There were lots of different reasons why I decided to take up knitting at the start of 2010. Having picked up Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n’ Bitch late last year – at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, of all places – succumbing to The Knit was somewhere near the forefront of my mind. But the real catalyst was when I heard in early Summer last year that one of my closest friends was going to have a baby.
After eight-and-a-half years together, since meeting through friends at neighbouring halls of residence, my friends were married in May last year in a stunningly wonderful service and reception at Kings College in London and the Waldorf’s Palm Court. I was lucky enough to be the bride’s maid of honour and even then I was very excited by the prospect of little tiny pattering feet. Only a few months later, that prospect became rather more real as they announced their happy news and thoughts of knitting tiny things for tiny people started to pepper my thoughts.
This is the first of my completed endeavours – a tiny Tomato Hat. The parents-to-be didn’t want to know the sex of the baby until birth so I had to choose something fairly gender-neutral for this first knit and given that I’ve only finished five other projects to date, it couldn’t be anything too complicated! After looking around on Ravelry, Michele Sabatier’s Baby Berry Hat looked to be an excellent choice: simple without looking too easy and, most importantly, really rather adorable. Being festooned with red hair, as I am, I thought a tomato would be an excellent choice to enable the child to learn at an early age that being a redhead is nothing to be ashamed of. The yarns are RYC Cashsoft DK in Poppy (512) and RYC Cashsoft Baby DK in Sage (818), the colours of which are closest to those modeled by Ted E. Bare in real life. Incidentally for anyone who hasn’t seen or heard of Ted E. Bare, I do urge you to check him out on YouTube alongside ventriloquist David Strassman – making him a suitably cute model for the tomato hat. I have a feeling the hat’s recipient is going to be just as cute though – can’t wait to meet them!
Having presented my Mum with her early Mother’s Day / Birthday present over the weekend (I know, it’s cheeky to combine them but one, they are always very close together and two, I’m still a very slow knitter!), she’s kindly sent down a couple of photos to show off her new cowl.
It’s Jane Richmond’s excellent Marian cowl knitted in simple seed stitch and while it’s far from complex, I really love the effect. Using Rowan Big Wool in Mulberry, I took my lead from a few other Ravellers knitting it in the same yarn and cast on a full 99 stitches so it could be double-wrapped for added cosiness.
Having used Big Wool for my last two projects, I’ve really enjoyed how quickly the bulkier wool knits up and found it strange going back to projects on smaller needles afterwards. Sadly now that the days are getting warmer, I think I’ll have to put much of Big Wool stash aside for later in the year or risk sweltering in chunky knits come June. Sigh!
Apparently I’m famous. You’d have thought someone would have mentioned this to me; perhaps an taught-faced agent or a cumbersome bodyguard, maybe even an aging mentor but no, I was left to discover my new-found fame alone, unprotected and unsupervised. In India, of all places.
I should point out that I spent most of my time there in and around Delhi, the country’s capital city, where there were far fewer Western tourists than I’d initially imagined. There the streets are filled with horns, bustling crowds and – on occasion – monkeys, all of which is a far cry from the sedate streets of London’s Crystal Palace on even the sunniest of Saturdays. Tall, curvy redheads are a site not often seen on those streets and as such are likely to be on the receiving end of more than a few stares. I can’t say I ever got to the stage of ignoring all of this unexpected attention but I learned to go about my way regardless for much of my time out there. There were a couple of occasions though where even that became impossible.
I could sort of understand why people asked me to pose for photographs with them. I have crazy red hair and pale skin. Not to mention the fact that I was almost entirely shiny owing to the fact it was 37 degrees in the shade. The aforementioned red hair and pale skin should give you an indication that this is an environment I was never built to deal with. Families of Indian tourists asked me to pose with them and their children for pictures outside some of the main tourist sites so I grinned and bared the surreal experiences as best I could, made particularly happy when some of the children started talking to me in near-flawless English. I’ve yet to work out exactly how they explained these pictures away to their friends and family back home though. “Sooo, Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Dilli Haat oh and here’s a random shiny lady with fire hair” sounds about right.
What I really couldn’t understand was why some of those groups asked me for my autograph. As far as I’m aware, I don’t look like anyone famous. One exceptionally drunken comparison has been made between my hair colour and that of Kate Winslet in Titanic, but that’s as far as it went. Oh and there was a less-than-favourable comment about me bearing a slight resemblance to Catherine Tate but the less said about that, the better. So I was at a bit of a loss as to why eight people asked me to sign random pieces of paper, ticket stubs and – in one case – a Delhi guide book. For the first two, I did try to point out that I worked in an office and therefore could not be in any way famous but they chose to ignore me, instead thanking me very kindly for the autograph and ambling off in a pleased manner.
