for my children and get an immense sense of pride in seeing them wearing something I've made. It shows I want to spend my time keeping them warm and looking good. Those who knit for charity are also showing their love for others . By making clothes, blankets or toys for those who need them, they are demonstrating immense compassion for people who they will most likely never meet, and are doing so simply because they understand that any human being in need is deserving of warmth and comfort.

The one aspect of knitting that I feel most demonstrates a knitters love for another person is when they knit something that they themselves hate. To spend hours making something garish, unflattering, dull or in a hideous colour simply because it has been asked for is a sure sign of love.

When I was 15 I asked my mum to knit me a cardigan and, like all good knitters, she agreed. I wanted an oversized long grey baggy cardigan, with absolutely no frills, cables, lacey bits or anything that would make the knitting of it even remotely interesting - it had to be stocking stitch all the way. I was going for a Morrissey/Robert Smith/Kurt Cobain type of look (as is the way with teenagers), and my mum sighed and declared that she would knit it for me. A sidar pattern was found, the yarn bought and she cast on. At the time I was a very skinny wee thing, and so my mum suggested that I might want something that went just below my bum and was maybe 40" round the chest, as this was a good 8" of ease. Nope, that was not what I wanted. I wanted it to my knees and to be a 48" chest. Sighing, my mum agreed to knit exactly what I wanted. I should also point out that the yarn used was DK weight, mainly acrylic and a very drab grey, so it wasn't as though knitting with it was a pleasure. The cardigan took months to knit (understandably), but it was exactly what I wanted.

I'm wearing the massive cardigan right now, and nearly 15 years since it was knitted it's still going strong. The seams have been perfectly mattress stitched, and the button band was picked up and then knitted, rather than knitted on. The finishing on this cardi must have taken hours, and it is perfect. The acrylicy wool is starting to go a bit bobbly and it's wearing a bit thin in places, but I'll never throw it out. I've worn this to night clubs, I wore it when I was in labour with baby badger, I wear it now when I'm poorly.

It's 10 years today since my mum died, and no matter what people say, time doesn't make it easier. It still hurts like hell and I don't think I will ever get over it. What I do have though, is this cardigan, and it is incontravertable knitted proof of just how much my mum loved me.