11 April 2011

Knitting - making what we need

As you know we're enjoying Autumn here now. It's my favourite season.  It's cool, with the certainty of colder weather to come. Bliss!  I knit all year through and generally knit with cotton in summer and heavier yarns, like wool and alpaca, in the colder months.  This year is an exception to that rule because I'm knitting for the babies and some of the lighter autumn jackets and booties call for cotton.  I am using the Ecoyarns organic natural dyed cotton from Peru.  The colours are subtle, the cotton is strong but very soft, and in addition to being paid fair trade wages for processing the cotton, the women are given a litre/quart of milk each working day.  I really like the idea of that.  

I'm now half way through a blue cotton kimono jacket for Jamie.  The pattern is from the Cute and Easy Baby Knits book which is very easy to use, even for a beginner.  When he came to visit on Saturday, he wore the blue cotton shoes I had knitted for him, with blue and black striped socks - bee feet and very cute.  I must say it makes me feel good knowing the knits I make for our babies, while being soft on their skin, are not harmful in any way.  I like supporting businesses producing organic materials too. Many of them are swimming against the current to get their products out to us.  

This little jacket is an ideal step up project for a new knitter.  It could take you from "beginner" to "intermediate".  All it requires in the way of stitches is cast on, knit and purl, cast off/bind off, and the additional of two new stitches - "sl", which is just slipping a stitch from one needle to the other and "inc" which is knitting into the front and back of a stitch, instead of just into one side of the stitch.  It's a bit fiddly when you first do it but it's not complicated and is easy to remember.  Doing these stitches, along with the knit and purl, makes the curve in the front of the jacket you can see in the photo above.

My good friend and long term helper, Sharon, started a dishcloth swap at the forum and here on the weekend.  Sharon has been very sick for a long time so it's really wonderful to have her back, both here and at the forum.  The swap serves a couple of purposes.  It provides a challenge, a way of engaging with others and it is an encouragement to those who don't knit or crochet to think about working on a simple and quick project.  There are a few new knitters in the swap, so if you're unsure about your knitting capabilities, don't be, you're not alone and, as usual, perfection is not a requirement.  Making dishcloths is an excellent way of improving your knitting while making something useful.  Even if it doesn't look great it is still useable.

If you decide to join, when you start work on your dishcloth, keep the label from the cotton you use and clip that to the dishcloth before you send it.  It will show the recipient what you used and these labels often have washing instructions on them as well.  It's a good habit to get into if you're knitting for others - send them that label, or a hand-written label stating what materials you used and how to care for them.  It's a lovely little touch that I'm sure most people  appreciate.

Another tip: modern yarn is usually sold as a ball.  The old fashioned way was as a skein. The yarns above I got from Ecoyarns as skeins and before you start knitting with them, you form a ball; it's easier to knit that way and you get no knots or tangles. You'll need to hook the yarn over someone's hands or two kitchen chairs and just wind the skein to form a ball.  

Knitting is one of those distinctive skills of simple living.  It's similar to learning how to make bread and soap.  You can get by without it but if you take the time to learn, the quality of what you make is much better than what you buy and in the case of knitting, you can knit useful items for the home like dishcloths and tea cosies, and then progress to mittens, scarves and warm winter clothing.  It's just the most relaxing thing to do, it will give you a portable project to take with you when you go to work or when waiting to pick up the kids, and it makes your relaxation time, both calming and productive.

Happy knitting everyone!
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