Knitting: Tis the Season

Christmas sweater
My niece holding up a sweater from her early years. Maybe Santa will bring her another knit sweater this season!

Julie: Well, between Sadie Hartwell’s new book, Yarned and Dangerous, and requests from the nieces, I have started knitting again this season. Since a few of us are knitters, we thought we’d spend today talking patterns and projects. Also, a little bit about why we knit.

My grandmother taught me how to knit. My busiest times knitting were when the nieces and nephews were babies. I knit them each a stocking, and many, many sweaters and hats. Over the past couple of years I’ve been knitting scarves, and hats, but nothing more complicated. Jessie has talked me into trying socks, but there may be a sweater project or two (or three) that I am working on for the holidays. I find knitting really good for plotting. It takes some focus, but not so much that I can’t think about Book #3. Like writing, the more I knit, the more I like to challenge myself to try something new. But I also enjoy being able to just do it, and give my brain a rest.

How about you, my fellow wicked knitters?

Socks in progress. Even the background is a WIP (it will be a felted wool bag)!
Socks in progress. Even the background is a WIP (it will be a felted wool bag)!

Sadie: I’ve been knitting since I was in second grade. Now, mind you, my mother did not knit. But at some point I decided this was a skill I should know, so I found some instructions somewhere, got some yarn and a pair of pink aluminum size 5 needles, which I still have, and set out to try. I couldn’t figure out casting on, so a family friend, Martha, showed me how to do that, as well as a basic knit stitch, and I went to town. My first project was a fuchsia and yellow striped belt (I now know it was quite hideous, but hey, it was the seventies!), which I gave to my cousin Susie. She seemed to like it. Not much later, I decided to try crocheting, which I taught myself and which I picked up very quickly. I’ve been a yarn worker ever since.

Now, I consider myself supremely fortunate to be able to combine my favorite hobby with my vocation. The brand new Tangled Web Mysteries are set in a fictional Connecticut yarn shop, Miss Marple Knits. I mean, seriously, who gets to knit/crochet and make up stories and gets paid to do it? What a privilege! And don’t think it’s lost on me that the word yarn means a spun fiber, as well as a story.

Hats in Progress for a friend's twin sons. I've made approximately a million of these crocheted hats!
Hats in Progress for a friend’s twin sons. I’ve made approximately a million of these crocheted hats!

The last couple of days I’ve been going through and organizing my yarn stash. I’ve pulled out some WIPs, with the intent to finish them. I totally stole this idea from Jessie, by the way. The photos I’ve posted are of a couple of those projects, which I can easily finish by the end of the year. And taking care of unfinished projects, whether yarn or otherwise, is an excellent way to free up mental and physical space, and to allow new things into your life. Which means I might soon be able to allow myself a trip to Webs in Northampton, Massachusetts, the biggest, most wonderful yarn store anywhere!

Because I want to share my love of books and crafts, I’ve set up a Facebook group where others can share my obsessions: Sadie Hartwell’s Yarned and Dangerous Gang on Facebook. There will be giveaways and guest authors from time to time, so drop by often and invite your friends!

A sock, kindly modeled by one of my children.

Jessie: I know I’ve mentioned before how much I love to knit. It is one of the surest ways I know to access the mental state known as flow. I just sit back with a set of circular needles and a pleasing yarn and my brain and my spirit sort of connect and go to places I like to visit. Like Julie, I find knitting helps with knotty plot problems. And Sadie, after Christmas I’ll have some room cleared out in my yarn stash. I wonder if Webs could handle a pair of Wickeds on a shopping trip together?

Julie: I’d love to have a wicked knitting shopping spree. Or maybe a stash swap? BTW, teaching the Boston area nieces the pattern I learned to knit on–Knit Christmas Bells.

How about you, dear readers? Any knitting being done for the holidays?

12 Thoughts

  1. Looks like I’d better dust off my knitting bag. I used to knit in the winter and made several semi-successful sweaters for my sons. I have trouble with tension – in the needles and yarn, I mean (well, okay, I have tension in my neck, too, and hopefully in my books). Maybe next time we’re on retreat Jessie and Julie can help me figure that out. In the meantime I stick with scarves. I love the idea that keeping the hands busy frees up the mind.

    1. Tension (the needlework kind) is generally just a matter of using the right size needles for the yarn, and, like writing, practicing. If you can make scarves, you can make more complicated stuff too. But I understand the appeal of scarves. You don’t have to think too much about them, and you just knit till the yarn runs out. That’s an excellent kind of project for putting you into the flow state, as Jessie mentioned.

  2. My grandmother taught me to knit as well (my mother was hopeless with any kind of craft). My first completed project was a fuzzy mohair vest with a cable pattern, that I made in 8th grade. I don’t know whether it’s hereditary, but I like cable-knit patterns because they demand the right amount of thinking. But I’ll agree that the process is soothing, especially if you find a wool that feels good in your hands. And of course I know that Northampton yarn store!

    1. Those bells are super cute. I’m headed out to the craft store today–not for yarn, I swear! For picture frames, okay???–and I might pick up some jingle bells and give this quick pattern a try.

    2. They are super easy, and quick. I teach my nieces a lot of things my grandmother taught me. Great way to pass them down, and also to let them know about her. The girls refer to Grandma Mae, and that makes her alive again.

  3. Northampton has so much to recommend it! In addition to Webs and a second, smaller but cozy yarn store closer to downtown, there are a squillion fabulous restaurants and little shops, plus concerts, lectures and other entertainment (yes, I consider lectures entertainment. I am weird, LOL!). Plus it’s very diverse culturally, which is a lovely thing indeed in western New England. I’ve actually toyed with the idea of putting together a writers/readers needlework weekend in Northampton, with field trips to Webs and Northampton Wools, of course! Anybody interested?

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