Monday, 5 March 2012

I’m on a bit of a high after spending Saturday morning with Catherine Hirst who I first met at a class at the Make Lounge during which she refreshed the memories of rusty intermediate knitters about pattern jargon and pushed us past the safe confines of the flat square knit item.  Much as I’d been knitting since I was little, it was sporadic, always square, and never useful.  Since that class, I’ve had several 1:1s with Catherine and it’s probably the reason I’ve started attempting to make actual things.
So, on Saturday we had a whistle stop session on the ins and outs of designing knitwear, specifically a pencil skirt.  Catherine has an amazing way of cutting through the complicated bits and making it sound very simple.  It must work because I had to knit another tension swatch and I was able to translate what we did on Saturday to my new gauge on my own which was reassuring. 
I probably shouldn’t say this out loud but here I go.  It’s all maths, and I loved it (less so the measuring part but it did push me out of the door running this morning so that's something).  I’ve always enjoyed maths but have a pretty instinctive ostrich response when called upon to use it; this was very fun if a bit confusing at times.  I spent a very happy 90 minutes on Sunday evening tootling around measuring things and doing calculations.  I have realised that owning a calculator would be quite a handy thing especially when using the calculator on my mobile which switches to locked mode the minute your gaze shifts; and I'm not so confident that I haven't emailed asking Catherine to check my maths. 

Also don’t try and avoid blocking the tension swatch – I didn’t with the first one and felt very sheepish when Catherine arrived.  I did with the second and it definitely helped with measuring up and to get a sense of what the finished knit fabric will look like.  Obviously knitting the correct number of rows would also have helped but I had enough and the sums all worked out proportionately but next time I would make a note of how many rows I should have done rather than remembering that it was 40-something and working to that.
Having knit the first swatch Continental, the comparison with the English knit second swatch was also interesting - I don't have any pictures but I've got to figure out a way to even up my tension on both knit and purl sides with Continental.  It looks quite lumpen which is fine on the jumper I'm (still) knitting as the yarn is variegated but on something like the skirt yarn, which is a smooth and consistent colour, it looked pretty choppy.
Catherine brought Debbie Abraham’s book “Design your own knitwear” and that had some incredibly useful hints and tips in it.  I’m going to pick up my own copy and I can already tell it’ll be something I end up reading cover to cover.
In the meantime, with the Olympics looming (boo hiss) I’ve been very lucky that my boss has allowed me to take some unpaid leave in the summer to do one of the RSN certificate (in Technical Hand Embroidery) modules full time.  I haven’t studied full-time since I was 18 (I did my degree part-time at Birkbeck) so am really excited about being a proper student again even if it is only for two weeks and a rather painful commute.  Can’t wait.
The creative writing course is also paying dividends – it’s rekindled my dormant love of reading, which I think was put into hibernation by the turgid academic material I had to read for my HR Masters; and I’m starting to write again, not just the homework but all sorts of new ideas are floating around and finding their way onto a page.  It’s been really interesting reading the other students work, although it’s daunting having to put your work out there for others to read.  We have a workshop this week so it’s quite a gentle introduction to the world of criticism but for most of us it seems to be the first time we’re letting others see what we’ve written.  There were a lot of raised eyebrows and panicky exchanged glances.  All good experience though.

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