For days, it baffled me. Was it some sort of elaborate identity fraud? Did I in fact have a secret identical twin sister who’d made a name for herself in Hindi soap operas? Had I been secretly filmed knitting 100% wool in my air-conditioned hotel room before becoming an overnight internet sensation for being a complete nutcase?
Only today did I discover the truth. On December 16th, my non-knitting alter ego captaincaz was named Qype‘s Qyper of the Week in their weekly newsletter. In the run up to Christmas, I’d missed that issue in my festive inbox and so didn’t realise my moment in the weak, wintry sun had finally arrived. Today though I received a note from Qype asking me for my real name and address so they could send out some goodies as part of the deal (about which I’m very excited by the way) and was initially skeptical before going back through the archived issues and seeing my awesome fame for myself. It was made even better by the fact that my photo and quote appear directly above a paragraph about London yarn stores Loop and All the Fun of the Fair. This was – of course – the reason for my fame amongst the Indian public. It’s so very obvious now and it’s all thanks to a sixty word review of a pub (and its sweeties) in central London.
Captaincaz: massive in India. Who’d have thought, eh?
To anyone who has visited this blog over the last few weeks, I can only apologise. It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything like a regular update and I’m feeling incredibly guilty.
My only excuse is that work is entirely crazy at the moment as we’re about to launch a new phone in India so I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in sterile (and not-so-sterile) airports, unfamiliar hotels and various cabs in between. Sadly this time spent away hasn’t been particularly productive on the knitting front either; Indian air authorities have been pretty hot on the no-needles-in-the-air rule and most evenings have seen me too frazzled to concentrate on much other than simple stockinette and BBC World News on a loop. I promise you that business travel isn’t nearly as exotic as it sounds and anyone who says otherwise has never been to Delhi.
I have managed to get a few things finished though: an early birthday / Mothers’ Day present in the form of Jane Richmond’s Marian for my Mum (which I neglected to photograph before giving it to her so am hoping she’ll send over a pic of her wearing it so I can upload it to Flickr), Handmaiden’s In an Evening Toque and the first of two Great Weekend Mitts from the fabulously-named Lick the Light Switch blog by Wonderfallz.
The second I saw these armwarmers on Ravelry I knew I had to make them. The pic above doesn’t show them in their full final glory – I still had to add the ribbed placket down the left seam (non-functioning in my case – let’s not get over-ambitious!) as well as add buttons sewn down the placket at intervals. After some stroking in stores and some poking around online, I chose to knit these in RYC Cashsoft 4ply which I adore, both for its super-softness and the great range of colours. Because I’m clearly on some sort of mission to knit almost exclusively in grey and purple (or so it would seem) I went for a combination of silver-grey and darker granite to which I’ll add a black placket with black shiny buttons. Very much looking forward to the finished pair and the cosy wrists they’ll produce.
The In An Evening Toque is another fantastic pattern. Again it was a Ravelry find and again once I saw the pictures I knew it was something I’d have to cast on for me in yet another shade of grey. The yarn here is Rowan’s Big Wool in Oxydised, after I fell head-over-heels for this and another couple of shades on eBay. Handmaiden was kind enough to email the pattern to me directly as she was having some problems with her blog at the time and I’m incredibly grateful to her for doing so as I adore this hat. I tend to wear hats quite low on my forehead and so prefer those that are loose and unpatterned enough to avoid leaving brim imprints on my face (never a good look when at work!) and this fits the bill perfectly whilst also being incredibly cosy. Highly recommended.
As an aside, it’s also worth noting that the In An Evening Toque does exactly what it says on the tin. I am by no means a fast knitter but even I was able to knock this out in a couple of hours whilst half-watching telly. I now understand why knitting with big wool is so immensely satisfying! Mum’s Marian was also done in Rowan Big Wool (Mulberry) and completed in a couple of evenings – hoping to post some pictures of this soon.
In the meantime though, I apologise for my blogging absence and promise I’ll be less of a Dunderblogger over the next few days.
