Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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Something to aspire to

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Of course they mean something besides coming up with blog posts day after day after day. Although I think that’s a worthy goal too.

Day six: 2nd April. Something to aspire to. Is there a pattern or skill that you don’t yet feel ready to tackle but which you hope to (or think you can only dream of) tackling in the future, near or distant? Is there a skill or project that makes your mind boggle at the sheer time, dedication and mastery of the craft? Maybe the skill or pattern is one that you don’t even personally want to make but can stand back and admire those that do. Maybe it is something you think you will never be bothered to actually make but can admire the result of those that have.

 Tips: If you think you have learned all you ever want to in your craft then say so. Maybe you have been knitting for nearly 30 years and yet never learned to purl (many may think this is impossible, but I met a woman on the bus who told me exactly this once… Maybe she was following the E. Zimmerman school of thought too closely?).

Oh, I know what I want to knit when I grow up. I even alluded to it in Day 4. I want to knit a Fair Isle sweater. Not the simplified style of the 1970s, but an Alice Starmore sweater or its equivalent from another designer. Yes, this would be one of those sweaters that I think of as a watercolor painting in wool.

This will be a test of patience and my attention to detail. I figure, at a certain point, stranded knitting is stranded knitting. Indeed, unlike the sweater I made way back when, I know how to knit with yarn in each hand now, so that part should actually be easier than it was the first time. And since Fair Isle sweaters use only two colors in any one round, the sweater could have twenty-something different colors in it, but I’ll only have to worry about two of them at any one time.

But patience really is a sticking point for me. These sweaters are often knitted on fine needles with fine yarn. I’ve tried knitting an Alice Starmore sweater before, years ago. I actually was doing all right on the knitting itself: no major screwups in the colorwork and I was on gauge. In the end, what defeated me was that the sweater was simply way the heck too large for me (I chose the wrong size) and I gave up. But before I reached that point, I knit quite a lot of sweater, enough to know that any one round on the body would take me about an hour to do. I tell myself that if I knit a smaller sweater, the rounds will be shorter and won’t take so long, but I’m having trouble believing me. And these sweaters, with their intricate patterning, aren’t something I can just take along to Knit Nights, Knitters’ Guild meetings, conferences, webinars, or anywhere else where I might be distracted. These are sweaters to be knit alone. So knitting one might take a while.

Well, that’s hardly a can-do attitude. Okay, to review: I know how to do stranded knitting. I find these sweaters to be exquisitely beautiful. The advantage of knitting colorwork is that there’s always the temptation to knit just one more row to see the pattern developing. That would suggest that inevitably the sweater will be finished. So all I have to do is start one. Charge!

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An early project

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And we’re back. Let’s see what I can blurt out about this topic.

Day Four: 31st March. Where are they now?

Whatever happened to your __________?

Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.

There are a lot of different aspects to look at when looking back at a knitting project and it can make for interesting blogging, as much of the time we blog about items recently completed, new and freshly completed. It is not so often that we look back at what has happened to these items after they have been around for a while.

How has one of your past knits lived up to wear. Maybe an item has become lost. Maybe you spent weeks knitting your giant-footed dad a pair of socks in bright pink and green stripes which the then ‘lost’. If you have knit items to donate to a good cause, you could reflect on the was in which you hope that item is still doing good for it’s owner or the cause it was made to support.

Tips: This topic is similar to one we used for the first Knitting and Crochet blog week. This is purposeful and is intended to help the blogger to reflect on past items and refer back to previous posts and projects once in a while.

One of my oldest knitting projects is still with me. Way back when I was making my first sweaters, I fell in love with a Fair Isle sweater pattern. Now let’s give this a little context. It was the late 1970s. If the phrase “Fair Isle sweater” is bringing images of Alice Starmore masterpieces to mind, forget them right this minute. This was one of those simplified Fair Isle sweaters, where the color patterning was limited to the yoke of the sweater: stars alternating with trees to incorporate the decreases.

Another consequence of it being the 1970s was the lack of decent wool yarn to work with. I’m sure there was a fantastic array of wool out there somewhere, but not in central Missouri. Think acrylic worsted weight instead. Even if I’d had the courage to try the sweater, there wasn’t any yarn at hand that was suitable.

Fast-forward a few years. We took a trip to Chicago. Just about the only thing I remember from that trip was visiting a yarn store in Crown Point, Indiana. Maybe I saw wool there; I don’t remember. What I do remember was encountering my first alpaca yarn. Plymouth Indiecita. Ooh. Aah.

[Pause to imagine the impression alpaca makes on someone who has only known acrylic.]

I persuaded my parents to buy enough alpaca yarn for me to make the Fair Isle sweater. Looking back, this had to have been an incredible leap of faith for them. The yarn was way more expensive than anything they’d ever bought for me, I’d already left a few UFOs in my wake, and even without a lot of knitting knowledge they could probably figure out that I’d never tried stranded knitting before.

Yes, I knitted this sweater. It took years. The plain stockinette part was within my skill limits, but then, as now, I had almost no patience for large swaths of plain knitting, and this was a huge amount, worked only on size 6 needles (at the time, just about the smallest needles I’d ever worked with). You were supposed to make the body and the sleeves first, then join them and knit the yoke. On the bright side, by the time I finally got to the yoke, my knitting skills had improved enough to tackle stranded knitting. (They hadn’t improved enough to judge sleeve length—the sleeves are about 6″ too long—but those do roll up).

What happened to that sweater? Well, it went to the county fair that year and won a blue ribbon. And I wore it. And wore it. And wore it. Who knew that alpaca was so durable? Off the top of my head I’d say that sweater is thirty years old now, and still quite wearable. It hasn’t seen the light of day this year, but that was probably because I moved last year and it got stored out of sight. Okay, the sleeves still don’t fit, but I need to let that go.