Wednesday, 20 May 2015

continental knitting

I've been an keen knitter since I was a little girl. I first learned to cast on with my Mum, who in turn had learned from her mother and so on, and so forth. Going into my teens, I started getting unwell with Chronic Fatigue/Fibromylagia. As time went on, I would spend more and more time off school, and was often looked after by Grandma Joan. I would spend many an afternoon sat knitting beside her or rummaging through her vast stock of knitting needles and patterns. Later, my Danish sister-in-law taught me how to knit socks, which in turn led on to knitting gloves and mittens and hats in the round. As my love and interest for knitting grew, along with my love and interes for the French language, I was then able to knit beside my Swiss grandma and I not only began to talk her native tongue, but learned to knit the continental way like she did.

Sadly my Swiss grandma is no longer with us and the other knitters in my family are far away across the other side of the Channel. But having such a deep family connection to the craft has always made it very special for me, a way to bond with these women.

Whenever I take out my five needles and cast on in the round, I feel I am somehow connected to these women by invisible threads of love, but also thrift and quiet craftsmanship. My beloved Grandma may have passed away, but she passed down to me not only her double pointed needles and darning mushroom, but also a wealth of precious family knowledge, of which I am now one of the guardians.

Perhaps one day when I am old and grey, one of my descendants will marvel with wide-eyed wonder when I tell them how I used to darn holes or unravel and re-knit socks that had grown to small like my own grandmothers did.  Or perhaps they will laugh at their excentric old grandma and wonder why she behaved like such an old woman whilst she was still young.

socks tell stories

I learned to knit from my mother, who in turn learned from her grandmother, and so on, and so forth. While I've always really admired those knitters who learned to knit not because of any family history but simply because they were interested in it, I must admit that having a family connection to the craft has always made it special for me. I learned as a kid, but I didn't really get into knitting, branching out and learning new techniques, until I left for college. I certainly enjoyed it (and obviously still do!), but I think on some level it was also really nice to have something to connect me to my mother and my roots when I was away from home. It was something we could bond over whenever I came back to visit, too. 
In the age of Ravelry my mom's started knitting again in earnest, especially as she's moved towards retirement and had more time for it. She's branching out and learning new techniques, or in some cases, re-learning old techniques, too. But mom knit a lot when she was younger. She knit a lot in an age where knitting patterns could be pretty... interesting. I mean, let's be real. Knitting and crocheting got kind of weird in the 1960's and 70's with the introduction of synthetic fibers on a grand scale. And while digging old stuff out of her closet, mom came across this particularly wonderful specimen of a sweater she made in the 70's and she sent it my way.

Monday, 19 January 2015

shades of grey

{Edit: You can find this post and me over here from now on...} is once again today, winter grey. Snow flakes tumble from far above the mountains, swirling to the valley bottom to settle on rooftops, branches, the tongues of excited children.

Occasionally the sun sneaks out from behind the billowing clouds, bathing the valley in warming golden light. Occasionally the clouds part to uncover a radiant blue sky. But more often than not these days are tinged with grey. 

Some folks around these parts grumble about the grey, finding it monotonous, gloomy. Lying resting in bed looking up at the sky, I like it very much. I immerse myself in the greys and realise that it is not colourness. There is slate grey, blue grey, smoke grey, silver grey, dawn grey, sleet grey, winter grey, mist grey....The more I look, the more I notice there are not fifty, nor a hundred but a thousand shades of grey.

Of course I too love the blue sky days, when I can sit on the balcony and soak up the healing sunshine. But in between, grey is beautiful, versatile, soothing...

Monday, 5 January 2015

due south

No way of knowing exactly where the path of this coming year will take me...
But I know where I'm headed today, due south back to the mountains* and my love.

* And if I'm very lucky, perhaps a little snow?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

looking forward

2014 was a challenging year for me, for us.
My attitude tended to veer towards un-acceptance. Frustration. Sorrow.

But the earth kept on spinning round the sun. And now it is January once again.

For once, I'm not gonna try to "turn over a new leaf". 
The world doesn't change, we change.
Not who I am, but how I feel about myself.
About this

So this is 2015.

