After my rather tricky dress-making experience with the Colette Dahlia (I am pleased to report that we are friends now), I took advice and sought solace in the comfort of knitting. My tolerance for big projects is much reduced after last winter’s epic shawl, so a slouchy beret seemed the perfect solution.
I already had this glorious King Cole Galaxy DK in fuchsia in my stash. I was drawn the sparkle of the sequins in the yarn, and surprisingly they didn’t cause any problems when knitting. Despite the detail, Ysolda’s Rose Red pattern was really straightforward to follow. The beret is worked in the round, starting with an I-cord at the top and then working down through a series of petals to the cable ribbing. Each row is unique, so it was a satisfying combination of a small project with interesting detail.
To give the beret its distinctive shape, it needed to be blocked over a dinner plate. Who knew?! This beret has been renamed The Plate Hat by my children, who have requested scaled-down versions! Finally, Big thanks to my visiting photographer – Auntie Ems, who got me smiling.
Don’t you love it when you unexpectedly stumble upon crafty inspiration? A friend at work was wearing the most beautiful and delicate shawl. I asked about it, and was excited to hear about a knitwear designer I’d never heard of: Ysolda Teague.
I’m a fairly recent knitter. Being left-handed, I found knitting and crochet really hard to master as a child. But once I had kids I found that I was craving an activity that was both absorbing and useful, and that would allow me a bit of mental space and relaxation. On a mission, I found Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel in my local library and I was hooked (pardon the crochet joke). I can’t recommend the book enough if you’re keen to learn and are not blessed with knitting mums or grannies nearby.
I chose Ysolda’s Marin Shawl, and had some Amy Butler for Rowan Belle Organic DK I’d bought on sale. It’s gorgeous yarn: 50% organic cotton, 50% organic wool. The only drawback is that it’s handwash only. I learned the hard way. After my second baby was born, I knitted her a newborn-sized cardigan in the same yarn during those crazy early weeks. Somehow, in the chaos of newborn babyhood, it found its way into the washing machine. One 40 degree wash later it had felted into a cardi fit for a doll. I was gutted! So there was no way I was going to use this yarn for anything other than a small item that wouldn’t need to be hand-washed often.
This project took me the whole of last winter. I started in October in earnest and finished at Easter. Once I was a third of the way through i realised I’d been doing the ‘M1’ stitch wrong and so I had to pull it out. Undeterred, I soldiered on, starting from scratch.
Tragedy nearly befell the whole project when my youngest, now toddler, had an outbreak of knitting envy. I must have been lavishing too much attention on my creation to her detriment, when one day a pair of bamboo needles sailed straight past my head. It took me a millisecond to realise that the little monkey had found my knitting bag, pulled the needles out of the yarn and thrown them at me. I’ve never moved so fast to get those needles back into the stitches. I’d been knitting it for four months by then!
By April the shawl was finished, but it was too warm to wear it, so it’s been under wraps until now. The finished shawl measures 128 cm from end to end. I blocked it as instructed (unusually for me!) and saw exactly why blocking is such an essential part of finishing a garment. The blocking really made a difference to the finished look – the scalloped edges have been pulled into shape; the stitches have been evened out across the whole shawl. It was a labour of love, and I enjoyed always having a knitting project to pick up, although I did succumb to a bit of a pressure in the end as it had taken so long to complete. I’m now working on a little something for this winter….