It’s been a quiet few days knitting-wise so I don’t have too much to report other than wishing one and all a very Happy Valentine’s Day. While I’m usually a bit “bah humbug” about a day devoted to commercialisation, fluffy things and general lovey-dovey-tude, I will confess to being a little bit won over by a gorgeous bunch of flowers from my Boyfriend (whose scarf STILL remains unfinished – I know, I know!). Plus I’m in the process of knitting a tiny Henri bear for my friend’s almost-newborn and despite being rather short on the limbs front, he does look rather adorable already.
A brief evening’s respite has finally given me a chance to update my Flickr feed with the two items that have been keeping me warm in London’s current Siberian winds: my Super Slouchy Beret and my Buttermilk Sky Cowl.
I’m really happy with these, the cowl in particular. They’re both exceptionally cosy and – somewhat marvellously – they kind of match each other without being too, y’know, matchy. I’ve posted a few more pictures on my Flickr site and while they’re a little bit dark they’re pretty accurate. Only less fluffy than in reality.
I can’t stop staring at people’s hats. Seriously. It’s completely subconscious . I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come to after a brief daytime reverie – usually while sitting on the tube or a train – to find myself staring at a spot about four inches above a pair of curious and occasionally peeved eyes, staring right back at me. I promise you I’m not a hat fetishist, nor am I planning to liberate these hats from about their owners’ ears and run off into the distance. All I want to know is if they’re handmade.
One month in I’m still pretty new to knitting, so I’m not yet able to tell the difference between hand-knitting and machine. Plus I’ve spent the last month spurning the high street knitwear, preferring to gaze lustfully (and ambitiously) at yarn and patterns in specialist stores and online so I have no idea what’s in-store at the moment. There’s one hat that I’ve seen five or six times now in a variety of colours: a slouchy beret with a chunky star-like stitch for the first ten or twelve rows and then a stockinette stitch with a spiral pattern. I can only assume this is high street and, given the frequency, my money’s on Topshop or Primark. But I just don’t know.
Plus as a new knitter who’s relied primarily on books and the web thus far, I have no real understanding of how many knitters are out there. Stitch ‘n Bitch London regularly have 100-150 knitters at their weekly meetings in Central London. That’s a lot of people. I’ve yet to make it along to one of their meetings but it’s firmly on my list of to-dos in the coming weeks. Until then though, I’ve no idea what any of these other knitters look like, or what age group many fall into. Any one of them could be the girl who sits opposite me on the train, with the wide variety of excellent wooly hats (I’ve counted six so far and they all match different handbags, seriously). It would also explain why she regards my train knitting – still the scarf – with a faint glimpse of amusement in between pages of her Metro free-sheet newspaper; it’s not exactly advanced knitting and it’s far from perfect in places.
I don’t know. They could all be shop-bought. Perhaps she scours Accessorize with the same childish excitement that I get when I go through Café Knit or Texere. Maybe the shops of London are currently full to the brim with chunky knitwear that could rival even the most expert of knitters. Or maybe – just maybe – there’s more knitters out there than I think. Either way I really need to stop staring at random people’s heads. Sooner or later someone’s bound to take advantage of my knitting needles.
The sneezing season has got the better of me and I’m currently working from home to avoid infecting my coworkers with what feels like an Alien-style facehugger on the inside of my head. Vastly unpleasant. However, I thought I should make up for the lack of pictures in my last post by adding some photos of version two of the cowl, minus wine and associated atrocities.
I cast on my second attempt at the Buttermilk Sky cowl on Sunday and am progressing nicely, having realised that by using a 40cm cable I can just knit in the round and not worry about magic looping for a change. It’s slightly tight at times, but I think that’s more to do with my tension than anything else. With any luck I’ll have this one finished with enough time left over to knit the second one for my friend’s birthday. And no, I haven’t touched a drop since Friday.
They say pride comes before a fall. I don’t know if it’s pride that drove me to it – complacency or over-ambition seem rather more likely – but fall I did.
I’ve been knitting a cowl recently, another magic loop affair while my boyfriend’s scarf languishes idly by (not completely idly though, as it’s recently become my portable project for when I’m sitting on the train to and from work and as such is progressing nicely). It’s a slightly more advanced pattern than those I’ve completed to date, with slipped stitches, yarnovers and psso’s aplenty. It’s also a dry run for the cowl I’d like to knit for a friend’s birthday present in the suitably indulgent Fyberspates Scrumptious DK yarn– purple for me and deep pink for her – meaning I’d quite like to get it right.
