Friday, February 08, 2008

A quite shamelessly long post about knitting


The brown shawl is not exactly brown; more a mix of charcoal and silver colours. The yarn was in a pack , with a large circular needle, that I bought in Lidl's sale ( yes, things in Lidl are even cheaper after Christmas than before...) for 5 euros, the same price and provenance as the Sistine Chapel jigsaw. Both jigsaw and shawl are long finished, but I felt the latter needed something to brighten it up a bit. I rather fancied those felt pompoms from Nepal that have been around as jewellery and trimmings for a while, but when it came to it, I couldn't find any locally, and could only buy them on the internet in large quantity and at some expense from abroad, which rather seemed to defeat the spirit of thrifty serendipity in which the garment has been created.


My solution was satisfactory on more than one count: using up, letting go, and rediscovering a childhood pleasure. Tapestry wool pompoms! Bags of tapestry wools sit mustifying in cupboards and boxes. I am not going to finish any existing tapestry projects, begun before even we left England, or start any new ones. So I cut cardboard discs and set about making pompoms,something I haven't done since I was a nipper, and I'd forgotten what a pleasure it is, especially the random variegated ones when you wind the wool round in different colours and see how they turn out. ( You have to make your own entertainment round here...).

Making a shawl is satisfyingly easy: you just cast on three, then increase a stitch at the start of each row by doing yarn over, and don't stop till you've had enough. Any yarn, any gauge. You have to do garter stitch so it lies flat, but you could do something fancy with a garter stitch border. (I found the pattern on the web but unfortunately it downloaded on a wordpad file with no record of its original source, so no link, sorry about that.) A triangular thing really does sit more easily over the shoulders than a rectangle. The long edge needs to be about as long as your arm span, which is about the same as your height, so work out about how many stitches you need from your tension square. If it's bigger it's even better. The shawl is good for sitting at the computer, which is in a slightly draughty spot, or curling up on the sofa. Tom sometimes nicks it, and Molly likes it too, though can get her claws caught in it. I'm resolved to only knit things that can be done in one piece, or maximum two, so I could come round to socks if some kind soul were to show me how to turn a heel.


The shawl is mostly acrylic with a bit of wool, but a pleasant texture. Knitting the baby coat with Loch Sunart's fabulous silk/alpaca blend was a treat and a privilege, but while the knitting craze sweeps the internet and beyond, and my knitting/blogging buddies roll around sensuously in natural fibres of heavenly hue and luxuriant texture, I find it is something altogether more tawdry and synthetic which is tickling my textile tastebuds. I'm talking about the seductions of spun polyester.

I found an remarkably cheap source of these yarns ( Bradeo on the retail estate behind Carrefour near Conforama, for those in this neck of the woods who might care to know), and cannot believe the things that can be done with the slippery and deceptive stuff. I know it's terribly tacky and completely right-off, and it does have a slightly weird petro-chemical smell to it, but it's such fun, and I'm hoping it's made from recycled plastic bottles.

The amazing Barbie pink fluffy one, above, has already become a scarf for young A., whose delight in Barbie pink belies a tough and serious-minded character.

The autumn shaded one above (and last but one) has one ply fluffy, and one ply with chenille bobbles, which makes for a dense intriguing texture that you can knit up very quickly on big needles. (Another point in the favour of this kind of stuff is the fluffiness can cover a multitude of sins in the execution...) It's well on the way to being something for someone but I'm not giving away what, as sometimes people read this and surprises get spoiled.

I'm not quite sure why I bought the one above in quite large quantity. I was just very taken by the sample knitted up in the shop, as it takes on a quite stiff, nubby-slubby, tapestry texture. It's slightly greener than it looks here, and goes rather well with the living room, so it might end up as cushions. Yes, I've come to this, a domestic idyll of knit-your-own-cushion-covers. Well, it was all I ever really wanted.
There were many more colours and textures available, but for the moment I'm avoiding the place.
This post was brought to you by Woman's Weekly, (but she be feeling better soon, as my mother used to say.)

14 comments:

Isabelle said...

Hmm, lovely. You almost inspired me to knit, but this isn't practical: I have far too many other things that I need to do, or that I want to do more than I want to knit. But you did make it sound like a fun thing to do, and I love your bobbles. Or touries, as we might call them here.

rr said...

There's nothing wrong with a spot of hardwearing plastic. My most popular creation ever is entirely acrylic.

I so wish there was a local Lidl here. Wonderful shop.

marja-leena said...

Gorgeous textures and soft colours - again I wish I knit!

leslee said...

Hm, I probably should have checked back here before I bought yarn last weekend to make a rectangular shawl with a simple pattern in it (the pattern says it's for "beginners" - just knit and purl and a few yarn overs). We'll see how it goes - haven't started it yet. Plain cream-colored wool, so it'd be boring without the knit pattern. Heh, may be boring anyway!

Lesley said...

I'm a big fan of Lidl too. Is this what it has come to: looking forward to Saturday afternoons rummaging through the miscellaneous bargains in a cut-price supermarket? Did I ever aspire to anything more?

Tall Girl said...

That last 'wool'looks strangely like pebbles in nets

Lucy said...

Isabelle - touries, what a wonderful, Gaelic sounding word! Would it be touries you'd be having on your tam-o-shanter?

Rachel - you reassure me. That Gromit sweater is quite fabulous. I am certain that the pan-European snobbery against Lidl is a conspiracy to keep us spending over the odds at Carrefour, Tesco etc. They do some great stuff and apparently their ethical etc record is better than many!

ML - go on, knit, you know you want to!

Leslee - but knitting with a nice wool isn't boring anyway, and I found the shawl was great for doing in front of the telly, as it was so straightforward I could do it by feel.

Lesley - you too eh? that makes me feel better.

Pol - it's odd isn't it, and looks vwery different again when knitted up. It will probably be the most fiddly so far...

Rosie said...

I can see that I have been missing out on a wholesome pleasure. I have always fancied a mithril coat to turn away the arrows of my dwarvish neighbour...

meggie said...

What a fun post! I love the coloured bobbles making your shawl bright! What fun.

apprentice said...

Lovely pompoms. A friend who was recently writer in residence at an oncology unit got the patients who didn't want to write to make pompoms and she said it was huge success, memories flooding back and people going home with stories other than today's cannula horror.

stitchwort said...

Love the shawl!

Entirely in agreement about large hand-knit shawls - I recently made one in entrelac, using odd balls of handspun, and I love it and use it lots.

As one who might be in danger of becoming an "only-my-own-handspun-wool" snob, perhaps I need a trip to Lidl to restore the balance.

Beth said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE those pompoms. What a great idea! Wonderful post, write long about knitting anytime!

Lucy said...

Rosie - that's the ticket!
Meggie - thanks!
Apprentice - that's an interesting story, and I can well believe, as pompoms seem to be one of those things that everyone maintains a nostalgic affection for, and has some memories of (rather like madeleines in France!). There's also something magical about the way they go from flat to round, and how they ought to fall apart when you cut them, but don't. They take just long enough to make to be absorbing, but are quick enought to provide instant gratification. In short, pompoms are all round good eggs!
Stitch - well if I made lovely natural wool from scratch like you, I'd probably be snobby about it! Lidl don't have yarn regularly, it's a serendipity kind of place.
Beth - nice to see you, knitting aficionado that you are! Perhaps I'll have started an internet pompom craze...

marly said...

I wonder why I am such a knitting moron when my mother is such a wonderful needlewoman of all sorts? Is it something to do with math? Something primitive? Mine grow monstrously.

Perhaps it's daydreaming?