Hello there – just a quick holiday note to share a holiday experience: teaching a kid to knit!

 

Many knitters I met often told me they had learnt the craft when they were a child, mostly with their grandmas – for some of them it just clicked while others did not knit for many years until they picked it up again.

Obviously, knitting has evolved a great deal over the last three or four decades.

When my grandma tried to teach me to knit, the endless red garter stitch acrylic scarf was the only option, sometimes with antediluvian supplies. Giving up the whole thing was very tempting then.

There are definitely nicer ways to go around it today although the main difficulty is still the kid who can get bored soo easily.

My guinea pig has been a very sweet seven-year-old girl who is always eager to do new activities with grown-ups.

She and I have been doing crafts for a couple of years now: necklaces, drawing, scrapbooking etc.

For knitting, I had a few ideas on how to proceed:

SUPPLIES

Obviously, cheap, synthetic yarn is still the way to go, preferably of a colour the kid likes, quality Sport because it knits quickly.

 

Addi makes coloured needles for kids. The great thing about them is that a pair is two-colour, which makes it easier for a child at the beginning!

 

Then comes the question of a first project, which basically has to be garter stitch rectangle.

 

A scarf for a kid is way too long and boring, but a scarf for a teddy bear or a headband for a girl are more interesting options in my opinion.

Personally, I just went for a tiny bow made of a few rows of 8 stitches each. Once it is done you just roll a yarn at the centre and here you go! Then you can put it on a bag or a hairpin.

 

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We eventually decided to go further and knit a small purse.

Tutorial:

– CO 20 stitches on 2 pairs of needles and knit two garter stitch squares.

– Then knit a couple of extra rows on one of the squares before decreasing every row until you have six stitches left.

Sew a button and make a few simple crochet stitches to make a buttonhole.

The purse strap was just a plait of several yarns.

At this stage, I feel quite silly because I forgot to take a picture of the bag before the kid left.

Fortunately, Gimp (kindof) made up for my  oversight.

 

 

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Ok so no, it does not look ridiculous, it just matches the anarchic stitches of my pupil.

To conclude, I have a mixed feeling on the experience. I am positive she liked it, but mostly because she had a bag at the end- here I must add that I knitted most of it toward the end so that she could actually leave with it! I think she was just a bit impatient for knitting, which is ok given that at 7, children just begin to learn in a serious way, but may be reluctant to do so for activities which just seem fun.

 

Any experience to share?

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Knitting in Amsterdam!

 

Hiya – or should I say Hallo, since I am about to tell you a few things about the weekend I have just spent in Amsterdam with my boyfriend.

I will write on our visits and experiences in a separate note, today I just wanted to give some helpful information for knitters going to Amsterdam.

 

 

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There are two main yarn/knitting supplies shops in Amsterdam, but I have only been to Penelope Craft, which is in a very nice, quiet street (Kerstraat 117), a stone’s throw from the Rijksmuseum – the ideal shopping place after having broadened one’s mind.

 

 

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The shop offers a wide range of gorgeous yarns, from local skeins (I will come back on this in a minute) to superstar yarns (Cascade, Madelintosh). The decoration of the place is very characteristic of indie yarn shops, with a Scandinavian touch and lovely knitted throws and amigurumis.

I particulary liked the “Unattented partners will get a beer and free WiFi” sign – only my boyfriend did not dare enter this place of knitting decadence and waited outside while I was doing my shopping.

 

In the end, I bought:

– Two skeins of hand-dyed yarn by Loret Karman – local Dutch stuff! Unfortunately, the shop was out of her Dutch Palettes, a collection of hand-dyed skeins made after Dutch paintings.

I picked unisex colours intending to knit a scarf for both my boyfriend and I to remind us of the weekend!

 

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– And a now traditional impulse buy, namely a skein of Danish tweed silk (BC Garn).

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The shop also has a weekly knitting group on Thursdays.

The other knitting shop is De Afstap, I have not been there but I read it had an impressive range of Rowan yarns beside Loret Karman hand-dyed skeins. It is very close from the lovely Jordaan district.

 

…Now who said that yarn was not exactly what I should have brought back from Amsterdam?

My first time

Did I tell you about my first time? I mean the first time I knitted a lace project! My first experience in the matter leads me to share some useful tips with you.

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1)

Pick up a partner pattern you really like, there is no good in feeling compelled to it. I chose Emily Ross’s Haruni shawl, which has everything a girl wants: it is pretty, it is free and it does exist in French. And it is a cultivated pattern – haruni means grandmother in Elvish – as I am teaching where Tolkien was both student and teacher, I felt I could not miss that opportunity.