All was going well. I’d cast on the requisite number of stitches, got to grips with the twisted rib border and even made a start on the first round of the pattern – pretty good going for only two evenings’ work. The third evening’s work was preceded by dinner and drinks with two former colleagues, both of whom were a little late in arrival: half an hour or 1.25 cocktails, if you prefer. As the evening progressed, wine was ordered, stories were shared and any recollection of New Years resolutions was pushed aside with the arrival of the dessert menu. It was a lovely night and one that finished surprisingly early as we each trundled towards our respective stations at a respectable 9pm.
Arriving home to find the house empty, I allowed a small snicker of delight at the fact I could continue my cowl without fear of neglecting my boyfriend and his scarf. Set up on the sofa, I had my wool on one side, more wine on the other and endless QI repeats on the telly courtesy of channel Dave. And so, I knitted. I knitted long and I knitted fast (for me, anyway) and sped through line after line of the pattern into the early hours before eventually succumbing to a Rioja-induced slumber in bed.
This morning I woke to the sound of birdsong, gentle breezes in the trees outside and a decidedly grumpy thudding in my head. Have you ever had a morning where you can hear yourself blink? Well… precisely. My first thought was water. My second thought was the cowl. Getting through to the living room was no mean feat but once there I understood what my fuzzy subconscious had been trying to tell me: badness had happened. In my haste the night before, I had managed to drop, add and k2tog stitches at random to the extent that there were now holes and ladders running down multiple rows. Some sections looked flawless while others were disastrous; overall it looked less like a cowl and more like a tea cosy, assuming the teapot has between five and seven spouts of varying height and girth.
I’m ashamed to say I ripped it all, then and there. I’m still getting to grips with remedying mistakes and in this case there were so many, my addled brain didn’t know where to start. The yarn, while being beautifully soft, doesn’t really lend itself to ripping and so I’m still picking up tufts of purple fluff from around the sofa and the rest of the house. But I’ve rescued most of it and I’ll make a fresh start on it again tomorrow, minus wine. Lesson learned.
During the rather dull periods of my day when I’m not knitting (or writing about knitting, or thinking about writing about knitting, or – ahem – buying yarn to knit with), I have a full-time job. In marketing. Now I know that for many this marks me out as some sort of shallow, money-grabbing product pusher, intent on parting you from your hard-earned cash in return for something shiny and pointless. But I promise you I’m not like that. For starters, I’m not really involved in the advertising side of things. I write the leaflets, manuals and website content that tells you how to use your shiny pointless thing and my aim is to make it all as simple as possible. I do, however, work in the mobile phone industry, which has a particularly bad reputation for doing anything and everything to make you buy one product or service over another.
Which is why I was wholly unsurprised to see Vodafone Ireland hopping on the guerrilla knitting bandwagon in the hope of convincing people that they were kooky, young and ever-so-slightly daring. If you haven’t seen the advert already, feel free to click on the link below though I feel I should warn you that it is particularly nauseating in places (particularly the use of the eponymous Irishism “deadly”, suggesting that the whole script was written by someone whose only other experience of Ireland was the occasional episode of Father Ted). And if the advert sickens you, definitely don’t visit the Vodafone website…
Bad hair, machine knitting and dodgy word choice aside, it’s undeniable that this is a truly terrible ad. Not just because the overall message is unclear (though anyone in the know is welcome to explain to me what exactly is the consumer benefit in “cheering up your top-up”). In using guerrilla knitting to inspire their new campaign, Vodafone has attempted to associate itself with a movement based on rebellion, individuality and secrecy – the polar opposite of a commercial advertisement aired on national telly. It just doesn’t work for a big corporation. Particularly one that has nothing to do with knitting.
My guess would be that it was dreamed up by an edgy creative agency executive who confused guerrilla knitting with graffiti knitting, assuming it was nothing more that the yarny equivalent of a student with a free hugs sign. It’s just a bit of fun, it raises a smile or two; surely there’s nothing more to it than that? One or two angry yarnstomers might tell him otherwise.
So what to do? How to respond to this poisoned chalice of a challenge? The angry knitter in me wants to protest: to knit vivid swatches decrying the campaign and storm the company HQ, demanding they withdraw the ads and apologise (all yarn-based compensation welcome). But the marketer in me knows that publicly decrying the ad will only serve to draw yet more attention – and potentially revenue – to their ill-conceived campaign, to the extent that guerrilla knitting could become associated with the brand for the foreseeable future: a horrible thought. So however much I’d like to protest, there’s only really one option: if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Switch on Rage Against The Machine and jump about for a bit instead. It helps, I promise.