Sunday, 25 November 2012

Give it away!

Give it away!

“Sacrifice is a part of life. It's supposed to be. It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to.”

Growing up on a farm, in rural Ireland, had its ups and downs. As a child, you didn’t get to see your friends as often as you would have liked. There weren’t shops nearby to stock up on goodies. However, there was a mobile sweet shop run by ‘Scully’. That’s what he was called. He would arrive at the house any day at anytime. At the sound of his sweet shop, pulling into the yard, we would all scream “Scully!” before running amok in his tiny van. After a good feed of sweets, we would amuse ourselves amongst the farm machinery and vast open spaces. It was the 80’s so health and safety wasn’t talked about! There was one afternoon, when we stumbled across a small open, car trailer. “Speed Wheels!” We poured on, with the trailer poised at the top of a hill with the open road in front of us. One sat on the back, Mai (another of the Middles) sitting on the front, to balance things out and a couple on either side. Speed, apparently, is fun but fear is the getaway. When things got scary, we all jumped but Mai, ill-advised, felt she better stay and steer. We found her at the foot of a large tree, her ankle wedged between the trailer lip and gnarled tree trunk. She took a bullet for us, saving that trailer from destruction at the expense of her own legs! Bless!
An able-bodied Mai, today
There is something about giving a gift, which gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Mai, sacrificing her legs was admirable but giving a gift of knitting is much more 2012. On finding that perfect shade of yarn, the creativity bubbles rise to the surface and project ideas start to flood in.  Although, my presents have become a bit ‘old hat’ and predictable, knitting still takes over! Well, for sure, your boyfriend/ girlfriend, partner, newborn, neighbour, friend or even your own feet will appreciate the gift of a hand-crafted knit. 

Never underestimate the power of giving!

Sunday, 18 November 2012



"Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order."

In all professions and hobbies, your tools of the trade are of the utmost importance in helping you achieve success. Whether it’s your brain, your computer or your hands, looking after what’s important is priority. With regards to knitting, your needles only come second to the care of your hands so take your time when choosing which needle suits you best. 
I first started knitting on metal needles. Generic metal needles are cheap and plentiful but can be noisy and hard on your hands. Modern metals are made to be more user friendly and do not break easily, if at all. Good quality metal needles are more beneficial when knitting socks or fine lace due to the sheer thinness of the needle required. Plastic needles are fine for chunky knits. They are lighter, warmer but can become a bit ‘sticky’ with use. When knitting, you should be able to run the stitches smoothly up and down the needle, without them dropping off. There should be no space between the stitch and the needle. This is also a good indication that your tension is correct. Again, the only comfort I found in plastic, was the price. 

Late into my knitting years, a friend, kindly give me a gift of a set of bamboo needles. Bamboo is a great material to work as its warm and almost noiseless. They will bend over time but this doesn’t seem to weaken them. They may split at the points over time especially if you are a frequent knitter. I find using a nail file to smooth out any rough edges helps prolong their life.

While on a trip to London, a few years back, a good friend in the know escorted me to a fabulous little knitting shop. It was the equivalent to stepping into ‘The Land of Take What You Please’, which nestled atop ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’. the feeling was as though you were walking into one’s dotage’s abode, greeted by yarns, needles, accessories and everything else you could possibly want and make believe, you really needed! It was here, I was introduced to Swallow Casein Knitting Needles. Swallow produce ethical, natural, eco-friendly needles from their hub in Australia. These adorable creamy, pastel coloured needles are in fact, made from Casein, a milk bi-product. The health benefits of these little gems can be read here at Casein Knitting Needles.
Needles made from Milk!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Ying, Zen & Tao!