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2)

Enjoy safe knitting – it is the best way to feel condident and to avoid a nasty accident. There will still be problems in the process anyway. So do buy some good quality supplies, like a good row counter and stitch-markers which are specifically designed for lace-knitting (for pattern repetitions) – mine are Hiya Hiya (bought at the Fibreworks).

More generally speaking, just go for good quality instead of cheap supplies: I took a kickass yarn – Merinos Malabrigo Lace Yarn (Sotobosque) and reliable 3mm bamboo circular needles – still Hiya Hiya.

And even with a good kit you are not safe from a terribly embarrassing moment (in my case the crochet/needle binding off was something of a massacre at the beginning – it taught me a lesson about improvising new positions)

3)

Do it at home! One may be fond of outdoor kinky activities, but the first time demands way too much focus to be disrupted by external elements. For a while, do forget about knitting groups and outdoor sessions when knitting your lace shawl.

4)

Show off! The first time makes you proud and rightly so! Therefore once you are done, please walk about with your new knitted project – that is what I did last Sunday in sunny Oxford.

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Reading and knitting

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To the question: can one knit and read at the same time, someone with a bit of common sense will most likely answer in the negative way.

So how are we supposed to combine these two passions? Dull people might just say “Well drop your needles and pick up a book” which is actually the easiest way to go.

But then there are audiobooks. I hardly meet people who are fond of audiobooks to be honest, probably because for avid readers, the idea of being read to is at odds with the idea of reading.

Audiobooks are met with polite skepticism among intellectuals, as if  confessing your use of it equalled your saying in a literature talk on Jane Austen that you only knew of her work through BBC series.

More generally speaking, it is a common opinion to believe that only those who can’t read (children) should be read to.

But audiobooks have some good in them: it makes one hear the text, its rhythms, its implied meaning and its repeated motifs. They are in keeping with old traditions of reading aloud and above all, they are a gentler immersion in a text, especially for the days when one feels a little tired.

And it allows knitters to knit away while listening to the stories of the greatest heroes and heroines of all times.

Of course, there is some inconvenience too (beside the impossibility of dogearing your audiobook), mainly because the audiobook industry is not a very rich one and  draws mostly on volunteering (like LibriVox) so that there are good things and not-so- good things to be found. More significantly, I think it is a pity that most audiobooks simply do not make the most of this medium: there is often but one reader, very little reflection on atmospheres or extra sounds, in a word it is a traditional reading-aloud while it could be much more in some cases – it could be genuine audio adaptations, without texy editing  like in some good quality radio programmes.

Do you know of any nice audiobooks? Gothic tales and fantasy are usually good (Lovecraft, Harry Potter,…).

I have just finished to listen to Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth via Librivox free version  and I must say it was quite nice – I had already read the novel a few years ago but I really enjoyed rediscovering the 1900s Gilded New York. And it enabled me to complete a  shawl, which I will show here pretty soon!

Links

LibriVox

 

Craft shopping

After my post on my London WE which strayed from knitting matters, I thought I had to go back to basics. During this WE, the Woolen Republic GDP went through dramatic cuts, for the greater good.

From the most knitting-related purchase to craft-related home decoration, here is what I bought:

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Well, yarn, yarn and more yarn, straight from Loop shelves! From left to right, top to bottom:

a)Bright blue baby alpaca chunky (a fave of mine) from Misti Alpaca, a brand I had never heard of. How was I supposed to resist this huge, supersoft skein?

 

b)Two Blue Sky Alpaca Gold Dust Metallico skeins (I also have a thing for golden yarn, but I will be coming back on this pretty soon), half alpaca half silk, that is top quality yarn, with which I plan to make a shoulderette.

 

c)Tosh Sock yarn from Madelinetosh, a brand I had never heard of either. Sounds like someone is making a first foray into sock knitting really soon!

And there, some books:

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To be honest, I hardly buy any craft book – I think the Internet has an amazing range of patterns, and it also allowed some avid knitters to launch their own patterns, so I usually pick up my patterns on the Web.

But one may sometimes make exceptions:

 

My Crochet Doll by Isabelle Kessedjan is an amazing book to make lovely amigurumi dolls.

(Ok, I might have been influenced by the supersweet pictures)

Creative Cabling from Debbie Bliss has gorgeous patterns:

This great jumper will hopefully be mine in the next couples of weeks.

 

 

Lastly, I quite enjoy buying vaguely craft-related vintage stuff, and Camden Passage was the right place to shop.

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The picture caption says “Porter! Stop the train! I left my wool in it” (1915). 4£

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(Rabone ruler,  Moore&Wright callipers – only the vintage bobbins are from Portobello Market). 25£ for everything!