Where the past year was a collection of endless endings, then these months just about to unfurl will be surely marked by new beginnings.
Where the past year was tinged with a deep rooted despair, then we step forth into the blinding light of this new one with a renewed sense of hope.

So this is 2015. Welcome. 


Inspired by the gorgeous words of Rachel Violet: 

"Despite all the heartaches this last chapter has brought me, as 365 blank pages unfold I am filled to the brim with hope that day by day we will all be reunited with our health, happiness and love."

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

looking back

As the old year passes, I take to the hills. Not literally, not physically. But in my mind's eye. 
Drifting off into that place between waking and dreaming, there is no real time to mull over 2014 before I surrender to sleep. No need really either. These past twelve months, I've done enough mulling to last a lifetime.

But it's good to take a cursory glance back across my shoulder, back down the mountain of the year. For it is only now that I can see it has all been worth it, that I did the right thing to keep going, to keep on hoping and not bail out when the going got tough.
That is what 2014 has taught me, to keep on matter how slowly.

Because as is often the way out in these mountains, it's only when you've slogged for hours up that hillside, worked through the sweat and the tears to stand high on the crest with the sun on your face that you can truly measure just how far you've come. 
Here on the cusp of the mountain, it's finally easy to see where I've been...and where I'm going next...
Joining in with these gorgeous and inspiring girls: 

Sunday, 14 December 2014


December, already. With it's misty mornings and first sprinklings of snow. I've not been well of late, and have been spending seemingly every waking moment either curled up in bed, or nestled in an armchair by the fire.

November began full of intention and plenty of exciting projects on the go, but quickly trailed off into a mist of extreme fatigue, aches and foggy head.

Things are a little better than those first few weeks I spent camped out in our sitting room, sleeping pretty much day and night by the fire. But there's still not much energy around these parts just now, and I'm having to listen to my body and pull right back. 

So work has sadly had to come to an end for the foreseeable future. And not a lot of spinning or knitting either.

Instead, plenty of home-made tisanes to keep the fluids up, snuggling up on our woollen mattress, heaped up with woollen blankets and a podcast or two in my ears when I'm feeling up to it.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

néou aran (spun)

I've fallen in love with the Caora sweater and would love to make one with my own hand-spun yarn. The gorgeous chunky garter stitch calls for a bulky weight (7 wpi) yarn. So a few weeks back, I spent the morning sampling as I was curious to see just how thick I could go. 

In no time at all, I had spun up some fat singles and was fairly satisfied with the results. It was a real joy to try spinning a thicker yarn, even if they were a little more lumpy bumpy than I've been producing recently, but apparently it's very normal to find it harder to produce regular thicker yarns than thin. Then came plying the singles together, which was a whole different matter! 

Within minutes I was having trouble drawing the plied yarn onto the bobbin, which no matter of fiddling with the tension seemed to solve. I ended up having to ply in fits and starts, pretty much hand winding the entire length of the plied yarn onto the bobbin! It felt as if I had regressed back to being a complete novice spinner...although unlike my first attempts, this yarn is not over-plied thank goodness!  

Although I've ended up with a slightly slubby (uneven) yarn, weighing somewhere between Bulky and Aran (7-8 wpi), the finished yarn is really gorgeous - beautifully balanced and very soft to the touch. I can just imagine how wonderful it would be to wrap myself up in the Caora sweater on poorly days. I'd love to spin enough to cast on, but I think I've sadly discovered the limits of my 19th century spinning wheel - it just is not happy producing chunky yarn. 

Looks like I might have to start saving up for a more modern wheel, with a bigger orifice and jumbo flyer.... 

"néou aran"

Ingredients: 70g of washed and carded wool. The fibre used was white Berichon du Cher from Gèdre.

Spinning: Two singles spun from rolags in the Z direction, using the woollen technique.  

Plying: two singles plied in the S direction until balanced. 

Finishing: Wound off into a skein, washed and dried weighted to set the ply.

Quantity: 67g giving 40m of finished yarn
WPI: 7-8
Yarn Weight: Bulky/Aran