“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there”

-Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig

How to change your world in three easy steps: listen to your elders, read a good book and start knitting. Is that too broad? For sure, but it was worth a try, nonetheless. As an advocate of the fine art of knitting, I harbour strong impulses to shout its worthiness and importance amongst & against its peers. I would stand behind any art or craft, whether it is gardening, cooking, photography or reading. Creativity is important, whether its your own or your enjoyment of someone else’s efforts. Overlapping hobbies is even more fun! Sewing up cakes (Mollie Makes, Issue 14), photographing books, or landscaping your wool stash. That’s even a new one on me, but I’m open-minded.

There are some excellent books available that can help re-ignite your passion for knitting. Here are some oldies but goodies:

  •   Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring thLinks Between Knitting,    Spirituality, Creativity by Bernadette Murphy, which explores the reasons why we knit
  • Knitwear in Fashion by Sandy Black, a beautifully photographed book, made for the coffee table depicting high-end fashion knitwear through the ages
  • The Art of Knitting: Inspirational Stitches, Textures and Surfaces by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne is a fabulous example of knitted textile designs to wet your appetite.

With regards to “how to’ Lit., the Internet, bookshops, newsagents are awash with books and magazines. When starting to knit, its best to find a book with clear images, as words can be difficult to translate! Aim for simplicity and choose what you like. One good comprehensive book is invaluable such as The Ultimate Knitting Bible: A Complete Reference with Step-by-Step Techniques by Sharon Brant

As you progress, you might find you only like knitting socks, for example, so aim to narrow your search. A lot of money can be wasted by well meaning family and friends buying books that have no place on your shelf. Being selective will make you a better knitter. You Tube has some excellent tutorials. Better still, find a knitting friend, or knit group and get some real, hands on advice. It’s more fun than grappling inevitable complications and mistakes, on your own, but that’s just my opinion!

My Zen Moment!
A view from The Cottage at Burren Alpacas

Sunday, 4 November 2012



"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 
"What! You too? I thought I was the only one."

Describe knitting. What makes knitting so pleasurable? Apart from some needles clicking furiously together (making ‘those’ wish you would spend more time reading), knitting is creating.

I first fell in love with knitting while watching Caroline, one of the Middles (the now Married One), tackle a school, knitting project, which eventually was to became a bag. I remember the concentration behind those eyes, making each stitch was one step closer to having a finished piece. What could be more satisfying than creating pure art, using your hands and sheer will, to sculpt yarn into a body of work. The outcome so often is not the prize but the act itself, taking you away from the worries of the day, through the repetitive mantra of ‘knit one, purl one…’

For those just dipping their toes in, the journey ahead should be sweet. Find a spot in your home, the park, up a tree, wherever you can make your own. Settle down, having not the end in mind, but the moment. Comfort and good lighting are as important as your yarns and needles. Try doing a tension swatch before beginning your project. A swatch is a sample piece of knitting allowing you to gauge your tension in comparison to that recommended by the pattern. The swatch should be blocked (pressing the piece with steam from your iron, while not putting the iron directly on the piece). Take a measurement, 10cm x 10cm, counting the number of stitches and rows within this range. You should aim to match the tension square stated in your pattern to achieve the best results. It is also helpful to knit a sample swatch if starting a new stitch that has not been tackled before. I would even recommend practicing more difficult stitches on scrap yarn (cheap acrylic would be fine). Mistakes will be made at the beginning of every new project, so keep in mind, if you think you haven’t hit a few glitches, check your work!

Don’t be tempted to buy lots of knitting equipment at the start. You won’t use a fraction of what is being sold to you. Pick small, quick projects that will allow you to see results relatively quickly. Above all, enjoy what you are doing, no matter how badly you believe you are doing it. You should try to keep all your starter projects and swatches as keepsakes and for a good a laugh when you need one.

Last but not least, join a knit group. If there isn’t one locally, start your own. Get some friends together or advertise for an open knit group. Local businesses such as cafes, pubs, libraries, should welcome you with open arms as nothing gets the atmosphere going like banded creativity. Group knitting is a fantastic way to share information, teach, learn, swap wool and above all, make some great new friends.

Now, tell me, why do You love Knitting?

Check out ‘KnitWits’ group on Facebook!